Today’s Fertility Friday post is by a very talented author called Yvonne Hughes, whose book One Piece of Advice is a must-read for people diagnosed with breast cancer, their families and friends. I met Yvonne at a breast cancer forum where she was a guest speaker, and was totally charmed by her honest, funny and heartfelt retelling of how she came to write the book. Yvonne and I kept in touch after the forum, as we have much in common, not least the fact that we are both breast cancer mothers of only boy children. Whilst the sibling ship has sailed for my family, I’m so pleased that Yvonne has agreed to share her story about her family’s wish to bring another child into their lives.
I’m struggling to write this piece, but I’m going to try anyway. I’m not struggling because I’m too emotional, too angry or too anything really. I’m struggling because it’s complicated.
I often say ‘there’s nothing easy about breast cancer’, and this applies to the fall out from breast cancer too. The big ticket item for the younger women with breast cancer is the affect treatment can have on fertility.
There are many ways it can affect your ability to have children – side effects from chemo, long term medication, or the fact that by the time your treatment was finished you’d missed the baby boat. We don’t all get the chance to freeze eggs before we start treatment – and even if we did, well, that’s not a sure thing anyway.
I didn’t freeze any eggs – I was given the choice, but I decided to get on with treatment right away. I have never regretted my decision – my husband and I were unequivocal in our thinking that our child needed a mother more than a sibling.
Do I feel cheated? Absolutely. But not by anyone responsible for my healthcare. I was presented with choices and I made the decision that I would make again. It’s the situation that cheated me. The fact that I had cancer. The fact that I was powerless to direct my future towards the vision I had for it.
I did make peace with the fact that I would not have a second biological child. I looked at my son and imagined what his brother or sister would have looked like. I imagined them, and I said goodbye.
I did not make peace with the notion that I may not have another child, because I didn’t – and still don’t – believe that this will be the case. I very easily switched my thoughts to adoption. I’ve never believed that I needed to have my ‘own’ child to love it. Any child in my care will be loved, I can say that with 100% surety.
But this isn’t an easy path either. Even with a clean bill of health and a spotless police record, we have not been placed with a child. All the boxes are ticked, all approvals are in place, but the wait continues. The hardest bit is hearing stories of abuse and neglect. Of kids coming to harm when there’s a safe and loving home for them here. It’s being powerless again. Powerless and frustrated.
I told you it was complicated. But it’s not without hope. I saw a movie recently, and there was a scene with a foster carer and a 12 year old boy. She said: ‘I’m so glad we found you. Sorry it took so long.’ If you’re reading this and you’re somewhere in your own fertility journey, take heart and keep hoping. Your child may not come to you in the way you expected, but there are other ways of having a special child in your life. You just have to find them.
A great way to get to know about the Foster system is to volunteer as a Pyjama Angel. I did this for a number of years. I decided that even though I didn’t have children, I could help some who may need a bit of support. The Pyjama Foundation places a Pyjama Angel with a child in foster care for only about an hour a week. Many kids in foster care live in busy foster homes, with many issues facing the children. The Angel has some special one on one time with the child, encouraging a love of learning. They can help with reading, homework, craft, etc. Children who have been in the foster system may have missed out on this, and have problems in school if there is no one to guide them on their way. I met the most wonderful foster families, and was able to see what a valuable asset they are to the children and the community.
Thanks Judy. I’ve done my Pyjama Angel training. Thanks for getting the word out there about a fabulous organisation.
I can only imagine how challenging it must be to see your dreams taken away. But I love that you want to add to your family through other means. I work in foster care and adoptions and the statistics for a local adoption is low. In Victoria last year only 24 babies were put up for adoption and more than 200 families waiting, with the list growing. Another alternative to add permanently to you family is Permanent Care, children that the courts gave deemed will never be able to live with their parents again, these kids have usually spent time in one or more foster families and as they are older than one are much harder to place in a long term home. Your rights are almost the same as adoption including guardianship with two notable exceptions, no name change or new birth certificate and they still have legal right to family estates etc in relation to inheritance. I wish your family well whatever journey you embark on and continued good health. Thanks for sharing your story.
We’ve said yes to permanent care too 🙂
Thank you for putting this suggestion forward – it’s so important that prospective families know about this option too.
I’d love to get your thoughts, as someone who works in the foster care system. Would it be okay if we had a private email chat?