… and then there were three… er, five.

Just after 6 on a Sunday night, the Boy squawks his half-hearted disagreement at having been put to bed. For just shy of four months now we have been living with and learning, moment to moment about him. Sometimes it seems he exhibits a new behavior daily.

In the past month we have all – more or less – settled into a routine. Alas, we are both back to work, me (Christopher) with a brand new job; so, he is off to day care each day. This, admittedly, gives me certain anxiety. Not just that we are entrusting the well-being of our son (by the way, the fact that I can say “our son” still fills me with wonder…), but also that most days I really would prefer to hang out with him. Such it is I guess, living the American Dream.

It is a marvel, as I had sincerely hoped, to watch him grow and explore the world around him. Case in point, he recently gained a certain awareness/appreciation for the fact that he has hands. Mostly, he just balls them into fists and tries to stuff them in their entirety in his mouth, all the while making slobbery, suck/smacking noises, which threatens to drive his mamma a bit crazy. In the past few days, though, I have been watching him explore his ability to interact with other things. Rather than the previous wild flailing about, which would cause random reactions with the various toys within striking distance, he now has started to intentionally reach out and touch things.

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He has also started smiling and laughing a whole lot more, which, you know, is just the greatest. While he is not wholly convinced, he is learning to enjoy the jumper chair thing that we have been loaned (among an amazing assortment of other things) from our wonderful new friends here that have a 1 year old daughter.

His neck is also getting much, much stronger, which allows for a whole new range of activities. A few weeks ago we took him on his first snowshoe outings in a pack style carrier that his birth parents gifted us. It worked well, but is also a bit awkward to manage. It is generally fine once he is in it and it is on, but the mounting and dismounting, as it were, is a bit awkward.

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However, early on in the purchasing/gift receiving frenzy of his “younger” days we acquired a more elaborate carrier, but we felt we needed to wait until he was a bit stronger to use it. Last weekend we took him on a ~3 mile hike in Petrified Forest NP, one of our favorite nearby places. The day was grand for sure!

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Soon, he will be big enough to ride, without his carseat, in the fancy jogging stroller his grandparents got me… I mean us.

But, to dial the clock back a bit to where we left off here last time…

Figuring out the sleeping/feeding/existing schedule took some time. Point of fact, we are still working on the “schedule” though it is getting better. At first we operated in shifts. Since I can, more or less, get to sleep soon after becoming prone, the Wife took the first shift of getting up with him as needed. At some point midway through the night morning, she would then wake and hand the reins, as it were, over to me and I would carry on the rest of the night morning. I have become even more familiar with “four in the morning” than I already had been. The “shift work”routine occurred before we had to go back to our office jobs. At some point we switched to each taking a full night and alternating nights. I am not sure that we always get more sleep with this option than with the other, but on the positive side, he is waking up less frequently than before, so that is something.

Then there is the stuff. The bottles. The clothes. The diapers. The five different new “furniture” items where the Boy can sleep that we now have to navigate, in our ever shrinking domicile. The diapers. The bottles. Granted, we are both, more or less, “systems” type of people, which helps our ability to create routines… but still.

I wouldn’t exchange our new life for any other.

The above description of our new life is likely somewhat similar to the lives of other new parents. Because we initially started this blog to discuss our adoption journey, we wanted to close the loop on the legal quirk of how we officially became new parents. Once we completed all of the initial paperwork…and received results of the paternity/DNA test (I could go on for a long time about the incompetence of the company we selected, but I’ll refrain), we took the next step: making our family official by going to court.

So, after making arrangements and filling out yet more paperwork and scheduling a hearing, we dressed him in an appropriately themed, black and white striped jumper and hat (his jailbird outfit), drove on up to the county seat, found the courthouse, and had, what turned out to be, a rather pleasant experience of making us all official — mostly official.

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Once that was accomplished and we had that paperwork in hand, we could then (after waiting an appropriate amount of time for final processing) apply for a new birth certificate. Once that was in hand, which really made everything seem fully official… it had long been very real…we drove to yet a different town to get his Social Security card, the final bit of paperwork in this long and labyrinthine process.

