Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year (goodbye 2009)

Way back in the day when I blogged on LiveJournal I made a tradition of writing a love letter of sorts to the year that was passing and the one to come, sometime on or near New Year's Eve. Here's the one I wrote at the end of '04 looking towards '05 (note the intentional lack of caps and playful tone. This was how I wrote almost all my entries back in the day.):

dear 2004. i had no idea you would be so playful, dangerous, full of surprises. while i was with you i fell in love, wrote songs, had hundreds of kisses with only one boy, got two kittens and moved into a whole new life without changing my address. while you were watching we signed a record contract, finished an album, started a video, played twice in nordstrom, toured the west coast, rocked bumbershoot, went camping, found hotsprings, and ended our time with you stronger than when we started out. i learned that boys will make you cry but the when the right one does it the tears are a different thing, entirely. i quit smoking while i was with you. and i got a new ring. i wish i could say i'll miss you dear 2004, but i've just met someone new. someone who promises travel, excitement, love, and even marriage. 2005 is whispering in my ear of white dresses in april, and suntans by june, and while i admit that some of the memories i made with you will forever be the sweetest of my life 2004, i can't say i'll miss you. it's time to face the future and i don't mind the stars in my eyes.

Looking back on last year's entry, I can see how my voice had changed. Maybe I grew up, or maybe it's just the result of the sacrifice of a couple twinkles from the stars I was telling 2004 about. Here's 2008:

2008 was tough and wonderful and heartbreaking and reassuring. It was a year that a lot of people will write about for a very long time, and I'm intensely glad to have lived through it and born witness to many of the bigger events of the world this year. On a smaller scale, I've learned tons this year about myself, my vocation, my marriage, and my dreams for the future. Some of it has been pretty damn hard. 2008 taught me how to just cry when I need to, and how grief isn't always a bad thing, and how struggle without reward both totally sucks and is somehow the stuff that life - wonderful amazing beloved life - is made up of. I feel that ultimately I will look at 2008 as a year that made me so much stronger than I was before. I'm just not there yet. I'm ready to leave much of it behind.

That being said - I've never been happier with my home, my beloved, my family, and my friends. I've never felt more optimistic about and intrigued by people both known and unknown to me.

How's that for a dramatic and vague recap?

2009 - I'm looking for a couple miracles from you. And much more of that beloved life.

As for resolutions, I do have some. Let's see...

- work my ass off to pay for this adoption
- work my ass off (literally) and exercise more
- spend a month without sugar, dairy, caffeine, and wheat
- blog regularly on my two public blogs
- start grad school in the fall (which means getting the d*#m application in asap)
- rest when I need to
- avoid delusions of grandeur (I am not a superhero)
- love on my friends more

I didn't do so badly on my resolutions, turns out! We did pay for the adoption and I did work my ass off. I did exercise more. I did not spend a month without sugar. I blogged regularly here, but not here. I started grad school. I got a little bit of rest. I do love my friends, although they're the ones who loved on me more, in my opinion. I was made fully aware that I'm no superhero.

Note the more, um, liberal use of language. These were posts made in a blog somewhat more private than this one - hence no links to them! But I always search back and find them this time of year, to remember where I've been and why I write.

This year's letter would be out of place on that old blog. This has been the year of the public adoption blog, for me. Last year at this time I had just started writing here, just taken our quest to build a family out of the private realm of our life and into the public realm of our life. Now, a year later, I have connected with so many lovely people through this that I feel very much that this is my internet home, at least it has been in 2009.


Dear 2009,

You were my Advent and Christmas both. I will always remember you first as my year of Jubilee, and second as the year when I got almost everything I had been waiting for. Other years made promises but you, 2009, delivered. I have to note that you didn't just deliver on the good stuff - you delivered us plenty of heartache and worry as well as our dreamy storybook ending that we couldn't have made up. You paid attention to the years who went before you, and kept the tradition of all the best stuff coming together toward the end. But you weren't all action, or just about waiting around. In between the waiting and the happening you gave me many golden moments: gardening with neighbors, Sunday night barbecues, twenty-five new friends under the age of 10, long summer sunset walks holding my beloved's hand, a week in Georgia with my mother and my daughter that I will never forget, and a Christmas where everything was new again. I wouldn't live you over for love or money, 2009, because the gifts you've given me are too good for nostalgia. 2010 isn't just a new year, it's a new decade, whispering to me tales of adventures big and small, from first steps to first words, from new roles (motherhood, leadership, other?) to old friends (you know who you are) whose presence in my life just gets more precious to me over time. Don't feel bad - more than anything, at the end of the day, you put some of that twinkle back, and I can't remember a happier moment than right now, looking ahead.

