Archive for the ‘Adoption’ Category
It’s hard to believe that the last time I updated my blog was when Isaiah turned 1. Now, nearly a year later, he is merely two months away from turning 2, and two months into life as a big brother. Yes, Isaiah has a little baby sister, and it has taken me two whole months to write about it.
Karina Joy came into our lives like a whirlwind. Completely unexpected yet absolutely wanted, her adoption is something I am still trying to process. It hasn’t been an easy two months either. She has been either sleeping or screaming for most of her life. Colic, reflux, gas, anger, grief… your guess is as good as mine as to why she has had such a hard time. She’s seemingly healthy and we’ve tried countless things to make Karina happy, but happy is not an emotion Karina seems to feel much of yet. We’re working on it.
Karina Joy. It took a very long time to come up with her name. “Pure joy” is its meaning, and what we long for in our lives together. Some days I wonder though if we made the right choice in naming her. Grace was a middle name we considered, and many days I feel like it would have been a better choice. For it is only by the grace of God that I have these two beautiful children in my life, and some days it’s only by my grace that they aren’t eaten with a thick layer of chocolate sauce on top. Grace. Though we often fail, we try to live it and breathe it around here. Then there is Hope… Karina Hope? I hope so greatly that she finds her happy, and hope with all that is in me that I can be the mother she needs me to be. Faith would have been an excellent choice as well, since most of the time faith is the only thing that keeps me going. Faith that this season will pass. Faith that God will bring us through it relatively unscathed. Faith that He knew what He was doing by bringing us all together.
Then there are the names that aren’t fitting for a child by any means, but fitting in my life at the moment. Doubt. Fear. Guilt. Some days I feel only these things and it’s a struggle to move past them. Some days mothering two high needs children under 2 is an extreme challenge fit only for the most terrifying of reality TV shows. Some days I feel like I need an intervention.
It has been a difficult journey so far, and some days it’s hard to see anything but negatives down the road. But then! Then she sneaks in a little bit of that Joy. Like how on my 32nd birthday, which was a very difficult day, she smiles at me for the first time, and I get a glimmer of Hope and have a little more Faith that Karina will someday find her happy and the road will be a little less treacherous.
I look at these beautiful children and while they are 100% mine, I still wonder. I wonder if Isaiah looks like his birth mom. Does he have her eyes? Does she share his contagious smile and infectious laugh? How much will it hurt him to never have those answers? How would his life be different if I were not in it? Would it be better? What if we had not pursued Karina’s adoption? To whose family would she belong? Would her life be better? Would she be happier? How can I make them understand the difficult choices their original families made for them? And what would my life be like if they weren’t in it? What would I be doing right now?
Then like an innocent child wondrously blowing the seeds of a dandelion, I watch those thoughts fade into the sunlight as they vanish with the wind. One or two seeds might crop up again someday I’m sure, but every smile and every giggle… every hug and every snuggle… every kiss and every “mommy!”… every delicious sniff of their beautiful heads reminds of of why they are in my life.
They’re my crazy.
Yes, they are even my joy. These little creatures waltzed right into my life, turning it upside down and inside out, challenging me in ways I never thought possible. But even on the hardest of days, they still bring me joy. And on the better days that are filled with all the goodness that motherhood has to offer, I find new determination in that Joy and the strength to do everything within me to help Karina find hers. After all, it is her name. Her destiny. She will find her Joy and be a Joy to all who are lucky enough to know her.
I know it.
I feel it.
I will help her realize it.
Tonight I hold him a little tighter
Stare at his lovely face a little longer
Shed tears of a greater number
Stroke his cheek a little softer
Breathe him in a little deeper
Speak words of love a little sweeter
Tonight I hold him a little tighter
For tomorrow he will be older
Copyright © 2011 Crystal Harris. All Rights Reserved.
Merry Christmas… a few days late!
