05/25/15

A birth people visit, three ways

Kat’s Perspective 

When Spencer and I chose to do adoption three years ago, we knew from the beginning we wanted an open adoption. We thought long and hard about how much contact we wanted and settled on a semi-open adoption, getting pictures and updates a few times a year through our adoption agency. Visits were something we didn’t want, thinking it would be too hard on us to see her and being concerned it would too confusing or difficult for her. When she was born, that all changed!

Our adoption plan did not go at all how we expected. We never guessed she would be born so early, or that we wouldn’t meet Maggey and Dave and get to know them before she showed up. Having a very drawn out plan was the only comfort we found in adoption at the time, and when that fell apart we were terrified of what to expect. Would we all like each other? Was this happening too fast? Were we ready? Would they be ready?

When we made our birth plan, there were a few things we were certain of. We wanted Maggey and Dave present in the room, Maggey was to be the first one to hold her and we wanted Dave to cut the cord. We thought we would spend some bittersweet days in the hospital before saying goodbye and having our semi-open adoption take over. Boy were we wrong! When I went into labor, the fear of unknown that I had is something I could never put into words. Without Spencer there to remind me that everything happens for a reason, I probably would have lost it. When Maggey and Dave opened the door to our hospital room very early in the morning, I had no idea what to expect. But the moment we hugged I had an overwhelming sense of calm that I never thought I’d have. Watching them look at Tess for the first time was the first moment in all of this adoption mayhem that I knew everything was going to be okay. And the months following were nothing short of perfect!

I would never wish a preemie on anyone, and I had such a sense of sadness for my daughter, and failure as a mother watching her hooked up to tubes with doctors poking at her all the time. But looking back, I don’t think it was meant to be any other way. The months we got to spend together in the NICU was exactly what I needed to feel at peace with my decision. Watching the interaction between her and her new parents and just the pure love they had for her was nothing short of amazing. During that time was when we decided that our pictures and updates every so often would not be enough. We wanted to see her, and maintain this awesome relationship we had formed during this bittersweet time. Lucky for us, we were all on the same page.

When Tess left the hospital we cried and hugged and agreed it wouldn’t be the last time we saw each other. As time went on, it became more and more obvious that due to work and babies and living so far apart that visits would be rare. I sort of let go of the hope that I would see her and luckily because of this blog, I didn’t feel such a big loss. Getting to see her daily through pictures and hear all the stories and feel a part of that was more than most birth parents get and I felt very fortunate for that.

When we first spoke about a visit date I was quite hesitant because I had become so used to the thought of not seeing her. My mother however was VERY insistent that I make these plans. She had been there from the time Tess was born and loved her as much as I did. She bugged me almost every time I saw her about when we would get to see Tess, to the point I started to resent her for it. She has no idea how I feel. How could she pressure me into doing it? “How selfish of her for not taking my feelings into consideration!”, was all I could think. Every time she brought it up, I shut it down immediately. I started to feel guilty for robbing my mom of the opportunity to see her grandchild when she so desperately wanted to, and that’s when I decided to say yes to a visit.

Some of you might be thinking, “But why didn’t she want to see her? Why was she only doing this for her mom?” The answer is a bit confusing. Of course I wanted to see her. But there is a lot of fear that comes with that. What if she doesn’t like me? What if she doesn’t understand? What if our relationship isn’t as comfortable as it was in the NICU? What if I just cry the entire time and look like a total loon? Every ridiculous thought you could think of went through my head. But at the end of the day, I realized being scared of what could happen was not worth missing out on the opportunity to see the tiny human that changed my life in a million ways. And so we set a date!

In the weeks leading up, I was so nervous. I am the queen of anticipating situations and coming up with worst-case scenarios. I counted down the days, and every day more and more fears came to mind. My best friend happens to be a birth mom as well, and her son used to scream and cry when she would try to hold him during her first visits. This is only natural when a child is meeting who they think is a stranger, but it scared me! What if Tess hates me and all I want to do is hold her and she just screams and cries for her mom? I can’t imagine how much that would hurt.

I also wasn’t sure how to feel about Remy. I adore him naturally, as he is my daughter’s brother, but what if I didn’t connect with him? What if his birth mom saw pictures of us and resented me for getting to meet her child? When my mom and I arrived at the restaurant, we were a ball of nerves. Should we be late? Should we be early? Should we wait inside, outside maybe? So many things to think about. Maggey apologized profusely for being late, but I was happy they were! It gave us just enough time to get it together.

