An unexpected closure

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I received an email yesterday that provided me some unexpected closure in a certain area of my life.

You may recall that with Sienna, we had backup donors. They had four “top grade” embryos. Since we were doing open adoptions, I got to know not only Sienna’s donors, but our backup donors as well. We actually became friends and have remained in communication for nearly two years now.

After our success with Sienna, we decided to lovingly return the backup embryos to NEDC. It was an excruciatingly difficult decision. As badly as I wanted to adopt them, my husband and I were just not at the same page at that time with keeping them. We felt that until we were unified in that decision, the right thing to do was to return them in the hopes they would be released from limbo.

Months went by and these embryos still were not adopted. That puzzled me, because I knew they were of such a high grade, but I also know that open adoptions are less common than anonymous, so perhaps that was the reason.

About a year later, the embryos were adopted. They were again the “backup embryos.” And, again, the couple got pregnant with their “first try” embryos. And, again, that couple lovingly returned the backup embryos to NEDC.

After I learned this, I approached my husband again with the possibility of adopting these embryos back. And that’s when he told me that he just did not feel led to do that, and instead felt led toward adopting through our state.

Heartbreakingly, I told our backup donors that it was just not meant to be for us, but that I would continue to pray over these embryos, and their fate.

During all this time, these backup donors remained steadfastly positive about the fate of their precious embryos, knowing that they would be released at the right time, and to the right couple.

A few months ago, they were adopted by a third couple. Recently, the four were thawed, and three survived and were transferred.

No pregnancy resulted.

I’m shocked.

I’m shocked because it’s just a simple reminder that God is in control of life from beginning to end. Not even the very best in medical technology, science, or the most brilliant and careful doctors and staff can ensure the beginning of life. Life remains the province of our Creator.

I also feel a sense of comfort and peace. Comfort for our backup donors that they now feel some rest, knowing the fate of those children. Comfort that God, as painful as it was, steered us away from re-adopting those embryos, which, knowing their fate, would have caused us more heartache and pain.

And peace, knowing that for that third adopting couple, while they no doubt are experiencing the heartache and pain of a failed attempt, that God still put this desire in their hearts, and He will be faithful to fulfill it, or take it away.

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ATTRIBUTIONS and ADOPTION

I was talking with someone the other day about when Jeremy and I started wearing glasses and about how bad Jeremy’s vision is.  Basically without his glasses he is blind and he started with glasses while in kindergarten after his teacher thought he was making faces at her.  In reality, he just couldn’t see.  As a follow up question on the conversation the person I was talking to asked if Grant and Maria have bad vision.  This type of thing happens quite often where we are talking about a trait, genetic in nature, and the person I’m talking with asks where that comes from or if Jeremy and I were like that.  Often times the person knows that Grant and Maria were adopted, but I guess they just forget.  For me, I always pause before I answer.  Sometimes, I just answer the question that was asked and sometimes I remind them that Grant and Maria were adopted.  For many, I guess because I physically gave birth to them, the idea that they are not genetically tied to us isn’t readily on their mind.  For me, it’s quite the opposite.

There are many days where I observe them and wonder who they are like.  Is Grant a clone of his genetic father?  (My gut tells me yes.)  Who has the gangly toes that Maria inherited?  Is one genetic parent focused like Maria and does the other struggle to sit still like Grant?  Are they semi-vegetarian like Grant and Maria who will go to town on their fruits and veggies, but lukewarm about meat and cheese?  Does one insist on sleeping in socks like Maria and the other content to be barefoot year round?

These are the things I wonder about since we chose anonymous adoption.  These are the things that I will likely never have answers about and sometimes it’s hard to look at people who have genetic children who get to laugh about how someone got their dad’s way of doing this or that.  Not to say we don’t attribute behaviors to one another… I attribute Maria’s desire to dress monochromatically to Jeremy and often when I discuss Maria’s strong willed nature people look at me and wink while they say “wonder where that came from?”

