Wednesday, December 30, 2009

First Visit

Dylan with his birth mom, V.




The little man w/his Uncle, Auntie, and cousin

(who is so happy to no longer be the youngest!)



We had not seen Dylan's birthmom, V., since a few days after she was discharged from the hospital and while he was still in the NICU. We had planned for her to come visit us during Thanksgiving weekend, but a few days before, she let us know that they were having car trouble and wouldn't be able to make it. We told her we understood and hoped to reschedule soon. Then we didn't hear from her for a couple of weeks. Privately, we wondered if it was all just too hard for her right now and if it would be awhile before we connected again.

But I emailed her once more, indicating a few specific dates that would work well for us for a visit, and after a bit of delay, she responded enthusiastically!

The weekend before Christmas, we were delighted to have her to our home for several hours. The visit was preceded by a bit of my nervous scurrying to determine and buy some holiday gifts, tidy up the house, prepare a meal, and ensure the boy was bathed and adorable (the latter not being a hard thing!). I was actually really glad she was coming this time of year, as I love the way our house looks all decorated for Christmas. Bright poinsettias lined our entry stairs and the tree sparkled in the window; plus, we got to show off the beautiful stocking Dylan's aunt L. needlepointed for him, a true labor of love.

We were fearful that the visit might be canceled again, but V. called several times - the day before, again as they were leaving their town, and shortly before arriving - to reassure us!

She came along with her new fiance. They also brought their beautiful dog, who they had brought home that week from the SPCA. They joked a bit while she was here that we were adopting a boy, and they were adopting a dog...but it did feel a little odd. I am sure Freud would have a field day with it!

I wondered what it would be like for her to see Dylan for the first time in our home. I know it must have been hard. I suggested to M. that he be holding the little guy when they arrive, rather than me. For some reason, I just suspected it might be easier for her to see him with his daddy.

The dog's arrival - and our cat's presence - probably made those first minutes less awkward. We had to take the dog around the house and make sure he was all set in the back, which M. did with Dylan. Then they all came in the house, and while we were giving them a quick tour, M. asked her if she wanted to hold him. She did.

She held him close and made funny faces and talked about how much he'd changed. She said that his gorgeous long eye-lashes didn't come from her, which surprised me; I remembered her having really pretty eyes and associated this striking feature of the baby's with them. She seemed comfortable with him and with us...

They were very sweet and polite guests, complimenting our simple lunch, indicating how much they liked various things around our home and garden, etc. It's clear that our "approval" means a lot to her. She asked quietly what I thought of her guy, and I told her he seems so nice, and very into her (which is true).

After a leisurely lunch, I suggested we move to our front porch. I brought out our gifts, which they genuinely seemed to appreciate: for her fiance, a hot cocoa set (not too personal, but after all, we hadn't met him yet); for her son turning two this month, a set of Curious George books for his birthday and some sidewalk chalk and an activity book for Xmas); and for V., a soft, green sweater (which V. said she'd wear for their engagement photos), a Barnes & Noble gift card (to feed her appetite for reading), and a little craft kit with a photo frame on one side and stuff to "cement" a child's hand and/or footprints on the other).

The visit was complicated by the fact that we had previously made plans for my older brother and his family to stop by around dinner time on their way from their home about eight hours away to my sis-in-law's family, about 1.25 hours away. I thought that this was good timing, as V. has said many times how much she hopes to know and be involved with our extended family, I wanted them to meet her to help remove some of the "mystery" of our open adoption, and who knew when they'd be in the same area again. But in hindsight, I don't think it was ideal for a first visit.

Just as V. and her fiance finished opening their gifts, up pulled the raucous crew! My niece and two nephews (ages 12, 9, and 7) came racing up the walk. They were SO excited to finally meet their new cousin! It melted my heart, and I wanted to intercept them with huge hugs and lots of nuggies, their enthusiasm meant so much to me.


Introductions were made, and everyone was very friendly. But the focus was off of V.


We all spent more time together, mostly hanging out in the back yard (including cleaning up after the dog, whose poop my littlest nephew promptly stepped in). My relatives couldn't take their eyes and hands off of the little guy; I had to remember to make sure his birth mom had time to hold him. She did take him some more, and fed him a bottle. We made the frame memento, with both his little feet and hands fitting. To it, she added his name with the date and some hearts. She provided some mothering advice about various things and chatted with the children. In fact, at one point M. and I realized that she's actually closer in age to the kid with the poopy shoes than to us!)


Not long thereafter, V. made motions toward leaving. M. told me later that she had confided in him that she knew it would be tough to "leave" her son again. I wish I'd thought of this; I mean, I suspected that the visit itself wouldn't be easy for her, but I didn't really put it together that physically departing would pour salt in her wounds.


They did say their goodbyes to the motley crew, so I purposely put Dylan in his crib, and M. and I headed out with them. After lots of hugs, and good wishes, and promises to keep in touch and vague allusions to seeing each other in February, they pulled away with freshly-printed directions to a famous local attraction that they don't often get a chance to visit.


She left from her fist visit and I felt...relieved. I am so proud of V., that she followed through and really put herself out there. Plus, she saw an authentic slice of our lives...and seemed to appreciate it. Over lunch, she confided that though she is having a harder time with the separation from her son than she anticipated, she has no doubts that we are the right family for him.


I feel like we've passed a major landmark in open adoption: the first visit. Though there were things I wish had been different, I can see how this can work in the future. And I so hope it will, for all of our sakes...


Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Different World / A Different Life

Have I shared here that M. is a wonderful photographer? He's just "published" on his website more photos and reflections on the homestay during our trip to Vietnam this summer.

Though that was just a few months ago, so much has changed in our lives since then. I still think about those families a lot...

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's (Not) ALL Good!

About a week ago, I started drafting a post about how much I was enjoying our domestic tranquility. Feeling self-congratulatory, I was somewhat astonished by how much I was enjoying my temporary status as a stay at home mom. I was truly finding satisfaction in keeping the house (relatively) tidy, the laundry clean, the bills paid, and the groceries stocked, all while tending to the little human.

With the onset of the holidays, there was even more for me tackle successfully. I relished having time to identify special gifts for loved ones and shop for them (thank goodness of the internet!). And I couldn't wait to put on the holiday music, to start baking, and especially to decking the halls - things I do every year, but rarely feel I can enjoy fully because of the competing demands of my job.

Then fatigue set in. Dylan still needs to be fed a couple of times during the night. And even though my fabulous partner - who isn't on parental leave - shares this responsibility with me, it means I'm awakened to various degrees every few hours. Not much REM sleep in this house (at least for the adults).

And to make things worse, I really hurt my back. (Man, there is nothing like injuring your back to make you feel OLD!) Not quite sure how I did it, but it must have involved moving heavy boxes of decoration because the next morning, I had a sharp pain in my lower back, a horrible ache in my hip, and oddest of all, my right thigh was numb. Needless to say, the pain didn't help getting enough sleep or staying productive.

Poor M.! For a couple of days, he had to be on double-daddy duty, which he did with no complaint and much compassion.

I'm relieved to report that my back has slowly healed and as of today, it feels normal. But my thigh? It feels like it has a horrible sunburn. Odd, huh? Fortunately, its not slowing me down much anymore. I no longer have to hesitate before picking our little guy up.

Meanwhile, M.'s had a couple of rough days at work, AND he was attacked by a feral cat he was trying to capture so we could take her in to get fixed before she procreates AGAIN.

Christmas is almost here. There is more shopping to do, and much more wrapping to be accomplished between various "events." There are family relationships to negotiate, now including with Dylan's birth mother, V.

So, I'm not going to write that boastful post about how well I'm managing everything, about how much easier it is to be a mom at home than I anticipated, and about how I am brimming with holiday cheer. Instead, I'll admit it: this is hard.

My fuse is short, and I am a bigger nag to M. than he deserves. I am feeling guilty that I don't have more energy to give to interacting with Dylan. We're not sending holiday cards this year (and we finally have a cute kid to feature in it!).

Have no fear: this Bah Humbug mood is fleeting. I know that we're muddling through a huge change in our lives, and that I should be patient, and flexible, and gentle with myself and others. All I need to do is spend a few calm moment with my swaddled baby and adorable husband, snuggling quietly together on the couch in front of our beautiful, fragrant Christmas tree to know that we really are doing okay. In fact, we're doing great.