Happy New Year's to you, from this starry eyed mama. May the new year bring you peace,love and adventure, and if you are waiting may it bring you what you are waiting for. ♥

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas

I feel like there are two holidays happening simultaneously this time of year. They are both called Christmas, but they couldn't be more different from each other. There's the one that is based on the secular Roman holiday of Saturnalia. That's the one where we give gifts and hang lights in the days leading up to December 25th. It's the holiday that looks a lot like other secular holidays like Thanksgiving and Halloween - with family traditions front and center and lots of cultural expressions of wealth, consumption, and good cheer. I like this Christmas quite a bit.

Then there is the other Christmas, the one that starts on December 25th instead of ending on that day. This is a quieter holiday, preceded by four weeks of darkness and waiting, of lighting candles and remembering the advent of One who came once, and who those of my faith believe is somehow coming still. I remember thinking, last year, that I liked this holiday so much better, especially the Advent part of it. Advent just fit my mood. It was waiting - waiting in the darkness of the new church year, the darkness of the beginning our adoption journey, the darkness of the sunless Seattle winter.

If last year was Advent, then this year, oh this is Christmas. The Christmas of my faith, the day that comes after so much long waiting in the darkness, the arrival of the One (so small, like our little one) who will change everything.

Tonight we marked this Christmas, the one that starts at midnight on this night, in the sacred space of our parish hall, surrounded by my many little ones. As I corralled kids, and we went through the little lesson that my church does at the first mass of Christmas eve, where the children build the creche while the we all sing I looked over their heads to see my daughter's fuzzy curls, all wrapped up on her father's chest. The children all around me were wide eyed, over-eager, and oh-so-careful to bring each piece of the nativity scene past the altar to where Mother Melissa waited. Their presence brought chaos and wonder in equal parts to the mass, something our place needs and is learning to treasure. Likewise my little one brings her own chaos and wonder to our life, to this Christmas season, to all the days to come. Like the baby so very long ago she is only the beginning. I wish for her wonderful and beautiful things, and know there are also terrible and sad things ahead for her, I want for her all of the things that make human life so very unique and so very ours.

There are wonderful times and places for the first Christmas - for the lights that make their own sort of wonder in the darkness, for the family celebrations that make tradition and mark time in their own ways, for the food and the gifts and the sugar-sugar-sugar. I like that Christmas.

But the other Christmas is my Christmas this year especially. It is, for me, a little brown baby, a hope fulfilled after long, long waiting, and that sweet strange promise of very precious and human days to come.

Whatever your Christmas, or Holy-day, or Holiday is this year, I wish you warmth and wonder. Failing that, I wish you patience and endurance. Regardless, I wish you hope.

Happy Christmas, from A+A...and also Baby J.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Plan vs. Reality: diapering

Originally I was going to write one monster post that detailed the plans I had about all the different aspects of parenting - style, feeding, diapering, and whatever else came to mind - and then how those plans are actually panning out on the ground. I realized a couple hundred words in that I will never have the time to write that as one post. Also, it's always evolving. So I'm making it into a series! This makes me feel like a legitimate blogger, and means that there is a handy label that you'll be able to click to see all of them. I would imagine that if this blog continues here in this format past our Adoption Day then eventually I'll do Plan vs Reality posts on all sorts of things like preschool, play dates, etc. Also, if you're someone who is waiting and the parenting type posts are less interesting or even painful for you to read, you'll know which ones to skip! (and I have totally been there and get it.)

The Plan: Diapering
I decided that we should use cloth diapers well over a year before baby J was born. And I say "I" because poor Andrew was sitting around one day, maybe working on an autobiographical statement for the homestudy, when I issued the executive order about cloth diapers. If he was skeptical he hid it well. I then did a ton of research that made me feel pretty good about my decision on a number of levels.

1. The Environment: I'd say on the green continuum we're somewhere between concerned and genuinely committed, moving towards genuinely committed. Care for the environment is a value that figures in to many of our decisions, including where we live and what we drive and how we consume paper products. We're not perfect at it, but it is important to us and the idea of diaper-filled landfills bothers me enough that I don't want to be a contributor to it.

2. Money: This is probably the biggest reason we chose to commit to cloth. The cheapest cloth diapers, prefolds and covers, add up to a total cost of around $300 from birth to potty training, even when you add in water and energy costs. There are fancier diapers, but we didn't plan to buy those. (We registered for them instead, because they're a good price for a shower gift and we don't want a lot of baby gear because of our limited space.) IF (and I understand it's a pretty big if) a child is potty trained around 24 months of age disposables will run you over $3000. Now, you can easily spend almost that much doing cloth diapers if you use a service, which is why we decided to wash them ourselves.

