Like Dust, I’ll Rise

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My favourite poet, Maya Angelou x

 

Firstly I really need to thank everyone for their kind messages following my last post. Every day I feel like I’m getting stronger and it’s because of all of you. I’m trying to keep telling myself that my life isn’t falling apart, but instead it’s falling into place. God, I hope that that’s right, or else all the struggle and fight was really for nothing.

Secondly, for those of you playing at home, you might remember that I said we were asked to be a part of Insight’s discussion on domestic adoption but I missed the filming because I was stuck being a dweeb in hospital. Well, at the time I found that ridiculously unfair, like all my advocating for adoption had met a dead end. But now, in the ever-marvellous world of hindsight, I can quite clearly see that that was for the best. I mean I already feel humiliated enough without all of Australia witnessing it. Anyway, the point is the program airs tonight at 8.30pm on SBS ONE and it is bound to be a very interesting look into all the different perspectives at play in the adoption debate. So tune in you beauties.

As for my health, as many of you have messaged and asked me, I am feeling a lot better and *hopefully* my clots are disintegrating as I write. I still have to get a zillion blood tests and I take a bottle of Warfarin a night (not literally – relax) but I do feel a lot stronger – physically, mentally and hungrily. Also I’m caring for my mum full time, who has managed to snap her Achilles’ Tendon during this whirlwind of bad luck, so that’s kept my mind fairly focused on routine things like eating and administering drugs and injections, rather than plotting the demise of infidels.

Source: Giphy.com

Source: Giphy.com

Thank you for keeping me strong and honest. x

Spare room of shattered dreams

A few years ago, after we were fed up with getting nowhere on the Ethiopian waiting-but-not-really-waiting list, we decided to try and pursue local adoption.

We chose local adoption over Permanent Care because for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was important for us to legally be parents rather than “guardians” to our child. It also meant something to us that our child would have been relinquished by his/ her parents rather than removed. Finally we also could see ourselves spending periods of time overseas due to work commitments and didn’t know how this would fit in with access visits and DHS regulations.

Now, in hindsight, I can’t be sure if this was the right decision to make – after all, as we heard last week, Permanent Care can definitely be a beautiful and healing option for all involved. In fact, had we pursued Permanent Care we probably would have a family by now, but we weren’t to know that back then. As with every stage along this journey you just have to keep knocking on doors until one finally opens. Unfortunately so far we have just had a lot slammed in our faces.

So anyway, I digress. A few years ago we decided to pursue local adoption. Actually we first went to an information session about it back in 2008 but then decided to knock on the intercountry and IVF doors until our knuckles bled. After attending an information and training session you write a life story that covers the most personal and deepest aspects of your life – from your childhood, to your finances, to your relationship and fertility, and even your sex life. We spent ages trying to make our Life Story stand out from the crowd of crappy word documents. We sent it in to DHS in July 2011 along with references from family and friends.

A blurred up sample of some of our Life Story xo

A blurred up sample of some of our Life Story xo

Then we waited.

A year went by and then we received a phone call saying that they would like to begin our assessment. We were overjoyed and hopeful and nervous for the first time in years! We scrubbed our house from top-to-bottom and prepared for the first interview. We were interviewed twice as a couple and once individually. It was nerve-wracking and exciting and deeply intrusive but we didn’t care. Something was finally happening and we felt closer than ever before.

Before the final safety inspection on our house Mr. Lady Breaks went around affixing safety locks to every cupboard and corner in our house. He put together the Boori cot my mum had bought us during our IVF days. We called together some family and neighbours to lay some soil in the backyard of our newly built house. We wanted to show: WE ARE READY. WE WERE BORN READY.

After this our lovely social worker wrote up her report on us and recommended us for adoption. We sat with her before a panel of DHS staff who grilled us on everything from our intentions to our religion. A few hours later we received the call to say we had been officially approved for local adoption! It was September 2012.

Our social worker said that our chances were quite good. After all we were young, probably one of the youngest couples waiting, and our file stood out. It could actually happen before the end of the year even. I was so distracted. I couldn’t focus on the thesis I was supposed to be writing, or on my work. My heart leapt at every phone call.

