Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Year Ago Today

A year ago today we walked out of the hospital for the first time with our daughter.  The sunshine of Philadelphia met her cute face.  It was strange walking towards the car- I was elated and the world whizzed by us just like any other Sunday in Center City Philadelphia.

We got the call about baby girl on the 31st of January.  We met her on the 2nd.  We left the hospital on the 26th.

One year later I kept track of the dates: 31st, 2nd, 26th.  I also remembered the 13th- a major melt down for her and then for me.  The 25th was a minor snow storm at home that didn't allow DH to board his plane but a fast thinking coworker looked up the train schedule and he made it just before the NICU closed.  The 25th was our last "date."  Our "date" was all of 30 minutes and consisted of fries and a beer at a pub between the time when the NICU closed and the train left the station.  Given how much of each day was the same for me during that month it surprised me how many little details I remembered.  This year the time between the 2nd and 26th went quickly; while last year the time felt like an eternity.

The 24th Baby Girls birth sister, birth brother, and birth grandmother came for a last visit with D.  D's Mom spent some time with me alone and told me how happy she was for Baby Girl as well as DH and myself.  She told me that she is never sure when D will come home or if the last time she saw her was her last.  She told me she would write a family tree for us so Baby Girl knew her family.  I let them all have their time with Baby Girl and stayed in the waiting room.  It is one of the few visits I spent very little time with D.  When her family was ready to go D walked them out to their car and was going to come back.  J also was going to visit to say goodbye.  Neither D nor J came that night.  I worried about D the rest of the night as she didn't return my text telling her she was about to miss her final chance to feed baby girl.  I wished for once that J had come- to say goodbye- to do what he said he would- to be reliable - to be the man I wanted for baby girl.

A year ago today I got up, got myself ready, and packed the car... and watched the clock.  Unlike the other mornings we drove to the hospital and parked a few blocks away.  DH and I still were early so we went to get breakfast.  Just like every other morning I was at the unit doorbell ready to ring precisely at 10AM.  The housekeeping staff greeted me and wished us well.  I was the first to scrub in.

DH and three nurses all worked on setting up the carseat.  I held baby girl for the first time (other then baths) not connected to the monitors.  I used to cherish bath nights because I could unhook her from the wall.  I watched the clock and paced.  I had not heard from D since the last time I saw her.  I paced.  The nurse told me to sit down.  I rocked.  I wanted D to have a chance to say goodbye but the time she was supposed to be there had passed.  DH and I talked about the plan- did we leave at our scheduled time even if she didn't show up?  What was the absolute latest we could leave and still make it home without falling asleep behind the wheel?  I texted her again reminding her we had an 8 hour drive home and that we really wanted her to get a chance to say good-bye.  She finally showed up three hours after the planned time.  When I mentioned to D that I'd been worried about her- I got a confused look from her Mom and a "be quiet" look from D.  I don't know where D went but it wasn't home w her family and it wasn't with Baby Girl.  I took a few pictures of D, her Mom and Baby Girl and left them to be alone while we waited for the lawyer to show up.

The lawyer was late as well.  Something about "snow" which in PA means there were snow flakes but no accumulation.  Lawyer lady finished the paper work.  Then we waited.  The doctor had forgotten to write a discharge order and was no where to be found.

Finally it was time to bundle baby girl up for the first time.  I asked D if she wanted to help get her ready.  I felt awkward asking her to help me take her baby.  At the same time I knew it was her last chance for a long time to care for her physically.  So we did- we got her ready together.  More pictures were snapped.

Finally the D/C orders were obtained and the nurses told us we could leave.  Baby Girl and I in the lead.  Lots of hugs for me as we left since I had spent every day all day at the NICU for 24 days.  It felt wrong to me.  No hugs for D.  I got out of there as fast as I could.  To hear the click of the doors unlocking and walking thru them with baby girl was what I'd been waiting for forever but not it was reality.

Outside the NICU the doors closed.  The nurse practitioner stopped us and told us her children were adopted and she was so excited to see us go.  Again D was there but I dont know where.  The nurse that had been Baby Girls nurse the last 48 hours primarily was our last nurse to say good-bye.  She had snuck us a huge bag of things for the car ride (diapers, bottles).  She hugged me then hugged D- I am certain the only nurse that hugged D.  Then the chain of good byes continued.  I hugged D and shared some whispers in her ear to provide thanks and comfort, though I know they were not the right words because there are no "right words".  I begrudgingly hugged our lawyer.  I hugged D's Mom and thanked her for her belief in DH and I as parents.  We then said good-bye.  I'm not sure how I started putting one foot infront of the other.  I remember DH and I being extremely close physically as we walked away.  I remember D's head on her mothers shoulders and the two embraced.  I remember telling DH that I dont know how D did what she just did.  I don't know how she didn't run after us.  I dont know how she didn't throw herself to the floor.  I don't know how a woman can have so much strength to realize that she loved her daughter so much that she knew she couldn't parent so she chose us to parents her daughter.

