Tuesday, March 30, 2010

You Ask, I Answer: How do you deliver the BIG news?

So, we did what no other adoptive family we know has done. We didn't tell our families we were parents until after we had our daughter.

First, let me say this: I do believe a child's biological mother is the child's parent if and until she chooses to place her baby for adoption and signs official paper work. I also believe that if she does sign those papers, she is ALWAYS a mother to that child. The papers are legal documents and are necessary for the adoption to take place, but that signature does not eliminate physical and emotional FOREVER ties between a mother and her child.

Because of this reason, I felt strongly that we should not share the news of a match (defined as an adoptive couple being chosen by an expectant/biological mother) if or until the official paperwork had been signed and verified by the courts. A match is not a guarantee, a promise, or a counted on commitment. A match is simply a step that might or might not lead to an adoption occurring.

I knew that once we got THE call, we weren't parents. We were potential parents. Were we thrilled? Absolutely? Did we proceed with caution? Um, yeah. Was I guarding my heart? Sometimes.

But the whole time I prayed: Lord, give this mother the peace, understanding, and courage she needs to make the best decision, even if that means this baby doesn't become our child. That is no easy prayer to pray when one's emotions are so conflicting and the possibility of being a mother is a dream come true.

We met our daughter the night before we went through the legal proceedings. We spent an hour with her---changing her diaper, kissing her, staring at her in awe, feeding her, and cuddling her. We took dozens of photos, and then we headed out for what we called our "last supper" (as a family of two) before going to Wal-Mart to develop our pictures.

That evening in the hotel, I placed four of the photos on a scrapbook style card we purchased at a Hallmark store and included a personal message:

SURPRISE! After you get this, call our cell phone. If we don't pick up, leave a message (b/c we are probably sleeping). Please do not call and share with anyone~thanks! Talk to you soon! Love, Steve, Rachel, and Baby ????

We mailed one scrapbook card to each of our families after our time in court. We overnighted them via UPS, and then we went to pick up our baby girl.

I had long anticipated sending these cards.

That night, we were introduced to parenthood----a baby who projectile spit up, getting up every two hours for a feeding, living on fast food (thank God there was a local Chick-Fil-A), and making several trips to Target or Wal-Mart for "just a few more things."

The next morning, anticipating the arrival of our scrapbook cards, we headed out and about, too excited to sleep, too anxious to sit in a hotel room all day.

While on our trip, my husband's parents called---their card had arrived! They were in shock. (I guess we were good about keeping secrets!)

I anxiously awaited my parents calling. But as the hours ticked by and no call came in, I grew more and more nervous. Was the card delivered? Did it blow away while sitting outside the front door? Was it lost?

I sent my brother a text just to see where he was. At school.

My sister. At work.

My parents....working. (Text-ith my bro).


We got back to our hotel, put our phones on silent, and attempted to nap. Around 4:00 we got up, and I had a voicemail! My mom said, "Um....we just got something in the mail. WOO HOO! I can't breathe! Call me back!!!!!!"

I have that voicemail saved on my phone to this day. Love it!

Anyway, I do not regret not sharing sooner. We did what was best for our family, and I think in keeping our match private, we honored our daughter's biological mother's decision to "change her mind" if she chose to do so.
Will our next placement be announced creatively again?
What do you think? ;)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

You Ask, I Answer: What's It Like Getting THE call?

Painting...without a clue of future events
Painting...and yep, still no clue!

THE moment we got THE call

Packing clothes, blankets, and more....

Boiling the binks....

It was a sunny Saturday in November. We were taking on a home project: painting. When we first purchased our home (new), all the walls were "sand dollar"---which equals boring ol' beige. Gradually we painted rooms, changing our house into a home.

Our large kitchen and eat-in dining area were going from blah to bright and cheery. We planned to put up chair rail in the dining area, so we painted the bottom half a deep shade of blue and the top half (and kitchen) a very light yellow. We spent the entire day listening to the radio and painting: me the big spaces ('cause I'm messy!) and my husband the details (the edges, corners, above the cabinets, etc.). As late afternoon came upon us, we began to complete the job, knowing that soon we would have to clean up our paint supplies, shower, and head out the door to see the high school play my friend was directing.

My husband's cell phone rang in the midst of us wrapping up the paint project. He didn't recognize the number, but I encouraged him to pick it up anyway. (When you are waiting to adopt, you ALWAYS pick up the phone). I could hear him sounding surprised. Then he grew quiet and said, "I'll let you talk to my wife." He then said to me, "It's the agency."

The woman on the other end of the line told us that a baby girl had been born that morning. Did we want our profile shown? We said yes, our stomachs in knots, our hearts racing. We got a few details and then got off the phone.

