My friend and fellow adoptive mother, Heidi, recently shared an article about why it is important that your child be taught about adoption. (Teach Your Children About Adoption Before Releasing Them on the Playground by Rachel Quinn Egan) Not my adopted child. Your biological child. The artical tells of an experience where the author's young daughter was bombarded with questions on a playground regarding her adoption: "Is that your mom? (Pointing at me) Why is she white and you are brown? Are you adopted? Where is your real mom? Why isn't she here? Where is she? Why didn't she want you? You didn't come out of that mom's tummy over there, but your sister did. Right?"
It made me realize that my six year old is well educated in what adoption is and how he came into our family. But your child most likely has no understanding of it, and it maybe be much more important for him or her to understand than you or I might have considered.
Surprisingly, as someone who started researching adoption ten years ago and has experienced so many of it's facets, this is something I had never really thought about. My child has not experienced the same thing (yet) as the girls in this article . And it often is the case that we don't think to champion a cause until we have been touched by it. But my eyes have been opened, and I am now championing this cause in hopes of preventing an incident like this from happening to my sweet boys.
So, in honor of November being National Adoption Month and even more so in honor of my boys and other adoptive families and birth parents. I'm asking all of parents of children of any age, so begin in some way to also include a little adoption education when you are discussing other issues, such as differences in race, beliefs, familial makeup, gender, etc. Do you ever wonder what to say? Or perhaps what not to say? Here are a few of my thoughts of points to consider (many of which are covered in the article mentioned above). Not all of these will be appropriate to share with a child, so choose wisely and age appropriately and always out of love for all children.
1. Adoption is normal. It might not be as common as a biological family, but it is normal.
2. "Real" is not a word we use to describe biological or adoptive parents. I am my son's mother. Period. He also has a birth mother, or his first mommy as we refer to her. She is also real and she was also a mother to him.
3. Children are not given up for adoption because they are not wanted. In most cases, there are circumstances preventing a birth parent from being able to keep a child. It could be anything from mental illness, to financial problems, to drugs, to age and a number of other reasons. We must educate our children to not think a parent (mother or father) gave a child up because they did not want the baby. Yes, there may be rare instances where that is the case, although I still say the reason they do not want to keep the baby are based somewhere other than desire.
4. The reasons for #3 are personal and private and nobody's business. It has no bearing on the value of my child as a beautiful, loved son or daughter. If I or my child chooses to share the reasons at some point, then I hope you will listen with an open heart. Otherwise, we need to educate our children that they may not understand all the reasons, and that's okay. What matters is that they were able to be matched up with parents of love them.
5. There is always some degree of loss. A child adopted at birth still experiences sadness at some point in his or her life. There is still loss. Some process and cope with it better than others. But most likely, every adopted child will experience some degree of loss, and that is perfectly normal. And they also will always feel a love for their birth family, and that is perfectly normal and it is a very good thing.
6. Adoption shouldn't be a secret we whisper about behind closed doors. Secrets imply something is wrong, and there is nothing wrong with it. If your child asks you a question about adoption in front of my child, please answer truthfully, cheerfully and with love and compassion, just as you would if they asked you "what's wrong with that man?" in front of a man in a wheelchair. Or "why is his skin so dark?" in front of a woman of color. Don't whisper as if there is shame. You can say "yes, D is adopted and isn't that wonderful? Do you have any questions about what that means?" Or maybe "D, can you explain what adoption is?" Because my child can, and he's not ashamed of it. It's all he knows.
7. Please, oh please do not tell my child, or yours, that my child should be grateful we adopted him. First of all, he's not grateful yet because he doesn't realize he should be. And he doesn't realize that life could have been worse for him. And second of all, I will always need to be more grateful that I was given these sweet boys than they ever need to be for me. It is not a requirement for him to recognize every minute of his life that he was rescued and should be indebted to us for that. That may not really be the case. And I can promise you there were many many people in line for these sweet babies. I wasn't his last resort. Please just let him be a kid who can be frustrated with his parents like every other kid out there. He doesn't need to bow in gratitude for a decision in which he had no choice.
8. And please, oh please, do not tell me how wonderful I am for taking him in, especially in front of him! I'm not his saviour. I am his mother.
9. Adopted children often have different physical features than their adoptive parents. We don't face this as much in our family, but remember that those traits did come from someone...from other parents. And we celebrate them and love them. And there are many biological families, especially those of mixed race, in which there are differences in skin tones and eye color and sizes. It's part of what makes us unique. It's not a flaw or a shameful characteristic. It's unique. I have one black haired, brown-eyed son and one blue-eyed blondie. I always say D's eyes are the color of chocolate and S's eyes or the color of the sky (both things I love). And when D sadly says I have black hair and none of my friends have black hair I always get excited and say "isn't that amazing?? Your hair is so special and not many people have hair as black as yours." And truly, it is beautiful hair.
10. Please, please remember that we don't discuss adoption every day. We talk about school and funny things that happened and Wild Kratts and the planets and how to make homemade clay. We don't NOT talk about adoption, but it's not an every day topic, just as you don't discuss your child's birth every day. How often do you remind your child he or she was conceived by you and your spouse and show them footage of the birth? It's part of their story for sure, but it just doesn't generally come up at the dinner table. So while education on the subject is so important for all of us, remember that we are a normal family, just like you. We aren't always "and adoptive family" or an "adopted son". We are just a family. He is just my son. It's not derogatory to say those things. It's just not necessary to clarify all the time. It's just who we are. It would be like saying "my African-American friend" or "my friend in the wheelchair". Yes, those may be accurate descriptions, but they aren't necessary because those aren't the reasons you are friends. They are side notes. Minor details. They aren't shameful side notes or details, just not pertinent in most cases.
