February 22, 2010

Just For Fun

Filed under: Adoption, Newborn, Parentood — adoptation @ 10:38 pm

My son has been alive for 4 weeks now, and exclusively in our care for a little more than half that time. My wife and I have, of course, taken that care very seriously—tending to his every need, staring at him throughout the day, bending ourselves to the learning curve as he bends it. It’s been a lot of work, but not a bit of it onerous.

But it’s all been work, pretty much, insofar as everything we’ve done has been about what he needs in any given moment. Food, changing, comforting, etc. It’s fun to watch him, but a newborn baby doesn’t really do tricks yet or get too terribly interactive.

But a few days ago, we noticed his eyes starting to focus on things. On us. And his head swings around in reaction to sounds. Our voices. We’ve been seeing and hearing him for a month, and now it seems to be mutual.

So today we unpacked a hand-me-down baby playset that my wife’s friend had bequeathed to us, set it up, and the three of us did something altogether new: we played. The baby clearly saw the bright colors, liked the sounds of the rattling plush animals, and spent a solid 10 minutes with rapt attention paid to the fun we were all having. My wife and I looked at each other as if we’d suddenly remembered something that we’d intended to do all along, but this really had been the first moment when it made sense to put away needful things and do something that was just for fun.

It was a ton of fun, too. I can’t wait to spend some more time playing with my son, and now those piles of baby toys that have been arriving daily via UPS make sense. We’re going to continue to have a lot of things we have to do for our baby, and we’ll do so with smiles on our faces. But now that there are also a few things that are just baby-brain-stimulating fun on the menu, too, we’ll have some bigger smiles on tap as well.


February 21, 2010

It’s Not Unusual

Filed under: Adoption, Birth mother, Newborn, Paperwork, Parentood — adoptation @ 9:33 pm

Today we opened the doors to family and friends on the occasion of the baby’s bris. Usually ritual circumcisions take place at 9 days (not 4 weeks), but nothing about this particular case has been the usual.

That said, the bris marked a major turning point in our family’s baby journey. Excepting the fact that he was a few weeks older than the typical bris candidate, the ceremony was an entirely normal baby thing. People ooohed and ahhhed at him, the mohel did the prayers & the cutting, food & drink were consumed, stories were told—and from start to finish, it was just like all other bris ceremonies. Sure, we took a photo of everyone together so that the birth mom could see how everyone had come together for the baby…but even that was just a group pic at a party. Nothing unusual going on here, people. Move along.

There are still a few small turns to come in the adoption, including the few reports we have to submit to the agency and the 6-month finalization, but other than that we’re just raising our son. It’s entirely new to us and wonderful and mysterious and all that, but also entirely ordinary. Which is not a complaint—at this point, I am very thankful for a little ordinary wherein the only surprises are good ones.

February 19, 2010

Smile for the Camera

Filed under: Adoption, Birth mother, Newborn, Parentood — adoptation @ 4:05 pm

One of the things you learn in any and all writing courses is: Know your audience. This doesn’t mean that you should pander to the audience; rather, it’s about understanding to whom you are talking and speaking in a way that makes sense for all involved.

I’m finding myself translating that lesson a bit as I take pictures of our son. The funny thing is, the audience I have in mind isn’t his grandparents or even a future version of me. It’s his birth mom.

As with most adoption situations, one of the terms of our agreement is that the birth mom will receive regular letter/photo updates about the baby/child, all the way up to his 18th birthday. As befits our situation and the times, so far we’re also maintaining online contact that goes beyond the minimum requirements.

And so I’ve already uploaded some photos for her to see, and will be sending the 30-day update very soon. As a result, I find myself making sure to take photos I know she’ll want to see, whether they be milestones that would be meaningful to her or snapshot details of his new situation that line up with what she’d wanted for him. As I begin writing the story of my son’s life in words and pictures, his birth mom is one of the key audiences I’m writing for. My wife and I love love love having this kid in our lives, and we know that she’s as important a player as there’s been in the situation—so photos that will make her happy and continue to let her know that we were the right choice for this baby are among the most important pictures I’ll be taking for some time to come.