At 3:30 we placed her in our car and drove away.  The trip back was uneventful except our detour thru Camden NJ as well as us driving thru all the tolls in NJ without paying.  On our way to PA we realized our EZpass was broken so DH took it home with him early in our stay.  DH had forgotten to get cash prior to leaving.  Camden NJ is not where you want to stop and go to an ATM.  With no cash and no EZpass we just drove thru the EZpass lanes and figured we would tell them we thought the pass was working but it was broken (kinda true story it was broken but it was broken at home not broken and in the car).  So since we were going thru one we might as well as go thru them all.  We did pay tolls in NY though.  Our EZpass was charged for the tolls in NJ but it was a fun adventure to our first few hours of parenting.  We stopped twice to diaper/feed her but she slept otherwise.  We made good time since she was so perfect (the nurses were telling us how we would never make it home in one night- Thanks for the vote of confidence!)

We arrived home according to the picture I took at 10:38PM though my recollection was it was after midnight.  We put baby girl to bed in her crib for the first time - and we all slept.  Well.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pictures on the wall

I have printed out hundreds of pictures for baby girls birth family.  I had a frame made for her birth brother with is favorite toy story character.  I bought a flip frame for her birth sister.  I have sent them wallet size photos and photos to hang.  I have kept a few pictures for us but they all remain in envelopes.  The only picture I have gotten around to framing was her "school" picture which we had framed for grandparents, aunts and uncles at Christmas.

When I printed her Adoption Story I also had some pictures enlarged for hanging in her room.  I printed a picture w her birthmother, birthgrandmother (holding her), and myself.  I printed a picture of her and her birthmother.  I printed the first picture of us as a family (the first time we held her).  I printed the best picture of I have of her birthfather holding her (its a picture of her and his nose).  I printed out the picture of her and her birth siblings as poor quality as it is- its the only picture of the three of them.  I also printed out my favorite picture of her.

I had some reservations about hanging these pictures which is probably why I have hung not a single picture- not one with the three of us nor any of the pictures of her birthfamily.  Sometimes I feel like people want to see pictures of her birthfamily as more of a freak show then truly wanting to see pictures of the family that loves her.  I'm very protective of her birth family and in a way I've kept their images away because I want to protect them from those that just want to gawk and those who truly want to understand her adoption.  I also knew that once I shared the pictures I could not "un-share them."

I'm cautious about sharing her birth story so that she can learn it from me as well as decide who to share it with.  I had some feelings that sharing her picture was sharing part of her story.  After a lot of thought I realized that everyone knows she has birth parents and by not showing their faces I think it comes off more as I am ashamed of them - which couldn't be farther from the truth.

Now that baby girl is a year old I think most people have settled into the idea that this so called birth family isn't going anywhere.  If anything I think we have increased contact.  Baby girl also is starting to recognize people/animals in pictures (mostly the dog).  I want her to know that her birth family is part of who she is.  So I'm hanging the pictures.  I think enough time has passed that those that just want to gawk have lost interest and those that truly love her have remained.

So all six pictures of the many combinations of family she has will be hung on her wall.  We can review their names and stories so when we see them in April she will be familiar.  They will kindly look down on us as we rock thru her bedtime routine.

*I found the most perfect frame it holds the picture of the three of us, the picture of her alone and the picture of her w D.  It has three pannels that read "Home Home is where your story beings."  "Family Family is key to true happiness" and "Love Love is Lifes Greatest Blessing"  Her story didn't start at home but the other two were perfect.  On the one w her birth sibilings I plan to write on the frame a quote that her birth sister photo shopped onto a picture of the two of them and then posted onto our shutterfly account.  The quote is "If ever there is a tomorrow when we're not together... There is something you must always remember.  You are braver then you believe, stronger then you seem, and smarter then you think.  Bust the most important thing is, even if we're apart... I'll always be with you" (my sister)

Monday, February 18, 2013

A call from daycare

A text from DH telling me that baby girl fell and cut her lip at daycare today would be sad for most parents I think.  For me it was terrifying.  How much blood?  Did anyone else get hurt?  Did they use gloves?  Did I put another child at risk?  I broke the rules at work and texted DH back - "Did they wear gloves?!"  He assured me he was sure they did.  At lunch I called him and asked when he picked her up today to be sure he reminded the director of Baby's potential status as Hep C +.  Tonight he assured me that the staff used gloves and that no other child was hurt when she fell.

