Friday, November 22, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 22

Day 22: Organization

We are packed and ready to go and I'm so thankful that we are organized. No scrambling around to get things done... we have the car loaded and in the morning, we just have to get in and drive. Makes for a better night's rest the night before.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 21

Day 21: Not Scammed

I just finished reading a blog post written by a hopeful adoptive mom, and it was all about how excited they were to FINALLY match with an expectant mom. They shared their good news with friends and family, and posted on FB that after like five years of starting the process, they had a match.

They met with this expectant mom, took her shopping, were going to be helping with financial assistance (something I am totally against), and then the agency called to let her know that it was a scam.

My heart aches for this family and for the ups and downs they've experienced with adoption. They started the process back in the summer of 2008 and are still waiting for a match and for their baby. How they do it, is just beyond me.

It made me so thankful though, that our adoption of Hugh had the happy ending that it had. Sometimes, I forget how crazy and far-fetched our match was with Hugh.

For those that do not know/remember... we met Hugh's birth mom online. We shared no one in common and never received any ultrasounds with her name or showing a baby. It wasn't until mid-October that I ever got a picture of her pregnant belly.

So from July-October, it was all just faith that she was even real and was legit. Thankfully, everything she told me was always correct and her "facts" always lined up. Honestly, I NEVER had any doubts about her and knew inside that we were destined to be connected. I just knew.

When I told friends about her, they were all immediately skeptical. I think it was because we didn't have anyone in common, and she was in another state. I know my friends were just looking out for my best interests and wanted to protect me from getting scammed. While we never gave any money, we could have been emotionally scammed.

For five months we were matched with her. I shared things with her via email and text that I never shared with anyone else. She and I were so similar and I felt so connected to her. I cared deeply for her as a person, and as a potential birth mother of a future child, it was a lot to take in. I just wanted to meet her and give her the biggest hug.

I don't know if I was in a fog, or just not 100% in the reality of the situation (I was probably guarding myself), but when I finally DID start to think about things, I had the first and only anxiety attack of my life. 

When we got to North Carolina, I was sitting outside enjoying the weather and the view, and I had a moment of, "WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?!?!" It was scary actually. I had another mild-panic attack and the reality of the whole thing hit me.

We didn't know her at all and were totally in another state, waiting on a phone call that might not ever come. As each day inched closer and closer to her due date, the fear was more and more real. While I "knew" it was going to be okay, I was also having second guesses. When her due date came and went... it got real.

I'll never forget sitting in the living room and setting my ring tone and text tone for her, so that when she did call/text, I'd know it was from her (those same text/ring tones are on my phone today). When she called me on the 18th, it was just after noon. It was the first time that I had heard her voice and she sounded exactly like I knew she'd sound.

She told me about her horrible day and that she was going to the doctor's and going to bed to be induced. She said she'd call me after meeting with the doctor.

She called me back around 8pm and said, "Are you ready to have a baby?" My heart leaped out of my chest and I screamed, "YES!!!!" We scurried out the door and arrived at the hospital just around 11pm.

When we walked into her room, I instantly fell in love with her. She was so awesome and so pregnant and hooked up to a million monitors. We hugged and it all clicked immediately. 

Hugh's whole adoption story is created by God. Every last detail was divinely made and crafted specifically for us. I'm just thankful that it all was as I knew it would be, and we didn't end up heart broken.

My heart goes out to all the waiting couples that are going to spend their Thanksgiving praying that this is their last one without the baby that they're waiting for. I am thankful that we had a total of five months of waiting for each of our boys, while there are people waiting five YEARS. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 20

Day 20: My Little Boys

Sometimes I forget to stop and savor the moment I'm in. 

A good friend of mine posted a blog about her kiddos being littles and how thankful she is to be home with them and enjoying them being little. It struck a chord and brought me to tears. I am never going to have my sweet boys at this age again.

I cry every time I look back on pictures of Gus from his first few years. It seems forever ago and he's changed so much in just a few short years. I see his sweet pictures and a flood of memories come back to me. I remember when...

It made me think that all those feelings are going to happen again when I look back at today's pictures of Gus and Hugh. I'll cry and say, "Remember when Gus was 3.5 and Hugh was just starting to walk?" Those moments are today and I'm thankful to be in this time of my life with my boys.

Tomorrow is not promised to us and at any moment, life can drastically change. I'm reminded of this when I see Tripp Halstead and see how in a flash his life was changed forever. I'm thankful that my boys are healthy and happy, and little.