Unfortunately our social worker moved on from her role and we were handballed to someone else whom we didn’t know at all. We didn’t feel like she “got” us, and we certainly aren’t a priority. I think I have received about two touch-base phone calls over the past year. Not to demonise her at all – these social workers have so much to balance and so little time that facilitating adoptions often gets the last priority. Making sure that kids are safe is of course always going to come first.

So here we are… We were removed from the intercountry list when we were approved for local adoption, and I guess now I’m just waiting for this door to slam shut like all the others. Mid-way through next year we will have to get reassessed because our approval is only valid for two years.

Last weekend Mr. Lady Breaks dismantled the cot and hid all of our baby items away in a cupboard. Even though we could in theory get a phone call any day, reality begs to differ, and it’s too painful to have a shattered dream set up in your spare room.

Instead, Mr. Lady Breaks is setting up an art space for me – a place where I can start dream again. Thank you Mr. Lady Breaks, I couldn’t have walked this without you.

xo

Electing to Love

I guess in many ways, Mr. Lady Breaks and I were lucky. Long before we found out we were infertile, we discussed our desire to adopt. We always said that we would like to have one or two “of our own” and then we would pursue adoption. Of course at the time we were completely ignorant of how difficult achieving either of those dreams would be for us.

But that just the thing, it was two dreams. Biological was separate and distinct from adopted. Not worse, or better, but not the same.  If we get this, we will do that.

Discovering that we were infertile started to break down this division in our hearts and minds. I remember sobbing one day thinking about the fact I would never see my husband’s eyes in a child, never see his curly mop bouncing away on a toddler. Never feel the gravity of a tiny foot pressing against my stomach, or feel the warm pressure of a newborn held tightly against my chest.

And this knowledge does still overwhelm me sometimes, but gradually I came to understand that experiencing these things does not make a child “your own.” Indeed, there are many biological parents that, for one reason or another, don’t experience some or any of those things (take fathers, for instance).

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No, parenting is about making daily choices to love and nurture. Choosing to envelop someone completely into your care. Biology doesn’t determine whether you do this or not – of course there are plenty of biological parents who have sadly chosen not to. And, obviously, there are plenty of non-biological step/ foster/ adoptive parents who have chosen to do this. So, all in all, I have to conclude that being blood-related really doesn’t determine whether you’re a real family or not.

Just as I chose a non-blood-related husband “of my own” to love, fight, eat and create a family with, I can also choose to love and create a family with a child who needs one.

Last week I met a man who put this concept so beautifully and eloquently to me that I just have to share it. He said: “Adoption is an act of election, an act of belonging. It’s about choosing to love and care for someone, committing to protect and nourish them, just as you would a husband or wife.”

By electing to love, I am choosing to remove the invisible barrier between biological and adopted, just as the sweet poem for adoptees by Fleur Conkling Heylinger shows:

Not flesh of my flesh,

Nor bone of my bone,

But still miraculously my own.

Never forget for a single minute,

You didn’t grow under my heart,

But in it.

x

 

How long does it take to adopt?

Last year I stumbled across a blog about an American family’s road to adoption. I can’t for the life of me remember their blog details but I took down some notes at the time to compare their journey to my own.

On their site they had a timeline that spanned just over a year (!). In June 2010 they felt they would like to pursue adoption, so they made a phone call and begun their assessment. By November 2011 they had their court date in Addis Ababa where the adoption of two Ethiopian children was finalised.

We also have a timeline for an Ethiopian adoption. It goes like this:

December 2007

After struggling with infertility for almost two years, Mr. Lady Breaks and I thought it was time to start pursuing adoption. The requirements at the time were that you had to have been married for over two years (check!) and over 25 years old. Well, we were only 22 and 23 years old but we knew the adoption process would take a few years and we would definitely be over 25 by the time the adoption was finalised.

Wrong! When I made the phone call to book in for the session I was aggressively told that I wasn’t allowed to attend. She said that I “should not even be considering adoption at my age” and to wait until I am “at least 30” to attend a session.

