Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Family Tree Assignment Part 2

You may remember that recently our Littlest brought home an assignment to do a Family Tree for school.  He decided, after a discussion with the Middlest, that he would include Flynn in the project.

Our next step was to work with him in deciding how to illustrate the tree. I will admit that I had a concern; part of the assignment included doing an oral presentation to the class and I was not sure that our Littlest understood how people on his tree died or came to be part of our family. What I really wanted was to ensure that the project would lend itself to the Littlest presenting it to classmates without him feeling confused or judged (secretly or not so secretly, I was having an anxiety attack).

The concept of Flynn (big brother who had died) was still relatively new to our Littlest and that was not taking into account that developmentally his ability to understand death was just evolving to include humans (up until now it was reserved for plants, family pets and batteries).  I recognize that I was being overly protective.  It came from a place of experience, having been through it with our older two children who were confused by messages or concepts about their brother, shared with them by well-meaning (but meddling) teachers, students and other parents.
So we decided to illustrate family members using pictures, well our Littlest decided, he loves photography.  He is already taking "selfies" with my camera when I am unaware.  Here is one I found on my camera today:
We took pictures of ourselves, the brothers, Grandma and Grandpa. We found nice photos of Opa and Nana.  I found a lovely picture of Grandpa Les that I could scan for the project and now our Littlest just wanted one of Flynn.  We have pictures up in our home of Flynn. We have a lovely Flynn scrap book with pictures of ultrasounds, his delivery and his time spent with us.  There was not a shortage of pictures; I just haven't been able to share any of them with the world (or a grade one class). So I compromised with my Littlest to take a picture of the scrapbook that had Flynn's name on the front and a black and white photo of his hand clasping my finger. We were ready to begin!

We had a blast printing the photos and my Littlest took his time cutting out every one (in that way that little ones cut, with their tongue sticking out and their elbows up in the air as they maneuver carefully through every curve). We got out the paints and I painted the branches on the tree.  We stuck the pictures on the tree and discussed who everyone was and how they were related to us. Our Littlest told me that every paint colour was picked specifically for the person it surrounded, although when asked the significance of the colour, our Littlest replied "just because."
My Littlest told me that Grandpa Les was his daddy's dad who had died (I didn't remember telling him that, funny what they absorb).  He told me his Opa was his dad's step dad but his real Opa (yeppers!!).  When our Littlest got to my side of the family he said they were my mom and dad who had not died.  I reminded him that he did not have to tell his class that, but chuckled at the thought.  When he came to describing Flynn's relationship to him, he stopped and looked at me, "he was my big brother, right mom?"  I told him that was right.  "I don't know why he died?" All I could think was "I don't know why either," but  instead I told him that he was born too early. He seemed okay with that.  We recited the relationships several times that evening and once more before he left with his project for school the next day.  I wrote the relationships on the back of the tree for his teacher just in case he got confused (I know over protective again).

The next week in his planner I got a note from his teacher: "We loved his family tree and He did Great!"

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Guest Blog from The Eye's the Limit

I believe I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by beautiful, empowered, and courageous women.  It can be so difficult to be vulnerable and share a heartbreaking experience with the world and I am so honoured the my sister-in-law, Tamsin has agreed to guest blog here on her journey with infertility. She is definitely one of the beautiful women in my life, and I am sure you will see what I mean when you read her blog:

I am a partner, mother, photographer and a woman who has lived through the grief of infertility. I believe it is very important that parents, like us, have positive and wonderful stories to look to in times when we are coping with the grief of infertility; I want to share our story here.  I will try to make it short….
About 10 years ago my husband and I decided (or more closely I convinced him) to start a family. After a year of “trying” and a few basic procedures with my OBGYN, it was determined that we had “unexplained infertility” and we were told our next step would be to see a specialist.  We did just that and in March of 2006 I had a laparoscopic surgery as a last procedure to further investigate the potential cause of our infertility.
I vividly remember waking from the surgery to the sound of a little child crying for his mommy, and my heart knew at that moment that the impending news wasn’t going to be good. My doctor told me that I had severe endometriosis blocking my fallopian tubes and that I would never be able to conceive a child naturally. In his uncomfortable attempt to find something positive in delivering the news to me, he said “the silver lining” is that you will be entitled to medical coverage of 3 IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) attempts.  Essentially, because our fertility issue was mine and not my husband’s, our procedures and testing would financially be covered by OHIP.  We would be able to have 3 egg retrievals and any resulting transfers of frozen embryos that resulted from those retrievals. It would cut the cost of fertility treatments by 85%.
*I want to take this opportunity to make everyone aware that there are thousands of couples who have unexplained infertility or fertility issues that are due to issues with the man and they do not get the same OHIP coverage.  I find this fact unjust and heartbreaking.