This holiday season has been especially special for us, for obvious reasons. Even so, it has been a huge adjustment. We were absolutely not expecting to be parents this year. Well, towards the beginning of the year we were, but about half way through, we gave up hope and had resigned to the fact that we’d have to endure another holiday season without a child. You’d think I’d be absolutely overjoyed, right? Well, I am. But I’m also a mixed ball of emotions. This is something I haven’t really said much about to anyone, because it’s hard to understand which makes it hard to explain, but here goes nothing.
I had no idea it was possible to be completely in love with your new baby yet still somewhat stuck in your old babyless funk. I feel guilty even admitting that, but I’ve always been an open book, so there you go. It’s a strange transitional thing. It’s the enormous weight of the situation on your shoulders. It’s the balancing of your vision of the thing with the reality of the thing. It’s something they briefly touched on in our adoption seminar and I’m sure was talked about even more in the resources we were given (which I did not read. Oops.), but it’s still not something I expected. You have this expectation of what it will be like. And it’s totally not like that. And that’s not a bad thing, but it’s still a thing you have to accept and deal with.
For example, when I would daydream about the day we met our child, I envisioned myself being completely overwhelmed by emotion and a huge bawling mess. Reality? I was entirely calm and strangely serene. It was partially due to being in shock thanks to how fast it all happened, but I know that can’t be the only reason. I didn’t shed one tear that night. I was indeed overjoyed and fell in love with him the second I saw him, but I didn’t feel the burst emotion I expected. I didn’t bawl the first time I saw him, held him, hugged him, kissed him. Was there something wrong with me? I choked up a bit as a nurse told us a little about his birth mother and as the realization hit me that he was mine but may not have been, but was, and I couldn’t live without him any longer… yeah, that choked me up. But no tears fell.
In fact I didn’t shed even one little tear until we left the hospital. After we walked out that door and the nurses said goodbye, exhaustion slammed me, and again reality hit that he was mine. Here was this tiny (TINY) vulnerable innocent little human, totally entrusted to my care. Dustin put him in this ginormous car seat, and I completely lost it. It was like motherhood struck me all at once like a lightening bolt, and I suddenly saw every bad and scary thing that could happen to him, and since I was the parent, it was my responsibility to prevent them and protect him from every bump and scratch and stick and stone. I was terrified to take him home in that truck. My poor husband probably thought I didn’t trust him to drive home, but it was the world I didn’t trust. Couldn’t we just keep him safe in our arms in the little hospital room, where doctors and nurses and life saving medical marvels were within arms reach? Did we really have to put him in that huge car seat and take him out into the cruel world full of an impossible number of people and things and situations that could hurt him?
Every tear that had been spared since we found out we would be parents suddenly rushed out and I was a huge mess. When we pulled over to get gas and snacks for the road, I took him in my arms and held him and bawled like I hadn’t bawled in years. We’re talking the type of bawling that’s so hard it makes your stomach hurt. I can’t even explain all the feelings that were there, but they were numerous. I think I freaked out my mom a little bit. 😉 I clutched him and I cried and I prayed until it was time to leave and I had no choice but to put him back in his seat. And then I was okay.
I’ve had such little discernible emotion since then, I’ve often questioned my love and bond with my new son. I’ll tell you that is hard to admit. Even though my head knows that love doesn’t equal feelings, it’s hard to let go of those expectations. I’m sure my husband and mom and friends are tired of my self doubt, and truthfully so am I, but while it’s greatly diminished, it’s still there a bit. I think every day his smiling face melts my heart, it goes away just a little bit more. Of course, it’s replaced with another self doubt – can I really do this?!
But back to the funk. I’m stuck in this weird transition phase, where I’m balancing these old expectations with the new reality. For years, I battled fairly severe depression. The pain of not being a mother when you want it more than anything can be so real and so deep that you feel it in your heart – your real one, the one that beats and keeps you alive. Physical pain. Most of the time I shoved it deep and tried to shield the majority of it from the world. It was mine and I would let myself feel what I needed to feel, but there were few that I exposed that part of myself to entirely. I dealt with that pain for so long, that moving from it to happiness is… interesting… and not as smooth as I would have thought.
