Friday, December 24, 2010

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Hang a shining star upon the highest bough...

Wherever you are, whatever you believe, may the new year bring peace, health, and happiness to you and yours.
video

Monday, December 20, 2010

What's In A Name - Part III

Naming in adoption can get tricky. I've already devoted two posts to it in the past.

What isn't so tricky is all of the loving little nicknames we've given Dylan. It seems like with each new phase, he earns some silly new moniker. Here are the ones that come to mind:

Golden Nose, because he came out of the womb with this unusual gleam. (We subsequently learned that it was caused teeny-tiny pimples that disappeared not long after we brought him home.) We saw it as a sign of his inner radiance ;).


Bright Eyed Boy - As soon as Dylan could open his eyes, they became his most prominent feature. There is just something so magical about his deep, dark eyes and the way they sparkle.


Burrito Baby - Once we mastered the swaddle and our kid slept a lot better, we became huge fans of The Happiest Baby on the Block. (Can't you just tell what he's thinking in the photo below? "I want my Binky!" Well, have no fear: he often earned another, related nickname: Baby Houdini.)


Cobra - Our son always seemed to enjoy his "tummy time." From very early, it seemed to us that he had unusal strength in his upper body, and at just a few months old, he began extending his arms, arching his back, and posing in this yoga pose.


Inchie - From Cobra, Dylan moved fairly quickly on to inchworming. It was his fist self-directed, forward motion and it was adorable.


Bozo - Our boy was born with quite a lot of lovely, dark straight hair. That grew. But it grew in a strange pattern, first just in tight curls at the top of his head, and one goofy lock on the side of his head. Since that tuft would get fluffy, he of course drew references to a certian clown.



The Hurdler - Since he's been able to sit on his own, Dylan has surprised us with the poses he finds comfortable. One of his favorites is to jut one leg out straight in front of him and to tuck the other behind himself. Of course, his former track star daddy immediately recognized that his boy is already practicing to make it over the high hurdles.


Butterstein - So, one day we fed Dylan some green beans bathed in butter. That day, he was especially interested in his hair, which by that time had grown out to a fairly uniform length and gentle wave. Naturally, he put his greasy fingers into his coif and the result was a 'do reminescent of Albert Einstein. Since then, he's had many crazy hair days, caused by things like sleep, rolling on the floor, and applying yogurt to his locks, but we always refer to the original gel.


(Photo taken by Auntie Lisa)

Of late, now that he's toddling and super curious, I've taken to calling him Destructo. No explanation necessary. Of course, we're attempting interference rather than snapping photos whenever he's earning that name...

Last by not least, no matter what stage he's in, or how old he gets, I know that Dylan will always and forever be my precious, special boy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Look Who's Walking Now!


video



Dylan First Steps


Since I can't get my act together to create a traditional "baby book," I've intended to use this space to chronicle Dylan's development. Alas, you all see how well - or poorly - I've done with that. It turns out that blogging regularly is one of the things, along with exercise and a social life, that have been squeezed out of my life by the full-time work/parenting combo.

But I've caught a few moments now and want to share what I can.
Obviously, the big news is that just a few days before his 14th month, Dylan began walking, and this morning for the first time, I noticed that he seems to prefer getting around on two legs rather than on four limbs. (We'll see if that's still true this evening when he's tired.)

Truthfully, I'm surprised that it's taken our little guy so long to stand up and get going. I haven't been worried about him; I know that all kids develop differently, and that though some parents can boast that their kids were toddling around at nine months, there was not yet any cause for concern with our boy. What I didn't expect was that he'd be inchworming (at eight months), then bear walking (at nine months), then speed crawling (at ten months), then cruising (at eleven months), then jamming around the house with his walking toys (since around his first birthday), and then "walkin' with the one-finger assist" (since shortly after that) for so long. I kept thinking he was so close to taking his first independent steps, but then another week would go by.

For a couple of weeks now, his cruising has advanced to include a few shuffling steps between couch and ottoman, for instance. And more and more, he'd stand up on his own, pick things up, throwing balls, etc. without any locomotion. But finally, the other night, we had bonafide first steps...and (in an incredible stroke of good luck, since it's rare) I had my iPh*ne with me.
I was in the living room, M. and Dylan were in our bedroom. M. shouted, "Hon, come look at this!" But I didn't have to go anywhere, because into the living room toddled my little boy.

In one hand, he was holding a wooden flute M. had picked up in Ecuador that we'd just given to him to distract him from other items he was going after in the bedroom. In the other, he was holding his precious Puppy. I think he wanted to show me the flute, but he wasn't willing to put his lovey down. Dylan could crawl very easily with an item in one hand, but carrying TWO things made getting up and walking a necessity. So up he went and off he went.

The vid is just moments after I applauded his accomplishment and encouraged him to show his daddy the flute. Who knows how far he would've gone if we all hadn't gotten so excited about it!

Since then, he's had several "repeat performances," going a bit further and not requiring two hands full, but he definitely still showed a preference for the speed and accuracy of crawling. But after this morning, I suspect we've truly entered a new phase: life with a toddler.

When I've mentioned this to others, they all get a sympathetic look in their eyes and say something akin to "oh, I hope you've baby proofed" or "he'll really keep you on your toes now." Uh-ooh.

Yes, the last couple of months, as Dylan's mobility and determination have increased, have been a lot more challenging. Long gone are the days when we could strap him into his bouncy seat and clean the garage while he contentedly fiddled with a toy. He now requires constant, vigilant supervision. And it's exhausting. Will it get even harder?

But he's also so much fun now.

He understand so much of what we say, sometimes it startles me. How did Dylan know what I meant when I suggested he smell a blooming rose? I'd never done it before. Then I remembered that Paul smells the flowers in his "Pat the Bunny" book. It's so cool that now I can say, "go get your brush" and he'll DO it!

Dylan's comprehension is impressive to me, but he still hasn't articulated much. He babbles all the time, and its fun to hear him mimic the tone or cadence of our voices. He's insisted that a dog says "arff! arff!" for months now, and recently he's learned that a dinosaur says "rrrrhhhrr!!" Still, it's rare we'll hear him say something intelligible. Everyone agrees, however, that he has uttered his first, easily-understood and consistently applied word: "BALL!" Usually followed by "ball! ball! ball!!!"

Now he is really playing - stacking blocks, moving cars around, throwing (and catching!) balls of various sizes, opening and closing doors to play peak-a-boo, "diapering" his stuffed gorilla. He is still a bibliophile, pulling book after book from his shelf. Often, he'll spread one out on the floor in front of himself and flip through the pages, pointing at things and making sure we notice them. Not infrequently, he'll find something on a page and we'll hear "arff! arff!" or "ball!" and sure enough, he's "reading."

For quite awhile, he was a terror on the changing table, wiggling and squirming so much I feared he'd fall off. Now I can ask him to help, and he (usually) lifts appropriate body parts at the right times, even offering a foot to go into a pant leg and such.

Dylan has always loved bathtime, and as he gets older, his fun in the tub just seems to increase. He's got a few favorite toys that he scoots around and splashes with, but he gets by far the most enjoyment when we let the cup pour into the water or onto him from higher and higher.

Our boy is now not just a walker, he's a climber. Though (thankfully!) I haven't seen it myself, I received a report from the park that he climbs all the way up the big slide ladder, fusses and pouts for awhile at the top, and then finally decides the easiest way down is plopping on his bottom, letting go, and woshing down the slide. Oh, my!