We talk openly about their adoption with them and other people and I actually enjoy answering questions and sharing our story.  In fact, one thing Maria loves to do is read the calendar and she points out everyone’s birthdays.  When we get to September 17 she now says “that’s the day I went in your belly.”  I know she doesn’t understand now, but one day she will and I hope she sees it as special as I do.  I might not be able to answer all the questions they have one day, but one thing is for certain they will know they were wanted and that we loved them from before we ever saw their picture as tiny embryos.

 

Homestudy: Part VI – The best yet

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Yesterday was what we hope is our sixth and final homestudy (apart from maybe a brief follow-up visit or two).

It was the first time that Tygh and I actually got to be together for the homestudy since the first visit, many months ago.

Again, the caseworker just wanted to fill in holes that she had in her report. She mostly asked about our differing parent styles. I’m much more laid back, and Tygh is more of the “iron fist.” She also wanted to ask more about our children and their personalities.

Now, if you know me, I could go on and on and on talking about my kids. But, I quietly deferred to Tygh. It was so fascinating hearing his responses, and watching him as he responded.

When he spoke of Brae, his chest puffed up, and he sat up straight. His voice was strong and proud. He talked about how Brae is his shadow, how intelligent and willful he is, how he’s “all boy,” and how Brae owns me (great).

When he spoke of Sienna, his chest kind of caved in, he relaxed his posture, and sat back in the chair. His voice was softer and more relaxed. He talked about how she’s shy when she first meets someone, but then she warms up quickly and is a social butterfly. How she loves to take care of things and people, and how she can stand her own against her big brother.

And then, he spoke about me. He spoke about how great of a mother I am. How when I’m with the kids, I’m 100% with the kids. How I’m driven and persistent in reaching my dreams, and also loving and compassionate (tears).

And then the caseworker said something that really surprised me. Mind you, most of my interactions with my caseworker, while I really like her, have been a bit prickly. I know that’s just part of the process. I’ve gotten the impression she thinks that I’m this tightly-wound woman who needs to take a chill pill. Come to learn, she thinks quite the opposite.

“You know, Britney, you’re actually a big softie. You come across, and I think most people would think that you are this rigid professional woman who has to have her life all in order, which is what I initially thought. But I’ve come to learn that you are not this way. You actually have a very big heart and are quite a big softie.”

That lit up my day.

So, next steps are that we have to finish a couple little things around the house (get a new fire extinguisher, get a safe for our medications, etc.), she writes her report, comes to do one final house walk-through, and then we are allowed to read our report (gulp).

As much as I want this homestudy process to just be over with, and have been pushing to just get it done, I truly trust God’s sovereign plan with how and when this next child will come.

For now, it seems, we are at least off the roller coaster, and waiting for the next ride.

AMERICAN GIRLS (AND A BOY)

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John Luke and I went to Atlanta for a “girls getaway” this past weekend with my sis-n-law, mother-n-law, and two nieces.  Before the trip, I was excited to see my family, but nervous at the same time.  I often get panicky driving in heavy traffic such as Atlanta.  I also know that if I succumb to my fears, I will never go anywhere, and John Luke will miss out on exciting adventures like traveling to different places.

So with determination and resolve, we headed off to the big city.  I live in a small town with a population of about 5,104 people (2011 census).  It’s on the outskirts of a larger town with a population 63,815 people (2011 census).  You can get on the other side of town within 20 minutes.

I’m glad we went despite my fears.  I was nervous about the thought of him getting fussy as we got into Atlanta traffic.  We ended up getting lost, but the important thing is we arrived alive and made the effort to see our family.  We ate dinner at the hotel Friday night, then spent some time in our room catching up before going to bed.

The next day we had brunch at the hotel, then my family went on to the American Girl store while John Luke and I stayed at the room to do my motherly duties (pumping).  I met them later at the store, and was quickly amazed at the craze of the American Girl phenomenon.  I guess it’s like the frenzy of the Cabbage Patch dolls which were popular when I was a girl.  My nieces even had personal shoppers to help them pick out their purchases.  I think I’m in trouble if I have a girls next time around!

Saturday evening we did some shopping at the mall, then ate at the American Girl Bistro.  My nieces were so cute dining with their dolls.  The waitress even brought John Luke a boy doll to the table.  It was so funny, I think J L thought the doll was real.  J L kept babbling, and trying to touch him.