Remember that adoption is part of this thing we call diversity. When discussing diversity, please include this large segment of our population. I will be forever grateful if my child is understood and accepted "as is" than made to feel like he was unloved and unwanted and rescued. Perhaps the questions are just curious, but they still hurt. And when a child is bombarded with the questions on a playground or at school or wherever he or she may be, it can be a truly traumatic experience. And my child should really just be like your child, living his or her normal, but always special, and hopefully still magical childhood.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Thursday, August 21, 2014
|My shop (AKA my garage)|
Please know that I do not criticize women who choose to work and have a nanny or some other arrangement, and I am well aware that there are many moms that would love to stay at home, but they don't have a choice at all. My friend taught me years ago that the true meaning of feminism, which often gets a bad rap, is having the freedom to choose--and one of those choices is whether to work outside the home or to say home with my children. I make special care not to judge my fellow mothers who choose differently than I did. They have their reasons and it's none of my business. I do work at a paying job. It's not a very fun or creative or fulfilling one, but I can do it on my own time and I can earn the extra money we need to make it each month so it suits its purpose right now. And for that, I am grateful. So, if you find yourself jealous of my charmed life here in the land of eternal sunshine, just remember you probably wouldn't be as jealous of the hours I spend ripping out thousands of staples! And I'm sure you aren't jealous of the cars we drive or the clothes we wear. That said, I wouldn't do it if it wasn't absolutely worth it.
However, should you want to write us in to your will, don't think I wouldn't accept....
Posted by Susan at 6:07 PM
Friday, August 8, 2014
How much of one’s story is too personal to share? When does it go from being a story about personal triumph over adversity (even if that adversity is sometimes caused by our own bad choices) to inappropriate details about our private lives that should remain private? This is the question I faced this morning as I was called in to see the head of a private school in which my 5-year-old son had been offered a spot. He was supposed to start Kindergarten there in twelve days. We would normally not be in a position to attend such an elite school, but because they needed boys in that particular class, and because we were in the right place at the right time, we were able to work out a deal that would benefit all involved. I was hesitant because I am not rich. I don’t run in those types of social circles. The newest car we have is a 2005 and I’m just not that Lululemon-wearing, Lexus-driving, latte-swigging mom. I have nothing against it. Financially, it’s just not our crowd. But, after some interesting conversations with those who had experience with this school, we decided to put our fears and inadequacies aside, and go for it.
At least, we thought we were going to, until a staff member saw a link to my blog on the bottom of my email. Less than twenty-four hours later, I was told this school just wouldn’t be a good fit for us. You might think my blog showed pictures of me hung over at a New Year’s Eve party, or perhaps joking about having smoked weed in my younger days. Or perhaps it might have used bad language, or racial slurs, or had pictures of me in a string bikini with my arm draped around some guy other than my husband. But no. It was this blog, where I write about our adoption experience.
I won’t attempt to include the entire conversation here, as it lasted about 25 minutes. But I will hit the highlights. I was told that there was no good that could come of me putting this kind of personal information on the internet. She asked me several times what good I thought I was doing by airing my “dirty laundry”. And by “dirty laundry”, she was referring mainly to two things (out of almost 50 blog posts over the last few years). The first was that I mentioned that my boys had been exposed to drugs in the womb. The second was that I mentioned my husbandhad been arrested two times before, both of which were thrown out before it even went to a judge because they were so ridiculous. “Why would you share that with anyone?” she asked several times. But the part that really got me was that she said that she was concerned that parents at this school might not want to include my son in playgroups or birthday parties or other social gatherings because he had been exposed to drugs. She told me I should keep that a secret and that there was no reason that even my son should ever know that information. She said that their school was a positive place and that there wasn’t room for the negativity or the “poor me” attitude I displayed in my writing. I explained to her that not one of my posts were about “poor me” and that each one, although perhaps sharing some difficult experience, always took a positive spin and left the reader with an understanding of the good things that have come from it. I could tell by the way she referred to my writing, that she hadn’t even taken the time to read through the blog herself, at least not very much of it. I have written about everything from drug exposure, to the crazy process you have to go through, to our own experiences with invitro, to our failed adoption—every thing you could possibly want to know about this process is there. Yes, it’s personal, but I don’t think it is so horrible that it should be the reason my son is not allowed to attend this school. I am not ashamed of one thing I have written.
I tried to explain that the current research on adoption shows that the secrecy of the past adoption culture has proven to be detrimental to children. Secrets mean shame to a child. If my son were to find out from someone else that he was born positive for drugs, then he would know I had lied to him, and he would assume I lied because something was so wrong with him that I wouldn’t tell him the truth. I told her I will continue to share all of his story with him, age appropriately, and that at some point in his life, he would know every detail. Research has shown this is the better path. She argued that there are adopted children at this school who know nothing about their past, and that these children are just grateful to have what they have and they don’t think about their adoption story. I cannot disagree with this more. Perhaps they don’t ask many questions now, but this school doesn’t take middle school or high school aged children, which is when most of them begin questioning as they are figuring out their own identity. And my guess is that she has not done much research on the subject, or she wouldn’t have made such a blanket statement.
So much more was said, but the point is that it was clearly stated that my story should be private, and there was absolutely no reason for having these details made public. I told her that I was in the middle of writing a book about a lot of my difficult experiences and that the adoption story was only a part of that. I told her that I would be willing to leave some things off the blog, but that wasn’t enough for her. She wanted the whole blog to be removed, and for nobody to ever be able to trace those stories to me. She requested that work on the book be private, meaning it could not be published as long as any of our children attended school there. I was not to write publicly about any of it again. I was floored to hear such censorship in 2014, especially for what I consider such non-controversial material. I told her that I was sad for him to miss out on the opportunity of going to such a great school, but if parents and teachers were going to ostracize my young son for choices beyond his control, then I didn’t want him going there anyway.