I've always thought Dylan was a pretty good eater, and maybe he still is, comparatively. But the list of finger foods that make it into his mouth rather than getting thrown off his tray and onto the floor is shrinking and concerningly scares of vegetables. His favorites right now: yogurt, grapes, apple, tofu, and J*oe's O's. He will no longer eat cheese (unless its melted on pizza) or peas. Increasingly, he's interested in what's on our plates and will fuss until we offer him some, only then to send it flying over board. For awhile, I took some pride in the balanced, healthy "meals" my son ate because they focused on whole-grains and veggies. Now I happy if he'll just eat the same stuff his folks do.

As with his eating, Dylan's sleeping pattern seems to go through phases. Napping is kind of a crap shoot these days. Fortunately, he continues to be a very good sleeper at night, usually going down around 8:30 p.m. and rarely peeping until around 6:30 a.m. or even later. In the last week or so, he's been doing something I find so adorable: he loves this little plastic music maker some of my friends from work gave him. You press a button, lights flash, and it plays one of a half-dozen or so simple, classical tunes such as Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Well, one day M. put it in Dylan's crib with him for a nap, and he played with it quietly until he fell asleep. Now, rather than being awoken ourselves with some whining and the beginnings of tears to let us know he's up, some lovely little electronic tunes will come floating down the hallway from the boy's room. If we're lucky - like we were this weekend - we can extend our snoozing for twenty or so minutes while he continues to make his music.

At other times in the day, when he plays his music box or he hears music from some other source, he'll do a little dance. When he's seated, its waving his arms and moving his feet around. When he's standing, he puts his whole little body into it. My favorite is when he dances while I'm holding him and we can boop joyfully around together. The kid has more rhythm than I do!

For awhile, I was a bit disappointed because part of Dylan's growing independence seemed to include a lack of interest in snuggling. Almost as soon as he'd finished his bottle (which is down to just three times a day and should be even less), he'd want to be up and playing or pointing sleepily to his bed. Sure, I'd give him lots of kisses and hugs anyway, but often he'd just push me away...which is a hard thing for a momma to take! Somthing has change this week, however, and I hope it's more than just a phase. He offers lots of hugs, has snuggled with us in bed in the mornings, and is full of kisses.

There is just something about slobbery little smacks that makes my world a better place.



Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Holidays

There have been so many fragments of posts floating around in my head for the past several weeks but no time to sit down and form them into coherent writing. However, I know time will get only more scarce in the next weeks, and so I want to get a few things out now, inarticulate as I may be.

Thanksgiving
Last year at this time, I was a brand new mother, filled with some awe about how much my life had changed in the six or so weeks since Dylan arrived.

Now, I'm the mom of an almost-toddler, and I still can't believe how much has changed in such a short period. Of course, I continue to be grateful to be parenting such a great, great kid. Dylan is amusing, challenging, and inspiring. I think I tell him - and the universe - everyday how fortunate I feel to be his mommy.

This Thanksgiving, I want to express my gratitude for all of the people who have helped us through this major transition in life. From close family to new acquaintances (virtual and "real"), so many people have generously offered their support. And we have relied on it. From providing hours upon hours of loving care to our son, to thoughtful gifts and hand-me-downs, to just sending good wishes across the Internet, the assistance has been so, so valuable. It has cheered us through the inevitable ups and downs of new parenting and made our lives easier, richer, and often more fun.

This year, our family will be observing the holiday in a way that is atypical for us: we'll be going to a nice buffet at a hotel restaurant. I am sure there will be a point - probably when the server removes my last plate - when I will miss having the tasty leftovers that usually accompany Thanksgiving. But mostly I am so glad that we mutually agreed to avoid the burden of cooking and cleaning that is so often inevitable on such occasions in favor of emphasizing what is really important to us: enjoying each others' company.

While I am celebrating with several of the people who have been the most supportive to us, I will also be thinking of those people who we aren't able to be with this year. I want them to understand how grateful I am for their love, and for their eagerness to truly be a part of the "village" that is raising this child. I want them all to know what a difference - in big and small ways - they are making in Dylan's life, in my life. Thank you.

Halloween
Doesn't this blog seem to be missing something? Yep, photos of a kid in a cute costume. Well, I'll have to rectify that!

I've always gotten a big kick out of Halloween. It's an excuse to get creative, dress up, and be silly! In fact, I have many fond memories of the holiday from my childhood. Truthfully, I barely remember trick-or-treating, though I do recall vividly coming home with a bag full of loot, spreading it out on the living room carpet, and then entering high-stakes candy trading negotiations with my brothers. What I remember most was talking and planning with my parents about what I'd "be" and how we'd make the costume. How old was I when my dad spray painted a box silver, my mom crafted tinfoil antennae, and I added red reflective tape buttons and a heart to become a robot? How delicately did my mother explain to me why, in junior high, I might want to tone down my "dance hall girl" outfit? How was it that, even when she became a single mom, working full-time and going to school, she managed to find time to sew capes and carve pumpkins?

Anyway, as Halloween approached this year, I had to temper my expectations. First of all, last year, new to our neighborhood, we were very disappointed to only have a few kids come to our door. (And most of them were so old that they barely qualified as kids.) Secondly, Dylan is too young to go trick-or-treating. In fact, I worried he wouldn't be able to tolerate a costume at all.

So, I ended up being very pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable the day was. We started it by putting Dylan in his booster seat so he could watch and "participate" while M. carved a pumpkin that eventually found its way onto our front porch.






In the afternoon, we hosted a small "Halloween Happy Hour." My dad and Dylan's aunt from Texas were in town, and his Auntie M. and Uncle B. also were excited to celebrate with us. We've been wanting to get to know our neighbors better, and this seemed like a good excuse. We invited those in the homes closest to ours over for some autumn ale and sweet treats.

Ultimately, we were joined by a couple who live two doors down from us. Though we are about the same age, they have a 20 year old, an 18 year old...and now a five month old. They are very nice, friendly people and we'd like to get to know them better, especially since our son and their daughter could well be play-mates. We were also joined by another neighbor whose daughter and her five week old baby boy are staying with her now. Additionally, some good friends who live close by brought their little girl, born in May, over. So, at one point we had four babies (plus Auntie L.'s sweet dog, who is her baby) hanging out on the porch!

And Dylan didn't just tolerate his costume, he loved it! Make that: he loved both of them. Back in August, Auntie M. called from Costc* and said there were some adorable costumes. Did we want Dylan to be a duck, a frog, a monkey, or a ladybug? M. immediately responded, "A ladybug!" You see, at the time Dylan was fixated by a toy ladybug that hung from his floor gym. So his auntie got him the ladybug costume...It was only later that it occurred to us our son would be a cross-dresser for his first Halloween!



In the two months between the ladybug costume purchase and the big day, Dylan became even more fascinated with dogs, barking at anything and everything on four legs. And so I couldn't resist: I also got him a little puppy outfit.


Our guests were greeted by the ladybug and midway through our Happy Hour, the boy had a costume change. He was adorable in both. It was so precious to see him interacting with the other little kids in their costumes!



I am already excited about next Halloween, when we may be able to go trick-or-treating. I wonder what our two year-old will want to be?

Anniversary
Though it is not a national holiday, each fall now we celebrate another important date: our wedding anniversary. This year, thanks to M.'s good planning, we were able to score a cottage at Crystal Cove State Park, which made it a really special get-away.



We were joined for a long weekend by M.'s sister and brother-in-law, who graciously agreed to babysit so we could go out to dinner just as a couple.

M. and I had a lovely time. It had rained and stormed most of the day, but the evening was clear and crisp. We went to a restaurant justly known for its romantic atmosphere and were seated in a secluded corner with flickering candlelight. We ordered cocktails! We lingered over our meals! We exchanged gifts and loving words without interruption!!

As I told M., there is no one else on earth with whom I'd rather share this escapade called life. He is a fabulous partner, and I so look forward to all of the adventures we'll share together.