(As a side note — this is the Wife speaking, we discovered several other people at the Social Security office had their own adoption journeys. In fact, one lady was a birthmom – she placed a child with another family 20 years ago.  The more we share our story, the more others share theirs with us.)

Whew.

So here we are, living life as a new family. Wondering all the while at the mystery of it all… and more in love than I ever thought we could be; the Wife, the Boy, the dogs, and me.

Huzzah.

11/12: A new beginning.

Truth be told, we’ve been tired and slacking on maintaining this blog, but for joyous reasons. For our friends reading this, this is likely old news and perhaps they are tiring of baby pics flooding their Facebook feeds. For those that may not know…we are parents! We made our way through the adoption process and are proud, sleep-deprived parents of a beautiful boy. We wanted to continue to share the adoption journey with those wanting to read it.

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The Arrival:

On a Wednesday about nine weeks ago, we got a text from our birthmom letting us know she had been to her weekly OB appointment and the doc didn’t think she would go into labor for another week. Thus, she was scheduled for another appointment the following Tuesday. Christopher and I had been on pins and needles, jumping every time our phones made a noise. So, we took this as a small reprieve and decided to go out Friday night. We drove to a town about an hour away, had a nice meal, and saw the movie Arrival. As good movie goers, we silenced our phones. We drove home after our lovely evening and went to bed.

I wake up to my phone vibrating at 5 am. BABY!!! The birthfather was on the phone. A baby boy had come at 3:33 am, and the birth parents had been trying to get in touch with us since about 1:30 am. Truth be told, Baby was a four hour drive away through an elk-infested, mountainous landscape, and leaving in the middle of the night would not have been advisable. Now awake, we were on the road by 7 am, much to the bewilderment and dread of our two dogs (who had pre-arranged sitters and would be just fine).

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The Drive:

Driving for four hours to see a baby that is not legally yours takes faith. We were excited, and I am glad Christopher was doing the driving because I was definitely on edge. Four hours is a long time when there’s a baby and a lot of unknowns waiting on the other end. What this drive did give us was time to truly think about, and discuss, a number of things, including a name. Our baby did not end up with one from our lists but rather, one that we discussed on our drive down.

The birthparents:

Where to start here. We had precious little time, and even less opportunity to get to know the people that had chosen to present their precious child to us. We had a single conference call, shortly after we were chosen by them and had accepted. It was essentially a way for the four of us, moderated by our adoption counselor, to have a brief introduction. It went very well and I think we all came away from it hopeful. In the coming days, we would communicate sporadically by text, but really would not actually meet them until they rolled that tiny baby into the hospital room we were anxiously waiting in. Over the next couple of days, they would stop in to visit, her more so than him, and we got to know them a fair bit better. They are good people and this was clearly a very difficult decision for them. They chose us with intent and viewed us as a blessing. They told us on more than one occasion that they saw in us a chance for their child to have a good life. We hope that they realize the blessing they are to us and think about them daily and maintain communication with them.

The Hospital:

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Navigating the hospital with the birthparents is likely the most emotional part of the adoption process for adoptive parents – and is likely equally emotional for the birth parents.  Most of the other steps up until this point are more like “to do” checklist items and feel like homework. The hospital is the place where the parents, both the birthparents and the adoptive, interact with one another in person very likely for the first time, and the uncertainty of what to expect and how to act can be stressful to say the least.

 

 

Our hospital experience was mostly good. The thing most adoptive parents worry about is a birthmother changing her mind. We never really feared this. What ended up being the most difficult thing to navigate was the inexperience of some of the staff regarding adoption. First, because of confusion among the nursing staff, the birth mother didn’t fill out the initial birth certificate prior to her being discharged. Luckily, she came back to visit the next two days so she did it then. Second, two crucial staff members, the birth certificate recorder and the hospital social worker, didn’t work on the weekends; so, some things had to wait until Monday. I don’t want to post personal details about the birthparents, so I won’t describe the situations that created the most stress. I will say that the birth recorder who eventually came to help complete the birth certificate paperwork could have had more compassion for the birthmother (and possibly chatted with us first so she knew the emotional part of the situation).