3. Ease: We thought that it really would be easy for us to wash diapers. Our laundry closet is literally in our bedroom, where baby is changed. We have two bathrooms, and decided the one off the bedroom would be great for attaching a diaper sprayer and devoting some space to poop cleaning.

4. Baby's health: This is perhaps (perhaps!) the most debatable reason to cloth diaper. But many people believe that cloth diapers are better for baby's skin. The most real and provable reason for this is that babies are changed more often when wearing cloth. The reason babies are changed more often is that they feel wetter in cloth. Disposables have chemicals that turn wetness into gel that doesn't feel so wet, so they can stay on baby longer. Which isn't as good for their skin.

There were plenty of people who doubted our plan. But we also have a lot of parents who cloth diaper in our lives, and we asked them questions and watched them at work and it really didn't seem all that hard. One of the advantages of living in Seattle is that living green is a big deal here - I think there are at least as many parents at our church who cloth diaper as not, and perhaps even more cloth users than disposable users. Even so, we had our doubts. I bought this kit from bummi back in February and spent way too much time diapering my cabbage patch doll. Our friends K+K, who use a service, gave us the Thirsties covers that their baby grew out of so we were extra stocked. I prepared myself to become a martyr to cloth, swore to Prove We Could Do It.

The Reality
Cloth diapering is ridiculously easy. Maybe we were expecting it to be so terrible that the reality is a pleasant surprise, but we've both been shocked at how simple diapering Baby J has been. She was in disposables in Georgia, of course, and we definitely took a deep breath the day after we got home when we realized we had run out of the organic disposable Nana had picked up for the plane ride home. (Side note, the nice organic disposables with none of the nasty chemicals in them don't actually work all that great. hmm.) But we went for it and have never looked back. About a week after we started on cloth we ran out of disposable wipes and started using cloth wipes as well. Turns out they work out even better - we don't need as many, the wipe warmer Grandma got us works for them too (we just wet a bunch of them down at the sink and throw them in the warmer), and it's much easier to just toss a flannel wipe in the pail with the diaper than to throw away a disposable one separately.

What we have learned so far is that we like to wash every day, even though we have enough diapers that we could wash every three days if we needed to. Also, the Thirsties covers work better for Baby J than the the Bummi ones at the moment, because she is long and skinny so those gussets come in handy. Transitions are going to be our challenge - right now she is wavering between the XS and S. Weight wise she should be well into the S, but again she is a tall skinny lady, so the S covers are still pretty wide for her.

Our first baby shower was last week, so we've just started to get the BumGenius and Fuzzi Bunz diapers we registered for. We have one of each so far and I'm planning to use them mostly for travel and overnight now that Baby J is sleeping for 6-8 hour stretches at night. (I know, she is a miracle baby in many, many ways.)

Baby J had a horrible diaper rash when we first got her. At one point it was actually cracked and bleeding. I freaked out, of course, and sent pictures via confidential medical email to one of the dermatologists I work for at the University. She recommended treatment and by the time we got home it was under control. Since being in cloth her skin has been perfectly healthy. A couple times a week we do diaper-free time for 20-30 minutes, which is also helpful for baby skin, and dermatologist recommended, no matter what sort of diapers you use!

We face a big test later this week, when we travel to visit my parents in California for a week. Our goal is to use cloth everywhere, even for traveling, so we'll be taking our diapers along and washing while we're there. We've done this on overnight visits to Andrew's parents and it has worked fine. I'm sort of excited to see how it works on a longer trip!

Alright, that concludes this episode of Plan vs. Reality! Thanks for watching, and to reward you here is a little Christmas cheer:

p.s. the hat was a gift from one of our faithful readers and we love it! THANK YOU!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Plan vs. Reality (so far) parenting style 1

We've had custody of Baby J for over a month now, and we have been in Seattle with her for almost four weeks. We've been to church with her three times, and I have even made a couple solo outings with her to coffee and meetings. So has Andrew. We're beginning to get our bearings as parents, figure out what our baby needs that is unique to her and how that meshes with the things we believe about parenting and the ways we have always planned to parent.

