Friday, December 16, 2005

My Favorite Things

I’m not really sure if there is any correlation, but I think about The Sound of Music during the holiday season. Generally, I’m not a huge fan of musicals. There are a few, however, that capture my imagination. Julie Andrew’s voice is beyond compare. I would follow her anywhere. “My Favorite Things” is probably my favorite song in that film. It’s been playing over and over in my head for at least the past week. I think that’s especially appropriate this year. It’s very easy to get caught up in your own life. How much less stress would you have in your everyday life if you would just step back and think of your favorite things? It would be hard to keep feeling so bad.

Maybe there is a correlation between Frauline Maria and this time of year. As my friend Trista mentioned in one of her posts this week, we are in a spiritual period of waiting. When we meet Frauline Maria, she was waiting to find her calling from God. What we do during a period of waiting on the Lord is entirely up to us. We can choose to do absolutely nothing or we can make choices or take risks that help prepare us for God’s will. Just like Maria, I’ve found that twiddling my thumbs only makes the wait seem longer. This year, I’m choosing to spend this time being thankful for the gifts I’ve already received.

In honor of my favorite song from my favorite musical, I am listing out a few of my favorite things. They are in no particular order. Maybe you will be inspired to add a list of your own.

The sound of my children’s laughter – especially when they’re laughing together
Listening to the pitter patter of growing feet in my house
Kissing a baby’s soft spot and feeling his or her pulse on my lips
Hearing my husband say that he loves me
Learning that I’m going to be an aunt again
The Joshua Tree by U2
Reading my dad’s theology papers
Hearing the passion in my mom’s voice when she talks about decorative painting
The thrill of giving a cross stitch project as a gift to someone I love
Making Trista laugh
Watching my children play with their grandparents – especially the twinkle in their grandparents’ eyes
The smell of a new car
Sitting down with a new book
Snuggling with Danny while watching a movie
Seeing how much weight I’ve lost by trying on old clothes
The smell of spring and the smell of fall
Dancing around the living room with my family
Watching older couples who are still very much in love
Being a godmother
Chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven
Handmade cards
Grandma Currie’s potato salad
Grandma Dodde’s pea soup
Teasing my grandpa’s about sports
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Writing a great paragraph
Taking long walks
My childhood memories
Listening to friends and family when they are talking about something for which they are passionate
Reading the blogs of people to whom I am close
Pictures of babies eating their first birthday cake
Working on scrapbooks or stitching with my friends
Watching my children’s faces light up when I pick them up at daycare
Making someone smile
Being used by God to help someone – especially when I find out about it later
Watching Emma and Charlie play together

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Marriage of Figaro

Emma's daycare offers two optional enrichment programs - Melody Makers, a musical educational program and Moonbeam Express, a gymnastics program. Originally, we had only enrolled her with Moonbeam Express. One extra activity is enough. One day, I picked Emma up and there was a note attached to her daily. The note was from Melody Makers indicating that her tuition for the month of September. I took the note to Lenora, the director, and told her that we hadn’t enrolled Emma in that program. It turns out that Charlie, one of Emma’s friends , had dragged her with him to Melody Makers with him. Since Emma and Charlie went together to the Tumble Bus, no one thought anything of it. They both have a great time with each other. After Danny and I wondered what other kinds of mischief Charlie was getting Emma into, we decided to sign her up officially.

Apparently, Melody Makers is having an impact on her. Friday morning, while we were driving to daycare, Emma asked me, “Mommy, do you remember Wuffgang Mozart?”

I couldn’t believe my ears. I flipped the rearview mirror back to look at her. “Did you say Wolfgang Mozart?”

“No, Mommy! Wuffgang Mozart. Do you remember him?”

Once I agreed that this person was Wuffgang, the conversation didn’t get much deeper than that. Still, I spent the rest of the day in wonder over this little three-year-old girl in my charge. She is picking up everything that she hears and I get to rediscover things along with her. What an awesome gift. What an awesome responsibility. I’d better bone up on my classical music. I don’t want her to start thinking she knows more than me for at least another few years.