Having Isaiah in my life has been very healing. His smile and coos and his wise, deep brown eyes are all like a soothing salve to my wounds. But while even deep wounds can heal, you know it’s gonna leave a scar. It’s like I remember that it hurt and it hurt badly, but though I don’t remember the actual pain, I still feel the aftershocks. I realize that makes no sense to anyone but me. Or maybe it rings true to someone else out there. Grief is a strange animal.
So this Christmas was odd. Not only was it sweet and strange all at once, my poor husband was sick with an icky case of bronchitis and I caught a cold. That picture perfect baby’s first Christmas of my dreams just did not happen. Reality? We spent a quiet day among the people that mean the most to us (that we could – obviously some of you were not with us, unfortunately). We started the day late, partially due to me being extremely tired and partially due to Dustin feeling so poorly. The morning was spent keeping the boy happy while merely surviving ourselves. *laughs* The afternoon came and we went to my folks’ house for a late lunch and to open (baby’s) gifts.
We ate turkey, dressing, green beans, mashed potatoes, and crescent rolls. Pecan pie, cookies, and apple cranberry pie rounded out the food portion of the day.
We held our son and helped him open up his first Christmas gifts.
We watched him try to eat the wrapping paper.
We caught a few photos.
We went home, exhausted.
Picture perfect baby’s first Christmas of my dreams? Hardly. Instead of beautiful carolers bundled up on the porch singing songs of joy, we heard hacking (hubby) and screeching (Isaiah!). Instead of taking beautiful photos all dressed to the nines, in front of a perfectly decorated tree… we took candid snapshots in decent, clean clothes in front of a tree we rushed to throw ornaments on that very afternoon (cause who has time to decorate a freaking tree with a newborn and a business?? And where are all the ornaments, anyway? We could only find two boxes.)
Even the turkey just tasted like turkey (imagine that).
So was it perfect? No.
It was better. It was real. We had our real selves there with our real son, experiencing the real reality of real life. Sickness and boring turkey and half decorated tree and all. I won’t look back on the day as a fabulous spectacle of great, picture perfect holiday memories… but I will look back with a smile and fond feelings, because of him. The real, screeching, pooping, exhausting, hyper, fabulous, dimpled, drooling, smiling him. (And oh yeah… you other people that were there, too. I guess. *wink*)
Grief. Failed expectations. Transitions. Reality. Motherhood. There are a lot of strange feelings going on in that head of mine. I figure I’ll sort them all out eventually, or they’ll sort themselves out. I still wonder if someday I’ll experience the huge swell of emotions that I expected to come along with each loving gaze at my child, but I now know that’s silly. Instead I’m trying to focus on being the real, loving mom that this real, little man needs and expects me to be. I hate that I’ll inevitably fall short of his expectations and he, too, will someday be hit with the harsh force of reality. Yeah… my not being perfect? One of the many things I wish I could shield him from. But on the other hand, it’s probably good that I can’t.
Because perfection is boring and overrated.
Reality is the new awesome.
See? Us. Real.
It’s awesome… snot, screech, drool, and all.
Replace dirt with spit up, and that’s little Z.
I guess I can tell you his real name. At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to mention his real name on my blog. I’m not sure why. But I’m over it. I got over it when I realized I already mentioned it several times in public forums, and on his photos in my Flickr account. Duh, Crystal, duh.
You know we’ve been waiting for a baby for years and years. It was over five years from the time we started to try to grow our family til the time we brought baby Z home. Five years is a long time, people. A loooong time. We aint no spring chickens, you know. We waited five years after we married to try to have kids. We’re in our 30’s. Now that I’m 30, it doesn’t seem old anymore, but it sure seems like a long time to wait for a kid when we’ve already been married 10 years. When he’s 20, we’ll be 50. 50 is really old. (Sorry. It is. At least until I’m 50, anyway.)