When we said our hellos, it was an instant sigh of relief. Tess seemed to be excited and intrigued by what was about to happen, and of course it was like no time had passed! We sat down and I have to say, I was jealous when Tess asked to sit on my mom’s lap first. But seeing the pride on her face getting to hold her granddaughter for the first time took my breath away! As soon as we were chatting and eating, I realized I was ridiculous for ever thinking it would be awkward. Our relationship is so natural and easy that even after three years, it was like we do this every day!

I never had any fears about Tess being exactly where she needed to be, but it really resonated with me during dinner just how lucky I was to have these people in my life, and as the parents to my child no less! I felt nothing but peace and reassurance as we gawked over these kids. When we left the restaurant, Tess held my hand walking out. Its such a simple thing, yet it made me want to dance through the streets with joy! She is holding my hand! The feeling I had then was so incredible it could never be explained.

As we drove away, all we could talk about was how perfect she was. It couldn’t have gone any better, and I was on cloud nine. When I got home, my best friend and I sat up until 3 in the morning gushing about how amazing adoption is, hardly taking a breath.

Our day on Saturday was no less perfect. Getting to watch her interact at the farm with the animals was amazing cause I saw a more reserved and curious side of her. She was shy at times and in awe at others. I was in awe the entire time. Remy, little flirt that he is, wanted to spend all his time with me. He was adorable, wanting to be held all the time and watching him keep up with Tess on his gimp leg cracked me up! I was so relieved that our feelings for each other were mutual. We also loved meeting Joy, as it gave another glimpse into the life Tess has and the wonderful people surrounding her.

My mom made the most incredible picnic, and we sat in a beautiful rose garden while we enjoyed it. She made this adorable pink ombre cake for Tess, and watching her dive right into it while we were trying to take pictures was hilarious! I don’t think the setting could have made for a more beautiful day.

Saying goodbye was very hard, as I had expected. I can’t compare it to anything really. Saying goodbye when she left the hospital was easier I think, because I had just spent many weeks with her. This time we had only spent two days together. It wasn’t nearly enough time. But knowing it wasn’t the last time made it sting a little less. Despite the agony of going our separate ways, I would have to say it was the best two days of my life so far.

It’s hard to describe what its like being pregnant, giving birth, signing your baby over to parents that aren’t you, and watching your child grow up without you present. But through all the tears, happy and sad, I have to say I wouldn’t change a single thing. I’ve never felt one feeling of regret, or that Tess isn’t in the exact place she is meant to be. And I know I can speak on behalf of my mom when I say she feels the same way. It might not be traditional, or easy for others to understand, but that’s okay because it is perfect for us.

This unique family unit we’ve created is what I dreamed about for my daughter. And I can say in full confidence that it is amazing. I thank my lucky stars every day for Maggey and Dave and every single person Tess has in her life to love and support her.   

Maggey’s take

Ever since leaving Salt Lake, we’ve been talking about visiting. As we drove home, it made us nervous. What would it mean for Tess? Would a visit set an expectation that would mean hurting people if she ever didn’t want to go? What was best for her? How could we even think of that when we were dying to take our daughter home and start our post-NICU life as a family?

Our fears about how they’d view our parenting, what they’d think about our decisions, and if the reality would break the fairy tale faded. As time passed, we got more and more relaxed. Every time we communicated with Tess’ “birth people”, we remembered how great they are and how much fun we had getting to know each other. The what-ifs quieted down. Micky and Kat have been nothing but thoughtful and respectful, constantly reassuring us that they considered us great parents to this kiddo.

We planned our first visit, and were thwarted by an adoption match for our third child. We planned another, and it got bumped again for a different match after the first one disrupted.  With our third match for our third child nowhere to be seen, we decided that a happy reunion would ease the sting of losing the twins. We checked with Kat and set everything up, not knowing that our visit to Utah would dovetail perfectly with (hopefully!) meeting #3!

The first nerves I felt were getting Tess ready for dinner. She and Remy had slept late, and she decided that was the perfect moment to express a dire hatred of water and showers. After an unexpected hour of battling her under the water and into a cute outfit, Dave casually mentioned we were already 15 minutes late. I almost cried. In hindsight, I wonder if the excitement got to Tess. She knows Micky and Kat are special to her, but only from stories and photos and gifts. The reality of meeting them may have been a lot of fireworks for a smart, sensitive toddler brain.

