Monday, January 23, 2012

Real Moms

I am pretty open with people about our adoptions. I think it is great for people to ask questions and be properly know what it means to assume, right? :)

There are some tiny, innocent questions that never cease to make my heart ache just a bit:
What's their real mother like?
How is their real mother?
Have you talked to their real mother?

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that there is a pattern in those questions (for those of you that are not good with patterns, it's the words real mother.) 

I usually respond honestly and with a smile to these questions but it is getting harder and harder to respond without a thick layer of sarcasm. I know these words are coming from friends and family that are trying to show a genuine interest in our lives. But please, think about those words for just one second. 

In calling their birthmother a real mother. What does that make me? Am I caught up in a life long game of house with someone else's children? 

How does one define "real" mother? Is she the one that carries you for 9+ months and then puts her body through hell to let you enter this world? Is she the one that gets up and feeds you at weird hours, rocks you to sleep, brings you to the doctor when you are sick, cries when you get immunization shots, listens to you cry and whine and understands that it is just an "off day," teaches you to crawl, walk, talk, be kind to one another, follows you through life guarding you as best as she can?

A REAL mother is all of these things

Here is a mini-lesson on positive adoption language:

*The one many of you call REAL mother is what we call a birthmother. She gave birth to our children. I am an adoptive mother, but at my house I am what we call Momma. 
This language is safe because it portrays a positive image of both mothers and it recognizes the sacrifices that both mothers make for their children. 
Many also ask if they are REAL siblings. Of course they are real siblings. Any of my children -- adopted, biological, or foster -- would be real siblings. I have one full brother and 4 half brothers but they are all my real siblings. I think what you want to ask is if they are biological siblings. The answer to that question is yes.

*Also important to know: My children are not adopted. My children were adopted. To say that they are makes adoption the thing that defines them. It is a part of them and their personal history, but they are so much more than that. We celebrate adoption at our house but as my children get older I want the fact that they were adopted to be a choice they get to make in telling people. Right now, other than with our friends and family, we share this fact on a need to know basis -- meaning, when you ask where they got their beautiful red hair from, we have no choice but to tell you that they were adopted.

*Lastly, our birthmother didn't give her children up for adoption. This implies that these girls are unwanted and she threw them to the side without thinking twice. If you have read any of my blog you will know this statement to be VERY untrue. Our birthmother loves her children very much. So much that she created an adoption plan for both of them to give them the lives that she felt they deserved.

I am not introducing this language to make you feel guilty or to scold you for saying the wrong things. I am a teacher by profession and this is what I do. We can't expect people to speak correctly if they are not educated on how to speak.

Do I expect the world will change because I posted this blog? No.
Will people still ask me about my daughters' REAL mother? Yes.
Will they also ask me other ridiculous questions like: Where did they come from? and How much did they cost? Yes.

But for now, I have vented and will be able to answer most questions without sarcasm. (I say most because I can't resist the temptation to answer the financial question with: I had a buy one-get one coupon.)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Long Road Home

After the hospital, all we had to do was stay at my aunt and uncle's house until we were given the okay to leave Minnesota. This took a week last time. And what a wonderful week it was! My aunt and uncle took such good care of us. I couldn't imagine spending the first days of my children's life any where else!

Well... God likes to teach me that I am not in control. He likes for me to know that I am foolish for making plans because they almost always do not match up with what he has in store for me. (Funny Guy that way!)

So it turns out that this stay in Minnesota was going to have lots of twists and turns through incompetent people and a process that only God seemed to understand because it took us almost a month to get home. (Future adoptive parents, don't let this story scare you!)

When we left the hospital with Katelynn, it was also a day to remember. All of the nurses in Minnesota decided to go on strike. Security was like Fort Knox and it was near impossible trying to leave with a child that was not legally ours yet. They call it a legal risk placement for a reason.

When we left the hospital with Kennedy, the nurses were all there. We said our good-byes and we were on our way with our two babies under a year in our back seat! My husband and Kate stayed the weekend in Minnesota with us and then headed back home to Wisconsin because, hey, it should take that long for things to get approved....WRONG!

My heart broke in half as I watched my husband and first baby leave for home but it gave me time to get into a routine with my new baby. Wednesday rolled around and I still hadn't heard anything from the birthparent counselor or our social worker. Around 3 in the afternoon I received a call from our birthmother stating that she wanted to go in to sign papers to give up her rights so we could go home but they advised her not to. If she signed off her rights then the birthfather would be able to take custody of the baby. She was told we would still be able to go home soon even if she didn't sign...fine by me as long as she would eventually sign and we could go home soon.

I called our social worker to tell her (which is the wrong, I am not supposed to be doing any of the calling) she thought it was strange that they didn't tell us this in our last adoption which happened 11 months earlier.

