Saturday, October 31, 2009
This is actually a newscaster in Omaha, Nebraska.
Which makes it all the better.
Them's some moves!
Charlie and her friend Mia had a great time Trick Or treating last night at the local college. The students were handing out candy and hot chocolate, had a band playing, had pumpkin painting, and lots of people dancing and having fun in the courtyard. It was a great time! Charlie had no idea what was going on, of course, but after her pumpkin bag was about half full of candy, she started getting the idea.
First Trick or Treat ever....
All of us....
(Mia is a pumpkin)
Unsure of what is going on.... but NOT letting go of her MilkDuds.
Lovebug taking flight.....
Back of costume
This was the most fun I've had in awhile.
Have a safe and happy Halloween!
Friday, October 30, 2009
Ugh. I don’t feel like sitting down and writing about Post Adoption Depression.
It’s too depressing.
That was a joke.
Since I promised, I’ll write smaller snippets. The thought of putting together a whole essay is too much.
So here’s the first snippet:
Post Adoption Depression: Thought For The Day:
"I’m not a good enough mother. I was so lucky to be given a healthy, happy, beautiful little girl, and I should feel “over the moon” about that. The fact that I don’t feel over the moon means there is something very wrong with me. After all, I worked my butt off for this to happen. I filled out tons of paperwork, spent my life savings, traveled across the world, took 3 months off without pay, all to make this happen and to bond with this little one. She deserves someone who is over the moon. She deserves someone who’s eyes light up every time she enters the room. She deserves someone who will play with her all the time, or at least, more than I play with her. She deserves someone who doesn’t wish for “me time” as much as I crave it. I feel guilty that I pine for alone time. I was alone and taking care of my own needs for 39 years. It's a shock it’s all about her needs from now on.
Post Adoption Depression Recovery Thought For the Day (so as to not wallow, because everyone hates a wallower):
"I am a good enough mother. I take care of all of Charlie’s needs, and many of her wants. I am lucky to have her, and she is lucky to have me. Out of all the mothers on earth, God saw fit to put us together, therefore it was meant to be. I’m the only mother she has, and I do enough for her. This is a good thing, and a wonderful partnership."
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
In response to some of the comments regarding whether I should continue blogging (and thanks to all who commented, I feel much better about continuing!) I’m going to be doing a multi-piece episode on Post Adoptive Depression. I suffered from this for 3 months, and there is still a residual although things are getting much better. I have been thinking about writing about it, but worried about how I might be judged as a mother, and as a person. Also, not being "through it" totally, I thought I'd wait until I could say "It's 100% gone", but I'm not there yet and I'm still going to write about it.
The shame surrounding PAD is great. Greater, I think, than that surrounding Post Partum Depression. Not that it's a competition, of course both are terrible, but PPD seems to have “come into its own” lately, what with Brooke Shields writing about it and other media focus. With PAD, well, it’s still in the dark, hidden away. It’s not widely talked about, or even known. The attitudes seem to be “maybe I should just “snap out of it”, after all, there are no hormones to blame...” “This is something I worked for, very diligently and hard, and now I’ve got the child, I should be happy!” Yay! And if I’m are not happy, there is something very wrong with me, but shush, let’s not talk about it because that’s dark and weird. So act happy and like everything’s ok, and don’t forget people will be watching you to check on your parenting skills and they will be judging you, so taking a break is out of the question.
In my research on the subject, I came across the stat that 65% of adoptive mothers experience some degree of PAD. That’s a lot of mothers. Maybe even one of you….
So stay tuned.
In prep, here is a piece I found at Omegamom, which rang true. My experience is similar, just take away the husband.
So there you are, you’ve just got a referral or have just been matched with a baby due any minute, and you’re over the moon. You pad through the Shrine To Baby (aka the nursery) late at night, when the spouse is asleep, and you daydream about the future. You sit on the glider and snuggle with one of the stuffed animals that various friends and family have presented you, and pretend it’s your baby, and you sit and croon lullabies.
Your daydreams about motherhood (or fatherhood) are portrayed in your mind’s eye with a roseate glow, a soft-focus medallion of Madonna-esque Precious Moments type joy.
Friends are excited, relatives are excited, your spouse is excited, you are excited.
If you’re traveling to meet your baby, the excitement builds. You’re in a different place–Russia or China or Cincinnati or some other place you have never been before. You’re sightseeing, you’re dealing with officials, you’re meeting and bonding with your baby, it’s all new and different and vivid.
And then you get home.
Your baby, who slept like…well, a baby…while you were elsewhere, suddenly is adjusting to a new time zone. New smells. New sights. New sounds. He or she wakes up every three hours, and nothing you can do, short of carrying baby around for hours, will put baby back to sleep.
