Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Three Oblivious Passengers

The next day we were able to get a private room in the hospital, just the three of us getting cozy and comfortable with each other.  Chris and I were faced with the decision of adding Amelia to our health insurance or taking advantage of Medicaid coverage that was available because of how adoption works in Michigan.  Looking back, I don't even remember why we were considering putting her on our insurance.  I didn't know anything about Medicaid except that she would be eligible for WIC which provides free formula and baby food and any medical bills that she would have would be covered.  We weren't anticipating any significant medical bills, but free formula sounded good to me.  We decided to go with Medicaid.

I spent alot of time that day just holding Amelia.  One of the first things I noticed were her finger nails.  I was immediately jealous of them.  I have these stubby square nails and have always wanted long and slender nails.  Well, my daughter has them, and I was already envisioning getting manicures together 18 years down the road.  I also noticed how her little chin was kind of in-set on her face, and how there was a spot at the bottom of her neck that retracted every time she took a breath.  "That's different," I thought, but didn't point it out to anyone else and didn't think much of it.  I remember holding her, looking at Chris, and saying "I'm just so thankful she is healthy."

The plan was for Amelia to be discharged the following day, so we decided to stay the night with her at the hospital.  Feeding continued to be a challenge for her that day and night.  She never drank more than an ounce at a time and was hungry often.  When she drank from the bottle, there were times where she looked overwhelmed, as if she was being flooded with more formula than she was ready for.  We switched bottle nipples from Stage 1 to Newborn.  That seemed to help a little except that her head and neck would bob back and forth like Bert doing the Pigeon Dance and her suck just didn't seem right to me.  A nurse never watched her take a bottle, and although I was slightly concerned, all of her challenges were labeled as "a baby learning how to eat."

This is where if I were the director of a movie of my own life, I would zoom out to show that Chris, Amelia, and I were three oblivious passengers in a boat headed for some rocky rapids dead ahead.

More to come,
Amanda

For those of you who have never seen Bert do the Pigeon Dance...


Friday, November 30, 2012

First Red Flag

5 pounds and 11 ounces. So tiny, but I felt comfortable with her size because I had stayed with my bestie for two weeks when her twins were that small. It came time for her first feeding, and the nurse handed me a bottle. I asked what a normal amount for her to take was, and she said around an ounce. I put the bottle in Amelia's mouth, and she started sucking. She drank a half ounce. "Good girl."

The maternity ward was full so they weren't able to give us a private room until the following day. So we were in the nursery all day, which meant we were on display all day. We took turns making phone calls to friends and family with updates and filled the rest of our time with major snuggles. Three hours passed quickly and it was time for Amelia to eat again. The nurse noticed my ease with Amelia's size and didn't watch me give her a bottle after the first feeding. Chris was with me, and the three of us had some family time in the nursery. Well, us and our spectators on the other side of the window.

Suddenly, truly out of nowhere, Amelia stopped sucking and her entire face turned blue. Her eyes. Her cheeks. Her lips. Blue. I simultaneously flung her forward over my hand, began beating her back, and told Chris to get a nurse. As quickly as she turned blue, she turned pink again, and by the time Chris and the nurse returned Amelia appeared to be fine. The nurse asked if she was ok, and I said "She is now." The nurse never examined her. Just took my word for it and left. She said to let them know if it happened again.

A very scary moment, and the first of many red flags that would be dismissed by nurses and doctors.

Since we couldn't sleep at the hospital that night, unless we wanted the squeaky waiting room chairs again, the nurses encouraged us to get a motel room, get some sleep, and let them care for her that night. Sounded good to us. I changed Amelia's diaper one more time before we left and said goodnight. What a thrilling day! What could make it any better?

As I leaned in to kiss her goodbye, she let out a long, high pitched sigh like she was doing a vocal warm up. I looked at Chris, "Did you hear that?" So of course I responded and copied her sound back to her. The tiny baby that was less than 8 hours old blessed my heart and soul by letting out another identical sigh. With a crackled voice I looked at Chris and said, "I love this girl."

More to come,
Amanda

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

She's Here

Leslie headed out of the waiting room to go into the OR with Abby.  Chris and I waited with Leslie's mom and husband, chit-chatting, but mostly quiet.  Within minutes, she burst back into the room to grab my camera, and in the background I could see nurses carrying Amelia into the nursery.  The waiting room had a large window that looked straight into the nursery.  Chris and I were standing at the window with anticipation building in our hearts. Amelia was bundled and wrapped in blankets, and we still hadn't seen her face.  The nurses were cleaning her up, weighing her, and Leslie was swarming in the background like the papa-paparazzi.   Finally, a nurse held Amelia up and pulled the blanket away from her face.



Chris and I both burst into tears.  We were somewhere between crying and hysterical.  I definitely was ugly-face-crying, and my hands kept going back and forth between covering my mouth and touching my chest, as if that would help slow my heart down.  Had I been waving to an audience, I would have looked just like a newly-crowned Miss America.

She looked perfect.  Within minutes Leslie waved me into the nursery, and I was at her bedside while the nurse continued to work on her.


Words can't describe that moment.  It is beyond surreal, knowing this is my daughter, and yet it had only been 11 days since I found out she would be mine.  Here she was.  Holding my finger.  Amazing.


Chris joined us.  He was speechless.  See, I'm grabbing my chest.  Maybe I was trying to catch my breath.


I remember talking to her.  "You must be so cold, sweet girl.  We're gonna get you all wrapped up soon.  It's okay sweet pea."

She was here.  She was precious.



Her cry was so quiet.  There wasn't much noise behind it.  Very breathy.  She was alert, and the nurse told me her APGAR score was adequate.  I was so relieved that she was doing well, given her rough night.  Once she was cleaned up, she was in my arms.  About then, they rolled Abby's bed by the nursery.  We exchanged waves and smiles, and she was rolled to her room to recover from surgery.

I sat down and just held my girl.

More to come,
Amanda

Monday, November 26, 2012

Included and Blessed

Leslie was so sweet and gave me a picture of Amelia's face from the ultrasound that morning.  Most people have seen ultrasound pictures these days, from friends or even posted on Facebook.  Let me just say it is different to see it of your own child.  I found it disturbing.  My bestie later assured me, "Oh yeah Manda, we referred to them as our alien children when we saw those pictures."  Amelia's eyes looked all sunken in, and it appeared as though she either had a small beak or some sort of growth hanging off the end of her nose.  Disturbing, right?  "Oh Lord, let her look better than what this picture leads me to believe she looks like."

I can't say enough about how generous, thoughtful, inclusive, communicative, and gracious the biological family were toward Chris and I.  I have been asked about our adoption experience in some of the most random places, but my answer is always the same.  Our's was ideal.

I was shopping with Amelia at the mall once, and a sales lady commented on Amelia's pretty blue eyes and asked if she got them from me or my husband.  I said, "Oh thank you.  That's so sweet, but she was adopted," which led to her sharing her entire story of infertility with me right there in the store.  She said she was ready to begin looking into adoption and asked me about our experience.  I told her there is a spectrum for adoption, from ideal to extremely challenging, to put it nicely.  Our adoption experience was completely ideal.  Not one flaw, and the biggest contributing factor to that reality was the biological family.  They were amazing.  What an unnecessary blessing from the Lord.

While we were sitting in the waiting room, Leslie introduced me to her mom.  Such a sweet lady.  Leslie took her mom and me back to see Abby before she went into surgery.  Abby was beginning to feel a bit more nervous.  She was beginning to realize what was about to happen to her.  We went back to the waiting room, and Leslie's mom recounted a story for Chris and I.  "Leslie and I were talking the other day and she said, 'Mom, I always try to see the silver lining in things, and I think in this situation it's that we're making a family very very happy.'"  Well, I lost it.  Burst into tears and said, "Thank you so much for telling me that."