I felt a little selfish for not giving up a blog for this opportunity for a great education. But I think it’s more than that. If I am being censored over this kind of information, then what was next? What else was not going to be acceptable? I asked her if there were no other parents at that school who blogged about their life, or who had written anything controversial. She said she wasn’t aware of any. I find it hard to believe that nobody there has a past that is public in some way. You’re telling me nobody has ever posted a picture of themselves on Facebook doing something inappropriate? Or made a public comment that was controversial in any way? Please.
I would love to hear thoughts/comments, even if you agree with the school. I’ve been stewing about this conversation all day, trying to see it from their side, and I just can’t. Read through my blog posts, and tell me if anything is inappropriate or cause for my son to be kept out of a school. I truly want to know.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Open adoptions are really becoming the norm these days. Twenty years ago, it was still pretty common for the majority of adoptions to be closed, but research has found that route isn't the healthiest of options, in most cases. I'm all for an open adoption. We have two of them. But, they aren't without their risks or pain. We all want to be honest with our children, and I think more often then not, a little painful honesty is better than a bunch of softer lies. I think kids tend to deal with the pain and move forward, knowing they can trust you more. But it is hard. Don't think it isn't. It is hard to answer questions from your young child when the completely truthful answer would involve some form of "they don't want to see you," even if that is soften with a hundred logical, understandable reasons as to why.
I am not judging the birth families in any way. Please know that. I know there are circumstances. But young children only comprehend so much about the whys of things. And they internalize everything. Everything is because of them, for good or for bad. They don't understand that a person has an illness or great pain that prevent them from being a part of their lives, or from even wanting it. What they really think is "I must have done something wrong for them to not want to see me."
I have two sweet, loving boys who have close biological relatives who, for different reasons, don't want to see them. When an adoptive family decides to accept an open adoption, there is some trepidation. We did have concerns about an open adoption. We worried about what kind of influences the biological families would bring, what kind of lifestyles they lead, and if they would ever say or do anything that would be hurtful to our boys. Keep in mind both of my boys were drug babies, so these are real concerns. In the end, we decided the risk was worth it, and that they would have the opportunity to see for themselves, unbiased and unfiltered, and either have a desire to continue those relationships, or not. The decision would be theirs.
I stand by that decision. And, we have great relationships with some of these family members. But, there are those that we have no relationship with. And, oh, when your child asks about those things, it can break your heart. There are a few relationships I have not informed my oldest about yet, because he would be heartbroken to know about them and know they don't want to see him. But, I have to tell him at some point. I haven't lied to him, I just haven't told him everything yet, and that is the challenge we are faced with, too. I am trying to protect him with just enough armor that he can be safe but still be able to move and grow and fight his battles. He is an extremely sensitive child, with a thousand questions on the tip of his tongue at any moment of the day. He has a solution for everything....a way to fix EVERYTHING (at least in his mind). But, he can't fix this. He can't fix others. He can't make them love him or want to see him. Nothing he could do would make them change. But he doesn't know that. He still thinks that if thinks it should be so, then the world should bend to make it so. And that it WILL bend to make it so. I hope he will understand someday that some people just struggle and it's not because he has done anything wrong. I hope he can eventually sort through these relationships and deal with the damage in a positive way. That he can sort it out and put it in its proper place in his life. No bigger or smaller than it should be. And I hope someday those people will decide that knowing this amazing boy is worth it. It is worth any amount of pain. It is worth facing guilt and heartache to know him. He is worth it. But, for now, we take it one question at a time. One sensitive, yet honest answer at a time.
Saturday, July 12, 2014
|Celebrating the completion of Ninja |
Camp with an ice cream cone.
My little guys share a birthday, in a crazy twist of fate. I have two little left-handed boys born on the same day four years apart. Maybe I got my sign after all. They are the best. They both have their own adoption story full of joys and sorrows. D is five now and we have already had discussions about his adoption. S is one year old and oblivious to the miracle of how he came to us. But, someday we will start talking about it. Someday soon. It's a good thing. Not without it's challenges, but nothing worth anything comes without a challenge.
|My first ice cream cone|
Thursday, February 27, 2014
|from our most recent invoice|
not to send them cute pictures of our family any more! They request them from time to time to stay current on our family, but I didn't realize we were getting charged for them to "save to file". But, I am not complaining. This lawyer has been great, and I know it's just the way it works these days. But, it made me think about what it costs to adopt. What it costs to give a home to a child who would otherwise not have one. What it costs to provide a home for a child that would otherwise become a ward of the state and cost us, as a people, in tax money (and in so many other ways) to support. Foster children have a much, much higher risk of needing social programs throughout their lives. Did you know that 70% of people in prison in California were foster children at one point? They are at much higher risk for needing all kinds of public assistance. And I don't mean just as foster kids. I mean way beyond into adulthood. So, it just seems like it would help the whole situation if the whole adoption process was much less costly. I have friends who became legal guardians to THEIR OWN grandchildren after their daughter passed away from cancer, and they had to do paperwork and pay $900! I mean, it's a drop in the bucket compared to a regular adoption, but still ridiculous!
When I sat down to write about this, I thought about ALL the costs of adoption. When all is done, S's adoption will wind up costing us about $10,000. That includes social workers, a home study through the county (that costs $4500 alone!), lawyers, travel expenses back and forth to the hospital and little things here and there that nobody thinks about. And $10,000 is getting off easy. Most adoptions will cost much, much more, especially if you adopt internationally. And there's the cost of the craziness it brings, the stress between spouses as you try to decide if this baby is for you, or if the situation is too risky and might result in a failed adoption, or the cost of the major life change it brings about, often with hardly any notice. There is the cost of adding another child to your family and wondering how it's going to affect the child you already have. There is the cost of having a child with a history and a family that you now need to figure out how to mesh with yours. There is the cost of knowing that your child will always have a desire to know about his or her past and will most likely want some contact in some form with the birth parents or birth family, if possible. There is the cost of your young child asking you why his parents didn't want him, or why they don't want to see him, or why was she so sick that she couldn't take care of me (because at four, we have chosen the word "sick" to describe her drug condition....we will tell him the truth later when he is able to understand what drugs are). There is the cost of those teenage years, when most adopted children go through a heightened identity crisis. And I'm sure there are costs I don't even know about right now.
