Saturday, August 30, 2008

Open Adoption Revisited

In the past couple of days I've assembled all of the supplies and baby gear we will need to take care of Clio in the hotel for a week, since R will be "full-term" at 37 weeks as of Monday. I've piled all of this stuff on a bench in our great room, ready to throw into the car when needed. This pile includes a car seat, moses basket, bag of diapers and wipes (disposable for the hotel), bag of baby clothes, blankets, towels, etc., video camera and breastfeeding supplies.

It has been hard for J and me to feel that this adoption is real, but this pile of stuff is helping it sink in.

One of the reasons that Clio doesn't feel as real as Lucy did is due to the fact that we haven't yet met R or G. We were supposed to meet G back on August 6th, but he didn't show. We later found out that he'd had a medical emergency a couple of days prior and the drama of that experience had erased our appointment from his mind. We completely understand. We have a tentative appointment to meet him this coming Tuesday, September 2nd, but for various reasons that might not happen either. Of course I will post about it if it does occur.

There is a chance we may never meet R, ever. This makes me very sad, because my open adoption ideal, going into this process last year, was to have an ongoing relationship with the birth parents. In open adoption, the "match meeting" is key to beginning this relationship. I understand that R wants to protect herself from the pain of knowing us and seeing us raise her birth daughter, but I hope that some day she realizes that opening herself up to knowing us on a more personal level than our profile will be beneficial for Clio.

Based on the reading we've done to prepare for adoptive parenting, we know that some adopted children feel the following about their adoption: confusion as little children, angst as older children and anger as teens/young adults. This is reality and we cannot stop Clio from experiencing some confusion, angst and anger as she comes to term with the choices that R, G, J and I made about her future before she was old enough to have any say in the matter. However, qualitative and quantitative research suggests that adopted children who know more about their birth parents experience less trauma while going through these emotional phases. Clio may be more psychologically healthy if she knows for sure that R and G love her, and that they didn't make adoption plans because she is defective in some way. The more contact she has with them growing up, the more sure she can be of these things.

With M & T, I felt as though we were building a healthy relationship. We took photos of the four of us together, grinning happily over M's belly. What a treasure that would have been for Lucy some day, to see all four of her parents in one photo, united in love for her! Going to M's doctor's appointments, I got to know her as a good friend. Having her at my church baby shower was fun (yes, a bit awkward) and furthered my image of what our relationship could be after Lucy's birth. I pictured M & T coming to Lucy's baptism, attending her first birthday party, perhaps even joining our church! M's 13-year-old daughter asked if she could babysit Lucy and I told her yes, as long as she got CPR training. I had a cozy image of M & T as aunt and uncle figures in Lucy's life. I pictured Lucy growing up never doubting that all four of her parents loved her.

I pictured wrong. In the end, the friendship we fostered with M & T became one more painful aspect of losing Lucy. Their decision felt personal, because we know that they fully understood how much we love that little girl and they knew how much they were hurting us. On the other hand, we also know that they will lavish love on Teresa. We empathize with how much it pained them to leave her in the hospital that Saturday morning; we understand that they had bonded with Lucy and couldn't let her go. Understanding and empathy doesn't erase our pain, but it has helped us to forgive them for hurting us.

This time is so different. No match meeting, no doctor's visits, no ultrasound pictures. R, G and Clio are still wholly intangible to us; they only exist on paper and in theory.

Many people have commented to me that they think this experience is better because it doesn't require an emotional investment from us. I'm not sure what I think. On the one hand, perhaps this lack of contact is what J and I need right now, since this is happening so soon after losing Lucy. On the other hand, if this adoption goes through, I will regret not having had the opportunity to build a relationship with R & G before Clio's birth. After her birth, it becomes too easy for us to go our separate ways, exchange letters and pictures for awhile, and then lose contact. This is a familiar pattern in open adoptions, and it is prevented most effectively by the birth parents and adoptive parents establishing a relationship before the baby arrives.

If R & G maintain their distance after the adoption, Clio will have lost an opportunity to know the people whose genes and love for each other combined to create a unique and beautiful human being. For her sake, primarily, I hope that R & G realize how important they are and end up being open to open adoption. It may be hard for them to be open, because witnessing her growing up will remind them of the painful choice they made. Openness may be hard for J and I too, to have Clio tell us someday that she likes R & G better and wishes they had kept her (actually, this will happen whether or not R & G are in her life, and it will happen around age 16 when we tell her she can't drive to ...insert place name here...with her friends for the weekend).
Don't get me wrong; openness can be very rewarding for birth parents and adoptive parents. Our relationship with M & T was on track to be a strong friendship. However, the bond we form with R & G, if any, will never be about the four of us. It will be about Clio.