Chris and I in the waiting room.

Leslie popped into the waiting room one more time right before the surgery.  She said to us, "They'll bring the baby out into the nursery right away, and I'll come out with her.  I can swing by here and get your camera if you want me to take pictures for you."  I told you they were amazing!

It was shortly after noon.  Almost time.

More to come,
Amanda

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Sleepless Night

Chris and I hunkered down for the night.  The nurses from the Nurses' Station brought us some useless hospital blankets, and the waiting room had two recliners for us to sleep in.  Allow me to pause to let you know these recliners were old, hard as a rock, and scary to sit in.  They were broken so that when you leaned back, WHOA, you fell back in the chair without any resistance.  And if I remember rightly, the one I was sitting in squeaked and creaked anytime I shifted my weight in it.  Ugh!

Leslie came in a little after midnight and gave us the last update for the night.  She said Amelia's heartbeat wasn't rebounding very well after each contraction.  In other words, it's normal for a baby's heartbeat to slow down when a woman is having a contraction, but as the contraction subsides the heartbeat should resume its normal rate.  Amelia's would slow with a contraction, and then it would stay slow after the contraction ended.  The doctor thought that perhaps Abby was dehydrated.  They gave her fluids and that seemed to address the concerns.

I laid awake all night.  I was freezing laying under the paper thin blanket, and my muscles were sore and shaking from being tense all night.  I think had we had comfier furniture to lay on, I may have slept for a few hours.  I think Chris was able to sleep for a little bit.  I chose to spend the majority of the night eavesdropping on the Nurses' Station.  I tried to listen for clues as to when they were talking about Abby and Amelia.  The one thing they kept talking about was sending Abby home if her labor didn't progress.  I still don't understand this.  Abby never dilated more than 4cm, but I think she was almost 90% effaced and she had consistent contractions all night.  Why wouldn't they just get the show on the road?  I know Abby wasn't wanting to stretch it out any more than was necessary.  I literally watched the minutes pass that night on a clock on the wall of the waiting room.

Finally around 7am a doctor was called for a consult.  Abby had only had one ultrasound during her pregnancy around 25 weeks.  Thank God the doctor in this small town hospital had the wisdom to order another ultrasound before Abby was discharged.    The results showed that although Abby was 38 weeks pregnant, Amelia was only measuring at 35 weeks.  She was not growing properly in utero, and the doctor immediately ordered a C-section.  I heard all of this from eavesdropping before Leslie came in to update us.  She said the operation was scheduled for noon.

Chris and I freshened up a bit in the bathroom and went to grab a bite to eat.  We headed down to the hospital cafeteria and proceeded to eat what we still refer to ask "the most disgusting breakfast we've ever eaten."  We both got a croissant breakfast sandwich with egg, bacon, and cheese.  Sounds delicious, right?  That's what we thought.  The croissant was moist, as if it had been dipped in butter.  The eggs were greasy.  The cheese was everywhere.  You couldn't put your fingers anywhere on the sandwich without getting cheese on your fingers.  And the bacon.  Oh, I'm sorry.  I thought I ordered bacon, not a half pound of pure fat.  Needless to say, we did not finish our breakfast.

We went and called family and friends before heading back upstairs.

More to come,
Amanda

Monday, November 19, 2012

Oh What a Skype


I worked all weekend wrapping up loose ends.  Everything was laundered and put away, the nursery projects were complete, and now we waited.

My bestest friend and I planned on talking Monday night once her kids were in bed.  While we were on the phone, Chris came down our stairs into the living room where I was, and he had his phone up to his ear too. "Are our husbands talking to each other too?'  Her husband was helping Chris get Skype set up on our computer.  We knew we would need it soon with grandparents wanting to see the little one.  It was up and running fairly quickly, and soon the four of us were talking "face to face."

I couldn't have planned any better what happened next.  To this day, the four of us can't believe it happened while we were all together, looking at one another's faces.

My phone rings.

"Guys, it's a text from Leslie."

My heart was racing, and our friends thought we were kidding.  "Oh yeah right, Manda."

I started reading the text, and everyone realized it was no joke.  I don't have record of the exact words, but here is the jist of what was going on.  Abby told Leslie she was having some cramping.  Leslie asked what the cramping was like.  Abby said, "Oh it comes and goes."  Leslie wisely asked, "When did the cramping start?  How often is it coming and going?"  Abby said she had them all afternoon, and they were now about 5 minutes apart.  Leslie asked me what she thought she should do.

I read everything to the group.  All four of our jaws dropped.  We busted out laughing at how ridiculous we all looked and couldn't believe what was happening.  "She is in labor, right?"  I said.  I quickly texted that to Leslie and encouraged her to take Abby to the hospital to be examined.  We exchanged what felt like another hundred texts and decided Chris and I would start making our way to the hospital.  It was a 2 hour drive for us.  Even if it was a false alarm, we didn't want to risk not being there.

We were freaking out.  Our friends were freaking out.  "Amanda, your baby might be born tonight."  We hung up with them and began what felt like the scene from a movie.  In less than an hour we washed dishes, showered, packed, and hit the road.  Dishes?  I didn't want nasty dishes sitting in my sink for who knows how long.  And I didn't know when I would shower again.  That turned out to be a smart move.

Once we were in the car we called our family and told them we would keep them posted.  It was around 9pm when we left town.  I tried my best to sleep on the ride there.  Yeah right!  That didn't happen.  Leslie kept us posted with texts.  Abby was 4cm dilated and was getting checked into the hospital.  We arrived at 11pm, and she had her own room by then.  We stayed in the waiting room near the nursery, and Leslie would update us periodically.  Abby came to see us and we were able to chit chat, asking how she was feeling and encouraged her to keep up the good work.  She was having consistent contractions, but you would have never guessed.  The gal had a high pain tolerance and was walking laps around the maternity ward.

Looks like we're in for a long night.

More to come,
Amanda

Thursday, November 15, 2012

An Explanation is Due

9 months.  It's been 9 months since I've posted.  Sure, I could pick right back up where the story left off, but I would feel as though I'm completely ignoring the fact that you haven't heard a thing from me in 9 months.  I feel as though an explanation is due.

There is a reason I stopped posting.  And there is a reason why I haven't begun again until now.  Even now, I'm hesitant to begin again because I know the time and commitment that is required with a blog like mine.  But it's time.

So many of you have been so patient and gracious with me during this time.  You've continued to encourage me to start again.  Just today a friend on Facebook tagged me in a post by one of her friends, someone I've never met, telling her to tell me to start blogging again.  So here I am.  Typing.

In February of this year, Amelia had some medical needs that, in my opinion, were being somewhat ignored by her medical team.  I committed myself to full time research of how to best meet her needs myself.  If I wasn't directly taking care of Amelia, I was on the internet, talking with other moms in my situation in online forums, and even skyping with a child psychologist in Germany.  {You'll hear about that story one day.}  It took my full attention.  As did the months to follow.

I could stop there and blame my lack of posting on a lack of time, but there's more.  My next post is going to be about Amelia's birth.  And the story from here takes a turn.  One that is going to require me to relive moments, emotions, and choices that were scary, confusing, and eventually led me to a dark place.  Up until recently, anytime I went to those places in my mind, I responded with anger, resentment, and regret.  I didn't want to write Amelia's story with a tainted view.