Did I tell you about my 30th birthday present to myself? No? Oh. Well. You’ll just have to wait for another post, because this one is about baby Z’s name. So let’s get back to that, shall we? Stop distracting me already.
The entire 5+ years that we tried to have kids in one manner or another, we could never (EVER) agree on a boy name. We agreed on a few girl names, but never a boy name. In fact, our conversations on the matter would go something like this…
Me: What about *insert perfectly respectable boy name here*?
Him: No. Yuck. What about *insert strange/silly word or completely insane made up name here*?
Me: *eye roll* What about *insert another perfectly respectable boy name here*?
Him: No. I have a cousin named that. Hmm. Oh, how about *insert another random and silly word here*?
Me: *eye roll* Ooookay… well, how about *insert yet one more perfectly respectable boy name here* then?
Him: No way. My neighbor’s uncle’s sister’s kid’s first cousin’s schoolmate from fifty years ago was named that. And he was a jerk. So that totally ruins it for me. What about…
And so it went for five years. I figured we’d just have to have a girl. There was no way around it. But I knew deep down somehow that we’d have a son. I tried to ignore it because I was obsessed with pink, and boys are… boys! They have strange, foreign parts. They carry frogs in their pockets. They belch. Boys. Cooties! Yuck. (Sorry, hon.) But I knew. I also knew that our son would probably be named Baby Boy *insert last name here* for at least a year. Because my dear husband did not like any boy names. None that were normal, anyway.
So on that morning of September 2nd when, after very little sleep, I received a call from our case worker as she was working on our paperwork before traveling to the hospital to meet with Z’s birth mom to terminate her rights, and she asked, “What are you naming him? I need to put it in the paperwork.” I died a little. I thought we’d have the several hour car trip to hash it out once and for all. But no. We had thirty minutes. And my husband was out of town on business. So not only did we have just thirty minutes to make a HUGE life long important decision on which we couldn’t even manage to make headway for five years… we had to do it over the phone as he drove home.
I pulled out a notebook and my iphone and opened up a baby names app I had downloaded a long time ago. I wrote down all the boy names I liked, and added the one sane name he had managed to come up with in five years. It was not a super long list, but it was long enough to stress me out. How could we do this in such a short time frame? I thought the long car trip would be hard enough. How could we name a child we had never seen or met or felt or even knew about before yesterday?
I read the names on the list and he eliminated several of them. I crossed out a few myself that I no longer really liked. After a little time, we finally narrowed it down to three names. Then it got really hard. The name that I had been pushing for for the past year and Dustin kept rejecting was finally okay with him. But did I still want to use it? I wasn’t so sure.
Those were the three. We liked Micah with Dustin’s middle name, Ray. We liked Ezekiel with David, and we didn’t have a middle for Isaiah.
We crossed one more off. Down to two. And just a couple minutes to go. What do we do? We looked over all the name meanings and played around with them a bit. After what felt like an eternity, we finally named our son that we had known about for a mere 24 hours.
Isaiah Micah. We weren’t sure about our choice, but we were out of time. When I called our case worker to relay the info, she thought it was beautiful and said it fit him perfectly. She was right.
Isaiah. Zaiah. Z. Little Buddy. Stinky McStinkerson. Gorgeous Boy. Little Man. Son.
We call him lots of things, but Zaiah is what I call him the most online. And Z is for when I’m too lazy to type four more characters.
So there you have it. Isaiah Micah is my beautiful boy (who doesn’t carry frogs in his pocket… yet… but IS a noise with spit up on it). A big noise. Loooooud noise.
And did you catch those dimples? Awesome, aren’t they?!
I guess it’s about time to blog about my new son. Since he’s already 1/4 of a year old! He’s growing entirely too fast. Can’t I stop the clock for a bit?
Let’s go back three months.
*zooooooom!* (Cause all cool time machines go “zoom”, right?)
*zoooooooOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!* (Cause three months is a long time.)