Adoption can be described (loosely) with the metaphor of a coin: heads is the joy of the adoptive parents, tails is the grief of the birth parents; what connects them is the love both sides feel for the child they hold in common, and that bond is valuable.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Flight from Kansas City to D.C. and back: 25,000 frequent flier miles
Cost to check one bag with U.S. Airways: $15
Cost for gas in Jen's Prius to drive from Reston, VA to Easton, MD and back: $26
Rack rate of hotel room on the club level of the Annapolis Sheraton: $325
Amount spent at Annapolis Sheraton: J's hotel points + $12 in tips
Quality time with friends: you know, priceless

I had a wonderful long weekend, visiting Jen and Deanna. Here are the highlights:

Thursday, August 21st: I flew into Regan National Airport, Jen picked me up and we went back to her house to put together Deanna's diaper cake for her baby shower. I love making them, so maybe I'll do a post about it later if anyone is interested in instructions. Then her hubby, John, came home from work and we went to the Melting Pot for dinner. It was actually not awkward being a third wheel, because I enjoyed sharing a bottle of wine with John since Jen is PG and not drinking. It was sad not to see Eric because his grandpa had come to pick him up that afternoon and take him back to Crozet for the weekend.

Friday, August 22nd: Jen woke me up by sitting on the side of the bed and crying like a newborn baby. :) We packed up and drove to Annapolis, where we checked into the Sheraton, walked across the street to the mall, saw Tropic Thunder (in which Tom Cruise is hilarious) and I introduced Jen to The Children's Place and Lush. Then we took the hotel shuttle downtown, walked around the harbor and ate dinner at Aqua Terra, which was delicious.

Saturday, August 23rd: We woke up, did our hair and makeup, put on flowery dresses and felt like we were about to attend a wedding! We drove over the bay bridge (beautiful!) to the eastern shore of Maryland and to Deanna's baby shower. It was, without a doubt, the most lovely baby shower I've ever attended. It was at a country club, mimosas were served (first time I've seen that at a baby shower, and I loved it) and the brunch and desserts were fabulously yummy. Even better, Deanna's friends are all wonderful people and it was fun to chat with them and celebrate Snippet's impending arrival. Being there, you could feel how happy everyone was for Deanna and her husband, and how loved Snippet will be. After the shower, Deanna and her husband went home and Jen and I went to the local outlet mall, where I spent money on clothes that Clio doesn't need (but the Baby Gap onesie was only $2.99!) and Jen spend a couple of hours on her cell phone, calling in her draft choices for a fantasy football league. Please imagine, if you will, a 2-months pregnant woman in a flowery dress, sitting on the carpeted floor of a Carter's outlet store with her fantasy football magazine and a notepad in front of her, speaking intensely (and sometimes colorfully) on her cell as her husband participates in a live drafting event at a friend's house on the other end of the line. Hilarious. After the draft was (mostly) over and I was done shopping, we drove back to Deanna's house, where Jen finished her draft and I got to see Snippet's nursery. Deanna's house is adorable and the nursery is beautiful. They still have work to do with carpeting and decorating the walls, but when it is done, the nursery is going to be like the rest of the house: cozy and inviting. Then Jen, Deanna, a friend of Deanna's and I all went out to dinner at Out of the Fire, where I had a scrumptious crab cake. I like to take advantage of seafood when I'm on a coast, since fish in the Midwest can be a little questionable sometimes. It was so sad to say goodbye to Deanna after dinner, because soon both of us will be moms and it won't be as easy to see her every summer like we have for the past 4 years. I *hear* that traveling with babies can be a tad stressful. I'm determined, however, that at some point we'll introduce Clio and Snippet and celebrate overcoming both of our infertility!