Thanks for "listening."

Tremendous Two's


Earlier this week, we celebrated Dylan's two month birthday. M. and I sang him a little song (you know the words) and his grandmom sent him a congratulatory email. And I've reflected a lot on how much can change in just eight short weeks.




Yesterday, Dylan had his two-month "well baby" pediatrics appointment. Now it's official: our boy is doing "great." Before hand, we speculated how much he's grown. In fact, he's gained more than three pounds in six weeks and is now almost 9 pounds and 3 ounces. He's also two inches longer. He's still very small for his (not preterm adjusted) age. But all we need to do is look at his chubby cheeks and thigh creases to know he's not our tiny baby any more.




At the doctor's, he got three different shots and an oral vaccine. Wow! I've never heard him scream like that. But then I held him close and he quieted right down. He's been a little extra "clingy" since then, but is easily comforted by close contact and some baby acetaminophen.




He is eating well - about three ounces, about every three hours, including at night. So no, he isn't sleeping through the night. We think that's still a few months away, since he has so much growing to do. At this point, M. and I are still doing "shifts." Typically, I stay up and feed him about 12:30 a.m. and then burp and change him and hope he'll settle to sleep so that I can too. M's shift begins at 3 a.m., and Dylan usually starts fussing again about 4 a.m. Usually, they will both get back to sleep pretty quickly after the bottle, though if Dylan's fussing, M. will "invite" him into our bed so that they can both get a few more hours of zees before M.'s got to wake up and start working. Usually, I keep sleeping and take charge of the kid again about 9 a.m. So, we're both getting about eight hours of sleep, which is plenty, though it is always with lots of interruptions. I'm not as exhausted at this point as I feared I'd be...but it would be lovely to sleep a whole night in bed, along with my husband.




Our biggest concern about Dylan right now is that we think he has a touch of heartburn, which the doctor thought was probable given the symptoms we described. Though he rarely spits up, and when he does, it's not much, he does get awfully pout-y and sometimes cries and "writhes" (wiggling all about) after feeding. The doc suggested burping him more throughout the feedings, keeping him more vertical, and propping something under his bed so that he lies on an incline. After just one day following those directions, it does seem to be helping a bit.




It's so fun to notice him developing. He's got eyebrows now, and very long, flirty eyelashes. He's discovered his hands and is getting them closer to his mouth each day. He's grasping. Every now and again, we catch him in a sweet little smile, though it still isn't deliberate. (Note: I'm predicting now that it will be by Christmas. What a gift that will be!) What's most captivating is how he stares deep into our eyes. He's also definitely following our movements, and seems to be taking it all in with his dark, soulful orbs.




I am on leave from work, and it feels really indulgent to have so much time to spend with him. My biggest stress during this time has been some ambiguity about my work situation. For more than a year, I've indicated to my boss that if/when I finally became a mom, I'd like to return to work less than full time. I presented various scenarios, always stressing how they could be beneficial to both me and the college where I work. It's been a huge relief that my boss was generally supportive, but (reasonably) citing uncertainty about when this significant shift might occur, she didn't make any commitments. She told me late last week that she's found a way to honor my request to return 60% time...at least through this fiscal year; we'll reevaluate then.




So! My wonderful mom has agreed to watch Dylan one day a week, and M. and I will both provide principal care two days a week. Which means we won't have to find any child care for him! As we hoped - and as we indicated to perspective birth mothers - our child will be looked after just by loving family members.




On Sunday, M's sister and two dear friends threw us a "Welcome Dylan Celebration." My sister-in-law on the East Coast helped out too by coordinating the evites. What a joyful day that was! I realize that it is the kind of experience I have been fantasizing about for years: introducing my precious child to our friends and family.




There was some great food and a gorgeous cake, and many people brought thoughtful and generous gifts, which we've been opening slowly at home. But what was best of all was seeing so many loved ones from different parts of our lives come together and delight in our little guy. It was so fun to observe how different people responded to him. At some points, I felt like a traffic cop, needing to encourage one person to pass him along so that another would have time to hold him. He slept peacefully most of the time and awoke just enough to show everyone his gorgeous eyes.




And then on Tuesday, there was ANOTHER party in honor of our son. My wonderful friend and colleague hosted a reception on the small campus where I work and invited all faculty and staff to attend. One of the things I love about my job is that I'm involved with such a tight-knit community. More than a year ago, when we were debating how wide to cast our "adoption networking net," we made the decision to contact many of my colleagues to ask them to keep an eye out for a good match. It felt a little awkward at first, sharing something so personal so publically. But since then, I have been so touched by the support and encouragement we've received, often from surprising places. Many people came to this reception; a bunch of them baked yummy treats for the rest of us to enjoy. And again we were deluged by generous gifts. (Let me just say, Dylan will be one very well dressed guy for quite awhile!)




In our Dear Birthmother Letter, we said something about how we believe the African proverb that "it takes a village to raise a child, and our village is filled with friends and family looking forward to bringing our child into their lives." This week, I truly felt the power and warmth of our village.




Friday, December 4, 2009

Journey to a Foreign Land - Observations of the NICU






Dylan spent the first 12 days of his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit ("Nick-You") at Crummy Hospital. I still hope to share his birth story in detail, which will involve more about what led to his admission there, but for now, I'll just concentrate on my observations of the NICU itself. For me, it was such a strange, foreign place that initially I knew so little about, and when I could take a deep breath and step back from the care my son was receiving, I found it fascinating.

I suspect there are things most NICUs and hospitals have in common, and others that are particular to "ours." Regardless of the time of day, there were always people milling about outside the hospital entrance. Not infrequently, there were patients in hospital gowns sucking hard on forbidden cigarettes under the flag pole. Other times, when general visiting hours were over at 8:00 p.m., there were family members conferring. Then, we felt a certain privilege, I guess, that because of our son's condition, we were allowed in anytime. Security would slide the doors open and we'd sign in.

There were posters everywhere warning about H1N1 and admonishing us to "gel" frequently. In fact, while we were there, the hospital was restricted to visitors 18 years and older because of the virus.

After several days of riding the elevator up to the fourth floor and down, we determined that climbing the stairs might be the only form of exercise we'd get in awhile. So, we began hoofing it and often arrived a bit winded.

To enter the NICU, we had to buzz at a door along a corridor and announce who was visiting, and then we had to relate (and sometime show a tiny camera) the number on our hospital bands. Only parents and grandparents of patients were allowed in. (V. and I got a chuckle when we announced to the speaker that Dylan's motherS were there to see him.)

Then we entered a world without day or night, without sunshine or weather, absolutely void of nature. The florescent lights were always on. Nurses and therapists and occasionally doctors were buzzing about. And it was always LOUD.

There were probably thirty kids in there, and I'd venture to guess they all had at least three different monitors on them, each of which would bing loudly if its input varied out of a certain range. For example, at one point, Dylan had four different "leads": one each for blood saturation level, heart rate, respiration rate, and body temperature. They were constantly going off - which was always a bit, urm, alarming! Then we learned that if he squiggled just a bit, they'd move off their intended target, thus triggering all the commotion. Though at first we were glad they were there, we came to view the alarms as very annoying.

Immediately upon entering the unit, we had to scrub our hands (to ensure we did it long enough, we were instructed to hum "Happy Birthday"), wipe with paper towel, and then also use antibacterial fluid. Anytime we touched something - our faces, a diaper, each other - we thought might be germy, we repeated the process. We did it so often and habitually that for days after Dylan was discharged, I was still trying to turn on faucets with a foot pedal like the hospital sinks'!

Then we'd nod greetings to various folks as we headed to our son. The unit itself seemed to be divided into different sections, depending on the level and kind of care required. Dylan was with the other "big" kids. It was pretty apparent to us as soon as we saw some of the tiny, tiny babies with all kinds of wires and tubes, that our boy was one of the healthier ones.

For the first eight days or so, he was in an isolette, a contraption we determined must cost much, much more than my car. Its a Plexiglas bassinet with temperature and gas flow and other controls. It can move up and down, be positioned on an incline, has breaks, and various portholes, some for hands, and some for wires and tubes. Most of the kids were placed in these, typically with little "sheepskins" designed to help prevent bed sores.

