Sunday, February 06, 2005

Baby or the Tiger

This is a difficult post for me to write. We're at something of a crossroads here. And while we've now finally made a decision about which way to go, I confess it has taken its toll on me. I'm feeling a little emotionally exhausted, to be honest.

While I've been building up to this for awhile, I am a bit tentative about discussing our options. I've been doing a lot of information and data gathering, but am still not sure I have all the right pieces. So to add a gigantic caveat at the beginning- this is what I know, at this point in time. Some of it could be wrong, and if anyone knows something I don't, then by all means speak up.

After our unexplained diagnosis in December, we had decided to wait a few more months and then start treatment. But as I have mentioned before, I am the sort of person who likes not only an intermediate plan, but a detailed long-term road map. As we were having a breather before moving on, I wanted to know and to understand our family building options if, a year or two from now, treatment fails. I wanted to have a clear picture of where that leaves us.

The answer, as far as I can see from the research I had done about the adoption procedures in Scotland is: up shit creek without a baby.

The prospect of adoption throws up all sorts of hurdles for E. and I, in our particular situation. Most of the challenges are not insurmountable. If we did adopt, we would wish to go the overseas route. Scotland is really not geared up for overseas adoptions past the point of the homestudy, but I am a resourceful cookie, and there are ways to deal with this. Also, in order to adopt as a couple, we would have to get married- something E. views with great distaste, but which he would ultimately agree to for the sake of our family.

But there is a problem, one we cannot easily overcome. And the problem is this: by law, there are no age restrictions for prospective adopters. But in our area, in practice, the policy is that the oldest person in the adopting couple should be no more than 42 or 43 at the point at which the application is sent for approval by the adoption panel. E. will be 40 this year.

In theory, that would leave us a year or so to play around with some assisted conception larks. However, remember that nothing in this country moves quickly. It has been nearly six weeks since our last visit to Dr Ticktock, and I have yet to receive the letter confirming our appointment with the Ass Con crew. And that appointment will probably not be until April. Of course, the answer to all this NHS arsing around is to go straight to private treatment- which we are probably going to do immediately. However, before we do that, we would be required to pick up a yet another couple of tests to add to our butterfly collection, all of which is going to take another month or so.

I'm not saying the slowness and delays are insurmountable, but I am trying to give you a flavour of what we are dealing with here- and in the overall big picture, I know we have to factor in movement at the rate of pond water.

To cut a long story short, a year is not an unrealistic amount of time to undergo a proper course of treatment here, running the gamut from IUI to a cycle of IVF. And if it all fails, well, E. will still probably be about 41 or so.

But now for the hiccup. To work with the only agency I can find that appears to have any clue about overseas adoptions, we would have to go on a "preparation class". That class is only run once a year. There is currently at least a year waiting list for this. Prospective adopters are not permitted to undergo infertility treatment at the same time as adoption, so we could not put our names down and see how it goes. It then takes a further six to nine months to get a homestudy completed, although I know fine well it could be longer.

In short, it is very likely we would up against the clock in a major way in terms of E.'s age. Dealing with the medical system is frustrating enough, and neither of us particularly want to spend the whole treatment phase fretting over the passage of time. The answer might be that we would have to agree to adopt a slightly older child, but after some heart-wrenching discussions, we admit that right now, that does not work for us.

Some commenters on an earlier post kindly suggested that treatment might be viewed as "nothing ventured, nothing gained". I would normally wholeheartedly agree with that notion. But in reality, if we go down the treatment route, we are committing ourselves to a reality in which adoption might not be an option after all. Or, if we adopt, we must face up to the distinct possibility that should we then decide to pursue treatment at a later date, it is likely to be too late. And we forever forego the possibility of pregnancy and a biological child.

Treatment or adoption. We can probably do one or the other. It doesn't appear we can do both. Or, at least not if we stay in Scotland, but frankly, the idea of an international move back to America in the middle of all this is beyond what we are willing to contemplate right now.

I am put in mind of the story of "the Lady or the Tiger", where the condemned prisoner is forced to undergo a terrible test. Led to arena, and made to choose between two doors. Behind one door, a beautiful lady, whom he will marry on the spot. Behind the other door, a ferocious hungry tiger, waiting to pounce. The prisoner's secret lover knows what lies behind the doors- she can give him a clue. But which door will she choose? If he opens the door with the lady, he will live, but will be lost to her forever, in the arms of another woman. She would almost rather see him dead. But if he opens the door with the tiger, can she bear to watch her beloved ripped to shred before her eyes?

We are standing in our own arena. Behind one door is a baby. Behind the other is a tiger, of grief, loss and regret-even with the aid of my handy bullwhip, not easily tamed. There is no one to give us a clue as to what to do. We must decide for ourselves. And so, tightly holding hands, we are now moving to our chosen door. Knowing that one way or another, there will be a ending. Knowing that we have chosen with our eyes wide open, chosen as best we can.


