Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

The start of a new year begs for reflection.  And so here is mine.

When I look back at 2012, there are many things that stick out sharply in my mind.  Here are some of them in no particular order: 

*My wife: This past October marked our first full year of marriage.  I couldn't be happier.  I couldn't have found a better match for me.  I couldn't have asked for a better partner to travel through this life with.  I am so thankful for her, who she is, and all that she gives to me.  Thank you, Carla, for being the most wonderful wife, the most fun partner in crime, my strongest support, and my perfectly matched Scrabble partner.  I cannot wait to be a mom with you.  You have so much love to give to our child and I cannot wait until the day that I get to see you holding our baby.  

*My dad's health: After a really scary year, my dad is incredibly healthy and happy once again.  I have been so inspired by his strength through his illness and continue to be inspired by his courage through his recovery.  I have never felt closer to my dad and am so thankful that he is healthy once again.  I can only hope to be half as good as a parent as he has been to me.  He has taught me so much and made me feel so confident in this world. I am so very proud to have him as my dad.  

*Family: I have never needed support from my family in the way that I have needed support from them during this past year and throughout this adoption process.  I can't believe the way that they have been there for me.  I have fallen apart to various members of my family at various times throughout this past year and they have caught me in such incredible ways.  I am lucky to have a mother who loves me for every single thing that I am and who will put her own problems away to help me deal with my own.  I am lucky to have a sister who cares so deeply about me that she cries when I cry and offers the kind of support that truly reminds me that things are going to be okay.  I am also incredibly lucky to have forged strong relationships with members of my extended family.  My sister's husband and my wife's family have all shown me that family is not defined purely by blood.  They have all been incredible through this process so far and I feel incredibly lucky to have a family that now extends far beyond the one that I grew up with.  

*My nephew: He is just the funniest, smartest little guy and his laughter and joy have brought me out of the deepest kinds of sadness this year.  

*Friends: Sometimes it hard for me to know where family ends and friends begin.  I have never been one to have loads and loads of friends, but I have always been one to have a few of the most amazing friends that anyone could ever ask for.  Some are from junior high school, some from high school, some from college, and some are from work.  I have been blown away by their support this year.  From friends who have quietly worried when they didn't hear from me, to friends who stopped by with wine and ice cream because they knew it was exactly what I needed.  I am so lucky to have these people in my life.  

*My students: They will never know what they have done for me this past year.  2012 gave me two incredible groups of students.  There were days when this adoption process brought me to some of the lowest places I have ever been to, but somehow walking into a room filled with these kids always helped.  I am thankful to get to learn from kids like these every day. Throughout this year, I have been inspired by and in awe of the children that I have the privilege of teaching. Waiting for our child, is made significantly easier by having all of these other children in my life to love.  

*Death: I have had to say goodbye to very loved members of my family this year.  Their absence is felt so very much, but their presence is equally felt.  I am thankful for all that they were able to give me throughout their very full lives and I am thankful that they were able to live the end of their lives with dignity and peace.  

*The struggles: Adoption is not an easy process.  They told me that at the beginning, but only now am I beginning to understand it.  I know there are a lot more struggles ahead for us along this road to adoption, but I have to say that I am thankful for the struggles that we have already encountered.  Each time we overcame a hurdle, I grew a little bit more.  I became a little bit stronger.  I developed a true sense of faith in the person that I am, the couple that we are, and the process that we are involved in.  Leaning into the pain that this adoption process has brought has allowed me to develop things within myself that I never knew were there.  I feel better prepared now to face whatever comes.  I feel better able to seek out and accept the support that I will need moving forward through this process.  

*This blog:  This blog is now over a year old.  When I started writing, I had no way of knowing the importance that this space would have.  I am so thankful for what this blog has given me.  It has given me a place to vent, a place to put the things that are too heavy to continue carrying around, a place to help people understand what is going on throughout this adoption process, a place to seek support, a place to receive support, a place to offer support, a place to seek validation, and a place to sort things out that are too confusing to sort through while they swirl around in my mind.  

So while it has been a challenge, 2012 has brought me a lot of blessings.  Some of them I recognized at the moment they entered my life and some of those blessings I have not been able to understand until much later.  But as I end this year, I feel an incredible sense of gratitude and an incredible sense of hopefulness.  Carla and I have said many times this month that we believe 2013 is going to be OUR year.  We are not sure exactly what that means, but as we look ahead into this new year we see good things in our future and we know that we will be ready to accept them whenever and however they choose to arrive.  