You can probably imagine that I have done quite a bit of research into parenting techniques over the past year. I am, to put it mildly, obsessive about being informed. I've looked at/read up on everything from Babywise(full disclosure - I am not a fan) to Dr. Sears and most of the stuff in between. I have also tried to pay attention to what my friends and relatives who are parents of young children do, how it works out for them, etc. In all of this prep time one of the most important observations I have noted down for myself is that almost everyone's parenting plan changes after the baby actually arrives. My friend who lives deep in Babywise country ended up pretty much straight-up following Dr. Sears' attachment model because that was the most natural for her baby and worked the very best(baby is thriving). My friend who was sold on attachment parenting and co-sleeping ended up moving her son to a crib earlier than expected because no one was getting any sleep, including him! Her baby, turns out, just slept better on his own despite her plans(baby is thriving). My super-natural parenting friend couldn't breastfeed her little one, and ended up needing to supplement and eventually completely feed her formula, which was really tough for her emotionally(but, baby is thriving). It's almost like babies have their own preferences and personalities, despite the careful plans we have laid out before their arrival!

So, I kept this in mind whilst making my parenting plans. I thought it would be interesting to see how my ideals and schemes matched up with reality, and how my own intellectual preferences would play out with our real live daughter.

Parenting Style
The Plan
At our initial WACAP training, which included potential adoptive parents for both international and domestic programs, we talked a lot about parenting style. We also attended an extra class on attachment. What I learned there was enough to convince me that some degree of attachment parenting was the way to go. Experts recommend attachment parenting - co-sleeping, feeding on demand, baby-wearing,never letting them cry it out - almost exclusively for older adopted babies, and even suggest implementing the parts of that model that will work when adopting young children and even older kids. So, it made sense to me that if this is how healthy attachment is promoted with older adopted children it must be how it works for brand new babies, too. (Maybe even for children born into the family!) We borrowed a co-sleeper and bought a snuggle nest. I purchased a moby wrap and was handed down a sling. I researched adoptive breastfeeding and kangaroo care (skin-to-skin time).

The Reality So Far.
Baby J spent two weeks with Granny and Papa M before we met her. They subscribe to the Baby Whisperer methods of parenting. Granny M handed me a worn copy of the book the first day we were there and recommended I read it from cover to cover. I finished it within a couple days. There was a lot I liked about it, some things that weren't quite my style, and others that just wouldn't be possible for us. For example that book is absolutely hands-down against having the baby in the parents bedroom. Even if I agreed with this, which I don't, we live in a one bedroom. But overall it's a nice middle of the road sort of book - not on either the Dr. Sears or Babywise extremes. So - while we were at the M's I compromised some of my ideals. I insisted that J be in my room, but she was in a crib and not my bed because I had given the snuggle nest to Y. She slept fine there, and continues to sleep fine in her co-sleeper. As she has settled in, J has made it known that she does like to snuggle in bed with us, so she often starts the night that way, and usually ends up with us again in the morning for an hour or two of kangaroo care time. It's a nice compromise.

Maybe it's because of the way she started out, but J seems to resist being pigeonholed into a particular way of being parented. She doesn't want to be all the way in bed with us, but loves to nap there together. She falls asleep equally well in our arms or on her own when she is put down at the just-right-stage of drowsy. She tolerates the Moby Wrap and the sling but doesn't love either one. She would prefer to just be carried, thanks. And she is not down with adoptive breastfeeding, thank you very much, although there is nothing that comforts her quite like some time cuddled up to Mommy's (and only Mommy's!) chest. And while we are happy to feed on demand, J has developed her own little schedule of eating, playing, and then napping that is fairly consistant and predictable. Which makes anticipating her needs a little easier on us.

I find all of this fairly comforting. It's a good reminder to me that the best parenting plan is to pay attention to my child, respond to her needs, and trust that as we get to know each other I'll get better and better at it. This is real attachment parenting, I think, the process of being aware both of what I want and have planned and of where my child really is - and finding the best way for both of us to proceed from there. Meanwhile both parent and child gain confidence that the parent is ready and able to meet the child's needs, which promotes real trust and attachment.

Meanwhile, Baby J is thriving ♥. (latest stats: 10 lbs 1oz, 22.5 inches!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Great Interview Experiment

I decided a couple weeks ago to participate in The Great Interview Experiment. For details on what it is, how it works, and how to participate, go check out the description.

Meanwhile, I'd like to introduce you to Melissa, a New Zealand native who blogs at The Best Nest. Here is our interview:

1. In your "about" section you talk about being a professional student - what is(are) your academic passion(s)?

When I was but a ‘child’ I unblinkingly went to university right out of high school and studied what I loved – at the time. So I graduated with a BA in Sociology and Ancient History. Which I have never used. Or even needed to reference in any sort of paid employment. As I was planning on staying home with our son until he began school I impulsively enrolled in Uni again and began a degree in Accounting. I have a few papers left to go and can already see this may ‘lead’ to further study. ::::ssshhhh:::

2. Why do you blog? What attracts you to it, and keeps you coming back to write?

I began my blog because I had toyed with scrapbooking for my son, but it didn’t really stick. I loved the idea of creating a permanent record, a chronology of our life, that would give Ethan something to look back on, and hopefully laugh at when he is older. I often ask my own parents about little milestones or things that happened when I was young and they don’t remember, these things are important to me and I don’t want to forget them!