You are in a haze of sleep deprivation, and find yourself questioning your ability to do the most mundane of things (parallel parking? How do I do parallel parking again? I know I’ve done it before!).
The house becomes messy.
Your spouse returns to work, leaving you alone.
And this baby…this precious, darling child who you have longed for for years…is a stranger. You are suddenly a stranger to yourself. And this baby…precious, darling child…is a leech.
Yes. A leech.
Hanging on you.
Demanding all your time and attention.
Screaming if you leave the room.
Desperate for love. Hungry all the time. An endless source of wet and poopy diapers.
And you are the object of this small, self-centered person’s obsession. You realize you can’t do anything without this child hanging off you. You realize you can’t sleep, because your ear is suddenly attuned to the tiniest of grunts from the crib (or another room). Vacuuming the house is ditched entirely (even us lousy housekeepers do vacuum once in a while), because (a) you can’t do it with baby hanging off you, and (b) the noise terrifies baby.
You realize that you are Everything In the World to this small, self-centered creature. And your soft-focus daydreams of gently crooning baby to sleep in the glider have gone into the trashcan, because baby hates your singing, or baby is (like mine) a wiggler who couldn’t settle down to a nice crooning session to save her life.
You feel like your life is spiraling out of control.
You don’t like yourself anymore.
You resent your spouse (the light of your life) because s/he just Doesn’t Get It, and, besides, the bastard gets to leave the house and interact with other adults.
Your house is a shambles.
You feel like your life is a shambles.
You wonder if you’ve made the worst mistake in your life. You know there is No End In Sight, because you’ve signed an oath to take care of this small creature forever.
Does this describe your response in the first six months to a year after you adopted?
Don’t beat yourself up.
You’re not sick. You’re not insane. You’re not an Evil Person. They’re not going to come take your baby away (even at your most down moment, you are terrified that They are going to take her away).
Most of all, you are not alone.
There’s a thing called “Post-Adoption Depression”. It’s similar to Post-Partum Depression. PPD has the advantage of being explained away by waving hands at hormones, but y’know, OmegaMom has very big suspicions that the majority of it is what Jean MacLeod calls Baby Shock.
If you’re a new parent who has spent a long time with spouse, getting settled into spousal and life routines, tossing a baby into the mix just throws the whole gyroscope off balance. What was once a two-body problem (a very familiar term to physicists) has become infinitely more complex by adding a third body to the mix. And this holds true for adding another child after the first. (Please remind me of this when DotterSecunda shows up.) It’s a severe shock to the system.
I would say that it took OmegaDotter about six months to really, truly believe she “belonged” with us. I look back at pics of her first six months with us, and see, over and over, that what we considered “thoughtful” expressions were just plain “scared” expressions.
Further, I would say that it took me and Mr. OmegaMom a year to fully re-arrange our lives and become comfortable again.
As a person who is prone to depression, the disconnect between my daydreams and our reality after adopting did a number on me. (It didn’t help that I got laid off six months after we came home, what a blow to the ol’ ego.) The one thing that helped me immensely was realizing it was normal to feel this way, that many other adopting parents felt the same. I had read up on the various lists about returning home and having the child not sleep for the first three weeks. I had read up about Post-Adoption Depression, and was pretty much expecting it to hit me, due to the depression proneness. While I didn’t have a great real-life support system, I did have lots of friends on the internets who had BTDT, which helped.
For those who are about to adopt, and want info to be prepared, and for those who have just adopted and might be facing the same thing, I submit the following links:
Friday, October 23, 2009
I can tell from the counter that I get about 100 hits a day ( a lot of the hits seem to be folks searching for pictures), but the comments have been lagging of late and so I'm wondering if anyone's still reading or interested in our story.
I'm contemplating ending the blog although that kind of makes me sad, but it's somewhat of a pressure to continue coming up with daily posts if no one's reading. Unlike some bloggers, I don't do this as a diary or for myself as much as I do to share our experiences with others.
A dear friend of mine, one of my main commentators on here actually, has noted a lack of intimacy in the blog modality( and this blog too perhaps) and that is very true. I only post about 5% of what I do or think, mainly for privacy reasons. But perhaps that comes through and feels like "fluff" or "not real"? For example, I struggled with Post Adoption Depression for months and didn't write a word about it due to shame, and the fear that one day Charlie would find it in the archives and think I didn't love her. Maybe I should open up with that type of honesty... the blogs I enjoy are brutally honest. The trouble is, my family and co-workers read this and I am painfully aware of that with each word I write. I don't want to write something that would make my family feel "bad" (like the shower post) or that would paint me in an "unprofessional" light.