So, with so many costs, why adopt? It's just like anything else you save up and pay a lot of money for. Because it's absolutely worth it. A new car, a European vacation, a new home....all those things have a cost attached, but what you get from it is so worth it. Don't think I am comparing a child to a car or a vacation. It's an analogy. The experience you get on that vacation will last a lifetime. You will make memories. You will take pictures. You will see and taste and touch things you never could have before. And it will make the stress of saving that money and pinching pennies a very distant memory. All you will remember is how amazing it was. And that's how adopting is. Every single one of those costs will never be more important than every single amazing moment of having a child, or of being a mom. And not that every moment of being a mom is amazing....but you will look back and remember the good. When my son, out of the blue says "Mom, I love you" or "am I your sweet baby?" or "come snuggle with me" or "will you read this to me?" or "will you play monster trucks with me?", the costs we incurred adopting him will just not matter. In fact, S's adoption isn't even final yet, and it already doesn't matter, because I love these boys more than life itself, and you can't put a price on that.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
I was reminded again this week that my insecurities are still a much bigger part of me than I had hoped they would be in my forties. I won’t go into the sordid details, because frankly, they’re not THAT sordid, and most would say, just get over it! But, here is my point as it actually pertains to adoption. I have realized that there are benefits to not having a biological connection to my child.
|My handsome D.|
First, let me let you in on a little secret. I have self-esteem issues. Yes. It’s true. And those of you who know me really well are not at all surprised by this declaration. Those of you who know me on a little more superficial basis are probably somewhat surprised. Exhibit A. The title of this blog. As I went back to research it a little more, I realized that the phrase comes from a novel entitled “Fear and Loathing in Vegas.” I would, of course, be the one to add in the “self” part. I have had that phrase stuck in my head for a long time, “Fear and Self-Loathing” and it’s not even correct! But, I’m digressing a bit.
Here’s the thing. I have realized that because I have some unaddressed issues that keep me from feeling as confident and self-assured as I would like to feel, I have a really hard time feeling that confidence about anything I do, whether it’s artwork or writing or anything I have had a hand in creating. Like children. But, I’ve realized, that since I didn’t have a hand in creating these children, that I find they are exempt from this. I used to pine away over not being able to get pregnant. But, I’ve realized that maybe that was one of the greatest blessings. Not just for me, but for them, too. They will never have to suffer me coming down on them because they represent something I never was. To me, they are even more beautiful and more amazing partly because they came from somebody else. I feel perfectly justified in bragging about them and in telling them, or others, how handsome they are, because there is no part of me that feels they are beautiful because they carry any of my genes. I am removed from them in a good way. They will never carry my baggage. I will never feel to cut short a compliment because, in some roundabout way, I might feel I am bragging about myself. Or worse, YOU might feel that I am bragging about myself.
|My beautiful S.|
Maybe this is all just a little twisted. And yes, I’m sure I need therapy. And I am not saying that others withhold because of these reasons. I am speaking to me and my case alone. Contrary to what this might portray, I am a silver lining kind of a girl. And this is one of the unexpected silver linings to adoption. I love these boys partly because they are NOT a part of my gene pool. I shower them with compliments. I tell others (probably to an annoying, nauseating degree) how beautiful these boys are. How amazing and talented they are. How funny and smart and thoughtful they are. How athletic and bound-for-the-Olympics they are. And, even though I know some of that comes from how they are parented, I truly believe that a lot of it came with them when they were born. I love these boys more than I thought I would be capable of. And maybe, when I truly feel that love for myself more, I will be capable of even greater love for them, too. I hope to get there someday. But for now, I know I am released from any boundaries that would inhibit feeling and expressing my love for them, because they are released from representing any part of me that I don’t love. And that is a great thing.
P.S. PLEASE don’t see this as a call for compliments and reassurances that I am just so wonderful. It won’t change me. I have to be the one to change myself, and I am truly working on it. It only makes me think you don’t know me so well! :)
(photos by the amazingly talented www.ashleykressinphotography.com)
Friday, February 7, 2014
There are two comments I, as an adoptive parent, really get tired of hearing. Take note, because I can guarantee if you know someone who has adopted a child, they feel the same way.
|My boys. Challenging and amazing.|
This first is some version of "you are so great to adopt these children!" And when I respond something like "oh, well we are really blessed to have them," I usually get some form of "well there are so many kids out there that need good homes, and you are so great to take in these kids and give them a good life." Does anyone else see what is wrong with this? I'm forty-two years old. The first time I went on fertility medication, I was twenty-one. My oldest child is four and a half. I know you can do the math. Let's just say I spent many, many years trying to have a child. Praying, begging, crying, pleading with God to let me have that blessing. I am not a savior. I didn't go into it with some altruistic goal of saving some poor child out there. I didn't set out to save anyone, except maybe myself. Not only is it uncomfortable to be spoken to as if I had done some great unselfish act for the sole purpose of being unselfish, it's almost offensive. I am a girl who grew up wanting to have a family. I am not a charitable organization. And it's even worse when this kind of comment is made in front of my child. He is not the receiver of a charitable act for which he needs to consistently show gratitude. He is a child. He is my child. He has a mom, just like your children do. And he doesn't need to be reminded how lucky he is that someone took pity on him and was kind enough to give him a pillow on which to lay his little orphaned head. He needs to be reminded that he is loved, like any other child in any other family. And his childhood should be just about that--childhood.