An hour later our birthmother called back again and said she just found out that if she doesn't sign papers now, Kennedy and I would have to stay in Minnesota for 30 days until birthfather's rights are naturally terminated. 30 DAYS!!!! I freaked. I called my social worker to inform her (again, wrong). She tried to call the office in Minnesota to find out what was going on and they were ... closed. You see, getting my child and me home was not a priority to them because they weren't the ones that had to be separated from their child and spouse.

I, not so patiently, waited until the next day. I tried to call the birthparent counselor, the office, the lawyer, everyone I could think of that could give me an explanation. Then I was scolded by the director of the adoption agency in Minnesota and the director of the adoption agency in Wisconsin for meddling with things. I needed to let people do their jobs. So I waited through another weekend.

Monday morning I was informed that if we could get birthfather to sign the papers first and then birthmother could sign them and then we could go home. So I wasn't supposed to meddle but I did need to call birthfather and ask him to sign papers giving up his rights to his daughter. Super easy conversation, right?

So birthfather agreed to sign papers but I couldn't tell the birthparent counselor that because she had gone home for the night. On Tuesday she tried to set up an appointment with birthfather but he had no means of getting to the office. On Wednesday the counselor told him she could bring him the papers. On Thursday birthfather decided that this wasn't a good week for signing papers. We are back to the weekend -- Labor Day weekend. I was not good company.

On Tuesday birthfather signed papers. I had to pick up birthmother to bring her to sign papers because she didn't have a ride either. Tuesday night our papers were not faxed to the appropriate places. They sat on someones desk. Wednesday morning our papers were lost. Yup, lost. No one knew where they were and the counselor was on vacation and the director who scolded me suddenly knew nothing of our case. My social worker tried to call her. She avoided her. The Wisconsin director tried to call her. She avoided her too.

Our papers miraculously appeared on Thursday and were sent out for approval. Didn't think I would be going home again that week and we were cutting it really close to Katelynn's first birthday. I also had to miss my baby brother's graduation from high school.

Friday morning I received a call from our social worker tell me I could go home. I cried, fed my baby, and made the great exodus from the state of Minnesota without looking back.

Shame on those workers for keeping a family separated for so long. 

God Bless our social worker and the office in Wisconsin for working overtime to try to get us home quickly. 

We were home at last!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Baby Neddy is Born

Over the course of the next couple of months we finished making the preparations for the birth of our new baby. She was scheduled to be born through C-Section on May 19th. I was given an unexpected privilege this time that I didn't have at Katelynn's birth. I was asked to be in the operating room to watch our daughter being born! How awesome is that -- it was like a real, live Baby Story episode!

My husband and I dropped Katelynn off at my dad and step-mom's house on May 18th. My step-dad would be traveling through the next day and he was going to pick Kate up and bring her to the hospital. That way we would get some alone time with Kennedy before we were officially a family of four. My heart broke into a million pieces as we dropped Katelynn off but luckily, my dad and step-mom sent me lots of pictures throughout the night so I was able to see how much fun she was having without me.

We arrived in Minnesota pretty late that night. We were staying at my wonderful Aunt and Uncle's house. They had left gifts for the girls in our room and a note congratulating us on our new bundle. It felt a bit like deja-vu seeing as we were just there 11 months before waiting for Katelynn to be born. 

I don't think I slept longer than 10 minutes that night. I was so excited to meet our new baby. The alarm clock went off early and we headed to the hospital. My husband went to our hospital room to wait and I went to our birthmother's prep room so I could get my scrubs on. She was waiting with her mother. We talked and caught up. I showed them pictures of Kate and we passed the time with some stories. 

The doctors came and brought our birthmother to the operating room. A few minutes later they invited me to join them. It was a beautiful thing waiting for our daughter to be born. Two mothers waiting side-by-side (well, technically one was lying down). This birth was easier for me because I knew what to expect this time. It was harder this time for our birthmother because at one point, she thought she was going to parent this baby. The emotional attachment that she had with this child was different from her first baby. (Don't get this statement wrong, she has emotional attachments to both of her children -- it was just different because she had envisioned this child as hers.)

The doctor and nurses were so professional about everything. I was able to watch Kennedy come out, trim the cord and talk to her as they weighed her and measured her. Then they placed Kennedy by her birthmother so they could spend their first few seconds together too. They did duplicates of all of the paperwork, footprints, etc. because we are both mothers and we would both want those keepsakes. 

It was so surreal when they placed her in the bassinet and we wheeled her down to meet her daddy for the first time. We took some quick pictures in the hallway and then rushed her in to the nursery to get warmed and have all of the newborn stuff done. I stayed with her the whole time. Daddy waited outside the nursery windows sending texts and pictures to family and friends. 