Back at our room, John Luke was fascinated with the floor length mirrored closet door.  He kept “talking” to the baby in the mirror.  I’m not sure if the thought it was someone else, or if he was just amused by his reflection.  He even kissed himself a couple of times.

We had a fun weekend.  We’ll see them in Alabama in two weeks.  Here are some pictures from our trip. ImageImageImageImage

THE TRYING THREES

One of the biggest things I’ve learned in the last three years is that parenting is a game of trial and error. What works for one child will not work for another. For us, discipline has been one of the biggest areas of trial and error and we are figuring out what works. For Grant losing privileges seems to resonate the most.
Recently we were walking home from a nearby playground. There is a path that cuts through some property that is mostly gravel and small rocks. Grant picked up the rocks and started throwing them. I asked him to stop. He did for about five steps then picked up another handful and threw it. Without hesitation I told him he was not going to get a Popsicle when he got home. For the next 20 minutes he whines and cried and pleads his case. “But, Mom! I’m hot! I need Popsicle to cool off.” Meanwhile, Maria enjoyed her Popsicle while Grant whined about his predicament.
Fast forward to the next evening while we were getting ready to walk to the playground again. Maria took it upon herself to remind Grant of what happened the day before. “G you need to obey so you get Popsicle. Do you hear me?” He replied “Yes, I need to obey. I can’t throw rocks.” I laughed to myself and reminded them both they needed to listen to me. We didn’t have any issues that night.
Many people talk about the “terrible twos” but I think age three is much more trying. When I discuss this with other parents they agree. The biggest challenge, I think, with two year olds is figuring out communication. Three year olds can talk and reason, which is helpful at times, but they are also testing the boundaries and limits big time. They are smart and creative and intense, which will serve them well in adulthood. We have to remind ourselves to take it one day at a time and this too shall pass. I also keep in mind the words of a good family friend with three grown children who chuckled as he said “Kids that age are going to do what they are going to do. You are just sort of there with them.”

WEANING 101

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This week has been trying to say the least.  I had this bright idea that I would wean from pumping.  John Luke has practically weaned himself from the breast.   Once he figured out his surroundings were pretty interesting, it’s been hard to keep his attention at the breast, except in the middle of the night or early morning.

We had latching and supply problems in the beginning.  As a result, he was introduced to the bottle very early.  It’s been a struggle to keep him on the breast every since.  I am still pumping 3-4 times per day, but the supply is getting less and less.

I’ve spent hours pumping trying to “build up” my supply with very little results.  I am only producing about 6 ounces per day now.  I have been starting to wonder if the benefits outweigh the time spent, now that he’s almost eight months old.  I realize any amount of breast milk is better than formula; however, starting to question whether time spent stimulating his mind with reading and being outdoors would be more productive.

Recently, we had a busy weekend with fourth of July activities.  I thought I would eliminate a pumping session over the weekend and see how it goes.  I pumped less at the other three sessions as well.  I usually pump right before bed at least one hour.  Thirty minutes on each side to empty the breast as much as possible before going to bed.

After eliminating a pumping session, and reducing time spent pumping per session, I have spent a lot of quality time with my pump making up for it.  I found myself with a clogged milk duct.  And it’s been a dud.

I have spent HOURS this week trying to get the duct unclogged.  I’ve pumped about an hour at each session, several times per day.  I’ve taken hot showers and expressed the milk in the shower.  Total waste.  The kid gets no benefits from it that way, but the heat from the shower helps get the duct unclogged.  I have massaged the affected breast with a hand massager before pumping.  Slept with the plugged breasts on a heating pad, and spent time researching how to get the duct unclogged to prevent mastitis.

I have a friend who pumped four times per day and eventually dried up without having to wean.  I do get a little sad at the thought of not producing anymore milk.  It’s good to put on his oatmeal and rice cereal in the morning, and occasionally he gets a full bottle of breast milk.  I think I will go back to pumping and let nature take care of itself.

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Homestudy: Part V

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It’s hard to believe there is actually a fifth chapter to this saga.

Last week, I had my fifth interview with our caseworker.