Both Charlie’s mother, Becci, and I not-so-secretly hope that they get married - after college. I'll be writing more about Emma and Charlie's "relationship" soon. I have some pictures on the camera of our trip to make candy in Ironto.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Does Adoption Hinder Bonding with a Newborn?

As I mentioned in my last entry, an email from Adoptive Families, one of my favorite magazines, prompted me to do some thinking and writing about adoption. Their email asked the following questions for subscribers who have previously adopted a newborn domestically: Before your adoption, were you concerned about bonding with your baby? After your newborn came home, what parenting techniques did you practice that enhanced attachment? What do you recommend to other new adoptive parents?

I found this topic to be a very interesting and was compelled to respond to them. I have had the experience of adopting a newborn and giving birth to a newborn. There are some distinct differences between adoption and having a baby biologically. You don’t necessarily have to have experience with either to list the most significant differences. Bonding with a newborn is not one of them. I would give all parents expecting a newborn – no matter how that newborn is coming into their family – the same advice.

Still, there are those who, for whatever reason, create or look for differences or issues where there are none. This is true of those who have adopted and those who have not. For example, Emma didn’t sleep through the night until she was 16 months old. Even still, getting her down for the night is a bigger challenge than I imagined it to be. When she was still an infant, I was talking this over with someone who had never adopted. This person responded: Do you think that she doesn’t sleep because she misses her birth mother? I could have really taken that comment to heart and worried about it. Thankfully, I approached it logically. My five-month old couldn’t yet grasp the concept of object permanence. She’s not staying up all night longing for someone she hasn’t seen since she was two days old. Adoption isn’t the cause of all problems that adopted children face. Am I saying that no adoptive parents ever have bonding issues with a domestic newborn? No. I just don’t believe that those issues stem from the adoption itself.

The following is my response to the magazine. To get to my point, I veered of the topic a great deal. I would appreciate your input.


My husband Danny and I adopted Emma as a newborn in October of 2002. While we were waiting to be selected by a birth family, I was not worried about bonding with my future child. My main concern was being good enough or worthy of being selected as an adoptive parent. This stemmed from lifelong insecurities about my weight and the belief, which I tried to squelch, that God didn’t find me to be parent material. Why else would I not be able to conceive?

Perhaps naively, I felt that bonding and parenting in general would “come naturally”. I didn’t have any preconceived notions about our first meeting or the moment of becoming a parent. Thankfully, for Emma and me, bonding came naturally. I distinctly remember holding her for the first time in the hospital room. Even though her birthmother and birth grandparents were in the room with us, it was as if the entire world disappeared. Only my beautiful baby girl and I were there. I fell madly and deeply in love with her in that very instant. I was hers and she was mine. I thought to myself, “How could this moment be any more magical if I gave birth to her from my own body?” We brought Emma home on our fifth anniversary. It was like riding on a high.

No one can prepare you for the demands of parenting until you are actually a parent yourself. I’d never been so happy and so thoroughly exhausted in my entire life. You try to find and settle to a routine as soon as possible. Nothing brought me more joy than caring for her – dirty diapers and all. While on maternity leave, I lost about 25 pounds. After I returned to work, I decided to join a weight loss program to keep the weight coming off. I wanted to be an active mother for Emma. I didn’t want to sit by the sidelines or cause her embarrassment. Over the next nine months, I lost 90 more pounds. In more ways than one, Emma had been the answer to my prayers.

Not long after I lost 90 pounds, I discovered that I was pregnant. I was thrilled and nervous at the same time. I had the same emotions that I did when we got the phone call about Emma. Erin, Emma’s birthmother had now given me the gift of motherhood twice. There would never have been a pregnancy without Emma. My due date happened to be nine days before Emma’s second birthday. I realized that two years prior - perhaps to the day - Erin was discovering that she was pregnant. I thought about how much she must have wished then and now that she could raise her baby. I cried for her and for me for a long time and felt an even deeper connection to her.