I grew up in Houston, where rain and thunderstorms are common.  Driving in those storms is inevitable, especially because the sky can be blue and bright in the morning, and black and stormy by the afternoon.  I have memories of making the drive from Houston to Dallas on I-45 and seeing storms up ahead on the highway.  One minute I was driving in clear skies, and the next I had my wipers on high, my speed had slowed to 45 mph, and I couldn't see the car in front of me through the rain.  Not even 10 minutes later I was out of the storm and back under blue skies.

That has been my last year.  Blue skies.  Stormy weather with blurred vision.  And back to blue skies.  My hope is that I can accurately tell Amelia's story.

So thanks for waiting for me.

More to come,
Amanda

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Precious Moment

We were shocked and speechless.  After I hung up with Liz, Chris and I stood in the kitchen, silent.  Our jaws were dropped, and we intermittently let out a laugh of disbelief, but then returned to our previous silent state.  Our response was so drastically different from the last time we were chosen by a birthmom.  This was so unexpected, yet so wanted.

This was the same birthmom from the circular email that broke our hearts and made us cry.  This is the same birthmom that we repeatedly asked Liz about when we were deciding whether or not to say yes to the baby boy.  This is the same birthmom that we asked about first thing after we found out our adoption fell through.  This is the same birthmom that my best friend and Chris were praying would pick us after she had already chosen another family!  We wanted this baby girl the moment we read about her and her birthmom.  And we were going to get her.

{For the sake of confidentiality, I'll refer to our birthmom as Abby and her mom as Leslie.}

We had an appointment to meet with Abby and Leslie the following Wednesday.  We were going to meet them with Liz and Abby's caseworker at the Bethany headquarters in Grand Rapids, MI.  We were excited, anxious, unsure of what to expect, and above all grateful.  How could we, in a brief hour meeting, communicate our gratefulness and respect for the sacrifice she was making?  Would I still be at a loss of words like I was in my kitchen?  It didn't occur to me til the morning of the meeting when I spoke to my best friend that I was going to be in the same room as my future daughter.  So many emotions yet I lacked the ability to articulate any of them.  Chris and I woke up early and left home around 8 Wednesday morning to make the three hour drive to Grand Rapids.

We got there a little early, prayed in the car, and then went into the building.  We were led to a room with chairs and couches, like a lounge, so that we didn't bump into Abby and Leslie in the waiting room.  Liz came in and prepared us for the meeting.  She had emailed us a document a couple of days prior that Abby would have to use to ask us "get to know you" type questions.  Liz prayed for us, and then we waited. A theme in adoption.

We didn't have to wait long before Leslie, Abby, and her case worked came in.  {I'm not going to go into detail here about Abby and what she is like, mostly because those are precious details I'm saving to tell my daughter.}  Chris and I hugged Leslie and Abby, and we all had a seat.  We spent the first half of the meeting asking lots of questions to get to know one another, things like hobbies, favorites, and how Chris and I met.  They were both very forthright about us being included at the hospital and hoped we could have our own room to be with the baby.  We were able to tell them our plan to name the baby Amelia Rose, and they loved it.  Abby, Amelia, and I would all have "A" names.  Chris attempted to put into words what we were feeling, thanking Abby for choosing us, and before he choked up he told her, "You're my hero."  We exchanged email addresses (we had one of specifically for them to use that didn't have any identifying information in it) and cell phone numbers.  Leslie said that Abby had a doctors appointment on Friday, and she would text me how it went.  We all took pictures together and hugged again before we said goodbye.  They said they hoped to see us sooner than later.

After they left the room, Liz debriefed with us.  It couldn't have gone better.  Liz was leaving town for the next week, so a part of us hoped the baby wouldn't come til she came back in town so she could be a part of the hospital experience.  Chris and I left and, of course, went to get a bite to eat.  What we do best!  We were relieved, excited, thankful, and partly still in disbelief.  I still had last minute projects to finish up the nursery, and I exchanged alot of the gender neutral clothes we had bought for pink and ruffles.  Leslie texted me Friday while I was at Wal-mart buying spray paint for some of those projects.  She said the appointment went well, and the doctor felt like the baby could come any day.

More to come,
Amanda

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Music to My Ears

Texas was our one last hurrah before it all began.  Our time with our friends was sweet.  My best friend has always been Miss Positivity throughout all of my infertility and the adoption process.  She kept talking about how this was our last time together before we would have a baby.  I was always reluctant to agree with her and would remind her that we just don't know.  She would say, "Exactly.  We don't know.  You could get a baby next month," or some other glass-half-full comment.  I love her for it.  The Lord knows I'm skeptical enough for the both of us.  I guess she is optimistic enough for the both of us.  Both her and her husband were devastated when our adoption fell through just a few days before we saw them.

Laura would say, "You know I'm really sad you didn't get the baby boy, but I'm even more bummed you didn't get the baby girl."  I couldn't help but agree.  She always followed it up with, "I'm still going to pray you get her."
"Mama {our name for each other}, the birthmom already picked another family."
"I know, but I can pray whatever I want."

Chris would say the same thing.  "I really wanted that baby girl."
"I'm sorry, honey."
"I just wish she would have picked us."
"Well, she didn't."  I'm quite the downer, huh?  What is it with everyone around me wanting something to happen that is not just unlikely?  It's too late.  The birthmom picked a family, and Liz said she was moving on with an adoption plan.  Chris said this often, as did Laura.  I would think, "Come on guys.  Get over it."

We flew back to Michigan on Tuesday, August 2nd.  When Chris and I got home, I still had two big bags of blue stuff to return.  I also packed up the clean bottles that were on our kitchen counter and said to Chris, "Hopefully these won't be put up for too long."  We both went back to work and life as usual.  That Friday we were going to go to a cookout with my department coworkers.  I had been working all afternoon and had about 30 minutes to go home and throw some things together to take with us.  I arrived home to music blaring throughout the house.  We have an intercom system from the 80's in our house that still works, and Chris had music blasting throughout every room of the house while he was working out.  "Hello!"  I shouted as I came in the house, as to not startle him.  He scares easy!  No joke.  "Having a good work out?"  I yelled.  We continued our loud conversation until I thought I heard something other than the music in my head.  Is that my phone ringing?  It was unrecognizable with all the noise.  I ran back into the kitchen and saw the screen on my phone lit up.  The called ID said Bethany Christian Services.  "It's Liz.  Shut off the music."  Chris walked toward me trying to hear what I was saying.  "It's Liz."  He promptly shut down the party.

Liz and I briefly had some chit chat and small talk before she said, "Well, I have some good news for you.  Your profile has been chosen by a birthmom."  But we hadn't received any circular emails recently.  There's no one looking at our profile.
"What?  Who?"  I'm whispering to Chris, as usual, repeating everything Liz says.  His eyes are bugging out of his head.
"It's the birthmom from June.  The one you guys kept asking about."
"The one having a girl?"
"Yep.  The family she previously chose backed out of the adoption, and she chose you guys."

More to come,
Amanda

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Last Minute List

Our visit to Houston was wonderful.  Fun times with my sister and nephews, my parents, and our best friends.  And yes, we surprised their socks off.  It was awesome!

I know a number of you reading have told me you know someone who wants to adopt, who is thinking about adoption, or you are in the process of adopting.  I wanted to provide my most practical piece of advice, my Last Minute List.  As the nursery was coming together, and we were purchasing more and more off of our registry, I decided to make a list of items that we would need were we to get a last minute phone call.  It also included last minute tasks and chores that would need to be done.  It would be a list we could email out to friends and supporters to see if anyone wanted to purchase any of the bigger items or to see if anyone wanted to help me with some minor preparations.  My list included bigger items we were in need of including a car seat, stroller, swing, and pack-n-play.  It also had chores including laundering bed linens, clothes, blankets, and washing bottles and pacifiers.

