Adoptation

January 31, 2010

Parenthood-ish

Filed under: Adoption, Newborn, NICU, Paperwork, Preparation — adoptation @ 8:25 pm

Today our son was moved from Intensive Care to Intermediate Care…which was a total surprise and thoroughly awesome to hear. We’ve even started doing some parenthood-ish stuff, getting to change and/or feed him (under supervision, of course) once or twice a day.

It’s kind of a nice transition: my wife and I get to sleep 10 hours a night, go out to dinner, watch movies uninterrupted, etc., all while also getting to stare at the baby, comment about how superior he is to every other baby ever, and not have to worry about his initial care. He’s in excellent hands, which are only occasionally ours.

But all of that will be coming to an end. The NICU staff told us he is improving rapidly enough that he may have less than a week left before being given a clean bill of health. We have to see how the final rounds of adoption paperwork are going (specifically, the part that allows us to take the baby across state lines), but it seems that in relatively short order he’ll either be bunking with us in our hotel room or heading to the airport to fly to his new home. And then the parenthood-ishness will be over and the real parenthood will be in full flight.

January 30, 2010

Signed, Sealed, (almost) Delivered

Filed under: Adoption, Birth Father, Birth mother, NICU, Paperwork — adoptation @ 2:48 pm

Just before dinner yesterday, we got a call from the adoption agency: the birth mother had signed her papers, and the baby was now formally and irrevocably ours.

(Well, technically he’s now a ward of the agency…they don’t formally transfer him to our custody until he’s released from the hospital. Since he’s still in the NICU, that’s still down the road, but that’s more of a technicality than anything.)

Needless to say, my wife and I were pretty thrilled—we finally, really have a newborn baby who is ours and part of our family. But we also had to acknowledge how that same moment must have been for the birth mom. She is obviously one seriously tough cookie; we’re glad our son came via this awesome woman.

Now our only real job is monitoring the kid’s progress in the NICU. We’ve been going twice a day for 4 days now…and the amazing this is how different each visit is. Yesterday he was in an incubator and under jaundice lights for one visit, and the other included the birth father among the visitors; today he was out of the incubator, in a bassinet, wearing a hat & onesie, and experimenting with bottle feeding (plus we had the birth mom’s mother with us, who wanted to visit the baby one more time). Who knows what surprises tonight’s & tomorrow’s visits will bring?

January 29, 2010

Meet and Greet

Filed under: Adoption, Birth Father, Birth mother, Newborn, NICU, Paperwork — adoptation @ 6:40 pm

Today was set to be a double meet and greet day, including lunch with the baby’s birth mom and a late-afternoon meetup with the biological father. We were looking forward to the 1st meet for sure (we continue to really dig the birth mom), and were a little disappointed when it got postponed; she’s not feeling 100%, which is totally understandable given the events of the last few days.

But the 2nd event was also pretty intriguing—we’d never communicated with the bio-dad in any way, shape or form. In fact, we knew the baby much better, and were curious to see if the other half of the equation was tall or short, what color hair he had, what sort of personality, etc. The picture had filled in a lot in the last month, but this was a whole ‘nother set of dots to connect.

My wife and I were both a bit nervous about meeting him…but it turned out we needn’t have worried. He was clearly much more nervous to meet us, to the point of being nearly overwhelmed, and he was also a total mensch about everything. Tall and good-looking (and without a doubt the source of the baby’s thick head of reddish/blondish hair), the bio-dad was soft-spoken, polite, sweet as can be, and holding on tight through the whirlwind experience of meeting us and visiting the baby in the NICU.

I basically just kept talking to him, asking a few quick questions, giving information about what was going on, and doing my best to paint a picture of this all as a pretty big deal—hoping to help confirm for him that he’d made the right decision (he’d already signed his papers waiving parental rights before this, so it was to comfort, not persuade). He was very emotional when seeing the baby in the NICU, and kept expressing how thankful he was that we were taking this baby and giving him a good life; he seemed almost surprised to learn that we were thankful in his direction, too. As I said to him in the NICU, “We couldn’t be doing this without you.”

