Thursday, November 17, 2011

open adoption interview project 2011

I participated in the Open Adoption Interview Project in 2010 and signed up once again this year.  It's such a great way to get to know a new blog...and hopefully a bit about the person behind the blog! Our stories are all unique but there is a thread of similarity that binds us all together. To check out the other interviews, click here.

This year I was paired with Kelly From Empty Womb to Overflowing Heart.... She recently started blogging this year so I was fortunate enough to be able to read through her story from beginning to now. What becomes immediately apparent while poking around Kelly's blog is her intense love for her daughter, faith, and life. After years of infertility, a devastating failed first placement, and a trial with infertility treatments, Kelly and her husband finally met their beautiful daughter in August 2010. Kelly blogs about her life as a mom and their fully open adoption with Lovebug's birthfamily. Go check out her blog and say "hi!". 

You can read Kelly's interview with me here.

Here is my interview with Kelly:

1. You mention in a post (can't find it now!) that you weren't sure yet how to refer to Lovebug's biological family. I'm wondering where you stand on that now. What words have you decided to use? Are they different from what you use with Lovebug?

That was a real struggle for me. I just felt like, of all the options out there, none of them captured C's importance in Lovebugs life. So, after writing that post I emailed Lovebugs birthmom to get her input on it. I just asked her point blank "what would you like to be called? Birthmom? First mom? MamaC? Other mom? Her response was that she thought just being called her first name was great and that birthmom worked for her. After we talked about it, and I knew that *she* felt comfortable with being called ny her name and referred to as birthmom I felt much more at ease with that choice. After all, because we're in an open adoption Lovebug wont learn C's importance in her life from her name or title, but rather the relationship they have.

2. Reading through your blog it is apparent that you bonded with Lovebug quite quickly. Was there any part of becoming a mom through adoption that you struggled/are struggling with?

In the beginning I really struggled with feeling grief for C. I grieved a tiny bit (or a lot)  at every new milestone wishing that she could have shared that moment with us. Over time, that feeling of grief has lessened though I'm not sure it will every been completely gone.

The one part of becoming a mom through adoption that has been an ongoing struggle is frequently having my motherhood challenged and questioned by outsiders. Sometimes it's as simple as a well meaning person at the grocery store asking "what happened to her real mom?" or other more blatant comments that just let you know that outsiders don't really get it and probably never will. Sometimes it's hard to know that in some eyes I will never just be Lovebugs mom.

3. You've briefly mentioned Lovebug's heritage as half Filipino. I'm wondering how you do and will work at your status as a transracial family? And how do you experience life as an adoptive transracial family living in the US?

It's really important to us that Lovebug celebrate her Filipino heritage, as well as the rest of her heritage,  because it's a large part of who she is and she can physically identify with it. As she's getting older I'm learning more and more about the Philippines, a country I started out knowing very little about. We plan to integrate it into school projects, holidays and special occasions.

Our experience have been mostly great so far. I mean, there are definitely those nosy people as mentioned before that make things weird, but even with that I can say that we have never experienced negative comments about our transracial adoption. One of the more annoying comments is "where did you get her?" Sometimes I want to say "Walmart. Haven't you seen the new baby section?" It's just irritating because people assume because she not white that she must be from another country. Nope! Believe it or not, there are Filipino Americans here in the US!

4. In the Rachel post you describe infertility as in the past however, in the post Why Hello Old Friend and See Ya Later, difficult feelings associated with infertility rear their ugly head. Do you feel that your story of infertility will always be a part of you and how? Do you think that issues still related to infertility will continue to pop up throughout life?  Do you find it uncomfortable to acknowledge the difficult feelings related to infertility? If yes, how have you dealt with this in the past and will in the future? If no, how have you figured it out!!

Well, infertility forever changed me. So in some ways, yes, it will always be a part of me. But, I don't think it will forever rear it's ugly head and it's certainly not a prominent part of me anymore. Right now were still in the thick of building our family so naturally it comes up. But, I don't view my IF the same way as I used to. In the first post I was writing about Rachel and her undying desire to be a mom. When I look back at that side of me, it's gone because at last I am a mom!  That infertile Kelly felt as if infertility was holding her children hostage. I didn't know if I would ever be a mom. But, she's gone. That infertile Kelly groans no more because I somehow got picked to be the mom of the most amazing little girl on the planet! The second post was more a whine fest about the injustices of infertility. I know we'll have more kids and I will love them more than life itself and will go to the ends of the earth to get them, but sometimes this infertile Kelly wishes it was just as easy as "hey, wanna have another baby? Wam, bam, heres a baby ma'am!" The other side of infertility that sticks out in my mind is the feeling that my body betrayed me and sometimes feeling less of a women because my body didn't do what it's essentially made to do.  I don't know when those feelings go away.