So let me know if you are reading. If you are, I'm more than happy, I'd be super happy actually, to continue. But if you aren't.... well, I could publish the bulk of this for Charlie's later years and call it a day. It's certainly been fun and it has been an outlet for emotions even if only 5% of them.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
When Charlie and I first met, she seemed to attach immediately, after a few hours. I couldn't put her down and no one else could hold her. If I left the room, she shrieked in terror.
All understandable for someone who, at 15 days, lost her biological mother. Everything must seem very insecure/impermanent once that happens.
I remember posting about her shrieking and how to discipline her, if say, she was pulling the table cloth off the table, or sticking her finger in the socket (a battle I didn't have the choice to "pick" or "not pick".)
I got lots of great advice and suggestions: distraction, holding, go to her every time she cries, etc. I tried different things. At 9 months, she was too young for the typical time outs, nor were they really needed as her disobedience was easily distracted and not born of willfulness or stubbornness but rather curiosity.
As she has aged (she is now almost 14 months) and gotten way more mobile (she can run and kick a ball at the same time!) some of her naughtiness has definitely taken a more mischievous tone. Now, don't get me wrong, 95% of the time she is an absolute angel, happy, follows direction, communicates well with pointing and some sign language, etc. And many times I allow her to do things that I'm not thrilled about (taking everything out of the cabinets and strewing the pots around the house, many times each day, etc). I do pick my battles because I hate having to say "no" all the time, or take things away from her when she's just trying to explore her world. But there are certain things she likes to do, over and over, which I would REALLY rather she didn't. For her own health. Like put her hands in the toilet bowl and splash and drink the water. I have told her, no joke, 50 to 70 times not to do that.
She still does, only now she tries to sneak in there when I'm busy. I always have my eye on her though, and catch her. I tried a stern voice, removing her, distracting her, closing the bathroom door so she can't get in, etc.
I decided it was time for time out. Let's try and see what happens, I thought.
I've watched my share of Supernanny and so thought I had a good handle on the steps of timeout: warn child that if they don't stop time out is coming, remove child and tell them to sit/stand in the timeout area; set timer; go back to child after timer goes off, kneel to their level and explain again why they are in timeout, ask for an apology, hug.
Well, she did all of it except say "sorry"! (because she can't talk yet). She was awesome! It worked GREAT. I couldn't believe she stayed in time out. She really understands a lot more English than I give her credit for. And that hug at the end was sooo sweet.
I liked this discipline procedure a lot because it kept me calm and even tempered, I don't have to repeat myself more than the first warning, and after the hug we can get on to doing fun things again. It's like the slate is wiped clean.
I don't know what age is usually appropriate to start using time out as a discipline tool, but I guess 14 months is not too young. I also think it helps with attachment, because, contrary to what one might first think, I believe discipline and attachment are closely related. After that hug, we are closer... I have set a limit; she has agreed (at least for the time being) that I'm the limit setter and she is the settee (shows respect); we have done this is a loving, non-angry way; we have hugged; and going to play afterward reinforces that she can be naughty and I will still love her and that forgiveness is alive at our house.
What are your discipline tools and which ones work best for your family?
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Ok, so this is Stephanie getting a mani/pedi.
This photo is all sorts of wrong.
It could only be worse if she was wearing real fur.
Can you name all the aspects of this picture that give me the heebies? I'll post all the guesses at once to see how many people think the same way I do.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Time to start learning how to use a spoon! Yay! (check out those rosy cheeks! So cute!)
Hmm, it might just be easier to turn the whole pudding cup upside down....
Hannah wants to help clean up.
I'm getting the hang of this!
PS, Yes, this is a refined food, but it's sugar free at least. Blame Opa, who left it behind in the fridge! I can't waste food. Not after growing up in Africa and having recently visited Ethiopia. So we don't do it often, but if it's a choice between eating refined foods or throwing them out, we'll eat 'em.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Do you ever make promises or "deals" with God when you're in a dicey situation?
Do you follow through on them?????
Some of you may remember my last airplane trip, in which we almost went down. I made a promise to God that if He let us live I would do something charitable that I really didn't feel like doing. Then I decided it would be a dog transport. And I would have to do the transport BEFORE my next plane trip or there's no guarantee God wouldn't crash that plane. I used to do these transports monthly, but since Charlie there's not room in the car and I'm worried about her being in the car with strange dogs.
But a deal's a deal so I signed up for a transport yesterday.
Transports are where you volunteer to drive a leg, usually about an hour, with a shelter rescue dog who's time is up, getting him one hour closer to his foster or forever home. It's kind of like an underground railroad concept, except above ground. Since many shelters up north are emptying of dogs due to awesome spay/neuter programs, and the South is lagging far behind and the shelters are overrun, the idea is to funnel these homeless animals north where there is starting to be a demand for rescued dogs. Which is great. The South has to get their act together. We are still euthanizing millions a year.
