Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Guest Post; Get Out of My Way. I'm Bonding!

Kate's Mom responded to my quest to find guest posters to help me acknowledge November as National Adoption Awareness Month... and I am SO glad she did! She and I haven't met but I felt as if I was reading my own thoughts as I read her amazing post. I've touched on bonding before... it's something I take seriously with my children. Hunter is now 8 months old and I am completely possessive of my time with him... feeding him, changing him, putting him to bed; it's me or Joey. That's it. Kate's Mom gets it. And I love her for her honesty!
Get Out of My Way. I'm Bonding!

This is something I don't like to talk about with friends and family because I don't want to offend anyone, but I think it's something that waiting or newly adoptive parents could benefit from. So I want to thank On Loan from Heaven for letting me post these somewhat private thoughts on her blog! I do want to say that I'm not going to be careful to use totally PC terms, because I'm just telling my story. I'm sorry if any of it seems strange; it's just an honest account of what I went through for the first few months of motherhood. It's also going to sound completely irrational -- it did as I was writing it -- but isn't that what all new moms experience? Irrational feelings and thoughts? Yes, I think so. :) I did add a couple of rational thoughts as footnotes, just so you don't think I'm all kinds of crazy.

First of all, a little back story on our family. We adopted our daughter, Kate, as a newborn. I was lucky enough to be in the delivery room when she was born, and we camped out on an air mattress at the hospital for two days while we waited to bring her home. She was born in our home town, about 2.5 hours from where we lived, and we invited a lot of our family members to come see her at the hospital while they had a chance. After that, we wanted at least a week at home with no overnight guests. I didn't give birth, so I did NOT need anyone's help. (1)

Here I am, a woman who was just given a child by another woman. Here ya go, you're her mom now! (If you step back from all the bravery and heartbreak and other emotions involved there, that's really how it was!) It didn't matter how much love for her I had in my heart, I felt like I was playing the role of a mom. Aside from some legal documents, taking care of her was the only thing that made me mom. Not genetics, not nine months of keeping her all to myself, not the experience of giving birth, and not the opportunity to nurse her. All I could do was be there with her, feed her, change her, hold her. Those things were invaluable to me! Those simple tasks made me Mom and made my husband Dad.

But "playing mom" is something all women like to do when they are around a baby! When was the last time you saw a newborn and didn't want to immediately hold him of feed him or babysit alone? I had always thought that bonding, which naturally is a little different between adoptive parents and their children, meant feeling an attachment with the baby. You know, warm fuzzies. But anyone is going to feel warm fuzzies when holding a tiny, sleepy newborn!

And that, my friends, was the problem. Anyone could "bond" with her. I found that to be terribly threatening. Here are some examples that, at best, made me panic, and at worst, made me cry uncontrollably.
  • "Here, let me take her!" There's no question being asked there. When anyone would take her out of my arms my heart would start racing. I hated it. Handing her over on my own accord was no biggie, but I could not stand it when someone walked up and grabbed her. In some ways maybe it was my guilt for having "taken" her away from her birth mother, who was naturally still grieving

    • "Here, let me feed her!" No. Usually I had the courage to say no, especially to friends, but it was much more difficult with family members who didn't take no for an answer. Feeding was either my job or my husband's. If I were nursing, no one would offer to do it for me. They would sit there while I walked into the other room and let me feed the baby in private while we bonded. But people are not willing to offer privacy to a mom who isn't nursing. What's worse, sometimes they even wanted privacy during feeding time, leaving the room to do it.
    • "You need a break." I most certainly do not! It particularly difficult for me with a certain family member who, whether we were visiting them or vice-verse, constantly tried kicking me out of the house on order to care for the baby alone. At one point, when I felt like I wasn't welcome to stay even if I wanted to, I got in my car and drove around the neighborhood sobbing. I had no errands I needed to run. I just waited until my face got back to normal and went back inside.(2) In another example, a neighbor who I hadn't seen in more than a year yelled over the back fence that she heard a baby crying and of course, "I didn't know you were pregnant!" After briefing her, she stated that she would come over once a week and sit with Kate while I got out of the house. That was such a sweet offer, but I was totally caught off guard and didn't know how to respond! What was I supposed to say? I don't need to get out of the house. You don't need to keep my baby who you've never even seen. (In an unrelated anecdote, the next time I saw that neighbor was the day before we moved out of our house. They drove by, saw the moving truck, and came to the door. Kate wasn't home and she said, "Well I never even knew what she looked like!" After showing her a picture, I realized that she meant she didn't know what race Kate was. People.)
    This really lasted about five or six months, which incidentally was the amount of time it took for the adoption to be finalized. And it actually took me that long to realize that it was just a psychological thing that was part of my bonding process. Bonding, for me, wasn't warm fuzzies. It wasn't our relationship -- the baby and I definitely knew who we were to each other. It was feeling secure enough in my own motherhood to accept help from others.

    Who knows -- maybe no one else has experienced this. I'm sure bonding is different for every family, as adoption is different for every family. But maybe my experience will help some of you prepare yourselves and your friends and family members for feelings that may come up, avoiding any awkward "no thank you, I don't need a babysitter" moments. :)

    Thanks for reading, and for letting me finally get this off my chest!