Happy New Year everyone.  May it be filled with all sorts of things!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Month 5 Books

As I have written about before, each month that we are on the wait list, Carla and I each purchase one book that become a part of our child's library.  That way, when our baby finally finds us, he or she will have a library full of books ready to come home to.

We are just days away from being on the wait list for six months, so I thought I would write about the books that we bought for month five of waiting.

The first book is one that has been recommended to us by multiple people. In fact, the first time that we went into our favorite bookstore, Women and Children First, one of the store owners suggested this book for us.  She was the same woman who helped us find books about adoption when we first began our whole journey and she has been there on several occasions when we have returned to that very store to buy our monthly books.  The book is called Mommy, Mama, and Me.

Mommy, Mama, and Me by Leslea Newman

It is an adorable books about a child with two moms and all the things they do together.  The book doesn't attempt to preach or send any calls for action.  Instead, the book simply shows a family of three (one child and two moms) going about their daily activities.  Again, it is one of the books that makes me feel confident that our child is going to grow up in a world that, while not perfect, has come such a long way.  It fills me with such joy to know that our child will see families like ours reflected in the books that we read.  As a teacher, I know the importance of books needing to be both windows and mirrors.  Books should be windows to let our children see into worlds that are unlike their own, but they also need to be mirrors where our children can see themselves reflected on the pages they read. This lets our children know that they are not alone and that there are many people like them in the world.  It shows them that they matter and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with who they are.  I am so happy that this book is now a part of our collection.

The next book is one that Carla has looked at every time we have gone to the bookstore.  The book is called Hippopposites.

Hippopposites by Janik Coat

The book is an adorably simple book that uses a delightful hippopotamus to demonstrate opposites.  Carla loved the bright drawings and happily pictured herself looking through the book with our child one day.

The last book was a last minute addition that we just couldn't pass us.  The book is called I Am Small.

I Am Small by Emma Dodd

This book is such a cute story told from the point of view of a baby penguin.  The baby penguin talks about how small he feels and how big and fast the world can seem to a little guy like him.  The end of the book reads, "I am small. But you are big and you are kind. When I'm with you, I do not mind.  I may be small, but I can see the biggest thing to me." I absolutely loved the message of this book and the way that the baby penguin just snuggled right up to his parents.  I love that being with his parents helped him to face the biggness of the world around him.  Adorable! 

So those are our newest additions.  They will soon work their way upstairs, into the one-day nursery, and onto the shelf with all of the other books waiting for our child to read them one day.  

And because I uploaded it by accident, here is a parting shot of our pup, Frankie, helping me to take pictures of the new books.  

Thanks for the help, Frankie!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Quietly Waiting

It's been a while since I wrote about anything adoption related.  The reason for that is that all has been quiet on the adoption front. It seems that the start of our wait was a frantic, chaotic, emotional wait whereas the past few months have been a quiet kind of waiting.  It's been about two months since we were last presented to a mother and I have been thankful for the quiet.  The first few months of our wait took so much out of me.  It seemed as if there was one situation after another and while I was thankful that we were being presented, I was drained from all of the rejection.  So the past two months have been a welcome quiet for me.  

While we wait, we try to do things that keep us focused on what we are doing all of this for anyway.  On one hand we want to make sure that we continue to live our lives and enjoy our moments as a family of two.  But on the other hand, it helps to do things every so often that help us keep in mind the delightful outcome that will come of this process one day.

So here are some things that we have been doing as we wait...

We continue to find things for the one-day nursery.  Our latest finds include a delectable elephant lamp and a few new pieces of artwork to add to the walls.  Here they are:

Our perfect green elephant lamp!

Two new pieces of artwork from a local art show we went to.

Close-ups of the two pictures made from recycled magazine print 

And in the hallway between the one-day nursery and our room, we found this beautiful piece of art work at an art fair this past summer.  We love it and the way it represents the family that we will one day be.

A family of three!
One of our bigger projects (and a big shout out to my wife for making this one happen) has been our family photo collage that we have created on the wall going up our stairs.  It took a whole lot of measuring and patience, but here is the amazing final product:

View from the bottom of the stairs.
View from the top of the stairs.