At 7:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Mare -

I am hoping with all of my heart and soul that whichever route you chose, that things fall into place quickly, peacefully and easily.

Thinking of you


At 8:01 PM, Blogger Pamplemousse said...

Mare, I know all about the endless waiting and cruel decision-making. After over 3 years of dealing with the NHS, I now wish we had gone straight to private treatment but hindsight is always a marvellous thing. I was not to know that Clomid and injectibles through the NHS would not work. You would not take a single step on the journey if you did not have the hope. All you can do in the end is take the step knowing you are making the choice that is best for you both. I wish you peace in your decision.

At 8:05 PM, Blogger Suz said...

I'm so sorry. I hope that you find your way out.

At 8:31 PM, Blogger Soper said...

BIG plate of brownies.

Chocolate chunk.

With nuts.

At 8:54 PM, Blogger Orodemniades said...

42, eh?

Good to know we're fucked, then.

I wish I knew what to say, but, hell. I wish you the best in whatever you decide.

At 9:40 PM, Blogger Lala said...

this is unfathomnable. Wow.

At 9:52 PM, Blogger lobster girl said...

Good grief, Mare, this post makes me want to march into Parliament in Scotland and start screaming at somebody. Anybody. These choices aren't fair. But nothing is in this game, is it? I know that you and E. will choose the right door for you, but I'm so sorry you have to make a decision like this. My love to you.

At 10:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I wish only the very best for you and E, I really do and I hope with all my heart it all works out for you.

Sending you much love and a big hug AND a huge plate of cookies (with a few crumbs because I'm a hog and can't stop eating cookies ;)).


At 11:03 PM, Blogger Baby Hungry Man said...


Thinking of you and wishing I had some words that might help.

Hey! Worst case scenario, I'm technically an orphan so I'm available for a very speedy overseas adoption - I figure it's faster if I sign myself over no? That is if the two of you dont mind a neurotic baby that probably outweighs you, is balding, smokes unfiltered cigarettes and laughs loudly at all poop jokes.

I do come potty trained... mostly.

seriously though, I'm so sorry that you both have to face this unfair and arbitrary pressure ontop of all the other grief and frustration. It's not fair.


At 11:24 PM, Blogger E. said...

My G-d, Mare. Your situation is just...cruel. Cruel even by infertility standards.

I am so sorry, and I love you.

At 12:20 AM, Blogger Jen said...

Oh, Mare.

I am so sorry that it seems that the Scottish system (or lack thereof) and a ticking clock are conspiring to limit your decisions like this. It just sucks to know that there's not a plan B if plan A doesn't work. Would you like me to look into international baby theft for you?

Thinking of you, and hoping you can come to a resolution that works for you--and gets you home a baby as quickly as possible.

At 8:42 AM, Blogger Janet said...

Once upon a time, I was an optimistic sort. I used to think "If you want something badly enough, doors, if not windows, would open and it would happen." Unfortunately, time, experience, and hanging around some wonderful blogging women has tought me differently.

But oh, I so badly want it to work out for you. So. Tremendously.

I would never dream of giving you advice, because only you and E can make those decisions, but I hope for clarity and committment to course of action one way or another. Whatever feels right in the depths of your equine soul.

In the meantime, you have my positive thoughts, my virginal sacrifices, and my naked dancing under a full moon to offer you support. Oh, and would Godiva chocolates help? They help me through the toughest of decisions. Never made a bad choice yet with the aid of Godiva.


At 1:18 PM, Blogger Dee said...

So sorry the choices always have to be so difficult. Together you'll reach the decision that feels right and is best for you both. And how I'm hoping that whichever path you choose is smooth, paved with all the best, and easy to deserve nothing less.

At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. This must be awful.

My 2 cents (now worth .0005 cents, but who's counting?):

If the idea of living child free is not an option for you, adoption is guaranteed.

Can you keep your treatment a secret?
Is there another adoption agency that is more flexible with age?
I know China adoption is great with the age thing. I think the COMBINED age cannot be over 90 or something.

Good luck with this. I know this all sucks.


At 6:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that there has been a review of Scottish adoption law, but I can't seem to find what's happened with it. Perhaps you should chase it up with your MP or MSP?

As far as I know, you can do international adoption through the local authority, (they do the assessment but you pay for it). Oasis, should be able to offer more info.

If your stupid local authority persists in having such ridiculously low cut offs, (who the heck do they expect to foster/adopt teenagers?) would it be possible to move to another area? Or to see if you can adopt from another LA? Most areas in Scotland seem to have a cut off of 45 for the older parent. Or you can come and live with me if you want - I've got a spare room. Plus, from September unmarried couples in England will be able to adopt together, and they tend to suggest that there shouldn't be an age gap of more than 45 years between the oldest parent and the child.

