Thursday, September 30, 2010

off the shelf

Today I was asked a question. Not just any sort of question, but one that I will be asked countless times in my future.

I was paying for a service and T was walking around playing a form of hide-in-seek with a man that I've spoken with maybe half a dozen times. T was so cute. He'd run to the edge of the counter and peek at the man and then run back to stand by my legs.

The man then asked me:

"Where'd you get him?"

Not even the "where is he from" form of this question, but "where'd you get him."

My mind reacted negatively to this question and I could feel my body stiffen slightly. What was a cute situation just became awkward for me. In the split second it took me to answer him I tried to think of a way that would indicate that there are perhaps better ways to ask this question. But of course I couldn't.

All I said is that he is from the States. What I was thinking was,"we didn't pick him off the shelf of Wal-Mart you moron."

He asked me a few other questions about adoption (one related to how long it took and pointed out that our 18 month process was 2 pregnancies...ha ha.) but I knew immediately that I would not engage him in adoption conversation. I was glad that we needed to leave shortly.

If you see families that were likely created by transracial adoption, I don't think it is necessary to ask about the child's county of birth. That bit of information is generally just related to curiosity. And curiosity killed the cat.

I know people mean well. And I'm certain that this man didn't intend to make me feel awkward. This is still all quite new for me. Most of the questioning from strangers hasn't started yet. I know I will encounter similar situations in the future and some will be worse.

In hindsight, I should have asked the question back to him..."do you mean to ask, where is he from?"

I'll remember next time.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

i will keep sending letters

What is it with Mondays?

Yesterday was a disappointing day on many levels. But the most disappointing part of yesterday was adoption related.

Those of you who know me, or have read here for any length of time, know that D and I desire(ed) an open adoption. We've done the reading and feel that a true open adoption is best for all members of the triad. When signing the application with our American agency we were unaware that their definition of openness was more of the semi-open variety. This particular agency doesn't encourage true openness and prefers that all correspondence between adoptive and first families flow through them. We became aware of this once well into the process. We still felt that we would do whatever we could to create as much openness as possible.

Every month I write a letter and pick the best pictures to send to J. I have sent Christmas presents, birthday presents, and a Mother's Day card. In each letter I mention how we would love to hear from her and often remind her of our email address. After a couple of months I inquired with our agency to see if any letters/packages had been returned, just in case she had moved and not left a forwarding address. None were returned.

Yesterday I inquired again.

I was not prepared for the answer.

At the end of last year, J requested that a hold be put on her file and all letters/packages remain at the agency until she requested them.

One could read many things into this. I've already thought of them all.

I've been preparing T's 12 month letter and pictures (wanted to wait until after his party so I could send some cake shots). Nothing will change this. I will still write it as if she is reading it this month. And I will continue to send updates, cards, and presents.

T will know that we did everything possible to create a relationship with his first mom. He will know that at each update, each holiday, and every other time in between we thought about J and how important she is to us, to him, and our family.

My hope is that when J is ready, she will request her "box of stuff" and even perhaps connect with us. In the meantime we're back to doing something we have a lot of practice and experience in...waiting on someone else.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

the birthday party

On the weekend we celebrated T's first birthday with family and close friends...BBQ style. It was a fantastic day and the weather even cooperated. In total, 32 people (including kids) celebrated baby T's first life. We are blessed with wonderful family and fabulous friends.

The cake. It took me at least 20 hours to create this safari cake! And WAY more time was spent conceiving the idea! After a few moments of panic (an icing issue, fondant bubbles, drooping giraffe, and running out of time) it all came together perfectly. Just as I had imagined! The cake flavours were; chocolate with swiss meringue buttercream, white with milk chocolate buttercream, and carrot with cream cheese buttercream. All yummy! And in case you're wondering about the animals...each was handmade by yours truly...and each took 1 1/2 hours to create!

T and his smash cake!

He didn't try a bite of cake but he sure "smashed" it!

What an awesome day. Now I've got 364 days to plan the next one!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

why i don't like the word "gotcha"

"Gotcha Day" is a day celebrated by adoptive families to recognize the day their child entered the family.

Today is the day, one year ago, that we took custody of T and he came home (to the hotel) with us. Around 2:00 pm we all left the hospital together. D and I put the car seat holding T in our car. J and her case worker got into a different car. And we each went our respective ways. That day was full of so much joy and sorrow.

