Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Freaking Out: Will the Economy and the World Leave Me Childless?

A few days ago, after yet another economist went on TV holding the proverbial The-End-Is-Near sign, I confessed to J (and to myself) that the state of the economy is really starting to freak me out. (I actually heard an economist on NPR talking about the problems the US would face even “if” we came through this crisis. If!?,” I hollered at my radio, “did you just say ‘if’?!?”)

J and I are in such a tenuous position right now. We had to take out a second mortgage to pay for our shared-risk IVF plan, and we still have to come up with about $5,000 a cycle in incidentals (more, obviously, if we switch to donor sperm).

Even scarier, what if IVF doesn’t work? Our next step is to adopt, and I was counting on our ability to borrow more (and not go bankrupt) if needed. If only I safely had a child in my home, I could live with having to do some penny-pinching, belt-tightening, etc; you pick the metaphor, I can handle it. But for the economy to crash while I’m in the most expensive phase of my life, trying desperately to just get my hands on a baby, any baby—it’s terrifying.

J did nothing to assuage my fears, instead reminding me that he has virtually no work lined up for the next year. Mid-sized theatres are closing their doors all over the country, and those that are staying open are likely to pay even less for their designers. My job, as a government defense attorney, is about as secure as a job can be, but J’s job––risky in the best of times––rises and falls with the goodwill of theatre sponsors.

Sometimes I feel like the world is plotting against me. Why now? Why couldn’t the economy fail a year or two from now, when we’re more settled? Or years ago, when we had nothing to lose? What if, at the end of years and years of searching and trying for a child, I discover the world’s final answer is “no”?

To make matters worse, J e-mailed me an article yesterday that had us both freaked out. For the last two years, we have soothed our souls with the knowledge that, if all else fails, we will adopt a baby from Ethiopia. Ethiopia is (relatively) fast, (relatively) affordable, and you can get a (relatively) young child. No other countries work for us. (For those of you who’ve researched international adoption, you know what I’m talking about. Out of hundreds of countries in the world, adoption is available in maybe 8 of them.) We don’t want to adopt a toddler (goodbye Russia, Ukraine, and half of Latin America); we can’t afford to go live in the country for three months (goodbye Columbia); we don’t qualify for the Asian countries due to various limitations on mental health (goodbye China) and weight (goodbye Korea); and we don’t want to wait 4+ years after we are on the list (goodbye anyone else, not that anyone else was left at that point). And domestic adoption is out of the question for us. We can’t take the idea of competing with others for a baby, especially given that most birth mothers probably would reject us due to our atheism. And J, open minded about most things, can’t cope with open adoption or the risks associated with having a birth parent try to reclaim the child.

So Ethiopia it is. At first, we were freaked out about the hostility we might encounter adopting a black baby (there is a fading-but-not-gone notion in the black community, at least around DC, that it’s wrong for whites to adopt blacks), but we’ve come to terms with that, even gotten excited about such a future.

Then J e-mails me this, an article describing the state of international adoption right now, as compared to just a year ago. International adoption is WAAAY down, and not due to a lack of people wanting to adopt. The top three countries are all shutting down: China and Korea are now taking 4-5 years to process, and Guatemala is virtually closed. As a result, Ethiopia has become the new hot spot to go for a baby. A year ago, I felt like Ethiopia was our own best-kept secret, our safe haven in the storm whirling around us. Now I’m completely freaked out. If the trends from other countries are repeated, by the time we get to Ethiopia (and we’re at least 8 months from starting the adoption process) it will be much harder to adopt from there. It probably will be even more expensive, almost certainly will take longer, and almost certainly will mean adopting an older baby.

None of this is surprising to me. When the US finally passed its Hague Convention protocols last year, I knew Guatemala was going to close. That alone was likely to send desperate couples running to Ethiopia.

It was a year ago, almost exactly, that we went to our first meeting on international adoption, and it was a year ago that we decided that, despite the risk that Ethiopia might become more popular, we weren’t ready to give up trying for a bio-kid. So I had the surgery, and we pressed on. But now I wonder if we made the right choice. Had we jumped into adoption a year ago, we might be making travel plans right now—our baby would already have been born, just be waiting for us to bring him/her home. Yet here we are, waiting and hoping, while Ethiopia becomes more and more popular, and likely less and less appealing as a result.