Sunday, August 24th: Jen and I woke up, ate breakfast at the Sheraton and drove to Crozet, to her parents' house. I got to see Eric for the first time since he was 2 months old. He's now almost 8 months and absolutely adorable. Babies at that age are so much fun because they are easy to please; all I had to do was kiss his cheeks, sing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" to him or even just smile at him and he would reward me with a big, genuine grin. True, he is a bit fussy right now because his top two teeth are coming in, but he is a "good" baby; Jen and John are blessed. We ate the famous Crozet Pizza and watched the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. Is it just me, or did they seem especially bizarre to anyone else? Especially the memory tower and the London 2012 bit. I got a bit weepy thinking that the next time I watch the summer Olympics, Clio will be almost 4 years old and might ask me for gymnastics lessons.

Monday, August 25th: We drove back to Reston with Eric and did some shopping. My favorite moment of the day was holding Eric in his diaper as Jen prepared his bathwater and sang to him "It's getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes, if you want to take a bath, you gotta take your clothes off" to the tune of Nelly's "Hot in Herre." Jen was funny, but Eric was even more hilarious, giggling and squirming in my arms. It is precious to see how much he loves his mommy singing to him, even if it is a hip-hop song with rated R lyrics. ***ETA: Jen did not sing any colorful lyrics, of course!*** :)

Tuesday, August 26th: I went house-hunting with Jen, Eric and a realtor, since Jen and John need a bigger place with a second baby on the way. This experience made me grateful for the reasonable real estate prices in the Kansas City area and reconfirmed that J and I have made the right decision by staying in K.C. and not looking for a job for J in D.C. J's boss is in D.C., he travels there all the time, we love Virginia and we have friends and family there, but it is just not worth the financial pitfalls of living in NoVA. We are definitely staying here as long as possible, but we want to retire in Virginia eventually. Then John came home early from work to stay home with Eric and Jen drove me to the airport, where *I* ate sushi (*and she, being preggo, ate dumplings*) before I went through security. It was hard to say goodbye to her, because we don't have firm plans for "next time" and she might be a mom of two the next time I see her. Long distance friendships are hard enough, but long distance friendships between mothers of newborns are...I can't find the words to describe how hard it will be to have intelligent phone conversations when we're both busy and exhausted. I'm thinking we'll be doing a lot of e-mailing?

I'm grateful that I had a chance to spend a long weekend with good friends. Friendships like the ones I have with Deanna and Jen are nourishing to the spirit. The love I received and gave on this trip will sustain me through these next few weeks of waiting for Clio.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Teeter Totter

One month ago today J and I got the call about Clio.
(Approximately) one month from now we will hold her in our arms for the first time.
Tomorrow, the faculty, staff and students of my former school will begin classes.
I will be waking up at 10 am, doing laundry, quilting and watching the Olympics.

Transitions are hard enough, but long, drawn-out transitions are torturous. I wish I could go to school tomorrow (although the waking up at 5:30 am part was never fun) and talk about literature all day. One of the perks of being a teacher is that the busyness of a semester sweeps you up in a wave of time and deposits you neatly into another vacation. Yeah, so part of that wave is grading innumerable essays and nagging students about uniform violations, and again, waking up at 5:30 am (hit the snooze button) 5:39 am (bam!) 5:48 am (wham!) 5:57 am... At this point I must stop and thank J for being a wonderful husband and always (when he was in town) making coffee around 5:30 so that when I finally rolled out of bed I was able to perk up and get ready by 6:40 when I had to leave for my 45 minute commute. Back to my original point, part of me wishes that I were going back to teaching. I would be so busy that September 22 would arrive in the blink of an eye. Plus, my students were/are bright, challenging young women and the faculty and staff at my school are wonderful people. I miss them.

It's like that Britney Spears song, "Not a Girl..."

I'm not a Mom, no longer an English teacher (go ahead, try to sing it)

Thank goodness I have an awesome trip to look forward to. I'm flying into D.C. on Thursday, visiting with Jen (college roommate, bridesmaid and BFF extraordinaire), who happens to be (surprise!) newly preggo with her second baby after having her first this past December. She's more than a little freaked out, as you can imagine, but she's a wonderful mother and she will "make it work," I am sure. I'm psyched that I'll get to hang out with her while she's raising a 7-month-old and struggling with morning sickness concurrently. I know how to change diapers and do laundry, so I'll be a welcome guest, I hope. :)

Then I get to drive up to Maryland and visit with Deanna, who started out as an iParenting friend way back in 2004 when J and I were TTC. She and I had very parallel journeys for quite awhile until she got her BFP a month or so before J and I got the call about Lucy. She is one of the sweetest people in the world (hyperbolic, but true)...even my crazy grandma thinks so. (She's also funny and a great writer and you should read her blog if you don't already.) Anyhow, because my grandma lives in Virginia and I make regular trips to see her, I've gotten to see Deanna every single summer for the past three years and I was going to be very sad to give up that tradition this summer, so I'm thrilled to be able to see her after all. Yay for frequent flier miles and hotel points!