    ~Kate's mom

    1. I'm sure our moms had dreamed of sleeping over to help after their grandchildren were born. I feel really badly about that. Unfortunately, infertility doesn't just affect the couple, it affects the whole family.
      2. It really is important for all family members to get a chance to bond with their grandchild/niece/cousin/etc., especially when we're lucky enough to have a family who sees no difference between a biological and adopted family member. I should have been grateful for so much love that surrounded her early on.
    Kate's Mom~ You rock :-) Thank you for openly and honestly giving a voice to the raw emotions most adoptive moms go through in their first few days, weeks, and months (or if you're me, years) home with their babies. Yes, bonding with other family is important... but you'll NEVER regret being a little crazy about your baby :-)

    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    Guest Post- Surprise Infertility

    'RMA' has become one of my sweetest friends over the past year. A loyal follower of our blog, a huge encouragement to me, and someone who prayed for us constantly through our journey to bring home Baby Smith #2... she is inspiring to me.
    RMA stepped out of her comfort zone in order to bring light to a side of infertility that I don't know... it's a side that I know will speak to so many of you and I am so thankful for her willingness to share her story...
    Her story, so far....
    If you were my friend on Facebook or followed me on Instagram, one of the first things you would notice is I have an adorable toddler. She will be two next year, and I am kind of obsessed with her.
    I’m one of those moms.
    I take pride in every {seemingly small} milestone she reaches, I post {an unnecessary amount} of weekly posts about cute things she says/does, and I {unapologetically} will never feel bad for talking about her so much.
    So what is a person like me, with a happy, healthy baby that I birthed from my own body doing on a guest post on a blog where most of its readership comes from women/couples seeking out adoption or struggling with infertility?
    My family fits into those categories now.
    Most people don’t think that women who have birth children will reach a point in their life, in their prime birthing years, where infertility is an issue. Why would it be?
    Although I’ve been reading Lindsay’s blog for quite sometime now, before any thoughts of infertility had ever crossed my mind, it’s true impact on me has only just begun.
    You know how every time you reach a new phase of life everyone wants to know “What’s next?”…I’m there.
    You know, you start dating someone… “When are you getting engaged?” ::check::
    You get engaged… “When are you getting married?” ::check::
    You get married… “When are you having a baby?” ::check::
    You have your first baby… “When are you having another?” ….well, good question.
    I get this question countless times a week, and sometimes I feel like I am asked multiple times a day. I can’t really blame anyone; I’ve never been sensitive to asking or receiving this question. Until a doctor visit I went to a few months ago.
    My husband and I have been overjoyed in parenthood, and so we decided we wanted to start trying again for our second child earlier this year. Now, for most people, 8 months of trying and not getting pregnant would seem like no big deal. After all, it takes ‘normal’ couples sometimes a year to get pregnant, and then those who struggle with fertility it can take YEARS.
    I think I left out something when I was talking about getting pregnant with my daughter.
    My husband and I got pregnant in our first year of marriage. Unexpectedly. While I was on birth control.
    Yeah, I was one of those.
    Let me say for every woman who is or has been “one of those”, we can’t help how fast or unexpectedly we get pregnant. Sometimes I felt a little judged by friends who had been trying for awhile. You know, like it was ‘wrong’ of me to get pregnant so quickly. When really, it was just the Lord’s timing.
    Ha. But oh, how the Lord works. More on that later.
    So, 2012 rolls around and we make the plunge “let’s have another baby!” I honestly, naively expected to be pregnant the first month we started “trying” [charting, planning, you get the idea…]. But, 2 months went by, 4 months… now we are entering into our 9th month of trying and still now second child. So, what’s the deal?
    A few months ago I went in for my yearly OB/GYN appointment, during my appointment I was discussing with my doctor that we hadn’t yet gotten pregnant although we had been trying. I honestly felt silly even bringing it up, because I know that’s not even a ‘real’ time frame that they consider‘troubling’ if you haven’t gotten pregnant. Anyways, he tells me to start taking ovulation tests, we are probably just not hitting our window. Ok, easy fix.
    I buy the ovulation tests. Month 1 passes, no ovulation. Month 2, no ovulation. Month 3… hmm, maybe I should call the doctor.
    To sum up several appointments and conversations into one sentence: I now have learned my body doesn’t ovulate anymore.
    Why? Well, we aren’t quite sure, but it may have something to do with my body being damaged during delivery of my first baby. Or hormones. Or a slew of other options.
    So here I am. With a desire for a second baby. With the inability to ovulate.
    So, what do I do about that? Well, that’s where we are now. Ovulation releases the egg. So, without a release of the egg, that means I won’t be having any more babies as long as this issue persists.
    So, now we are searching our options, dancing between the sovereignty of the Lord’s plan and the grieving of my heart to carry and birth another child.
    But, the beautiful thing Lindsay’s blog has ministered to my heart is that your children won’t always come from your body, but they always come from the Lord. So, while I still have a strong desire for a second child, that doesn’t necessarily mean he or she will be born from my body, but they will be MY child.
    Of course I want my body to ‘work’ the way I think it should, but I was reminded while listening to Elevation Worship’s “Give Me Faith” that ‘my flesh may fail, but my God you NEVER will.”
    So, my flesh is failing. It isn’t working the way I want it to. I’m not getting my way. But it isn’t about my way, it’s about His way.
    And you know how I mentioned earlier I was one of “those women”, who got pregnant out of nowhere, with no plan or thought or charting. I have friends like that now. Close friends who are getting pregnant, quickly. Unexpectedly. And do you now what my mind tells me ?“Ugh, annoying.” But do you know what my heart tells me? “It is the Lord’s timing for them, just as much as it was and is for you.” I have to remember that I have to remain close to the Lord so that I think with a eternal mindset and not a fleshly selfishness. I know how it feels to be on both sides, and they both have their moments where much grace is needed. I don’t want to be someone who is bitter for someone else because I want what they have. So I choose to hope.
    I HOPE to be faithful to this journey He has set me on.
    I HOPE to be gracious and thankful as He provides my needs according to HIS will and not my own.
    I HOPE to not lose sight of the fact that the desires of my heart are important to the Lord, and so I shouldn’t feel guilty about pleading with the Lord for a child born from my body.
    I HOPE to not lose sight of the fact that God is perfect even if my understanding isn’t and He may answer that prayer by never giving me another child from my body.
    I HOPE that I don’t get discouraged when people ask me“What’s next?” when I truly can’t answer that.
    I HOPE whether my second child will be created in me or in another woman, that they will know the fullness of the Lord’s plan for them was known before they were even born.
    Basically, every day, I choose to HOPE.
    Thank you, RMA... for praying me through so much and for being willing to share your heart. I am honored to be praying now for YOU... and I can't wait to see the end of this story that has just begun!