National Adoption Awareness Month
Though you may not have known it, there was another celebration in November. Started a few years ago to focus attention primarily on adoption from foster care, the observance of National Adoption Awareness Month has expanded to draw attention to adoption in general.

Here are a couple of different takes on it.

If you'd like my suggestion for how to observe it, this year or in the future, I'd love for you to use every opportunity you can to correct any myths or misconceptions you encounter about adoption. Help "normalize" it, for all the members of the adoption triad. Use PAL. Let whomever will listen - friends, acquaintances, legislators, the media - know how it's touched your life. And if it helps, tell them a story about or show them a photo of a little boy who is loved very much.
...

For me, holidays often serve as markers in my life. They provide reference points for current events and my changes in emotional state. Last year at this time, I could only speculate what my life would be like now. In many ways, my predictions were right: being Dylan's mom has added an incredible new dimension to my life. That's not simply because of my evolving role as a mother. It's because of the new relationships I've built, the existing ones that have deepened, and the better sense of self I've gained through it all.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing this Thanksgiving and in the weeks to come, I hope that this holiday season you too have a full heart and are able spend time doing things you love with those you love.




Monday, November 8, 2010

Missing Persons

Last month, we got a surprise in the mail.

Dylan's amended birth certificate arrived. It was a surprise because we received it just three months and three days after his adoption was finalized. Since our state government is in such a mess right now, we'd been warned that it might take more than three times that long.

I must say, it was very nice for something in this adoption process to go more quickly and smoothly than anticipated.

As we have after passing through several of the small and large hurdles of our journey, M. and I did a little happy dance around our living room. (We did it quiety, though, since Dylan was napping.)

Other than astonished and relieved, how did receiving this important document make me feel? Kind of strange. Actually, kind of sad.

Next to the line that says "mother," my name is neatly typed. Next to the line that says "father," M.'s name is neatly typed. There is no trace of Dylan's first parents on the document. They've disappeared, been erased.

It would take only the very assute observer to recognize something atypical: that the date of birth and the date the certificate was issued are almost exactly a year apart. Otherwise, it just looks like I gave birth to our son (at a county hospital in some strange city, I might add).

In California, original birth certificates are sealed and can only be opened with a court order. This makes me sad.

It makes me sad because it seems to somehow dimish the link that Dylan has to his birth mother.

It makes me sad that, because so many states have birth certificates that lie by omission, it is such a challenge for birth parents and adoptees who want to find each other to be reunited.

It makes me sad because it is (so far, at least) the most blatant evidence we've personally encountered that there is still a stigma associated with adoption. I keep thinking, "Can't our state come up with a better, more truthful form that provides for all of an adoptee's parents, birth and legal?" But then I assume it's the way it is because there are lots of people who don't want their association with adoption known, for whatever reason. How sad.

Having "identifying information" without having to rely on a court order is another reason why I'm grateful for open adoption. Of course, despite what his new birth certificate says, Dylan will grow up knowing all that we know about his birth parents.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rock the Vote

He didn't. But I did. Hope you did, too.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Party On(e)!

The day after his first birthday, we had a small, simple gathering for close family at the little park down the street. Dylan spent time on a blanket, marveling as each new loved one arrived (and at the colorful boxes and bags they toted with them).

The Birthday Boy Greets His Guests

Dylan and His Girlfriend Under the Photo Tree

Recognizing that this was probably the birthday Dylan would be least excited about until he turns 40, we tried to keep things simple. But, we did do a few special things to mark the occassion. One was a photo display documenting big and small moments in our last twelve months. M. hung images on a lovely oak tree across from our picnic tables.

Then we ate some dinner and played with a pinata one of the guests brought (fun!) while all anticipating the big moment of most first birthday parties. Eventually, we propped the kiddo in his boster seat in the middle of the table and all gathered around.

Our Wish Come True!

As I brought out the goofy giant cupcake I'd made for him, all I could think of while the candles flickered was how MY birthday wish for so many years was to become a mother, and here was my precious, special boy, surrounded by so much love, and generating so much joy.

We helped him blow the candles out and then coaxed him to taste the cake. It was his first nibble of artificial sweetness. We weren't sure how he'd respond.


Baby's First Taste of Cake


He likes it. He REALLY likes it!

Yep. He loved the chocolate frosting with sprinkles and the yellow cake and ended up eating quite a bit of it. (To our relief, it didn't seem to negatively effect him at all.)

And then he started playing with it...


The Obligatory Cake Smash

Dylan really seemed to enjoy the afternoon. He was especially friendly and had lots of belly laughs to share. We are thankful for all of the nice, thoughtful gifts he received, and especially that we could gather together to celebrate the occassion.

It was a very happy first birthday!

On the Move!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Big One


I'm one!

Dear Precious, Special One,

A year ago, when you came into this world, your Daddy and I knew our lives would change forever. We had been hoping and planning for you for so long. There was an empty spot in our hearts that ached to be filled with love for a child.

So when you arrived, too purple and grunting for breath, we were fearful, and nervous, but oh so happy! We touched your soft, soft head and marveled as you opened your big dark eyes. What a strange world this must have seemed to you then.

Now our world revolves around you...and you seem to know it. This year has gone too quickly. After your first weeks in the hospital, you have been a thriving, healthy boy. (In fact, we haven’t had to take you to the doctors – other than for a checkup – at all yet!) Though I don’t miss the sleep deprivation, I do miss getting up with you to snuggle and feed in the wee hours of the still morning, when it seemed like we were breathing together, one peaceful being.

You aren’t much of a baby anymore. Of course, I want you to continue to grow and develop into the healthy little boy you are becoming. But, oh, how I will miss those dimples on your hands, those gummy smiles that light up your face, and the way you curl your small legs under your diapered bottom to fall asleep in your crib.


Now, each morning, as we are waking up ourselves, we hear you starting to squawk and rattle Puppy, your plush little dog with a tiny blanket body that has become your “lovey.” When we go into your room, you are already standing up, smiling from ear to ear. As your face matures, the dimple in your right cheek becomes more obvious. Your hair, with its soft auburn curls, is all fluffed up around your head. You practically jump into our arms, you are so excited to start a new day.



Yes, chasing after a now-toddler is exhausting and sometimes leaves us with little energy for anything else. You’ve expanded our patience, and flexibility, and our appreciation for each other. Through you, I have learned so many wonderful things about your father, and seeing the bond you two share is a wonderful reward. You’ve brought so much warmth and light into our lives, and to our family.

Happy Birthday, Dylan. To me, you are the bright shining sun, my son.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Where's the Baby?!

Really? I haven't posted a photo of Dylan in more than two months? Wow, time flies when you're a growing boy!

Here he is with his new dump truck (which I scored for a buck at a garage sale we just happened to be running by). Not the greatest quality photo, but I love the expression on his face.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Attitude Adjustment

I wrote my last post quickly, relieved to have a prompt that brought forth thoughts that were (relatively) easy to put into words, because I'd already been musing on related topics.

But I wish I'd taken a bit more time to draft and post it, so that I wouldn't feel compelled to say more now. If you'll bear with me, I'd like to share a couple more thoughts related to my diversity/open adoption attitude analogy that I feel are important.

I believe that, as attitudes, neither diversity nor open adoption are quantifiable goals to be achieved. We shouldn't say "we've accomplished X" and then rest on our laurels. We shouldn't be satisfied that our community is "diverse" if we have X number of X people from X backgrounds represented. Instead, we should ask what it's like to be an "other" in our community, and consider how we view and act on our differences. Similarly, we shouldn't be satisfied that we have contact information for everyone in our adoption triad. Instead, we should ask what it's like for the other members, and consider how we view and act on the rather unusual circumstances that brought us together.