Then we stared at each other---eyes wide. Hearts still pounding.

Now what?

We contemplated calling our friends and telling them I was sick and couldn't make it to the play. (I REALLY was sick---well, practically!). Then we thought, what are we going to do besides sit around all night and worry? Gulp. So we got ready and headed out the door.

As soon as we hit the interstate, my husband's cell phone rang again. It was our social worker. We argued for a few seconds about how to proceed, and I yelled (I think), "Find an exit!" We picked up the phone while cruising into an empty parking lot off one of the exits.

We had been chosen.

Because the adoption would occur out of state, we didn't have a reason to head out of town yet (well, I could think of a good reason----but anyway....). So we went to the play, both totally consumed with non-stop thoughts and crazy emotions. We kept squeezing each other's hands throughout the performance---sharing and relishing in our big secret.

The next few days were a whirlwind of activity. My husband went into work to wrap some things up, mowed the lawn (who knew how long we would be gone?), and learned to set up a pack-n-play. I prepped for two weeks' worth of classes, did laundry, cleaned the house, and secured an attorney.

I got some great advice while waiting from a fellow adoptive mom----HAVE THE CAMERA HANDY at all times. I took a snapshot of us talking to the social worker during THE call---a priceless moment.
Now, much like the walls of our home, a lot has changed in our family. Our paint job is a constant reminder of the day nothing was ever the same again.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

You Ask, I Answer: How Does One Wait?

Celebrating our five year wedding anniversary.
Post-polka-dot painting in the future nursery.

All the gifts from my baby shower.

Road trip! At the beach.

What do you do while waiting for your child?

When we were waiting, for 14 months to be exact, life as future parents was full of ups and downs. But here is what helped me get through possibilities, heartaches, and confusion, all that came naturally with the adoption journey.

  • I blogged, privately. I ranted, I questioned, and I marveled.

  • I prepared the nursery, a little at a time, on quiet, sunny days, by myself.

  • I mentally planned how we would tell our parents we had a baby....more on that in another blog entry.

  • I kept a running journal for my future child.

  • I scrapbooked.

  • I traveled with my husband. We went on a two week road trip along the East Coast and had a fabulous time.

  • I looked for signs. Once I saw three flowers growing together in a ditch while I was out walking. A SIGN! Then I saw a street sign once that boasted the name of our agency. A SIGN! Yeah....those weren't signs.

  • I thought of baby names. A lot. Like every day.

  • I joined and participated in an online adoption forum. There I found many caring, knowledgeable women (adoptive moms, birth mothers, and adoptees) who answered my questions, considered my thoughts, and taught me so much.

  • I read books about adoption. I read baby name books. (Yeah, that again).

  • I attended my "preparing for baby" shower hosted by my sister. I had a wonderful time catching up with friends and relatives, and of course, opening a lot of gifts for my future child!

  • I worked. A lot. Two jobs (teaching three classes plus nannying for three kids one day a week).

  • I did projects around the house---including lots of painting. In fact, we were painting our kitchen and dining area on the day we got THE call for our daughter.

  • Prayed---a lot. I prayed for ourselves and each time we were asked if we wanted our profile shown. I prayed for friends who were also waiting to adopt. I prayed for the women who viewed our profile---that God would lead them to parent or place---whatever was right in their situation. I prayed for the babies---born and unborn. I prayed for our agencies and our social workers.

Each person and couple is different in how they wait and how they cope with the GREAT WAIT. For many of my friends, they went through infertility treatments and YEARS of financial, emotional, and physical challenges in the numerous attempts to become parents. So when they did choose adoption and finally got THE call, some had waited five, eight, or even ten years to become parents.

I admit the hardest part of the adoption journey was waiting, simply because nothing was within our control, and well, I like control.

We were continuously asked, "Heard anything yet?" by well meaning friends and family members, but their question only rubbed salt in our wound. I wanted to scream, "If something happened, you'd see us pushing around a stroller!!" Instead I just said, "Nope." Smiled. Moved on.

As I was telling a friend on the phone today, one who is also waiting to become a mom for the first time, the waiting never ends. Once you are chosen, you wait. Once the baby is placed with you, you wait. You wait for paperwork, for post-placement visits, for the adoption to be finalized, for the communication with the child's bio parent(s).

Patience is a virtue. It's one I don't have. But I think this whole thing called adoption is easing me into a gradual acceptance of that virtue, and perhaps, some sweet day, implementation.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sand + Hair = Mama Going Insane

Despite my attempts....it happened.