After I return home next Tuesday, however, I'll go back to quilting and dusting baseboards and pulling nut sedge out of the lawn. Yawn. I'm off to watch the Olympics with a glass of wine.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Here We Go Again

I got a call from our social worker; she met with R today to develop a birth plan. Parts of it are extremely different from M & T's plan, but some key parts are very similar and those similarities are ringing warning bells in my head: "danger, danger, you are setting yourself up for more pain and heartache!" I think the perfect word for how J and I feel about this adoption right now is "skittish." I'm not sure when that feeling will dissipate, but I imagine it will be the moment our lawyer calls us from court and lets us know that R & G's parental rights were just terminated by the court and we were awarded temporary custody. Yes, in Kansas we don't have to be in court for the initial hearing, our lawyer (at $5,000,000 an hour or some such...I mean, $400 an hour) can be our proxy. Anyhow, I digress. Here is how R wants the birth to go:
  • R goes into labor, calls our social worker, who calls us
  • R goes to the hospital and we follow fairly promptly (it is a 40 minute drive, as opposed to 5 minutes to the hospital where Lucy was born), after packing our car tight with baby stuff (to be explained below)
  • R labors while we wait, in the waiting room, for who knows how long
  • R delivers and the nurses skedaddle Clio out of the room ASAP into an adjoining room to clean her up etc. The only thing R wants to know is what Clio weighs and if she is healthy, she doesn't want to see her, hear her more than necessary and definitely doesn't want to hold her at all.
  • The nurses call us back to hold Clio for the first time, give us our own room and then we take care of Clio until she is discharged.
  • The hospital transfers R to a different ward to recover so that she doesn't have to be in the maternity ward and possibly see us or hear babies crying
  • Our social worker will make a visit to the hospital at some point, and R & G might want to meet us at that point, as long as Clio is in the nursery during the meeting
  • As R is discharged, her lawyer and ours will meet with her to get her signed consent (and G's) to terminate parental rights

Then, after R's discharge, here is the timeline (this is via our lawyer, not R):

  • Our lawyer takes the signed consent to court and has us designated temporary guardians (this is where the wonderful phone call happens and most of the weight lifts off of our shoulders). At this point the court will give our lawyer a court date for the adoption to be finalized, 30-60 days later
  • We leave the hospital and check into a hotel in Kansas (we are not allowed to cross the state line into Missouri, where we live)
  • We care for Clio in the hotel for between 2 and 10 days (here is where the car full of stuff comes into play) while Topeka (capital of Kansas) and Columbia (capital of Missouri) send bureaucratic paperwork back and forth to give us authorization to take Clio across the state line (the 2 days is if all of the appropriate state employees are not on vacation and don't have a paperwork backlog, the 10 days is worst case scenario)
  • We get our clearance from the states and bring Clio home!
  • 30-60 days later we go to court to finalize the adoption. As required by law, our lawyer will send certified letters to R & G to notify them of the court date and if they would show up at court at that point to contest the adoption, the judge would require that they prove they were coerced into signing away their rights (or that G is not the real birthfather, or some such other "good" reason). Basically what I'm saying is that the finalization is a formality and R & G really can't change their minds after they are discharged from the hospital unless our social worker has been bribing them secretly....yeah, I doubt it.

So, the part that is different from Lucy's birth is that we had so much involvement with M & T, whereas we'll have almost none with R & G. The part that's similar is the amount of contact with Clio. Contact=attachment=love=risk of pain. That is what my heart is screaming at me right now. But we can't say no, and we don't want to. Aren't there cliches about love being risky? Yeah, I thought so. If this adoption falls through, we'll be just as devastated (though less shocked, maybe?). If this adoption succeeds, all of the worry and risk will be worth bonding with our daughter from the very beginning.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


J and I aren't really childless, since for the past nine years we have treated our dogs like children, as many childless couples do and most infertile couples do. Our adoption social worker tells us that she is actually concerned to meet potential adoptive parents who don't have animals they treat like babies, because it is so rare! This post is devoted to my dogs and how they will interact with Clio.