Our plan was to ask to take his picture so we’d have it to show our son later on, but it was clear that whipping out the camera would have been an extra pressure that might have pushed him over the edge. So instead we just assured him that as the baby grew up and learned about the adoption dynamic, we’d tell him that we’d met his bio-dad, that he was a good guy, and that he’d done a good thing to ensure the baby had a good life. Then we shook his hand, watched him walk out of the NICU, and went back to spending some more time with our son—a cool little guy who comes from good stock.

January 28, 2010

Documents and Artifacts

Filed under: Adoption, Newborn — adoptation @ 6:14 pm

It’s day 2 of our cross-country adoption journey, and I think I’ve found the perfect way to process all of what’s going on around me, inside me, and through me. I seem to essentially be creating an ongoing documentary of the baby’s 1st days: snapping and uploading digital photos; shooting, editing and sharing short videos of his little moments; sending updates via e-mail; and tapping out entries on this blog.

The combination of these documents and artifacts is a sort of digital narrative that’s allowing family and friends back home to connect to the little guy (and my wife and me) without actually being able to visit and hold him in their arms. People can see us, hear us, and interact with us, even across the time zones that separate them from our experience. (I am doubly, triply glad that I asked my wife to make sure our hotel had free wi-fi.)

And that experience continues to be routinely whiz-bang. This morning we saw the baby take his first shot at bottle feeding, and he spent time being rocked to sleep in my wife’s arms. By the time we visited in the afternoon, he was in a brightly lit incubator (they’re zapping away his jaundice) and fussing with the feeding tube in his nose. We still can’t really do anything for him, but it keeps on being fairly satisfying to be able to be there with him.

January 27, 2010

Transition Time

Filed under: Adoption, Birth mother, Newborn, Preparation — adoptation @ 8:35 pm

Here’s a sentence I was beginning to think I’d never type: Today I held my newborn son in my arms.

After a whirlwind month that included an adoption-agency match with a way-cool birth mother, a quick ramp-up to a scheduled induction, an even quicker sprint to a premature delivery, and then a mad dash to the airport to get boots on the ground within 24 hours of the birth…my wife and I walked into the hospital and met our baby boy.

But that’s pretty much all we did. He’s a month or so premature, so they have him in the NICU all wired up and tended to. He’s very healthy, breathing on his own, crying full volume, and moving vigorously; but he also is staying with the NICU instead of with us, and we’re not feeding him, clothing him, or any other kind of parenting stuff other than visiting for short bursts of hang-out-and-stare time. Aside from that, he’s already got 24/7 babysitting services.

I guess this is our “pregnancy transition,” then. The nine months of gestation give new parents an opportunity to wrap their heads around this strange new business and prepare for the move from duo to trio. Now we get to have a physical reminder of our own that there will be a full-time baby in our lives soon…but not just yet.

January 26, 2010

Game On!

Filed under: Adoption, Preparation — adoptation @ 7:31 pm

Apparently, the baby doesn’t want to miss President Obama’s first State of the Union address…because despite his mid-March due date and a medical intervention to keep him in place, he is coming. Right now.

We got the call from the adoption agency late this afternoon—too late to make travel arrangements for tonight, but early enough to wrap up things at work and calmly (more or less) start to sort everything out. Now we’ve got a flight first thing in the morning and a distant NICU with our name on it. The hard-to-suppress terror feels a little bit akin to the challenges of the last several years, but this is also the 1st time we’ve known there’s a real, actual baby on the other side of the jittery fear.

So far, all we really know about this kid is that he’s got a mind of his own and won’t be told little things like when he should be born. Sounds like my kind of guy. We should be hearing sometime very, very soon that he’s officially been born…it’s “game on” time, and now the adventure really gets going.

January 25, 2010

Best Laid Plans

Filed under: Adoption, Birth mother, Infertility, Preparation — adoptation @ 9:49 pm

Something awesome happened on Friday: we had a conference call with the adoption-agency folks, and they laid out for us a well laid-out plan. The baby’s birth mom had elected for a scheduled induction, allowing us to plan the trip to her state, schedule a meet-up with her the day before, etc. It was about a month and a half out, and the endgame was sliding into place brilliantly. This was, in fact, pretty much the 1st thing in several years of our baby quest that was going smoothly and happily.