We were on the beach on our vacation, enjoying the sun and surf, when Miss E removed her hat and dumped an entire bucket of sand into her hair.
A black child's parents' worst nightmare!!!
I brushed out as much as I could by hand, yet hundreds, maybe thousands, of tiny grains settled into her ringlets and onto her scalp.
My attempted to remove more sand from her mane about an hour later. I stuck her entire head into the steady stream of water coming from the shower head for minutes. But a toddler being contained in this manner quickly becomes unhappy.
I then ran the tub faucet and stuck Miss E's hair under it, hoping the increased water pressure would force the sand down the drain.
That evening, Miss E wasn't sleeping well. I did what we've rarely done, and I brought her into our bed. Immediately my pillow was sprinkled with invisible, coarse grains of sand.
We've been home for a week now, and it will not surprise me one bit of I continue to find a trail of sand wherever Miss E goes. I guess I'll just have to be patient and know that it's not bothering Miss E, that life goes on, and that we'll never EVER own a sandbox.
As lovely as Miss E's hair is, it sure is a lot of work!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Vacation Photos: Gulf Shores, AL 2010

We have just returned from a lovely vacation....Gulf Shores, AL! The perfect destination for an Illinois family looking to get away from clouds, snow, rain, and cold days (and even colder nights!). Bye to gray skies, and hello to sand, surf, and sun!
Our typical day looked like this:
  • Get up around 8 a.m. and eat breakfast.
  • Get dressed for the beach.
  • Lounge and play on the beach.
  • Lunch and a nap around 11:30. (A nap for Miss E and her mama!)
  • Get up around 3:00 and eat a snack. Get dressed for the day.....
  • Go out to dinner.
  • Come back to the condo, eat dessert, watch tv, read, and chat.
  • Bed.

We stayed on the eighth floor of an oceanfront condo with my aunt and uncle who snowbird in Gulf Shores for three months every winter. My little sister and her husband came with us. Our place was full of laughter and lots of chocolate!

Getting away for six days was exactly what we needed. We had time to just BE.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Our church is reading the New Testament from February to Advent this year---a chapter a day, with Sundays off. A few weeks ago this verse stood out to me. It's Matthew 10:37. Jesus is speaking to his twelve apostles:

"He who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."


I often put God on the proverbial back burner in the name of what I "need" to do during a given day. That "need" usually entails cooking, cleaning, going to work, blogging (about my family), making phone calls, running errands. Yes, most of these things are done in service to my family, and to myself. I value a tidy home and homemade dinners. I hate running out of paper towels, and I always get birthday cards out on time. These are "needs."

I had a recent post on my She Dabbles blog on the topic of mothering as a ministry. I think adoptive mamas are especially prone to taking the role of MOM very seriously. We practice parenthood with purpose and precision. After all, some of my friends waited a decade to become mothers, so they're going to do it RIGHT and well. (Plus, adoptive parents seem to be on some sort of pedestal by others because we "saved" a child in need....but let's save this for a later post). Mothering to them, and to me, can be defined as a ministry, or a righteous duty, or a gift, or even, yep, an obsession.

Until I started the NT2010 challenge (reading the New Testament in less than a year), I was really slacking in the God-department. I grew up in church, am a professing Christian, love God, attend church every Sunday, pray, believe...but I hardly was doing anything active to grow my faith. I'd "try" to pull out my Bible every day, but when I did, my mind would race. The baby would be asleep for two hours, and that is limited, precious time when you're a mom, teacher, and housekeeper. The to-do list grows, while time seemingly shrinks. It's hard to focus on just being quiet and listening to God, yet I know, as a long-time Christian, that it's crucial to healthy living.

Mathew 10:37 spoke volumes to me. I realized I was spending my time and mental energy making sure that everyone is provided for, and selfishly, that my needs are met (I can't focus when my house is a mess---that's just me)...instead of seeking God first, which I believe is commanded in Matthew 6:33:

"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [your needs] shall be added to you."

I KNOW my day will be improved and my family will be better served if I SEEK GOD FIRST and stop loving Him last.

Perhaps it's not mothering or your duties that are becoming your idols. Maybe it's something else. Your job? Your Facebook account (ooo---guilty at times!)? Your commitments to a community service project? Your drive to go green? For more on this topic, check out one of my favorite blogs, Passionate Homemaking.

Spending time with God comes at a cost. You won't go to God and come away as you were. He requires change, demands honesty, and expects growth. It can be a painful process, one we want to avoid at times, but I know that when I fess up and pipe down, good things happen!

And when you think about, isn't your family, yourself, your community, your home, your church, etc. best served when you are at your very best?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Good Hair"

We often call Miss E "Wanda Sykes" because their hair mirrors one another. I adore natural, African American hair----curly, kinky, big---lovely, in all its glory.

So after viewing Chris Rock's documentary entitled Good Hair (which is now available on DVD), I came away feeling less confident but at the same time, more determined to make sure my daughter doesn't fall victim to her own culture.

