The Accusation

Photobucket

Brae started going to our current daycare/preschool when he was just 3 months old. He went there for nearly 6 years until he graduated last summer.

Sienna started going there at just 3.5 months old. She is now in their preschool program.

And Graem started going there when he was 6 months old, and is in their daycare program.

We have loved our daycare/preschool. It is a small, neighborhood, Spanish-immersion program. It is run by a husband and wife, each native Spanish speakers. She has her Masters’ in Education. The providers there are all native speakers. There is absolutely no technology. The kids sing, dance, play outside, do arts and crafts, and learn Spanish.

The community of parents there is united and strong. There is no fancy bus to take kids on field trips. The parents volunteer. There are no fancy toys to play with; most of them are donated from parents. The summer that Sienna was born, the parents got together to re-vamp the front yard. We showed up early on a Saturday morning, garden tools in tow, and weeded and planted.

And, just this last week, after a particularly tough several days, a group of parents showed up again early on a Saturday morning, care package in hand.

They did that because of an accusation. An ugly, viscous accusation made by a an ex-employee. A disgruntled ex-employee, as it turns out.

To better understand the reason for the care package, I need to rewind to two weeks ago. Tygh came home with the kids one evening, confused. The owners had pulled him aside, and crying and in broken English, told them that someone had filed a complaint with the Department of Human Services. The best that Tygh could make out, someone had accused the male owner of inappropriately touching children. They handed Tygh a piece of paper with the case worker’s name on it. The male owner’s license was being suspended while DHS investigated.

I took the piece of paper from Tygh, and immediately started calling my parent friends. I think I received 60 text messages that night.

I wish I could say that the first thought that popped into my head was, “That’s ridiculous. Who could possibly say such a thing?”, but it wasn’t. And not because I ever believed it to be true, but because when there is an accusation like that, I think the natural reaction from any parent is to just stop. And think. To comb your memory bank for even the smallest indication that maybe, just maybe, could there be even a shred of truth?

And I came up empty. And so did the other parents. We just did. not. believe. it. Not the owner that we knew. Not the owner that our kids adored.

And so, we rallied. We left messages for the case worker that night. She called us back the next morning, overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.

She confirmed (kind of) that the accusation was from an ex-employee. But we had the accusation wrong.

We aren’t sure what happened, but something clearly had gotten lost in translation (perhaps literally) between the case worker and the owners. The accusation had nothing to do with inappropriate touching, at least not of a sexual nature.

The accusation was that the male owner had slapped the forearm of a child, one in particular, in discipline.

We were again taken aback by this accusation. And, again, I think each of the parents stopped. Again, we mined our memory banks for anything we had witnessed, or thought we had witnessed, that would lead us to believe that this accusation was true.

And, again, nothing. We just did not believe it. Our children had never, not once, come home and mentioned that this male owner had ever inappropriately touched them (sexually or in discipline).

Over the next several days, numerous parents were interviewed (including me). The case worker confirmed that not one parent voiced any concern, including the parent of the child who had allegedly been hit.

The case worker said that, unfortunately, these sorts of accusations are made regularly. Each has to be investigated (as well they should be!), and each has to go through the paces. This would be no different. She said that if she continued to find no evidence to support the allegation, it should be resolved in a couple of weeks, and the male owner could return with his license in tact.

But, the damage has been done. You can see it on the faces of the staff, and the owners. They have been destroyed. Their reputation, their life’s work, their intentions, their love for these kids, has all been questioned.

And it makes me sad.

It makes me sad for the ex-employee who felt she needed to do this. It makes me sad for resources that could have been spent on a legitimate claim. It makes me sad for our little community.

I am not naïve. If I thought, for even a moment, that this accusation had merit, we would seriously consider pulling our kids out and going elsewhere.

We do not. That said, I am all in favor of a full investigation that will ultimately clear them. I am all in favor of any kind of education or teaching that may come out of this that will remind and reinforce to the owners and providers that in our daycare/preschool settings, we do not touch kids. Period.

But, I’m still very sad.

These are words you cannot take back. The accusation has been made. And, for some, that will be all they care about and remember.

Losing Brae

Photobucket

Over the last few weeks, since we returned from Disney World, since Brae started kindergarten up again, and since I went back to work, something almost imperceptible has changed.

But I have noticed it.

And it makes me so very, very sad.

And, a little bit proud.

We are slowly losing Brae.