3. Do you ever go back and read your blog? If so, what two or three old posts do you find yourself returning to? Why?

I read my blog every day, mostly because I love looking at old pictures of Ethan. I NEVER get tired of it.

I can’t say that i have any favourite posts, because I don’t think I write too too much. I wish I wrote more but hopefully that will come with time and as my blog-confidence grows.

4. What was the biggest adjustment for you when you moved to America? How about when you moved back to NZ?

Oh lord, there were so many strange and weird things that I had to get used to. The biggie would be driving on the OTHER side of the road. The first time I drove by myself I went through a drive-through the wrong way and was wondering how on earth I was going to reach across to take my order! I had a tough time understanding peoples different accents, especially when I moved to the south. People down there may as well have been speaking pig-Latin because it took me so long to get that drawl sorted out! Guns. I hate em. The first time I saw a security guard with a gun in TJ Max I ran out of the shop just in case he slipped and banged his head and went nuts and started shooting. This is one of the main reasons why Dave and I left after Ethan was born.

Moving back home was harder than I ever imagined. I had been away for 6 years. Much had changed in that time. My friends had also had six years to grow and travel and begin their families. It was hard to reconcile the Melissa who had left NZ with the Melissa that had returned. I think I am still working on this to this day actually!

5. I love the name of your blog - any history there?

I thought long and hard about what to call my blog. I am a very impulsive person and wanted so bad to own my own domain and really make the blog my own. But I was patient and one day it finally came. I love the PD Eastman book by the same name. It is such a great story about family and really being thankful for what you have. It just seemed to fit.

6. How did you meet your husband? Was it hard to convince him to come back to New Zealand with you??

My husband is from Jacksonville, FL where I lived, bummed around and surfed for 3 years. We were friends of friends, he was the hot bartender at the local Carrabas, he was sometimes at skate spots where I happened to be shooting. Long story short, he broke up with his long-term girlfriend and moved to California. Never to be seen again.

A year later after a nasty break-up my best buddy Bush packed up her truck, was heading West and called me as she was about to get on the freeway. She made a quick detour to the beach picked me up and we were off. We ended up in San Diego after an amazing road trip across America. This was one of the best weeks of my life, I will never forget it.

Two girls without jobs and a dog do not make for highly attractive prospective tenants, so we were having a hard time finding a place to live. Luckily I had quite a few connections in the skateboarding industry so we headed to Encinitas, a friend got us an apartment and there we laid out hats.

First Saturday night out we were bar-hopping down Highway 101 in Encinitas and Dave was standing in line at the second bar we went to. Unfreakingbelievable. Of all the little beach towns up and down the coast we picked the one he happened to be living in. We have been together ever since.

Convincing him to move to NZ was no too hard. We were living in CA away from all of his family and my family was obviously on the other side of the world – we needed some support and I needed my Mum and Dad. It was exciting for Dave to travel so far away and to a place so different from home (he calls it Opposite Land). That is not to say that he doesn’t get homesick, because he does – but he is loving being in New Zealand and we both appreciate what an amazing place it is to raise children.

Thanks Melissa! It was fun to interview you! I hope you do start writing more - your answers were fun to read and I'd love to see more! ♥

I also did an interview, with a different blogger. I'll link to her when that goes up. Fun!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I opened my inbox today to see another writing prompt over at Production not Reproduction, the blog that is among other things the hub for the Open Adoption Blogger network that I'm a part of. Every month Heather posts a writing prompt about something open adoption related. This month is #11, and is about the holidays. The last time I participated was for #7, which was about blogging and privacy.

There are a lot of reasons why I haven't participated since #7. #8 was posted the day before Choice was born and, well you know the story. But this time I'm not posting because I haven't written this post yet. This is the post about how I'm not actually in an open adoption.

What we have with J's first mom, I am going to call her Z, is what is called a semi-open adoption. We've agreed to send pictures and written updates every month for the first six months, and then once a year after that until J is eighteen years old. She hasn't agreed to anything, aside from the part where she agreed to give her daughter up for adoption which is a giant thing. I don't want to diminish the power of that choice. But Z has never seen our profile book and I don't think she knows our first names. The letters and pictures we send will be held by the agency, in case she wants to pick them up. If she ever does, then in that written material will be the information that we are interested in more openness. The agency didn't seem to expect that she would come back to get updates. I hope that she does. I hope that I can always continue to prepare them as if she will.