Initially, Dylan was in a more open isolette, so that there was easier access to him for various procedures and monitoring. We came to see the day he was moved to the "glass box" as a sign of good improvement. And ultimately, a few days before being discharged, they moved him to a simple clear plastic tub because he didn't need any more of the bells and whistles. (In fact, they even moved him off the unit into Pediatrics where we got to spend two very uncomfortable nights on a big lounge chair with him in his private room.)

Lucky for us, his isolette was positioned close to the one window in the big room that made the unit visible from the corridor. The day after our son was born, there was a crowd of non-parental relatives gathered, pressing their noses against the glass, hoping to catch a glimpse of the wee one.

Upon arrival at Dylan's isolette, we'd learn who was looking after him. This NICU ran on 12 hour shifts, and visitors were allowed anytime except during the shift change, between 6:30 and 7:30 both in the morning and in the evening. (We came to understand that they often did the more complex or uncomfortable procedures during the shift changes too, likely so the visitors wouldn't get in the way.)

For some reason, the same nurse was rarely assigned to the same patient during the same time period. M. speculated that this might be intentional, to avoid inappropriate bonding between staff, patients, and family members. I don't know if I buy this, because I don't know what the downside would be, but it did seem odd that every day, twice a day, we were introducing ourselves to new personnel.

During our little guy's stay, he must have had twenty different nurses, and (with just one small exception) they were all truly wonderful, warm, caring people. I was going to say "women," but he did have one very good male nurse while he was there, and in fact, one of the three "charge" nurses - the nurse in charge of the unit - was a really nice guy who helped us out once when Dylan was tangled in some cords and the "small exception" above was not paying attention to him.

Truly, the nurses were wonderful. As the days progressed, we began to observe that, as in other social microcosms, there were different cliques of nurses. While they all worked well and were friendly with each other, when there was a slower moment, or someone was headed off to lunch, we could see where there were stronger bonds. One clique was comprised of the Filipina nurses who sometimes chatted and joked in Tagalog. Another clique was comprised of South Asian nurses, who most often spoke English to each other, but occasionally I overheard another language (Hindi?). One of our favorite nurses - who came to check on Dylan and us often during his stay, many days after she was assigned to him - was from this group. And the third clique was young, mostly blond women from the area around the hospital. Oddly, a number of these nurses were new mothers themselves, so I enjoyed getting some new momma advice from them. Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but it makes me kind of sad that the cliques seem to form around cultural lines.

Oddly, there were just two doctors - pediatricians - who were ever in the unit. One was assigned to Dylan. He certainly seemed dedicated and competent, but he wasn't "warm and fuzzy," and he was rather tight lipped. Since the nurses typically asked us to wait and get medical updates from him and he'd make rounds at different, unpredictable times on different days, many days we wouldn't see him at all. And sometimes we'd see him and delay our departure with the hope that he'd make his way down the row of patients quickly so that we could ply more information from him.

It wasn't just medial personnel with whom we interacted while in the NICU. We also got to know and appreciate some of the other patients' families. There was the very young mother of a tiny baby boy right next to Dylan. She came most days, sometimes with her gangsta looking beau, and sometimes with her very proud mom. She'd hold and feed and coo to her son. Once we saw her waiting at the bus stop in front of the hospital. She'd be taking public transportation to spend time with her precious boy from many months until he is big enough to go home. I was in awe.

There was a loving couple who explained to us that the daughter who was born ten weeks too early was their first, but that he had three from another marriage and that she had two as well. I was so impressed by their dedication. She always showed up with frozen bottles of breast milk. And you should've heard the way he flirted with his little girl! He tickled her feet, talked with and sang to her, and was so excited about her every little improvement. They were so nice about always asking us how Dylan was doing and telling us what a handsome son we have.

There was another nice couple whose son was there for only a few days. We were alarmed to learn that their little boy was named...Dylan. So much for our name being fairly unusual!

I also enjoyed my interaction with a young Sikh couple. I barely spoke with the shy young woman, but her husband was quite affable. He was clearly proud of his son, and after several days of friendly greetings, came over and chatted with me for awhile while I was feeding Dylan. He explained that he had just been in the States for 10 days for the birth, joining his wife who'd been here for the last four months. He and his wife were married just nine months before in Punjab, 14 days after they were introduced by their families. He asked me lots of questions about Americans, which I enjoyed trying to answer. I also told him that his young family was now living in a beautiful state, and I encouraged him to do what he could to travel beyond his new hometown to explore the mountains, beaches, and cities of California.

During our stay, we explained to so many people that we were adopting our son. Regardless of position or culture or connection, they responded enthusiastically.

I've told several people that, as eager as we were to leave the hospital and bring our son home, there were some advantages to his stay there beyond the obvious medical attention he was receiving. For one, it was very helpful to us newbie parents to have experts to show us how to diaper, feed, swaddle, and bath our little guy. It was also reassuring to see the way they handled him - so NOT gingerly. It gave me confidence that he isn't that fragile and that if I was reasonable careful, I wouldn't hurt him. They also advocated "kangaroo care," which we love so much we continue to do today at home. We lay the baby's head near our hearts and hold tight. It's a proven theory that this skin-to-skin contact calms little patients down, speeds development, and improves vital signs.

Having our son in the hospital for the first two weeks actually enabled a fairly soft transition to parenting. It was really nice to be able to leave the hospital, knowing he was receiving excellent care, and go out to a good dinner with a glass of wine or "home" to a full night's sleep.

I wrote earlier that we had hoped he'd be born at Fancy Hospital, but it ended up that he was born at Crummy Hospital. Turns out, we are very grateful he was. Crummy is a county hospital with excellent emergency and acute care facilities. We heard many times from people there and others completely unaffiliated that, because they have so many patients, and so many of them are so seriously ill, our son was at the best NICU in the county.

Indeed, the NICU wasn't pretty. In fact, it was a bit shabby in places. But we had a very positive experience there - well, as positive an experience as having your son in the hospital more than two hours from home could be. I think often of the nurses and other medical staff, the families, and the little bitty patients we interacted with while we were there. What strikes me most is that Dylan was born in this medically advanced country, at a time when his issues could easily be resolved with just a little time and attention. How very fortunate we are.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks


It probably won't surprise you that Thanksgiving this year has special significance for me.

For the last several years, I began the holiday season with very mixed emotions. I've always loved the sights, the sounds, and the smells that come this time of year, and I really look forward to sating myself with good food and warm moments with family and friends. And there is for me something about this time of year that is reflective, and that marks life's progress...or lack there of.

So, at the beginning of the last four seasons, I struggled to be grateful for what I had rather than mour what I didn't, to hold onto hope. But every Thanksgiving found me disappointed that I was commencing yet another holiday that I had wished to experience along with the joy of a child.

The holidays became for me like it is for so many others: a time when loved ones no longer or not yet here is accutely felt. My heart goes out to all those who may be suffering in big and small ways today, including V.

As the holiday buzz begins, as yummy smells eminent from kitchens, lights start to sparkle, and we make plans to gather together, I am a bit dumbfounded by how different I feel this year.

When I look down now on my son's sweet face, his near-translucent eyelids fluttering between sleep and wakefullness, I know my life has changed. His perfect little lips quiver, and I swear, he is trying to form a grin.

This year, I have so much to be thankful for: my loved ones are healthy; I have satisfying work, we have our cozy little home, and there is little we lack materially; I am more in love than ever with my wonderful partner. And this Thanksgiving, I am especially grateful for the precious new life that is filling mine. My heart is full.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What's In a Name, Part 2 - Son of the Sea









Our son's name is Dylan [V.'s Last Name as Middle Name] [M's Last Name]-[My Last Name].


This isn't what we planned, but we are very happy with all four of his names. They are each significant, and they each suit him already. I want to tell you about them.


First, the last name. This was a dilemma we discussed for a long time. Neither of us particularly wanted to change our last name to the other's, for various reason. So we were excited when we came up with an entirely new name comprised of syllables from both our names. It seemed appropriately non-traditional (kind of like us), but not too weird.