22nd June 2009

We attended our first information session and expressed our interest in pursuing an Ethiopian adoption.  I chose not to reveal that I was only 24.

At the time Ethiopia was the only African country that Australians could adopt from so despite our experience and knowledge of Kenyan culture, Ethiopia was the only real option for us.

It feels so stupid to look back on now, but at the time my best friend was pregnant with her first. I remember dreaming with her about how her unborn child should be around 4 by the time we adopted, and our child would be likely to be a toddler as well. We couldn’t wait!

Needless to say, her baby turned 4 a few months ago.

5th August 2009

Placed at number 254 on the ‘Confirmation of Expression of Interest’ form. This is not the waiting list – it is the waiting list to get on the waiting list.

19th October 2009

At number 224 on the ‘Confirmation of Expression of Interest’ list.

17th January 2010

Down to number 222.

1st March 2010

Number 214.

10th March 2010

Number 211.

Around this time a form was sent out saying that realistically only special needs children and older children would be able to be adopted. We had to fill out a form detailing all the various disabilities, deformities and diseases we would adopt. After this the list decreased dramatically.

9th July 2010

Number 61.

3rd December 2010

Number 54.

7th January 2011

Number 51.

10th November 2011

Number 28. Once we reach the top we will be able to start the Education sessions and actually get on The Waiting List.

28th June 2012

Ethiopia program closes.

So, after five years we weren’t at the place the American family was when they first enquired. This is why National Adoption Awareness Week is so important.

x

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Not Your Normal Family

I am SO incredibly excited today to share something special with you: It’s the very first Guest Post on Lady Breaks!

I am so inspired by this amazing woman and her family it’s not funny. Linda and Cam Bailey are about the funniest, warmest, giving and down-to-earth couples I know. Their personal struggle with infertility has only increased their capacity to love and love and love! It’s just amazing! I am honoured to be able to share Linda’s story with you today.

Thank you Linda, Cam and the rest of the family x

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“You look way too young to be a grandmother!”

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While I know this comment is meant to be a compliment – and as I am only 35 years of age, it is also very true – I can’t help but be reminded that people have a fixed idea of what family should look like.

A couple of children, two middle aged parents and a few grey haired grandparents thrown in; that’s what all families look like, right? Well, our “family” begs to differ.

Just last week I realised that my husband, Cameron, and I started trying to conceive nine years ago. We have not been successful in having children naturally but that does not mean our house is empty.

Seven years ago Joy joined our family. She was 13, in foster care and in need of a home to live.

Linda, Joy and Cam

Linda, Joy and Cam

My husband and I have always had the philosophy that we don’t open our home to foster children, we open up our family. Joy didn’t have a positive sense of what family really was and I think only now, as we help her raise her own child, does she understand what a healthy family means.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re by no means perfect! We just have a desire to help those in need. Sometimes we get it right and other times we just need to try again.

Joy became very independent when she turned 18, so we decided to extend our family a little further. Twelve months ago, two brothers – four and five years of age – joined us. These two boys have turned our lives upside down! They are so full of energy, laughter, cheekiness and questions. Every day brings new challenges but also new opportunities, as we help these young boys grow to the potential they were created for.

boys 2

Just when we thought we were at capacity, our family changed again. At the beginning of the year, Joy discovered she was pregnant, and with the father of the baby taking flight, we found ourselves as the support people for our daughter.

Her gorgeous son entered the world (and our family) one month ago and has brought forth more love than we thought possible.

I can confidently say, as a barren couple, our family is full! And my advice to everyone is to embrace your family, no matter what it looks like.

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While Cameron and I were childless we enjoyed taking holidays, throwing ourselves into our local church and providing cheap board for some young adult friends. As the kids have come along we’ve dedicated ourselves to be their advocate and to give them all the love and support a child should have. And now we’re grandparents we’ve enjoyed supporting our daughter while delighting in having a newborn in our house for the very first time.

None of this takes away the sting of being infertile, or the challenges that foster care brings, but I refuse to waste my life waiting for my “own” child when there are thousands on our doorstep needing the love and affection we have to give.

Linda Bailey.

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What a beautiful, amazing family! I’m so blessed to know them.