My husband and I rode the IVF coaster for 6 years. We had over 60 eggs retrieved and more than 35 embryos created.  We endured 8 IVF attempts that included 16 transferred embryos and after a whole lot of heartbreak, we were emotionally and financially spent. We were left with a lot of hurt and confusion because when we started out our prognosis had been so positive. We understood that our issue was merely logistics due to severe scaring of my fallopian tubes. How do you really and truly deal with the emotions-grief-reality of 16 possible babies who didn’t and couldn’t survive?  I personally, still can’t answer that question.  Ultimately, I believed there was a part of me that knew adoption was going to be the outcome of our journey to have children. So after some long conversations and time to begin to heal, we decided to start the domestic adoption process.
From the time I was old enough to understand family love, the challenges of poverty, and the drive to help others, I knew I wanted to be a foster parent.  I wanted to do something in my life to give a child a better life. Life was going to make that part of our journey towards my own family.

Although different, at times the adoption process could be just as emotionally taxing as the IVF process. After completing our home study, we were considered for 3 unborn babies but the birth parents did not choose us as a potential parent.  That was hurtful and it was hard to understand why.  I found myself questioning whether we looked “good enough” for these birth parents to WANT us.
If there is one thing in life that I believe in it is that there are no coincidences. On the very day our worker was coming to us to discuss a birth mom who wanted to meet us, her co-worker, who was days away from maternity leave, brought her a 3 1/2 month old baby’s profile.  The baby was going to become a Crown Ward and the original adoption plan for him had fallen through.  Our worker wanted to know which file we wanted to consider. We only needed a short time to discuss it before we knew this 3 ½ month old was our baby. Enter Maxwell into our lives.  Within weeks we would be bringing him home and less than a year later Maxwell was officially our beautiful son.

We really believed that this was the end of our journey to family story and we have felt super blessed with our perfect charming boy.  We did however think about a sibling for Maxwell and came to recognize that our journey had emotionally extended ourselves further then a Russian gymnast.  We decided that we were happy with our boy and that a sibling (or more so the process of adopting another child from another family) was just too much for us.  In the back of my mind I hoped for the possibility of a biological sibling even if it was a selfish hope.  I felt selfish because no matter what Maxwell’s birth parent’s situation was, not having the opportunity to raise your baby must rip a piece of your heart out and to me it is not comparable to any loss that we have faced regarding our struggles to start a family.
I had made my peace with so many aspects of motherhood that I would not experience, one of them being that I would never have a newborn child. I had dealt with the sadness I felt from missing the first part of Max’s life (something I think only adoptive parents can truly understand).  I had even become “OK” with the idea that Maxwell would be an only child (in our family).  I believed my blessings outnumbered the fact that life has not always been easy and fluid. However, as life changes when you least expect it, we got the message from our worker four weeks ago stating that Maxwell’s birth mother was expecting again and she was hoping for a consent adoption (different and easier process) with us. After I picked my jaw up from the floor, I felt my heart suddenly become overwhelmed with joy. Life is an amazing ride. Enter Edison into our lives and hearts. This gift life has given our family is a testament to how you never truly know what to expect and you are never prepared for how quickly your life can change.  I am humbled that Maxwell’s birth mother chose us to be a family to his baby brother; for that reason and many others, we will always be thankful that they wanted their baby with us. Because of their choice we have two beautiful baby boys to complete our family and fill our house with love and laughter.

I wrote my story for myself, for those struggling with infertility and also for anyone who knows someone who is dealing with infertility.  It is so important to give support and to be there for your friend(s) during the ups and downs they may face. It’s not easy to be supportive when you can’t personally relate, but the best thing you can do is to listen, take them out for coffee, and let them have a space to express their feelings.  Being sensitive to that person struggling with infertility when you are “out with the girls” talking about your birth experience, pregnancy, and babies at home.  Most importantly, try to stay away from saying “just relax” and “it will happen, just be patient” and if they have decided to pursue adoption, please do not tell them “I bet you’ll get pregnant as soon as you adopt!”  To those women and men who are dealing with the very personal and often private (too private) trials of infertility, know that you are not alone.  It may be hard to believe (and I understand that), but for us life has worked in wondrous and sometimes perfect ways.