However, the most difficult and unfortunate situation involved social services, both the hospital social worker and state caseworkers that were called in for reasons that we do not need to go into here. Once again, there was insufficient compassion and understanding from the “professionals,” which was particularly surprising and upsetting in this case as these were supposed to people versed in such matters. In the end everything worked out, though not without some distress, and we were discharged from the hospital.

 

The boy, Sir Winston the Strong of Ironwood:

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Weighing in at just under 6lbs, the wee lad was just outside of what the hospital would have classified as “preemie”. As it was, they wanted to keep him around for a couple of days to assess him and his development before letting us spirit him away. Not surprisingly, everyone that saw him commented on his size. What was a bit surprising, to everyone involved I think, was how strong he was from the get go. This is a trend that has continued… but more on that later.

 

 

As noted above, we had discussed names during the drive down and what we settled on was Winston Paull. Incidentally, Paull is a family name as Shannon’s father is number 6 of that name in his line. It seemed a good fit. Going with the theme, people often commented on how it was a fitting name; a good strong name for a good strong boy. He passed all of his tests and assessments with aplomb, and after the two days, we were discharged with papers in hand giving us legal guardianship. We checked in to a local hotel rather than attempt the long drive home. Our first night genuinely feeling like full-fledged, wide, bleary eyed, new parents.

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The Drive, pt. 2:

So then, once all was in order and we had recovered in a neutral space (hotel room) for an evening, we embarked on the long return journey home… with a baby! We were not all that unsettled during the drive itself, other than perhaps having a heightened sense of awareness and concern regarding what everyone else on the road was doing. The one thing we did have some concern about, and were counseled to attend to at first opportunity, was the possible effect that the significant altitude change might have on the wee lad. The greater Phoenix area is roughly 1000 ft. above sea level, whereas home is around 7000 ft., a significant change for anyone really, never mind a three day old. Otherwise, the drive was uneventful, though beautiful as always, and he weathered it like a champ. We checked in with the clinic when we arrived and they verified that he was all good and on home we went…to our confused, awaiting dogs. They had no idea what was coming…

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Next up: Adjustments, settling in, and becoming official…

Babies R us?

20161024_194430Well, baby, singular is more likely. And well, it is not final yet… in fact, said baby has yet to be born even. Then there is the undeniable reality that it might not work out.

But, we are hopeful. And excited. And nervous. And anxious. And curious.

Just over a week ago we were informed that we have been selected by a birthmother and father to have the honor of assuming parenting rights for their yet to be born child. The whole business still blows my mind in very many ways.

And then, about an hour and a half after that call, we got another call telling us that the birthmother thinks she is having contractions…

We knew that she was due relatively soon. We also knew that she had given birth to other children and that they had all been early. The adoption agent advised us to stay close to a phone.

So, with deer in the headlights eyes, we went home and packed bags. I frantically tried to finish up the new floor in the baby’s room. Well, the floor was done, but the trim was proving difficult. Stress got the better of me briefly.

Anyway, false alarm, though we are still on relatively high alert. Bags packed, house/dog sitters arranged, prepared to jump and run at any moment.

It is proving somewhat exhausting. But we are excited to be sure.

We have been listing out, starring, crossing off, and generally pondering names. Acquiring used baby furniture. Some wonderful new friends loaned us a lot of things to get us started. We have been researching formulas and diapers and car seats. And we are excited.

But also nervous.

And anxious.

It could happen any day… or not at all. And no, I am not trying to be pessimistic. Just realistic… and a bit guarded. This business is a rather emotional trial.

But then I think of the birthmother and father. I think of what they must be going through. Choosing not to know the gender of the as yet unborn child in an effort to remain emotionally detached. How is that even possible? I am simply dumbfounded by the entire prospect. I think about them and openly acknowledge that I have no idea what they might be going through.

And I am humbled.

And so we are hopeful. But also nervous.

And anxious.

And filled with awe and wonder.

And so we wait.