Our caseworker is in the process of writing up our report, and had some holes she said she wanted to fill in. Particularly, she wanted to hear more about my childhood. More about my parents’ divorce. More about my parents’ re-marriages to my stepparents, and my three stepbrothers. She wanted to hear more about my high school and college years. More about my romantic relationships.

In all, I’m not sure I’ve ever told one single person as much information as I’ve told this virtual stranger. It’s an exhausting process.

And, at the end, of course, she had comments. In a nutshell, she said that I appear to “minimize the trauma in my life.”

Her concern was that we may be placed with a child who has had some trauma in his/her life, and it could be a trigger for me, and what was I willing to do about it?

I told her that I have been on several missions trips to very impoverished parts of our country, and our world. I have witnessed children who do not have shoes on their feet, running water, and struggle for every morsel of food. I have mentored children whose fathers have abandoned them, who have been physically or sexually abused, and neglected.

In comparison, my childhood was a piece of cake.

I’m not trying to minimize divorce, and the profound impact it has on children, including me. Looking back, that one incident was a catalyst for a lot of unpleasant experiences in my life.

However, I do not compare it to being beaten, raped, or starved.

So, forgive me if I tend to shrug my experience of divorce off. In comparison, it was not that bad. My parents each re-married, and have been re-married for over 25 years. I’ve seen beauty rise from the ashes that divorce creates. Including myself.

Of course, I told her that if a child we bring home causes a trigger in me, I will not hesitate to seek counseling. And, I mean that.

We hope to have our next (and final!) homestudy visit in the next week or so, and then we wait for the final report to be written.

It will be so nice to have this part of the process behind us.
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TRUE CONFESSIONS

When leaving church recently, there was a little girl and her mom having a bit of a power struggle in the hallway.  The girl looked to be about three and was screaming “I don’t want to!!!!” while she pulled against her mother’s hand.  I smiled as I passed by knowing exactly how that mom felt – frustrated and maybe embarrassed and tired.  When Jeremy picked the kids and me up at the curb, he mentioned the scene as well and said he had the same reaction.

Three years ago I know I wouldn’t have had the same reaction.  Three years into this parenting gig and I’ve definitely been humbled.  Three years into this and when I hear someone say “my kid won’t ever act like that”, I think to myself…just you wait and see.  Three years into this when I hear a parent say “my kid never throws tantrums” I think to myself…you must be lying.  Three years into it and I’ve had to learn that every child is different and there is no one-size fits all approach to parenting.

I’ve come to love honest parenting blogs…the ones where they talk about the fact that kids make you nuts and that sometimes just taking a shower is an achievement.  I have a general disdain for those who portray a perfect parenting picture….you know who I’m talking about.  These are the ones who will never discuss the trials and only post the good stuff.  Don’t get me wrong, there is good stuff.  But, there are some days when my glass of wine is screaming for me, but my child is screaming louder.  There are days when I think there must be some underground network that toddlers have to discuss bedtime stall tactics.  There are some days when I just can’t answer another “why” question. There are days when I think to myself, “I would walk through fire to save you from harm but if you do that one more time I’m going to hang you by your toe nails.”   There are days when I want to pop the eyes out of the person who says “just enjoy it…it goes so fast.”  Some moments are just not enjoyable or pretty.  Sometimes the only things you can do are laugh and have a second glass of wine.

Brae-isms

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It’s been a while since the last round, so there are a few more than usual. As always, I’m so proud to be the Mommy of this little one.

1) One evening, Brae and I were saying prayers before bed. Brae said that he wanted me to pray, while he held his precious sticker book in his hand, and closed his eyes. I was praying, thanking God for all our blessings, when Brae whispered, “Mommy, tell God that I have super hero stickers. Thank him for those, too. … Oh, and tell him to not ever send us to jail.”

2) Brae and Tygh made brownies one evening. Brae loves brownies. He put a special one on a plate, and said he wanted to save it for after school the following day. Regrettably, I ate that brownie (don’t get too mad – there was a whole plate full of other brownies, but I ate the special one). When Brae got home and realized his prized brownie was missing, he said, “Mommy, where’s my brownie?” Guild-ridden, I said, “I’m so sorry, honey. I ate it. Were you looking forward to eating it?” “Yes!” he proclaimed. “I was looking forward to it….. and behind, and to the side!”