February 14, 2010

We Three

Filed under: Adoption, Newborn, Paperwork, Parentood — adoptation @ 5:19 pm

While we were out of state waiting for our adoption paperwork to move forward, the guest list was rock steady: my son, my wife, and me. The nearest friend or family member was at least a time zone away, and seemed to be sated by my daily uploads of digital photos and videos.

Once we made it home, however, all bets were off—everyone wanted to see the baby, in person, now. One family member even went so far as to e-mail twice and call twice within a 36-hour period, barely giving us time to respond. And anyway, the response wasn’t what anyone wanted to hear: because our son was born quite premature, the doctor felt that his immune system might not be up to the bacteriological exposures of the outside world or the people who carried these bugs from place to place. In other words, we were back home, but not really accepting visitors.

Needless to say, this has been an extremely difficult discipline to maintain. Family members (especially those with school-age kids) who have already gotten a “please, not just yet” answer have re-asked for an audience with the baby. I don’t blame them—he is super cute and thoroughly awesome—but quite frankly, we didn’t wait several years for a baby just so we could put him and his underdeveloped immune system at risk right away. It’s been a daily exercise to try to graciously process everyone’s excitement about the kid while also kicking it down the road a week or two.

But there were two sets of people who would simply not wait: the grandparents. My wife and I understand where they’re coming from, so we’ve arranged to lift the veil a bit for these people—and these people only. And since my mother-in-law lives fairly far away…we consented to a weekend visit.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I like my mother-in-law. She’s very nice to me. She was and is a good mom to my wife. And she took good care of the baby while here. But you know those house guests who essentially take care of themselves, find what they need in your house, and blend into the environment seamlessly? That is not the kind of guest my mother-in-law is. She requires a lot of attention and guidance in our home, and does not always occupy herself very well.

So while it was nice to have her visit, fun to see her excitement about the baby, and awesome to have her babysit while we went out for dinner…by the time 48 hours had ticked off the clock, my wife and I were desperate to return to the We Three rhythm we’d quickly eked out since the adoption. (I think we hit bottom when my son was crying early in the morning, and she walked into our bedroom, without knocking, to check on him.) We’d spent so long chasing after the idyll of our little family unit, and it seemed like a sharp violation to have even a thoroughly benign intruder elbow into our little trio.

But I guess we need to get used to it. We both have lots of friends and family around, and I certainly can’t blame them for being psyched about the baby. After a couple of weeks, it’s going to be a stretch to keep the wall up around him, especially as he seems to be getting more robust and healthy by the day (though a clearance from his pediatrician would be AOK by me, too). I know that we should, and will, be grateful to have so many well-wishers for our newly/finally formed family…but I also can’t help but want to live inside a blissfully undisturbed We Three bubble for as long as we can.

February 12, 2010

Not Quite Ours

Filed under: Adoption, Home Study, Infertility, Newborn, Paperwork, Parentood — adoptation @ 9:48 pm

Among all the elation and contented feelings of sudden/at-long-last parenthood comes the occasional reminder that we are not quite done with the adoption process, and the baby is not quite ours.

The state from which we adopted requires a 6-month finalization period; from now until then, we will be sending updates to the agency and will have a handful of follow-up home study visits. The first of those was today, and while it went perfectly fine, it brought up the single most annoying side of adoption: because we are not able to have a child the way so many other people do, we must prove (in ways those other people don’t have to) that we are fit to be parents.

It normally doesn’t get under my skin, but today it burrowed in a little just because we’ve been parenting the heck out of this kid for almost 3 weeks now. Not to pat myself too hard on the back, but so far my wife and I are a pretty good Mom/Dad team. But the fact is that, technically, my son is a ward of the adoption agency; technically, his name is not the one we’ve given him; technically, I do not have a sufficient relationship with him to get him a Social Security number. And all of that will continue to be true until sometime this summer.