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

    NAAM Interview Project; My Interview!

    If you haven't read through my interview with Brandi at Okkar Lif, make sure you do that! I love her perspective on International Adoption and Special Needs Adoption... I could NOT have been paired with a better partner for Production, Not Reproduction's Interview Project!
    Brandi sent me a list of amazing and incredibly though-provoking questions about our adoption experiences and especially experience with open adoption, since that is one main difference between International and Domestic Adoption. Her questions challenged me... and I loved it!
    Thanks, Brandi... you're one tough Mama and I'm so glad to have 'met' you!
    Our adoption stories are so similar and so different. The first question I would ask is what made you choose domestic adoption?
    To be quite honest, we never really considered International Adoption! I have absolutely no idea why, so all I can say is that God laid on our hearts early on that our child(ren) were somewhere in the United States. Both of my younger brothers are also adopted and even though Eric is Hispanic and Native American and Brayden is Italian and Portuguese, they were domestic adoptions and their First Parents are somewhat local. I think we always wanted our children to have a common ground with their Uncles… having access to their history, their birth parents, etc. Growing up as a blonde with a brunette brother and a red headed brother, we were still a pretty diverse family! I greatly admire ‘International’ families! That road is long and hard, too… maybe more so than domestic!
    I read through your blog post titled “Open” then I read it again. We don’t know anything about Jack’s biological family. We can only make educated guesses. How are you handling an open adoption(s)? Do you set up the guidelines or does the birth parent? Can you change how much interaction you must have based on what your children seem to need? Generally I’m interested in how it all works because this wasn’t an option for us.
    Let me start by staying that open adoptions have changed and evolved so much over the past 25 years! Open adoption was nearly unheard of and definitely NOT recommended when my parents were waiting for my brothers. Regardless of the advice and warnings they were given, they still felt that having access to the boys’ health history and developing a positive relationship with their birth parents could only serve as a positive thing for everyone in the future.
    Our family has been through a lot when it comes to our varying open adoptions… it’s a story I hope to tell one day soon, but it’s not mine to tell yet. Until then I’ll just say that if you were to ask my parents today, in light of how their open adoptions have evolved over time, they would say that they would do it again in a second… though, it’s been a learning curve, as they didn’t have anyone’s example to follow. When the boys were young they had access to extremely crucial health information, they never wondered; they could just ask, and I have such great memories of meeting both of my brother’s birth moms before the boys were born… one of them is even my Facebook friend now! Overall, my parents and my brothers are proof that open adoption really IS best for the child… and turns out being best for everyone else, too!
    Our own open adoptions have had to evolve over time. When we first met Hannah’s birth parents, they asked for regular letter or email updates and pictures, as well as one or 2 visits a year while Hannah was young. We were more than comfortable with that and I worked extremely hard to do more than they asked for. Over the past 4 years, Hannah’s birth mom and I have become pretty close… we’ve seen her and her dad regularly and she and I text on an almost weekly basis; sometimes we talk about Hannah, sometimes I just send her a silly picture, and sometimes we chat about all of the amazing things that are going on right now in HER life. I always look forward to those conversations!
    One thing we have made clear from the get-go is that we will always make decisions that are best for Hannah…. When the people who are surrounding her and influencing her aren’t making good decisions themselves, we won’t hesitate to make the call to keep some distance for a while. The same rule goes for our family, friends, and her birth parents. On that note, the majority of children placed for adoption do not have access or contact with both birth parents… We are SO fortunate to have Hannah’s birth father involved in our lives! We visit with each birth parent separately, per their request, which really ends up being less overwhelming and more manageable for Hannah… and lets her create her own relationships with each of them. Her birth father would be the first one to tell you that we stuck to email-only contact with him for a short time while he worked hard to straighten out his path in life and make sure he could be a good example for Hannah. We could not be more proud of him and the changes he’s made in his life… and for the great influence he can now be in Hannah’s life in the years to come!
    We have had to navigate through our open adoption gradually, taking into account where our family is in life, where our children’s birth parents are in their lives, what they would like versus what we are comfortable with and vice versa… we are just so thankful for open communication and for the love they have for *our* little girl; she truly is blessed!
    This also leads me to what is the best part of an open adoption? What’s the worst part of an open adoption?
    The best part, hands down, is knowing that there are 2 people in this world besides us who are capable of loving our child as much as we do. As much as we sacrifice for our children and do anything possible to ensure they have a stable and productive future, in many ways, their birth parents have done more than we ever could by choosing adoption. No child can have too much love… and our children have so much more than most!
    I don’t know of a ‘worst’ part of open adoption but there certainly are challenges; remembering that the only access their birth parents have to this child is through you… it’s a huge responsibility and it takes time and effort that you don’t always have; it has to be a priority. Another challenge I felt early on was wanting them to know how Hannah was doing, what she loved lately, her funny sayings, sharing videos, etc, but not knowing how much would be too much for them; would seeing those things make them sad? Would I push them to regret their decision by showing them how happy she is? Would they get angry that they couldn’t share in those special times as she grows and becomes her own person? Would they be honest and tell me when enough was enough or would I continue making things harder on them?
    Ultimately, we had to decide that if our communication was too much to handle, or if they wanted something to change in our relationship, the only thing we could do was make ourselves approachable…. We would continue keeping them informed unless they asked us to do otherwise.
    I love Hunter’s story. He is a true little miracle and Hannah is such a blessed little girl to recognize God’s handiwork already. In international adoption there were so many checklists because we knew our little guy would come to us a bit older and with multiple special needs. We did months of research on every special need imaginable. When it came down to Jack’s referral, we were in an unknown world. How prepared were you for special needs before you got that call? Was it a shock?
    We have always been *open* to any special needs when it came to our adoption check lists. I was a special needs teacher before Hannah was born and we have always felt that, should we ever get pregnant, our biological child could have any number of special needs, as well. We welcome anything that would make our children even more ‘special’ than they already are!
    Our agency did an amazing job at informing us of Hunter’s medical condition. When we first learned about him, he was in critical shape. We were over-nighted his medical records and were ensured that, if we chose to drive and meet him, that we could have a face-to-face with every single doctor who was working with him. I don’t know that you ever feel ‘prepared’ for a child with special needs; biological OR adopted! I do know that when we heard about Hunter, we felt something different than we had with the many other opportunities we had been presented with in the past year. All we could do was have an open mind and trust that God would lead us, as he had so many times before …and boy, did He lead!
    While Hunter’s overall medical condition wasn’t a shock to us, we were not prepared for the roller-coaster ride we would soon be on. I guess we read his reports and took them for what they were… signs that he was stable and continuing to make progress in his growth. While that was true on so many levels, we were NOT prepared for the many times over our 10 week NICU stay that his doctors prepped us for his death… I think we thought he was past all of that. We saw an overall healthy, growing, stable baby who would have a few things to overcome (many of which God just took away!) but we didn’t foresee what more tests would reveal; the concerning blood work, surprise diagnosis’, ‘failure to thrive’ (I hate that term!), and whatever else seemed to pop up out of the blue. No one is ever prepared for the death of a child and nothing could have prepared us for that… but God is faithful and we have a healthy, thriving baby boy! God is so good!
    We’ve only been down the adoption road once. You’ve navigated it twice. Do you feel like the experiences were mostly the same or very different? How so?
    There is absolutely NO comparison! We brought Hannah home 7 weeks after our home study had been completed…. 7 weeks. I know now that 7 weeks is NOT a ‘wait’ in the adoption world! We also had involvement from both of Hannah’s birth parents; something we’ve come to appreciate, knowing it’s very rare that both birth parents are involved from the get-go, or even at all. Hannah made our transition into parenthood seamless… she slept well, ate well, grew fast, developed and learned quickly, and was the happiest baby! We were pros…#2 would be a breeze!
    We updated our home study 3 times over the course of 2 years before bringing Hunter home .. mainly because we moved 3 times :-/ Still, updating a home study is something you want to do once… not 3 times. We suffered 3 failed adoptions in that 2 years and had many many more close-calls…. My grieving process was rough through those 2 years. I came to understand how a woman grieves through a miscarriage, how anti-depressants might be an option after all, and while I never wish those things on anyone, I’m thankful for those moments of struggle that (hopefully) made me more understanding and sympathetic to some of the things my friends are going through or have in the past. I also struggled with letting go of each of those precious babies. I know this might sound harsh but … when a woman miscarries, her baby is gone. She has to travel through the stages of grief and will ultimately find peace. When you ‘miscarry’ a baby through adoption, that baby is still alive and growing… just not with you. I think any hopeful adoptive mom holds on to the hope that if things changed once, they might change again. In our case, one mom came back to us when her boys were 6 months old and asked us to consider taking them again. The emotions you travel through… from grief to hope and back to grief and again to hope… they’re enough to wreck you. That’s where God’s faithfulness was most prominent in my journey to #2.