So, if it's about attitude, is it possible to have diversity if everyone looks alike? Hmmm...probably, because if we dig deeper than skin tone, of course we ALL have other differences, things that set us apart from the crowd, things that may stereotype us in negative ways, or cause others to draw unfair assumptions. If having those differences is viewed by the group as a strength, and they are accepted with open-mindedness, humility, and respect, than I'd say there is an attitude for diversity. (But don't get me wrong, I worry about groups that all look alike, and I don't think we should judge a group "diverse" just because it includes a few people of color. What I'm trying to say is that it's about a lot more than that.)

Reaching further, if it's about attitude, is it possible to have an open adoption if there is no ongoing communication? I hope so. Even if it were to come to pass that tragically we never hear from his birth parents, I'd like to think that because of our attitude, Dylan's adoption is open.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

OAR #19: Open adoption is about...

Heather over at ProductionNotReproduction said: "Awhile back I read a summary of a workshop held for prospective adoptive parents who were exploring their options. During their survey of different sorts of adoption, the speakers said that, at its most basic core, 'Open adoption is about information sharing.' Share your reaction to that statement. How well does it match up with your experience of open adoption? If you disagree, how would you finish the phrase, 'Open adoption is about...?'"

Sure, at a fundamental level, it's about information sharing, as any close, honest relationship is. But in my experience open adoption is about much more than exchanging contact information and providing updates on the son we adopted. For me, the best way I can describe it is as an "attitude."

The prompt made me reflect back on the year I spent in graduate school earning my master's in higher education. A major theme at the school that year, which stretched across many of my courses and class projects, was "diversity." Early on, it became obvious that there are as many different understandings of diversity as there were people discussing it.

In the end, I came to the personal conclusion that "diversity" isn't about multi-cultural/ethnic/racial representation, though that should often be the manifestation of it. It isn't even about "celebrating our differences." I decided that, at least for me, diversity is an attitude. It's a frame of mind that seeks to learn from experiences that are different from our own. It requires open-mindedness, humility, and respect.

Oddly enough, I think that the "open adoption attitude" has similar requirements. It demands that I put aside my fears and stretch myself to establish and maintain relationships that are completely unfamiliar to me. It requires me to check my assumptions, sometimes take the road less traveled, and often shut my big mouth and listen.

I find that maintaining the open adoption attitude is something that hasn't come naturally to me. But, it feels natural as it unfolds. I need to practice, practice, practice. And I need to hope, hope, hope, that the work and love we are putting into it will be worth it, for the precious little boy we share, and for us all.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Heigh-Ho

It's back to work I go. Two weeks ago, I returned full-time to my job as a college administrator. I know that a very special era in my life is over.

When Dylan arrived, I took the first three months off from work totally, using a combination of accrued vacation and our state's paid family leave to make up for my missed income. That time, especially, was so unique. I spent hours just focused on my new son, getting to know him, cuddling him, feeding him. We took long walks and spent lots of time rocking in the glider on our wide front porch. Often, when he napped, I would nap too, which helped me stay coherent despite the regular night feedings.

Friends and family were excited to meet our little one, and I loved sharing him with them. I invited colleagues over for lunch and felt connected to the "real world" just enough. For the first time I can recall, I was able to keep our house (reasonably) clean and tidy. Dylan's first months coincided with the holiday season, and I really enjoyed having time to shop online, wrap presents nicely, and deck the halls. I baked. I nested. Mind you, I wasn't super productive and I often marveled at how little I actually was able to accomplish in a day. (Though we had grand plans, Dylan's room still isn't decorated!) But my primary ambition was caring for this new human, and I felt like I was succeeding.

Then in January I returned to work 60% time, spending three full days in the office. This summer, I went down to 50%, which has usually meant just going to the office one full day and three afternoons. With my part-time work, most of my domestic "niceties" went out the window; we've avoided entertaining, and there are monster-sized dust bunnies floating around.

But I was able to stay connected with my son. I knew his routines. I could spot tiny incremental developments in his awareness and skills. Heck, I could predict the color and consistency of his poop the next day, because I prepared his meals and fed him!

I know how privileged I was to have had all this time with him. The vast majority of parents around the world and even in our "developed" nation struggle to put food on the table while working at least one full time job. They don't have the stable position with good benefits that I do that enabled me to shift my schedule.

And let me also say that I respect those parents who want to work full-time jobs. They recognize that a critical ingredient to providing little ones with happy, fulfilling childhoods is having parents who are happy and fulfilled, and many people would not be happy and fulfilled without pursuing careers that demand full-time attention.

Before becoming a parent, I speculated that part-time work would be ideal for me. It would allow me to continue to contribute to endeavors that make a difference beyond my immediate family and keep my mind engaged in things that challenge me in interesting ways. I recognized that I couldn't really be content as a full-time, stay-at-home parent.

Fortunately, my partner in parenting was also interested in splitting his time between caring for his child and his paid work. We debated and investigated and determined that if we scrimped and cut back some and relied on the regular help of my mother, we could afford to both work less than full-time for a few years, so that we could care for Dylan in our own home, by ourselves, which was our preference.

Unfortunately, that wasn't to be. A few months ago, my boss let me know that she needed me to return to work full-time when the new school year began. Hoping to convince her otherwise, I proposed lots of other options, including job sharing. Never-the-less, she stuck to her conviction that my job, as it currently must be constructed, is truly a full-time (or more, I must say!) job. Though I suspect she made the right decision for the College, I was of course quite disappointed. I contemplated leaving, but that just isn't feasible at this point.

And so began the scramble to figure out childcare.

Even before Dylan, M. and I spent lots of time investigating and discussing the great debates about the impacts of different childcare arrangements on children. I reached a few conclusions. First, the research is inconclusive, and the "conversation" is sometimes divisive. Second, its impossible to extract the influence of the type of childcare from the other influences on a young child's life. Next, most families have limited options and therefore don't necessarily make a decision they feel is ideal for their children; as in most situations in life, compromises are made.

I became convinced that whatever we arranged, Dylan is the type of kid who will do well. The preference to have him looked after entirely by family members in his earliest years is more about us (me!) than him.

With that in mind, we checked into day care centers, home day care options, and nannies who would come to our home. Since my mom was still willing to spend one day a week looking after her grandson, and since M. was still able to work his clients into about 24 hours per week, we only needed to find part-time coverage.

There were some really stressful days when it looked like none of our options would pan out. But then I followed a lead from a colleague that got more and more promising. I'm delighted to report that we've hired K., a warm, wonderful young woman who will be Dylan's nanny four mornings a week. She has strong experience and good references, and clearly loves kids. In fact, she will be earning her elementary teaching credential at my school during the evenings.

In my first conversation with K., I told her we hoped to find a situation that becomes so comfortable, the nanny is like an extension of our family. Sure, it's too early to tell, and in fact, she won't start caring for Dylan until next week, when her classes also begin. But I am very optimistic.

We've patched together childcare in these intermittent days before K. arrives, exploiting the love of Dylan's aunts and grandmother.

Now I'm back in the office, typically from 8 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., with lots of opportunities for "weekend and evening work." It's still too early to really tell what it's going to be like to be a mom who works full-time.

Yes, I still snuggle with him when he first wakes in the morning, I've come home for lunch a lot to see him a bit, and we're together in the evenings. He crawls through my legs while I'm pulling together dinner, and he sits next to me in his booster seat shuffling Joe's O's while M. and I dine. We splash through his bath and then play a bit before I wrestle him into his jammies. There's still time to read a story together, and then we rock and rock while he drifts to sleep (if we're lucky). There are still many, many sweet moments.