I don't find it hard to acknowledge my difficult feelings on infertility. Infertility is hard and painful and just plain sucks. And like I just said, it touches more levels than just the obvious not being able to conceive. What I find difficult is articulating my feelings at times because sometimes they're too complex to put in words.

5. I love your story of open adoption. Where do you get support and learn how to continue on in this relationship with Lovebug's first family?

I have found an amazing community of other parents in open adoptions. I cannot tell you how invaluable they have been to me. Some are people I know IRL and some are people I have only met online. ALL of them are amazing parents and have become such great friends and support systems! Also, our agency Bethany Christian Services is amazing at creating a community within their families by creating community pages, having play groups and annual events. They've really just been awesome!

6. After completing Lovebug's adoption, how will you approach your second adoption? Any changes? Any new insights or cautions?

I'm hoping the process will be more relaxed this time, honestly. Last time we were so nervous and anxious  to the point where we couldn't enjoy some aspect of it and I'm hoping that wont be the case again. I don't know that there will be any changes. Just more maturity in the process and more insight into both sides of the coin. I'm praying that insight will be helpful to us if we experience another failed adoption. Less pain and more understanding for the situation.

7. How have you managed to acknowledge the loss side of adoption while still living in the joy?

It's a hard balance at times and was especially hard when Lovebug was first born. But, I've come to realize that acknowledging the loss side of adoption doesn't take away from the joy of adoption. In any adoption there is a loss before the joy. C experienced/experiences a great loss that has been hard at times to deal with. But, we do our best to be in prayer for her and be here for her if and when she needs us. Being understanding that at times things are more difficult for her than other times. Philippians 2:3 says "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself"  and Matthew 7:12 says "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets". These are our "Open Adoption verses". To acknowledge that we're all on equal plane, none batter than the other, all loved by God and to treat each other as we wish to be treated. There are times where there's great loss and great joy, but if we keep the other person in mind and treat them as we wish to be treated in all circumstances we feel we can be a great support to each other.
Lovebug has also experienced loss and although we have not yet dealt with her loss when the time comes we will help her through it by being open and understanding about her feelings. I don't ever want her to feel like she can't express the way she's feeling. Whether those feelings are joyful or sorrowful. We want her to know it's ok to feel the loss of her birthfamily. We're a family and we'll be here for her no matter what!
I think by excepting that there is loss head on and not being ashamed of it or scared of it you just make way for the joy to come in!

8. How have been accepted with other mom's that joined the mommy club the biological way?

For the most part it's been awesome! I really have great friends and family. Sometimes I think I'm my worst enemy in this regard, assuming that other moms will judge me and then they don't. I have only had a few situations where I felt as if the other mom was looking down on the way I became a mom... again with the *real* mom comments. But, those encounters have been few and far between in the playgroup/mom world for me!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

paradigm shift

The day had come. I could no longer fit into my pants and the hair elastic I was using to keep them from falling down just wasn't cutting it.

It was time to go shopping for maternity clothes.

So one Saturday afternoon I pulled myself together and went to the mall. First I grabbed a Boo.ster Juice, then went in to Chap.ter's to check the sale rack, headed to a few kids clothing stores to check out the new stock, and perused the shoe stores. I was stalling.

I finally dragged myself to the prominent maternity store in the mall and started looking. I was immediately approached my a sales clerk who ended up being a huge help. I think I must have tried on at least 12 pairs of jeans that day. I purchased a few sweaters and a really nice pair of jeans and left. All the while with an odd unexplainable feeling in my gut.

It was later as I replayed that day over in my mind that I realized part of why it was difficult for me to even walk into the store. This was a paradigm shift for me. An identity crises of sorts.

So many years ago I would have loved the opportunity to shop for maternity clothes. So many years ago I longed for that experience as then I would have what I most desired...a child. But I am not the same person I was all those years ago. Much has happened since then.

While going through infertility and the adoption process, the maternity stores and most everything else pregnancy/baby related became something very negative. Something to remind me (mock me) of what I didn't know if I would ever have. It wasn't the pregnancy piece that I so desired, it was a baby. And since pregnancy was the conduit to a baby, all things pregnancy related became bad news. This was my reality and my life. I was not going to get pregnant which was totally fine with me, what was not fine, was not having a family.