So it's a great way to help, because nowadays there is no way I can foster either (something I used to do pre-baby), but at least I can spend a couple of weekend hours helping save a few lives.
Here are the sweeties I helped yesterday:
One of them was so loving and gentle, I would have traded one of my monsters for her. Maybe.
Isn't she sooo sweet?
If you are interested in driving an hour or two once a month or once a year, let me know, I'll hook you up with the transport coordinators I know.
So, the question I have today is, do you make God deals and if so, how often do you follow through?
Sunday, October 18, 2009
During the 6 months "waiting" period (which I realize was much, much shorter than most PAPs have) I did a TON of reading on trans racial adoption, international adoption, black hair and skin care, Ethiopian culture, etc. I even took the MAPP classes that foster to adopt parents have to take in my state.
I was prepared, based on my education regarding the cultural and racial implications of adopting internationally and trans racially, to hear some less than favorable comments regarding the contrasting colors of our skin when we were seen out and about together.
I had some snappy come backs prepared for the times when a comment was made and I was not in a good mood, and some educational speeches for when I felt patient and kind. Although I was not "worried" about hearing comments, I was fully expecting them.
Well, it's been 4 months home and I haven't heard ANYTHING negative. I have not seen ANY "looks", heard any "whispers" or seen any "stares". And I live in The South.
I'm kind of blown away, actually.
I had read several places that both African Americans and Caucasian groups may disagree with trans racial adoption, so I was not sure who, if anyone, would be giving me grief or negative vibes. Instead of negative, Charlie continues to stop traffic, but in a good way. Today at the grocery store, a black man walked by and said "Cute baby!" and smiled at us. At the checkout, a group of 5 African American women all commented on her and how precious she looked. They did not seem annoyed or angry that a white woman was Charlie's mom. They did not question how I came to be her mom.
The workers at her daycare (both black and white) have been giving me hair tips and offering to do her hair every day (because mornings are rushed for me and I often only moisturize and not do any puffs) and seem to LOVE her.
We have yet to go anywhere in public where at least one person hasn't stopped to compliment her, or make some positive remark.
We've been approached by the least likely candidates (middle age men and teenagers) to receive smiles and positive comments. No one has asked anything remotely offensive. At Olive Garden the other day, every person who passed us said something and two in a row said "What a happy baby!" because when she smiles, she lights up the room.
Charlie is so special it seems everyone can see that instantly.
(Yea, I'm not proud or anything).
I'm pleasantly surprised. I should have known though, I live in a very accepting community. Everyone who grew up "different" in the South (gay, goth, punk, nerd, etc) heads to my city when they turn 18, for the diversity in arts and music and low key acceptance of anything different. Including different looking families.
I love where I live.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
One of my colleagues told me that on Good Morning America earlier in the week they held a contest for the cutest baby in the U.S.
Guess who won?
I agree, it should have been Charlie, but since I didn't enter her, she had no way of winning.
Instead, out of 50,000 entries a special little boy won.
An Ethiopian adoptee!
Here is the video:
The Cutest Baby in America Is ...
Go Ethiopia! Way to represent!
Now, he is cute and all, (each and every one of our Ethiopian babies are beautiful) but Charlie also has a super special personality, huge outgoing sparkly smile, and frankly, is cuter.
I'm just sayin'.
GMA, get it together would ya.
What do you guys think? Isn't Charlie cuter ;-) ??? Well?? ISN'T SHE????
Here are a few pictures that show off her cuteness.
How about YOUR child? Is your child cuter than the GMA boy?
(P.S. It's ok to be completely biased when answering. This is just a fun post.)
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Good news, Charlie doesn't have H1N1. Bad news, she still has a fever and now I'm feeling sick too. So we are home another day, bored out of our gourds. Yesterday I took advantage of her feeling sick and me feeling fine to do all the winterizing of the house and garden while she slept. Today, with a house totally ready for the next few months.... well, that's what YouTube is for.
So.... time to indulge in some pop culture goodness. Check out this gem I found you.
Take the time to taste the Welch's on this one.....
Notice the TRILL on "friend" at the 1:15 mark.... the electronica soon after that.... the guitar player's moves (2:25).... the costumes... the guy in the back on the right...the lyrics ("Jesus found me and touched me deep inside....")
This is a CLASSIC.
Enjoy, this is my gift to you today.
No need for thank you cards. I know you are grateful.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Half the day was awesome.
The daycare called me during my amazing soul altering massage:
Charlie has a fever and they have had one confirmed case of H1N1 flu in one of the kiddos, so all kids with the slightest fever or signs of sickness are called home.
She seemed ok last night, but woke up with large gobs of green snot, crying and looking miserable.
We are off to the doctor and probably will be staying home today.
