Saturday, April 25, 2009

Do you have any children?

I'm just catching up on a series I love - the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. It is incredibly evocative, with all kinds of little things that make me feel like I am really there - I have never been to Botswana, but I have visited Namibia and Zimbabwe (the latter back in the day when it was almost as rich as Botswana) and lived in the region. I look at the furniture, the gates, the roads, the signs, the kitchens, the way people wear their clothes, the gardens and the trees, and I'm back there. I know just where the girls in the Go Go Handsome Man's Bar get their clothes and how the beer tastes, and the ketchup on JLB Matekoni's table, and what the detectives are drinking, since they aren't drinking beer themselves, and how Mma Ramotswe's tailor makes her clothes, and how Mma Makutsi is squeezed in the minibus, and what the bush smells like (and, sadly, how the dust in such dry places stops me breathing properly, and hence why I could never live in that corner of the world - only on a humid coast).

As some of you may know, the series would have to be (under my rating system) rated M, as Mma Ramotswe lost her newborn baby while she was married to her violent ex-husband. I believe there was at least a hint that he had caused the baby's death by beating her up though I don't particularly want to go back and check*. In one episode she helps an American woman find out what happened to her son, who had been living in Botswana, and she tells the woman that she, too, lost a child and knows what it is like. At the end of the episode we find Mma Ramotswe at the baby's grave**, and we also find me in floods of tears.

In the next episode a father is worried about his daughter and he asks Mma Ramotswe whether she has children. She does not answer but pauses and looks down, and he says "well, take it from one who has". I do find - and stop me if I've harped on about this before - oh, yes, that's right, you can't stop me - OK, stop reading if I have - that my friends and family divide into those who believe that no-one can possibly know what children are like until they have had their own and that their own children are so special and unique that I cannot possibly even comment on their development, and those that accept that I know something about child development, and are interested in the topic in general and although they are the ones that know what their child is doing right now***, ask for my opinion or explanation of this (they've spotted he is crawling backwards/thinking you can hide by closing your eyes/spelling words with letters missing and want to know if this is common or why it happens).

A perfect example of the former is, as we know, my brother. 'Nuff said. A good example of the latter is my primary-teacher-trained uncle's wife - she has 3 children aged 5-13 and although she knows about the school stuff, we've had many lovely conversations about them when they were preschool, and also about spoken language things which at least when she trained wasn't a major part of what they studied.

I didn't mean to get this on to a rant about people who think you know nothing because you haven't any of your own, 25+ years' experience of working with children notwithstanding. I was actually wondering about something that, again, I may have waffled about before: if you have lost children, what do you say when people ask how many you have? Do you acknowledge the ones you've lost? Or only some of them? If you have children living, do you also mention the ones that are not?

*Another not-for-the-squeamish story: When I was doing my PhD I was working on speech and language disorders and some of the individuals I worked with had had strokes. The youngest was a woman in her 20s who had been pregnant when her boyfriend karate chopped her on her neck, causing a clot to move to her brain and a subsequent stroke. The baby, happily, was fine (I think she was very near delivery) and she survived, but with severe speech and langauge problems. When I met her she was worrying that her baby's language was soon to overtake hers, and that she couldn't read his books very well. Apparently pregnancy is one of the commonest times for a partner to first become violent to a woman. Lovely.

**I hadn't seen the little grave shelters before, as where I've lived they tend to concrete grave stones, and the little baby-sized one was heartbreaking.

***In fact, this is a big theme in my research - the abilities of parents to report on and assess their own children's behaviour, and how to get accurate information from parents that isn't either wishful thinking or ultra conservative.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

This is the problem

with having an easygoing, relaxed Spouse.

Another cycle started - and I have to say, without nearly as much angst as some of the previous ones, so perhaps knowing we can't get pregnant (because we knew we'd miss the window) wasn't such a bad thing. This does mean though that we needed to think about whether this next cycle would be one in which we Try or Don't Try.

If we don't, I think for the moment we'd be either abstaining over a relatively large time-slot or using old-fashioned Protection. My only other idea for the moment is properly using the Persona (or using it in conjunction with Protection) but I don't have any sticks for it just now.

If we do, I need to see the GP (and, potentially, the Big Hospital) for some more progesterone supplements. I could probably survive a month on what I have left of the nice ones, plus the nasty ones.

And, of course, I'd also have to start taking the mega folate again (I'm taking my regular women's vitamins which have the normal dose), ditto baby aspirin, watching the caffeine, alcohol etc. (there is a whole post on this, I think).

I'm not sure what to think. I really, really don't want to have another miscarriage in the middle of the adoption process again, nor do I want to put it on hold because of another pregnancy, only to have another miscarriage and (likely) a break in the adoption process because either we or the agency are unwilling to continue so soon after a loss (it's just as likely to be us as the agency).

But then I don't know how far we are into the process, how long it is going to take, what the gaps are likely to be, and also whether there is any chance of us ever getting pregnant again.