Now every time we walk up our stairs, we have the beautiful smiling faces of our families look down on us.  Throughout the photographs we sprinkled a few pieces of artwork that we had purchased at the art show we were at recently.  Here is one of them up close with a quote that resonated for both Carla and I: 

It's hard to see with the reflection of the flash, but it says, "Mighty oaks grow where tiny acorns dare to hold their ground." What a perfect quote to speak of where we are in our journey towards adoption.

Besides all the new things hanging on our walls, we continue to grow our book collection.  We have received several books recently from friends and family.  We acquired one more today.  My dad and sister and I decided to have a father/daughter day.  In our family that involves lunch at a kosher restaurant, a trip to the Jewish bookstore, and a visit to the local American Indian Museum which was approximately the size of my kitchen and dining room put together.  While at the Jewish bookstore, my sister insisted that she buy for us one of the books that I got a real kick out of.  Here's the book:  

Again, in case you can't read the text here, it says, "Crossing the street safely, is that a mitzvah too? You bet it is! Be careful! We need each precious Jew!" I love it! I truly laughed out loud in the bookstore, and thanks to my very generous sister, this book is now a proud member of our book collection.

Well, I do believe that is it in terms of what we have been doing as we wait.  As we wait, we continue to try to fill our home with as much love as possible so that when we do bring that baby home one day, he or she will feel all that love and know that we have been waiting, as patiently as we can, for him or her to come home.  

And we will continue to wait.  Quietly or not.  I won't lie, the holidays had their challenging moments.  It can be hard to be surrounded by so much family tradition while you are waiting to build your own family.  Luckily, we found ourselves surrounded by such love, that it gave us strength and made the holidays easier to get through and enjoy.  And through it all, this quiet faith has settled into my heart.  A faith that reminds me that this will happen one day.  One day we will be that family of three that is already hanging in our hallway.  One day we will fill our home with more than just paintings and lamps.  One day we will fill our home with a child and we will be glad that we spent so much time getting ready for that day.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Back to School

Sometimes, other parts of my life creep into this blog.  Sometimes, other parts of who I am take up more space in my mind, heart and soul than the part of me who is on the journey of adoption.  Today is one such day.  Today, the teacher part of me rose above any other part of me.

This past weekend, we, as a nation, sat around our collective television screens and watched some of the most horrific news coverage that we had ever seen.  Everybody in this country, and perhaps around the world, was deeply affected by the tragic events in Connecticut on Friday.  Everybody felt the pain of the people in Newtown and everybody felt the loss of those incredibly innocent children.  As teachers, I think we felt things differently.  We didn't necessarily feel them more than anyone else, just in a different way.  It hit so close to home.  Those of us who spend our lives in elementary schools, loving elementary school children, working hard each day to protect those innocent minds that are entrusted to us each day, we felt the tragedy in a different way.

When I watched those kids walking out of that school, my heart broke in a thousand pieces.  When I heard about the children who didn't ever get to leave that school again, it was almost too much to bear.  And when I thought about those teachers who would have done anything to protect those kids but weren't always able to keep them safe, I had to look for ways to escape because the thoughts were too much for me to carry.

All weekend, I looked for ways to escape.  I looked in the face of my nephew and listened to his laugh as it became louder than the news reports.  I looked around my home filled with love and worked on projects that helped me to leave the images behind.  I looked to my schoolwork and thought that maybe if I just planned well enough for Monday and maybe if I just planned enough activities to keep my kids busy, maybe it wouldn't be that bad.

And then this morning came.

This morning, going to school felt different.  This morning I gathered with other teachers and all of us felt at a loss for words.  What was the right way to handle this? How do we make our students feel safe when we, ourselves, no longer feel safe? How do we protect our students? How do we maintain their innocence while still respecting them enough to give them a safe time and place to talk about what they have heard and what they cannot understand? We all wrestled with these questions.  We all talked about how this weekend was tough for us in ways we never imagined.  We all talked about being slightly unsure why we were so devastated and why we all found ourselves so apprehensive about coming back to school today.