If you would like to hear more from Linda, she regularly writes about her life, faith and God on her own blog, Daily Devotional.

xo

What’s Wrong With Adoption in Australia?

I’m so overwhelmed by everyone’s feedback following my last post. It’s astounding to me that so many of you are actually making the time to read my ranty rants amongst your busy lives. It’s just so touching – I can’t really describe how supported it makes me feel. Thank you.

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As promised I am sticking to the topic of adoption this week as it is National Adoption Awareness Week here in Australia.

It would seem that I am quite a slow learner because I bothered to read the comments left on yesterday’s Herald Sun article featuring Deborra-Lee Furness. There is just so much negativity around adoption! I mean I definitely think an honest dialogue about adoption is absolutely necessary, but it just has to be constructive – adoption is not blanket “good” or blanket “bad”. Just as there are some biological families that don’t get it right, there are adoptive parents that don’t either, but this doesn’t make the whole concept wrong or evil.

The reality is that adoption always involves suffering. For an adoption to occur, there has to have been some form of breakage or separation first. This is, of course, not an ideal situation at all, but as we know we don’t live in an ideal world. Adoption, in my humble opinion, can be a beautiful pathway towards restoring what was lost, like healing a wound though the scar may remain. It’s for this reason I believe it should be embraced and celebrated.

To be honest I’ve re-written parts of this post so many times now, trying to balance directing my thoughts at the (very vocal) anti-adoption lobby, and just sharing my own honest feelings and experience. It’s hard because the whole topic is so complex; what goes for local adoption may not be relevant to intercountry and so on. But at the end of the day I think to most people it’s pretty obvious – every child deserves to grow up in a family.

In fact a rule of thumb is that for every three months a child resides in an orphanage, they lose one month of development. It is well documented that institutionalisation is detrimental to the physical, social, and psychological well-being of children. I am planning to talk more about my time in orphanages and my passion for family reunification and community-based solutions to orphan care later, but the bottom line is that we should be ensuring that children grow up within families. Adoption is one way to make this happen.

Except… The Australian government doesn’t seem too keen on this. Last year there was less than 150 inter-country adoptions for the whole of Australia, despite thousands of hopeful couples. This is not because there are no orphans in the world, but rather because we have an outdated and clunky system designed to discourage adoption at every turn, even local adoption.

Believe it or not, but you can’t be on both local and inter-country adoption lists at once, even though the process is likely to take years. And, in Victoria at least, you can’t do any reproductive treatments while waiting to adopt. All in all it makes for a very frustrating and heartbreaking situation where both children and potential parents miss out. There just has to be change soon.

Thank you Deborra-Lee and Hugh for your advocacy work 🙂

As Deborra-Lee says in the article: “The system is broken here. There are children who need families and we need a system that works.” It’s my hope that by sharing my personal journey, a greater awareness of the need for reform is gained.

x

Haters Gonna Hate

Image courtesy of Feministing.com

Image courtesy of Feministing.com

A few years ago, in a fit of rage, I slammed out this Facebook post for all my friends and family to see. The response I received was so overwhelmingly supportive that it ignited the idea to write this blog. Of course I was lazy and it took me a couple of winters and a healthy dose of unemployment to actually start, but to everyone who commented on this the first time around I can’t thank you enough. Your encouragement has helped me to press on despite every ounce of me wanting to give up on the whole stupid, impossible dream.

I’ve decided to share it again today because it still adequately reflects how I feel, and it helps to show some of the stigma surrounding adoption and ‘infertiles’ here in Australia.

I should also mention that since I first wrote this rant the Ethiopian adoption program in Australia that we had been waiting on has been shut down. Years of waiting down the drain, another door slammed shut in our faces…

June 2011
Adoption, Infertility and I’m ANGRY right now!

It’s late, and I know I should be going to bed right now and not rambling on facebook, but something has just got me shaking and I’m considering this as my way of expelling bad energy before sleep time.

