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 1, 2010

Selfishly Selfless

Filed under: Adoption, Birth mother, Infertility, Newborn — adoptation @ 10:07 pm

Because we’ve had to travel pretty far from home to adopt our son, my wife and I have been talking to a lot of people who don’t know much about us—waiters, nurses, people at various front desks, etc. Between our accents, clothes, and general affect, it’s fairly simple to tell we’re not from here, so people invariably ask where we’re from and why we’ve traveled so far.

When we tell them it’s to adopt a baby, the universal response has been to tell us what a good thing we’re doing. How great it is to take a baby and make him part of our family. How selfless we are.

Of course, the thing is that this entire exercise is born of selfishness: we couldn’t have exactly what we wanted the way we wanted, and as we moved along the list of ways to get what we wanted, adoption eventually became the means to our end. We wanted a baby, and this is how we got one.

Along the way, I’ve come to see how this is not 100% selfish, even if that wasn’t on purpose. Our son was going to be born, and the circumstance he was going to be born into (which was by no means terrible—his birth mom would have loved him like crazy and given it her all) is now, in one move, altered completely. We will love him and give him every opportunity available to us to give. We will learn (pretty quickly, I imagine) to put ourselves aside and be…well, be selfless for him. Not because we wanted to be the kind of heroic figures one local waitress seemed to suggest we are (we’re not!), but because the three of us just so happened to find each other through the adoption process.

I think the infertility path that leads people like us to that process gradually makes you think in different ways about how a baby comes into your life, and what being a parent to a child means. Today the baby’s birth mom told my wife, “I’ve never really been a big fan of ‘everything happens for a reason,’ but on this one, I believe it,” to which she replied, “It really does feel like he is the baby we were meant to have.”

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 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 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 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.

January 11, 2010

Baby Stuff

Filed under: Adoption, Birth mother, Infertility, Paperwork, Preparation — adoptation @ 9:01 pm

With only about 2 months to go until the baby’s birth mother is due, my wife and I are having to get serious about our preparations for the adoption. We’re now officially beyond paperwork (well, not entirely…there’s still plenty of paperwork to do!) and have to do stuff like pick out a car seat, get some baby clothes, and generally figure out how to start taking care of this baby the minute he’s put into our arms.

One thing I’m staunchly against doing is buying a lot of stuff. Not because I don’t think we’ll need or want stuff—I just know that family & friends are going to want to buy gifts and help out and such and, well, they’re certainly welcome to do so! So I’m getting a Target registry together for the baby.

But since, again, we really don’t know all that much about babies and their baby stuff, my wife thought it would be good to go to our local Target and explore the wide world of baby bedding, figure out what exactly “receiving blankets” looked like, and get a general feel for the baby-stuff scene.

And wow, did we ever have fun!

We had fun looking at stuff that we wanted our baby to have (cute, but not too cute, onesies). We had fun mocking the stuff we wanted no part of (Diaper Genie? No thanks). We had fun being horrified by some of the stuff (a gadget that lets you listen to, record, and e-mail pre-natal sounds). We had fun picking up some stuff we’d really need (car seats are not all alike). We had fun imagining this stuff in our house and the baby in our life.

But the biggest shock was realizing that we were having fun. Doing baby stuff.

That hadn’t really happened before; certainly not in a long, long time. Any baby stuff (ie, infertility stuff) we did tended to involve negative emotions that ranged from nervousness and tension to disappointment and crippling heartbreak. The rest of what we did, including for the adoption, was generally paperwork stuff. And imagining life with a baby was way, way too outside of what felt safe to think about or discuss; being in the baby aisle of Target would have just meant hours of my wife crying while I tried to comfort us both.

But there we were, showing each other funny bibs and talking about why some onesies had mittens. We were just enjoying ourselves amongst the baby stuff, and starting for the first time to get a genuine, real feeling of what it might be like to arrive at the place we’ve been trying to get to for so long.

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