Unlike with Emma’s adoption, I did have definite ideas and opinions about the arrival and first moments with a biological baby. I would call the baby by name and hold him or her up to my chest. I would investigate the baby from head to toe. I would count and kiss all of the fingers and all of the toes. Danny and I would try to figure out who our new bundle of joy looked like. It would be more of the same magic I experienced with Emma, without the fear of seeing identifying information on hospital wrist bands or hurting anyone’s feelings. This moment was just going to be about the baby, Danny and me. [Okay, I’ll be honest. The first few moments were really about the baby and me. I was just going to let Danny watch.]

Things did not work out all as I had envisioned. My natural childbirth plan was thrown out the window when my labor did not progress. Although a week overdue, Allison was a tiny baby. She was trying to be born head and shoulders together. I ended up having a c-section after 12 and a half hours in labor. I was exhausted when they prepped me for surgery. I made Danny promise that he would wake me up if I was sleeping when the baby was born. Once the procedure began, I did stay awake. She was born just 24 minutes shy of Emma’s second birthday. I called Allison by name as they brought her to the warmer and told her that her mommy loved her. Danny was the first person to hold Allison. He held her close to my face so that I could see her. I’m not certain if I touched her or not. Danny promises me that I kissed her. I loved her then, but it wasn’t the same as my dramatic connection in those first moments with Emma.

The first time I held Allison was at 4am. I made a valiant attempt to make those first few moments with her all that I had planned, but it was all forced. I spent a majority of that hour fighting to keep my eyes open. Looking back, I wish that I had been able to put things into perspective. I had a beautiful new daughter who arrived in this world safely through the skilled and caring hands of my doctor. The hows and whys really aren’t that important. 100 years ago, one or both of us might not have survived to see the next day. Instead, my focus was on what I’d “lost”. As a result of that outlook, I didn’t have the sensation of falling in love with Allison until she was three months old. It’s amazing how unrealized and unrealistic expectations can leave you feeling like you’ve been robbed of all your wealth when you’ve really been given the world on a platter.

I would give expecting adoptive parents the same advice I’d give expecting biological parents: Do the planning that is required, but don’t place any expectations on yourself, the upcoming experiences, the baby or how it will all feel. Every child and every situation is unique. I have learned that love is not a feeling. It is a voluntary and complete giving of oneself to another person. It is for love that we maintain an open relationship with Emma’s maternal birth family even when there are times it feels like a burden to “share” her. It is for love that we rocked Allison for hours through her colicky months when caring for her felt like a burden and all I wanted to do was “share” her. Don’t worry if the emotions aren’t as you’d hoped in the very beginning. The change that a baby makes in your family is awesome and overwhelming. But make no mistake - the love and the bond are there whether you feel it or not.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Oh, Happy Day! or Let's Talk About Adoption, Part 1

Dear Reader: I meant to post this on Friday, but I was unable to finish it. Let’s just say that this topic is “To be Continued”.

I haven’t written about adoption since I began my blog in October. Psychic forces are pointing me in that direction. It’s not that I don’t want to write about it. Adoption is a beautiful and meaningful way to build a family. There are just times when life moves forward and not a terrible amount of thought is paid to how your family got started, expanded or completed. I’m sure that this is true of all families – biological, adoptive, foster, etc.

The first push to writing about adoption came in my email yesterday. It was from Adoptive Family magazine. We’ve had a subscription to this magazine since Emma was born. They submitted a request for input from couples who adopted newborns domestically. They wanted to know if we had been worried about how we would bond with our adoptive children, what parenting techniques we used to form this attachment and what advice we’d give expecting adoptive parents.

The second push came about this morning while I was dropping Emma and Allison off at daycare. There was another car in the parking lot with a sticker that caught my attention. It was a simple heart with the caption, “Touched by Adoption.” I immediately felt a connection to the family that owes that vehicle. I was hoping to run into that parent on the way out, but they had left before I returned to the parking lot. I’m hoping that one day I will.

The final push came as I turned my daily calendar from December 1 to December 2. I read the note I’d written on this date at the beginning of the year. Today is the third anniversary of the day that our At Risk placement with Emma ended. Although her adoption wasn’t finalized by the state until the following September, we were considered Emma’s legal guardians from that day forward. This was a momentous day for our family, but it is bittersweet. For that day to happen, the parental rights of Emma’s birth parents had officially terminated. In order to cement the connections of our family, others had to be broken.

To be continued...