And like any of the best laid plans, it wasn’t in place for long.

On Saturday night, we got a call that the birth mom’s water had broken. Six weeks early.

She got to the hospital quickly, and the doctors gave her drugs to stop contractions. The baby is healthy and the right size & weight and all that…he’s just also early. The doctor wants him to cook for at least another week or two…but they’re also not going to medically stop him again. So for now he’s in place, resting comfortably in the womb. But the next time he decides he’s had enough of this womb thing, that he’s ready to meet everyone, he’s going to come out.

Really? Wow. So just in case the journey wasn’t complex enough, now we’re throwing a premature birth into the mix. The general thought is that he won’t be too premature; 5 or 6 weeks early is early, but not dangerously so. But it does complicate the hospital stay (some length of time in the NICU), the plan for the birth mom to have some time with him in her room, and then his ability to hop a plane to come back with us. Looks like we’re gonna be staying in the hotel longer than we thought.

It feels a little unfair—like being happy and relaxed for almost a month had been more than we were entitled to—but also exciting, because this thing is happening. Soon. We won’t be there for the birth anymore, and we’ll have more difficulties to deal with…but on the other hand, who better than an infertility-battle-hardened couple like us to deal with them? We’re tough, and we know how to deal with the best laid plans getting unplanned in an instant. The baby will be born, he’ll be healthy, and he’s clearly just as eager to join our family as we are eager to have him come aboard.

January 21, 2010

In the Mail

Filed under: Adoption, Infertility, Paperwork, Preparation — adoptation @ 7:54 pm

On the day my wife and I officially “went active” with the adoption agency, I joked with the guy on the phone, “So I guess now we just wait for our baby to show up in the mail?” There was an uncomfortable silence, followed by a short, nervous bit of laughter. I guess they don’t joke much about adoption over there.

But that’s not to say that nothing is coming in the mail. In addition to the constant flow of paperwork in and out of our mailbox, today a small carton of complimentary Similac formula showed up in the mail. We didn’t order it or sign up with anyone for it; it just arrived, no doubt courtesy of some mailing list we’re now on thanks to our Target baby registry or something like that.

I smiled when it arrived, but not because it was a free box of something we’re really going to need in a few weeks. Actually, this is the second free box of formula we’ve received. The first came more than three years ago. We had just started trying to conceive, assuming that the lack of success was just the normal couple of misses that come on the road to a direct hit. My wife and I both got a little chuckle out of the unsolicited breast-milk substitute, and she brought it into work for a colleague who had just had a baby.

We never heard from the free-formula people again, but I never entirely forgot about it. It was the first in a long, long line of many, many little (and big) reminders that society does not make allowances for infertility. You are expected to be able to reproduce; if you can’t, no one really wants to hear about it. There’s no such thing as a TV show’s infertility plotline that doesn’t resolve with a pregnancy—if the show reflected how long many people really have to wait, it would exceed people’s patience. Some of our friends, and many of our family members, expressed concern and support initially…but pretty quickly didn’t want to hear about it anymore. Their lives had too many positive plotlines and too much fun on offer to want to be dragged down with a story that has no foreseeable end point.

That makes our currently foreseeable end point all the more relieving. Our copy of Heading Home With Your Newborn showed up in the mail today, too, and I’m looking forward to more happy arrivals. The baby isn’t showing up in the mail, but all evidence still points to the baby showing up soon, and I’m ready for the happy plotlines that come along with that.

January 16, 2010

It’s the Economy, Stupid

Filed under: Adoption, Birth mother, Home Study, Infertility, Paperwork — adoptation @ 9:31 pm

Ever since my wife and I began the adoption process—and especially since we’ve been matched—there’s been a steady background hum of worry. Things continue to seem to be going well, yes, but we know that a decent number of adoptions end in disruption near the end…and that our babymaking quest has seen us continually ending up on the wrong side of the odds, no matter how short or long.