Here are my "babies" as they are right as I'm typing this. First, Apollo:

This is typical Apollo, taking up as much of the couch as he can. We call him affectionately our "lazy old beagle." We adopted him from the Capital Area Humane Society in Columbus, Ohio (we lived there as newlyweds) when he was about three years old, making him about 12 years old now. He has a benign growth on his side that you can see in this picture, and arthritis that we treat with pain medication daily. His favorite things are stealing human food, sleeping in the sun and patrolling the backyard for rabbits, cats and squirrels. He has behavior issues after having been neglected/abused by previous owners, and I credit him with having made me a more patient, forgiving person, which will come in handy as a mother. :) He is very smart, and we have lots of stories about his mischief; our favorite is the time he ate an entire roast after J was cooling it too close to the edge of the counter. Apollo loves kids, if they can pet him, but he steers clear of babies who want to pull his ears and tail. We're not worried about his interaction with Clio, but I am dreading the fact that he has never met a blanket he didn't want to curl up in, so I'm going to have to be careful or all of Clio's blankets will be covered in his wiry white belly hairs.

This is Phoebe:
We adopted Phoebe from the same shelter in Ohio, about a year after we got Apollo. (At the time we thought Apollo's behavior issues might be helped by having a companion...nope.) We adopted her as a 6-week-old puppy and she was too cute:

This picture is from her first week home with us, weighing 6 pounds. Now she weighs 50 pounds and is 8 years old. Phoebe is a mutt. We don't know for sure, but we believe she is black lab (you can see it in her coat color and in her face/head and she lives to fetch), basset hound (shows in her body shape, barrel chest and short legs) and border collie (shows in her curly tail, white chest and foot markings and her herding instincts). She is the type of dog who needs a "job" and our greatest failing as doggy parents has been that we didn't do a great job harnessing that energy when she was younger. Because we didn't give her jobs, she chose her own. They are: fetching things, barking at the doorbell and keeping an eye on everyone. When there is one person in the house, she is always in the same room and when there are multiple people she positions herself to have most of them in view at any one time. Her fetching days have slowed down with developing arthritis, but she is still relatively healthy.

I've called Phoebe my "baby girl" for the past 8 years and it will be interesting to see if I stop doing that after Clio comes home. Probably not. We tried very hard to socialize her as a puppy, but her temperament tends toward "scaredycat" and her list of phobias includes: lightening/thunder, fireworks, garbage trucks, vacuum cleaners, drawers (if they are opened near her), baby gates (one fell on her as a puppy) and babies. She freaks out when they lunge at her, which they inevitably do, and then she growls or barks, all of the adults freak out, and that makes her even more scared. She had never bitten anyone, but we are still worried about how she will react/adapt to Clio.

When my 12-month-old nephew was here for a week in June, she had a couple of run-ins with him on the first couple of days (just as described above) but then spent the rest of the week keeping her body between him and the front door, protecting him. This would have been great, except that my nephew has a dog at home that looks a lot like Phoebe and he spent the entire time trying to get to her so that he could play with her. It was exhausting keeping them apart, and I hope that is not my everyday reality 12 months from now.

I empathize with Phoebe, though, because she hasn't lived with a baby before and isn't used to them, and baby pinches hurt! The best case scenario is that Phoebe will gradually adapt to having a baby in the house and by the time Clio is old enough to crawl to her, she will not be as scared and sensitive. I do realize, however, that since she is an older dog and older female dogs have a tendency to be grumpy anyhow, I'll need to be there to supervise interactions and make sure Clio doesn't have an opportunity to do the typical grab and squeeze. Even though Phoebe's never bitten anyone, I don't want to find out if she ever will.

Even if Phoebe adapts well to Clio, another concern is about how she and Apollo compete for food. We don't give them food from the table, but they will sometimes push each other around or growl/bark at each other if someone is giving treats. On a few occasions, Phoebe has gotten frantic that Apollo is getting a treat and that treat should be hers! and she has lunged for it. J and I have had our fingers nipped in that situation; not enough to draw blood, but enough to hurt. Because of that, we try not to give treats unless we're throwing popcorn for them to catch, giving them each a treat at the exact same time, or putting a treat in their bowls with their food. The problem is that all babies and children instinctively know that it is fun to drop food from their (high)chairs to the dogs below. As soon as we start Clio on solids, she is going to be the dogs' favorite family member. Sigh. I can accurately predict what would happen the first time Clio reached her sticky hand down over the edge of the high chair with a Cheerio between her fingers and both dogs were there waiting...and I'm not going to let that happen.