It didn’t matter. We got there and just had a fabulous time. Micky said, “of course you’re late! You have toddlers!” I almost cried with relief. Within minutes, both kids were showing off for the ladies, and we were all laughing at their antics. All day Friday, they asked where Micky and Kat were. I’d left us a day to decompress and get them sleeping on a regular schedule. Silly!

Saturday was as Disney as my life has ever been. We met at an elaborate petting zoo, and the kids were overwhelmed. All of these animal names and noises they use actually belong to creatures?! Tess was terrified of the horses until Micky and Kat showed her how gentle they were. As both are amazing riders, we were super happy to see Tess and Remy catch the horse bug from them. When they took their first pony ride with Kat and Micky by their sides, I was bursting with happiness. That’s something we can show Tess as she grows, something she shares with two generations of women in her first family. In fact, we’re excited that she’ll have memories of her own that we can talk about, rather than just our stories. These photos will have so much more meaning!

Seeing the effort and thought that Micky and Kat had put into our day together showed us how important Tess is to them. As we went from the farm to the rose garden for a picnic, I was astounded by the picture perfect settings and adventures. We couldn’t have dreamt up a more beautiful day with wonderful people. Of course, Tess’ concept of a picnic is now beyond my capabilities. Micky is the master!

Saying goodbye is hard, the way it’s hard to say goodbye to family that don’t live nearby. It felt so much like that that I realized they are family; ours as much as Tess’. We want to see them again too! (Particularly Remy, who is absolutely obsessed with Kat.) Time together just felt good. We also know we’ll see them again. The certainty makes leaving easier. It’s just for now.

Our supporters’ thoughts

The third voice here belongs to our friends and family. A number of concerned supporters asked how we were feeling. Would Kat change her mind and try to take Tess back? Would she regret her choice and be angry with us forever? Was she mad we adopted Remy and brought him with us?

To be honest, the totally justifiable questions confused me for a minute because we just don’t share those concerns any more. I do remember all of the worry from when Tess was little though. I remember wondering about the same potential issues. We just know now what a great extension to our family we have. I read an article when waiting for our first match. A birthmom came to her daughter’s wedding. I remember thinking,

How hard for the adoptive mom! Did that make her feel less like a mom? To share such a big day with the woman who actually gave birth to her child?


I can already picture Micky and Kat at Tess’ wedding. No one loves her more than we do, but they love her as much. They are just as charmed by her, and see their family in her the way we see the traits she copies from the people in our lives. Seeing her through their eyes makes us indescribably proud and happy. As a parent, it’s easy to see the naughty moments and the frustrations. With them, we see her smile, her chattiness and openness to others, her foodie tendencies and kindness to her brother. Instead of feeling judged, we stopped judging ourselves for a moment and just reveled. Who wouldn’t want to do that again?

As we go through this lifetime of adoption and building a Lego family across the country, I am so grateful to Micky, Kat and Spencer for accepting us with our nerves and flaws three years ago and this past week. The comfort we take from this relationship has shown us how much we all gain from an open adoption. Next trip? Florida!

The supporters I mention are some of our adoption’s biggest fans. These questions were voiced in love, curiosity, and concern for our well-being and Tess’. I hope hearing from Kat as well as us takes away some of the mystery.

Last thoughts

In addressing adoption, we can only speak to our personal experiences. For us, open adoptions with our kids’ awesome birth people enrich all of our lives. We’re already looking forward to seeing Kerna and seeing the Utah bunch again. Open adoptions may not be as joyful for every other adoptive family, but we all want you to know how breathtakingly loving they can be when we trust each other and all want the connection.

04/14/15

Secret journaling

Week 26

The secret’s out! That means the twins are here. As I write this months in advance, I bounce between ecstatic and terrified. Will she go through with it? What will the seven-day revocation window do to us? (I might end up sobbing the way I did when Tess’ paperwork was delayed. Dave’s prepared.)

One of our reservations was fear of a very premature delivery. I’m writing this in week 25, a week before Tess was born as a singleton. The next five weeks loom, terrifying in their potential. I phoned a friend with my worries before we took this match – walked through the medical profile with this fabulous NICU nurse in detail – and she answered instantly that the 30+ weekers have reliably good outcomes. So we’re trying to keep our panic to a minimum as we wait for the magical end of February, when the risk drops exponentially.