    You’ve been a busy lady since Hunter came into your life. How on earth did you deal with an extended hospital stay so far from home? How did Hannah deal with it? How are you dealing with it now? If you could give advice to any other preemie mom out there, what would it be?

    It took me 8 days and 8 separate ‘sessions’ to work my way through our interview … if that tells you anything :-)
    The NICU taught me to take a day at a time, how to compartmentalize my thoughts and feelings, how to be vulnerable and accept that sometimes I will go through things that I just can’t do on my own, and how to ask for help. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without our moms, Joey’s understanding boss, and the amazing nurses and social workers who never made me feel crazy when I felt like I was losing it… and man, did I lose it a couple times!
    Hannah was amazing! She handled our 10 week NICU craziness, moving in the middle of everything, and bringing a baby home better than anyone! She was flexible, understanding, and as you’ve read from our blog, reminded us daily that God is faithful and in control. She embodies ‘faith like a child’.
    I could go on for pages about our lives today! I’m…. surviving J While Hunter is healthy and growing and has very little medical concern right now, our days are mainly filled with doctor appointments. We have 17 specialists and therapists… We had 27 appointments in June alone and are down to 13 so far in November. We’re making progress… HA! I can honestly say that, while the schedule we keep makes routine and stability difficult in our daily lives, I look forward to those appointments and hearing his doctors tell me how amazing he’s doing! I’m on a cell-phone basis with most of his doctor’s and they have been wonderful at working with us, checking up on us, and chatting amongst themselves about Hunter’s progress so I don’t have to worry about updating each one at each appointment. My ‘Type A-ness’ has become out of control ;-) I found myself drowning in medical records, sticky notes, business cards, and more so I’ve become extremely organized (when it comes to paperwork… other things, maybe not so much; just ask Joey)!
    We have gone through many transitions since meeting Hunter and though some of them have been extremely tough or scary or unexpected, we wouldn’t change a single thing about our sweet boy or our lives today… and every time he smiles or laughs or meets a long-awaited milestone, we gain the strength to keep working harder for him!
    For preemie moms; Ask for help. You know your baby better than ANYONE, no matter how many doctor’s you have… trust YOUR gut and use that to advocate for your child. Your instincts will go a long way when fighting for appointments, certain treatment, therapy, medication, and more! Do your research. Ask for help. Set aside time for yourself and don’t feel bad about it. Find ‘your person’ … your husband, mom, friend… who you can call when you need to vent. You’re going to need to vent! Ask for help. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re holding your baby too much. Be possessive of the bonding process… our babies have been through a lot and have been exposed to lots of people in the NICU. Bonding should be a priority. And… Ask for help!
    And the age old really rude question… I feel like I can ask because I still get asked all the time. At what point do you think you’ll be finished growing your family? Let me also say, I thought after two we were done…
    Are you asking me or Joey? ;-)
    This is a conversation that’s come up many times already… and most of the time people who know me and our ‘new normal’ well, look at me like I’m completely out of my mind to want to do this all over again! I can’t help it… I’ve always wanted 3 or 4 kids. Joey’s always wanted 2… so I have some work to do. HA!
    Right now, we have all we can handle. BUT, things will calm down and our kids will keep growing and I know that there will be a day when I miss my ‘babies’. God does know how much I love ‘baby-hood’ and He did give me extra time in ‘baby-hood’ with Hunter… I soak it up every day!
    I don’t want Hunter to be the youngest… I think ti will be important for him as he gets older to be an influence on a sibling and to be part of teaching them and watching them grow.
    Joey and I will keep talking…. And talking… and talking… and….
    I’m so glad God knows our future!