One option is to shut the dogs in another room while I'm feeding Clio, but that would be a pain. I'm leaning toward doing a refresher course on obedience with the dogs, so that I can tell them to sit and stay in a place away from the table during meals and then reward them with a few Cheerios (or whatever) from my hands afterward.

Our dogs both went through obedience school, but we haven't done the work involved to make them truly obedient. Most of the problem comes in the duration of the requested behavior. Both dogs know "sit," "stay" (they think this means a couple of seconds), "lie down," "off" (as in get off the sofa), "out" (as in get out of this area/room, but they don't necessarily stay out if there is something fun happening in that room), "heel" (which lasts for a minute tops) and "no" (which they interpret to mean that we are mad, which is usually true). Phoebe is very eager to please us and is quite trainable, so it should be fairly easy to train her to stay away from the table during mealtimes. I'm crossing my fingers here. Apollo is hard to train because he only wants to perform if there's something in it for him (especially food). If you have food in your hand, he even knows how to "shake."

Sorry this is such a long post; it's an issue I've been mulling over since March. With Lucy, we brought home a blanket from the hospital that she'd been swaddled in for several hours, and let the dogs sniff it. They didn't seem to care, but we'd read that it would help them identify Lucy as a family member when we brought her home. We'll do the same with Clio, and also take the advice that when they first meet her she should be swaddled, to protect her hands and feet, and that we shouldn't expose her face to them at first, in case they think she is a new chew toy we've brought home for them (some dogs do, apparently).

Any sage advice?

Monday, August 11, 2008

One more blanket...

Well, the last thing that Clio needs is another blanket, particularly a "lovey" blanket, as she has a couple of dozen blankets of one sort or another already, including 3 "loveys," plus a quilt on the way from my mom (which is going to be a gorgeous keepsake quilt with a Classic Pooh theme) and two crocheted afghans on the way from a friend and my late grandpa's wife (not my grandma). However, none of these dozens of blankets that she already has were made by me, so here is my contribution to the stash:

I made this last night, after a trip to Jo-Ann Fabric yesterday afternoon. It is in the style of T*gg*es brand blankets, which are very popular because babies love to rub and chew on tags. It's common for babies to suck on the tags on stuffed animals or play with the tags on their clothing or someone else's clothing, so these blankets cater to that impulse by providing lots of tags to choose from! A blanket like this is $24.95 from T*gg*es, but I made it for less than $4 and it only took 1/2 hour to finish. The blanket is a super-soft fleece, light pink with embossed stars. I bought 6 inches each of seven different ribbons, cut them in half to make two tags of each ribbon and then folded the ribbon halves in half again to sew them into the seam of the blanket (the blanket is backed with the same fleece, although some loveys use a silky fabric for the backing).

The upper left tag is a bit wonky because I got it too close to the corner, but Clio won't care. If I'd paid more for the materials or spent more time on it, maybe I would have ripped out the seam and done it over, but I didn't and I won't. :) I'm working hard at subduing some of my perfectionist tendencies so that I'm not an uptight mom.

Doesn't it seem obvious that if I can make this for $4, it would be a great ebay business to make these and sell them for less than the $24.95 T*gg*es price? Yeah, lots of people have tried it and T*gg*es is quick to throw patent law at them and threaten to sue them, so if you want to make one of these, don't sell it!

Friday, August 8, 2008


We are considering/have considered Beatrix as a first name, but we are terrified that someone, someday will shorten it to "Trixie" and then she'll become a stripper and we'll feel like it was our fault. Are we being paranoid?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Name Drama

We were supposed to meet G today, but when we showed up at our SW's office, he didn't come. She says it's not like him, so he might have forgotten or something is going on. She's going to call and let us know once she talks to him and finds out. But, I'm disappointed because we were excited to meet him. I was going to post about the meeting, but instead I'll write about the naming drama that is going on around here.