But this post is not about Z. It's about me, and what it means for me to be in this sort of adoption. I'm not complaining - I have found my daughter and would have it no other way - but this part isn't what I had in mind. So it's taken some adjusting to. In some ways I started adjusting when I said goodbye to Y, the day that unbeknown to me, J was born.

At our post placement visit Karen asked us some questions about bonding with J, and how it's going, when it happened, etc. I thought immediately of Choice, what it felt like to be in the hospital room with her and Y, and how I did not feel like she was my baby. I don't think that was fate or destiny or anything like that. She could have been my baby, if Y had chosen differently. I think the reason I didn't feel like she was mine was because her mother was right there. I had spent the past three weeks focused on Y and our relationship. If I was bonded to anyone in that hospital room it was Y, not her baby. I can see why some of the adoptive mothers I know in open adoptions struggle with their mother-identity at first, why it is not uncommon for adoptive moms to have a hard time moving past the first mother's grief and some feel guilty about their own joy.

At this point Z is a name to me. While I know cognitively that J has a first mother who is just as real as Y, I don't know it in an experiential way. In my experience of J I am her only mother. I have been her mother from the moment I first saw her, from the moment I first saw her picture, even. Fate, destiny, and the alignment of the stars aside, this is probably at least part of why I bonded to her so quickly and irrevocably.

So in some respects, the self-centered adoptive parent focused ones, this way was easier. I believe that in the long run it won't be easier. I believe in open adoption, that when it can be arranged it is better for the most important person in the adoption triad, the child. The other two parties are the grown-ups. We are supposed to take the harder hits so that our child doesn't have to.

After the experience with Y and Choice, Andrew and I had some long talks about our expectations. That situation had seemed like our dream scenario, and the connection with Y was part of that dream scenario. But we walked away feeling like Y made the right decision. So, if that was the case, then we concluded we might need to revise or expand our dream scenario. Choice, we decided, didn't need us. I am definitely not saying that this is true of every open adoption situation, but it was true of that one. We decided we needed to be open to a child whose need for us was clear, even if that meant letting go of some of the expectations we had. One of those expectations was a first mother like Y - someone who would have been capable of a fruitful and open relationship. We decided to be open to situations that were a little more dire, where the need for the baby to be placed was more obvious. I talked to Marla about it, and we were all set up to be shown for some cases that fit our expanded scenario when J's ten days came up.

My daughter is perfect in every single way. But because this post is about me, I'll stick to the topic. The scenario I didn't really imagine was actually this one. The one where the first mother stays in the shadows of our lives for now, and possibly forever. But I would be so good at openness, my heart says rather plaintively. If she just knew me...

But it is not my job to evaluate Z's decisions. Her choices are hers, and I cannot - should not - imagine what they are about. "Semi" means "half." In this adoption relationship there are three sides, not two. But I have control over my part, and the "semi" can be me. There are things I can commit myself to, in this semi-open relationship. The first one, the one that all the others comes from, is to respect my child's first mother. This means speaking of her with honor and compassion, and not sharing information about her with those who might judge, or who just don't need to know. Respecting her means not fantasizing about why she did what she did. I will not make her into an angel or a demon in my own mind, or in our family lore. She is a whole complicated and real person. This means raising J to honor her - J will have questions and feelings and her own Z stuff to deal with and I'll be supportive of whatever that is, but she will be raised to respect and honor the person who gave her life. It also means being open with J. She will have hard questions and I will give her honest answers, as appropriate, as she grows able to ask. And if Z ever wants contact, I will do all in my power to facilitate that in a healthy way.

There is a lot I wish I could tell Z. It is a litany in my head, sometimes, when I think about her. Your child is safe. Your child is loved. I hope you are okay. I know you probably aren't. But your baby is safe, your baby is loved. Our daughter is thriving.

I think about Z a lot.

So there it is. I can still be an open adoption blogger. In some ways, I am more open now than I was last time I participated. Some people can have open adoptions, some people should have them, and then there are situations where it's just not possible. My personal bias is that any adoptive parent can and should be at least capable of considering it. I know that not every first parent is, nor should they have to be. And my child, my daughter? Right now her adoption can't be all the way open, it is just not in the cards. And I want her and no one else. So I am in the adoption I want to be in, because this is reality for my family.