The other comment I get tired of hearing is, oddly enough, on the other end of the spectrum. If I am having a difficult day with one of my kids, for whatever reason---maybe one is being a pill, or one is fussy because of teething, or one is sick, or one is just not sleeping much and I'm exhausted--I don't need to be reminded that this is what I asked for so I need to be more grateful. Or as someone stated just the other day, "yes, but this is what you signed up for." Yes. You are right. This is what I prayed, begged, cried and plead for. I am well aware of that. I don't need your gentle reminder. But, you need to understand that I deal with the same parenting issues that everyone else does. I have hard days. I get tired. I get frustrated. I seek out help with issues my children are having. And, I need your love and support, especially if you have walked the path of parenthood before me. Believe me, I am completely grateful to be dealing with these issues, because it means I have children. It means I am a mom. It means I am enjoying this long-awaited dream. I know this. So please just take it as an unspoken fact that I am more grateful than you will ever know. I love being a mom more than you could possibly comprehend, unless you also had to fight seventeen years before you were blessed with a child. And I love these boys more than I ever thought possible.
Like most moms, I ride somewhere in the middle between Saviourhood and depression. I rarely get close to either extreme. I ride in the middle, recognizing that even on the most difficult days, life is still so beautiful. And the best days don't come because I was just so overly righteous that day. They come and go just like they do for every other mom out there trying to do her best. They ebb and flow mostly near the middle of the river between perfection and disaster, rarely nearing either shore. And I'm okay with that. In fact, it is what I consider a successful day.
Sunday, February 2, 2014
It’s been nine months since my last blog entry, and eight months since our little world changed again. I have been meaning to sit down and write the story of our second adoption, but the whirlwind and subsequent day to day life of raising two little boys has somehow prevented that from happening. Until now. I thought it was time to sit down and finally tell the story of this second little miracle. I am going to try to keep it as brief as possible, and touch on other aspects of it down the road. Today, I just want to tell you how it all came to be. It is such a little miracle.
If you haven’t already read my last entry, written just weeks before this second baby came, “ComeWhat May and Love It” was about accepting and embracing the fact that I might only ever have one child, and that I was okay with that. Haha! I think God has a way of waiting until you have truly given in, before giving you the thing you desired in the first place. And, after years and years of fighting it, I had truly gotten to that place. And then…..bam!aby came into our lives, you should read it.
I think the timeline is kind of funny, so I will share it with you. My friend, who adopted three children from the same birth mother, messaged me Facebook. Here is how the conversation went:
MY FRIEND: Hi Susan. I know u haven't heard from me for a long time, but would u mind giving me your number so I can call you?
MY FRIEND: Hi Susan. I'll call u at around 2pm. If you're not available then, I'll try again later. Not to be mysterious or anything. Just want to talk to you about adoption.
We had a phone conversation, in which she told me that the birth mother of her three children was expecting any day now, and they just couldn’t take a fifth child and would we be interested. Now, let me tell you that a lot of people might have been super excited. But, I honestly had no idea that this would really go through. I mean, the birth mother didn’t even know us. And, considering our past experience with a failed adoption, and knowing that people had approached us before about “a sure thing” and we had never heard from them again, I did not even think twice about it. I said yes, we would be interested, and then I thought I would cross that bridge when a paper had been signed. The mother didn’t have a due date since there had been no prenatal doctor visits since very early on in the pregnancy.
A week passed and I got this message on Facebook:
MY FRIEND: Hi Susan. Just wanted to update u. I still haven't heard anything from ####, the Birth mom. I spoke to ####'s mom this morning and she hasn't heard anything as well. Sorry for the delay of information. Hope all is well for you.
ME: No problem. Like I said before, we are used to things not coming through so we aren't holding our breath! But, thanks for thinking of us. I talked to our adoption social worker and she said it would be a private adoption, so we would have to figure out how to pay for it. But we will cross that bridge when we come to it. Thanks!
Just as I suspected. It wasn’t going to pan out. Glad I didn’t spend any time looking at baby clothes!
Four days later, on Friday afternoon, May 24th, I was at the park with D and I got a call from my friend. She said the birth mom had spoken to the social worker and had given her our names. Okay, now it was a little more serious, but still…..call me when someone has signed a piece of paper and when a baby has been born! I hung up the phone a little more anxious, but still not getting my hopes up. I thought about the whole possibility for a few minutes, when the phone rang again. It was 4:30 in the afternoon. This time it was the social worker, Christine. She told me that the birth parents had spoken with her and given her our names and they were sure they wanted to place the baby with us. Okay…this was even more serious. But, she hadn’t been able to get a meeting with them to get papers signed. It was Memorial Day weekend, and she said she would try to get it all in place this weekend and update me next week. I hung up and started thinking that this really could happen. However, still….call me when someone has signed a dang piece of paper! I went home and told John and we chatted about it for a minute, but knew nothing was set in stone, so off to bed we went.
Saturday morning, May 25th, 8:00 a.m. I was getting dressed for work when the phone rang. It was Christine. The birth mom was in labor and on her way to the hospital. Long story short, she had to get an adoption plan in place and signed by them before the baby was born. They suspected the baby would be born positive for drugs, and the county would take it away if an adoption plan wasn’t already in place. If the county took the baby, the birth parents wouldn’t have a say in where it was placed. But, we also had to have a lawyer’s signature. God steps in on these little miracles, I know He does. Christine just happened to be in the process of adopting a baby herself, and because of the circumstances, even though she was a social worker, she needed an adoption attorney. She said “the only lawyer I have in my phone that will answer my call at 8:30 on a Saturday morning is the one we are using.” I said I trust that an adoption social worker knows how to hire a good adoptions attorney and that I trusted her judgment. She said the only other hang up could be if the county social worker decided this adoption plan hadn’t been put in place soon enough, then she would have the right to take the baby, if and when it was born positive for drugs. She called back thirty minutes later and said everything was in place. The lawyer was on board and the county social worker said she was fine with the plan and had no intention of disrupting it. One hour later, he was born.