D is Hep C+.  Baby Girl was born as a planned c-section and D did not breastfeed all as precautions to limit Baby Girls risk.  Her risk is low but it still is a risk.

Ironically Hep C on our form was not checked as something we would consider.  What we were told by our pediatrician when we were filling out our check boxes was Hep C has no cure and it leads to a lifetime of sickness.  What no one told us when we skipped checking the box that would allow us to be considered for a Hap C+ child is that no child unless they are over 18 months can be tested for Hep C.  So that means if Mom was Hep C+ we would not be considered even though .  We could have missed our Baby Girl.

Baby Girls match was a little unorthodox since she already was a week old.  They wanted a family that could be with her in the hospital as soon as possible.  We were told the above information as well as so much more information verbally I dont really know that her Birthmothers Hep C status was much of a factor with the other things she was dealing with.  

When we got home from the hospital we had a liver function test completed.  This told us that on the day her blood was drawn her liver was functioning normally- it does not however tell us definitively that she is Hep C-.  It allowed me to feel more comfortable putting her to breast since I almost constantly had cracked nipples.  The way it was presented to me though was that although the test was not conclusive if the test came back negative then she likely was not +.

So now the reality of it is baby girl is almost 13 months old and we have 5 more months to wait.  The closer to 18 months we get the harder the wait is.  Todays blood loss was her first at daycare but not her first.  The first time she cut her finger she was 9 months (It was the day of her 9 month ped's appt).  It was a stupid mistake and she grabbed my razor before I realized what happened her finger was making red spots on the bathtub.  I think I reacted like any Mom- I treated her cut.  Once she was better I started to panic- what had I done!?  First off how did I forget to put the razor up but should I have cared for her cut differently.  I spoke with the pediatrician about it and he told me I should have worn gloves.

Its not something I think about often but that day was an eye opener.  I realized that I may have not told daycare- which interestingly enough daycare told me I didn't have to tell them.  I shared with them but asked that they keep it private.  They assured me that they used universal precautions and that she was welcome no matter her status.  When I considered getting a babysitter other then my aunt I realized in good conscience I couldn't just call up Suzie from down the street who is a sweet high school student to babysit on nights/weekends because I'd then have to share Baby Girls status with Suzie and her mom.  I have since found a nice college student who I did share her status; as well as the location of the surgical gloves I now keep in the bathroom closet.  In reality the risk of sharing Hep C within a family environment is low as open wound to open wound contact has to occur- blood has to be passes from one person to another.  

Despite this low risk we dont know and wont knot for another 5 months.  The risk I've read anywhere from .5%-36% though most of the studies I've read have been in the 2-5% range.  The fact that her birthmother was HIV- somehow influences her risk to be lower.  

The first 8 months were not that bad for me.  We had her liver function screened to allow me to breast feed but really that just told us that her liver was functioning on the day of the test and if she had Hep C she did not have an exasperation of the disease at the moment.  For the first 8 months it was her and one of us caring for her.  We knew her status and unless there was blood we didn't have to worry.  

So in July we will find out her status.  I assume she is negative while I have to act as if she is positive.  No matter her status she is healthy and I love her.  The doom and gloom prognosis the pediatrician gave us and thus discouraged us from checking this box I think was over stated.  Being Hep C+ does not in and of itself indicate a life time of ill health.  There is no cure but there are treatments.  Most people with Hep C dont know their status.  Hep C is believed to be prevalent in baby boomers, as high as 1 in 33, as there was no way to screen for it until recently so blood transfusions and less stringent policies in heath care settings lead to this population being exposed without realization.  The risk for baby boomers seems to be higher then my daughters risk and I treat those in this population daily at work without thought.

 Until July I will worry if she hurts herself.  I will care for her as any other mother would and wash my hands when I'm done.  I will give her hugs and kisses until she is ready to play again which likely will be sooner then I'm ready to put her down.  After July I will worry no matter the results.  I will still wash my hands when I'm done and give her the same number of hugs and kisses.  If there is a #2 Hep C will be checked because although I worry I would worry about her getting hurt no matter her status.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Roundtable #43

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them. 

How did you talk to your extended family about open adoption prior to adopting/placing? How did they respond? For those with non-receptive family members, were you able to have more successful discussions with them post-adoption?

The one adoption conversation that sticks out in my mind like no other is when we told my in-laws that we would be adopting.  My mother-in-law wasn't excited.  At all.  We didn't make it that night to the idea of an open adoption- i'm sure of it. 