He is growing up. Our grip on him has loosened. He’s coming into his own. He is a boy. A school-aged kid.

He has his own ideas, opinions, and interests, and he articulates them like an adult.

He has manners (when he chooses to use them) that rivals most colleagues of mine.

He has sleepovers. At other people’s houses. And he packs his own bag.

He picks out his clothes, knows the way he wants to wear his hair, and can make himself his favorite snack.

But, it’s not just these things. If it was just these things, I may feel only a little sad.

But I feel very sad.

And the thing that makes me the most sad is that, when I pick him up from a long day at school, he climbs in the back of the car, and is silent the whole way home. No more gibberish about his days at day care, or his days in preschool. Those days are gone. Instead, he gazes tiredly out the back of the window, watching the world go by. He’s exhausted from a big day of learning, playing, and navigating social norms with kids of all ages. Fatigued by making new friends and keeping the old. Labored by mounting homework, school expectations, and little boy responsibilities. He looks worn from the weight of the world on his tiny, kindergarten shoulders.

This makes me sad because he is experiencing real, grown-up emotions, and doesn’t feel the need to seek me out for comfort. Instead, he just wants to sit with his feelings, and figure them out.

This also makes me a little proud because I feel we have done a good job, so far, of equipping him for the world. He is independent, smart, personable, appropriately cautious, and curious. And yet, if we are to fully complete our job in preparing him, we need to allow him to feel those uncomfortable, unavoidable life feelings, and figure out how to deal with them.

But, he’s also still just a little six-year-old boy, that I see still as my six-month-old firstborn. And, I’m sad that I cannot protect him from uncomfortable feelings, and even sadder that he doesn’t expect me to.

brae kindergarten

IMG_0181

Back to Work

Photobucket

A few weeks ago, I started back to work.

Although this was my third maternity leave, and actually a much longer leave than I had with Brae or Sienna, it was still excruciating to return.

I love my job, and I love the people I work with. But they cannot compete with the sweet boy’s face that I would snuggle with each morning.

I am grateful that I had the extended leave with Graem, especially after his sudden (and scary) entry into this world. I am grateful that I was able to be at home when Brae started kindergarten, and I could walk him to the school bus. I am grateful that I was able to keep Sienna home from preschool on certain days, and just have “girl dates” with her.

I am grateful that I got to watch summer turn to fall, and fall turn to winter, each from my home window. I am grateful that in a season of tremendous transition for our family, I was able to be at home for many months.

The first day back was chaos. I was prepared – or so I thought – for it. What I was not prepared for, however, was who would be the source of the chaos.

Brae. It was going to be his first day in morning extended care at his school. Up until then, he had been able to take the bus to kindergarten. Well, since his bus doesn’t come until 8:45, and I need to leave for work before then, the plan was for me to drop him off around 8.

He did not support that plan. The first day, he ran around the exterior of the school, as I’m lugging Graem, and trying to keep track of Sienna. Brae was crying hysterically, refusing to go in. Eventually, the teacher came out, and coaxed him in. My heart broke.

The drop off for Sienna and Graem went much more smoothly. Sienna took comfort in the fact she now got to watch over her little brother, and Graem, well let’s face it, the kid is just easy. I called his daycare a couple of times for the first few days, and then stopped. I kept getting the same report – he doesn’t cry, he’s a great sleeper, etc. That mended my heart a little.

Being back in the office itself has been a bit shocking. Kind of like jumping into an ice-cold pool. Eventually, you warm up, but it takes a while.

There were four of us coworkers who all had babies (boys!) at the same time, and so were all on maternity leave at the same time. One gal decided to not come back at all. Another gal, and a dear friend of mine, took a different job. Then there were two.

It is hard being a working mom. But, it’s also hard to be a stay-at-home mom, I’m sure. As a sweet friend told me, she considers me a “working stay-at-home mom.” I like that. My heart is definitely at home, and when I am home, my time is invested in my kids. I feel very involved, and I’m grateful that I have a profession, and a job, that allows me to do that.

And I just pray that my kids come to understand, and respect that decision.

Britney

Graem’s 6 Month Check-Up

Photobucket

Graem is now “officially” 6 months old. Yet, with his prematurity, the doctor still considers him more like 5 months.

A silver lining to having a premature baby is that I really do feel like I’ve gotten to experience the “baby” phase perhaps longer than others.