But even now, the relaxed confidence I had that I was doing a "good job" as a mother is slipping away. I'm constantly checking in with myself: "Am I paying enough attention to my son? Is it the right kind of attention? Should I be playing with him more, instead of clearing the dishes? Should I keep him awake a bit longer, so we can read more together, or should I put him down, so I can relax a bit and maybe actually have a conversation with M?"

I'm nervous about how I'm going to handle the tough juggling acts on the horizon, and I am sad that the sweet, sweet months at home with my baby boy are already behind me. I know the tension I'm coping with is nothing new; I feel like I am living a cliché. It's something many (most?) parents struggle with at some point. However, the fact that I have excellent company at my own personal pity party is cold comfort. This is a big transition for me, dang it!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sometimes, I forget

Last Friday I spent a really lovely afternoon at the beach with Dylan and the mom. We splashed and played in the sand where it met the water and my son squealed when the tiny waves in the bay created by the wake of the boats rolled onto him.



At one point, my mom - always prepared with a healthy snack - offered some grapes. I surprised myself by decadently responding that what I'd really like was an ice cream. She surprised me by encouraging me to got get some for both of us.



And so I slipped on my sandals and found myself reveling in the summery feel of sand rubbing between my toes as I walked the short blocks to the little liquor store on the peninsula.



Coming off the sunny sidewalk, my eyes adjusted to the dim store as I slid open the cooler's door and the frost tingled my salty face. I browsed through the treats before selecting a foil-wrapped drumstick for my mom and a plastic covered ice cream sandwich for myself. Classics!



Out of the shop, I headed back and let my happy thoughts drift to our plans for the weekend. Then they shifted darkly to news my mom had shared about a friend who is ill.



Stepping off the boardwalk and back onto the sand, my thoughts refocused as I saw again my mother, still sitting at the edge of the water. And there next to her was a very little boy, his floppy white hat reflecting the bright sun. The sight of him startled me.



I realized that for a moment, I had forgotten him. I had forgotten this little child, that I have a precious son.



How is it possible that from time to time, I forget? All those years hoping, waiting, and working to bring a child into our lives, how can he slip so easily from my awareness?



While I find this forgetfulness remarkable, I don't feel guilty about it or find it disturbing. It's always fleeting, and certainly the reminder is pleasant. For so long, my identity was tied to being a single woman, and then to being infertile. I just figure that it will take awhile to fully integrate this new me, to always know that I am a mother.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Contact

One of the premises of open adoption is that the birth and adoptive families will have contact after placement. A quick cruise around Adoptionland makes it obvious that this contact takes as many different forms as there are families. However, it is striking to me how much of the pain in open adoption is related to contact.

In most states, open adoption agreements – which typically stipulate the frequency and modes of connection - are not legally enforceable; once the adoption is finalized, the legal parents hold all the cards.

It didn’t take much internet research to find blog after blog by birth moms who feel deceived about the kind of access they would be given to their children. It is horrifying to me that some potential adoptive parents are so desperate for a child that they intentionally mislead expectant mothers, knowing all along that they don’t intend to maintain a relationship.

Perhaps almost as frequently, I’ve read about adoptive families who are eager to hear from their child’s birth mother (or father) and wish they had more contact. If they haven’t heard from her in awhile, they worry about her. That’s our situation with V. right now.

When we were getting to know her before Dylan was born, we spoke to V. on the phone a couple of times a week and emailed just as often. During our formal match meeting led by our agency’s social worker, we talked a lot about contact after birth. V. was asked how often she thought she’d want to see us and whether she’d like to receive phone calls, emails, photos, etc. She indicated she’d like to see him about every other month (which truthfully sounded good on an emotional level but potentially challenging logistically, since we live about 2.5 hours apart. But we committed to it, and intended to meet this commitment).

We very carefully and candidly told her that if we became the parents of her son, she would always be welcome in our lives...unless we felt it undermined our family in some way or if we felt if was dangerous for some reason. V. smiled and said she understood and supported this. She said she didn’t see it being an issue, but if it did for some crazy reason, she’d want us to protect Dylan and our family.

While we were sitting there in the coffee shop, discussing and documenting question after question, scenario after scenario, I remember the social worker cautioning us that things change, and though the agreement should serve as a helpful framework, we should strive to be flexible in the future. She reminded us that people move on – literally and figuratively – and needs and wants in life change. She pointed out that we couldn’t anticipate now how Dylan’s placement might affect us all emotionally, especially V. This scared me.

I want to be careful about what I write here about our contact with V. since Dylan’s placement. It’s too personal for this public space. But let me just say that it has always been positive (at least from our side), in the sense that she’s been open with us about all she’s been going through related to adoption loss, but also talked about good things happening in her life. She’s fun, funny, and easy to talk with.

But the communication from her has been infrequent and unpredictable. Though we send email updates with photos every month, we struggle to know what else to do. We don’t want to push her to do things she isn’t comfortable with and we want to support her if she needs some distance to “move on.” On the other hand, we never want her to doubt that we love her and want her in our lives. We never want her to wonder if she should contact us, or fear that she’s inserting herself where she doesn’t belong.

And I worry now about Dylan. At this point, he isn’t aware when she doesn’t respond to our suggestions we visit, or that she hasn’t called in several months. But someday he will know if a birthday is missed or an invitation ignored.

I know it is impossible to shield our children from pain, and that part of parenting is teaching them how to cope with disappointment and loss, adoption related or otherwise. But I fear we need to start practicing now how to talk with him about his birth mom, her love for him, and then why we don’t hear from her much.

So I get a lot from reading about others’ experiences with contact between families. In some ways, it’s reassuring to learn about how challenging it is in most open adoptions; we aren’t alone. In other ways, it’s discouraging. There are so many misunderstandings, miscommunications, unexpressed desires, and many, many fears.

When I read about “successful” open adoption – ones in which there is frequent, consistent, and (at least fairly) comfortable connection - I am often struck by how much hard work goes into them. My sense is that, like in most other relationships, there are ups and downs, times that a easy and time that are challenging, but that those who continue to strive to have open minds and open hearts, rewards are there for all involved.

Tell me, since most of us choose open adoption because we believe it is in the child’s best interest, how do we get beyond our adult insecurities and pain? How can we support others in our triad so that the effort is worthwhile to us all?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Give Peas a Chance


A sad day is on the horizon: the day Dylan no longer fits into one of our favorite items of his clothing. Given to him by his dear Auntie M, this stylish onesie is not only made from soft organic cotton, it also boldly encourages our boy (and everyone else) to discover the yumminess of a certain veggie too often unfairly disparaged.

As a nine-month, our son is still getting the vast majority of his calories and nutrition through his bottle of formula, so his diet isn't that different from most kids' his age. We've introduced the typical purees and then small pieces of fruits and vegetables slowly, and he's been a pretty good eater. Even though he furrows his brow and grimaces (adorably) with the first bite, he will usually even finish his peas.

But as he matures, most "experts" advise beginning to feed him small pieces of meat. This is something we have no plans to do. Dylan is a vegetarian baby.

Way back when, during the first, nervous phone conversation M and I had as singles looking for love, we talked about a lot of things. But it wasn't until the subject of food came up that I became really enthusiastic about the deep-voiced guy on the end of the line.

I asked M what kind of cuisine he enjoyed, and he said something like, "Thai, Italian, Middle Eastern..." There was something about the way he excluded "ribs" and "burgers" that prompted me to make a confession. "I like those foods too. I'm a vegetarian, and they all have great veggie options."

"You're vegetarian?" asked M. "Me too!"

Although we'd already found a lot of commonalities, this was a big one (especially for me, since in the U.S. there are so many fewer vegetarian men than women). We talked a bit more and learned that we are the same kind of vegetarian: we both eat diary, eggs, and seafood, but not other kinds of meat.