    Is there anything else you would like to say about your amazing family?

    Your family is amazing, too!
    For hopeful adoptive families; As much as I wish there was (and maybe I’ll write it, someday… when/ if I get the time ;-) ), there isn’t a rule book for adoption. There isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to navigate through the emotions, waiting, frustrations, anxiety, etc. All you can do is take a day at a time… trust that God knows your child and will bring him/her to you in HIS perfect time. Spend this time wisely…. Cherish time with your spouse and/or other children, if you have them. Pray constantly for your child’s birth-parents. Prepare your family for baby… share books about adoption, talk about it regularly, answer questions, and show your excitement! Showing YOUR excitement gives permission to everyone around you to be excited, too J Buy diapers and wipes… every baby needs them and you will never have too many! Christmas is coming… ask for that swing or crib or bouncy seat or stroller that you’ve had your eye on! Your baby WILL come and you WILL need those things… so get ‘em!
    My new motto is, “There’s no time like the present.” Don’t waste this time you have… you’ll never get it back (though, I seriously doubt you want to ;-) )!

    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    Adoption Interview Project

    Last year, I was privileged to be listed as one of the top Open Adoption Bloggers for 2011... Heather from Production, Not Reproduction always comes up with amazing opportunities for anyone involved in the adoption world to share their story.

    She's also given me many opportunities to get to know other adoptive moms and birth moms... I cherish each relationship I've built through being a part of her blog.
    To celebrate National Adoption Awareness Month, Heather has initiated the Adoption Interview Project and through her, I've had the privilage of getting to know Brandi Stiff from Okkar Lif.... The Stiff Family Blog.

    My life before kids revolved largely around my 'special needs' students... 'special needs' being a term I use much differently since becoming Hunter's Mama.
    I find myself perusing blogs of a much different variety lately and I soak up what I read from blogs of other Mama's who have 'special needs' babies. Brandi is one of those Mamas. Whar I have loved about being paired with Brandi is getting to know the International side of adoption.... she has a very different, yet very similar viewpoint of adoption; one that I have never had.
    Brandi and Ray have grown their family both biologically and through adoption... and each of their children are such a blessing! Jack, their 'newest' baby is a precious boy who is bringing his family along for the ride through his many needs that make him even more special. I encourage you to head over and get to know Brandi and her family from the beginning.....
    I was honored to be chosen to interview Brandi for this year's Adoption Interview Project.... I know you'll enjoy her insight as much as I did :-)
    1) "If you are thinking about adoption, go with your eyes wide open. I realize now that my expectations had been lower in some ways and higher in others. You don’t know until you go through it. If you want a good dose of reality, talk to another adoptive parent. In the end, they will tell you it’s worth the cost."
    What has been the biggest shock in your adoption journey when reality came to head with expectations?
    Wow. This is a difficult question to answer. I think the biggest shock happened while we were in China. We had papers that said Jack was developmentally delayed. When we asked questions, we were told he could speak and walk and his delay was due to being a an orphanage with a high number of babies and very few nannies. We hit every roadblock that you could imagine with Jack's adoption. I kept saying that God has something big in mind for this little boy. I was imagining a miracle, I guess. Then we got our hands on him. He was totally content to go with us. No emotion. It didn't take long to figure out that he had no grasp of any language. It really kicked in when we realized he couldn't walk very far without falling down. He reminded us our girls when they first realized they could walk. He had no idea how to chew food. He didn't have any desire to eat. Seeing the depth of what total neglect had done to him was shocking.

    Right now, surprising things are good. We are surprised by progress, shocked when he finally gets something and it clicks. We walked straight into a special needs adoption. I was reading blogs about how fast kids were picking up the language and attaching. It has taken us much longer. Other kids were saying Mama and Baba (Daddy in Chinese) before we left the country. Jack had been home well over six months before he recognized us and used names. Now, my heart literally swells when my husband comes home. Jack run squealing "Daddy!!!" through the house at the top of his lungs. I was surprised when he didn't learn to call me Mama right away. It is so much sweeter every time I hear him say it now.

    2) I have loved reading your story and perspective on international adoption; I don't have much international experience and I'm so glad we were paired up :-)
    What made your and your husband choose International adoption vs. Domestic? Why?
    The short answer is it was God. We considered domestic adoption. As I was trying to research our options, doors weren't just closing they were slamming. We felt like adoption was something we could do and therefore must do. Of course this was after three daughters, one late miscarriage and years of discussion. James 1:27 came up in our conversations. If you back up to verse 22, that speaks to us as well. We were reading about being doers of the word, not hearers only. We had been planning on four children. We lost a daughter, Jessa to miscarriage. If we thought we were going to have four, how could I say no? James 4:17 came up too. "If anyone then knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them." Ouch. I even remember that one when I don't want to put my grocery cart back in the stall on a rainy day. Anyway, we were being confronted with what we saw as Biblical truth for our family. Let me stop here and say I don't think adoption is a must for every family. For us, it was a calling from God. We started to research, different domestic programs, different countries. Doors were slamming. After a ehem...heated discussion I told my husband, "I just want someone to tell me where a child is that needs us!" The next morning we got a phone call in the middle of packing out to move. It was the director of the adoption agency that we eventually used telling us that there were boys in China that stayed on the wait list. Would we consider a boy? Boy was about as far off my radar and China was. We had been praying and I had my answer. We got through that move and then started the process.