Can a country run out of babies? Because that’s what I feel is going to happen. Is it possible that I could end up childless, after all my promises to myself that I would never let that happen?

What happens now?


Pepper said...

I hear you! This is an incredibly tough time to be throwing money at TTC, especially with a track record like mine. It's something I've struggled with for months: is it wise to do this when the economy is such crap? I don't know what the right answer is.

It's at times like this when I'm floored by the idea that most people get pg for FREE and without even trying. Doesn't seem natural!


Newt said...

Ugh, it's all lousy timing, isn't it? Maybe the bad global economy will cause more countries to open their doors to international adoption because of a lack of domestic resources? OK, I honestly have no idea, but I'm trying to stay positive. It must be hard to feel like you had your safety net whisked away all of a sudden.

Obviously I don't have any solutions, but I have a lot of hope. And right now I am hoping like hell that you get your baby, however that happens.

Nikki said...

Everything is so scary right now! I don't know where the economy is headed, and I'm super worried that this is when we're jumping into major expenses.

I agree with pepper - it's not fair that most people get pg for free, some without trying. I hope they are counting their blessings!

BTW - I tagged you for an award on my blog. Check it out.

K77 said...

No advice at all but sending you hugs, this is very stressful.

Lisa said...

The things you said about adoption are what I keep telling people every time they tell me to "just adopt". They do not understand how very difficult it is.

Interesting that you worry about not being selected because you are athiests. We worry about the very same thing - not being selected because we are jewish.

Ms Heathen said...

I think that the added financial pressures make what is already a stressful situation all the more unbearable.

I am so sorry that you and J are having to have these difficult conversations, and am holding out every hope that you will one day bring home your very own baby - however that happens.

Ms. J said...

Hi Sweetie . . . I was crying just reading what you wrote. I get it.

I wanted to connect you to this woman, who posts on a China-adopt board I frequent.

She has adopted a baby from Ethiopia, and just today posted the following info on the China adopt board inviting people (who are in despair about the China wait times) to contact her:



I want to encourage those of you who have not thought about other countries to please just consider it. Ethiopia has MANY children in need of homes. If your family would even consider a child over the age of 4, your adoption would take 6 months or less. The dossier is not difficult and the trip to Ethiopia is about 5 days in-country. There are of course infants available to adopt from Ethiopia and the process would take anywhere from 7 months to 18 months depending on the agency you choose.
Currently I work out of my home for the agency we used to bring home our beautiful baby girl. Our trip to Ethiopia was life changing in so many ways. The need for help in Ethiopia is extraordinary and you return home an activist in many ways. My daughter’s orphanage was small, with only about 20 children, but each of the children touched our hearts. The children are so well cared for and loved in Ethiopian orphanages that they exude a beauty only seen in Ethiopia.
Every month we have families sign up to adopt a baby girl or a baby boy, I was one of them, while our waiting healthy children sit. Currently we have a sibling group of a 6 year old girl and 5 year old brother, they are the most beautiful children you have ever seen. We have an adorable 5 year old boy and an 8 year old girl. We may have found a family for the 8 year old girl, who has been at the orphanage for over a year. She is so kind and sweet, we met her while picking up our daughter.
So if you can open your hearts to child in real need from Ethiopia please DO! Children over 4 in Ethiopia have little if no hope!
If you would like to ask me questions please call or email.

512.244.6444 or


Leah Reeves


Heavy heart said...

Hey Baby chaser..I saw your post. I completely empathise with your feeling of being overwhelmed by the number of things that look so dangerous and risky just now.But let me tell you something that my husband tells me whenever I feel overwhelmed - to quote 'If you take all the things that can possibly go wrong and bog yourself down, you are only taking energy away from your goal. And moreover you are letting infertility dictate terms to you. Instead, take one problem at a time and find a logical solution. Ensure that you meet infertility at your turf and on your terms and NOT on it's terms. Never give a problem a position greater than your own.'..These words strengthen and motivate me everytime I am down..I can only hope it helps you! All the best and ((Hugs))

Io said...