This week, we felt a little air come out of the balloon. No, it was nothing bad with the baby, or the baby’s birth mom, or the adoption agency, or any of the many possible worries they spell out in the little booklets they’ve given us. No, as Bill Clinton would say: It was the economy, stupid. The stupid, stupid economy.

At the end of last week, my wife’s company had significant layoffs and her hours were drastically reduced. She didn’t lose her job entirely, thank goodness; while it does mean reduced income and a need for some quick belt-tightening, it doesn’t mean we’re in any sort of serious fiscal trouble. And while we do need to update a bunch of our paperwork (specifically the home study), it doesn’t negatively impact the adoption. It’s bad, but not tragic.

What it does mean, however, is that our long-held game plan—for me to quit my job after the baby is born and be a full-time, stay-at-home dad—just went kaput. Temporarily kaput, I think, but kaput nonetheless.

My wife is the breadwinner, and while we can make due on just her salary and maybe a little freelance income from me, it can’t and won’t work the other way around. And now I’m the only one with employer-funded health insurance…which both my wife (now) and the baby (soon) will need to join.

Since it still seems pretty likely that the adoption will work out and that we’ll have a newborn in the house in a couple of months(!), my wife can’t really look for a new full-time job until after the birth…which means I’m staying put for the time being. I don’t hate my job or anything like that, not by a long shot; but I was fully prepped & ready for my new job, one that I’ve been looking forward to for several years now. And in one partial swing of the stupid economic axe, that’s all over & done…at least for awhile.

This is, to be sure, not the biggest problem we’ve faced in this process. It’s just another disappointment, another moment to think, “I haven’t done anything wrong. Why can’t I have what I want?” But I guess the thing I really want is to be a dad, to be a family that extends in another, exciting direction. And I’m fairly confident that we’ll get back on track sooner rather than later, so I’m trying to keep a good attitude about the latest twist in the story.

January 12, 2010

Opening the Closed Door

Filed under: Adoption, Birth mother, Infertility, Preparation — adoptation @ 8:38 pm

When my wife and I were stranded in some of the lowest depths of our infertility struggle, I used RESOLVE to find a local therapist who specialized in fertility issues. During one of our sessions, she used the term “The Closed-Door Room.” We both sat up bolt-straight when we heard it.

The therapist didn’t need to tell us what The Closed-Door Room was. We knew, because we had one.

It’s a room every infertile couple has, the one you’d started out calling The Nursery. But soon you stopped calling it that, then you stopped going into it, then tried not to look in when you walked by, and finally you closed the door and kept it closed.

We’d even had fights about it. TCDR had been one of the places that, during the move-in to our house (the one we’d bought for the baby we were sure was coming so, so soon…) we plopped a lot of boxes and stray furniture. Stuff that didn’t have a place and/or for which there was no hurry to put anywhere. Eventually, my wife wanted to clear out this moving day detritus from TCDR…but as much as it pained me to know that this was no longer The Nursery, I couldn’t quite cope with the idea of the room being completely and absolutely empty. Every few months she’d want to clean it up; every time, I’d get angry and despondent at the thought.

So the door stayed mainly closed for a couple of years. It’s near the top of the stairs, and there’s no getting around the fact that we both needed to walk by it several times a day. But we didn’t go in very often, and at least we didn’t have to look into this space that had not yet stopped—and after awhile felt like it may never stop—being TCDR.

Then we got The Call. And then we had contact with the baby’s birth mom. And then, fairly quickly, it started to seem real.

And then we opened the door.

My wife has almost finished painting the walls and touching up the trim. We’ve ordered some furniture, measured the spaces and laid out where the crib would go, where the changing table would be, how we would keep the diaper bin from being too terribly close to where the baby would sleep. We saw how it could be, and believed it. We even started calling it The Nursery again.

And even if, for some reason, this adoption is disrupted, this experience has made us both believe that it will happen for us, and sooner rather than later. I think we’ll be able to keep the door open, walk by it every day, look in, and feel good about our chances of closing it again with a baby asleep on the other side.

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