Socializing

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We have both written previously about the relative awkwardness we have felt discussing our efforts to adopt with others. We have each written a couple of posts now, since we started this journey. We intended this to be a more regular thing, but somehow we only seem to write when something happens. We are in a waiting stage now, one that we expected to be in, then briefly were past, and then dramatically found ourselves back in. As was recently posited.

Once upon a time, as we have come to understand, adoption was a rather different thing. Actually, it might be better to say that often in days past, adoption has been a different thing than we have been presented with. Whatever it has been in the past, these days it seems to be a much more open, public, media driven process.

And why not I suppose? Everything seems to happen on social media these days.

So, despite our initial trepidation, or at least hesitation, we are going to try to boost our chances by further spreading the word… and in so doing, ourselves.

I think it has been mentioned that we met thorough an online dating site, and so this idea of advertising ourselves is not wholly foreign. That and I have been writing and sharing through social media, blog posts for going on four years now. So.

When we signed up with the agency that we are working with we were told that we would be connected with a media specialist who would craft our profiles based on materials we provided. And so we did and so they did.

So, we have decided that we might as well try to boost the exposure of those profiles – there are four variations on a theme – by sharing the links here and asking that any of you who happen to read this to please share them far and wide, as you might be inclined. The idea being, of course, that the more these get passed around, the greater chance someone out there will connect… with us through them.

And with that, here are the links. Please, feel free to look through them, you may well learn something about us… more importantly of course, share them with friends, family, etc. the greater the reach, the better our chances.

https://adoptionnetwork.com/waiting-families/adoptive-family-profile/16229

http://adoptionisachoice.com/waiting-family-photos/?family_code=9782

http://www.theadoptionfoundation.com/adoption-unplanned-pregnancy-waiting-families-profile.html?id=9782&action=photos

http://adoptionspacebook.com/view_photos.html?id=9782

In advance, we thank you.

Christopher and Shannon

The privilege to adopt.

It is difficult these days to not think about the issue of privilege. I will avoid any and all political discussion here; this is not the place. There is much to say about social issues however, though in many ways I know not what to say.

I did not grow up poor, but I did not grow up with much… at first. There was a time in high school when I did live an undeniably privileged life. Not rich by any means (I was from the “south side” after all) but, I was provided with more than many of my peers. I was later to learn that this was largely about parental posturing to keep me in one home and out of another.

Parenting. I have a very mixed foundation on which to base my hopeful efforts. One thing I do know, parenting is a team effort. That said, having come from a broken home, there are very many occasions where the parenting team thing does not play out, and that makes things complicated.

I would like to think that good parenting is based in being a good person. One that cares about the welfare of other people. Regardless of what they look like, where they come from, certainly not what they choose – or worse, have been told – what to believe. Being a good parent, I should think, is based in deeply wanting one’s child to also care about others, as people.

I started with the issue of privilege though. Shannon and I have worked our way into well-paying government jobs. That said, we live mostly frugally, compared to some, and we live in an area with a relatively low cost of living. Perhaps we are privileged. More often I feel lucky; that I do not really deserve this life, or at least this lifestyle. I cannot speak to Shannon’s childhood, as I was not there, but very often I have a hard time tracing the string of events that led me here.

Adoption is expensive. Aside from buying a house, this is easily the most expensive decision I have ever been involved in. Perhaps that makes us privileged? I don’t know. I do know that there is a lot of unanswerable questions and unending doubt, as to why we cannot produce our own child.

So we choose, given that we have the means, perhaps because of certain privilege, to adopt. In doing so we must have faith. Faith that somewhere out in the word there is a woman, faced with a future – an undeniable, immediate future – that for whatever reason she does not know how to navigate, and that somehow she will find us. Certainly we have made efforts to help such a woman find us, marketing is part of the expense after all, but there is of course more to it. We must have faith that such a woman, finding the images and words that have been chosen to represent us, will feel some connection.

Facing infertility, in all its inexplicability, makes it difficult to comprehend the process that making such a decision must entail. To entrust one’s own into the hands of others; others whom you do not know. In this too, there must be faith… faith I cannot fathom.