    3) I was a special needs teacher before we brought Hannah home and when Hunter came along not too long ago as a super-preemie, I became a Mama of a special needs child.... so much of what you write about lately concerning Jack hits home with me; either by experience teaching, in my new 'normal', or as I envision our future.
    How have you (or HAVE YOU?!) learned to navigate Jack's unique world of 'special needs' and balance that with your girls' world of more normalcy? How do you make time for yourself and your husband a priority while juggling doctor's appointments, school events, homework, being Jack's teacher, household responsibilities, and everything else?

    Right now, I'm blessed to have the three girls going to school full time every day. Since I'm a stay at home mom, that gives me the time I need to get to and from Jack's appointments. We also have an almost 12-year old who thinks she's almost 35. She's alot more mature than I am somedays. Lucky for us, we live on base. I can leave her in charge and go a short distance away with my husband. We also have a park right across the street from our house. I can send all the kids over and see them from my front porch. It makes it a bit easier to have those necessary conversations that you don't want little ears to hear. If we weren't living on base, I honestly would have a babysitter on speed dial. We are very aware how fast the kids are growing up. We do almost everything with them. We also understand how important it is to get out without the kids every now and then. We never go far or for too long but we go.

    As far as navigating Jack's world... sometimes I'm rocking it and sometimes I'm floundering. We try to introduce Jack to whatever the girls are doing and what is age appropriate. Sometimes that works well, sometimes it's a total bust. An example would be playgrounds. There was nothing that would send him into a tizzy faster than just seeing a slide. We just constantly reintroduced playgrounds to him. The girls were great. They knew we might have to leave early. It did bother them a couple of times. Eventually Jack saw them playing enough he tried it. Now, I can't keep him off. We had similar experiences with the beach and going to the movies. The girls are also better at handling questions than I am sometimes. They tell other people Jack came here from China, he needs a little help. They aren't bothered by some of the coping habits Jack has or that he's different. He's just Jack. They don't over think it like I do. I could learn alot from my kids. Juggling the schedule is pretty much about juggling a schedule with 4 kids. You just do it and it's your new normal. As far as teaching Jack... that's where I get most concerned. I'm looking forward to getting him started in school just because I'm always worried that with the girls and their schedule plus church events and just life that I'm not doing enough.

     4) How do you plan to incorporate Chinese culture in Jack's new world? Do you have plans to go back anytime soon?
     My two older girls were born in Iceland, but they are American citizens. Jack was born in China but he's American now. We sort of treat it like that. We talk about the festivals with the girls. Sometimes we celebrate. We aren't overkilling it. When Jack is older if he's interested, we'll let him direct us in how much or little he wants it incorporated. He's been with us for a little over a year. We found that after a couple of months home, he was nervous in Chinese restaurants. Our culture changed when we moved. Jack went from China to a sea of white faces in Tennessee. Now, living in Hawaii we see so many more Asian faces. Sometimes it makes him nervous. We let him dictate.
    5) At the end of the day, when the doctor's appointments are over, the phone has finally stopped ringing, the kids are in bed, and you finally have a few minutes to reflect on your day, what is that one amazing, precious thing in your day that will inevitably make it possible for you to do it all over again tomorrow?
    I don't see progress daily now like I did when we first brought Jack home. Lately, Jack really craves our attention and love. It's so wonderful because he had no expectation of any kind of love a little over a year ago. We see how much he touches other people just with his personality. We are all he has. I'm going to get up and fight for him every day because I'm his mama.
    6) I cringe when someone says to me, "You and your husband are amazing people for taking such a special child into your family." or, "Hunter is so lucky to have you guys as his parents." or, "He never would have had this life if you hadn't taken him in." or... you get the point. Everything that comes to mind in those situations involves screaming or yelling so I graciously smile and say, "thanks" or "we waited so long for him" or "if you only knew all that HE has done for US." I know you have been on the receiving end of those questions/ comments, too... how do you respond? How do you graciously and gracefully convey to them the love you have for this sweet boy... and that biological or not, 'special needs' or not, he's your son.
    We do hear that alot, especially when people really see Jack's delay. Sometimes I cringe. We try to convey that's it's not us but God that had done this great thing for Jack. We try to convey that we are the ones being blessed by Jack if we can. Sometimes we just look at each other and quote the penguins from Madagascar, "just smile and wave boys, smile and wave." If that's all we can muster that's okay. 
    7) I don't see very many aspects of infertility or adoption as "unfair"... I've just never been that person. This is our life, it's God's plan for us, and it's perfect... and that's more than enough for me! The only thing I struggle with, at times, is knowing that I missed out on the first few moments, days, and weeks or my baby's lives... I only have the pictures that were given to me, I won't ever be the one who can tell my kids' the story of their BIRTHday, I don't know what they wore home from the hospital, and I wasn't the first one to hold them close to me. We have our own amazing memories of our first moments with them and I cherish those.
    Does it ever bother you that you were there to experience such intimate and personal moments with some of your children and not with others'?
    I do with I knew more about Jack when he was an infant. We don't even have pictures, just notes about where and how he was found. That hurts my heart for him. I wish I could have scooped him up and brought him home the day he was born. If we had been given that opportunity, he might not have the delays he does now. I would love to share those moments with him. I hope Jack just has a different sort of birth story to tell. His involves paperwork, delays and his mama calling China to find out if he was okay. I try to remind myself that I can't do anything about Jack's past but I can have a profound impact on his future and that's what I need to concentrate on. 