On the day when we got the phone call about "Elliott" one of the first things I did was open my Last Minute List.  I began tasking out jobs and decided what I could do myself.  The incredibly awesome part about our trip to TX was that our car seat, stroller, swing, and pack-n-play were all purchased for us the week before we got the phone call.  It was all shipped to Michigan and waiting for us when we got back from TX.  There were only a few items left to be purchased.  For all of those times when I felt crazy at Babies R Us buying things for myself, I was completely prepared for that last minute phone call.  All of my preparation had payed off.  Yes, people could have bought us those things last minute as well, but I much preferred them providing meals and diapers for us instead.

Another item not on my Last Minute List, but something that we knew we would need was CA$H.  It was something that we continued to communicate about with people through email updates and in person.  Our friends were gracious enough to ask when we would see them how the fundraising was going, and we would be open about it.  Friends and supporters would send us checks for the adoption for hundreds and thousands of dollars.  One couple offered to email a list of their friends they knew would be interested in our situation.  Complete strangers sent us money.  Again, thousands of dollars.  By the end of the summer we had $11,000 and were only in need of a few thousand more to add to what we had saved up to put toward the adoption.  Amazing.

More to come,
Amanda

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Quick Recovery

I woke up about five hours later and came downstairs.  I walked past the two big bags of blue stuff on my way to the kitchen.  "I will be returning all of you," I thought to myself.  It was so surreal to be home.  I always find it puzzling that we can wake up in Texas, drive for nineteen hours, and go to sleep in Michigan.  This felt more odd than usual because it was so unexpected.  Plus, the whole reason we drove back was now a non-issue.  Here we are back in Michigan with nothing to do.

As my mind began to process the previous 24 hours, I was mad about a couple things.  First, I was kicking myself for diving into it all so quickly.  I had always said as we were preparing for adoption that the child we're going to adopt is not ours until a judge says so.  Why was I so quick to say things like, "We have a son," and to my mom, "You have a grandson"?  Those statements weren't technically true.  Adoption is a legal process, and just because a woman says she is planning on giving me her child, that child is legally hers until a judge says otherwise.  We could have brought him home from the hospital and, legally, she could have taken him back until her parental rights were terminated.  Legally, he was not my son.  I hadn't guarded my heart the way I knew I should have.  My thoughts and words were not based on what was true.  I got ahead of myself.

I heard someone once compare a failed adoption with a miscarriage.  I think this is a complete unfair comparison.  It's unfair to the child, who is still alive.  The child has not died.  It is alive and being taken care of by its parents.  That's a wonderful thing, especially if the parent is capable of caring for it.  It's unfair to the birthmom, who was completely within her rights to change her mind.  She's the one that decided to look into adoption, and after looking into it can decide she doesn't want to move forward with it.  As I mentioned before, I hadn't lost a child.  The child was never mine.

As practical and objective as this sounds, I did have a good cry with Chris.  I was sad, and I was disappointed.  But there was nothing to mourn.  No need to sulk.  Our name was still on the distribution list to receive circulars.

Another thing I was mad about was that we had driven back to Michigan and missed out on time with family and friends.  My sister had planned her trip to my parents with my nephews based on our schedule.  We had friends that we were planning to see and spend time with.  And I just hate that drive in general.  We had two more weeks set aside for time in Texas, and here we are in Michigan.  Yuck!

Liz called later that morning to update us on the birthmom.  Liz had met with her to see how she went from saying she wasn't going to be capable of caring for her child to deciding to parent him.  It sounded like she had, in a short time, made arrangements to care for him.  I was happy the boy was able to grow up with his mom and other family members after all.  There was comfort in knowing it was an issue of practical factors {time and money} and not one of substance abuse.  He was going to a home where he would be loved.

My best friend called me frequently that day to check up on me.  I talked with my family and explained what happened.  Chris spoke with his parents too.  Chris mentioned to them how bummed we were that we couldn't finish our trip in Texas, and they graciously offered to fly us back down to Houston.  Chris asks me, "Would you even want to go back down?"
"Umm YES!"
"When would you want to go down?  Maybe this weekend?"
"Umm, why not tomorrow?"

We decided not to tell our best friends we were coming.  We couldn't pass up on this opportunity to surprise their pants off.  I called my mom and told her I would be there the next day for her birthday after all, and I was going to be able to go to the waterpark with my nephews.  Things were looking up.  Fantastic!  Before Chris let us buy tickets, we had to account for our dog.  We had to hunt down a line up of folks to care for him for two weeks.  Within an hour, we had three families that were willing to take turns with the pup.  A million thanks to those people!

My friend called me one more time that night to check in and encourage us to rest up for the next couple days.  He he.  Rest up on a plane in the morning!  48 hours after leaving Texas, we were back.  What a whirlwind!

More to come,
Amanda
Who wouldn't want this guy in their house for two weeks?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Diving in Head First

Once I hung up with Liz, Chris and I embraced.  A son.  We had a son just waiting for us in Michigan.  I called my mom and said, "Mom, your new grandson was born Friday night."  I called my best friend and left a message, "She picked us.  We got him."  Unbelief.  Relief.  Pure excitement.

Chris and I packed up the car and headed to church.  Our plan was to leave for Michigan and drive all night once he was done speaking.  I used the hour drive to get some details worked out.  I called my friend in Michigan and told her the good news.  I asked her if she could go to my house and wash bottles, nursery linens, burp cloths, blankets, and all of my gender neutral baby clothes I had already bought.  She was ecstatic and more than willing, of course.  I remember saying to Chris, "You have a son."  Our minds and bodies were in shock and running off of adrenaline.  I couldn't sit still.  My hands were practically shaking.

We arrived at church to a group of friends who had already heard the news from a contact person Chris had texted.  Hugs all around!  It didn't take them long to decide to send us on our way immediately, and they would change their plans for Sunday School and the Service.  They prayed for us, and Chris and I were on the road.  We made one detour.  I popped into Target and Marshalls and bought two big bags worth of blue boy stuff.  Blue towels, socks, clothes.  Two very large bags.  We also drove through Rosa's for our last taste of Mexican food before we left Texas.  Priorities right?  Baby, then Mexican food.

In the middle of my second taco, Liz called to check in and let us know that everything was going well, but the birthmother wanted to "tap the breaks a little."  She felt like everything was moving so fast, and she didn't want to discharge the baby til she met with us.  Also, she decided to give the baby a name to put on the birth certificate, but was fine if we changed his name later.  Even though Liz made no mention of the adoption not taking place, the wind was knocked out of me.  All excitement turned into hesitancy and concern.  Chris was still optimistic and kept telling me to stop acting like this wasn't going to happen, but these were two BIG red flags in my mind.  Why would she give the baby a name?  We weren't even out of Texas yet.  We had 17 hours of driving ahead of us.

I felt deflated.  I would say to Chris, "I don't know.  Why would she tap the breaks?  We're not going to get him."  "Stop," he would say.  "We don't know that."  My head was a mess.  Out of control.  Where had my joy gone?  Real joy lasts, even when faced with potentially hard circumstances.  Maybe what I had felt that morning wasn't true joy.  Had I not learned about true joy during all of my infertility?  Month after month, had God not taught me that my joy is not found in my circumstances?  It's fine to be disappointed, but what I was feeling was an emptiness in the pit of my stomach.  I was fearful.  Joy and fear cannot coexist.  While I was taking a turn driving in Missouri I decided to stop.  Stop being afraid of what Liz's next phone call might say.  My mind still went back to that place of desperation, but I was quicker to recognize it and walk away from it.