The day that I walked into the maternity store was the day I realized that I was now a part of a club that I had struggled with for so many years. A club all about "the labour story", the relatively "easy" way to have a family...and the more accepted, "real" way to bring a child into your home. I had reconciled in myself so many years ago that I would never be a part of that club. And as the adoption proceeded, and now that T is home, it's a club that I didn't need or want any longer. My family came together in an unconventional way and we continue to live an unconventional life as a transracial family. This is who I was and who I understood. I don't understand pregnancy and the "regular" way to have a child.

As a pregnant woman, I am now that woman. The one I would avoid. The one I envied. 

A few months ago I had a conversation with a woman going through infertility and she asked me how I dealt with everyone around me being pregnant. I chatted honestly with her about my story. Inside my heart hurt. I knew that sooner rather than later I would need to disclose to her that I had become that woman to deal with. I felt like a traitor.

I know that the difference between myself and the regular pregnant woman, is that I own the story of infertility and adoption. Becoming pregnant does not erase that experience. I'm just struggling with how to understand and fit into my new reality.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

crayola's gone multi-cultural

I need to share this post from Heather at Production Not Reproduction about crayola multicultural markers and crayons. 

How cool are these??!! I must find them!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Gravida/para/abortus (GPA), or sometimes just gravida/para (GP), is a shorthand medical notation for a woman's obstetric history.
  • Gravida indicates the number of times the woman has been pregnant, regardless of whether these pregnancies were carried to term. A current pregnancy, if any, is included in this count.
  • Para indicates the number of viable (>20 wks) births. Pregnancies consisting of multiples, such as twins or triplets, count as one birth for the purpose of this notation.
  • Abortus is the number of pregnancies that were lost for any reason, including induced abortions or miscarriages. The abortus term is sometimes dropped when no pregnancies have been lost.
Another medical term often used to describe a first pregnancy is Prime.

I am considered Prime.

Within the Gravida/Para notation there is no designation for adopted children, so there is no way of new medical personnel that I come across to know that I am not a first time mom.

Because I was in the process of receiving vaccinations for my anticipated trip to Africa, and because I can never ever remember when my last period was (spent way too many years keeping track), I have seen many medical personnel related to this pregnancy.

Each time I walk into a new medical office I am greeted with the words, "Oh, this is your first baby!", to which I reply every time, "No, I have a 2 year old son at home through adoption." (I can't just say I have a 2 year old at home given the many different ways families are blended today). Because adoption usually follows an experience with infertility, the usual response from medical staff is "You must be SO excited about being pregnant!!"

The Gravida/Para designation indicates that I have never been pregnant and this will be my first birth experience which is important for all medical staff to know. I get that.

But every time I need to distinguish the way my son entered my family and hear the overflowing joy related to pregnancy, a joy that many did not express after hearing the news we were adopting, I am reminded that much of the world thinks that adoption is second best and that pregnancy is worth celebrating.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

everything happens for a reason - repost

As people are discovering our pregnancy news we have once again been recipients of the "everything happens for a reason" comment. This is a re-post from summer 2009. The original post below was written by a friend who gave me permission to share. It's a good post, worth reading, and thinking through with depth.

Everything happens for a reason.


AIDS infected Africa, the killing fields of Cambodia, ethnic cleansing in Rwanda and Darfur, cancer, chronic illness, miscarriage, depression, car crashes, schizophrenia, sexual/physical/emotional abuse, the list is endless. It seems utterly ridiculous to me to suggest that behind each of these there would be a reason for their happening, especially a reason that justfies the gravity of the tragedy experienced. It begs the question of whether or not there is always cosmic purpose driving seemingly senseless circumstances.

The God I serve made a good creation. Evil enters the scene apart from God, with disobedience on the part of Adam and Eve who responded to the tempting of the serpent. Within the pages of Scripture it does not suggest that God prompted the serpent to test his creatures so that they could be strengthened in their resolve to God. He did not, according to Scripture, have a part in the act of defiance - apart from previously setting the Tree as off limits. Yes, he did make that tree in the garden, the one that Adam and Eve were to avoid - in essence, he created the opportunity for evil to pervade his creation. Why did he do it? Could he just not have bothered with the fated Tree altogether? It would be lovely, but God gave Adam and Eve free will and in order to give them the opportunity to express their free will it was necessary for them to face a moral dilemma in which they had to choose. In the choosing against God, Adam and Eve disrupted the created order...the good order...and invited into the human experience an array of ills. I firmly believe that the chaos we experience today is not related directly to God's purposing, but instead to this defiant act of our ancestors.