    Thank you for being so candid and honest with me, Brandi... I can't wait to continue following your families journey... especially Jack's :-)

    To explore other incredible interviews from other Open Adoption Bloggers, head over here... you won't be sorry!

    Friday, November 9, 2012

    National Adoption Month Kick Off!

    November is National Adoption Awareness Month....
    And here it is, November 9 and I'm JUST now getting around to this post.
    Welcome to my life today :-)
    I have an amazing line of guest posts coming your way in the next couple weeks... and maybe beyond (if you're interested in guest posting, see here). We have such a huge variety of writers... AND non-writers! They come from every facet of infertility AND adoption...
    * International Adoption
    * Domestic Adoption
    * Foster Care
    * Infertility
    * Late Infertility
    And more!
    I'll also be posting an interview exchange between me and another adoption blogger and initiated by Open Adoption Bloggers!
    I've already started telling you our story (and there's way more to come!), but I thought I would kick off National Adoption Awareness Week by answering YOUR questions!
    Ask me anything.... about infertility, adoption, open adoption, special needs adoption, marriage, parenting, sex... whatever!
    I don't do this often but for this post, feel free to post your questions as a comment anonymously, if you'd like to... or you can email your question directly to me at OnLoanFromHeaven (at) yahoo (dot) com and I'll answer in my post (specify whether you'd like to be named or anonymous). You'll also have opportunities to ask questions on our Facebook page, too... I'll compile a list and will answer them throughout the month!
    Be appropriate (and nice :-)) and ask away...I'm an open book :-)

    Sunday, November 4, 2012

    Abortion.... It's What's on my Mind.

    Election Day is tomorrow.
    Maybe you already voted...
    Regardless of how you voted, I'm just glad you did.... This post isn't for you :-)
    Maybe you have an important meeting on Tuesday...
    Maybe your lunch break is the only hour in your day you'll have for yourself...
    Maybe your child's school is closed on Tuesday because it's a voting location and if you vote you'll have to drag them along with you...
    Go anyway.
    Let your kids see you vote.
    While I have never specifically stated my political preference, I typically don't hide much so I might not be that hard to figure out....


    How I vote doesn't change who I am... whether someone agrees with me or not... it doesn't change who you are, either...

    But I feel like this is important... it's been on my mind... and I have to say something.... And in true Lindsay-fashion, I'm going to say it...
    I care about every aspect of voting for our next President... education, taxes, employment, health care, war, social security...

    and abortion.
    I do believe that a 'fetus' is a baby... a person... from conception;

    From the moment that the sperm touches the egg (if you have cooperative sperm and eggs... which we do not...)...  from the moment a LIVE sperm touches a LIVE egg... you have life....
    A person whom God has written a Book for... a story of their life; how he or she will look, what he or she will be, how he or she will live...
    how he or she will impact our world... because we all do.

    A baby. A person. A life.

    Something about adoption makes me think about abortion...

    Nice, huh?

    Well, it does.

    I consider the crisis my children's First Parents found themselves in.
    I consider the pain and anguish they went through in making decisions for this unborn baby

    I consider the thought-process.... and how, yes, abortion can seem like the 'easier' choice... the quicker choice...

    And I can see how that seems true. I do.

    So, I consider that my children's First Parents, according to the world we live in, *could* have chosen not to have our children... their's and our's.

    The didn't have to.

    But they did.

    And so I am a Mommy...

    to 2 precious lives.

    That's where my feelings on abortion start...

    Then came Hunter.

    Born at 30 weeks.

    Critially ill when he was only at half-term.

    Born with absolutely no hope for his future... for his life... medically.

    A baby who, when delivered, would require thousands of dollars in medical bills, thousands of hours spent in doctor's offices, dozens of medications and dozens of specialists.

    When it's put that way and you step back from what you believe... the right to life or the right to choose... It's kind of impossible not to consider that abortion actually DOES seem like the most logical choice... the easiest.

    And honestly, when faced with a situation like Hunter's and his First Mama's, many doctors would push 'terminating' that pregnancy.

    'Eliminating the fetus.'

    'Therapeutic removal of the fetus."

    'Suction Curettage."

    I'm not above seeing how a woman *might* consider abortion as a logical option.

    But then there's Hunter.

    Hunter, born at 2 pounds 13 ounces and at 30 weeks gestation... a fetus...

    Today, Hunter is 7 months old and a very *large* 13 pounds ;-)

    His life, itself is a miracle.

    The determination and strength his First Mama had throughout her pregnancy and the day he was delivered is a miracle.

    The countless odds he has beat are miracles.

    I recently splurged on a video monitor for Hunter's room and the other night I glanced over at it and saw this...

    I was struck immediately by how closely his picture resembles many of the 3 and 4D ultra-sound photos friends of mine post on Facebook weekly...

    Pictures of their babies... their 'fetus'...

    at 20 weeks ...

    or 25 weeks...

    or 30 weeks...



    Where is the difference between their unborn baby....

    and my 7 month old?

    My beautiful son.

    As I walked away from 10 weeks in the NICU, I made a promise to myself that I would fight for life...

    A team of hundreds of doctors and nurses fought for my son's life... before and after he was born.

    His First Mama fought for his life.

    Because he couldn't fight for his own.

    Vote as you will...

    I truly just want you to vote... to have your say.

    But on the off-chance that you're feeling conflicted over one thing or another... will you do me a favor?

    Will you think about Hunter?

    Will you consider his life? The plan that was in place for his life even seconds before he was born... while still a 'fetus'...

    The plan that's already in place for thousands... millions... of unborn babies right now?

    Regardless of how he was conceived or under what circumstances he would be born into... his First Mama knew....

    It wasn't about her... even though society gives us permission to think so.

    He was a life...

    He still is...

    He's my life...

    And he's our life... her's and mine.


    Thursday, November 1, 2012

    Love at First Sight....