That drive from Texas to Michigan is always a long one, but this was exceptionally long.  I drove through Missouri and watched the sunset, and I took the last shift and watched the sun rise in Michigan.  We arrived home at 7am to washed bottles in the kitchen and clean clothes folded in the nursery.  Chris and I promptly went to bed.  We laid next to one another while I called Liz to let her know we made it back and could go to the hospital whenever she was ready for us.  She sounded as exhausted as us.  She said, "I just spoke with the birthmother and she's decided to keep the baby.  I'm headed to the hospital right now to talk to her about her plan."  I looked at Chris and said, "She's keeping him."  "Does she know anything else about the other circular?" he was quick to ask, still holding out for that baby girl.  Liz said that they had chosen a family and were moving on with an adoption plan.

No baby boy.  No baby girl.  We didn't say anything else to one another.  Just rolled over and went to sleep.

More to come,
Amanda

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Decisions

I hung up with Liz, and as if we had just read a circular looked at Chris and asked, "Well.  What do ya think?"  We started to pace back and forth in front of the stores, completely lacking direction as to where we were going.  Our heads were spinning.  A healthy baby boy was going to be born that night, but we had hoped to have heard about the previous circular already.  We decided to take a little time and consult some friends.

I called my best friend, but she wasn't home.  I spoke with her sweet husband and walked him through the situation.  By the time I hung up with him it was time to meet back up with Chris's parents, and we decided not to say anything quite yet.  Didn't want to get ahead of ourselves.  We paced around Barnes & Noble, again, directionless.  I looked at Chris with big, googly eyes at one point.  "What?"  he asked.  "Umm, I'm thinking about the baby."  We headed to a shoe store next where Chris's parents offered to get him a new pair.  I was able to focus on the purchase at hand, that is until my bestie's ring tone came from my pocket.  "I'm going to go talk to her.  I like the ones you have on."  And I quickly exited the store.  As I explained what was going on I paced around the outdoor shopping center before I finally found a bench to sit on.  She was able to ask me some good questions to think through, but in true best friend fashion, I had already thought about everything she mentioned.  I asked her whether our decision should be affected by the fact we hadn't heard yet about the other circular yet.  "Would you say yes to this if the other circular weren't in the picture?"  "Yes."  There was our answer.  Why would we pass up on this baby when the other one isn't a guarantee?

We called Liz and left her a voicemail that we were interested in having the birthmother see our profile, but there were so many details to think through.  It was a Friday.  Sunday Chris was speaking at church and then we were planning to drive to Houston.  We hadn't seen any of my family or friends yet.  If we were to be chosen, maybe I could fly out Saturday night, or Sunday morning, and Chris could drive our car and dog back to MI on Monday.  But the birthmother wanted to meet the adoptive parents as soon as possible, and the baby was going to be discharged on Sunday or Monday.  How can we make this work?  Wait!  "Don't get too far ahead of yourself, Manda."  I went ahead that night and emailed Liz.  She knew we were in TX, and I wanted to let her know we had a plan if we were to be chosen.  She emailed me back Saturday morning.  "Thanks for the  update.  I will be meeting with the birthmom regarding profiles at 2pm today.  I don't know how long she plans to take to make her decision but I will update you once she has."


I sat by my lap top all day.  Literally.  I sat on a couch with the computer and cell phone near by at all times. If I went to the bathroom, the phone came with me.  We went running that evening, and my phone was in my hand throughout the workout.  I think because the whole situation was so last minute and rushed, I felt an urgency.  I hadn't clung to my computer with other circulars, but because I knew we would have an answer within 24 hours, my heart was anxious and impatient.  My head was playing tricks on me.  "Ready.  Ring!" as I stared at my phone.  I would refresh my Inbox page every ten minutes.  "You'll get a response when you least expect it.  Just ignore all of this."  I don't know what kind of superstitious logic that is!  We went to bed without an answer.


We woke up early the next morning since we had an hour drive ahead of us to get to church.  Chris was already getting ready in the bathroom when I peeled myself from the bed.  Before I could leave the bedroom to check my email to see if Liz responded, my phone rang.  It was Liz.  I waved down Chris.  "It's Liz."  Chris's eyes popped out of his head.  "Sorry to call so early, but I have some good news for you."  I nodded furiously to Chris and whispered "Good news."


"The birthmother chose your profile."


While Chris paced around the bedroom and welled up with tears, I tried to stay focused and ask Liz as many questions as I could think of.  Do we need to bring a car seat to the hospital?  When will he be discharged?  When do we need to be there?  I found out that the birthmother looked at seven profiles on Friday, but Liz didn't get our's to her til Saturday.  She looked at our profile and said "He looks so laid back, and she looks so friendly."  The birthmother wanted to meet with us as soon as possible.  The baby would be discharged on Monday, the next day.  The birthmother decided we could name the boy and put his name on the birth certificate.  Our Elliott Christopher was born and waiting for us.

More to come,
Amanda

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Healthy Dose of Sobriety

I was giddy as I received and read each circular.  My smile came naturally, and I would intermittently squeal as I came across an exciting detail.  I had the child named as soon as we responded.  Until we heard that we had not been chosen, I lived as if we could be and could receive this child in a matter of days, weeks, or months.  I couldn't hold my excitement in and would break out into song or dance spontaneously.  It was thrilling, that is until we received our fifth circular in June.

It was June 28th around dinner time.  I approached it like every other email we had received thus far, giddy and squealing.  Chris was in position on the couch and I proceeded with the reading.  A baby girl.  Due in a couple of months.  I read through the details about the birthmother with anticipation to finish the email and say "yes," when my words were stopped and I literally could not go on.  Tears rushed to my eyes, and I began sobbing.  I couldn't squeak another word out.  Chris looked perplexed and waited patiently for me to continue.  I eventually caught my breath, but my crying continued as I read aloud a heart-wrenching situation.

You see, a number of circulars we had received up until then involved birthmothers who were in need of help, and I say this with sincere sympathy, because of careless choices they had made.  That didn't affect our desire to help them in any way.  The email I was reading involved a young lady who was facing circumstances that immediately broke my heart.  It was possibly the first time in my life where compassion came so easily and so quickly, in a moment.  Regardless of if I ever received this birthmother's child, I wanted to meet her and hug her.

All excitement was drained out of me, and a part of me didn't want to finish the email.  No more smiles.  No more squeals.  I finished reading and went immediately to the bathroom where I continued to cry.  Chris sat on the couch, equally broken by what we had just read.  When I came back to the living room, we talked about how it was situations like this that motivated us to adopt.  We desired to help a woman in need.  I responded to the email by saying "YES.  Please show our profile to this birthmother."  I wept at the very thought of the situation the next couple days.  I discussed it with a few close friends and would tear up as I spoke about it.  Chris would say, "I really hope she picks us."  "I know sweetie."

On July 1st we headed to Texas for the month.  We waited and waited, but never heard a response.  Two weeks passed by and no news.  The 15th of July was a Friday, and Chris's dad took the day off from work to spend with us.  Chris, his mom and dad, and I headed to one of my favorite shopping centers in Southlake.  We caught an early movie and ate lunch at Cheesecake Factory {obviously a favorite of mine}.  We split up to do some shopping and would meet back together in a couple hours.  Chris and I headed off to browse my favorite stores.  The two hours went quickly, and I decided to pop into one more store before it was time to meet back up.  I headed into LOFT while Chris stayed outside.  The sale was picked over, and I had done enough shopping in Chicago to last a couple seasons.  Unexpectedly, my phone rang.  Over the music in the store I heard Liz's voice, our case worker.  I abandoned the store and waved Chris down.  "It's Liz," I mouthed to him.