It’s the incredibly hot morning of September 1st. I’m minding my own business (aka “sleeping”). My phone rings. I sleepily answer. It’s our case worker, whom I had just spoken to a couple weeks prior, walking away from that discussion discouraged that we would more than likely not be parents this year. She says something about a baby being born the day before. I yawn. We’ve been through this before. She says he’s ours if we want him. I perk up. We have not been through this before.
I blink in disbelief. Rub the sleep from my eyes a bit.
She tells me the story of Z, who at that time was just an unnamed baby boy. I don’t feel as though his story is mine to tell, so I’ll leave out most of the details. But I will say that it is one of love and joy, and heartache and pain all rolled into one tiny little amazing life. She tells me that he is an African American baby, born approximately five weeks early. He is under 5 lbs. Do we want him?
What a silly question. That would be a big, fat yes. Before I knew any details about Z, it was a big, fat yes!
But I say I need to call my husband and discuss it with him, and I’ll call her back. (Big, fat yes.)
Honey, do we want him?
Big, fat yes.
The next 24 hours is a whirlwind of craziness. Shopping, cleaning, coordinating schedules. And driving. September 2nd comes and we have a quick meeting with a local case worker to update our home study and pack our bags and hit the road, on our way to the hospital. Night falls and we are about to meet the most incredible little soul… the tiny little man that would become our son.
While my husband and mom (who is traveling with us) are practically jumping out of their skin, I am remarkably relaxed. The hospital staff take their time checking us in. We go up to the labor/delivery floor and check in with the nurses there. We meet a nurse who is incredibly hard to understand, but sweet. She gets us settled into our room and leaves to get the boy. She brings him in…
Wait. Nope. False alarm, people. She just brought pillows. Freaking pillows. Where’s my son??
She finally wheels him in, all wrapped up like a burrito, sleeping inside a clear plastic bin on top of a metal tray on wheels. His head covered by the same pink and blue knit hat you see on newborns across the country.
The first thing I see are lips. Gorgeous, full, pink lips. And the cutest little nose. And stunningly gorgeous mocha skin.
Love. True love at first sight.
The next few hours become a blur in my mind, but they are full of cuddles and pictures and kisses and happy phone calls.
I am home. Home is where the heart is, and this guy had it from hello. (Wow. Hello, cliche. Stop groaning, people. It’s a freaking Kodak moment, mmmkay?? It deserves a cliche or two.)
After a truly surreal night of watching and feeding and loving, it’s now the morning of September 3rd. We meet with even more case workers from our agency and fill out a pile of paperwork which officially makes him ours. We spend the next 24 hrs in the hospital with him. More watching and loving and feeding and learning to care for our new baby Z. All throughout the day and night, we meet several more nurses, all of them having something to say. About his birth mom. We are broken hearted that we do not get to meet this woman, but God sees fit to bless us with little tidbits about her. Even though we do not know her, we are blessed to learn about her. She is a woman of faith with a quiet spirit. Strong and confident. Lovely. Loving. She knew what she had to do, but it was hard. She showed an incredible amount of love for her son to carry him and then give us the opportunity to raise him as our own. She is giving us the most precious gift ever. The word thankful doesn’t even begin to describe how we feel. We remain hopeful that someday we can tell her… if we can manage to put it into words.
The morning of September 4th arrives and brings with it baby Z’s discharge papers. We pack up, tell the nurses goodbye, and begin our lifelong journey through parenthood.
*MOOOOOOooooooz!* (Back to the present, right?)
You already know this, but he’s awesome. And beautiful. And strong. And hilarious. And truly the happy I’ve been waiting and hoping and praying for. There is a lot more to him and of course this post only covers a very condensed account of the first few days, but I’ll try to share a little here and a little there. If you’re on facebook, you already know a lot. 🙂
But isn’t he awesome?
I found a missing piece.
We are finally home.
I’m completely and utterly addicted to my son.