However, when the rubber hit the road, and the birth certificate needed to be signed, we had second thoughts. M. in particular realized that it was more important to him than he anticipated to continue his family name. He felt that this significant link to heritage is especially important for our adopted child. I told him I thought it would be great for our son, the only male "heir," to carry on his family's name.


But M. felt that it wouldn't be right to just represent his family in our child's last name. He advocated for including mine as well. This wasn't important to me, initially. But M. was persuasive. He talked about other cultures that hand down names from both parents' families to their children. He said that if we included only his family's name, my cultural heritage would not be represented, and we thought it would be nice. Plus, we'd be following the patriarchal convention we were hoping to avoid.


Ultimately, we decided to hyphenate. Screw our former argument that such a complex name would just defer a difficult decision to our kid. Yes, that might be true. On the other hand, maybe its a good idea that if and when he wants to change his name (say, to blend it with his partner's), he'll be the one to determine what's important to maintain, and what can be altered or abandoned.


Though I'm sorry we weren't able to make this decision until late in the game (and after we'd shared the other name with V. and some close family members - who tried well and not-so-well to hide their dismay), I am really happy with where we've ended up. I especially like that M. and I are also using the last name, and that already most of the gifts and cards that have arrived in honor of our son's birth have been addressed to the [M's Last Name]-[My Last Name] Family!


Next, his middle name. This didn't go as planned either, though we also pleased with this new direction. When M. and I fantasized about our hypothetical child and his or her name, we settle on middle names early. This is because M's sisters share a middle name (Marie), and we wanted to honor them if we had a daughter. Oddly enough, my parents have the same middle name (Martin - it was my dad's father's name, and a last name in my mom's family). So if we had a son, we'd like to give him that as a middle name.


But then reality walked in -or rather, e-mailed us! As we got to know our future child's birth mother, we found that we wanted our child to have something in his name to reference and honor her. We asked her if it would be okay to give him her last name as his middle name, and she was delighted. She said that this would be especially meaningful to her own father.


I love that our son's names connect him with all of his parents...(well, except for his birth father...but that's another story).


And last but not least, the kiddo's first name. In an early conversation with V., well before we were officially matched, she brought up names, and it was clear that this was important to her. It was quickly obvious we had quite different ideas, but that we wanted to work together to find something we'd all love.


We all developed lists and would tentatively float new suggestions to the others. Inevitably, we'd get excited about one, but someone else would have a negative association to it. Slowly but surely, though, we developed a short list. We ended up agreeing on two names - one that we suggested, and one that V. did. We hadn't considered it, but ended up really liking it. We decided we should wait to meet the little guy to see which name suited him best. When our son was born, we hung out with him awhile before settling on what to call him.


Dylan. I love the way it sounds, alone and with all of his other names. And its pretty easy to pronounce but not too common.


V. told us that the meaning of names was important to her so I was thrilled when I looked up Dylan. It is a Welsh name that means "son of the sea" or "of the ocean." Since M. is a surfer and I've always been drawn to the ocean, it seemed almost like fate.



But we still weren't sure. Though we didn't tell anyone we knew well what the top two contenders were, we told a few of the nurses and others we encountered, and gauging their reactions was interest.


In fact, we told the nurse who would spend the first night caring for our little one in the NICU. She said, with a wonderful Jamaican accent, "Oh, those are both good names. X, that's a strong, politician's name. And Dylan, he's an artist."


So, above are some photos of our little artist, our son of the sea, taken on his first visit to the beach, just a few days after we brought him home.





Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Catching Up

There is so much to say. In particular, I am anxious to chronicle Dylan’s birth story before the details become any dimmer. They are already becoming rounded, cloudy pieces of glass; still beautiful, but not the sparkling and distinct pieces of mosaic they once were.

He came into this world with so much love and great anticipation. I imagine that one day, like most of us, he will be very curious about the events surrounding his arrival, so I want to make sure that the small moments that mean so much, as well as the big ones, are documented.

And I also want to write about his birth and the days around it for me. We’ve received so many wonderful congratulations to our adoption announcement! I’d say fully a third of them make a comment such as, “They grow so fast. Enjoy every precious moment of these early days.” I am enjoying them! And I know that writing about them might help the time, which is already passing so quickly, slow down just a bit.

But I’m having trouble finding time to write. Actually, I probably COULD find the time…in the wee hours of the morning when a certain little one has managed to slip back to sleep though it eludes me somehow. But I’m having trouble finding the concentration.

How can I focus enough to put into words such powerful experiences? What should I include (for significance, or interest, or whatever), and what should I exclude (for insignificance, or privacy, or whatever)?

So, my plan now is to just let it come out in bits and pieces, mixed up with things happening in our lives now, random thoughts and opinions, etc. That’s the only way I think I’ll be able to get my arms – and my head, and my heart – around it all.

Okey-dokey? Oh, and I’ll throw in a photo now and again too, if that’s okay. ;)

[By the way, our laptop – my primary writing tool – seems to have died! The screen is all messed up. Can anyone suggest an inexpensive laptop that won’t malfunction after just two years?!?]

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Let the Wild Rumpus Start!




We have more good news to celebrate. Tuesday morning, Dylan’s birth mother V. called us personally to let us know she was meeting with our adoption counselor and signing the papers to terminate her parental rights. She knew this was an important step and that it would bring us some comfort to know.

In fact, we danced around the front porch. Though Dylan has felt like our son since before he was born, it was a huge relief to cross this hurdle.

Since we have also received the necessary clearance from three different Cherokee tribes, we can now begin the legal process to officially adopt him, which should take between six and nine months. Technically, we are currently his guardians for the time being.

We’ve now sent an “official” birth announcement email to our extended family, friends, and colleagues. And TWO different "Welcome Baby Bashes" are being planned! We are so grateful to let everyone know about our darling Dylan, and it fills our hearts with joy that he’s been so warmly welcomed.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Home Sweet Home








Good news! Yesterday (Friday), we brought our darling son Dylan home.

He was discharged from the NICU on Thursday with orders to treat him like any other newborn. He's healthy!

We spent one last night with our new friends at the Ronald McDonald House who plied him with affection and us with more baby goodies.

The 2.5 hour drive home went well; the little guy slept most of the way and didn't complain at all. Since then, we've just been enjoying being home again and are adjusting to our new lives together here. Eating, sleeping, and pooping seem to be Dylan's favorite activities at the moment.

We are still waiting for his birth mother to sign relinquishments - which should happen in the coming week.

We continue to appreciate your interest and good wishes. It is wonderful that Dylan has received such a warm welcome.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Darling Dylan Update






Thanks so much for all of the congrutulations and good wishes!

Dylan has now spent his first week in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), continues to improve. He’s graduated from a feeding tube to drinking vigorously from his own bottle and surpassed his birth weight a few days ago. There are no further sign of jaundice (he had to be under “the lights” for about 18 hours), and the infection we initially worried about appears to be gone, though we must conclude a full course of antibiotics. Yesterday, we even held him for quite awhile without any oxygen supplementation. It was so wonderful to be able to kiss his little face without any tubes in the way!

We think he is eager to come home. (We know we are!) Unfortunately, at this point we are guesstimating we’ll be here through Thursday since our rather tight-lipped pediatrician has said “middle of next week” and adoption relinquishment papers may be signed by then. We continue to admire V., his birth mom, who we now feel is part of our family too.

Who would’ve guessed we’d get to know this small city so well? We are extremely grateful to be able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House here. Not only are we saving a lot, but the staff and volunteers here are so warm, supportive, and accommodating. It is definitely making our extended stay more manageable.

Your continued interest in and support of our little family means the world to us.




Monday, October 12, 2009

He's Here!







We are so happy to introduce you to
DYLAN

Born on Friday, October 9, 2009
at 12:51 p.m.
5 lbs. 14 oz.; 18.25 inches

He is adorable and we are in love!

Unfortunately, rather than being delivered at 39 weeks of gestation as anticipated, the doctors believe he is closer to 35 weeks. So, he’s been having some trouble breathing without help and will be in the NICU at Crummy Hospital for about a week. Fortunately, it seems that all will be well; it’s just a matter of time.

V. is also doing well. She’s been a trouper following her c-section and was discharged almost exactly 48 hours after delivering. We feel so lucky to be in an open adoption with her!