First of all, is it or is it not too weird to keep "Beatrix" for a middle name? We just love it so much and love that it means "bringer of joy" because that's exactly how we feel about adopting. But, we can find another name that means something good if it's weird to use it again. Advice?

Second, we are dealing with grandma drama. Not Clio's grandmas, but ours. My maternal grandma is very interested in names and tried to convince my mother to name me Deidre when I was in utero. Obviously, my mother ignored her. The very first phone call with my Grandma about Lucy, back when she was still Clio, yielded the same result. "I think Deidre is a nice name, don't you?" She is so persistent! I expressed to her at that time that we weren't taking suggestions, but she doesn't listen. With this Clio, she was even more pushy and in the very first conversation I had with her she suggested her own name: "Joan." Please. When I laughed off her suggestion, she moved on to pushing "Vanessa." No. Yesterday she called me and suggested "Luanne." !!!

What makes this situation worse is that one of the names we are considering right now is J's maternal grandma's name. This grandma has passed away, but J was very close to her and I got to know her quite well also.

Pros to J's grandma's name:
  • Unlike "Joan," her name has a very cute way to shorten it and make it more modern.
  • This grandma was such a sweet, wonderful woman and pretty much the archetypal grandmother character. She was very smart and adventurous and we'll have great stories to tell Clio about her namesake.

Cons to J's grandma's name:

  • It is old-fashioned, like "Joan," and even though we'll call her the cute shortened version, I've always been told it's a mistake to name a baby something you don't really like and won't call her. For a long time I really liked "Josephine" for a girl so that I could call her "Josie," but I just don't like "Josephine" enough to risk that she'll want to be called that when she's eight, or fourteen, or whenever. The name we are considering is old-fashioned enough that I'm sure many people will cringe when we announce it and ask "what were they thinking?!" I know that shouldn't influence me, but it does. Rest assured, the shortened version is cute and people who don't like it are just wrong. :)
  • Grandma Drama! My grandma (the one I wrote about above) will inevitably find out how we chose the name (we're not sure she knows what J's grandma's name was, because they only met once, at the wedding) because it's too big a secret to keep forever, and when she finds out she will be offended. I'm sure of it. On top of that, I have another grandma who passed away several years ago and J has another grandma who is living. I doubt J's living grandma will be offended, but you never know. There's a slight chance that family on my dad's side could be mildly miffed, but the grandma on that side had a very unusual name and I think everyone will understand. I'm really worried about my grandma. She is a "difficult" person and we've all learned that it's in our best interest to keep her happy (I have a long history of failing at this). Deanna and Jen have met her and understand my dilemma. :)

OK, even though I wrote more about the cons, there are still two pros and two cons. Advice, anyone? Thanks!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Adoptive Breastfeeding Confessional

Today, Lucy/Teresa is one month old. I am sad. But, I am very happy for my brother-in-law and new sister-in-law, who had a beautiful wedding on Friday and are now honeymooning in Chile. J and I were in Minneapolis for the wedding this weekend and had a wonderful time with J's family there. We are back home now and have very few plans between now and the birth of Clio. Now that I'm in full waiting mode and have little to distract me, I'm starting to accept the reality of Clio and I'm confronting some decisions that need to be made. The primary issue is what I'm going to do about feeding her. So...

Another thing I haven't written about much, because I have felt very conflicted about it: my experience with preparing to breastfeed Lucy. The last I wrote about it was April 26, after getting my (stolen goods) hospital pump in the mail. I tried to post about it several times in May and June but I wanted to wait until I had something concrete to say, and then...well, here's what went down (warning, some of this is kinda TMI):

Late April through May: I used my pump between twice and five times per day, usually while watching TV. I am not a morning person and only at first was I able to make myself pump in the morning before work. After that, I'd pump after I got home from school and then before going to bed. The amount of time varied from 15 minutes to an hour (sometimes I'd be watching TV and the time would just slip away from me, I got used to the sound of the pump and it didn't bother me). On weekends I'd pump up to five times during the day. Because I did this in front of the TV, I started watching things like The Real Housewives of Orange County because I would empty out my Tivo "Now Playing" list so quickly. Sigh. The pump didn't hurt at first, but I noticed that around the time of my period I would have some pain and ended up getting advice from online friends to use olive oil as a lubricant. Giggle. After pumping, I'd use Lanisoh to prevent irritation and cracking, and the combination of olive oil and Lanisoh led to several of my shirts and tank tops having oil stains you-know-where. Just a warning to those of you who may follow suit, don't wear shirts you like. I had heard/read that nipple stimulation can lead to milk production without any other intervention, but because I've never been pregnant (and thus never had the associated breast changes) I wasn't surprised when all of this pumping got me exactly zero milk. I told myself, however, that I was toughening up my nipples for later. Yeah, right.