That said, I find myself vacillating between wanting him to start scooting around, and relishing in his immobility. I find myself thankful that he seems to be slowly weaning off nursing, and yet grimacing that these precious days are at their sunset.

I will him to be a “normal” 6-month-old baby, and yet scared to death for him to be so because I know physically he is not ready.

His 6-month-appointment was typical. He’s 75th percentile for height (over 27 inches) and 25th percentile for weight (16.8 lbs). He can roll over from his tummy to his back, although not consistently. He has not rolled from his back to his tummy. His only real method of moving around is that he “shimmies” on his back, to and fro, using his heels as traction to propel his little body backwards and sideways.

He loves food, any kind of food. He has yet to turn his nose at any fruit or vegetable I’ve given him. For that reason, he is easily distracted when nursing, and really doesn’t care for a bottle. But he starts panting the moment he sees the food come his way.

Apparently, the doctor says this is a good thing.

His eyes have remained a dark blue. Since neither Tygh nor I have blue eyes (each green), this must be the recessive genes coming through (both our moms have blue eyes). The doctor says it is unlikely the color will change at this point, but I’m less optimistic. Brae had blue eyes still at 6 months, and now they are hazel. Sienna also had dark blue eyes at this time, and strangely, hers lightened to a sky blue/grey.

He remains the easiest, most chill baby ever. We are constantly getting comments like, “Is he always like this?”

Yes. Since he was about 2-3 months old, he’s been like this. He takes after his dad.

In fact, the only evidence that he belongs to my gene pool is his ears. They are small.

That’s about it. Everything else is all his daddy.

He and Brae have a very special, unique bond. Brae is the only person that, to this day, can get him to really belly laugh.

He and Sienna also share a remarkable relationship, but I’d say it is more like pet and owner than brother and sister. Sienna notices him occasionally, pets his head, and moves on, as he gazes longingly after her.

I went back to work last week and Graem also did superb. In fact, I stopped calling the daycare after the second day because I kept getting the same report. “El es muy tranquilo. No llora. Muy facil.” (He’s very calm. Doesn’t cry. Very easy.).

Yup, that’s just Graem.

We’ve come along way since the NICU.

graem 6 months

Graem and Sienna at his check-up. Sienna helped console him after his shots.

Afraid of 2015

Photobucket

As dawn breaks on the start of a new year, the fear of the unknown can be very sobering.

I remember like it was yesterday being in the throes of infertility, and the bittersweet taste of what a new year could bring.

There was hope, sure. But there was also the fear that all hope was lost.

There was anticipation, definitely. But there was also the pit in my stomach that grew with the thought that I was only to be anticipating more disappointment.

And there was excitement, of course. But there was also an overwhelming shroud of anxiety that my excitement would give way to agony.

As we step into this new year, I have two dear friends, unknown to each other, but linked by infertility. One just discovered she is pregnant with twins. The other is still, well, just still waiting for that other dark line to appear.

Although I’d like to say that infertility is behind me, it has left some very real and tangible scars in its wake. The blessing of those scars is that the experience of infertility has given me a platform. I can talk with others who are going through it without just pretending or speculating. I’ve been there, and I can relate to every single emotion they are feeling. And, because the worst of it is over for me, I can also share with others the hope that can come when this season is over.

For some, the season will turn with the birth of a child. For others, the season will turn with the adoption of a child. For others, the season will turn when they are consumed by contentment with their present circumstances, whatever they may be.

I am grateful for the three little blessings God has given my family. And yet, there is still mourning over how those blessings came about. But, that mourning does not last for long. Because, those blessings could only come about in the way that they did.

When I start to dwell on the fantasy children that I could have had, I stop almost immediately. Because those fantasy children were never going to come. God had planned, since the beginning of time, for these three children to be mine. There are no others, at least not here on earth. And, in His amazing providence, these three children were destined to come about in the way that they did.

So, as dawn breaks on the start of this new year, I remember being afraid of so many other new years, and what untold secrets they held. And, right now, as I hear the first bird of a new year greet the morning with singing outside my doors , I close my eyes in gratitude that those fears are behind me, and look up to heaven in awe of the blessings bestowed.

Britney

White Christmas

Photobucket

We rarely get a white Christmas in Portland, Oregon.

This year was no exception .

So, the following day, we took our tribe up to meet our extended tribe at a cabin in the mountains. Although no snow greeted us upon arrival, we awoke the following morning to a blanket of shimmery white.