I didn’t know about him until 12:30 that afternoon. I was at work with butterflies in my stomach. I was texting and calling family and friends and the lawyer and the social worker and my friend. At 12:30, Christine called and said the father had called her and said he had been born at 9:33 a.m., 22 inches long, 12 pounds and ready for school! Haha! He was huge!
And the kicker? He was born on my son’s birthday. D and baby S share the same birthday. Isn’t that amazing? I had decided to have D’s birthday party the previous Wednesday, and I don’t know why. His birthday was on a Saturday, and that would have been easy to do. But, I had chosen not to. And now I know why. D was born at 7:33 a.m. four years earlier, and S was born that morning at 9:33 a.m. It was, and continues to be a miracle. I got to drive up to Anaheim that night with a friend, and see this little miracle ten hours after he had been born. A baby I had no idea was going to actually come into my life just the day before, and I was sitting in the hospital nursery holding him. He was beautiful and huge and precious and mine. There is more to the rest of the story, but I will save that for another post. Just know that I know that God knows each of us. He knows us personally. He answers our prayers, and sometimes that answer is “no.” And sometimes the answer is “not right now.” And sometimes the answer is “yes.” And all the “no” answers and all the “not right now” answers make that “yes” answer just that much more precious.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
|Now picture this in the middle of two large adults on a|
I woke up just after midnight early this morning to my almost 40 lb. three-year-old crawling over me to get “in the middle” between me and daddy. What he really meant was that he wanted to sleep near daddy—it just happens to be in the middle next to me. He is a daddy’s boy for sure. I lay there for a few minutes wide awake, torn between taking him back to his bed or letting him stay. But, that only lasted for a few seconds, before I was swept up in his sweet presence, and I put my arm around him as he quickly fell back to sleep. Sleeping with this child is like having a noisy windmill in bed. Arms and legs everywhere, teeth grinding, occasional snores. But even with those possibilities, I was caught up in his face this night, lying there peacefully dreaming of who knows what—bikes, monster trucks, chocolate chip cookies, jumping off the highest thing he can find. I noticed how angular his face has become with the loss of baby fat, and touch his beautiful, shiny, silky jet black hair--the thing that garners the most comments from other people. It occurred to me in that moment that everything I held most precious in this life was gathered together on that mattress. An approximately 5’ x 6’ space on this vast earth held everything that makes life the most joyful for me. This last week, through a few different experiences, I have come to accept that this may be my family. I had hoped to have a big family, and as every year passes, and the number in my head slips farther down from what I had wanted, reality has begun to set in. I have been fighting it. We hope to adopt at least one more, and I have been hoping this last time through the adoption process would bring a sibling group of two. But, I have started to wonder if I am fighting something that just isn’t meant to be. And I have started to wonder if there isn’t something else out there I am supposed to be doing. I have been praying to have more children for as long as I can remember. But, this past week, it struck me that that is not the hand I have been dealt. And it’s not a sub-par hand. It is just a different hand.
Which means there is something else out there that will fill in the gap. Something else I am supposed to be doing that is not meant for a friend with five children. It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just mine. It’s my own, individual mission. And the longer I push for something that is not meant for me, and ignore the gentle pushes to pursue other things, the longer I keep from enjoying the blessings that will come from that other pursuit--the one meant for me. And the longer I will look to my little family gathered on this small mattress in the middle of the night, and not feel it is enough. And it is enough. We still plan on finishing this second round of adoption, but this will be the end of it, and I will be happy no matter what. And in fact, I look forward with a fresh excitement as I let go of old dreams, and open my mind and heart to new ones. “Come what may, and love it.” (quote from Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin)
Friday, April 5, 2013
|Trying to get a picture with the|
new "light hat". D insisted on
pushing the camera button
and picking the filter. Took a few
tries, but we had fun and what else
matters?? Nothing else matters.
I’ve written many times before about the scrutiny applied to adoptive parents, and I’ve expressed how, even though I know it’s necessary, it is hard to take sometimes. It’s so invasive, and every area of your life is investigated to make sure you are good enough. John and I used to joke that we don’t look good on paper. Divorces. Abuse in our families. John was arrested twice, both of which were dismissed within 24 hours, but one of those was for domestic violence. An argument with a girlfriend led to a revengeful call to the police, which led to an arrest. And a subsequent breakup…. And the list goes on. It doesn’t look good when you’re trying to prove you’d be amazing parents! But, interestingly enough, these are the things that have pushed us both to have the desire to be amazing parents. I won’t speak for John, except to say that his growing up with an incredibly abusive father and then living with a single mom on welfare certainly has its lasting repercussions. I will speak to my experience, and how it has pushed me to try to be the best mom.
I experienced the divorce of my parents and the breakup of our family when I was eleven. A couple of years later, my mother remarried a man who turned out to be a psychopath. Most people associate that word with a dangerous killer, but it’s really a personality type and is much more common than just in headline criminals. My stepfather is/was one. He still is, but he’s not my stepfather anymore. I won’t go into all the details—that’s a story for another time. Suffice it to say, he had an impact on me—on all of us. He was destructive and manipulative. He could be charming and he could be scary. I know now that he was a coward, but in the moment, you don’t always know that, and you don’t know if this will be the time he will snap and do something much more drastic than you thought he was capable of. I felt very out of control, and I think there are lasting effects from that still with me today. He could be so cruel, and then the next morning would be joking around. And, when you are young, that is just so confusing. I have continued to have dreams over the years of being attacked and never being able to defend myself. I freeze. I can’t scream. I can’t fight back. It’s awful. I was never attacked physically by him, but I think that feeling of being out of control has stayed with me. We had confrontations—screaming, yelling, struggling over things, I did get shoved to the ground once but that wasn’t as bad as having gasoline thrown on me. And he was a smoker, so I knew there was a lighter in his pocket.