We appreciate your continued good wishes and I can't wait to tell the whole story. Though it’s pretty hectic here, I’ll provide updates as we can.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fire Drill (Part III)

So, was the moment for which we've been waiting for years, and then months, and now weeks finally here? Were we about to become parents? We were on our way to the hospital with the expectant mom with whom we are matched, all thinking she'd deliver via c-section very, very soon.

When we met up with V. and D. at Fancy Hospital, she was out of breath. She explained that in the parking lot, she'd spied a car that suggested someone else was in the maternity ward, someone she didn't want to see. She was trying not to freak!

Heading upstairs, we approached each turn in the twisting hallways cautiously, peaking around to make sure V. wouldn't run into a situation she was really hoping to avoid. The elevator doors opened on the maternity floor and we could see and hear a big group of people stuffed in a little waiting room. We walked by them quickly and through the big double doors. V. squeaked, "They're there." But they apparently didn't see her. I tried to reassure her that they weren't expecting to see her here, and they were involved in their own drama.

At the end of the hall, there were four other very large, pregnant women in labor as well as assorted groupies lining the walls. Nurses were bustling around and it took a little while for V. to check in and get a seat; they rolled an office chair out. She was feeling uncomfortable, not just about avoiding people, but physically too. And she was getting nervous about what the next few hours would have in store. We tried to calm her down by chatting (probably inanely). For the first hour, I was interested in all that was going on around us...

But time wore on. I strolled the floor nervously and overheard a nurse on her mobile phone complaining about how incredibly crowded it was and how there were no beds left. (I did NOT share this info with V.) While we waited, two more women in labor (and their own entourages) came in. A nurse joked that they must have all been at the county fair and eaten something. Meanwhile, V. hid behind D. every time someone new turned the corner.

V. hadn't even been assessed yet.

Eventually, a nurse came and told most of us that we had to go to the waiting area. V. froze. We assured her we'd keep her apart from the people she didn't want to deal with. We went to the elevator bay and hung out there for awhile, seating V. in a wheelchair. After about 20 minutes, the nurse came back and rather gruffly told us that we couldn't hang out there, we needed to go to the maternity waiting area. We encouraged V. to explain to her why that wouldn't work. With some cajoling, she did eventually explain the situation to the nurse, who immediately became very apologetic. She told us we could go down to the waiting room at the entrance to the building, gave V. her cell number, and told her to call in 20 minutes to see if a bed had opened up.

Twenty-minutes passed. And twenty more. And twenty more. V. was getting more and more agitated....and M., D. and I were getting hungrier and hungrier (but we certainly weren't about to complain, since V. thought she shouldn't eat). During that time, in addition to calling the nurse and being told there was still not a bed, V. called her doctor, hoping he might be able to get her some attention, only to receive his answering service.

Finally, more than three hours after we arrived at Fancy Hospital, V. reached her doctor, and though he was there, he explained that they were over-crowded and encouraged her to go over to Mediocre Hospital. We debated whether it made sense to trek over there, since it was increasingly obvious as time marched on that she wasn't actually in active labor. At last, I think hoping to just get it all over with, she determined to head over there and see what they could do.

The emergency room's waiting area of Mediocre Hospital was packed, crowded with sick looking people, some even wearing face masks. V. must've said the magic word ("labor"), because the four of us were whisked into the emergency area. It's the first time I've actually been to a place that resembled the show ER! (Fortunately, no one came in while we were there with a GSW.)

V. talked with someone, filled out a few forms, and then had an aide wheel her across the huge maze of buildings. She talked with someone else and filled out some more forms, and then got wheeled to the maternity area where BINGO! she was given a room. A nice nurse asked her to disrobe, lie down, and strap up to the monitors. She did so reluctantly, expressing reservations that all of this would actually lead to delivery this evening. The nurse reassured V. she'd be back in 20 minutes to let her know what the monitors were indicating.

So, we settled in. Would you believe that "Sons of Anarchy," which D. described as a biker soap opera and his favorite show, was on TV? We'd never seen it, so it was interesting. But I was more fascinated by the monitors. One line was intended to show contractions, and sure enough, every now and again, there were little peaks and valleys. But more incredible to me, it showed and sounded a fast little heartbeat, and even better, crazy whooshing sounds every time the baby moved around. It was really cool! As V. had suggested, he is an active kid!!

Twenty minutes came and, you guessed it, went. Twenty more, and the nurse checked in, telling us that she had a call into the doctor, but it looked to her like the labor was not active and that the baby was in very good shape. Twenty more minutes. V. was getting really frustrated (and so were we). She asked about whether we should just leave. No one would make the decision for her. She was just about to give up when the nurse returned and told her the doctor had called and said she could continue to wait and be monitored further, or go home. She was done! She opted to go home.

Well, not really home. We were all starving! We headed back to the all night diner. She was annoyed and frustrated and disappointed and I think a little embarrassed. We reassured her that though we were disappointed there wasn't a baby to welcome tonight, we knew there would be soon, and that were were grateful for the extra time we got to spend with her.

M. and I briefly debated heading for home to save money and time. But it was so late and we were emotionally wrought. After hugging V. tight and encouraging her to rest, we headed back to the hotel and checked in again. We were a little numb from everything, and reviewed for ourselves all that had happened. There was a lot of strangeness, a lot of drama. But we still felt really good about V. and our match.

After M. did a bit of work remotely in the morning, and sending a deflated update email to key family and friends (and our house and cat sitter), we got back on the road, onto a highway we've come to know very well. Once we were back home sweet home, I blew off the urge to go into work in the afternoon and instead took a long nap.

Going back the next day was odd. The people who knew the details of our situation were surprised to see me. And I didn't feel like interacting much and explaining to those who didn't know what was up. I was able to make more progress on wrapping things up and on Friday afternoon, left my office with a clean desk and fairly clear conscience.

On Friday we sent V. an email, just letting her know that we'd made it home safely and reiterating that though we were sorry she'd been through so much in the last several days, we were excited about all the future has to hold and that we are so grateful to be matched with her. The next day we got a message back that brought tears to my eyes. V. said that she too appreciated the time we'd spent together, that she knows we will be wonderful parents, and that for the first time, she is feeling part of strong family.

So...we've been thinking that we'd be trekking back to her hometown for the c-section the doctor had previously suggested would be on Tuesday...assuming she didn't go into labor sooner. And she made it all the way to today, Monday, which means tomorrow is Tuesday. But what time is the surgery scheduled for? Should we head out this afternoon in time to have dinner with her this evening? We didn't hear from her in the morning.

I had kind of thought I'd leave work at noon, but without further word, I hung out and went to lunch with friends. Tick-tock, time wore on with no word. By the end of the afternoon, we were imagining all kinds of scenarios about why we hadn't heard whether there would be a birth - and whether we'd be at it - tomorrow.

When I got home, M. and I squeezed each other. Our nerves were fraying, and we were unsure how to handle it.

Finally, our need to know outweighing our desire not to harass her, we gave V. a call. D. answered, and sounded friendly and casual. Then he passed the phone to V. She said that they were just about to call us. She is so OVER the drama, and she again apologized for sucking us into the situation. She explained that she'd talked with the doctor's office today and they scheduled her for an appointment tomorrow about 10:30 a.m. At that point, the doctor will schedule a c-section; it could be for later in the day, or later in the week, or who knows?!

Things seem to be complicated by MediCal, and by his schedule and the desire to deliver at Fancy Hospital, rather than Crummy (not even Mediocre) Hospital. We still get the sense that he is really trying to help her out, and is trying to work the system within the system. Of course, it's not soon or easy enough for us and V.

Bottom line: there is no baby yet...but there
may be tomorrow. So please stay tuned!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fire Drill (Part II)

As I shared in my last post, though confused and anxious about whether the birth mom we're matched with was in labor, M. and I were exhausted and quickly fell into deep sleeps in our hotel room. We were startled awake about 2 a.m. by a phone call.

It was D.! He handed the phone to V. and she talked to M., but I could hear most of what she was saying. She was clearly agitated. They had tried to call us dozens of time over the last couple of hours. Where were we? Were we in a wreck? Did we know that we wouldn't become parents tonight?