I'm not sure I can celebrate this day in the way that "gotcha" implies. When we "got him"...J "lost him". Yes, I am fully aware that she signed paperwork to relinquish parental rights...blah, blah, blah. But I still don't doubt that to walk out of the hospital without her son was very difficult, no matter what her reasons for placement were. The words "gotcha day" seems very adoptive parent-centered, and gives little thought to the life that was left behind for the adoptee and the significance of the day for his/her first mom. We, as adoptive parents often choose to spend more time thinking about our joy and blessing and how to celebrate...after all we are the ones who gained.

In a recent issue of Adoptive Families magazine an article was written on this very topic. The author, an adoptive mother, wrote,

I find the use of "gotcha" to describe the act of adoption both astonishing and offensive. Aside from being parent-centered ("C'mere, little orphan, I gotcha now!") it smacks of acquiring a possession, not welcoming a new person into your life."

Her language may be viewed as harsh but I think she brings up an important point. I already need to battle comments that imply I placed an order at Babies R Us to get a cute black baby, so why would I encourage words that suggest something similar.

Some argue that celebrating "gotcha day" normalizes adoption and the ways in which our families have been created. However, I have to wonder if pointing out this day has the opposite effect. Once T entered our family we became, in a sense, plain ole regular parents. Do families created by biology celebrate similar days? Is there a "conception day"? The world will always remind us that we are an adoptive family and celebrating this day in a monumental way is just another way to point out how we are different.

T will know his adoptive story and will be familiar with how he entered our family. D and I will initiate discussion and be open to his promptings about his story throughout the year. Do we really need to mark today as the day we "got him?" I realize that our story of a newborn adoption where we took custody two days after birth is different from an international adoption, but in both instances I am uncomfortable with using "gotcha."

This is a hotly debated topic. Read through the comments to the AF article to get a sense of how much, but note that the vast majority of comments are from adoptive parents. Take a poke around some adoptee or first mom blogs and you'll find a different perspective. Most things in adoption are driven by emotion. We become quite passionate about our stance or way of doing things. In the end, whether or not adoptive families choose to celebrate the day their child entered the family, the other triad members must be acknowledged. All members.

To celebrate the way our family was united using the word "gotcha" cheapens it in a way for me. Perhaps there are better words to use that mark the moment adoptive families are created.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

12 months old

Baby T is 12 months old.

It was one year ago today that we met him. We met the little boy who would become our son. We looked into those eyes and wondered what life would be like.

One year later I can look back and say without a doubt that this has been an incredible journey. Full of diapers, crying, feeding, teething, sleeplessness...and I wouldn't change a thing.

I've heard moms mention feelings of nostalgia at a year. Looking at the small cute baby clothes and newborn pictures often brings up thoughts of what once was. I don't feel that in the same way. Perhaps it is because I have intentionally tried to imprint upon my memory what each new stage was like. In all likelihood T will be my only child and I wanted to savor and remember each moment as best as I could.

But there is also another reason that feelings of nostalgia haven't surfaced. It is only now that I am feeling more like a mom. T's mom. I see T look at me when trying something new. He looks at me to see if what he is touching is okay. He stays by me for a moment when in a new situation. He holds on to my leg when he's not sure or when he wants to be close. He raises his arms up towards me to be picked up. He wraps his arms around my neck, hugs me hard, and gives me kisses. And he toddles towards me smiling the most incredible smile that lights up his beautiful eyes.

I count it a privilege to be granted the opportunity to watch this remarkable little boy grow up. To see his personality take shape. It's not about nature versus nurture but rather nature and nurture. T will always be part of J and part of me.

So at one year I feel incredibly blessed. This little boy has filled my heart with joy. As I continue to work on understanding my identity as "mom", I will delight in each new stage and development that I get to be a part of.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"labor day" 2009

Monday, September 7th, 2009:
Today began just like Saturday and Sunday. In continual shock that we had been chosen by J and slight panic wondering when baby would be born.

D left sometime in the late morning to help a friend do some yard work.

At 1:00 pm the phone rang. I checked the caller ID and it was a number I was very familiar with by now. I quickly answered the phone and our case worker said, "We think J is in labor. You might want to start packing!"


My heart was racing but I managed to stay somewhat calm while getting all the details. J had already been to the hospital a couple of times for what turned out to be false labor. But this time our case worker was pretty sure it was the real deal. I asked her to call me the minute she found out that J had indeed been admitted.

Then I called D. He rushed home.

After taking "the call" I very clearly remember walking around the house shaking and chanting something like "oh. my. goodness." I didn't know what to do first. I'm pretty sure I showered first!

Once D got home we packed our bags in record time. (And we remembered almost everything which is quite amazing!). Then we checked flights. There was one flight leaving late afternoon arriving at our destination city at midnight. We tried to connect again with our case worker to see if J was indeed in labor before booking, but we didn't hear from her again until later that evening. J had expressed interest in us being present for the birth so we decided to gamble and book the flights.