Mid-May: Because my pumping wasn't producing any milk, I decided to take the plunge and buy medication from an online pharmacy. I was wary at first of trying medication because I have allergies and asthma and already take medicine every day for those. I don't like adding pills to my regimen unless absolutely necessary. But, I decided to go ahead and try. Around this time I was diagnosed with my fibroid and need for surgery, so I kept the meds until after I recovered.

Early June: I began taking meds (while continuing to pump) and, after a week, began producing small amounts of milk. In April, I wrote that I refused to wake up in the middle of the night to pump, but as soon as I got those first few drops of milk while pumping, I went a little nutsy and started sleeping with my cell phone on vibrating alarm mode to wake me up in the middle of the night, so that I could pump every 3 hours without fail. I can't figure out how to describe accurately how it felt to see milk coming out of my nipples. It made me feel like a super-hero. It made me amazed at how God created women. It made me feel like a mother. All of those cliches and more. After about a week and a half of this, I was pumping a few milliliters from each breast each time. It doesn't seem like much, but it was better than nothing. Other mothers and the literature told me that I shouldn't worry; Lucy would be better than the pump at extracting milk and stimulating my breasts to produce more (J, the engineer, thought it was ridiculous to think that a newborn could do better than an expensive pump).

Mid-June: one night, I awoke to feel my heart pumping irregularly. It felt as though it were pumping from right to left in my chest, jumping from side to side. It was unlike anything I'd ever felt my heart do, and I knew immediately that it was a side effect of the medication. I talked to my dad about it (he's an MD) and he said that while it wasn't going to give me a heart attack, because I'm young and my heart is healthy, it is tiring for my heart to have an arrhythmia, and so I needed to stop the meds. So, I did. My heart immediately went back to normal. And, a few days later, although I kept up my 8x per day (middle of the night included) pumping schedule, I stopped producing milk.

Late June: I decided to stop pumping because without any milk it seemed silly to go through the motions, which would have been quite inconvenient to accomplish in the hospital during Lucy's birth, etc.

Now: I (of course) won't be taking meds again, and I think that without the meds it's very unlikely that I'll produce any milk. I have two choices:

1. Feed Clio with a bottle of formula and use nursing as a bonding experience only (I'll be a human pacifier, not a source of food). Pros: J can help with feeding and bottles are easier to clean; Cons: feeding from a bottle might give Clio what's called "nipple confusion" and make any sort of nursing relationship difficult or impossible.

2. Feed Clio with a Lact-Aid and hope that the stimulation helps my breasts produce milk. Pros: Clio will learn how to nurse and it will be a good bonding experience with her, plus, there are benefits for her ears and jaw development that come from nursing, not just from breast milk. Cons: using the Lact-Aid can be a PITA and a hassle to clean the tiny tubes between each feeding, especially while staying in a hotel in Kansas for a week.

I'm very conflicted right now. I know that many of you who read this will think I'm a bit crazy, or a lot crazy, for being so attached to the possibility of adoptive breastfeeding, and it's hard for me to explain how I feel about it. I'm not in denial, trying to pretend that I'm Clio's biological mother. I'm not trying to put enormous pressure on myself to be super-mother; I know that no mother is perfect. What I am trying to do is give myself and Clio this amazing, natural experience of mother-baby bonding through nursing. I've heard so many women talk about nursing a baby as one of the most wonderful and rewarding experiences of being a mother, and I feel (stubbornly) that I don't want to have to give that up. I feel gypped that I might never get to see a positive pregnancy test and feel a baby kick inside of me. I feel sad that I'll never have a natural childbirth. I'm still grieving the fact that I may never get to mother a kid whose genes are a combination of J and me. I don't want to add to that a feeling of remorse that I never experienced a breastfeeding relationship either.

I know that this subject can be controversial; it is one battle in the "mommy wars" that can rage between well-intentioned women who make different mothering choices. For the record, I don't at all judge or disapprove of women who choose to bottle feed. This is about me and Clio, not about anyone else.

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