Most importantly, we learned that we made our dietary choices for the same reasons. We both don't like the way animals are treated as commodities and tortured and killed for a meal. We both don't like how distant consumers in supermarkets and restaurants are from the process that brought animals to their plates. We both have serious concerns about how the food industry impacts the environment and how much more damage is done because of livestock. (Do you know how much corn is used to feed chickens? Why not just eat the corn?!) And, we both think that a plant-based diet is the healthiest option.

We have, from time to time, asked ourselves, "If we believe all of those things - and we do - why aren't we vegan, avoiding all animal byproducts entirely?" The answer is, while we admire vegans, that is a lifestyle we personally can't tolerate. It's too extreme - at least right now - for M and me. It would take away more of the enjoyment we get out of dining than we can handle. (Is a life without chocolate gelato really worth living?)

In fact, I'll share that when we travel, our diets sometimes vary from the usual in the name of "cultural immersion" so that we can try local specialties.

So, now back to Dylan: when M and I shared our adoption plans with friends and family, we often got the question: "Will your child be vegetarian?" Truthfully, I was always startled by the question.

M and I both choose to be vegetarian because it reflects our values, and since we see that one of our most important roles as parents - adoptive or otherwise - is teaching our child our values, of course Dylan will be vegetarian.

But then I feel I need to modify my declaration.

For both of us, what we eat is a very personal decision. Fortunately, it's the same decision...which makes dinner planning much simpler. While we think there are very good reasons to eat the way we do (see above), other people obviously reach different conclusions.

We expect to only feed Dylan the same foods that we eat. And why we eat as we do will be part of our family conversations. But as our little guy develops and has opportunities to explore other options, we won't discourage eating things that aren't on our family's menu.

Like we will with religion and politics and other manifestations of our values, we will guide our child to the best of our abilities. And we will try not to be too shocked when our teenager rebels by requesting ham for Christmas dinner!

One of Dylan's first exposures to legumes

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Always and Forever, Our Son



Of course, Dylan has felt like “ours” from the moment we laid eyes on him. This morning, however, we went before the judge who proclaimed him our son – always and forever.

I’m taking the occasion of the legal finalization of his adoption to at last write what I can. I’ve attempted to chronicle the hours before and shortly after his birth because I don’t want them to fade any further into the backdrop of our lives. And also because when we were waiting to adopt, I ate up the stories I could find about how families built through adoption came together. They fed my optimism and kept my cynicism at bay. I hope that our story – which does have such a happy ending - might do the same for someone else who is now struggling on the path to parenthood.

But it’s too late. Already I can’t remember when we signed what, who we saw when, what we said to whom. I feel so badly about this. How could those details that seemed so important disappear already?

I guess the answer is that they really weren’t all that important. Because I certainly do remember some things, the really important things, like slipping him into my blouse and holding this tiny, warm boy for the very first time, and like watching his daddy’s face as he coaxed him to drink more from a minuscule bottle. And like feeling torn between tending to my newborn son and his ailing birth mother, my heart bursting for them both.

Here is what I can recall – big and small – from Dylan’s birth, exactly nine months ago, way back on October 9, 2009.

I wrote extensively about our “fire drill,” which left off not knowing exactly when V., the expectant mom with whom we were matched, would give birth, but knowing it would be soon. After returning to our home – about 2.5 hours from her hometown – again without a baby, we stayed in a constant state of vigilance with the car packed and cat-sitter on notice. Though V. knew she’d have a c-section because of complications from her older son’s birth, she was worried about going into labor before the surgery could be scheduled and that we wouldn't make it in time.


After several days of waiting to hear from her, we grew anxious, beginning to fear the worst. Finally, rather than waiting for her to call, we called her. We were relieved when she sounded fine, and said emphatically, “You guys are going to be parents by this weekend!” She had conferred further with her OB, who was working to schedule her surgery. He told her to come to his office on Thursday morning, and that if his exam didn't break her waters, they'd proceed with plans for the surgery the next day. If the scheduled surgery took place on Friday, it would to be at Crummy Hospital, the county facility they had been hoping to avoid. V. shared horror stories of people she knew who'd been mistreated there, and she was especially nervous about how she'd be received as a parent placing her child for adoption. So we told her we'd leave as rush hour was wrapping up here on Thursday morning and would likely get there as her appointment was finishing up, in case we needed to accompany her to the hospital then and there.

Wednesday night came and neither M. or I slept much, so we got on the road earlier than anticipated. Traffic wasn't bad and we were happy we knew we'd make it there before the child was born. When we were about a mile out of her home town, we got a call from D., her wonderful friend who supported her throughout the pregnancy and in her adoption plan. He said they'd concluded the appointment already and the birth was not happening that day. It was scheduled for tomorrow at 5 p.m., but could possibly happen earlier if space in the operating room opened up.

I had heard before from someone who'd had to travel out of state for their adoption that some hospitals have special deals with local hotels and such. After making a few calls to the hospital where we thought the birth would take place, I was transferred to the Ronald McDonald House and spoke with an incredibly enthusiastic young woman. Though the mission of the charity is to support families with ill children, she said they had space available, so of course we could stay there. She also said it was just $15 per night!

The Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in this small city was only a few months old, and in the back parking lot of Mediocre Hospital. When we arrived, we were immediately greeted by friendly volunteers and staff. They showed us around the sparkling clean and fresh facility, which included a well-stocked kitchen and eating area, a laundry area, a living room with windscreen TV (unfortunately, I don't think we ever saw it turned off), a "computer room" still waiting for computers for the guests to use, and a little office alcove for the staff. Then there were three very small but comfortable bedrooms and two bathrooms, complete with towels and toiletries. Everyone really encouraged us to make ourselves at home (as I recall, someone had just baked cookies!) and asked us all kinds of excited questions about our situation.

Then they started presenting us with goodies. Apparently, the community had been incredibly generous and donated all kinds of stuff as the House was opening. So, we were given some handmade baby blankets, a diaper bag, and told we could choose as many books from the library to take home as we'd like. Then we were asked if we'd like any baby clothes. Since fear of jinxing our match had kept us from shopping for the baby much at that point, I said sure. They came back with three boxes of boy-baby clothes!

M. tried to nap for a bit, but I was too excited. Going through the clothes - which were mostly gently used - and chatting with the nice RMH people, I felt like I was at my baby shower. It was wonderful.

We met V. and D. for dinner at a small local Italian restaurant where we mostly just chatted and occasionally squirmed over the enormous day ahead of us all tomorrow. After dinner, they invited us to return to D.'s club house, which we appreciated. It was nice to meet a few more of her friends, all of whom were incredibly nice and accepting of us. But we didn't want to over-stay our welcome, or make V. feel she had to stay and entertain us when we could tell she was getting tired. So eventually we headed back to the RMH where we slipped into bed and held tight to each other. Was this really happening? To us? We were both so excited, we didn't sleep much.

D. called us in the morning around 9 a.m. and told us that they'd heard from the hospital and the surgery had been moved up to 10:30. He asked that we meet them on the north side entrance to the hospital.

We quickly finished up breakfast and showering and such. The staff and volunteers gave us directions to the hospital and sent us off with well wishes.

Getting off the freeway, we could see we were in a different part of town. Homes were boarded up, some with graffiti. Stray dogs roamed the streets. And ahead was a big, imposing old hospital.

We circled around it once, twice, but could NOT figure out where the north entrance was. There were doors and parking lots on both the east and west sides, but even after checking our compass, we couldn't figure out what D. meant by the north entrance.

Panic ensued as time ticked away. We did not want to be late for this! Finally, we parked at what seemed like the main lot and went in. The building was big and bustling and not well signed. We rushed through the whole first floor but couldn't find D. and V.