3) Brae: “Mommy, I want some juice and chocolate milk.” “No, Brae, you can’t have both,” I said. “Pick one or the other.” (Long pause) Brae: “Other.”

4) Brae and Sienna went to Grandma and Grandpa’s house recently while Mommy and Daddy went on vacation. Apparently, Brae’s picky eating habits continued even at grandparent’s house. One evening, my sister came over to see the kids. In front of Brae, Grandma said,“Brae is a p-i-c-k-y e-a-t-e-r.” Brae got upset. “No, I’m NOT,” he said. “I’m B-r-a-e.”

5) At the park Brae and a little boy were playing. Suddenly, the other little boy started throwing dirt in Brae’s face. Dirt got in his eyes. The other boy’s mom came rushing over, apologizing. Brae just shrugged and said, “It’s ok. It was my fault. I didn’t turn my face fast enough.”

6) “Mom, my light saber broke. … Now it’s just a flashlight.”

7) Recently, we “met” our housecleaner for the first time. We got home earlier than usual, and she was still there. I walked in and saw a little boy sitting quietly on the couch. I realized he didn’t speak English. Brae ran in, saw the boy sitting in Brae’s spot on the couch, went right up to him and said, “Hi! Wanna watch ninjas with me?” The boy beamed. Love that he has yet to meet a stranger.

8) I walked in on Brae going #2 in the bathroom. He had poop on his hands. I said, “Brae! Why do you have poop on your hands?” He said, “Because, Mommy. I want to always remember this poop being in my bum.”

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A DAY IN THE LIFE OF TAMARA

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Being a new mom, I have recently been intrigued by the book ‘If you give a Mouse a Cookie’ by author Laura Numeroff, and a poem entitled ‘If you give a Mom a Muffin’, by Beth Brubaker.

Whatever age your children, or whether you’re a “mom-to-be”, we all have days like the one that inspired this poem.  I love when people can express their vulnerabilities and imperfections.  It reminds us that we can find humor in the mundane tasks of life.

Sometimes this poem is totally my life.  I think we can all relate.

IF YOU GIVE MOM A MUFFIN

If you give a mom a muffin,

She’ll want a cup of coffee to go with it.

She’ll pour herself some.

Her three-year old will spill the coffee.

She’ll wipe it up.

Wiping the floor, she’ll find dirty socks.

She’ll remember she has to do laundry.

When she puts the laundry in the washer,

She’ll trip over boots and bump into the freezer,

Bumping into the freezer will remind her she has to plan supper.

She will get out a pound of hamburger.

She’ll look for her cookbook. (101 Things To Make With a Pound of Hamburger).

The cookbook is sitting under a pile of mail.

She will see the phone bill, which is due tomorrow.

She will look for her checkbook.

The checkbook is in her purse that is being dumped out by her two-year-old.

She’ll smell something funny.

She’ll change the two year old.

While she is changing the two-year old the phone will ring.

Her five-year old will answer and hang up.

She’ll remember that she wants to phone a friend to come for some coffee.

Thinking of coffee will remind her that she was going to have a cup.

She will pour herself some.

And chances are,

If she has a cup of coffee,

Her kids will have eaten the muffin that went with it.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF TAMARA

Tamara goes to pay bills.

As she pulls out her wallet,

She is reminded that she needs to clean out her purse.

She cleans out her purse which doubles as a diaper bag.

She finds a dirty diaper from yesterday’s shopping trip to get groceries.

She goes to throw away the dirty diaper.

She is reminded that she needs to empty the trash.

While taking out the trash, she sees she needs to pull weeds.

While pulling the weeds, her shirt gets dirty.

She goes to put the dirty shirt in the laundry room.

She is reminded that the clothes she’d washed yesterday still need to be put in the dryer.

She will put them in the dryer, and decide to fold them after paying the bills.

Oh yeah, the bills…better get those done before starting dinner.

Funny thing is.. Josh will come home and ask, “What’d you do today?”

I think to myself, “Well, I’ve really done a lot. Really, I have..”