My principal gathered all the teachers together this morning.  He began in such an honest and heartfelt way.  He said to us, "I have no idea how to start this meeting." His honesty became an inspiration for the rest of us as we looked for ways to talk to our students.  Teachers cried at that meeting this morning.  We love our students so much, that the mere thought of them being unsafe brings us to tears.  I think we all wrestled with knowing that no matter how much we tried, we might not be able to make our kids feel safe today.  I think we all wrestled with how we could possibly find the right words to talk to our children about incomprehensible things.

And then the bell rang.  And whether we were ready or not, our children came.  Our children came to us and looked to us to start the day.  In my classroom this morning, there was a noticeable quiet.  This is rare for a group of fifth grade students.  But there it was.  As I predicted, students came up to me right away and asked if I had heard about what had happened.  For a few moments I was paralyzed.  I didn't know what to tell those kids.  So I sent them to Spanish and I sent them to PE and when they returned, I was ready.

I sat my students down and began one of the hardest conversations I have ever had to have as a teacher.  To be honest, I had no real idea what I was going to say.  But, I started by telling them that they were safe.  That though the news makes it seem like these things happen all the time, they don't.  Schools are mostly safe places.  They are safe.  They have adults in their lives who love them so much and while I couldn't promise them that they would always be safe, I could promise them that we would all do everything in our power to make sure that they were as safe as they could be.  One of my students asked me if our windows were bullet proof so that would we be safe from guns.  I answered honestly, "No.  And I hope we never have to go to school in a place with bullet proof windows."  I told them that this is a place where we want to have windows and light and contact with the outside world.  We have other ways to keep them safe and we don't want to live our lives in fear.  I wanted them to know, that just because bad things happen in this world, we can't let those bad things stop us from enjoying the good things that we have.

The conversation wasn't long.  We moved on to writing.  Though the conversation ended, I knew there were still fears.  Before recess, a student came to me in tears and said she was afraid to go outside.  She told me she just couldn't take it.  She said she didn't want to think about it anymore and she wanted it to just go away.  This small, ten-year-old in tears managed to voice the feelings of an entire nation.  And all I could do was hug her and tell her that I understood.  I told her I felt the same way.  We should all feel the same way.

We should all feel like we can't take it anymore.  And then we should remember that we are different than children.  Children should leave it to us to figure things out and to make things better for them.  Children should expect that someone else will fix this.  We, as adults, have to realize that while children can afford to feel that way, we no longer can.  We can't just wait for someone else to come and fix our nation.  We have to find a way to do it ourselves.  We have to demand more.  We have to find a real way to make our kids feel safe again.  We have to keep talking about it and let our politicians know that it really matters, perhaps more than anything else really matters.  Only in this way, only if we don't stop talking about it when the next big news story breaks, only then will we really be honoring the memories of those kids and those teachers.

Before I left today, I wrote the parents of the kids in my classroom an email and I thanked them for having enough faith in me and in the school to send their kids to school today.  I know it must have been an unbelievably hard thing to do, but I thanked them for trusting me with their precious children. And then I promised them that I would do anything for their children.  And I meant it.  It is one of the great joys of my life to be a teacher.  And I do not take that responsibility lightly.  Today, more than any other day, I am so proud and so thankful to be a teacher.

And tomorrow I go back to school once again.  We all do.  We all fight our way through the last few days before winter break.  We hug our students, maybe a little more than usual, and we help them, and ourselves, to remember that we are here to keep them safe.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Power of Vulnerability

A few months ago, someone suggested to me that I watch and read the work of a woman named Brene Brown.  I did. And it was amazing.  The first thing of hers that I watched was the following TED talk that she gave: 

What I connected with the most was Brene's message of how people who live a whole hearted life are people who allow themselves to be vulnerable.  This was kind of a profound thought for me.  I am someone who prefers not to appear vulnerable.  Ever.  I hate when people see me struggle.  I hate the mere idea that someone might think that there is something that I don't know how to do or that I am not good at.  In fact, if I even think that I might not be able to do something, I either refuse to attempt it or make a joke out of how bad at it I am so that no one will think that I am really trying and not able to do it.