This evening I was gathering his clothes, and picked up the sleeper he was wearing this morning before we started our day. I sniffed it. It smelled like him. My heart melted. I’m surprised there’s anything left of it, really, since he makes it melt at least 100 times a day. His smile… oh, his smile. I am convinced it’s the key to solving the world’s problems.
He’s awesome wrapped up in awesome with an awesome on top. And a side of extra special.
I have a son now.
He’s three months old.
Also? He’s awesome.
November 2008 is when our home study was completed and we were put into our agency’s pool of families waiting to adopt. If you would have asked us then, we would have told you that we would surely be parents by now. We were naive. Even though they told us to go into it expecting a two year wait, we had no idea WE would actually have to wait this long. No way. Not us. We’re great! People will love us! How could they not? Dustin is incredible, and I’m not too bad. Who wouldn’t pick us?
A lot of people, apparently. There have been several placements in our agency since then. We’ve been in the top three favorites for some, but never the #1. It’s a little hard to not take that personally. I won’t lie… the past 15.5 months have been so much harder than I ever could have imagined. When we finally decided to adopt and signed on with our agency, I was stupid enough to think that the hardest part was over. The pain of infertility and trying to conceive yet failing, and the uncertainty of it all… I naively thought that was the hardest part. Surely it would get easier, knowing that this path has a definite end that will make us happy. Right?
Not so much.
It turns out that there is a whole new set of feelings with this leg of the journey. It’s incredibly hard to keep the faith and not start to doubt the path God put us on. It’s horribly difficult to not question the decisions we’ve made. It’s painfully tough to hold back the anger that wants to creep up towards the One that could put a stop to it all with just a blink or a sigh. But here I am, 15.5 months later… still alive. Still trusting (though barely, at times). Still knowing that there is a happy ending to this story…. someday.
The other families in our group are wonderful too. Just as wonderful if not more so than we are. We all have something wonderful to offer, and each birth mother’s reason for her choice is so individual and so personal and so different. I can’t imagine the gravity of that kind of choice. Where would you even start? But it still hurts, and it still sucks, and it has definitely aided in stripping me of the innocence I once had.
But as hard as the journey is, something amazing has happened along the way. Even though not being chosen hurts, the more time that passes, the more confident I become. A few years ago, I was terrified to be a mom. I had zero confidence in my ability to parent. Now I’m still scared and know I’ll be far from perfect, but I believe in myself and I believe in Dustin. I know we’ll be great parents. Something else has happened too. The more time that passes, the more I realize how much more I’ll enjoy parenthood now than I would have almost 5 years ago when we started this whole ordeal. I don’t think I’ll be able to take one day for granted… not even the bad ones.
Almost 5 years ago, when we first started trying to become parents, I thought we were ready. Not really totally ready (because who ever is, so they say), but ready enough. Almost 5 years later… and 15.5 months into the most frustrating part of this journey, I can truly say I.Am.Ready. Not just ready, but ready. Honestly and truly and completely.
So God? You listening here? Nearly 5 years later and 15.5 months into the adoption, I’m finally really ready!
Bring it on.
She’s an elephant.
Yes, this Horton is a she. (Notice all the purple.)
I don’t think our Horton has heard a Who. Or a What. Or a Why, for that matter. But she has a Where, and that Where is at our house. In our nursery. On the new dresser – that took me months and months to pick – and will belong to our future-adopted-child-to-be. (No, we do not have any news.)
(Dustin named her, by the way.)
Horton joined our little family a long time ago. She came to us from a cute little Etsy shop. I’m sure I bought her for a baby gift, but for some reason or other did not give her away. I ended up buying something else for the gift, and I don’t remember What it was, or for Whom it was even bought. So Horton still resides in our little home, on her very own little Where, just waiting to make a friend.
Hopefully our future little Who will love her.
Here is an excellent blog post on open adoption.
And another one by the same person on what it is not.
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding open adoption. I know I had several myself going into the process. In fact, I was uncomfortable with it at the beginning of our journey, but just a little ways in I totally had a change of heart and desire it 100%.
Good posts. Read ’em!