Please send get better soon vibes. I truly hope this is not H1N1.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Today has been AWESOME so far!
Have you ever had one of those days where everything goes right? You hit every green light, the lines at the post office are quick, everyone is doing a good job at what they do and no one is messing up your files? I usually have the opposite, I'm usually the guy in the shower who wants to kill the yellow freaks in the video above, but not today!
Today is one of the few days when Charlie is in daycare, and I'm off from work. I get about 2 days "off" from being a parent per year, and today is one of them. Well , 8 hours off.
So far, I've been able to accomplish the following (on ONE cup of coffee):
- dress Charlie and myself and drop C off at daycare
- get my car inspected
- go to fire dept. and get the car seat installed in new position
- pick up doggie prescriptions
- grocery shopping
- stopped at specialty store to buy cheese
- unpacked groceries and ate breakfast
All in, can you guess how long this took me???
Take a guess in your head. Seriously, how long would those items usually take?
So to reward myself, I'm having a 90 minute massage at 2 pm today.
And also, today is Beulah's 4th anniversary of being freed from the house she was locked in after Hurricane Katrina. She was abandoned in there for 42 days without food or water. I don't know how she survived, but she did and I'm so glad. So today is her "birthday". She is getting one huge honker of a bone today. Go check out her before and after pictures here.
Happy Birthday Beulah girl! I wuvvvvvv you.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
I came across this recipe for Club Med's White Ch0cocolate Bread and the description of the finished product sounded so delicious, I had to try it. The description also mentioned it was good the next day as toast, so I was sold.
Throw in a rainy day and nothing much else to do, and today was the time to try the recipe.
It's a very simple recipe, here's a step by step with pictures. Now, I'm not a "baker" at all... I've actually never baked anything other than slice-your-own cookies... so the "lightly kneading" part of the recipe confused me and I'm not sure I got right. The dough was a little too watery to stay in a "ball" as called for, so I added some flour and got a round shape, not exactly ball -like.
Step 1) Mix ingredients in a bowl and use electric mixer for 12 minutes.
Step 2) Make sure daughter has something to play with.
Step 3) Don't give daughter a white chocolate chip or she will practice sign language for "more" for 12 minutes.
(Click on this picture to get huge piece of cuteness.)
Step 4) Empty bowl and lightly knead dough into a ball. Let sit for 20 minutes.
Step 5) Convince daughter chips are "all gone", chase her from toilet bowl where she tried to drown the remote.
Step 6) Clean sticky dough off remote, daughter, the camera, computer, and your hands.
Step 7) Preheat oven to 450.
Step 8)Cut the dough into 4 portions and knead into the desired form. (Note: These looked like loaves of cr-p when I saw them on the rack, ready to bake.)
Step 9) I made this step up, it's not in the original recipe, but I thought it was a good idea: Scramble an egg and use a brush to brush one light layer of egg onto the bread's crust.
Step 10) Bake for 20 minutes or until evenly brown on parchment paper. Do NOT believe your friend when you call her from the grocery and she tells you wax paper is just as good. Wax paper burns. I had a house full of black smoke. The fire alarm, amazingly, did not wake Charlie up from her nap even though she was sleeping right underneath it.
(Click on this pic to actually see smoke commencing.)
Ta dahh!!!!!! Doesn't it look FABULOUS? YUM! It tastes like heaven on a rainy day, I can tell you that much. Feel free to copy the recipe below (the real one). If you do copy it, please leave a comment so I know whether to continue trying recipes on this blog or not.
Up top is what it's supposed to look like, this is what it actually looks like...
And yes, I did give some to Charlie, even though there is sugar in the bread.... at least it's made from scratch and not refined bread with 50 ingredients (check out Wonder Bread or Sarah Lee's ingredient list!!!! They have 100 ingredients, mostly chemicals!). I also used King Arthur flour and saw they had whole wheat flour, so next time I may try it with whole wheat and make it a healthier option.
Club Med Sandpiper's White Chocolate Bread
41/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoon salt
21/2 cups water
21/3 cups white chocolate chips
Place the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a small bowl, and mix with an electric mixer.
Mix on medium-low speed for 1 minute. Add water, and mix another 12 minutes on medium or second speed. Add the chips and mix for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the chips are well distributed throughout the dough.
Take dough out of the bowl and lightly knead into a ball. Let rest for 15-20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Cut the dough into 4 portions and knead into the desired form. (Note: These looked like French bread loaves when we saw them on the rack, ready to bake.)
Place the loaves on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until nicely browned.
Makes 20 servings (4 loaves).
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Charlie's day care worker told me she bit a little boy yesterday, over a toy. The worker explained that she sees this often, and it's because the pre-verbal kids don't have many ways of communicating, and this gets the message across loud and clear: MINE.