Luckily, there is too much joy radiating off of this kid to get too down on it. But the pile of paperwork still to be done continues to be in sharp focus, even if it’s seen only out of the corner of my eye. He is my son, regardless of what it says on paper. That will have to do until that paper gets amended to say that he is entirely ours.

February 11, 2010

Snowed In

Filed under: Adoption, Newborn, Parentood — adoptation @ 10:19 pm

As the northeast starts to dig and thaw its way out of the “snowpocalypse” storm, I’m feeling doubly glad that we made it back home before the snow hit. By being snowed in during the first few days home with our son, we got an automatic stretch of time for just the three of us. We went nowhere, no one came here, there was no pressure to run around doing errands, and there seemed to be a general agreement throughout the region that everyone was entitled to a snow day.

So we looked out the window at the storm during the few moments when were weren’t staring at the baby. I did a little shoveling, but it didn’t bother me quite like it did last winter (or even earlier this season). A general feeling of contentedness ruled the day, and the way the storm slowed the overall pace of things was right on the money.

The kid is eating, sleeping, and pooping like a champ. We’re starting to realize all the little things we don’t know about having a newborn—like, are those little snorting noises he makes just cute, or should we be worried?—but we’ve got friends, family, books, and the Internets to shed a little light. I can’t remember the last time I felt this unburdened, which is strange considering that technically I’ve got a tremendous set of tasks added to my plate now.

I’m sure it will change once I’m faced with going back to work, or even just when the baby moves to the next inevitable stage. But right now, I can really feel that something is very different, and not just the new job title (“Dad”) and the demanding new resident. New parenthood is even more of a pivot-point than I’d been expecting, and I’m curious to see if the set of sensations firing off in my brain will carry over into the rest of my life when things return to some semblance of normal.

February 9, 2010

Scene Change

Filed under: Adoption, Newborn, Parentood, Preparation — adoptation @ 11:35 pm

On Monday morning, we were woken up around 9:30am not by a crying baby, but by a ringing phone.

“You’re cleared to go home. Congratulations!”

I was a little slow to comprehend, partly from lack of sleep but also because I’d assumed we were going to be staying put for quite awhile longer. Between my experience with other bureaucratic agencies and the snowstorm heading for the northeast, I’d mentally prepped for another week as guests in the southwest.

But no, we could go. I shook my wife awake, explained that there were no more steps—this was it—and we began planning our exit. Fifteen minutes later, we had a Monday evening flight booked. A little more than an hour after that, we were driving through some pretty tough rain, headed for the airport. And a few hours later…

…we were home. Really home. All three of us. As a family.

The flight had been mercifully empty, and arrived mercifully early. Our son hadn’t cried even a bit on takeoff or descent. The security people helped us through, and the airline folks even printed up a (free!) boarding pass just for our baby. Just a little more than half a day after the call that we were free to go, and we were in our house, with our baby.

I’d assumed that falling asleep that night would have been no more than my head meeting the pillow. But instead, I found myself overwhelmed with emotion. We’d been with our son for two weeks, but the scenes in which that took place—visiting the NICU in our sterile gowns, eating all of our meals in local restaurants and having the hotel staff clean up after us, placing the baby to sleep in an empty suitcase as we filled the hotel room with diapers and wipes and such—were too far off our accustomed center to feel real. But this night, in our bedroom, with our son sleeping in the crib just a couple of feet away, was very real. It was the real start of our real life as a real family of three, and I found myself so in love with my son and my wife and the new scene that had just opened up, that I was loathe to fall asleep and miss any of it.

February 6, 2010

Rookie Season

Filed under: Adoption, Newborn, NICU, Parentood — adoptation @ 3:22 pm

On the whole, my wife and I seem to be handling the mechanics of caring for a newborn fairly well. The coaching we got in the NICU in regards to diaper changing, bottle feeding, temperature taking, spitup clearing, infant swaddling, etc., appear to have done the trick, and our son doesn’t seem to be any worse off for having a pair of rank amateurs in charge of his well-being.