I do not always feel privileged, but seeing the reality of the world around me, so far beyond the reach of my vision, and in times right in front of me, I must accept that, yes, I probably am. If that privilege will allow me to be the husband to Shannon that I hope I can be and by some remarkable chance, the father to a child that we may be allowed to parent, I will accept it. I will embrace it and hope that I can be the person that child will need me to be.

If I can be that person, I will feel privileged indeed.

Christopher

 

They warned us this could happen

As we made travel plans for our for adoption training this past weekend, two unexpected things happened. First, we received our full certification to adopt. This means an expectant mother could place a child with us at any time. Second – an expectant mother had chosen us.

Our adoption agency said that because our profiles were very open and because we presented young, that we may not have to wait long for an expectant mother to select us. So, be ready. Indeed, they told us this selection was the second fastest on record! We had a little less than three months to prepare for the child’s arrival.

So, we went to our training with a new-found purpose. Most of the training was very good, and we learned from adoptive parents, a lawyer, and birth mothers. Given our new situation, this training brought out more emotion in me than expected, especially from the birth mothers.

They warned us this could happen

We thought that because the paperwork, training, and this selection all occurred in about a five day span that truly, this baby was meant for us. The expectant mother, however, changed her mind. She wants to parent this child. We are disappointed, but realize that this baby is for the woman carrying it to parent until she says differently. If one were to look for a bright side, a weekend of lost hope is less painful than three months of it with heartbreak only to come upon delivery while standing in a hospital. This situation is called “adoption interruption.”

What is hard for me is this: in a way this situation is like announcing a pregnancy and then having a miscarriage. The higher chance of miscarriage in the first trimester is why many couples refrain from announcing a pending birth. Adoptions have no such reduced odds of an interruption with time. Also, because things like filling out paperwork to take leave from work must happen on a reduced time scale, withholding the announcement of a pending adoption is not possible. Thus, the pain of a lost opportunity to parent is public.

What isn’t public is a physical sign that one wants to expect a child. With pregnancy, a woman carries the outward sign of pending parenthood with her. Not so with an expectant adoptive couple. This couple has no outward physical sign of waiting, and those around you might (I imagine) treat you differently because they don’t see the impending birth themselves.

One of the couples at this training said they told almost everyone they wanted to adopt because they didn’t want to miss a possible connection to an expectant mother questioning whether she wanted to parent the child she carried. I still feel hesitant and a little embarrassed to do this. I don’t want to enter into conversations about infertility and receive XYZ advice on how to conceive. While having a child from my womb would be wonderful, we’re going to adopt. We want to adopt, and we don’t see it as a second choice. So, no we wait for selection, this time likely longer than a day or two.

Shannon

adoption grows from mourning the loss of a dream

Today a coworker asked about the adoption process. At one point she encouragingly said, “oh, you won’t have to breastfeed,” and recounted some of the difficulties she faced with her child.

I don’t know how it is for others who have failed to conceive – and perhaps especially for those that have endured miscarriages (we had one early on) –  but for me,  to “give birth” to the idea of accepting another child as my own, I’ve had to mourn of the loss of the traditional idea of motherhood.

I hold nothing against my lovely coworker, who was only offering encouragement. However, like many hopeful mothers-to-be, I had romanticized a pregnancy, a birth, and breastfeeding my baby. As the oldest of five, I watched my mom’s belly grow and then sat next to her many a time as she nursed a sibling. Thus, the reminder that I will likely never experience this causes a bit of grief to unexpectedly bubble to the surface.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am head-over-heels ready to bring home our child. This child will be ours unequivocally. Please do understand, however, that accepting the idea of this child flows from mourning the loss of the traditional idea of parenthood. Instead of reading about pregnancy and breastfeeding, we read about explaining adoption to a child, and perhaps a child of a different race; I will leave that discussion for another time.

Instead, I will leave you with this: if you encounter “adoptive expectant” parents, try not to tell them of all the things they “won’t” miss having biological children. You might touch a wound not completely healed. Do, however, give them advice. My co-worker told me about a cool stroller she used that folded into a car seat, making airport travels much easier. We can use all of that kind of advice we can get!

Shannon