She also said she saw Charlie "kissing" the boy, and then he cried, so she believes she bites when she does the open-mouthed kiss (she does, I've experienced it, but no where near every time).
Whenever she bites me (and this is not often) I yell OUCH very loudly and make a pout-ty face and turn away from her. I asked her teacher if there was anything I could do at home to prevent biting at daycare and she didn't really answer me.
She did tell me: "Charlie is VERY SMART. Verrry. Smart." She looked at me over the tops of her glasses then, as if imparting a special message. "She is picking up a lot of things here at daycare... some good.... some.... not so good."
In the Handbook for Parents that the daycare hands out to us, it plainly says not to ask the workers how smart your child is, or ask the workers to compare them to other children. So the fact that her worker said this made an impression.
I felt a swelling of pride (my girl is a FREAKING GENIUS, I KNEW it!) and a sense of dread (Karma is a bitch, Charlie will be payback for all the hell I put my own parents through).
Have any of you readers gone through this biting thing and how did you get it to stop? It's against the rules at daycare and I don't want her to get kicked out! I love her day care!
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
The post below started with the first sentence of a short blog entry I wrote about the baby waking at night, and that primal alertness that I believe all parents must feel upon hearing the first peep. This is unlike any other feeling, physically, that I’ve ever had and that is why I believe it’s instinctive. Probably cave women and apes before them have all been lying on their bed of pelts and leaves, eyes wide open, back stiff as a board, silently praying to the God of Fire that the baby goes back to sleep.
The closest physical reaction I’ve ever had to this was during the two years that I was the clinical director of a halfway house and was on call all the time. There was always a fire to put out and it was the most stressful job I’ve ever had. I would drive home crying many days. Then after hours and on the weekends, whenever the phone rang it was most likely the house calling with some crisis. It didn’t take long for my body to begin reacting to the sound of the phone ringing with a similar reaction to hearing Charlie stirring at 3 AM.
It’s like every cell in my body begins vibrating with complete and utter alertness; I am lying horizontally but could be vertical in less than a nano-second. Each cell, while vibrating with readiness, is also silently praying:
“GO. BACK. TO. SLEEP."
"NOW. CHARLIE. NOW.”
“DID. I. MENTION. NOW?”
If the first burp is followed by silence, slowly my body relaxes back into the bed and I’m asleep within minutes. However, if there is one cry or more, it’s enough to wake me into insomnia for an hour or two (I have problems with insomnia even before the baby, this just triggers it) especially if it happens at 3 or 4 AM.
I’m very lucky with Charlie though, she is and has been sleeping through the night for awhile now, with minimal waking and there have been few times I’ve had to get up and actually go to her room lately.
So it seems the Parental Guessing Game was somewhat of a flop (thanks for those who participated), but I might try it again if I ever think I have a good opening sentence again. So nobody lost anything because there was no prize, but I'd have to say Danicuz came closest to the correct answer by mentioning the monitor... although the sound was not the lack of breathing, but the first stirrings or cry of waking up during the night.
Was I right though? Do all parents have this innate "super alertness" function the second there is a peep from babe? Or is it a single parent thing, when you know you have to go to work in a few hours and are praying for some sleep?
Monday, October 5, 2009
"The first static burp is enough to send every cell into a state of rigid hyper-vigilance...."
Parents around the world will recognize this instinctive phenomenon.
Guesses in the comments please ;-)
(No prize for this one, but if this proves a popular game I might continue with some prizes.)
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Have you all heard of "Adoption Termination" or "Dissolution"? It's when an adoptive family "returns" their adopted child, either during the adoption process or after it's been legalized. It's a heart breaker for all parties, but especially, I think, the child who has now been rejected by parents twice. That's got to really hurt.
This was printed in the New York Times at the end of August. I have mixed feelings about it, as did hundreds of commentators.
My Adopted Son
By Anita Tedaldi
The first time I considered giving up D. I was lying alone in my oversized bed. It was about midnight, my children were asleep and my husband was deployed. I was so taken aback by my thoughts that I bolted upright, ran to the bathroom and splashed cold water on my face. It was dark, but I could see my silhouette in the mirror and I stared to see if I was looking at a demon instead of D.’s mother.
I ran to D.’s room, afraid that he was already gone. But he was there, lying on his Thomas the Train sheets, sucking his thumb and breathing evenly. I caressed his cheek with two fingers and he exhaled. “I love you little man,” I whispered, and kissed his forehead, swallowing down the knot in my throat. I went back to my room and sobbed into my pillow.
D. was my adopted son. He’s a little boy from South America who came to our home several months before that frightening night. He arrived through Miami International Airport on a Monday afternoon, and I was so anxious that on my six-hour drive to pick him up, I dug my nails into the steering wheel for the duration of the trip, leaving marks I can still see today. I couldn’t contain my excitement. After waiting many long months, I’d finally hold and kiss my son.