I am pretty sure we'll have a six month or so wait after agency approval while the UK government gets its act together. I am also quite sure I wouldn't want to be holding off for all that time. Likewise, if we're waiting for a placement, frankly, I think I would take a placement if we were newly pregnant, and just let people think what they think if the pregnancy works out, while hoping I'm too sleep deprived to care if it doesn't.

Until we get to those stages, I have a feeling there will be a lot of "hurry up and wait". But as I have said, even the fact that we are talking about taking a break seems huge. I actually thought that I would be getting to our five-year point - which would be in September - and going "just another month, let's give it one more". And I'm not. I really want to forge ahead with the adoption RIGHT NOW. But Mr. Spouse is no help at all - all he has to say is "I don't know" and "It would be really stressful if we got pregnant".

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I actually slept last night (7 solid hours), though I'm not betting on that being the last of the jetlag, and my mother is making coffee, so I'm pleased. Although her laptop seems to think I am moving the cursor randomly from line to line and typing in odd places so if you find any incomprehensibility, don't blame me.

Yesterday I escaped the maternal clutches and took my life (and our car) in my exhausted, LH drive, automatic-accustomed hands and gingerly made my way down to the top of the hill where the Hairy Farmer Family live. It's about 10 miles from my mother's house and very beautiful it is too. And of course they are a very lovely family, with a very gorgeous (and yes, he is verbal, just not very good at pronunciation, honest!) child, and it was delightful to meet them, and refreshing to talk to someone who knows exactly where we are coming from in so many senses, even down to the school system and local knowledge and geography and, well, I hope I'll be back. Especially if there is cake.

In a bit of a rush before we left CA, we finally heard back from the Nice Agency in state - who (yay!) think they can deal with us. Now, these may all be prejudiced positions, but I can't help feeling that we will do better with this agency for a number of reasons. One of them being that you can actually look at the website without going blind (in the case of one agency) or feeling someone knocked it up on the back of an envelope (in the case of the other). One of the others being that this agency takes gay couples, unmarried couples, and singles (I think cluttered-website-agency also does but blank-website-agency only takes married couples). Although we do not fall into those categories, I think we are probably more likely to appeal as a family to someone less conservative.

I also had a pleasant chat with the UK agency who were very surprised we hadn't received their information pack (frankly, I wasn't) and promised it would be sent out immediately, and asked nice but not too difficult questions about where we were in the process and what we were thinking of doing, to which I gave the right kind of answers ("yes, we do want to adopt from the US because we're more likely to get an infant but also because we want to try and have some degree of openness which might not be possible elsewhere"). Middle-class, high earning families are the ones that adopt internationally here, but generally there are at least a few who don't want any contact with birth families and that's why they choose international (certainly there were some on the course our friends were on, who chose China over Central America for just that reason). So at least we'll get social worker brownie points for that. I didn't ask if we get let off part of the course for having done the fostering course, but I will at some stage.


Wednesday, April 08, 2009


  • Months spent in Southern California: 7.5
  • Miles on our year-old car when we bought it: 6,000
  • Miles we've driven on our year-old car: 7000
  • US$ amount lost on the sale of our car: not telling
  • GBP amount lost on the sale of our car: considerably less owing to more favourable exchange rate at purchase
  • Amount made on sale of random goods on Craigslist and at yard sale: approx $700. Guess people are buying second hand goods these days. But not clothes, even some of our stuff that's in really good condition, strangely.
  • Trips outside the Californias: 1 (and that last week, to Colorado for a conference. Brr.)
  • Trips within the Californias: 6 - 4 in SoCal and 2 in Baja.
  • Useless OPK sticks: many, many.
  • OPK sticks that actually worked: about 6
  • Useless pregnancy tests: about 4
  • Progesterone supplement tablets left over: about 30 i.e. a month's supply
  • Months spent trying to get pregnant: 6
  • Months spent NOT trying to get pregnant: 1
  • Days till I leave work: 2
  • Papers written since I have been here: approximately 5
  • Grant proposals written since I have been here: approximately 3
  • Days till we leave SoCal: 3
  • Days till we leave NoCal where we are stopping over: 7
  • Adoption agencies contacted: approx 20
  • Adoption agencies in the US who have replied to us to say they cannot work with us: approx 8
  • Adoption agencies in the US who have not replied to us: approx 10
  • Adoption agencies in the US who have replied to say they CAN work with us: 2
  • Number of these that are in California: 0
  • Social workers who have said they can do our US home study in the UK: 1 (and that's the only one I contacted)
  • Adoption agencies in the UK who have said that they can work with us: 1 (the non-UK work is parcelled out geographically so it's not too surprising that there is only one)
  • High today in SoCal: 18C (low 12C)
  • High today in NW England: 13C (low 4C)
  • Approximate winter low in SoCal: 4C
  • Number of radiators in our house in SoCal: 0
  • Number of radiators in our house in NW England: er, 10?
  • Approximate thickness of walls in our house in SoCal: 0.02mm
  • Approximate thickness of walls in our house in NW England: 1m