Finally, I stayed at one entrance while M. ran around the rest of the building. After many excruciating minutes, he returned, announcing he'd found them, and that they'd already gone up to the labor and delivery waiting room. We headed back up there, panting.

What a contrast with the Fancy and Mediocre Hospitals we'd visited during our false alarm trip! The small, cheerless room was cramped with big bellied women and their entourages. It was so stuffy in there that V. preferred to sit on the floor of the hallway outside the room.

We all exchanged hugs and M. and I expressed our regret for being a little late. V. seemed pretty nervous and a little withdrawn. It was tough to know what to say to her. She said she was scared about the surgery...but of course I wondered how she was feeling about the adoption. We joked uneasily for awhile, took turns pacing the hallway, and mostly just stood silently. All of us were asked repeatedly to get out of the hallway and to sit in the waiting room -- all of us, that is, except D. No one dared ask the muscular, six-foot-four-inch, tattoo-covered guy to do something he didn't want to.

Eventually, a nurse came and got V. We gave her another copy of the birth and placement plan, which we'd worked out carefully together with the guidance of our agency social worker a couple of weeks earlier. It specified all kinds of things about V.'s preferences, including that D. accompany her to the operating room, and that we be in a room nearby and brought in to assist with washing and tending to the baby. She wanted us to be the first to hold him.

The nurse indicated that V. would be right back. In actuality, she disappeared behind the double doors and we did not see her again until several hours after the birth. I wish I'd gotten to squeeze her tight before she headed off.

More time passed. And more. Then a different nurse came and retrieved D. After awhile, we could look through the foggy windows on the door and see a hulking figure we assumed was him, all scrubbed up and in a goofy smock and hat. We couldn't tell for sure, but it looked like he was in front of a gurney, and we assumed he was there, down the long hallway, with V.

We started to get nervous. Had they forgotten about us? What about the plan for us to be there in the moments immediately after the baby was pulled from the womb? At long last, a cheerful nurse came and found us. After confirming who we were, she ushered us too behind the double doors.

Then things moved quickly. We were urged to wash up and put on scrubs, which made it suddenly seem very real to me. We were taken into an operating room and told that V.'s surgery was about to begin in the next room, just through an open door where we could see various medical personnel in smocks bustling around. Our room was bright and quiet, with a "baby tray" warming up. We were introduced to two wonderful nurses, Dave and Eva, who chatted with us with just the right balance of friendly excitement and professionalism. Every now and then, they'd walk to the other room and bring back an update. "She doing well, joking around." Or, "the surgery's begun."


Just seconds later, Dave said he'd be right back. Indeed, he disappeared through the open door, we heard a little more noise, and then he came back, walking briskly toward us.

In his hands was a tiny baby. Covered in goo, and with his mouth wide open, gasping for air, there was our son!

Dave put him on the tray, and he and Eva gave him calm, encouraging words. Though M. said later he couldn't, I could tell pretty quickly that something was not quite right. First, the little guy was awfully purple. Second, he wasn't crying vigorously. Still, he was very sweet. Ten tiny little finger, ten tiny little toes. A perfectly shaped head with lots of dark hair. At one point he opened his dark, glistening eyes and seemed to look around wondering where the heck he was.

Dylan was born on October 9th at 12:51 p.m., weighed 5 lbs. and 14 oz., and was 18.5 inches long.


Dave and Eva stayed calm and reassuring, but they explained that he was obviously not the 39 weeks of gestation that we all anticipated. They could tell by things like the (lack of, I believe) creases on his feet. He had a strong heart beat, but they were worried about his breathing. His coloring and "retraction" - the way his little chest sucked in severely with each breath - suggested immature lungs. The nurses continued to play with his feet, trying to get him to pink up a bit more. While we went on snapping photos and just staring at this little creature, oblivious to the seriousness of the situation, they turned him first on his tummy, then declared they didn't like the way he was grunting, and turned him back to give him some oxygen through a mask that was way too big. This did improve his coloring, and they seemed encouraged.


Never-the-less, after about 15 minutes of checking his vital signs and attempting various mild intervention, they indicated he needed to take a trip upstairs to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Of course, this was scary to hear, and I think our first real reality check that things weren't going as planned. Still, Dave and Eva were very upbeat and calm, which kept us from getting panicked.

As we followed them wheeling the little guy across the hallway to the elevator, V.'s OB emerged from the operating room. He congratulated us, looking a bit harried and surprised when he learned where we were headed. He explained that the delivery was tougher than he expected because Dylan's umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. He was also surprised to learn about the new suspicion that the baby was several weeks more immature than he'd predicted, but said that because of the cord and the pain V'd been feeling against her prior cesarean incision, it was good he'd scheduled the surgery when he did.

So up we went to the NICU. Though I was very focused on our son, I was aware that we'd entered a strange and foreign world. The sights, sounds, even the smells were so unfamiliar. For the next hour or so, Dylan was assessed by various medical professionals, all of whom were very friendly and excited about our adoption situation. There was a respiratory therapist who was especially generous in explaining what was going on. She indicated that they would give him Surfactin, a drug commonly delivered to preterm babies, because it helped decrease the tension caused by fluid in the cells of the lungs (or something like that). They also hooked him up to an IV to deliver antibiotics, a heart monitor, a thermometer, and a nasal cannula, which delivered enriched, pressurized oxygen.



Very quickly, Dylan's little body seemed to get lost in a mass of wires and tubes. He didn't seem to mind too much, but we sure did. Though everyone we asked answered our questions, it was hard following what exactly was going on. I remember trying to interpret their medical lingo to get a better sense of his status. At one point, some of them were talking about how they "didn't like that he was floppy." This terrified me. I started to fear that maybe there was brain damage or some other very serious complications.

My memories here really starts to blur. I know that at some point, the hospital's pediatric social worker found us. She took us to a little room where we waited and waited while we fidgeted, worrying about the baby. Then she brought us paperwork related to assuming authority for making medical decisions. She also brought us paper wrist bracelets that became our keys back into the NICU, where only parents and grandparents of the wee patients were allowed.

We were also starving, so somehow eventually we made it downstairs and got burritos from the lunch truck at the curb. I think I was running on adrenaline at that point, because being out in the sunshine, noticing others going about their "normal" lives while the baby who might become our child was suffering upstairs, just felt like an out-of-body experience. In particular, I remember being really startled to notice several patients in their hospital smocks smoking cigarettes around the flag pole.

While scarfing down the food, we contacted our social worker at the adoption agency and told her it looked like Dylan would have to be admitted to the NICU for a few days, which essentially threw out the window the placement plan we'd so carefully discussed with her and V. She consoled us, and said that in her experience, it sounded like everything would ultimately be fine. She said that if we needed her, she'd make the trip to the hospital. I wanted to tell her that, yes, we needed her! We really needed someone who could take control and make it all right. Instead, we agreed to keep in touch.

Meanwhile, we were wondering about V. and how she was doing. I can't recall exactly, but there were some challenges in finding her. Eventually we did. She was pretty out of it, and sharing a room with two (and eventually three) others who were rooming in with their newborns, which must have been so hard for her. Her friend D. stayed constantly by her bedside, with his huge, muscular body crammed in the little wooden chair.

She was glad to see us, and eager for a report on the baby. We knew that she took his welfare very seriously and personally, so we didn't share all of the upsetting details with her (and in fact, at that point, we didn't know all of them). We showed her some photos of him, and at that point we all decided on his name.

We also presented V. with a couple of small gifts of congratulation that just seemed so, so inadequate. One was a pair of pajamas in her favorite color, pink. The other was a sock monkey. When she saw it, she squealed with delight and explained that she'd had one just like it as a child, which she'd loved and called JooJoo. We told her that we'd gotten another for Dylan, and that we thought maybe in the future, when they were both thinking about each other, they might like knowing that the other sock monkey was with them, too. She seemed to really like this, and as we talked, the idea developed that we'd take photos of Dylan on a regular basis with his monkey, so that she could see how much he was growing.