I had wanted to adopt for a long time, even before I met my husband or had my five biological daughters. I’ve always wanted a large family, like the one I grew up with in Italy, and I love the chaos and liveliness of many kids.
I did lots of research on adoption, including attachment problems and other complications that older adopted children can have. I spoke to my therapist and went through a thorough screening process with social workers to figure out if I, and my family, could be a good match for a child who needed a home. We were approved, and began the long wait for a referral. When they told us about D., I was ecstatic and convinced that I’d be able to parent this little boy the same way I had done with my biological daughters.
When he arrived in the U.S., our pediatrician diagnosed our son with some expected health issues and developmental delays. His age was not certain — he had been found by the side of a road — but the doctor estimated he was a little younger than one year. D. lacked strength in his legs and had a completely flat head, from lying in a crib so many hours a day. The first few weeks at home, people often asked me if he had experienced a brain injury. D. also suffered from coprophagia, or eating one’s own feces, which my pediatrician assured me the majority of children outgrow by the age of four. Most mornings, when I went to pick him up from his crib, I’d find him with poop smeared on his face and bedding.
But the physical or developmental issues weren’t the real problem. Five or six months after his arrival, I knew that D. wasn’t attaching. We had expected his indifference toward my husband, who was deployed for most of this time, but our son should have been closer to his sisters and especially to me, his primary caretaker.
His social worker, his pediatrician and his neurologist all told me that he had come a long way, and that attachment issues were to be expected with adoption. But D.’s attachment problems were only half the story. I also knew that I had issues bonding with him. I was attentive, and I provided D. with a good home, but I wasn’t connecting with him on the visceral level I experienced with my biological daughters. And while it was easy, and reassuring, to talk to all these experts about D.’s issues, it was terrifying to look at my own. I had never once considered the possibility that I’d view an adopted child differently than my biological children. The realization that I didn’t feel for D. the same way I felt for my own flesh and blood shook the foundations of who I thought I was.
I sought help and did some attachment therapy, which consisted of exercises to strengthen our relationship, mostly games because of D.’s age. He fell in my arms many times throughout the day, we sang songs, read books, repeated words while we made eye contact. We built castles and block towers and went to a mommy and me class.
Still, I struggled. One day (I’m still not exactly sure what was different about that particular day) I was on the phone with Jennifer, our social worker, who merely asked “what’s up” when I blurted out that I couldn’t parent D., that things were too hard.
As soon as I said these words out loud, a flood of emotions washed over me, and I sobbed, clutching the phone with both hands. Jennifer didn’t say anything, she waited patiently, and when I had nothing left, she asked me to start from the beginning. We talked about my family; about the problems my husband and I were having with D. and, as a result, with each other; about the girls and their partial indifference toward D.; and about some of my son’s specific challenges.
For the next several weeks Jennifer and I spoke daily. She mostly listened and told me to focus on D.’s future and well being above everything else. Eventually I told her that I’d look at profiles of potential families, but stressed that I wasn’t committed yet, just considering options.
My thoughts and emotions were disjointed and came in waves. One moment I was determined to keep D. because I loved him. An instant later, I realized that I wasn’t the parent I know I could be, and that I should place D. with a better family, with a better mother.
As I wrestled with these demons, things remained very tense in my home; whenever my husband was stateside we fought incessantly. I felt I was swimming upstream until one early morning Jennifer called, and told me that she had found a great family for D. They had seen his pictures, learned about his situation, and fallen in love with him. The mom, Samantha, was a psychologist, and the family had adopted another boy with similar issues just a couple of years before.
I spoke to Samantha and her husband a few times on the phone and right off the bat I felt comfortable with them. During one of our conversations we decided that she’d come down to meet D. by herself, to ease the transition.
This meant that the decision was final. D. would leave my home.
While waiting for Samantha to arrive, Jennifer helped me to talk to my kids, to family members, even strangers, but most importantly she held my hand when it came to speaking with my son. I explained to him that he’d be joining his new family and that we loved him very much — that he had done nothing wrong. I don’t know how much he understood because of his young age and because he never reacted to my words.
For my first meeting with D.’s new mom, I was a wreck. I dressed D. in one of his cutest outfits, white polo shirt and blue khaki pants, strapped him in the car seat and took off to meet Samantha at a nearby McDonald’s.
The car ride was short, but each time I approached a traffic light, grief assailed me, and I turned around, determined to head back home and keep D.
The five-minute trip turned to a 30-minute journey, and when I finally made it to the McDonald’s parking lot I was frazzled. My hands were shaking, my mouth was dry, and my eyes were red. Samantha recognized us as soon as we got out of the car and rushed over. Her eyes lit up the moment she approached D., and she lowered herself to his height to hug him.