She told me that she had just emailed out an urgent circular and was calling families to get quick answers to it.  A woman was in labor, as we spoke, with a baby boy.  She was going to deliver that night and was wanting to look at profiles as soon as possible.  Standing outside the front of the store, Liz walked me through all of the details of the situation, and I simultaneously whispered them to Chris.  She didn't need an immediate answer, but needed one within the hour.  Chris asked, "Does she know anything about the last circular, the baby girl?"  I asked Liz, and she said she hadn't heard anything yet concerning that circular.  What to do?

More to come,
Amanda

Friday, January 27, 2012

Approved

June 6th, 2011.  We started our day by eating breakfast at Yolk.  I had oatmeal topped with sauteed peaches and pecans.  Then we went on an architecture boat tour led by a fantastic Australian woman who wore a large black hat and yellow thick-rimmed glasses.  We ate at Flaco's Tacos for lunch before Chris had to go to class.  After an afternoon of shopping on the Magnificent Mile, I met him at the Cheesecake Factory for dinner.  Arcade Fire and Ellie Goulding were on my playlist, and I was looking forward to the rest of our week in Chicago.  These are the events of the day our home study was approved.

Chris was taking a class at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago for a whole week, and I had my own personal vacation during the days and fantastic dates with him at night.  We went all out in true Chris & Amanda fashion.  We've never celebrated Valentine's Day as a couple.  Instead we save up and majorly splurge for our anniversary in May.  This year we waited til our Chicago trip.  I had scored majorly on Restaurant.com during their Memorial Day sale.  80% off gift ceritificates!  I got three $50 gift certificates for $4 each.  Fine dining on a budget.  I wore dresses, we had three course meals, and best of all we were in the city every night.  It was a much needed distraction, yet our second day there I'm faced with reality.  Our home study was approved and there was no escaping the adoption process.  Our vacation was now subtitled "Our last before we have a baby."

Our names were now on the distribution list to receive the circulars {make sure you read my last post to understand this stage of the process}, and not three days later we received our first one.  A boy with special needs was due to be born within the month, and the mother was allowing the agency to choose his parents. Boom!  We're faced with our first decision.  I don't think I can rightly describe the feeling of knowing there is a baby available for adoption, and we bear the burden of choosing if we would be interested in adopting it.  To what is it comparable?  Not to wanting a husband or job or puppy.  There's a sweet baby that's going to be born in need of parents, and I want to be a parent.  As I read through the email there was a great need to be objective because emotions were not lacking in the moment.  This is where it was helpful that we had already completed our Service Plan.  The decision for this particular circular had already been made.  We knew we were not in a place to care for this baby's specific needs.  We did not respond with interest to our first circular.

Although it was a "no," what encouragement that we were now being made aware of real opportunities.  I never would have expected an email so soon.  I thought maybe in a couple weeks, but what was waiting for us when we arrived home from Chicago the next day?  Another email!  A baby boy due in less than two weeks.  As we read through the email, we were hesitant to allow our hearts to be as excited as they were.  All of the birthmother's criteria was fitting our's.  Because Chris and I had already talked at length about what we would and wouldn't say "yes" to, our decisions were usually quick.  What was left to pray about?  We responded with an enthusiastic "Yes," but found out a week later she chose another family.

We received three more circulars that month.  Here's how it usually went down.  I would check my email and find a circular waiting in my Inbox.  I imagine it to have said, "Where have you been?  I have been sitting here for like three hours waiting for you to read me.  Hello?"  I would immediately hunt down Chris.  I even drug him out of bed once.  That's usually a no-no, but he didn't mind it in these cases.  I was careful to read every single detail in the email as quickly as I could in a slow manner.  Does that make sense at all?  Or did I read them as slowly as possible in a fast manner.  Either way, I could hardly get through the email fast enough.  I would finish the email, look up at Chris, we would flash each other a goofy grin, and I would say, "Well, what do you think?"  Of the three more circulars we received that month, we said "no" to one and "yes" to the other two.  A white boy, a black girl, and a white girl.  Were any of these going to be my baby?

More to come,
Amanda

PS.  I can't write this without hearing the Target Lady in my head.  "Approved!"  "Classic Peg."  {shoulder bounce}

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Question & Answer Session

Allow me to answer some FAQ's that we received while we were awaiting approval.  They will help you understand our upcoming circumstances.

Q:  Do you have any say in what baby you receive? {gender, race, health, etc.}
A:  Yes.  We can be as specific as we want in our preferences.  We could say we want a Hispanic boy, but that will limit what birthparents look at our profile.  We stated we were open to any race and either gender, and we wanted a healthy baby.  Healthy in broad terms.  We were willing to consider some situations outside of the ideal pregnancy.

Q:  Will you know when a birthmother is looking at your profile?
A:  Yes.  We will receive an email called a circular.  I don't know why they're called a circular other than the fact that it circulates among all the approved adoptive families.  The Bethany case worker working with the birthmother, and sometimes father, writes up the circular including all of the information they have gleaned during their time with her.  It begins with information about the baby, due date and gender if known.  It then gives details about the birthmother {age, race, marital status, physical description, education level, work experience, other children she has, hobbies, religious affiliation, personality, attitude toward adoption, and the nature or relationship with the birthfather}.  Then it provides all of that same information for the birthfather if it is known.  There is a brief description of extended birthfamily, a family medical history, and reason for considering adoption.  It gives prenatal care information, any medications, alcohol/drug use, and any high risk factors involved.  Finally, it lays out the birthmother's desire for openness and any preferences she has for the adoptive family.

Chris and I will read through the circular and decide if we would like the birthmother to consider our profile. If we say yes to a circular, we are essentially saying that we would be willing to adopt that particular baby.

Q:  How many profiles does a birthparent look at at one time?
A:  There were approximately 25 total families that were receiving the circulars.  However, a birthmom could look at 3 profiles or 12.  It just depends how many families respond to a circular.

Q:  How will you know that you've been chosen?
A:  After a birthparent makes their decision, our case worker, Liz, would email the families who had not been chosen, thanking them for their willingness to show their profile.  If a birthparent chooses us, Liz will call us with the good news.

Q:  Will you meet the birthparents?
A:  Yes, there is almost always a meeting between the birthparent and adoptive parents.

Q:  Where will the birthmom be at in her pregnancy?
A:  She could pursue adoption at any point in her pregnancy.  Some during their 5th month.  Some contact Bethany days before their due date.

Q:  Will you get to go to the hospital?
A:  The birthmom writes out a Hospital Plan with her case worker detailing her wishes for what she would like the hospital experience to look like.  It is completely up to her.

Q:  When will you get to bring the baby home?
A:  We will bring the baby home straight from the hospital once it is discharged.

Q:  Is there a chance that you could bring a baby home and then the birthparent change their mind?
A:  Yes.  Until the parental rights are terminated, the birthparent can change their mind.  The court date for termination of rights is usually 6-8 weeks after the baby is born.  {This is specific to Michigan.}

I liked having answers for people.  I liked knowing what to expect.  I only had these answers because I had asked Liz all of these questions.  My heart was excited and anxious.  What would our circulars say?  Which ones would we say yes to?  Would there be ones that we would say no?  What would our birthmom be like?  Would it be a last minute delivery or would we have time to prepare?  And what would our little baby be like?

I guess I didn't have all of the answers, but we would alot sooner than we expected.