I love seeing the new things that they do each day, and each time I see them do something new, it also makes me a bit sad. I know there will be a day when they don't want me to kiss their owies, and they won't want to sit on my lap and "'nuggle." I pray that they never shut me out of their lives and I pray that we're always close. 

Here are some of my favorite pictures taken between yesterday and today of my two littles.

 "Look, mama... the moon!"

 Super Gus

Thankful for my sweet, little tiny, itty bitty boys.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 19

Day 19: Our Zoo Membership

My first time at Zoo Atlanta was November of 2011. We had come down for a house-hunting trip and while here, some moms in Atlanta Area Mommies planned a meet-up at the zoo for us to attend. I loved how small the zoo was, but at the same time, there are all the favorite animals.

Our first Christmas here, we received a family membership as gift from Steve's dad and Sue Ann. It was so wonderful and we went several times that year. Then last year, they renewed our membership for us and we've been able to go several times this year too.

The membership is really the gift that keeps on giving. It saves so much money and we get a lot of use out of it. It's $25 per adult to get in once and then $18 per child. It's not cheap by any means, and by having the membership, it's for two adults, so when Steve can go, we both get in. When Steve isn't able to go, I can get one of my friends in for free, which is a nice way to always have someone want to go to the zoo with me. :-)

I had wanted to go to the Boo at the Zoo, but it was rainy this year and a bit frigid. We had not been since this summer, and I've been itching to go back. I looked at the weather and saw that there was going to be a nice day ahead... so I planned to go on Monday (yesterday).

I asked some MOMS Club friends if anyone wanted to go and to my delight, there were several moms that were interested in going. We met in the Publix parking lot and then the four of us caravaned downtown to Zoo Atlanta.

What a GORGEOUS day. 

We don't get too many sunny and upper 60s/low 70s days in November, and I was so excited for a nice day to spend at the zoo. There were no field trips (mainly because you never know what the temps will be like mid-November), and the zoo was pretty empty. The sky was a gorgeous blue and the animals were VERY active.

I was shocked at how active and vocal they were. Gus loved spending time with a new friend (Gage-- he's 5) and then there were two more boys that were the same age (between 2 and 2.5) and then Hugh and his buddy from his baby playgroup, Grey (8 months). It was so fun and the boys all enjoyed themselves.

The male lion was VERY vocal!!

The tiger was VERY close!!

We stopped for lunch and had no line to wait in (so awesome). We sat outside and enjoyed the sun and didn't have to fight to find a table. It was perfect!!

We all took pictures with our kids because we never get pictures of us with the kiddos, it's always us taking the pics. I like this picture of me and the boys... :-)

On the way out we stopped at the gift shop and I got Gus a train and Hugh got a stuffed baby rhino. He snuggled it all the way home and has been sleeping with it each night. Gus loves his train (of course) and both were so exhausted from the day outside that they took amazing naps when we got home (which was great because Steve had a work dinner and I was on my own for the evening).

I'm so grateful for a zoo that's wonderful to visit and I'm even more thankful for the gift of our zoo membership from my inlaws.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 18

Day 18: Hearty Meals

What on Earth??? I know, that's what you're thinking isn't it? This is the kind of post that really, unless you're Hugh's mama or daddy, you won't fully understand the magnitude of what occurred tonight with the above pouch of Hearty Meals.

So what is Hearty Meals and why is this a big deal?

A few months ago, when Hugh was starting to try different solids and purees, we noticed that he loved the stage one stuff and some stage two, but anytime he had something with any lumps, or texture that wasn't totally liquidy and smooth, he'd start choking.


I don't think I've been more scared to feed a baby than I have been with Hugh. He turns beet red, starts gagging, and then gasping for air. It's frightening and very traumatic to be witnessing.

What causes this? Anything that's not runny and smooth. Oatmeal, thicker apple sauce, stage three foods like Hearty Meals... all cause him to gag. Puffs, crunchies, O's, and melts also cause him to gag and choke.

When he eats these things, he'll get some stuck in the back of his throat and that's what causes him to gag. Then he ends up vomiting all over himself. It's scary and frustrating at the same time.

When he was eight months, I wanted to start getting him foods that were more protein packed. I didn't want him just eating veggies and fruits, so I went on Amazon and found some meals with meat in them. I love Happy Baby and was excited to see that they have a stage three called Hearty Meals. I ordered the beef dinner, chicken dinner, and pasta dinner.