That said, we’ve made our first official rookie mistake. Because our baby is a preemie, keeping his temperature up is even more important than usual. He’s to be in at least one (often two) layers of clothes, and swaddled in one (sometime two) blankets, plus a hat and 70-something room temps. Not hard to remember, even easier to do.

But yesterday we noticed that he was sweating. A bunch. His clothes were sweaty, and the first layer of swaddling blanket. But his temperature was steady, and he wasn’t behaving any differently. We put on a different set of clothes; no change. We gave him new blankets; no change. We gave him a sponge bath; no change. We looked at him and pleaded with him to tell us what was up; no dice.

Then my wife started looking at the labels of his clothes and blankets. His rookie parents, it seems, had him wearing a polyester onesie and were using a polyester blanket as the second swaddling layer. Which means he was wrapped in three layers, with the outer- and innermost ones made of a less-than-breathable material…it’s a wonder he wasn’t swimming in sweat!

Feeling kind of stupid and very sorry, we put him into all cottons, wrapped him accordingly…and the sweating magically (ahem) disappeared.

It was our first mistake—no doubt the first of many, many errors—and I’m just glad it was such a low-impact and easily reversible one. Whoops!

February 5, 2010


Filed under: Adoption, Newborn, Parentood — adoptation @ 9:49 pm

For the first time in his young life (and our somewhat older ones), my wife and I got to spend 24 hours straight with our son. We had to wake up every 3 hours for sessions that included taking his temperature, changing his diaper, and feeding him (approx. 30 min. total), followed by swaddling and a bit of holding/rocking him before he and we went back to sleep.

Before bringing him home from the hospital, everyone we knew “warned” us about what was coming—groggy sleeplessness, twitchy frustration, rookie’s jitters—none of which materialized in the first 24-hour cycle…or in the hours leading into the first 48 an beyond. Sure, it was hard waking for a couple of the later (or earlier!) feedings; the hotel room started to smell of the hygiene and eating and general stuffiness; and I’ll need to do a better job figuring out how to bring in healthier meals now that we can’t really go out.

But we were and are happy. We are and continue to be grateful to have this baby in our life. We will be itchy to get home as the days tick by. But each challenge dissolves into the two of us smiling at each other, marveling at the boy sleeping in a carefully cushioned suitcase, enjoying every little thing he does and questioning every little thing we do for him.

The first 24 flew by because we are so happy to be parents and so thrilled to have connected with our son. The long line of 24-hour cycles ahead of us, which will be more of the same until they suddenly become new again for all of us, so far are everything we’d been working towards for so long and better than we’d expected it to be.

February 4, 2010

Baby, I’m Yours

Filed under: Adoption, Newborn, Paperwork, Parentood — adoptation @ 5:13 pm

To my son,

Today your mom and I signed the papers that make you officially ours—but they’re really a formality, because we’d both become yours already.

Now I’m sitting in a hotel room, watching your mom feed you. Your first couple of weeks have already been a hell of an adventure, between your premature arrival, our long trip across the country to meet you, your startling progress in the hospital, and now the prospect of beginning to be your dad while living in a hotel room. I’m sure it won’t be long before you’re sick of hearing how the hotel had no cribs, so we converted an empty suitcase into a baby bed…but that’s the story, one of many I’ll enjoy telling about you.

I’m not going to pretend that we don’t all have some challenges ahead. You’re adopted, which means there are even more people who love you like crazy and want the best for you; but I’m also not naive enough to think it won’t be something you’ll have hard questions about. Hopefully my answers will be good ones.

In six months, we have to return to the state where you were born for a final hearing that wraps up the adoption process. The woman from the adoption agency says that the hearing mostly entails your mom and I swearing, under oath, to always love you as much as humanly possible. It’ll be easy to do, because it’s true right now, it’ll be true then, and it’ll be true as long as we’re all together in the family you helped make complete.

Love always,

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