    Click the following links to catch up on Hunter's story, so far... it'll take a while to tell so we'll take it slow;
    4) Miracle #2; "Jesus Lives in His Heart..."
    We had been living in our Home Away From Home for 6 weeks when we heard the words we had been waiting to hear for so long... "Hunter can go home tomorrow!" We quickly packed up our stuff ... 6 weeks worth of stuff... and made arrangements to go home the next morning.... Joey's mom and my mom would make the drive with us.
    I had made it a habit over the past 6 weeks to call the NICU every couple of hours during times when I couldn't be there... the nurses came to expect my calls and always gave me the most detailed updates on how he was doing; if you know anything about the NICU, it's that things can change in a flash... I would call and hold my breath, praying that nothing had changed in the time we were away from our baby.
    The next day we had plans to meet Hunter's team at 10am for discharge instructions, to oversee all of his 'final' ultrasounds and blood work, and to talk to each of his many specialists before making the trip home. We also had to line up each of his follow-up appointments for the coming weeks with his new specialists. In true Lindsay fashion, I called the NICU at 9am just to check in (yes, even though we would BE there in less than an hour).... This time, Hunter's nurse asked me to hang on because the RN wanted to talk to me...
    Uh. oh.
    Joey and my mom were packing our stuff and getting ready to load it all in our cars... I caught Joey's eye and shook my head 'no'; I knew we wouldn't be taking him home that day, as planned.
    The RN explained to me that Hunter had experienced dozens of Brady's and Apnea's throughout the night. A Brady is an extreme jump or plummet in heart rate... most of the time, Hunter would bring his heart rate right back up on his own but that night, he had required some stimulation from the nurses to help him bring it up. At times, he required extra Oxygen and most of the time, the Brady's were associated with Apnea's, where Hunter wouldn't breathe for 20 seconds or longer... these were the times that he needed direct stimulation. Our first concern was for Hunter's heart.... and we were assured that his Brady's were NOT heart-related but WERE symptoms of his soon-to-be diagnosis of Apnea of Prematurity... another result of his extreme prematurity and a sign that his body was still trying to catch up with him. Most babies grow out of their Apnea fairly quickly... but Hunter is most definitely not 'most' babies ;-)
    Those times.... during an Apnea... were the scariest moments in all our time in the NICU.
    Those are STILL the scary times.
    We had already planned to bring Hunter home on an Apnea monitor as a precaution so if he experienced any Apnea's at home, we would know and would be able to get to him quickly if he needed help. We had completed training the day before so we would know how to use the monitor at home.
    Because he had experienced so many Brady's and Apnea's the night before, Hunter's Neonatologist wasn't comfortable putting Hunter in a car for several hours so we could get home... as devastated as we were to learn we wouldn't be taking him home that day, Joey and I had also considered our worst-case scenarios the night before; what would we do if Hunter stopped breathing on the high-way? We had been required to take CPR at the hospital the week before.... but were we really prepared to do CPR on our own son?! And more...
    We were somewhat relieved.
    But we wanted desperately to go home.
    We came to an agreement; Hunter's Neonatologist was 100% comfortable transferring Hunter to our local hospital, if he could be transported by air; the quickest way possible. Going directly to his new NICU would also give us time to meet his new specialists and to make sure we knew for sure, the exact reason for his Brady's and Apnea's... it would extend his NICU stay even more but the information we would get would end up being invaluable; as shown in Miracle #2!
    He made a few calls and within 2 hours, a team of 6 Transporters made their way into Hunter's NICU room.
    I had one request before Hunter boarded his jet...
    He needed to meet his big sister.
    Flu season, or not... Health codes, or not...
    Our 2 kids, our 2 miracles, had been in each other's lives for 6 weeks and had yet to set eyes on one another.
    We had also prepared Hannah the night before to meet her Baby Brother.... when we thought he was coming home. She was going to be completely broken if we had to leave our Home Away From Home without her Baby Brother...

    Though Hannah still couldn't go in the NICU because of RSV and flu season, the Transport Team agreed to take Hunter out one of the front doors so Hannah could meet him on his way to his jet.... they were amazing! Joey and I helped Hunter get settled in his 'pod' on a stretcher, one of the team sang to Hunter, another team member asked me for his favorite pacifier, blanket, bottles, and anything else they might use to ease any anxiety he might feel as he ventured out of the NICU for the first time....

    We then headed down the long NICU hall-way... the one we had walked thousands of times in the past 6 weeks... the one I ran down so I could call Joey and tell him about Hunter's first bottle feeding.... the one Joey and I ran down, both sobbing, trying to call our parents moments after hearing (one of the many times) that our baby boy wouldn't live much longer.... the one I met dozens of nurses, doctors, and social workers in who became my family... That hall-way.
    But this time, Hannah was waiting at the end ....

    (I was in a full run to catch up when I took this picture so it's blurry... can you see my mom holding Hannah?!)
    And finally.... FINALLY.... Big Sister got to meet her precious, long-awaited Baby Brother for the very first time...

    To our surprise, the Transport Team opened Hunter's pod so Hannah could touch him... to know he was real... so he would know she was there...

    It was a moment that will be engraved in our minds forever....
    And then....
    They let her kiss him...

    And we said good-bye.... for now....

    What you can't see on the other side of this camera is the huge crowd of nurses, doctors, admin, social workers, and family who were gathered to witness Hannah and Hunter's first meeting.... they had all been waiting, too.
    We weren't able to see Hunter in his new NICU until late that night but from what we heard, he was an angel for his first flight... and was in a full-blown tantrum over it when he met his new NICU nurse ;-) (We did know that he had strong lungs!)
    We serve a big God who is capable of big things... He has saved this baby's life more times than I can name... He has used Hunter's still-short life to change lives... He has fulfilled every promised made to us in His Word; promises not to harm us, to give us hope, and a future (Jer. 29:11).... He has shown up over and over again to show us over and over again how faithful He is....
    And Miracle #3 comes next :-)