Obviously, there was some problem with our toll-free number's call forwarding system. (Indeed, the next day when we checked the on-line call log, there were about 60 calls from D.'s phone.) AND we discovered the next day that I'd been trying to reach them on a number that was one digit off! So terrible. It's a wonder V. wanted to stay matched with us technodummies!

It turned out that V. and D. were calling from an all-night diner...about 30 yards from where we were in bed. We encouraged them to come on over.

Through a tired and sleepy fog, we listened to V.'s story of the evening. She was in pain and frustrated that her contractions hadn't shown on the monitor. She reassured us that all signs indicate the baby is doing well. After sympathizing for a bit, and apologizing profusely for the phone problems, we agreed to meet V. and D. at the same nearby diner for breakfast in just a few hours, before going to her OB as he'd instructed by phone earlier in the night's odyssey .

After a round of warm hugs, they left and we went back to sleep quickly.

D. called us the next morning when they were leaving the house, headed for breakfast and we met them at the diner a few minutes later. They both seemed better rested and V. was calmer. She was a bit sheepish about causing us to trek out there, but we assured her we were glad to do it. Then we followed them to the OB's office.

Unfortunately, her doctor wasn't there, but his partner and assistants were. After her exam, V. came out and told us that they thought she should return for her regularly scheduled appointment late the next afternoon and that it was likely that her doctor would send her then to the hospital to deliver (especially since he was headed out of town for the next four days.) Wow!

M. and I debated briefly whether we'd drive the 2.5 hours home that morning and return the next afternoon. Reasoning that 1. she might really go into labor before then and it would suck to have to drive so much in an even shorter period of time, and 2. if she didn't deliver the next day, we'd rather have only made the round trip drive and return home without a baby once than twice. So we decided to stay.

V. was eager to get home to sleep, as she'd been having trouble getting any rest during the last several nights. But before separating, we followed up an a something she'd mentioned earlier. She said she'd watched one of the recent "Adoption Diaries" on TV and liked how the birth and adoptive families had gotten together to have a nice dinner. She said it wistfully, believing there wouldn't be a an opportunity for us to do something similar.

With this new time frame, M. and I asked whether she'd like to invite a few friends to join us for dinner at a restaurant of her choice that evening. She seemed to like the idea, and we agreed to talk again after she woke up from a nap, but that we'd likely rendezvous at the Italian restaurant where she'd originally hoped we'd have our match meeting a few weeks ago. Then M. and I were on our own for several hours.

We went back to the hotel and napped ourselves. M. did a little work, we watched some TV. Then after a fruitless search for someplace still serving a good lunch after 2:30 p.m., we picked up a little picnic at the supermarket and ate at a nice park before heading into the near by hills. D. had told us that a beautiful river canyon was close by. He was right.

We drove about 20 minutes along the narrow road that became more twisted as we gradually ascended. On a Monday afternoon, there weren't many others on the road. The sun was beginning to get low in the sky and the light was beautiful. M. found a nice turnoff and we scrambled a bit (I wish I'd worn better shoes!) down the rocks to get to the river, which was surprisingly swift for this late, dry time of year. Of course, my photographer husband was in his element. And of course, I was getting anxious about being out of cell service range.

In the end, I think we spent long enough in the quiet canyon to feel we'd gotten away to a beautiful, natural place without risking a repeat of the previous night's phone contact crisis.

Shortly after we returned to the hotel, V. called. She said to M., "I hope you're not too mad..." which he reported caused him to catch his breath, "but I'm craving Mexican now." Of course we weren't mad...especially since that's one of our favorite cuisines!

We found the place without problem and saw that V. and D. were waiting for us as we pulled in. As we crossed the parking lot, we saw another couple, with the guy sporting a leather jacket with the name of D.'s motorcycle club on the back. So we introduced ourselves and were already chatting amicably when we approached smiling V. and D.

It was a nice meal. Mostly it was casual conversation, though occasionally V. would confess to being a little freaked out about what she was facing the next day. We had the friendly server take a few photos of us all, which I hope will make it into our son's baby book someday.

Since the evening was still young, V. asked us if we'd like to see her friend's tattoo shop. Since we know that this friend (I'll call him Doc Johnny), is an important person in her life, and that she spends a lot of time in the shop, we told her we'd love it.

I suppose now is a good time to say that M. and I always kinda assumed we'd become a trans-racial family through adoption. As it turns out, we won't (most likely, assuming this situation goes through). But, it is definitely a trans-cultural adoption!! One of the things we really appreciate about this situation - and I think V. does too - is that we have very different backgrounds. Despite that, we've found a lot of common ground. In fact, I think we are all enjoying learning about people who live very different lives - for whatever reason - than we do.

Doc Johnny and his tattoo shop were fascinating. It's packed (neatly) with totems he's collected from working all over the world. He is a true artist. He says that it's been a tough way to make a living and he wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but it's allowed him to support his family, travel to interesting places, and do something he enjoys. We looked through his big book of photos of his work, and I must say there were beautiful pieces...and I just can't grasp how some people can do some of those things to their bodies.

We explored the shop and learned more about tattooing for awhile, and then we received a high honor: an invitation to the "club house." Doc Johnny roared off on his big bike with D. and V. in hot pursuit in his big truck and us putting along behind in our little Subaru, listening to the local NPR station's classical music.

The motorcycle group's "club house" is a storefront in an old - though not extremely derelict - part of town. As I told D. later, it is what I suspect many boys (and girls!) fantasize about as kids...except it's not in a tree. It's a big open space with several comfy couches, card tables and chair, a big jukebox blasting tunes, an area to pull up their bikes, a trophy case, and a big bar with stools. Behind the bar, holding the bottles of booze, is a coffin.

There were about a half-dozen club members there, and I was delighted to see the ease with which V. introduced us. They all seemed to understand who we are and why she was bringing us around. They were polite and friendly. They offered us beer. V. told us there were plans for a meeting later in the evening. I asked her what they meet about, and she said that she'd been curious about that too. Then she found out it was usually just about coordinating an upcoming ride or something, and the last time these big, tough looking guys had an official meeting, it was to decide whether to get club hoodies or regular sweatshirts. Hee!

M. played a round of pool, and I chatted more, mostly with V. but also with some of the others. Since she said they'd wait for us to leave before meeting, and I could tell she was getting tired and couldn't leave until D. had met with his buddies, we wrapped things up.

D. and V. walked us to our car and we encouraged them to call us if they needed to be in touch before we'd planned to meet again at the OB's office the next day.

After marveling together for awhile about all we were experiencing, M. and I turned in and were able to sleep surprisingly well. In the morning (now Tuesday), we had the pretty decent breakfast at the hotel and decided to check out since we didn't want to pay for another night we might not need since 1. we'd heard that its not uncommon for hospitals to offer empty rooms to adoptive parents while birth moms are there, or 2. she might not deliver that evening after all.

We loaded the car back up ad headed to the County Museum, which is a large park with a collection of historic buildings from around the area. It was a great way to spend several hours. The weather had gotten a lot cooler and there weren't many people around. We could just wander. In fact, we left and got a good lunch (at someplace we'd researched in advance) and came back.

As the time for V.'s 5 p.m. appointment approached, we were staying pretty calm. We even spent about 45 minutes just lounging on a picnic bench, speculating on how things would go, talking about the oddity of the situation, and just holding each other close.

We got to the office a little early and M. posted a photo we'd taken several days before to Face*book. It's of us sitting on the back bumper of the car, with the car seat next to us and the hatch full of other baby-related items. It shows that we were ready to hit the road to meet our child!

He finished up just as V. and D. arrived. She and I confessed to feeling really nervous. The guys just kind of nodded in agreement. We waited together for a bit in the glitzy waiting room. A few other pregnant people came and went. I speculated that the doctor wanted to see V. last, so then he could send her to the hospital and meet her over there.

Finally, he called her in personally, greeting us as well. The exam didn't take long, and then V. re-emerged saying,

"Well, it looks like we're on our way to the hospital".....

Fire Drill (Part I)

Well....


Last Sunday evening, we were enjoying a delivery pizza and some good red wine with our friends Anne and Andy when the phone rang. It was V., who explained that she'd been experiencing painful contractions and thought we should stand by because "tonight might be the night." We told her, "no problem, we are ready to go!" She told us she'd call back if things seemed to be progressing.