It made the whole trip worthwhile.

Brae, Sienna, and Graem enjoyed a fun-filled weekend with their cousin siblings, and it warmed my heart to see them play (and yes, even fight) together. They are making memories that will last the lifetime, and for that, I’m truly grateful.

bb

bb5

FullSizeRender

gl3

sienna

snow bb - Copy

snow bb2

snow bb3

It Happened

Photobucket

After more than 13 years since they allowed their precious remaining nine embryos to be placed in a vial and frozen for an unknown period of time, it happened.

After more than 7 years since they allowed these same precious embryos to be shipped off to a facility to be adopted by an unknown family, it happened.

After more than 4 years since they learned that, although each of their embryos had been adopted, only one had survived, implanted, and was growing, it happened.

After more than 3 years since they learned that one precious embryo had been birthed as a baby girl some 2,500 miles away, it happened.

On December 16, 2014, the unknown became known. For this family, and for this girl.

It happened.

Sienna met her genetic family.

It is so hard to describe this moment. It was surreal. It was beautiful. It was a moment placed in time by the hands of God himself.

Each of us had traveled hours to be there, and so much more. We were at one of Florida’s amusement parks. Tygh and the kids and I were coming out of a stage show. The genetic family was going to meet us outside.

I spotted them immediately.

I clutched Sienna on my hips, and walked briskly toward them.

I was so excited.

We hugged.

I showed off my daughter to them. Their blood.

I was proud.

I watched as they studied her face. Her delicate features. Her curly blond hair. Her aqua blue eyes. Her rosy, plump cheeks. Her rosebud lips.
They studied her. Searched her face and features for recognition. Similarity. Familiarity.

They smiled. It was as if they could see the resemblances, and yet knew that she was different. Knew that although the same blood raced through each of their veins, she was a unique person. Not their child. Didn’t belong to them. And yet, she was still family.

For the next many hours, we toured the parks together. I tried to maintain a comfortable distance from Sienna and them, allowing them to get to know her. To experience her.

Tygh and I have been through this before, in a sense, with Brae’s birth-family. We are comfortable enough in our relationship to each of our children to know that the parental bond between us and them will never be broken. So it is not at all threatening to allow other members of their extended family to really enjoy being with them without us hovering above.

I watched as Sienna bounced her way from exhibit to exhibit, blissfully unaware of the magnitude of what was happening around her. In one moment, I watched as her genetic mother followed her into a crowd. As we’ve grown accustomed to, people fawn over Sienna. One woman turned to Sienna’s genetic mother and asked, “She’s beautiful. Is she yours?”

“No,” she replied.

It was a strange and yet, comforting, moment for me to witness.

It is an odd thing to claim any child as belonging to you. Children, as with any other blessing, is a gift from above. On loan to us. For a time.
As Sienna’s mom, I am her steward. She is mine to take care of. But, in our view, she belongs to God. Perhaps that is why we have always been comfortable with our role as adoptive parents. Not threatened by birth families, or genetic families.

Scientifically, there is no reason why Sienna was not transferred to her genetic family, and birthed into life through them. She could just have easily been chosen by the reproductive endocrinologist as one of the embryos transferred to her genetic family.

However, from a God-perspective, Sienna was always to be given to us. From the beginning of time, God knew she would be a child placed into our family, in just the manner that she was.

So, it was comforting for me to witness that her genetic family recognized that. I felt a twinge of sadness for her genetic mom that she could not claim Sienna as “her own,” and yet, comforted by that same acknowledgement.

We ended the evening by sitting down for a meal together. I reveled in the majesty of the moment. All of us, brought together through the unique beauty of adoption, lost in quiet conversation about each of our children.

Sienna’s genetic mother and I spent most of that meal talking about the similarities between Sienna and her genetic sister, who were each created in the same IVF cycle. They are so much alike. Not so much physically, but definitely in personality.

Sassy. Imaginative. Creative. Definitely march to the beat of their own drums.

I was comforted that Sienna would likely be able to relate to her genetic sister as she gets older.

The evening came to a close and it was time to part ways. We mentioned that we may be finding ourselves in their neck of the woods in the next few years, which brightened their faces.

We hugged again, and my heart was full.

We had made an important connection, not only for Sienna and her genetic siblings, but for the donors who lovingly parted with her so many years ago. And, for us, who chose open embryo adoption for exactly moments like this.

It happened.

Florida

Florida 1