More to come,
Amanda

Sunday, January 22, 2012

While We Wait

We completed our last interview on March 21st, less than two months after the information meeting we attended.  With the interviews completed, all that was left to do was wait for our approval.  There were a few items on our to do list while we waited.  Once we received our approval, we could potentially receive a baby any day.  So although we were in a waiting period, we felt an urgency to prepare ourselves and others for some possible quick life changes.

One of the first things we did once all of our family and close friends had been informed was to send out a letter informing the people in our life that provide endless support for us.  Yes, a letter.  Envelope.  Stamp.  Snail mail.  There is a tangibility that a letter provides that is lost in email.  I wanted people to feel the importance of our news.  I wanted them to leave it on their kitchen island for a few days and remember that we were adopting every time they walked past it.  I wanted them to lose the letter in a pile of bills and find it a month later and be reminded of our good news.  Email can't do that.  When was the last time you read an email from a month ago?  It's probably under one hundred other items in your Inbox.  Our letter not only informed people about our good news, but also made them aware of the financial need we were facing.  Though we didn't ask anyone directly for money, we believe that if you provide others with information and knowledge, either they will help or will find others who can.  We didn't immediately see any money as a result of this letter, but there was comfort in knowing that the most important people in my life know what's going on and are praying for us and our future baby.

Even though we were now able to tell people the best news of our life, I felt exposed.  I had been so private for so long about wanting a baby.  When I told people, "We're going to adopt a baby,"  I felt like what I was really saying was "I can't get pregnant," which was true, but still so sad for me.  Here I am delivering such wonderful news, and inwardly I'm still mourning a loss.  In that moment of vulnerability for me, I'll never forget those who responded with such grace.  I had one coworker who was so sincerely happy for me she wept when I told her our news.  What a sweet moment to share tears with someone.  I had another coworker who said she had been praying for years that God would bless us with a child, not knowing a bit of what we were going through.  The most rejoicing came from those who I expected it the least.  Jaws dropped on some and others squealed, but people were unanimously happy for us.  I chose to get over my self-consciousness and be grateful for the supportive people God had put in my life.  And so what if they were thinking, "Oh, Amanda can't get pregnant, and that's why they're adopting."  No one cared that I couldn't get pregnant.  They were so happy for the adoption.

I found that in general people were very unfamiliar with the adoption process.  Most people were more familiar with fostering to adopt and international adoption.  Domestic infant adoption was a mystery for most.  I usually just answered whatever questions someone had and figured they were okay with the rest of the unknown, rather than bombard them with all the information I stored in my back pocket.  We also found that  no one felt the urgency to prepare like Chris and me.  I wouldn't expect them to, but it left Chris and I wondering what to do about all that stuff we had on our registry.

I suppose we could have had a shower upon our approval, but there's that feeling of "We might not use this stuff for another year... or we might need it next month."  There was no known due date, yet practical me is feeling internal pressure to prepare.  I had spoken with other approved adoptive moms, and many of them had this feeling of emptiness walking past a furnished nursery that lacked a baby. I just couldn't relate.  I don't know how many times I asked Chis if we were crazy for buying items from our registry.  I was always on the Babies R Us website finding sales and deals.  "Chris, our sterilizer is on sale this week, and I have a coupon."
"Go ahead and get it."
Two weeks later, another sale and he said, "Go ahead and get it."
I slowly was filling the baby's closet with bottles, pacifiers, burp cloths, changing pad covers, water proof pads, and the occasional toy.  I would ask my friend, "Am I crazy?"
"No, you're being practical."
Before I knew it, I had a fully furnished nursery.  All that was lacking were the bigger items {stroller, car seat, swing, high chair}.  Oh, and $19,000.  It was the end of May.  No approval yet, but we were ready to be handed a baby.

More to come,
Amanda

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Something Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue

I always knew what I would name a boy if we had one.  Elliott Christopher.  It's Chris's first and middle name switched.  Elliott.  So sweet.  However, over the eight years of trying to get pregnant I have had so many girls's names that I swore I would use.  Way back in 2003 it was Hannah Glory, Glory reflecting my John Piper days.  Then it was Claire Grey {my Grey's Anatomy days}, and then Stella Rose, Madeline {line not lyn}, Caroline, Audrey, Paige, and Marin.  I was prepared to have multiples, that's for sure, as long as they were girls.  I was online searching lists of names: French names, names popular in 1942, and I even looked at a list of rare Mormon names to see if there was anything that stuck out.  Teemarie and Delightra just weren't cutting it though.  I finally had it narrowed down to either Clara or Daphne.  I still love both of them.  By the way, naming our dog was this difficult as well.  The first couple days we had him he was Puppy, and even after we named him I kept thinking up new ones.  I didn't want to name my child and for weeks say to Chris, "Oh we could have named her ________."

Remember my trip to TX to see my family and best friend?  One evening, as we do every visit, my friend and I snuggled up on her soooo comfy chair-and-a-half and big ottoman to peruse the most recent Pottery Barn catalog together.  In light of recent circumstances {hehe, we're adopting} we were looking at PB Kids.  We came upon an item monogrammed "Amelia."  She asked, "What about Amelia?"
"I think it's great, but I don't think Chris would ever go for it.  But it would be so sweet.  We could call her Millie sometimes."
"Ohhh, Amelia Rose!"
We ooed and ahhed, and then quickly dismissed the unlikely possibility.

When I got back to MI and the name topic came up, as it did often, thanks to me, I mentioned Amelia to Chris.  "Yeah, I like it."  He didn't even hesitate.
"Seriously, you like it?"
"Yeah."
And that was that.

If only decorating the nursery was that easy.  Since I was ten I wanted to be an interior decorator.  I went to Texas Tech specifically for their Interior Design program and promptly dropped all of my ID classes the second day of class once I realized "design" is different than "decorating."  An artist, I am not.  I knew I wanted to get started on the nursery A-SAP.  I am a super practical person and did not want to make decisions as life changing as decorating a room for my long awaited child once it was here.  Can you sense the drama in my voice words?  My plan was to do a gender neutral room and accessorize once we knew the gender.  Google Images became my best friend in the evenings.  I wanted to do thorough research before I made any decisions.  White crib or wood crib?  Classic or eclectic?  Pottery Barn or Anthropologie?  Here are some nurseries and images that I just loved.

neutral... love it.

 embroidery hoops with fun fabric... love it.

 simple and pretty... love it.

 random wall display... love it.

 stenciled wall... love it.

 vintage art... love it.

 flowers that flow out of an empty frame... hello?  love it.

Although there are some similarities between all of these, they're different too.  What to do?  Start with the basics, Manda.  Here's the room we're working with.


Light fixture needs to change.  You could bump your head on it if you walked under it.  The wall color was a smidge too yellow.  It was supposed to be Linen White when it was first painted but was mistinted.  We basically have a blank slate here.


We decided to go with a tan cream, not to be confused with a creamy tan.  Mediterranean White from Restoration Hardware.  I bought their paint fan deck a few years ago and love it, and Home Depot has great color matching.  I knew I wanted to use a dresser as a changing table and wanted to get furniture this kid could grow into and use for a long, long time.  I had my eye on IKEA's grey brown furniture for a while and thought it would be perfect for a nursery.  It's different, but soft and pretty.  Plus I am, to this day, in a major grey phase.  When Chris and I went to look at it in the store, we found the dresser $100 off in the As Is room.  It was already assembled and had one dent on the top that we could barely notice.  Mint condition!  We got the night stand and couch table to use as cubbies.  We bought a crib, bedding, and rocking chair.  The skeleton was in place.