We hung up and....squealed!!! And jumped around a bit!! The Raggedies were a good audience.


We tried to settle down to watch the big show: the season premier of The Amazing Race, our favorite. During commercial breaks, we scurried around, making sure we truly were ready to go at a moment's notice. M. watered plants and washed dishes. I can't quite remember what I did, other than run around, but I'm sure it was productive!


The first contestants had just made their way to Phil and the mat when V. called again. She said she couldn't take it anymore and was headed to the hospital.


Oh, boy!


We both jumped in the shower, checked and double checked our various lists, and we set off. Once on the road we did a few things:

- M. drove carefully but faster than usual, with intense concentration.

- I called my mom and told her we'd keep in touch when there was more news.

- I called M. sister and told her the same.

- I called the agency as instructed. The operator patched us through to the on-call social worker, who happened to be S., our adoption counselor. She sounded excited for us. I asked what we were supposed to do when we arrived, and she encouraged us to go on up to labor and delivery.

- I recalled some good advice I received on my wedding day: take some "mental snapshots" of special moments. This will make it easier to recall a few things in the blur.


We were a little more than half-way and just out of a mountain pass when we decided to run into a service station for a bathroom break and something to drink. Alas, we left the cell phone in the car. Fortunately, we thought to look at it when we returned two minutes later, and sure enough, there was a message from D. He indicated that he thought they'd be sending V. home, and asked us to call him. We tried to call him back but couldn't reach him. So begins a very sad part of the story.

Pulling into the parking lot at the hospital, we tried to call again. No response. Were they still there? We debated what to do. Ultimately, we decided to go in. Because it was about 11:30 p.m., we had to enter through the emergency room, which was crammed with sick and uncomfortable looking people. After inquiring, we were sent on up to Labor and Delivery.

The elevator doors opened on a calm, quiet floor. Behind closed doors, we could hear the occasional cry of a tiny baby. Some further exploration finally yielded a nurses' station where we inquired about her. They directed us to her room. So she WAS still there.

I knocked softly. No response. I opened the door slowly and whispered. No response. I went on in. No V! She wasn't even in the bathroom. Finally, a more in-the-know nurse clued us in that they had indeed released her about 45 minutes earlier.

So back to the parking lot in a quandary we went. We tried calling again.

Briefly we debated heading home. Then we decided better and headed to a hotel that M. had scouted out online. I called and found they had availability, in fact at a good rate better than advertised on the net. We headed over there, concerned about V. and not sure what to do.

We checked in and headed to bed. I'd just drifted off when the phone rang. But no one was there.

We were both sound asleep about 2 a.m. when the phone rang again....

Friday, September 25, 2009

Game On

Will it be tonight? Or in two weeks? I don't know about you, but my stomach can't take much more of this guessing. What's needed here is some premonition...and I ain't got none. What about you?

Taking a page from the play book of my blogging buddy Bobby at Those Two Daddies, I'm now announcing a Baby Birth Betting Pool. Have a sense of when the little guy might show up? Got a good dose of experience with such things and willing to take an educated guess? Or just unable to resist the urge to gamble? Well, now's your chance to put it on the line!

Here's how this contest is gonna work:
  • Leave a comment on this post with the date and time the baby will be born. (And if you have a reason why you're putting your chips on that number, let me know.)
  • "Price is Right" rules: person who comes closest without going over wins!
  • You must post before we indicate we're on the road to greet him.
  • At some point, I'll announce the big winner and the amazing prize (hmmm...that's still TBD; but trust me, it won't be fabulous but it will be fun.)
To level the playing field, I'll share all of the relevant info now.
  • V.'s due date is Oct. 16th, but...
  • Her c-section is scheduled for Oct. 6th, and...
  • She and her doctor say it could be any time.
  • The baby's been in position and there have been other signs of eminent labor (do the words "mucus plug" mean anything to you?) for more than a week.
  • V.'s been telling us for about a week that she's experiencing contractions. But they aren't consistent.
  • Our counselor has told us she can't count the number of birth mothers who thought they were going into labor weeks before they actually did. I suspect that once they feel good about the adoption plan they've made, they are eager to get it over with.
  • V. told us tonight that she hasn't been feeling well. She has a cold.
  • She went into labor with her first son almost two weeks after his due date.
Let the game begin. Now, good luck and have fun!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Emergency Preparedness

Urgent maintenance and repairs have been made, the gas tank has been filled, and the Subaru is packed to bursting. In it, we've got a car seat (still too superstitious to take it out of the box). We've got a Moses Basket that could cradle a little one for several days if we need to be in a hotel with the little guy while V. is still in the hospital recovering from her c-section. Filling it are some tiny adorable outfits, a few of which V. gave US at our match meeting, and a few of which our friends Marc and Jennifer gave us when they came over on Saturday with lots of wonderful hand-me-downs from their two wonderful boys. (THANK YOU!)

The baby's room now has a dresser ready to become a changer (a $250 Heywood-Wakefield sideboard steal!) and the rocker M. gave me for my birthday. The cat box and all of the artwork we still haven't hung since moving in in January are out and Marc and Jennifer's co-sleeper is in, ready to move to our bedroom when the time is right.

My wonderful friend and colleague Lisa couldn't resist plying us with a few useful baby items. (THANK YOU!) They and the few other things we've collected have been washed in sensitive skin detergent, folded and placed in the drawers. I've made some extra room in "my" closet in the room.

Lisa's got a key to the house and instructions to contact the former student with whom we've arranged to house and cat sit when the time is right. We're giving the cat lots of attention in preparation for being gone for awhile.

All of our electronic helpers (hassles?) are charged and ready to go: the cell phones, the cameras, the lap top. We have lists of family, friends, and colleagues - updated by my helpful sister-in-law (THANK YOU!) - ready to notify whenever there is news.

M. keeping the garden well quenched. The house is clean, and we're even keeping on top of the dishes, laundry, and bill paying.

A small, sentimental gift for V. has been ordered; I give it a 50/50 chance of arriving before we have to head out.

We're working late and hard to get on top of our professional responsibilities as much as possible. I've contacted my HR department and filled out my request for a leave of absence. I know who to call when there is a "life changing event" and we need to add a "dependent" to our insurance.

We've got a map of V.'s home town and know where the hospital is, the pro's and con's of various hotels in the area, where the Target and Traders Joe's are, and have even printed a (short) list of recommended restaurants from ChowHound.com.

We've canceled any upcoming plans to be more than a half-hour apart or further from home in the next few days. We've got lists prepped to remind us to lock the doors, set the AC, and bring the cat in if we need reminding in a state of panic.

But are we ready??? H-e-double-hockey-sticks NO!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

...and Closer

Friday was great. The drive was uneventful and went quickly, with me reading through all the relevant stuff provided by our agency, and Matt putting the petal to the metal.

When we pulled into the parking lot, I saw D's big old Bronco. We hadn't expected him to be there, but were delighted. He's been such a great support to V. Next to it was a nice Prius. I joked that it must be the social worker's. Sure 'nuf, when we left three and a half hours later, that's what she got into! Interesting symbols...

M. spotted a Carrow's worker making her way into the restaurant ahead of us and quipped, "Little does she know, she'll be serving us her entire shift." He wasn't too far off.

When we walked up, D. was at the door, on the lookout for us. V. and S., the social worker, had already been meeting for more than an hour. It was great to see V. She seemed happy to see us, and her big belly looked even rounder and lower. I told her truthfully that I'd been feeling really good and excited until just a few minutes before when nerves took over. She said that she'd had the same experience. S. had been walking her through a lot of paperwork, and talking about the process for terminating parental rights. I'm sure it must have been very emotional.

Anyway, we chitchatted with nervous energy for a bit, and then S. got us down to business. First she asked me and M. to talk about our "love story," which was fun to do. She asked us about our childhoods, etc. Then she asked V. about her childhood, which was very challenging. She's been through a lot, so its impressive to me that she's been able to stay focused enough to make an adoption plan. She really wants a better life for her child.