In the meantime, I’ve laid out our full plan of attack. Even if the boys make it to week 34 or 35, they’ll probably be in the NICU for a while. We want to care for them without turning Tess and Remy’s lives upside down in the process. So we’re making hard choices. Dave will be there for the first week, and will then come back to Milwaukee, his job and the kids. I’ll stay in North Carolina with the boys and start my leave, reliving my NICU days with Tess in a different state and with twice the worry/wonder.

I’ll skype with the kids at dinner time every night to give Dave a hand and see my loves. Dave will come visit on the weekends until we can come home. The weeks will be manageable if rough for all of us.

We have names and have addressed the logistics and feelings. We feel this is a crazy yet right choice for our family. The other reason we chose not to share in advance was our inability to reassure others. This is our family, our choice, and these are our kids. Making this decision wasn’t easy, and we didn’t decide because we’re

baby crazy

, which I’ve been accused of even before this became public knowledge. If other people see this as a difficult choice, they’re right. It is. Still, an adoptive mom told me once that if I ever got the chance to take siblings, I should. Her words rang in my ears when this came up, and I’m telling you already – we have no regrets.

Now, we wait.

Week 27

We’re days away from hitting week 28. I find myself doing feverish math in my head, attempting to calculate the ideal outcome. No equation will make them come now and at full term.

J sent me a series of notes today – notes that made me laugh. She’s so mature for her age, and seems to be comfortable with us as the future parents of these boys. She’s having an uneventful pregnancy, and said the boys are a lot less trouble than her kids!

I find myself craving a connection with her, to tie us together and ensure a successful adoption and as a base for the rest of the boys’ lives. She doesn’t need it, which makes me feel needy and exposed.

I brushed off the feelings of loss after our October match fell through, but I have a significant level of anguish that surfaces when I consider this match failing. And time stands still.

So I continue my logical projections, using the average twin gestational age of 35 weeks as our estimated delivery window. The numbers don’t change, but my compulsion to double check the calendar won’t go away. Only a few more weeks until we hit magical 30 weeks!

30 weeks!

So we hit 30 weeks for the package! After 30 weeks, bad outcomes become a LOT less likely. Hurray! We’d marked this as a date to celebrate. 

J isn’t super chatty, which we totally understand. Still, after October we are just jumpier. We really like her, which adds to our fervent hope that this plays out the way we want it to. So we celebrated, then I panicked. 

Tess and Remy get that the family is about to grow. They’re excited. In a few weeks, she turns three and he turns two – and we can’t wait for Remy to be a big brother. All of that adds to my sense of powerlessness. But we are powerless – always! – when it comes to bringing kids into the world and our families. It’s part of the miracle of building a family. I just find everything more miraculous when the addition has already arrived. 

So I got out my jitters, and we’re back to excited. Just a few more months to go!

Catastrophe

I’m crying as I write this. J stopped answering texts about a week ago, which is never a good sign. The lawyer headed out to her place for a check in this morning, and happened to see a guy who looked just like the missing birth father walk into her apartment. 

We’re waiting for the lawyer to get more information, but our chances of success just plummeted. I’m pretty sure we just used up all of our bravery on the failed adoption in October. I feel empty and crushed. What’s to say this cycle won’t continue? How are we supposed to stay positive as time passes and matches crush us with hope and loss?

We were in shock about twins, but that quickly became unbounded bliss. Which means we are losing two babies this time – not one. I suspected this morning’s call would be bad news, so I sat in the nursery for a few minutes this morning. In the quiet, I pictured us doing late night feedings in the rocking chair, or getting the kids up with Tess and Remy bombing around while we changed their brothers’ diapers. It feels empty again, achingly empty like when we got home from Florida. I can’t bear it. 

It will get better. We know that, and we have two great kids to distract us. I don’t think we’ll be bouncing back fast from this one though. 

31 weeks

I got the text message this morning: 31 weeks! I feel hollow. We don’t have any more information yet, so I don’t know whether to be delighted those babies are still in there or mourning the kids we’ll never see. Losing a pregnancy is hard, because you can sense a child growing in your body. Adoption is hard to begin with, as it’s hard to believe that aN intangible baby will be arriving. When you experience a disruption, it makes you feel like that likelihood never existed at all and never will again. 

Watching an adoption fail is hard because the ups and downs are so extreme. You digest the empty nursery that will stay empty, then hear something new that sounds mildly plausible and wind yourself up again. Up and down, up and down, until the irrefutable decision is made. Even then, you wonder if she’ll change her mind back a week later. 