What Brene Brown says really resonates with me.  If we do not allow ourselves to be vulnerable, then we will never do the very things in life that might one day bring us the most joy.  I remind myself of this on the days when the waiting is the hardest.  I know that this struggle is a choice.  We have chosen to go through this.  We could have very easily stayed happily in our certain world, without a child.  But we didn't.  We decided we wanted to adopt a child and we therefore decided to put ourselves in a position to struggle.  We are choosing this struggle and I know that it will ultimately bring us to the most rewarding happiness that we have ever known.  That certainly doesn't make any of it easier, but it does help remind me that being vulnerable often leads towards happiness and it makes it all seem so very worthwhile.

Anyway, I thought that I would share her talk with the rest of you.  If you have some time, give it a listen.  She is truly amazing and I think that most people would be able to connect to the things that she says.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Feeling Good

It feels like much of this adoption process is spent working my way back to feeling good.  Each time we are presented, and each time we are told we were not chosen, there are feelings of such disappointment.  It turns our whole world upside down and then we have to work our way back to feeling right side up again.

I feel like we have officially worked our way back to feeling good.  We are back to feeling right side up.  And all I know is that I am going to make absolutely sure that I enjoy these good moments while they last.  Who knows what is ahead of us.  There is no way to tell how long this calm will last, so all I can do is enjoy it while it is here and that is what we are both working hard to make sure that we do.

This weekend was wonderful.  We spent time celebrating Hanukkah with family.  We celebrated the first birthday of our very close friend's son.  We went to a wonderful art show and bought some amazing pieces of art for our home.  We are now sitting at home, working on our latest project.  We are attempting to create a collage of photo frames containing pictures of our family members to go on the wall up our stairway.  It has been so fun picking out photos and searching for the perfect frames to use in the collage.  I love that we have been able to fill our home with so many things that speak of who Carla and I are.  Having an entire wall dedicated to our family, will certainly add to that.

This is how we know we are back to a good place.  We are able to live our lives as they are right now, instead of just being consumed with how we wish they could be.  We are able to focus on the things that are right in front of us while we wait for the things that aren't here quite yet.  I have learned to love these times and these moments and be thankful each time I find myself truly able to live in the moment.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Paying to be Gay

Sometimes, the gay marriage debate turns into a discussion about how we, as gay and lesbian people, want gay marriage to be legal so that we can call ourselves married just like everybody else.  While it is true that it is hard to turn civil union into a verb and thus difficult to explain that we "got" a civil union, the debate itself is about way more than a word.  This has become glaringly obvious to me over the past few weeks.

Carla and I are trying to get as many baby things figured out as possible so when the time does come when we are able to adopt a baby, we don't have to run around frantically and figure things out (I know, I know, we will still have to run around frantically and figure things out).  But one of the things that we can figure out now, is whose insurance we will be putting the baby on.

When we were presented to a family whose newborn baby had several medical issues to deal with, we stopped to take a close look at both of our insurance plans.  We realized that my insurance provides significantly better coverage and requires fewer copays.  This led us to believe that it would be better to put the child on my insurance.  The way that my insurance works is that you either pay for single or for family.  Once you pay for family coverage, there is only one cost.  Therefore, it costs the same to add a child to my coverage as it does to add a child and spouse to my coverage.

So I then set out to try and figure out what I would need to eventually do in order to add Carla and a child onto my insurance.  First, I had to clarify for the benefits coordinator that Carla and I are not domestic partners, but considered to be have a civil union since we got married in Vermont. Because of the Civil Union Bill in Illinois, any couple who is married in another state that allows gay marriage, is considered to have civil union status here in Illinois.  Those who have a civil union are to be treated, in terms of benefits, just as any other married couple would be treated.  So once, I explained that, it was clear that I did not need anything other than our marriage license.  I have no problem explaining this to people and take absolutely no offense when people are not sure of the difference.  I figure that I am one of the few people in my school district who has ever needed to go through any of this and certainly since the civil union bill has passed here in Illinois.  So, that was no big deal.

Once we clarified that all I would need to put Carla on my insurance was a copy of marriage certificate from Vermont, I realized that there was a bit more to the situation.  Usually, benefits that are extended to a spouse are considered non-taxable income.  However, since the federal government does not recognize Carla as my spouse, the money that is considered to be given to me to cover medical insurance for Carla is taxable income.  That means, that I will have to pay an extra tax because I am covering someone who the United States government does not consider to be my spouse.