Eventually, we went back to check on the little guy. While we were out, they'd moved him to a different spot in the big room so that he was now lined up near other babies and more permanently connected with various beeping and flashing monitors, oxygen, etc. They had also put a feeding tube down his nose, which was really hard to see, and even worse to imagine the insertion.

Fortunately, we were then able to meet with the doctor who became his pediatrician while he was in the NICU. Of all the personnel with whom we interacted, this guy was the most tight-lipped and somewhat morose. He definitely wasn't the warm, fuzzy baby doctor I was hoping to acquaint my child with. Still, he gave us fairly encouraging words. He explained that, though serious, Dylan's situation wasn't atypical for a baby of his gestational age and that he didn't anticipate any long term impact. Essentially, he thought all the kid needed was some time, and that after a few days, he'd go home a healthy boy. Whew!

A few days. Though much longer than anticipated, that sounded manageable. Unfortunately, a few days turned into a few more days, and ultimately almost two weeks. Though Dylan's breathing continued to improve, early on his blood work showed sign of an infection common in preterm babies, and so an antibiotic course was started. Though the doctor was always reluctant to project how long we'd all be there, when we learned it was a 10-day course, we got the picture that we'd need to get a bit more comfortable being so far from home for awhile.

In sharp contrast to the doctor's chill was the first shift nurse to which Dylan was assigned, Ruth. A jolly middle-aged woman with a warm Jamaican accent, she was so kind to us. She cooed over how adorable he was (which was hard to tell, with all the tubes and wires and such), and told us that he was not one of the sick babies. He just needed to "cook" a bit more. She asked us about things that made us feel like normal, proud parents.

For example, she asked us what his name was, and we shared that at that point, we still hadn't decided. There were two top contenders, and we - along with his birth mother - wanted to meet him before deciding for sure. We told her as long as she promised not to tell any of our friends and family, we'd share them both with her. When we did, she said, "oh, they are both excellent names for this boy. The first one, that's a serious, powerful name. A politician's. Dylan, that's an artist." And you know how that part of this story ends.

Ruth taught us how and where to touch him. She said that in her experience, the little babies preferred constant pressure to stroking, and so M. and I both spent several hours that first day and night just cupping his little head in our hand, or laying our fingers on his small shoulders. Because of his various tethers, we weren't able to hold him yet, which was really hard. But we were able to change his diaper, and sing, and whisper to him.

At some point that afternoon, M. and I managed to go to the cafeteria and find cell phone reception. In the courtyard with construction going on around us, we made a few quick calls to our parents and siblings - all of whom were waiting anxiously to hear from us - to joyfully announced Dylan's birth. We regretfully told them it looked like we'd be there for awhile.

Later, when we checked in on V., we asked her if it was really okay for a bunch of people eager to meet her and Dylan to show up tomorrow. She confirmed what she'd said during our birth planning - that it made her happy to know Dylan had family excited about his arrival, and that she wanted to meet these people who were now part of her family too. This made my heart swell!

We went back to the RMH and made ourselves something quick to eat for dinner from the generous cubboards, sharing the news of Dylan's birth. We were reassured we could stay there as long as we needed. Then we headed back to the NICU. The main entrance to the hospital was closed, but we told the security guard where we were headed and were given immediate entry. It was kind of weird - both good and awful - that we were given the privilege of visiting our patient anytime, 24/7.

We stayed for a couple of hours. When we finally surrendered to exhaustion, Ruth assured us that she would call if there were negative developments, but that she didn't expect any and we should get a good night's sleep.

Surprisingly, we both did. But we were awoken about 6:30 a.m. by the phone ringing. It was Ruth. Of course, my heart flew to my throat. Was there a problem with Dylan? It turned out her shift was ending and she just wanted to share that he'd had a really good night. I thanked her and told her we would be there in about an hour.

That day was especially active and is now especially blurry. I know we went in early and met a new nurse, who was also exceedingly nice. She related how things had gone over night - slight improvements in his breathing, etc.

Most importantly, we got to hold our boy! What a sweet, soft, warm little bundle he was. The nurse advocated kangaroo care, which means as much skin to skin contact as possible. So M. and I took shifts all day, shifting his wires and tubes so that he could lay on our chests.


Then our parents and siblings began to arrive from around the state. We could only take grandparents in to meet Dylan one at a time, and our siblings were only allowed to see the little guy from across the room through a large window.

Similarly, V. could only have a few visitors at a time. So we did what we could to coordinate smoothly. For the most part, I was proud of our family. For example, they understood open adoption and our relationship enough to bring V. flowers and such.

V. had warned us that she might have a few biker friends visit her too. I was glad that a couple of rough looking guys who acted like teddy bears did indeed show up to wish her well. There was a funny exchange between one of them and my mom about whether the A on his cap stood for the baseball team or some other Angels.

I remember feeling really torn. I wanted to just sit in the rocking chair with Dylan on my chest. But, there were relatives around, clearly excited to meet the little guy, and I was delighted to introduce them. And V. needed attention too. She was feeling good, but still needed help gettng to the bathroom and such. We also sensed that she didn't want to be alone. Since D. finally left her side for a few hours, we stuck as close to her as we could when others weren't around, sometimes taking shifts, with one of us with her and the other with the baby.

That evening, our relatives still in town brought food back to the RMH where we all enjoyed dinner together. Then M. and I went back to the hospital and arranged with V. to go visit Dylan together. We helped her get dressed and shuffled over from the maternity ward to the NICU, trailing an IV bag. Then we had some fun announcing to the security intercom that Dylan's motherS were there to visit him.

We went in together - to the astonishment of a few nurses, I think - and she met her son, our son, for the first time. She held him and snuggled and smiled adoringly at him. We asked if she wanted some time alone with him, but she declined. After a little while, she said she was tired, and we shuffled back.

The next day, she was released exactly 48 hours after giving birth. Clearly, she wanted to get out of the hospital and, I suspect, start moving on with her life. In the week or so following that while Dylan was still hospitalized, we saw her twice more, for two very nice dinners. After one, she returned to the NICU to visit the little guy again.

I must say that in the months before we connected with V., while we were waiting to adopt, I spent an inordinate amount of time either fanticising or fearing what the time around our child's birth would be like. In most of my imagined scenarios, I envisioned there would be a time when a young woman would bravely pass a bundled baby into my arms and I would be transformed into "momma."


It didn't happen like that at all. Now I realize that there was no possible way I could have anticipated how events unfolded or how I would feel about them. I was surprised by how mixed my emotions were. I was stunned, scared, and enormously hopeful and happy. I was also incredibly sad and worried for a lovely young woman who was trying to do right by the baby she brought into the world. I wanted to make sure V. was okay. But I also wanted to make sure D. was okay. Both of them had no one else and needed us.

Many, many times since Dylan was born, I’ve begun drafting his “birth story” in my head. I wanted to make sure to get it all down in writing, for him and for us. I wanted to create something that not only captured the details – the things I know he’ll be curious about at some point in life – but also conveyed the “hugeness” of it all. As milestones like bringing him home from the hospital and his six-month birthday came and went, I regretted not taking the time nor summoning the emotional space to get it down. Now, I fear I've achieved quantity rather than quality in describing our experience.

It is so hard to understand, let alone explain, how all those strange moments and ambiguous emotions came together to become the most powerful experience of my life. Nine months later, with Dylan a thriving and happy little boy, on the day he is at last recognized legally as our son, I can't tell you when, or how exactly, but sometime in those earliest hours after Dylan emerged from another woman's womb, I at last became a mother.