Anyway, I will stop there. My point in sharing this is that I have never wanted my children to feel the fear or neglect or insecurities that I felt. Every day I work so hard to make sure that D knows how much I love him. I hug him and tell him how sweet and handsome and smart and strong he is. I look him in the eyes and tell him these things all day every day. I try to not seem frustrated to be parenting him, because I want him to know that I love being his mom. I never want him to feel that he is a burden. When he is grown, I know he won’t remember a lot of his childhood, but I want him to remember how much I loved him and how much I loved being with him. That is my goal. It is what I work for every day. It means more to me than most will know, without knowing the whole story. If I can do this one thing, then I will have been a good mom.
Saturday, March 2, 2013
Most people come to the crossroads of adoption because of infertility. We were no different.
About two months later, we attended an adoption seminar and prepared to
start the process. We decided we were
done with fertility issues. What good
would it be to have a child if my body was so damaged by the process, or the
emotional battle took too great a toll on our marriage? What would be the joy in that? So, I came to terms with the fact that I
would never experience pregnancy or have a child that was part of me biologically, and I was fine with that. I
just wanted a child, and it didn’t matter what he or she looked like. It would be four more years before that dream
would be realized, but what a dream it would be.
The first time I walked into my doctor’s office to talk about my infertility, I was twenty-one. I was thirty-nine when D’s adoption finalized. Seventeen years. Granted, there were breaks in there. I was married at eighteen, moved out at twenty-five and was divorced at twenty-six, so there were a couple of years here and there that I wasn’t actively pursuing pregnancy. But, only a couple. I married John a year after the divorce, when I was twenty-seven. Knowing that I had not been able to get pregnant before, made me start looking into infertility solutions pretty soon after we were married.
Anyone who has been through the infertility rollercoaster knows it is an emotionally, physically and financially draining process. One of these days, I should get all my medical records together and lay out the long list of tests and procedures I endured over a seventeen year span. Biopsies, laparoscopy, medication, dye tests, x-rays, cat scans, ultrasounds, probing of all kinds—mostly of the uncomfortable kind, artificial insemination, lots of ovulation tests and timed “activity” of all kinds….and the list goes on. I went through several doctors as each came to the same conclusion—“we don’t know what’s causing your infertility and we’ve done all we know how to do”. Tears. Next!
In the Fall of 2004, I met a couple of women who were going through the Invitro process. It was the first time I had really considered it. Years of failed fertility had left me with little hope, but hearing that this had worked for them gave me a glimmer that I held on to tightly. I scheduled my consultation, and off we went…quickly. Our doctor had been on the forefront of the invitro technology here in Southern California, and at the recommendation of a patient of his, we moved forward. The next eight months would prove to be more difficult than I had expected.
It started out normal. I was checked out to make sure I was healthy and able to go through the process, and though I was heavier than I am now by about thirty pounds, I was still deemed strong and healthy enough proceed. So, the medication began. It starts with Follistem, which does just what it sounds like it does—it stimulates the follicle, or egg, development. I was supposed to have been on it for about ten days. On day three I could hardly stand up and was in a lot of pain. I called the doctor’s office to tell them that I thought something was wrong. They said that it wasn’t abnormal to feel some discomfort, but after explaining to them that I was way beyond “discomfort” they had me come in for a check-up. I have a pretty high pain tolerance, but I couldn’t even stand up straight at this point. After feeling my abdomen, they did an ultrasound. I wish I could find the picture of that ultrasound (Google “hyperstimulated ovaries” and you can see what it looked like!). I had an over-the-top reaction to the Follistem, which would set the tone for the rest of this whole experience. Ovaries are normally the size of a walnut. Mine were now “kissing ovaries”. They had grown so large that they were touching each other. Each one was bout five inches long by about two to three inches tall and wide. They were full of eggs. The ultrasound picture looked like a spider web. Tons of eggs in there of various sizes pushed against each other, causing lots of pain. We stopped the Follistem.
Here is what is supposed to happen. The Follistem stimulates egg development and your ovaries “recruit” a few eggs into the ovaries and then the medication helps them to grow to the right size for fertilization. Usually this means a few eggs, which are then harvested (via minor surgery and a nice long needle through your cervix to suck them out), fertilized by hand, and then the fertilized ones are put back in with the hope that they will nestle in and begin to grow and you will be officially pregnant. But this isn’t what happened.
You would think that producing lots of eggs would be a good thing, but it’s not. What happened is that instead of taking a few eggs and nourishing them properly, my body kept recruiting. So, my ovaries were filled with lots of eggs in various stages of development—some were the right size, but many were past their prime or too little, and they were all packed in so tightly, fighting for nourishment, that none of them were particularly healthy. The other thing that happens, is that because you have so many eggs that are all affecting hormone production, different hormone levels skyrocketed. We almost had to scrap the entire process and start over. Hormone levels had to be within a certain range, and I was about seven times higher than I needed to be, so we just waited for them to drop, hoping they would slip into a normal range within the time frame needed for everything to still be viable. This also meant I was getting my blood tested every day, which meant a fifty-mile round trip and needles every day, not to mention I felt awful and was in a lot of pain. On the last day possible, my levels dropped into the right range, and we scheduled the surgery. It is minor surgery, but it still requires being put under full anesthesia. The doctor recovered forty-three eggs when all was said and done. Forty-three. About fourteen times what it should have been.