But since it was now 2:00 pm and the flight was leaving at 4:30 pm the online system wouldn't let us book it. Never before had we tried to book flights two hours before leaving! D called the airline to confirm the flight and was told that we would have to pay for the flight at the airport.

Meanwhile, we had called a friend who would be "cat sitting" and taking care of our house while away. She was on stand by and was able to come over immediately. I remember sitting in our spare room with K quietly chatting while D was on the phone and computer stressing about booking the flights. D and I were certainly on edge!

K dropped us off at the airport I believe an hour or so before our flight left. We paid the ticket agent (too much money) for our last minute booking. And then we waited for our flight. We mostly stared into space not sure of what to do or say!

We needed to take two flights to our destination city. Our layover was almost 4 hours! During this time we booked a car rental and checked out hotels close to the hospital. We've never left the country before without accommodations booked! We were able to send out emails letting friends and family know how we were doing. And while waiting at our gate for our flight I chatted with my sister via skype. Love skype!

Just as we were about to board our flight we received an email from our caseworker letting us know that J had delivered a healthy baby boy at 6:59 pm. Both mom and baby were doing well. We wouldn't be able to be at the hospital for the birth but just knowing that they were both well and healthy was a relief. We were informed that J wanted some time to rest in the morning and we were to arrive at the hospital at 11:00 am. We boarded the plane thinking about both J and baby boy.

It was on this flight that D suggested the name T. We had one other name in mind but it was the same as a character on the movie Wolverine and D was having issue with that. (I didn't think it was a big deal but whatever!). We hoped that J would help pick his first name so we didn't do too much thinking and planning about that. I've posted about how we chose his name here.

We arrived at midnight. Got our car. Drove to the hotel we were hoping to stay at. The basic rooms were full so they upgraded us to a nicer larger room for the same price. Bonus! The room was lovely and perfect for a longer stay, since we knew we'd be there for likely two weeks. The hotel served a hot complimentary breakfast and light meal at dinner time. We took full advantage of both meals.

Then we attempted to sleep.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

september long 2009

This was the weekend.

The weekend that ended the summer from hell.

It was one year ago that we took the first steps on a journey that would result in parenthood. This is how the adventure began.

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009:
We come home late in the evening to a message on our answering machine from our American agency case worker. An expectant mom wanted to interview us. At the time our profile was being considered by 2-3 other women (that specific fact has become fuzzy!). We set up an interview time for the next morning. Our agency was now using webcam technology to facilitate interviews. We had interviewed via the phone previously but were quite excited to try the webcam. I talked extensively with our caseworker about J and how she was doing. Our caseworker also informed us that the baby was confirmed to be a boy as initially "girl" was checked off on the information we had received about J. A boy. Yay! D and I didn't sleep well that night.

Friday, September 4th, 2009:
D and I both made our way to work in the morning. Our webcam interview was scheduled for 11:00 am. Close to 10:00am D and I left our prospective work places for a "meeting" to head home. We nervously prepared for our interview. We set our computer up in the very unused baby room and snuggled close together in the large lounge chair. After some initial hiccups with technology we were able to connect with the agency. J was lovely. In total we chatted together for just over an hour. Considering our experience only 2 months prior, D and I were still quite guarded about the process. Would we hurt again? So when J picked us to parent her child after only ~45 minutes into the interview we were stunned. Speechless was more like it. We ended our conversation talking about J's due date which no one seemed to have a clear idea about. In the end no one was able to contact J's obstetrician for confirmation about the date. We decided we would wait to hear more after J's doctor appointment on Tuesday (Monday being a holiday) before making travel plans.

We did know that J's due date was very soon. So D and I needed to prepare. We both headed back to work early that afternoon to tie up loose ends just in case J would go into labor during the weekend. At the time I was working two part-time jobs so I ran back and forth between them to make sure everything was ready for me to leave at a moment's notice. It was a whirlwind of activity. I'm still not sure how we managed to get things together in 4 short hours.

That evening D and I went out for a nice dinner, wondering if this would be our last experience dining out as a childless couple. It was a surreal experience. We were both still very cautious about everything. And of course were fully aware that in no way was this yet unborn child ours. And there were no guarantee's that he would ever be ours. J had absolutely every right to decide to parent her child and we would have completely respected her decision.

Saturday, July 5th, 2009:
We packed the baby's suitcase.

Sunday, September 6th, 2009:
I have absolutely no idea what we did this day. Likely continued to walk around in shock and try to get our lives in order to leave at a moment's notice.

Monday, September 7th, 2009:
The day that changed our lives forever. I will post about this day in exactly two days.