Oh and I agree totally about the NHS being frigging ridiculously slow - I'm convinced they hope that people will conceive in the twenty seven years it takes to get an appointment, so they'll save some money. if you can afford it, private is the way to go - shame we can't get a tax refund.

Anyway, good luck with everything!

ms pickled eggs (

At 7:42 PM, Blogger Pazel said...

What a horrible position to be in! I never would have known that you would be faced with this type of crossroads already. Usually, you can travel one road for as long as you can bear it before deciding whether you wish to travel the next. "Nothing ventured" doesn't work because you can only venture one at most, not any and all as much as you are willing. I'm so sorry. I hope that the door you choose will be the right one for you.

At 9:09 PM, Blogger Cass said...

Damn damn damn. What a sucky set of options. (42? What are they smoking?) I have no advice to offer. I don't know enough about the system to even venture a guess. All I can do is send you wishes for clarity and lots of chocolate.

At 10:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is gut-wrenching. I can't even believe how rigid and slow everything is over there. I will never complain about waiting again (well, I probably will, but at least not to you). I can only wish you clarity and conviction once you make this seemingly impossible decision. I'm sorry you even have to make it at all. Heidi (lost and finding)

At 2:03 AM, Blogger Patti said...

I've been a lurker for the past few weeks and finally decided maybe this was the time to speak up. My heart goes out to you. What a difficult decision you are facing. The system there really does seem set up to thwart infertiles from ever being able to have children. What ridiculously low age limits they have and then to move at the pace of molasses makes it all the worse. I had one thought that maybe could help, though, maybe not. I was wondering if it might be possible for you to give acupuncture a try while pursuing the adoption option? Would that be considered "infertility treatment"? Maybe the powers that be don't need to know why your going for acupuncture. I tend to find that most bureaucrats, insurance cos etc consider infertility treatment to be IVF and IUI. Now re acupuncture: I know it might sound a little weird and out there, but there's some evidence that it actually does help. I probably would have dismissed it as kind of kooky until I started reading articles that talked about women who had gone through IVF etc and had no luck who then had success with it. And then I read a book "The Infertility Cure" by Randine Lewis that convinced me to give it a try. It has definitely had a positive effect on my cycles, though no luck yet re pg. However, other women on an email list that I belong to have had success with it. It's just a thought. It can't hurt and maybe it could help and if you can fly under the radar with acupuncture, then maybe that wouldn't hurt your chances on adoption. It may not work, no guarantees, but then IVF isn't always a sure thing either.
I had some other thoughts re the "unexplained infertility" diagnosis, but you may not have the time... unless you decide to go for more treatment. I hate the "unexplained infertility" diagnosis. (That's what I had/have). In the U.S., the doctors are just way too quick to label you as "unexplained" and tell you your only choice is IVF. Turns out there are other tests and possible explanations, but, as one doctor put it to me: "I don't want to waste my time." Anyway, after all of this, just by way of background/introduction I've been ttc for 4.5 years, 3 miscarriages.
Good luck. I hope you and E. can figure this one out and be at peace whichever path you take.

At 2:19 AM, Blogger Kristin said...

What a tough, tough decision to make. Whichever route you chose, I hope it brings you your hearts desire.

At 3:46 AM, Blogger amyesq said...

Wow. It sounds like you are stuck in a Byzantine maze, threading your way through the best you can. Please let us know when you are closer to that door and you feel comfortable talking about your decision. We are here to support you.

At 6:05 AM, Blogger estel said...

I'm a bit of a lurker usually - so haven't posted before, but - I really feel for your dilemma. The adoption situation seems similar to the one here (Australia) - very long time to be processed, fertility treatment not allowed (indeed they require your contraception plan plus regular pregnancy tests), plus age limits. (Age limits are often imposed by the source countries - at least according to local literature.) And though we don't have the quite the same problems with a slow medical system it often ends up a choice of one or the other.

I guess we more slipped into the IVF route, with the now charmingly naive belief it would work since we were "only unexplained". But that choice now looks like limiting most other options a number of years down the track. Best to be aware before you start as you are.

I would say that a year of treatment is probably optimistic - unless you are either successful early on or do a cycle and realise you just can't stand it. Also, unexplained may be due to very real problems. In our case, we found that we needed ICSI to achieve fertilisation. So one year of IUIs was a complete waste for us. IUIs are a very standard way to start treatment if you're unexplained. If you do go the ART way, keep a firm limit on the number IUIs. IVF can show up problems that IUIs won't.

Good luck with your difficult choices.



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