Over the next few days Samantha and D. got to know each other, and then it was time for him to leave with her. That morning, I awkwardly let her into the house and willed time to stop. With my hands shaking, I handed her D.’s bag and some of his favorite toys. My daughters were watching SpongeBob and said goodbye to their brother almost nonchalantly, as if he was just going out for a bit and would soon be back.
I opened the front door of my home in slow motion. It felt heavy and my feet stayed glued to the ground. Samantha told me she’d give me a few minutes alone with D. and quickly walked to her car. I kneeled down and pulled D. close to me, desperately wanting to impress an indelible memory of my son on me, and me on him, inhaling his scent, feeling his soft skin and touching his coarse hair. In our last moments together, I stared into his eyes and told him that I loved him and that I had tried to do my best.
His new mom would love him so, so much; my little man would be OK.
He didn’t cry, he stared back at me, then looked to Samantha and asked for more juice. I was too overwhelmed to utter another word, but Samantha squeezed my hand and reassured me that D. would know I had loved him and that I had done a good job.
The next few weeks I felt a mix of emotions, desperation, relief, sadness, guilt, shame, and acceptance. After a couple of months at Samantha’s home, I learned that D. was doing well and adjusting to his new life. He was struggling with some issues, but I know that Samantha and her husband are the best parents D. could possibly have. They went to great lengths to legally adopt him, to welcome him into their home and provide him with the best care he can receive. The fact that he also has a sibling who has dealt with similar issues has made the transition easier. Samantha told me that D. can’t get enough of his brother or his dad’s attention.
My husband had originally asked me not to write about D., because I’d only open myself up to criticism. But I wrote this essay because D. taught me a lot about myself and about parenting and because I hope that by sharing this experience others can feel less alone in their failures. D. deflated my ego by showing me my limitations. Because of my little man, I have more compassion for the mistakes we make as parents, and I’m far less willing to point my finger at others’ difficulties.
I’m still processing this experience and I think I always will.
I don’t have anything left from D.’s time with us. Samantha didn’t want D.’s clothes, I think she preferred to make a fresh start, so I donated everything to the Salvation Army. We don’t have D.’s pictures around because my husband thought it’d be too difficult, but in my wallet, I carry a small close-up photo of D.’s face, which I took after his first haircut at a barber shop. When I think about him, I take it out and look into his big dark eyes as a deep endless sadness fills my heart.Thank you little D. for all that you’ve been to me, to us. Despite my failures, I loved you the best way I could, and I’ll never forget you.
On the one hand, the boy ended up in a better situation, on the other, what kind of agency gives a special needs child to a woman who has three children already and is pregnant with a forth (and then fifth) who is a single mom most of the time? Most agencies make you sign an agreement not to get pregnant during the adoption, and for about 6 months after wards, under pain of removal of the adopted child if one was to break that part of the contract.
On the third hand, I think it takes guts to publicly admit something (that brings this much shame upon the mother) so that others can learn.
On the forth hand (huh?) I don't think she is being honest when she says she "loved her son although she wasn't bonded to him". How is THAT possible?
Some of the commentators Googled the author, Anita Tedaldi and found a couple of years earlier, she BLASTED a Dutch couple for terminating their adoption of a Korean girl. In that article, she bragged about the adoption of her son and how well it was going, while calling adoption termination a "monstrosity". Then she gave away her son a mere year or two later. I can understand being in "denial" of her own situation... Perhaps she lashed out in anger at the Dutch parents who were doing what she (possibly unconsciously) wished she could do herself.
The main issue this article seems to have brought though, for the commentators, is whether an adopted child is really the "same" as a biological child. Would Anita have given up a biological child with special needs? If they are all loved the same, and equal in all ways, why didn't Anita "re-home" one of the 2 infants that she gave birth to after the adoption? Why didn't she make sure her contraception didn't fail TWICE after adopting a child who obviously needed extra attention? If it failed ONCE, wouldn't you double and triple up on it??? Also, if her hubby is deployed "most of the time" I find it hard to believe - on the presumably few opportunities to get pregnant that she had - that the contraception (which when used consistently has a 99% success rate) failed twice. What are the odds of that???
Oh boy, what a mess!The article has also brought up the hurt feelings of many adult adoptees, as it definitely seems to place adopted children in a "second class" child type of situation.
Readers, what do you think? Have you read some of the comments on the article? Is this a "brave" woman, who admitted her defeats and tried her hardest to do right by this child? Did she act in a selfless way by letting him go to a family who could "love him more'? Or is she a despicable quitter who damaged not only her adopted son, but her own daughters by teaching them if they are "bad" they too can be given away?