I had three projects I wanted to work on.  A quilt, mobile, and lamp.  I won't go into too much detail about it all, but I will say that it was all looking a little girly.  If we got a boy, I was prepared to make another quilt and mobile.  I even splurged on white scalloped basket liners from PBK, knowing they were totally girly and would have a short life span if we got a boy.

I am mighty proud of my owl lamp.  I found it on Craig's List for $10 and it was hideous, painted brown and orange to look like a real owl.  Even after I knew what I was going to do I found this lamp from West Elm for $99!!!


SO without further adieu... the final, fully accessorized nursery.

I wanted curtains on rings that I could slide open and closed  as many times as needed during the day for naps.  Blackout curtains too.  So glad I spent the extra money for both of those details.

This rocking chair was my grandmother's when she was little.  I love how the outdated birds and flowers that my mom put on there in the 80's just happen to go perfectly with everything else.

The room looks so much bigger with the double bed out of it.

art from Home Goods, girly but sophisticated and could go anywhere in my house if her decor changes









the plates are actually tin and all connected, from Home Goods
nests and eggs, slight bird theme but didn't go crazy with it








 MY owl lamp!  How does it compare?  I love that mine is perched on a stump!



 new light fixture

The doll crib on the floor was mine when I was little, made by my grandfather Pappap.

Found a mobile for $15 at PBK and deconstructed it...

 sewed the birds... {pattern}

 and wrapped the arms in grey, of course, yarn.

The bedding and frame above the dresser are navy blue.  Love how it's dark like black, but less harsh and more sophisticated.

I love how it all came together in a matter of months.  It's a room I know she can grow into as she gets older.  But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.  Baby?  What Baby?  Our home study still hasn't been approved in our story.

More to come,
Amanda

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Addendum- Nothing to Hide 2

So I wrote my last post at ten o'clock at night, after a stressful weekend that I will most likely share about in a far future post, tired and writing out of a sense of obligation to get this story goin'.  As I was writing I was fully aware that I was in my Joe Friday mode.  "Just the facts ma'am."  I have been contemplating writing Part Deux, and upon receiving a note from my new editor today (A, you're hired) I knew I had at least one reader looking for a bit more "humanity," as she described it.  I couldn't agree more.  So here goes.

The month for us couldn't have gone fast enough.  When we set up our first interview with Liz, we hated that it was two weeks away.  We were ready to do it right then and there.  I was hoping to set a new record for fastest home study ever!  With Chris and I working so close to home, our schedule was extremely flexible, and Chris could come home early when needed.  I would imagine not all families have that same flexibility as us.  So when we had to wait on Liz's schedule to clear up, it kind of irked us.  "Come on, let's get this goin'."

Because of our "Nothing to Hide" mentality, we really weren't worried about the interviews.  I was probably more nervous about my house being clean and presentable than my life and heart being exposed.  Yes, we had done a full out house cleaning before Liz came over.  I think I even wiped down our base boards.  The other reason I really wasn't nervous were the years of preparation that my job had provided for me.  Working as a Dean of Women required me to interview around twenty women in a semester's time.  I also met with three ladies a week to discuss their lives and responsibilities as student leaders.  Much of this experience refined my question asking skills and ability to articulate my thoughts.

Do you remember the poster on the wall in your seventh grade classroom that said something like, "You can do whatever you want to do"?  I've been told that I believed that message, and it has contributed to my overwhelming self-sufficiency.  Although this characteristic is often times my biggest flaw, in this situation it provided me much comfort.  Tell a stranger about all my dirt and skeletons in the closet?  "Okay.  I can do it!"

If I had to pick a word to describe the tone of the interviews it would be harmless. Most of that was provided by Liz.  Talk about a Joe Friday!  She initially came across to me as being cold, which is ironically the first impression I give others, but I figured that quality was needed in her job, providing a service yet not getting too attached.  As the interviews proceeded I began to see Liz's humanity and joined her in the process of providing as much integrity to the home study as possible.  Of course there's the temptation to sugar coat my weaknesses as an individual, our struggles as a couple, and my past and present failures.  I knew each question wasn't an opportunity to disqualify us from adopting as much as it was to provide each birthparent with the opportunity to accurately know us, thus providing them with a clear picture of what their child's life with us would be like.  With this attitude, I knew there was no reason to feel threatened as someone I barely knew dug deep into my heart and life.

All of our fertility treatments brought Chris and I closer together over the years.  The adoption process only continued to do so.  It's always encouraging to hear your spouse rattle off your best qualities when asked to describe your strengths.  Early in marriage Chris and I tried to find a common hobby for us to share as a couple.  We tried and tried to find something that both of us equally enjoyed.  For as much as Chris and I have in common in regards to zeal, drive, and stubbornness, you'd think we could find something to do together, but alas, there was nothing.  He likes the outdoors.  I like being indoors.  He likes walking up a mountain.  I like walking through outlet malls.  He doesn't like playing games.  I always win at games.  Probably why he doesn't like playing them!  We eventually decided our shared interest was food and dining out, but deep down we probably are both thinking that it is a lame excuse for a hobby.  The adoption process was a good reminder that we are on the same page, the same team, having the same goal in mind.  We wanted a baby.  Together.

So, what else was on my mind during this time of waiting?  A nursery and a name.

More to come,
Amanda

Monday, January 16, 2012

Nothing to Hide

To my knowledge, anyone in the U.S. who wants to adopt, domestically or internationally, is required to have a home study completed and approved.  Chris and I went into it with the attitude, "We have nothing to hide."  We were going to be open, honest, and transparent, no matter what question was asked of us, and if Liz found something in our lives that disqualified us from adopting, then so be it.

The first interview lasted about three hours.  It began with us giving Liz a tour of the house.  We walked through every room, including the basement, and she jotted down a description as we went along.  She was looking for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, functioning doors and locks on all doors {this has yet to be addressed upstairs.  We don't have one door that functions properly up there.  Oops.}, and adequate space for a child to live.  After the tour Liz asked us a broad array of questions.  What is your neighborhood like?  How do you resolve conflict as a couple?  What are your strengths and weaknesses?  How would you describe your spouse in three words?  What does your family think of you adopting?  Would you describe yourself as culturally minded people?  And on and on.  The three hours went very quickly.

Before Liz's next visit, Chris and I were to complete personal questionnaires independently of the other person.  We couldn't share our answers or talk about the questions at all.  These questions were much more detailed.  How would you describe your childhood?  It asked about child discipline, alcohol and drug use, past relationships, your spouse's history, and on and on again.  Liz's second visit was four hours long.  Two were one on one with me, and the other two were with Chris one on one.  She went over our questionnaires with us individually, clarifying, asking for stories and further explanations, and I must say that by the end of it, she knew far more about me than my best friends and family.

A month after the first interview we had our third.  It's now the end of March.  This interview was two to three hours, going over any remaining questions that Liz had and clarifying previous answers given.  So what is Liz doing with all of this information?  She used it all to compile and compose our home study.  In the end, it was a twenty page document, all written by Liz, with everything that we talked about.  There wasn't anything that we talked about that didn't make it in that document.  It was alot of work for her and took a little over two months for her to complete.

I was always, and still am, so appreciative of all of Liz's work.  January was her first month working as a case worker, and we were one of about twenty families that she was working with.  She was always very careful and respectful of everything we divulged to her, and she would often refer to her "crazy weekends" that I later learned involved last minute adoptions and placements.  She traveled all over to people's homes and hospitals, and she was the only full time case worker in her office.

So with all of the interviews completed, our only responsibility was to wait for approval.  Birthparents couldn't look at our profile until we received it.  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.

More to come,
Amanda