For those of you who don’t know, Mr. Lady Breaks and I can’t have kids. As fifteen year olds, we used daydream and fantasise about our future children, naming them and imagining what they would look like. Fast forward to our first year of marriage five years later and we were ready to turn our dreams into reality. Except it didn’t happen. Sludge through another six seven years of appointments, IVF, and the looooong road to adoption, and you’ll get to where we are today.

Anyway, by and large, I’m excited about the future, and I feel like I’ve loved and longed for my future child for the best part of the last 12 13 years. Adoption is something we can’t wait to do, we research it constantly, and are making every effort to ensure that we are able to provide our child with all that she/he needs to develop a strong identity, with a powerful connection to their culture. We even already have a collection of children’s books about adoption.

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But this journey certainly hasn’t been easy, in fact it has been incredibly unbelievably painful – but that’s a story for another day. Anyway, sometimes little things still catch me off guard, like someone complaining about having kids when I would do anything to have that problem, or the sheer length of adoption waiting times. So tonight I was having a little downer with myself in the car, asking God why on earth He made Mr. Lady Breaks and I infertile when we would love our kids so so much? What was the point to all this? It wasn’t fair, blah, blah, blah.

And then I got home.

Like any other good Gen Y-er I checked my facebook and I clicked through to this article about adoption in Australia.

And the article itself is really quite good and just what kind of information needs to get out there. But then I read the comments…*

Now, I know so many of you are amazingly supportive of our adoption journey and eagerly anticipate the day we adopt alongside us. In fact many of you are so supportive that you probably don’t realise there is a whole other side to the story that us ‘infertiles’ have to deal with. That stuff is thoughts like this:

  • It is time adoption was outlawed. Adoption requires the taking of a baby from its mother to satisfy the wants of adopters. It is a very selfish act. If you cannot have a baby of your own then you are not entitled to one from someone else.. It is time people looked at the history of adoption in Australia and come to realise that very few babies were willingly handed over to adopters. They were stolen. The majority of adoptions between 1950 – 1975 were illegal. It is time people realised this and accept that they cannot have a child and get on with it.
  • Adopters do not have the right to someone else’s infant. It is interesting that Mother’s rights are not mentioned in this article just the infertiles desire for a healthy fresh-out-of-the-womb infant.
  • It would be wonderful if people stopped referring to parents as birth parents of Bio parents. These titles are rubbish. You have one set of parents. The ones who created you, then you have adoptive parents. They are the ones who look after you when you are adopted but they are never ever your actual parents. It would be appreciated if people would stop calling mothers these names.

Anyway, that’s just a taster. If you want to see more, go to any adoption video on YouTube – most have comments on them saying that they have stolen a baby, bought a baby, ruined a life, etc., etc.

As many of you know, I have spent time in countries with an enormously high percentage of orphans – many of whom will grow up in institutions or worse. In Kenya alone it is estimated that 300 babies are abandoned every single day. I am not suggesting intercountry adoption is the only answer, far from it! Of course, a child’s indigenous culture will be the best answer for them. However, until adequate foster and orphan care systems are in place, intercountry adoption has to remain an option for the sake of the children.

I do believe very strongly in the absolute importance of ensuring the child’s culture is ingrained in their lives, and yes, I won’t be able to do it as well as their birth mother in their home country would. But the situation isn’t perfect, and no amount of telling me I’ll always be second best at it will change that. There are children whose parents simply cannot or do not want to raise them. There are children without parents at all. We are a couple who can. More than that, we love love them already, just as I imagine a mother expecting a baby would. Only our pregnancy has gone on for years and years.

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I acknowledge that some of you will read this and agree with what the commenters are saying, and you have every right to do that. You may believe that no matter which way I try and spin it, adoption will never be the same as “having your own” (<—HATE those words). All I can say to you is that for me and my husband, THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE. Our love for our future child is just as valid and as real as yours.

So, after a very long ramble that I’m not sure anyone will even read, I think I know why God made us infertile. And, what’s more I’m thankful for it. I, unlike many others, will get to say to my beautiful child, I longed for you with every fibre of my being for years and years and years. I knew how perfect you were before I met you and I conquered every obstacle placed before me to get to you. That’s how much you are worth to me.

x

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* Comments on article have since been removed

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