Then, we waited three days while they fertilized our eggs, and prepared to put them back in. I felt so sick, but figured it was just all the hormone manipulation and stress. It wasn’t. I went back in, excited to be putting the eggs in, and the doctor came in with more bad news. I had Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome. The condensed explanation is that the drugs had caused “leaky” blood vessels, and essentially, my body was taking the water from my blood and depositing it into my chest and abdomen. So, my blood was getting thicker and my abdomen was filling with fluid. The problem with elective procedures is that your insurance doesn’t cover complications that arise because of it. My doctor wanted to admit me, but knew it would be a huge expense. He gave me the option, but we chose to monitor it for a few days and then if it got to what he considered to be a dangerous level, he would have no choice but to admit me. The solution? Drink lots and lots of fluids. Seven to Eight liters a day of anything I could stomach. My stomach was distended. I had to pee every forty-five minutes or so. I looked like complete hell. And I felt worse. It was one of the worst weeks of my life. On top of that, I had to go in to have my blood drawn every day. Sunday morning, my doctor called and said he had been awake through the night worried about me and wondering if he’d made the right call. The problem with “leaky” blood vessels, is that thick blood leads to clots, which are life-threatening. He gave me one more night and said if my blood hadn’t shown improvement the next morning, I would have to be admitted. I was so spent physically. I just could not drink the amount I needed to. My poor husband was trying to keep me on target, but I was done. The next morning, the tests looked better, and I began to improve. I was still anxious to put the eggs back in, but they said we would have to wait a few months to let my ovaries and everything shrink back to normal size, and allow my body time to recover.
For three weeks, I made the drive every day to have blood drawn. It’s a good thing I have hoses for veins, because by the time it was over, I looked like a drug addict, and the thought of the needle going into my bruised arms again just made me cringe. Eight fertilized eggs were frozen, but they weren’t the healthiest of eggs. He called them B+ eggs. I was used to being a A+ student! Putting them back in was another saga. Ideally, you put eggs back in right after you harvest, because your body is naturally at the right stage for them to be received and implanted. But, when you use frozen eggs, you have to get your body back to that stage in an even more unnatural way. More drugs. And these were worse. I had daily shots in my stomach and shots in my hips. The stomach ones were actually not too bad. The needle was small, and John was able to do them. The hip ones were so painful and cause huge knots almost immediately. My friend was a physician’s assistant, and he did those for me. The needle was bigger, and after everyone knotted it, but became more difficult and much, much more painful. I used to dread those, they hurt so badly. I don’t remember exactly how long I had to do those—close to two weeks or so. These affected me emotionally more than any of the other drugs had. It was the first time in my marriage that I felt angry and could have driven off into the sunset and never returned. I knew it was the drugs talking, but it took a toll on me. I don’t ever want to feel that way again.
Despite the physical and emotional toll on my body, we were able to go back in as planned and have the embryos put back in. By the time my eight B+ eggs thawed out, only three of them had survived. My doctor said normally he would only put two back in because of the high risks associated with triplet pregnancies. But, because of the low quality of the eggs, he left it up to me, and we chose to put all three in. He wanted me to promise that if all three took, we would consider selective reduction to ensure a healthier pregnancy. What a shock that was! I am not a fan of abortion in any form, although I do believe that in the case where the mother’s life is in danger, then she should be able to make that choice. I spoke to a few people with my same religious beliefs to see how they felt about that choice should that occur. They all assured me that in a case where my life or the life of these other babies was in danger, that we rely on the expertise of these doctors to help us with that decision, and that it would be okay no matter what I decided. I felt fine with that, except that I just didn’t want to have to make that choice. Not because I felt any guilt at aborting, but because I didn’t want to give up even one child.
I wouldn’t have to face that decision, though. None of the embryos took. I wasn’t pregnant. Again. I was very sad and disheartened. The three women I knew who had recently gone through Invitro had all had healthy babies. I was the only one who failed. I know it wasn’t my fault, but I was very sad. By this time, six months had passed since we had begun the process, and I was worn out. Physically and emotionally drained. We met with our doctor and he said that if we wanted to try again, he felt like he had a better handle on how my body would respond now, and that we could make some adjustments and hopefully be more successful. He said I was certainly the exception and that he only had maybe one patient a year that reacted to all the drugs as badly as I did. I didn’t know if I wanted to do it again, but John really wanted to try, so we did.
We dropped the rest of our money on a second round. This time, I only produced a paltry twenty-three eggs! Still seven to eight times more than I should, but a much healthier round. Still only about eight were viable. I didn’t go into Hyperstimulation and we were able to put three embryos back in within a few days of harvesting, which was another round of day surgery and anesthesia. John was so excited and hopeful. I was not so hopeful. Disappointment after disappointment had left me too cautious and a little hopeless. We waited a few days and I was sick to my stomach. He had considered these “A+” eggs and as good a round as we could hope for with the way my body reacts to everything. I was working in the garage with a friend of mine the day I went in for the pregnancy test. It was a blood test, since it was so early in the process. I couldn’t focus on anything. I was painting and had my big overalls and work boots on. I finally told her that I was tired, and wanted to go lie down, so she went home. I went inside and saw the light flashing on the answering machine. My heart sank. I was afraid of what the message would be. My fears would be confirmed. I wasn’t pregnant. I crawled into bed, boots and all and just cried. I couldn’t even speak. It would be about four days before I said much of anything. John and I holed up in our house. I just couldn’t face anyone or anything. I have dealt with a lot of emotionally difficult situations in my life and had never just shut down. But, everything came to a head that day, and I shut down. I knew I would recover. I always did. I just needed that time to mourn, and I took it. I had great friends who understood and didn’t push. They knew when to leave me alone and they knew when to step in. They would be that same great strength for me when we faced an even more devastating moment in having to give our first almost-adopted son back to his birth father. That experience was even more tragic for us because we had gone through this one. But, maybe in some ways, this prepared us for dealing with that one.
Loss is a difficult thing. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of. Those who went through all of this with us, were part of a small handful of people who could comprehend what an incredible day it was when we finalized our adoption. The greatest joys can only be as great as your greatest sorrow. Opposition in all things. And these difficult moments made having D that much more of an incredible miracle.
|Our little miracle. D came to us through adoption, and what|
a dream he has been. Born May 2009. Took him home July 2009.