Oh my, do I ever understand. Al is just not finding jobs and I'm freaking out about living in general, much less ever being able to afford a baby.
I wish I had nice comforting words for you, but I need somebody to talk me down too.

kate said...

Oh, yeah. I totally know what you're saying. My hope was to quit my job, go back to school for a while (living on student loans and some generosities), but suddenly, it all seems pointless. Why work my ass off, indebt myself (if I can even get the loans I need), when there likely won't be a job available for me when I graduate? And worse, even though we just found out that we have some limited IF coverage, we can't even afford to pay the deductibles on that coverage because I don't have a job, and probably won't for a long time... The economy is hitting us really hard, and you're right- it can't have come at a worse time. And even if I did manage to get pregnant, how would we afford to raise a child right now? It's absurd.

peesticksandstones said...

Great post. You echoed so many of the thoughts I've had had myself -- especially the Ethiopia thing. I thought that was "our" secret too :)

Several of my co-workers have been making a big production out of bringing sack lunches suddenly because of the economy. Meanwhile, I sit here with a $4500 dose of experimental anti-miscarriage drugs running through my veins and wonder if I'm being... decadent?

It's so odd putting a price on all this. I so envy people who never even have to give it a thought.

Peeveme said...

It seems so bleak. I keep thinking in the new year it wont feel so bad (speaking about the general economy).

I can't imagine how devastating it must be when a plan-B fails. It's hard enough to open up to a plan B and then to have to feel like even that is not going to happen. I'm so sorry.

Barb said...

Fascinating and scary. But I bet our paranoias make it even worse than it is... at least that's the case for me.


Christine said...

You might take a much more indepth look at domestic adoption. Most people have immediate concerns about open adoption, but they're actually unfounded. I think you'd be surprised by the research.

Foster-to-adopt is another option, which requires that you spend more time in preparation instead of financially. Actually makes you a better parent with the required classes and reading. You can also choose to just adopt a child from a foster care situation, without actually being a foster home.

When the door shuts, open a window! :)

Dr Barreness said...

Wow. That sounds like such a distressing time.

I am still being angry about my infertility. I haven't even come close to being sensible and looking at my options.

I look forward to reading more of your story.


Rebeccah said...

Oh boy do I understand every single word of this post. We've talked about adopting our second child from Ethiopia. My friends who are on the list for siblings from Ethiopia tell me that the wait is almost a year at this point, which is still a lot less than the other countries. (We didn't qualify for or explore those other countries for nearly the exact reasons you list.) I'd tell you not to despair yet, but all of this does pile up -- the money, the time ticking by ... so I'll just say that I understand what you are feeling.

I would also really encourage you and J to explore some more about open adoption -- the Mister would be happy to talk/email with J if it would help to get another guy's point of view. He had the same kinds of concerns and fears, but after learning more through our agency, he is now a huge supporter and defender of the open adoption concept. Just drop me an email if you'd like more info.

Barreness said...

I am from Australia and I cannot believe how vicious your health system is.

Isn't America supposed to be 'the best country in the world'?

Surely you deserve to be looked after better than that.

Mo and Will said...

Hi - I'm new to your blog. glad to have found it!

International adoption is so stressful (and infertility completely stinks too, while i'm at it).

I hear you on all the restrictions and reasons why ethiopia seems ilke your best shot, and i'm betting they won't run out o' babies by the time you get there - but I understand why you're worried.

Just another random thought - I have a dear friend who's adopting from Kyrgystan (spelled right, hopefully). she's a single mom to be and already has a baby lined up. baby is 7 mos old. so pretty young...just a thought. don't think this country has hit the "hot" list yet.

Hang in there. and good luck!


Jaded Girl said...

i hear you. i am freaking out that if i do get pregnant again something will go wrong, again. when things are so unfair we can only anticipate how things will go wrong, and who knows they may actually go 'right'. last week i was having panic attacks anticipating how another pregnancy might go i hear you.