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.