I have spent the past few weeks trying to figure out how much this tax will be and I am still left without a clear answer.  I have to assume it is not all that much, but we want to know if it is more or less money than what Carla is currently paying for health insurance through her work.  But that is proving to be more of a challenge than I anticipated.

None of these are issues that can't be overcome, but I can't help but be resentful that we have to deal with this at all.  I think it is such a good example of just how important marriage equality is.  It is easy to think that the argument for gay marriage is purely theoretical.  That it is only the idea of being married that matters, but there is so much more to it.  There are so many things that people don't think about that people are entitled to purely because they are married.  Those are things that we have to run around and "figure out".  Things that just happen for other people, don't happen when you don't have the right to a married status.

I truly hope that one day, none of this will be an issue.  I hope that one day everyone will be able to get health insurance in the same way, for the same price.  Until then, I think it's important to keep pointing out the things that are difficult for gay and lesbian couples just because we cannot get married and just because the marriages and unions that we do have are not recognized by the federal government. Until the Defense of Marriage Act ends, we will always be subjected to a different set of rules. And think that people need to be aware of that.  I think that the more that people realize just what a difference it makes to have the right to get married, the more people will be more willing to demand marriage equality for everyone.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Story of a Stool

This is why I love my wife.

This past weekend, Carla and I did some major shopping.  In general, we both hate shopping, so this had the potential to be a large-scale disaster.  However, the day turned out to be both enjoyable and productive.  We headed back to our old neighborhood in the city and spent the morning and early afternoon walking up and down the main street, stopping in multiple shops to try and finish up as many presents as we could for our nephews and niece.

As we were walking past an antique furniture store, we passed a small, old, yellow stool.  As soon as we walked by it, it caught my eye.  I pulled Carla back and told her how cute I thought it would be in our nursery.  She agreed, we stared at it for awhile and then headed into the next store.  In the next store, we found a few things we decided to buy.  We are putting together a photo frame collage of family photographs in our stairwell and we found two picture frames that we thought would be perfect. I was finished up paying for the picture frames and Carla headed outside with the rest of our bags.

As soon as I finished paying, I walked outside to find Carla and didn't see her anywhere.  I looked up and down the street and decided to check in the antique furniture store we had passed.  I walked inside and saw her right away.  She was at the counter, buying me my stool.  She had this huge smile on her face and it immediately melted my heart.  Carla told me that when I pointed out the stool, she was able to picture our child sitting on it, reading a book and she knew we needed to have it.  There are so many reasons that I love Carla, but this is just such a perfect example of the kindness that is in her heart.  Every time I look at my little, yellow stool I will remember just how much I am loved and just how much Carla will love our child one day.

We walked the stool back to the car and as soon as we got home, the stool found its place in our nursery.  And there it will wait, until one day there is a child there to sit on it and read a book.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Book Buying Tradition Continues...

When Carla and I first got on the adoption wait list, Carla came up with a brilliant idea to help make the waiting just a tiny bit more manageable.  Each month that we were on the wait list, we would each pick out one book for our one-day child.  That way, we would be able to grow our child's library while we waited for our child to find us.

The very day we got on the wait list, we went and bought our first books.  I wrote about those first books in another blog post, but I thought I would review the first books and the ones that have come since then.

The first month, we ended up leaving the bookstore with four books instead of two.  Here they are:

We ended up with two Todd Parr books (he is one of my favorite authors and writes a lot about family diversity and being proud of who you are).  Carla bought her very favorite book from childhood, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the book Mama, Do You Love Me? It was a wonderful start to our book collection.

During the second month of waiting, we happen to be in California.  Before we left, Carla did some research and found a delightful independent children's bookstore and so we made sure to make that one of our stops.  It was adorable and I was so happy that our second month waiting books came from there.  Here they are:

Both of these books speak to our family and I can't help but feel incredibly thankful that there are books in today's world that will allow our child to see himself or herself reflected in the books that we read together.  I wish there had been books like these when I was a kid.  I wish that I had the chance to see myself reflected in this way in the books I read, but all I can do is feel grateful to live in a world where these types of books are becoming more and more common.  