If my heart sinks a little when I see our extra profile books lying on the table, that's okay. There is a prideful part of me that wanted to show that to my child and say "here it is, here is the book we made for your first mommy. She read it and she picked us to be your parents." But for that dream to come true I would have had to have a different daughter and that is inconceivable to me now. In some ways Y picked us for Baby J, because without the choices she made we wouldn't have been offered this match. So we were picked, just not by J's own first mother. It's a more complicated story than the one I imagined. But in my experience real life is often more complicated than the dreams we have about it - and there isn't any dream that I'd prefer over this.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Post-Placement Visits and what comes next

While Baby J was napping yesterday morning I rushed about the condo a bit, getting things marginally straightened up for the VIP guests we were expecting in the afternoon. Longtime readers will remember Karen, the social worker who did our initial homestudy. Yesterday she came back to do our first of two post-placement visits and to our delight she brought Marla along!

We had a great time. J was asleep at the beginning, and woke up just enough to spit up on Marla and then spend the rest of the visit dozing in Andrew's lap. Karen asked us questions about bonding and J's development and we gave her a printout of the doctor's report from her last pediatrician visit. (Did I tell you? 9lbs 6oz! Our girl is growing by leaps and bounds!) It felt a lot like having good friends over for tea, only the kind of good friends where you don't have to ask them any questions about their lives. They just wanted to hear about us!

My favorite part, honestly, was listening to Andrew talk. My husband is often shy in groups, or with people he doesn't know well, but when the topic is one that he feels especially enthusiastic about it can be hard to get a word in edgewise. It was hard to get a word in edgewise. But I didn't mind a bit. It is pretty amazing to know that there is another person who completely understands my feelings for my daughter and totally shares them. And it's kind of beautiful to watch my sometimes quiet partner light up because the topic at hand is our little girl and well, the audience was somewhat captive.

After a couple of hours we bid them goodbye with a viewing of the Babies trailer, which Karen hadn't seen yet. We'll see Marla again later this week at the WACAP Holiday party. Our last post-placement visit is set for February and I have high hopes that we will be able to finalize in early spring.

So between now and then what happens?

So at the moment we have legal custody of J, but we are not her legal guardians. The agency in Georgia is - J's first mom relinquished J to the agency and not to us. The agency is responsible for making good placements for babies that they hold guardianship for, so the post-placement visits and follow-up is part of that process of making sure that things are going well. Georgia requires two follow-ups before an adoption can be finalized along a specific timeline that we are following. WACAP will help us make sure that we adhere to the guidelines, that's part of their job after placements are made.

In the meantime, we're enjoying our little one! I am on maternity leave through the end of the year, and then will start back to work at half time (20 hrs a week) in January, and will be doing a couple classes next quarter as well. Andrew is finishing up school early next week and then he's all done until January too. We consider ourselves quite blessed in that between my flexible part time work schedule and his school schedule Baby J won't need to be in any sort of daycare for the foreseeable future - one of us will always be with her. And of course with grandparents close by and my brother's family just up the freeway, and our amazing community here in our building there are a lot of temporary childcare options at our fingertips.

I have been reading all your comments, by the way! I have a post in the works about adoptive breastfeeding (did you know that was possible?), one on bonding, and more in my TAC Bill of Rights series. I'll be getting to those in between catching up on some of the freelance web work that's been lagging since the advent of my daughter, addressing birth announcements and hanging out with my sweet little family. So, you know, soon-ish.

What's that? You want pictures?
Reaching for Daddy.

J is not as excited for bath time as Mommy is. This is because she didn't know that we got her one of those fancy European bucket things. She loved it, which is a far cry from her loudly expressed feelings about bath time before its arrival. And yes. That is a ducky robe. ♥

Okay, Internet. If I don't take a shower now (Andrew home, baby asleep, 2pm) it will never happen.

Be well. ♥

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Lucky One (it's me)

It was my second Sunday in a row in Georgia, and I hadn't planned on it. I mean, I hadn't planned on having a second Sunday in Georgia. A large part of me wanted to stay home and sulk, and the rest of me wanted to pack up my mother and Baby J and find an Episcopal church to go to. I was homesick, and wherever I am I always feel at home at mass.

Then Granny M invited us to go to church with her. She wasn't at all pushy about it. I knew that she went somewhere a lot more evangelical than what I am used to these days, something more like the church that I grew up in. There was a time when I wanted nothing to do with anything that even closely resembled the church I grew up in (another story, probably not for this blog) but I have come a long way since then. I also knew from hearing Granny M talk about her church that they were "her people" more than her neighbors or other friends she might have. She had taken Baby J there the first two Sundays of her life, and to a bible study or two as well, and already a couple of folks from church had called to ask about "her baby" and whether or not Baby J was still with her. So I accepted, determined to grin and bear it, to honor the place that this community held in the short part of my daughter's life that I hadn't been around for.