Once the surgery was finished and our birthmother was resting, her mother came into the nursery with me and we shared some quiet moments together as we gazed in awe at the beautiful baby God had blessed us all with.

An hour later we started the same dance we had when Katelynn was born. Family members came up to visit and we spent time again getting to know one another for the sake of our children.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Sometimes your comments to my posts will tell me that I am amazing. Quite frankly, these comments creep me out a bit. Don't get me wrong, I love the compliments and I am happy that my friends and family read my blog, but I am NOT the definition of amazing. 

Let me tell you what I think defines amazing:
First and foremost, God is amazing. I wish I could say I had some sort of religious epiphany that God's plan was for my husband and me to adopt. I wish I could say that I was more like my cousin and her friend. They just knew God wanted them to adopt the world's orphans and make good homes for them. They are good people. I chose adoption for selfish reasons. I wanted babies and I begrudgingly realized that adoption was my only way to make my want happen. Now comes the amazing part. God still managed to find his way into my life. It wasn't an easy thing for Him to get through to me. I do admit now that it was in His plan all along for me to be an adoptive mother. This was the first time I had ever let Him take control of things and look at what happened! God is Amazing.

Our girls are amazing. The way they can light up our faces with each movement is beyond words. The way they have Daddy wrapped around their little fingers makes Mommy smile. The way they can get up a million times throughout the night, giving Mommy and Daddy very little sleep, but then smile so sweetly in the morning melts all of that sleep-deprived irritability away. The way Kate can make a stranger at Target smile because she waves and says hi as if her cart were a float in the parade is amazing. The way Neddy can make a woman  come running from a store because she has the most beautiful red hair and blue eyes is amazing. My girls are amazing.  

My girls' birthmother is amazing. She loves her children so much that she chose a different life for them. She had to admit that she wasn't what she wanted for her kids. She knew they deserved things in life that she couldn't give them. She made an incredibly painful decision to place her children with a different family. A family that she barely knew. A family that she just had to trust would  follow through with an open adoption plan. Our girls' birthmother is amazing.

Our family and friends are amazing. They have supported us through infertility and two long adoption processes. They have celebrated with us and helped to dry our tears. They have accepted and loved our children as ours. They have hung in there by our sides even though they may not have agreed or understood some of our decisions -- especially the choice to have an open adoption. They have had to put their fears of failed adoptions to the side so that they could remain supportive of us. You people are amazing.

I am just like any other parent out there. I am trying to do the best for my children. That may mean something different in my house because adoption is a part of our lives, but it doesn't mean that I am any more amazing than any other parent out there.

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year's Resolution

My New Year's Resolution is to spend a little more time on myself. That includes: getting up earlier and exercising, reading books for pleasure (not for school), eating healthier, and finishing our adoption story on this blog.

This morning I was forced to choose between exercising and this blog. What a difficult decision to make! Not! For those of you that know me well, I am not one of those people that finds peace through a good workout. Actually, quite the opposite happens...I start a laundry list of all the things I should be doing instead. Eventually the list gets too long and I have to stop exercising and start tackling things on my list. A little obsessive? Absolutely.

Well, our story left off with our birthmother changing her mind and wanting to create an adoption plan. (I say it like that because it is positive adoption language that everyone should know. Don't worry, there will be a ranting post about that someday soon.)

This was an extremely difficult adjustment for birthfather's family. Like many birthfamilies, they have a fear of letting "one of their own" out in the world to be raised by strangers never to see them again. Well, this is not the way my husband and I view adoption. I was able to connect with birthfather's family and explain to them that adoption, for us, doesn't mean that they have to say goodbye. It means that there will be a huge family to love these girls with all of our hearts.We want our girls to know and have a relationship with each and every one of their family members on all sides (adoptive and birthfamilies).

In adoption, every side must mourn their losses. My husband and I had to mourn the loss of the experiences we wouldn't have because we chose adoption -- like pregnancy and delivery. Birthfamilies have losses too. I needed to understand that while I was excited for our family to expand, they were sad that they wouldn't be able to see their family as often as they like. 

A lot of trust has to go into the relationship between birthfamilies and adoptive families. This was something that we all had to work very hard at and we didn't have a lot of time to do it. We spent a lot of time emailing and texting one another to build that relationship.

I was able to announce to my coworkers and students that we would be expanding our family again. This was a great lesson for my classroom because most families don't have an opportunity to talk about adoption with their children. So, like all things, I treated it as a learning experience. We had a long Q&A about adoption and they had some very good questions. I read the book, The Mulberry Bird, which explains a birthmother's love for her child which leads her to choose a different family to raise him.

And the big answer to the question in my last post...Yes, you can take maternity leave two times in one school year! As long as it doesn't exceed 12 weeks! I was ready to roll for May 19th!