The first time I tried to feed the beef one to Hugh was when he was almost nine months old. One spoonful and it sent him over the edge. I threw the entire pouch away because there was no way he was going to be able to eat it.  :-(

I've talked to his PT about his feeding issues and we're hoping that when his team meets on Thursday, they'll be able to add feeding and speech to his services. We desperately need someone to help us with this. He'll be 11 months tomorrow and I'm afraid that he won't be able to enjoy his cake smash session because he'll be gagging on cake. :-(

So anyway, tonight, I deicded to give the Hearty Meals another try. I was absolutely delighted and shocked when he didn't puke or gag with the first spoonful. I kept going and he didn't gag once. No puking, and he ate the entire pouch!!

I was so excited, I had to take pictures and send them to Steve. His reply was, "No choking?!?!?"  :-)

After dinner, Gus and Hugh played at the table and I captured some charming pictures of my delightful baby boy with a full belly. 

I know we still have a ways to go. He should be eating cheese cubes, crackers, fruit, mashed potatoes, table foods. However, I'm so scared to try anything that's not purred because of how he gags and chokes and pukes.

But I'm thankful for the small victory tonight. It was an awesome night and I'm proud of Hugh and so thankful that we made it through an entire pouch of Hearty Meals without him choking on it.

2013 Open Adoption Interview Project

I love talking about adoption and I love to blog about our experiences with adopting domestically. Neither of our adoptions turned out the way I envisioned them to go, and neither followed any sort of pattern. I enjoy reading about the adoption experiences of others in the adoption triad (adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents). It's always neat to find new blogs to follow and I find myself getting quite attached to the people on the other end of the screen.

Last year was my first year participating in the Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project. I missed it the year before and was eager to sign up last year. We had our trip to Disney this time last year and I was nervous about missing the deadline, but I was able to get it in and enjoyed reading all the other posts.

This year, it's being done a bit differently. There are three groups and each group posts their interviews during a specific window of time. It ends up making it really easy to read all the interviews and to easily see which bloggers were matched together.

My group posts on November 19th (I'm in group two). I hope you'll check out the interviews for that day and all the interviews from the first group as well (posted 11/12/13).

I was matched with J from J and D Adopt. She and her husband are a waiting family and I enjoyed the opportunity to ask her questions and get to know her better. I'm hooked now and cannot wait to keep following their adoption journey. I think my favorite post will be the one of them holding their sweet baby!!

Without further ado... I introduce J:

1) When did you start your blog? What made you decided to create a blog about your adoption journey? Are you planning on keeping it once you've got a baby?

I started my blog about a week and a half after we were approved. I had planned to do a blog all along but not necessarily in this form. I like the community I've come across through adoptions blogs and wanted to really be a part of if through blogging. I tend to have strong opinions and this journey is unlike anything else we've ever been through, so I wanted a place I could express my feelings in an open manner semi-anonymously. I don't know that I will continue my blog after we get a baby. I think I'll cross that bridge when we get there.

2) I know that infertility isn't the reason you and D chose to create your family, so why is adoption your choice?

Adoption has been a part of my plan as long as I can remember. In fact, we took some really good friends out to breakfast to tell them about the adoption and ask if they would be a reference. I was vague in my invitation, telling them that I wanted to talk to them about something and that it wasn't that I was pregnant. When we did tell them what it was, the wife shouted "I KNEW IT!" But this is a question I've been thinking a lot about during this journey. I think because it's been a hope of mine for so long, it's just become a part of me. My uncle is adopted and we have an extended step-family on my mom's side, so blood isn't important to me in forming a family. Our ultimate desire would be to adopt one domestically, have one bio, and adopt internationally. I've always had this voice in my head that's told me it's going to be difficult for me to get pregnant and I have been diagnosed with endometriosis, so getting pregnant might not be in the cards for us. But knowing us, if we didn't adopt first, we weren't going to be likely to do it.

3) Are you hoping to have an open, semi-open, or closed adoption? What made you decide this type of adoption?

This is another issue I've struggled with. My husband is leaning more towards a semi-open. My heart is coming around to an open adoption. I have fears about an open adoption - I fear our child will be confused by this extra familial relationship; I fear when he or she is a teenager, they'll tell me they want to go live with their birth mother. My biggest fear is being compared to her and falling short in my child's eyes. I hope an open adoption would be healthier for our child. But I am open to whatever our birth mother chooses.

4) How do your families feel about adoption? Friends? Do you have an adoption support group to turn to during the wait and beyond?