I think the crying has stopped, for the most part. Putting ourselves out there again seems like a steep mountain to climb. Will it happen again? 

32 weeks and going

We can’t say going strong, but going stronger. I have so much respect for this mom. If we’re reading this right, J is an independent mom doing her best to get through a tough situation before making some changes she’s already planning. We are duly impressed. So our concerns may be baseless. She’s feeling good and stands firm in her decision. So we’re making plans – both practical and short term, and long term and dreamy. We are hoping very hard that “the package” will be in our arms soon, and forever. 

32.5 weeks

In a matter of days, I’ve gone from tentatively hopeful to feverish planning. I’m in the nursery again, checking out the few remaining repairs that need to happen. The baby bag is packed, the list of stuff to pick up there is ready, and we’re hoping for 34+ weeks and many, many sleepless nights. 

34 weeks!

We only dreamed of making it to 34 weeks. J is on bed rest and has had steroid shots. We’re on high alert and have been for some time. Twins are considered to term at 36 weeks, so we’re so close! The roller coaster continues, as we have no way of knowing if the adoption will happen. Still, how wonderful to know the NICU risk is now limited! While we want them to cook as much as possible, we also want the relief of knowing. Fingers crossed. 

The lawyer stopped by to see J today, who just wants her space. We are so worried, but what we need doesn’t matter right now. What she needs matters most. It’s easy to lose sight of that in such a momentous preamble, but this isn’t an adoption yet. It’s not even our story yet. We just really, really want it to be. My heart hurts writing this. I’m worried our worries will make J change her mind. Honestly, I wouldn’t blame her. The number one rule is,

A mother doesn’t become a birth mother until the day she chooses to place her child. 

We’ve been acting like she’s a birth mother, and we have no right. On a more positive note, she’s done nothing to indicate she has changed her mind in any way. 

Dave’s off on a nerdy guy adventure, so I got quality time with Tess and Remy tonight – just the three of us. The unending hugs and handholding were immensely comforting. 

35 weeks

To be honest, I’m stunned we got here. J gave birth to her son at 37 weeks, a singleton, less than a year ago. Our assumption that the boys would be early stemmed from basic twin logistics and the knowledge of her medical history. It’s wonderful to know they’re still cooking away, but if my stress level gets any higher I might explode. 60% of twins are born before week 36. Watch – these two will come past their due date. 

All I want to do is throw myself into work, but my backups’ plates are already full of my current projects. That means I’m on random chunks of longer-term projects, when all I want is a nice, tight deadline to make the time disappear. Dave’s getting his fair share of those. 

So we made it to the weekend: swim lessons, date night at the symphony, and Easter at Joy’s church and brunch downtown. It’ll be lovely. Right?

36 Weeks

The boys are officially full term. To all of those who found our preemie timeline anxiety inexplicable, perhaps it makes more sense in this context: 

How could we have preemie singletons and full-term twins? It’s not possible. 

 

That’s the theory we’ve been decision-making on. Well, statistical livelihoods aside, if this adoption happens, we’ll have our first fully-cooked kids. 🙂

Disruption

Twin boys were born in North Carolina on March 28. We found out on April 14. Needless to say, the adoption failed. Dave and I swallowed our grief and got through the work day. We just couldn’t bear to talk about it. We don’t know what to say now. We’re angry, devastated, and tired. The stress of waiting for a baby for eight months now – not for a match, but in matches – is draining in an indescribable way. It feels like time stopped; making any other decisions or plans seems impossible. Every part of our life is touched by this, and we don’t want to over commit elsewhere and disappoint anyone – including our kids! 

We just lost two babies, in addition to the October one. Two beautiful boys, who we’ve been so excited to introduce to all of you; boys with names and dreams. We lost them at the end of the pregnancy, when everything seemed as real as it can when a pregnant woman across the country who you’ve met once holds all of your dreams in her belly. You can’t see them or touch them; you can only hope. 

But here we are. In the game of Chutes and Ladders, we hit the biggest slide back to square one. How to start again? How do we hope, have confidence in yet another match? How do we trust, when our hearts are in pieces? Before this last effort, adoption has been nothing short of joyous. Now, we’re getting a heavy dose of the ugly, frustrating side of the experience. 

Dave and I are crushed. That’s going to fade slowly. We’re going to smother our kids in love and cry a fair amount. We’re going to alternate hibernating and socializing to lift our spirits. We’re going to wait with bated breath for another match. Then, with terror, we’re going to do this again. Wish us luck.