November is National Adoption Month!

It’s perfect timing for the New York Times’, Room for Debate discussion on the adoption tax credit renewal, because November is National Adoption Month.  

For the next twenty-eight days we can voice our opinion, share our stories, and hopefully folks in the pre/present/post adoption process may find a kernel of comfort. Like I said in my post a few of days ago, “Trust me, we’re not in it for the money.”

So, while the talk continues, there are several inspiring folks out there willing to help–one that caught my eye recently is Helpusadopt.org. They provide grants up to $15K to qualified folks wishing to adopt. Check them out.

A big thank you to these lovely human beings!

An infertile woman’s Día de los muertos–Day of the Dead

I grew up coming home from school, in late October, to a fragrant pot of green pumpkin slices bubbling in brown sugar on the stove and to find the kitchen sink and our bath tub overtaken by a riot of flowers in preparation for Día de los muertos.

On November 1st, we’d pile into our turbo-charged station wagon along with metal tubs full of flowers and head to the family cemetery plots on both sides of the border to sweep up fallen leaves and debris around the headstone, arrange fresh flowers, and to pray the rosary. If we were lucky, my mother would buy us a bright red candied apple as we left the main cemetery in Nogales, Sonora.

My grandmothers each had, I thought, elaborate altars. Nachu, my maternal grandmother had her very own little stucco chapel where she’d find solace among her beloved saints and flickering votive candles. Nana Herminia’s took up one entire wall in her bedroom complete with pious looking saints and Jesus on the cross, but it also camouflaged my grandmother’s safe where she stashed her important documents, collection of gold coins, jewelry, and piles of cash.

My experiences didn’t prepare me for the Día de los muertos we spent in Oaxaca after losing our daughter, Sofia.

Chapter IV – January 1994 to May 1995

“On November 1st, we toured the city from dawn to dusk, taking in everyone’s uniquely glorious altars and stories. We asked for permission to take photographs and the gracious folks of Oaxaca were honored. Since then, I’ve created our own altar and still show off the photographs, every year during Día de los muertos, and have lovingly named the slide show Altarcation.

At nightfall we joined a procession of noisy costumed merrymakers taunting the Grim Reaper as they wound through town and spilled into the main cemetery lit by hundreds if not thousands of candles where families gathered around tombstones to pay their respects in a bittersweet tradition accompanied by food, prayer, and music. Out of respect, Marty and I sat on the cemetery wall, keeping our distance, mesmerized by the open display of sorrow and suffering. I wept with them. My eyes landed on a row of tiny mounds of dirt, each punctuated with a small white cross, all flanked by a huddled family. A sliver of hope, like a jagged piece of broken coral, ascended and pushed against the tidal wave of anger and despair. At least Sofia was alive.”

The other side of an infertile woman…

I’ve introduced you to my steadfast matriarchs who continue, in spirit, to circle my wagon, but I’m not complete without you meeting my father. Peter M. Raptis II. He was Junior to his parents, Pete to my mother, and Papá to my siblings. He was bigger than life to me. There wasn’t a word to define or describe him. Think a swashbuckling Errol Flynn with a megawatt smile and infectious laugh.

And I wanted to grow up to be just like him. I don’t ever remember wanting to grow up to replicate my mother’s life, running a chaotic household and raising a rambunctious brood of demanding, and challenging kids, but I do remember approaching his office and wanting to be a part of that. I still do.

Chapter I – December 27, 1991

“In almost every family photograph from my tenth year on, I’m proudly holding a drooling baby boy. After a perfect son and three civilized daughters, my mother unleashed four sons in rapid succession into our neighborhood, where they terrorized prized rose bushes, cats, and mailmen. The bundles of steaming tamales and platters of homemade cookies my mother sent along with apologetic note cards and hefty checks helped keep the police and lawsuits away, but really it was the fact she was a widow, a young green-eyed beauty of a widow with too many children, that kept our neighbors from running us out of town.

My larger than life, successful, handsome, prankster of a father died in a car accident, two blocks from our home, when I was eleven and my mother was seven months pregnant. He was plucked out of our lives, just as we were beginning to get to know one another. Some things I’d preferred not knowing about him, but there were many more that made me feel grand and, most of all, feel safe. We’d lost our treasured, paternal Greek grandfather two years earlier, but when my father torpedoed to his death, it crippled us. As a family, we never recovered and have walked through life with a limp in our hearts.”

Infertility Sucks!

Since I received so many heart-felt comments on “Infertility and Loneliness Go Hand in Hand”, I’ve decided to follow this thread a bit longer.

Infertility not only strips a woman of her most basic role and status in life as a mother, it maims friendships, and mangles even the strongest of family bonds. Our loved ones just want us to get over it, get back on the saddle, and pick up life where we left off without realizing that that life no longer exists, and never will again.

Time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds, especially when women hear  their biological clock ticking like a jack hammer.

Chapter V – Summer 1995 to September 1997

“…Friends welcomed us back into the fold, excited to hear about our adventures, catching us up on life and gossip, but thankfully skirted the topic of children. I’m embarrassed to admit that I selfishly didn’t reconnect with all of our friends—those who had babies, toddlers, or were in any stage of pregnancy were off limits. I’d rather undergo a root canal sans anesthesia than withstand the stories, photographs, and videos of their baby’s head crowning while a sage midwife coached them at home, in their bathtub, to the sounds of Enya or Kokopelli flutes. The thought of watching my friends with their kids, up close, mortified me. It hurt, and I don’t mean my feelings. It physically hurt, like a scalding bucket of water thrown on me. I’d feel sunburned for days. Give me time, I’d plead with Marty, who finally threw his hands up in the air and grew used to me ditching him whenever there was a family sighting. He’d stay to congratulate and fawn over our friends’ kids, pretending I was somewhere else, and promised that we’d get together.  Soon. Soon equaled never. No way. No how. When I’d reappear with a flimsy excuse, he’d scowl and tell me he hated lying to our friends. My apologies were wearing thin.

 

Deep down inside, though, I didn’t care if our friends felt slighted. After one cautious visit or two, I knew the powerful floodgates of motherhooditis would give way. I’d come back from México tanned, fit, with a resolve to create a new life, but beneath my brittle veneer, nothing had truly changed. Why did I have to sacrifice my feelings, I reasoned, just to be polite? Marty countered that I couldn’t keep running away and hiding from life. Oh yeah, says who?”