I was really glad that I did. In many ways it was exactly what I had been expecting - church in a gymnasium type set-up with canned worship music and power point slides up front with the lyrics to the songs. (If your church is like this I don't mean to offend, this is just not my preference for worship.) But there was more than one element to the experience that surprised me. They took communion, which apparently happens every week. At one point the congregation sang a gorgeous hymn, a capella, in perfect four part harmony. And while I had braced myself for the sermon (side effect of years of theological education: really hard not to get worked up and critical during sermons, especially in places whose liturgical practice differs from mine a little or a lot) it turns out I didn't need to. The pastor preached on Amos - a book I had just recently read - and in my opinion was spot on. I won't go into it, as this isn't a theology blog, but let's just say I felt convicted and curious. It wasn't the sort of message I expected to hear in the middle of the Bible belt. I was able to report with relief to Papa M (who had been my theological conversation partner for the week) that I really enjoyed the sermon, and thought his preacher was right on.

But there was one jarring thing. It had to do with me and Baby J. Everyone there who came up to us exclaimed over the baby, and was just pleased as punch to meet me. Granny and Papa M are obviously well beloved by their church people, and Granny had an equally wonderful time showing me off. She doesn't often get to share the end of the story with her friends, as most adoptive parents turn down the offer to wait out the interstate paperwork at the M's house. Right before the sermon, however, during announcements, the pastor asked me to stand up and introduced me and Baby J to everyone. This isn't what bothered me - I am perfectly fine being the center of attention. While we were standing he talked about how supportive of adoption their congregation is, and how they have something like 22 families built through adoption in their midst. Very cool, I thought.

"That baby is just so lucky to have you, Alissa," The pastor continued. "We need more people like you to open their homes and hearts in such a special and selfless way to this world's children."


If I had been in possession of a microphone I would have cleared that up right there. Selfless? Oh no. We went on our quest for Baby J for the most selfish of reasons - we wanted a child, a baby even, in our family. Even then, a mere week into knowing her, I was very clear on who the lucky one was in this situation. Put quite simply, it's me.

That kind pastor is not the only person who has commented on how "lucky" our baby is. It rubs me the wrong way every time and I've been thinking about why. Part of it is covered in this post, from my series on the TAC Bill of Rights. But there's something else.

A couple of days ago a friend of mine said of Baby J, "I gotta say, she sure landed in a good spot!"

That didn't bother me. I think it's because it was a statement about us, and not a statement about Baby J. I don't mind at all when people tell us we will be good parents. I feel complimented and flattered. After all we'd have to be somewhat pathological to go through the whole adoption process if we thought we'd be bad at it. But I do mind when they make assumptions about my child's life, which is largely unwritten still. She doesn't need those projections - and she should have the space to decide for herself just how lucky she is or isn't. I expect she'll feel differently about it in different phases of her life.

Back in my rock n roll days, when I had just started seeing Andrew, I wrote a song about him, about the sweetness of the first few months of falling in love when the perfection of being together is overwhelming and endless. We would argue about who was luckier to be in our relationship, and when he had gone home I would moon about marveling that anyone felt so good about being with me. (Forever blessings on our friends who tolerated us through that time, we were completely ridiculous.)

Lately that song has been stuck in my head, mostly the refrain, which is also the title of this post. Being in love means a lot of things, but part of what it means for me, with both my husband and my daughter, is that I am absolutely sure who the lucky one is in this family. And it's me.

Here's the song, just for fun. It's called True Romance, after the first movie Andrew and I ever watched together. It was written in 2004, and it is straight up fluffy pop, just to warn you. A special shout-out to my ladies who wrote it with me: Carly (vocals and guitar), Jenny (bass), and Amy (keyboards). I am on drums, of course.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I am the Queen of Procrastination


Thanksgiving Homily

I am in the midst of a fairly intense week, with final papers due tomorrow (half done) and Thursday (eh...I pretty much know where I'm going with it...denial is my friend, etc.) evenings. So, still not a lot of time for words here, though many are percolating.

For readers who might be newer to the blog, I sometimes preach at my church. At first it was part of my vocational training, and now I am a staff person there and so am called upon in that capacity to provide a homily now and then. It's a lot more fun this way, because I don't have to have a meeting for feedback afterward. I have a strong love/hate relationship with feedback. Anyways, back in September I agreed to do the homily at Thanksgiving Day mass, and I am proud to report that despite the roller-coaster that my life has been since then I did manage to get up and say something that those in attendance assured me was not complete jibberish.

It's here, if you are interested. And yes, it is adoption and Baby J heavy because it is immensely challenging for me to focus on anything else. I chose to preach on the gospel reading, my church follows a pre-determined lectionary, because the Old Testament selection would have reduced me to open weeping and I don't do open weeping in front of a church full of people. If you are curious, the text I did not preach on is this one.