S. asked us all a bunch more questions. What was really nice is that we had already talked about most of it. M. and I had decided that at this meeting, we needed to reveal something we feared might be a real turn off to V., and when an opening came up, we waded tentatively into it by telling her there was something we didn't want her to be surprised to learn later, but that we worried a bit about how she'd react. She looked a little concerned. Matt confessed: we're vegetarian. There was a big look of relief! "That's no problem. I was a vegetarian for awhile too!"

Later in the conversation, when we were talking about the hospital experience, who she wanted to be there (D. in the operating room, us there with the baby immediately after) and who she didn't, V. said, "Well, there's something I've been kinda worried about telling you guys." Uh oh. "If my friends visit me, they'll probably be wearing leather." She and D. explained that D. is part of a bike club, and that many of the people who have been encouraging her in her adoption plan are their buddies who have tattoos and wear jackets with a skull on the back and the name of the club, which is a "bad" word. Both V. and D. really wanted us to know that these are good, caring people, and that we shouldn't be intimidated by their looks.

M. assured her that we didn't care; if they are friends of hers, they are friends of ours. I did thank her for letting us know, so that I could warn my mother!

Finally we wrapped things up. S. gave us more paperwork to bring to the hospital. It turns out, the IAC won't have a representative there (unless there is a problem) and we have to give V. the termination papers. A little weird...S. did say that she'd contact the hospital on Monday to give the social workers there a heads up about this being an adoption situation and about the various arrangements we'd discussed regarding caring for the baby while he and/or V. are in the hospital, etc.

Then M. and I followed D. and V. in the old Bronco to her doctor's appointment. My goodness, it was the chicest office I've ever been to! As M. said, it looks like HGTV has been here. I was delighted to see that the receptionist and others knew V. and treated her with friendly respect. We waited with D. in the waiting room for awhile, while V. was getting checked out and then they called the three of us back.

The assistant who took us back congratulated us and told us that she was adopted, AND that Dr. H. is adopted. Cool!

Poor V. was stretched out in an uncomfortable position, waiting for the doctor to come back and give her the ultrasound. Several minutes later, he showed up and introductions were made. My initial impressions? Very nice (but not overly friendly) and YOUNG!

He hooked up the machine and squirted V.'s big belly with the goo that she reported was painfully cold. Immediately, there were blobs on the screen.

Truthfully, I expected this to be a very emotional moment. It was definitely special, but for me it was more interesting intellectually than emotionally stirring. I think that's partly because the baby was not in a position in which his features could be easily identified. That's an ear? Okay, doc, we'll take your word for it.

He is reluctant to schedule the c-section date and will wait until her 38th week to do so (around Oct. 6th). But he said it could be anytime now. The baby looks healthy; I asked if he could tell how much the baby weighs now. He thinks about six pounds.

We talked about how if it is a scheduled c-section, it will be at one hospital, but if she goes into labor, it becomes an emergency c-section and she can go to any hospital, including the one where they both prefer to deliver.

The appointment wrapped up with the doctor telling us we were doing a really good thing, and me expressing what I'm truly feeling, that we are very fortunate. We shook his hand again, thanked him for his special care of V., and told him we'd see him soon. Weird!

We walked out into the afternoon heat and all breathed a deep sigh of relief. V. admitted being exhausted. We took awhile to say goodbye, letting her know we'd be ready to be back as soon as she needs us to be.

...which might be tonight. She called earlier and spoke briefly to M. She thinks she may be having contractions.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Getting Closer

We'd had plans for months to spend a long weekend in San Diego last weekend, a couple of days at a B&B in M.'s old neighborhood and a couple of days camping at the beach with my brother and his family, who were out from Arizona. So when we didn't hear from V. after her appointment on Thursday afternoon as anticipated, we started stressing. Might she be in trouble and unable to call? Or could the baby have arrived and somehow we'd missed connecting? Or, most probably, had she changed her mind about placing and neglected to tell us?

I scrambled to finish things up as much as possible at work, but then arrived home to a big decision: to go, or not to go to San Diego? And if we go, for how long? Our nights at the B&G were non-refundable.

M. was operating under the assumption that we would go, but just until Sunday because V. had told him she suspected the baby would be born on Tuesday (not sure why she was thinking that; something about her doctor's schedule...) Not having heard from her, I was especially eager to escape to the beach. So I convinced him to add our camping gear to our stuff so that we could stay longer if the circumstances enabled it. I declare that I didn't want to live our lives on the edge of our seats waiting for this baby - who may or may not become ours - to be born. (Fortunately, due to someone's superpower - organization - it was quick and easy to get the gear together.) Off we went.

We had a nice drive down and checked into our accommodations: kinda shabby and funky but charming, with a kinda shabby and funky but charming inn keeper. Then we began exploring the neighborhood and the adjacent canyon on foot. According to M., the area has really gentrified! There were all kinds of trendy restaurants and shops along the main stretch. We settled into a chic wine bar over two nice glasses and an abundant cheese plate. As we were wrapping up, my cell phone rang (a rare occurrence). It was V.

She apologized for not calling earlier, and we ensured her it was no problem! She told us that all had gone well at her appointment yesterday. She had been concerned because she was experiencing less movement, and the doctor encouraged her to drink apple juice. She has been, and the kid's perked up. They did end up sending her to the hospital for some more extensive monitoring and reported that she IS having contractions...but they are NOT labor related. Her due date has been revised to October 16th (again with the caveat that she may not make it that long). This was especially good news, as it puts her close to 36 weeks of gestation.

And she asked us to join her at her doctor's appointment tomorrow! Of course, we are honored and thrilled.

Since we're headed out to see her, we're going to use the occasion for an official "match meeting." We've been assigned a new adoption counselor, S., who will see us through the rest of the process. M. and I haven't met her yet, but our interaction with her on the phone so far has been positive. She seems responsive, empathetic, and professional...as evidenced by her willingness to drive out to the boonies to meet us with V. this week.

Before we rendezvous with V., S. will pick her up and they will do some counseling and probably sign some pre-termination papers, etc. Then we'll meet up with them at Carrows. (M. and I are kinda hoping this doesn't become "our" restaurant, in light of its limited veggie menu). We'll go through all kinds of things together, including things how V. wants the hospital experience to go, naming, circumcision, contact after birth, etc., etc. Fortunately, I think we've already talked about most of these things with V., so we're not expecting a lot surprises. I am a little nervous that we may share something - such as our atypical diet - that will turn her off. But we've resolved to continue to be open and honest.

After the looooong meeting, we'll accompany V. to the doctor's appointment that will likely include an ultrasound. Oh, my! Following that, we've offered to take her shopping to get some pants that fit (we've joked about how quickly she's growing out of jeans she thought were huge at one point) or something nice and comfy for the hospital. But, I'm guessing that it will be a very long day and she'll be too tired. And truth be told, I'm sure we'll be exhausted too after the intensity of it all.

With most of these details settled, we were able to REALLY relax and enjoy the rest of our weekend, staying through Monday evening. (M. had to get back to deal with an unexpected work crisis on Tuesday morning, but this gave us most of that day to get more on top of all the things I needed to, to feel a bit more prepared, such as seven - seven! - loads of laundry and getting the timing belt on the Subaru replaced.

The water was so warm and clear. We loafed about and caught up with family. Both of us got a bit more sun that we should've but it felt like an end-of-the-summer priveledge. We board and body surfed and built drip castles. The weather was just about perfect and we really enjoyed each others' company.

We returned home late on Monday night to several big packages, a few of them "essential" baby-related items including a car seat. M. and I have resolved that we'll pack an overnight bag - but not more - to take with us tomorrow, in case we end up needing to stay longer than expected. :)

Work this week (ummm, TWO days) has been crazy busy. But when I left (very late) this evening, I sent an email to my boss and assistant with a five page To Do list for all of my major programs and projects this fall. I told them that I anticipated being able to make further progress before needing to take my parental leave but that the info was incase they need to pick up where I've left off, and that I appreciated their support of our adoption. My boss also signed my leave application, with blank dates. So I'm feeling a bit more like the details are coming together.

I just hope it is not all for naught....

(Sorry I haven't found time or energy to provide more consistant updates; I'm afraid it doesn't bode well for my ability to keep up with blogging during early parenthood. Thanks, though, to all who have been in touch and/or sent your good thoughts and encouragement our way. I hope to have more good news - and to share it - soon!)