When everything happens for a reason is spouted, it implies then that God is behind everything. If that were true it would seem likely that he would have chosen to intervene in the whole Tree fiasco in the first place. It implies that the free will God gave us isn't very free. It would suggest that we are more like pawns than people with the power to choose. It implies that the horrific ills that plague us are ordained at the prompting of God. I am confident that God is present in everything, that even in the darkest of times and in the midst of the most vile acts that the Lord is present. But his presence doesn't imply his purpose.

Forgive me for getting riled up at the mention of these five simple words, but this seemingly innocent statement carries deep theological implications and I will not for a moment join in and agree with any ounce of my being that the good God I serve is the driving force behind suffering.

The death of a young mother, hungry and orphaned children combing dirty streets, broken families, empty arms and aching hearts - I don't think they're purposed. Redeemed? Definitely. Opportunities to experience the Lord's nearness in a way that might not have happened otherwise? For sure. God is in the business of redeeming and restoring. In clothing Adam and Eve as he sent them out of Eden he shows that he is still caring for them. There is a rupture in relationship, but he is present in their circumstance and is working within it. I think he works within the ruptures that sin has brought into the created order today, too.

So before everything happens for a reason slips out of your lips, I offer you an alternative. It's shorter, simpler, and far more catchy. And I think that it's a much more theologically sound alternative that leaves the character of God intact.


Shit happens.


My purpose for reposting this excellent discourse was not to imply that my current situation equates shit happening in life. I, along with many others, simply find no solace in those 5 words and feel that they have no theological basis. My unplanned and very unexpected pregnancy is not purposed, but God is definitely present and He is working within us and our family.

Monday, November 7, 2011

stages of grief

When I was in University I took a course called "Death and Dying". It was an elective within my department and turned out to be an excellent course. We mostly studied the Kubler-Ross model and the Five Stages of Grief.

Fast forward 17 odd years and I have become quite familiar and comfortable with the stages of grief. Infertility was a grief experience, adoption was a grief experience, and I am currently knee deep within the stages once again.

The five stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. According to Kubler-Ross the stages aren't linear and not everyone experiences all the stages. I'm pretty sure that the first stage is bang on, as during all my major grief experiences denial has often been part of the beginning while moving through to acceptance, or as I prefer to call it...healing.

After discovering that I was pregnant, I lived in denial for quite some time. Denial is powerful and it definitely serves a purpose. My head and heart weren't ready to even acknowledge what those two lines on the pregnancy test meant. Since I have walked this road before -- the grief road, not the pregnancy road -- I knew that denial was okay and I was okay to sit in this stage. I also knew that it's fairly easy to stay in the denial stage for a great deal of time which isn't always healthly. Since I had limited time to process this new information (ie. 8 months!) I was aware that I couldn't stay in denial for long. So I gave myself a time limit. 

At 12 weeks gestation I had an ultrasound scheduled as part of the routine checking for fetal abnormalities. I knew the date two months ahead of time so that was the date I gave myself to start looking outside the box I was hiding in. During those months I could barely utter the words "pregnant" and "baby" to myself or close friends. D and I didn't speak about the pregnancy -- we were (and still are) on the same page and didn't need to voice anything during that time. And heaven forbid should someone mention where the new baby room would be or anything else that meant I needed to acknowledge my future.

What kept pushing me out of denial during those months was the fact that I was super nauseous 24/7 and generally felt terrible. Plus, I had a trip to Africa planned that was to start while still in my first trimester and couldn't take the anti-malaria pills, so I needed to make some hard decisions. 

It was a difficult time. One filled with many tears and sleepless nights. Plus a ton of reading novels to distract my mind! One of the best things a counselor told me after my dad died was to "feel what you feel when you feel it." I have taken that advice to heart numerous times and absolutely will not let anyone tell me how to feel or feel guilt for not feeling how others think I should. I have sat in the sadness, the anger, and the questioning at other times and will continue to do so.

Both D and I have moved out of denial. We're working at processing our grief. Grief of what we had hoped and planned for our future. 

I don't doubt that we will continue to march through the stages to healing and acceptance. But in the meantime we will feel what we feel when we feel it.