You see, when we first had Miss E, she was a tiny thing. She was under six pounds when she was born. But after two months, she had begin to resemble a beach ball---round, round, and round. There are photos of her lounging on a beach chair when she was just three months old while we were on vacation in Gulf Shores. One can hardly tell she has swimsuit bottoms on because her stomach covered the suit!

Our round brown bear got a lot of attention every where we went. I observed something very interesting while out and about with my little one. White women would typically remark how "big" she was, and their faces often reflected their criticism. Black women, no the other hand, would loudly say, "OOOOO! What a juicy baby! Girl, you are juicy!!!" Their reactions were far more positive.

My experience has been that white women are constantly scrutinizing their bodies. Thinner = better. And I believe this view of our bodies leads to even the youngest of children being criticized, like my daughter.

Seemingly, black women celebrate curves----"meat on the back porch," as my sister calls a round rump, for example. Breasts, hips, bottoms----round = better. Thin black women covet the curves of their rounder peers. So my "juicy" infant seemed to fit in to the definition of beauty in black culture. (Woo hoo. Stamp "accepted" on her and me, as a mommy, for making sure she's well-fed).

So, yeah, I felt pretty good as a mom. Black women approved of my child, and somehow, I felt like they approved of me. My baby wasn't twiggy, unsteady, or fragile. No. She was thick, round, and strong.

But then I watched Good Hair, and I'm realizing that just because we're "ok" in one department, we very well may fail in another: hair.

We've done ok so far. We have learned to only wash Miss E's hair every three weeks, condition it a few times a week, grease it up every day, comb it out every day, not get it unnecessarily wet, avoid sand and food (which is a challenge when Miss E wants to comb her hair Little Mermaid style with her dinner fork), etc.

Even though I was aware that black women's hair is forever changing and is quite challenging, I had no idea the extent of hair care---the hours upon hours of sitting in a chair in a salon and spending hundreds and even thousands of dollars upon EACH visit to the salon. All on the quest to "good hair."

Though we desperately want our child to fit into black society, I'm turned off by the emphasis on beauty that costs so much money and takes so much time. And what happens to the women and girls who cannot afford such luxury? Or, who do not care to fit into the new norm---long, straight, shiny hair?

I guess it's easier for me because I have never cared much about looking perfect. My nails are rarely polished, my daily makeup routine (which actually isn't every day...) takes me five minutes, I'm fine with a classic ponytail, and I wear the same ten shirts over and over. I'm thrifty, too, proud that my two favorite pairs of jeans cost $30 IN TOTAL. I value comfort. But the reality is, my daughter is black, and though I want her to know that going au natural is beautiful, I want to support her in fitting in.

One positive I took away from the film is that black people don't "get" black hair just like white parents with black kids don't get black hair. Black hair is a challenge. Period. And there's an endless (expensive, frustrating, etc.) quest to find the perfect solution.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"It's in her."

My daughter adores music, which includes her "singing" (more like happily humming) and dancing. A dance party breaks out in my kitchen all throughout the day. We might be listening to African Playground or a mix of non-annoying kiddie music I burned for her off ITunes. (If you haven't heard Hannah Montana's "Ice Cream Freeze," you are missing out on our favorite!) Sometimes we just put on the radio, or my husband will make up a song.

E has been gravitating toward the oven door to watch her reflection as she dances. And no move is off limits. Her hips shake from side to side, her arms are up over her head or sometimes flinging like a chicken's wings, her head is bobbing, her feet are stomping. She is dancing in pure joy and freedom. No hindrances, no rules, and no censorship.

In church during the praise-and-worship music time, E has her hands in the air, sometimes claps, and often shouts out of pleasure. A friend recently commented on my Facebook account that she enjoyed watching E "praise the Lord" that morning in church.

Lately I've heard a few people say to us that OF COURSE E likes music; it's in her.


I grew up in a home full of music----oldies, top 40, soundtracks. My father was a DJ for twenty-years, and every year on my birthday, he would play me a special song (which moved from Michael Jackson to Amy Grant to New Kids On The Block). The radio was on in the car, in the barn, by the swimming pool, in the dining room. We broke into spontaneous dance parties whenever we felt the urge. (In fact, just last week...and we're all grown!)

So I dare to say music is "in me," too. And I'm clearly not black. It's nurture, folks. If you foster a musical home, isn't child going to respond? And may I add, I've never met a little kid who doesn't enjoy music.

The "in her" comment bothers me because it's a slippery slope. What are people going to say next? If she likes watermelon someday (she doesn't yet), will people say, of course she does; it's in her? If she becomes good at playing basketball, is that "in her," too?

I'm not sure what scientific research (ha!) people base their thoughts upon. Seriously, folks.