I think the conversation about open adoption developed more slowly then the "excited" conversation we had about our plans to adopt.  First there was the profile book that we had each of our siblings and parents complete a page in.  It allowed them to realize that a birthfamily would pick us.  In the end D nor J ever saw our profile book but we were presented verbally.  I dont think anyone in my family knows that fact.  I know that some of my family read the books I recommended about adoption.  I also sent out a letter explaining "adoption friendly language." I then posted about our familys reactions to the letter.  The letter was written because it was clear that people were still uncomfortable with adoption language- my MIL forever said things like "adopted grandchild."  I pray for my BIL and SIL that she doesn't refer to their children as her "vaginally delivered grandchild" whenever their time comes.  All joking aside I dont recall any discussions specifically about open adoption prior to baby girls arrival.

I have discussed our letters to D and J.  I know I've mentioned the birthday gifts we sent baby girls birthsibilings.  I try to keep in casual- its just part of life as an adoptive mom.  My Mother-in-law ironically seems to be the one I have talked most extensively with about the openness of our adoption.  I know she once commented on a blanket baby girl had and I said "Oh yeah thats from Baby Girls birth grandmother Mom-Mom."  I could tell it was awkward for her to hear that.  I'm not sure because she now knows we have a special name for her birthgrandmother or if its because she liked something her birthgrandmother had given her.  

In October my MIL asked had we heard anything from D and J.  I shared with her that we had not.  We had heard from her birth siblings and birthgrandparents but not D and J.  She was quick then to ask "well does that mean then you dont have to you know visit and do things like that?"  I told her no- we would continue to do things as we had because although not legally binding I gave D and J my word.  I want Baby Girl to know that her words mean something and if you promise something you do it.  It was not long after that conversation we DID get a letter from D.  I also know that J has contacted the agency around Christmas to ask if he could send us something- though it has yet to arrive.

I know my family knows our plans to visit PA in April to see Baby Girls birth siblings and birth grandparents on D's side.  I know I told my aunt that D wont be there because "she wont be available."  None of them know she is in jail and that is why she wont be at the visit.  J was offered to visit with us but never responded.  Just this past week I read his application which stated when Baby Girl is 18 he would like her to reach out to him.  So maybe that relationship will just wait until then- we shall see- though in each letter I have sent I have encouraged him to respond.  For my family its best to describe Baby Girls extended family as if I have two sets of in-laws- Dh's extended family and Baby Girls extended family.  Its not surprising or shocking that we would talk to DH's family just as its not uncomfortable or weird that we would want to talk to Baby Girls family.  

My hope is that as Baby Girl grows up comfortable with who she is and who her family is that my in-laws will grow comfortable with it as well.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

A home for my thoughts

I ended my blog at  (Trying to Adopt Baby) but I kept coming back.  I found I needed a place to share our experiences.  Adoption is something that once it touches your life it forever changes you.  I always wanted to have adoption as part of my family plan but the way the road took me was not what I had expected.  I'm working each day at finding a balance between making sure our daughter knows that adoption is the way she joined our family but also making her realize that it is not a single fact that defines her just as childbirth does not define a biological child.

Adoption is everywhere for me.  There is not a day that goes by that I dont think about adoption.  Little things like her daycares requirement to put her name in all her clothing.  We have plans to visit her extended birth family and they do not know our last name.  At this point we still are not comfortable sharing that information with her birthparents and thus I realized that if every shoe, sock, shirt and pair of pants had her full name in them- she would have no clothes to wear to visit them.  Daycare was fine accommodating this as she is the only child with her first name at her daycare.

I also am an adoption expert now to all those that know me.  Really I'm just an expert on our family and our adoption.  To those around me I am the one to go to if a friend is having trouble with fertility and is considering the road of adoption.  I am the one to go to when a friends daughter finds herself pregnant with plans to go to college.  I am the one to go to for all things adoption because I am "an expert."

I also think daily about how our daughters story will continue.  Who will she become.  How will her adoption shape her life story.  So far it has impacted her in obvious ways like DH and I are her mom and dad, but how else will it shape her.  What will she think of her birthfamily?  How do I influence that?

I started fresh for a few reasons 1) we are no longer trying to adopt- we have.  2) we had several friends /family following our blog.  I dont know if any of them still follow my blog but I wanted to create a clean space to allow me to speak more openly about my daughters story.  It is her story not mine though DH and I are pivotal players in her story.  By creating a new space I can tell the parts of the story that I don't want to openly share with people that she knows personally because I want to ensure that I am the one that teaches her about her story.  There are many hard things about her story that will need to be addressed as she gets older.  3) Part of my reason for blogging is other blogs helped me while I waited.  I realize that if I can be honest about some of the hard parts I can then help others.  I dont think I read other blogs that dealt in detail about the exposure check list.  I have only read one other blog that deals with birthparents in jail.  I know not a single blog that has talked about blood bourn pathogens.  These are the things I was not ready for though I dont know that anything would have gotten me ready.

So here I go again!  Welcome to my family's story!