Saturday, December 10, 2005

More Background Info

As you may have gathered, I've been looking forward to our current situation for a long, long time. I guess I've always known I would be a foster parent at some point in life...until a few years ago I always figured I'd have my own first and then add "temps" to the family, the same way my folks did. It didn't change much when I found out I was unable to have biological children, though it did throw a wrench in my emotional works for awhile until I was able to fully accept it.

An interesting thing that I don't think I've mentioned in this space: I have cystic fibrosis. A lot of people don't know exactly what that is beyond a bad thing that some children are born with and the thing some celebrities have adopted as their pet project (Bruce Willis, whose son I believe has it, and others). My case is a very, very, VERY mild one. I don't have any of the usual lung troubles that many force many patients to need transplants. Often it gives patients digestive complications, and while I've had those my whole life, mine are almost always relatively very minor. Mostly I manage it by taking vitamins, whose absorption is often disrupted, and occasionally using supplementary dietary enzymes to help digestion.

But the one big thing I have no way to combat is the fact that almost 100% of male CF patients are infertile. I wasn't even diagnosed with CF until I was this threw me for a little bit of a loop at that point in my life. Oh, sure, I COULD have biological children. The source of infertility is not that I don't produce sperm. I'm sure those little guys are just rearing to go. Problem is, they're stuck without transportation. In one of God's little jokes, the male CF patient produces sperm just fine...but the vas deferens is basically just not there, or at least not in a form the sperm can use. The subway cars are there and on the track, but the tunnel's collapsed.

CF is not without its "charms"...I can basically have to eat like a cow to gain too much weight, I am encouraged to eat a lot of salty things, my skin/sweat is very salty prompting lots of kisses from our dogs (I suppose this is only a bonus for animal lovers like myself) and it's a really handy excuse in my case if I wanted to just take a day off from work. But on the whole, I wouldn't wish it on anybody and the infertility thing is the worst of the symptoms in my particular case.

The doctors actually could extract sperm with a needle (ouch) and we could do the petri dish stew thing, but recall--or be informed, if you didn't already know--that CF is a genetic disease, and it's conveyed by a recessive gene. That means that since I have the thing, any child who is a product of this process is guaranteed at least to be a carrier with one CF gene, and there's an outside chance that my wife could be a carrier and provide the other 50% so the child could die a young and horrible death. I don't like the math on that one, especially when there are so many kids that are in desperate need of homes.

You see, we have two BIG reasons to foster in addition to all the other wonderful reasons. One is that we really do want to adopt and the other is that there is no way in God's creation that we can afford to pay a lawyer full price for adoption. I went through a divorce a few years ago. My lawyer charged me $75 to review a two-paragraph email. Two paragraphs! If we can just get a couple of those kids past the lawyers, I think they and we could be the happiest family in the history of procreation. And when you're foster parents, suddenly there are a lot more low-cost options for adoption.

In the meantime and in addition to any kids we might be able to adopt through fostering along the way, we're hopefully going to be able to help a lot of kids deal with problems that they should never have been asked to deal with. We'll be able to help the police when they make a bust or something and have kids they have no place for while the parents are dealt with. We might even be able to help stitch a family or two back together and give them another shot at being a working unit.

I have no idea if these attitudes and motivations are healthy or the preferred ones for new foster parents, or whatever, but they're ours, they're heartfelt, and on a personal level we feel we're doing God's work as best we can.

Mom and Dad put together a kind of huge, sprawling extended family this way, and many people love them for it, including yours truly. I hope I'm able to do the same. I'd better get cracking. The median survival age for CF patients is the mid-30s. I'm about to turn 38. Better get cracking, don't you think?


At 2:47 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your blog. I enjoyed your 'house rules'. I even saved a copy for myself in the future. This is GREAT!!!
I'm glad your case of SF is mild. Some friends of ours didn't know they were both carriers and lost their only son in Nov. he was about to be 3 months old.
I think your heart is in a good place and your decision to hold off on fostering is good, so you can give your time to your daughter. They grow so fast!
Thanks for sharing your point of view! Good luck!


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