Our families are so excited - it's the first grandbaby on either side! Like I said above, adoption has always been a hope of mine, so our adoption plans didn't come as a surprise to my parents. D's parents were completely on board as well. D's older brother is gay so adoption is going to be in his path to fatherhood. Because of that, I think his parents have always been open to the idea. For the most part, our friends have been super supportive. I have one close friend though who struggles with anxiety issues. Anything out of the norm for her is difficult to deal with so I'm a little worried about her reactions as we move on in the process. Although, to be fair, she has been pregnant our entire process, so I'm going to give her a little leeway. I haven't found any adoption support groups, but because we haven't struggled with infertility and adoption is our first choice, the wait hasn't been difficult yet. I use my blog as my own support system when I need it.

5) What are the ways that you're actively working to adopt a baby? Just an agency? Are you doing other things?

We've just recently started taking an active role in our adoption journey. I'm hesitant to find a mother on our own because I never want her to feel obligated to make a choice because of a relationship we've built. I want her to be sure of her choice and be sure it's what's best for her. We made our adoption Facebook official on November 1, for the start of National Adoption Month. We started a blog separate from this where we have more about us and our lives. We've been pushing that on Facebook, but that's about the extent of our activity. We're not in any rush and we know when it happens, it will happen.

6) Is the adoption process what you were expecting? What expectations do you have for the future?

No, but because I didn't have any expectations really. I didn't know what to expect. As far as the future, I expect that we'll have some struggles, that I eventually my patience will wear thin, but that everything will work out the way it's supposed to.

7) What are your biggest fears (in relation to adoption)?

That NFL allegiance is genetic and our baby will be a Cowboys fan. But seriously, I fear the relationship our child's birth mother. By that, I mean I'm fearful that the relationship won't work for her, the child, or us for some reason. I don't want anyone to be hurt, but I want to protect her and our child the most. I fear the loss of control and not knowing what is coming. I fear being given an opportunity that isn't right for us and not having the strength to say no. I fear we won't do an adequate job of helping our child deal with the emotional issues related to adoption.

8) Lastly, what advice would you give to someone just starting the adoption process? What do you wish you knew now that you're already in the waiting stage?

That it is not for the faint of heart. It's not as easy as getting pregnant is for others. That you'll see teenagers pushing strollers around at the grocery store like it's a game and it will make you want to scream. I'm glad I didn't come into the process with any expectations. I've enjoyed going through the process for the most part and I think it's changed me and us as a couple. I don't think there's anything that I know now that I wish I would have known then. Except that during the home study, they really don't come in with a white glove. She didn't open any closets or look under any beds. But it gave us a really good excuse to clean our house.
I hope you've enjoyed getting to know J and will follow her blog to keep up with their adoption journey!!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Month of Gratitude: Day 17

 Day 17: Claire

There are five people in my life that I will always have the utmost respect and love for. They are: My husband, my two children, and the two women who are responsible for making me a mother.

I'm thankful for open adoption for so many reasons, but it's when I see my children with their birth families, that I feel so blessed. There's something so beautiful about seeing the joy on everyone's faces when coming together for one common purpose. A beautiful, amazing child that we share.

Open adoption isn't for everyone. There are times when it's hard, but I guess you have to be wired a specific way to be able to put your own insecurities and desires aside, and see things for how they'll benefit your child. For me, I'll do anything to make my children happy, and one of the easiest ways to do that, is to make sure that they're always connected to their biological families.

I'm devoting this post to Gus's birth mom, Claire. She is an amazing person and I've grown to love her so much as we've become one united family for Gus. Here are some of my favorite pictures of her with Gus over the years.

I just adore her. I love the sweet tender moments that they share together. The simple looks they give each other, the little things like his hand on her leg, her hands on his shoulders, walking hand in hand. They are all precious and touching, and mean the world to me as his mama.

I admire the bravery it took for her to sign TPR (termination of parental rights). She didn't know us at all, and yet, trusted us with the one thing that meant more than anything else in the world. The very least that we could do was to allow her to remain a vital part of his life. She matters and always will.

We will see her again next week when we go north for Thanksgiving and I cannot wait to share more memories with her. As Gus is getting older, he's more aware of the relationships between his family members. He has always had a special bond with Claire, and it's always been obvious to everyone around. He's always trusted her and been drawn to her and it's incredible to see. 

I'm thankful for Claire and for her willingness to trust us to be Gus's parents. She gave us the greatest gift that we've ever known and we love her so deeply. 

Not all open adoptions are like ours. In fact, ours is totally unique because there's only one Gus. We know that not all birth families are fortunate enough to receive emails, pictures, videos, texts, and visits with their children. Not all adoptive parents are able to connect their children with their birth parents, and would give anything to have a picture of their child with their birth mom. 

We are so incredibly blessed and so grateful for all that God has given us.