Our third month of waiting was a pretty busy one and so we went to our local Barnes and Noble for our books.  The larger, chain bookstores tend not to have as big of a selection of books that promote family diversity.  But, don't worry, we managed to find two wonderful books.  Here they are: 

My choice was a baby's version of one of my all time favorite books, Oh! The Places You'll Go! It is called, Oh, Baby! Go, Baby! Carla's choice was I Like Myself! Two great books for the little one.  

Our most recent book buying brought us back to our all time favorite bookstore, "Women and Children First Bookstore." I could spend hours and many dollars in this store.  There is never a shortage of books with wonderful messages and a wide variety of families represented in wonderful ways.  Again, while we planned to only buy two books, we were swayed at the last minute to buy just one more.  Here is what we ended up with: 

My book was a recommendation from a blog reader.  Everywhere Babies is such a great book and I was so glad that the title was recommended to us.  Again, the book has wonderful representation of all sorts of families and all sorts of babies.  I absolutely fell in love with it as soon as I opened it.  Carla's choice was Zoo Borns! It is such a Carla book! It is filled with adorable pictures of brand new baby animals of all kinds.  Carla is hoping to start our child's love of animals and nature early on in life.  The last book, Penguin and Pinecone was too cute to pass up.  The final moral of the book is, "If you give love, it grows." I loved everything about the book and couldn't leave it behind.  

So those are our current books!  This weekend we decided to label each book in the following way: 

I love the idea that one day, we will be able to look at these inscriptions with our child and talk about the tradition of book buying that started while we were waiting for our child to find us.  Each book got labeled "Waiting for you month __." These books will make a wonderful timeline of our wait and one day we will be able to show our child just how excited we were for him/her to find us.  

In addition to the books that we have picked out, we have a few more additions.  We have an additional three books that have come from Aunts and Uncles to be.  Here they are: 

And then there are a few more books that we got from a variety of sources.  All together, here is our current collection: 

I love knowing that our collection is going to keep growing.  And even better, I love knowing that one day these are the books that we will be able to read together with our child as a family.  

Friday, November 23, 2012


Yesterday was truly the best Thanksgiving I have ever had.  This year, Carla and I hosted both of our families at our house.  Carla was amazing! Carla loves a holiday and she loves to cook.  So once it was decided that Thanksgiving was going to be at our house this year, she kicked it into high gear! There were lists, there was a timeline, there were recipes saved on the computer, it was incredible.  And everything turned out so beautifully.  I was beyond impressed and beyond thankful.

So yesterday afternoon, my family and a portion of Carla's family all sat around our dining room table.  As I looked around the table, all I could feel was thankful.  And I couldn't help but think about the past year.  Yes, I have struggled through the adoption process. Yes, my dad was sick.  Yes, we lost beloved family members.  But none of that is what I thought about.  Instead, I thought about how lucky I am that my incredible father battled his way back from such illness and is now in a wonderfully healthy place and is able to enjoy life and enjoy our family and be there for all of our celebrations.  I thought about how lucky I am that I have the most wonderful and supportive family, with an adorable little nephew who entertained all of us until he passed out asleep upstairs from too much fun. I thought about how lucky I am to have a mother who has been exhausted beyond belief by the year that has passed, but somehow finds a way to keep being there for the rest of us and found a way to get herself to Thanksgiving lunch with a smile on her face and love to give to everyone. I thought about how lucky I am to have a sister that is also a best friend and who provides me with immeasurable support and love.  I thought about how lucky I am to be able to host our family, in our home that I am so proud of. I thought about how incredibly lucky I am to have married a woman who will stay up until midnight after working a full day and then get up at 6:00 the next morning just to make us all a Thanksgiving meal filled with an incredible amount of love.  I thought about how lucky I am that one day, hopefully in the not too distant future, I will be able to be a mom with this incredible woman to an incredible child and we will get to spend all of our future Thanksgivings together as a family of three.

And then I just felt really lucky.  While things have been, and will continue to be, hard, I am so lucky.  There is so much in my life to be Thankful for and I was reminded of all of it yesterday.  And when I woke up this morning, there were all the leftovers.  Yes, there is a fridge full of leftover stuffing, turkey, potatoes, and pie, but there are also these leftover feelings of gratitude deep in my heart.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Home Visit and A New Counselor

Clearly, I have a bit of free time. Two blog posts in two days.  In an attempt to procrastinate writing the rest of my report cards, I thought I would give everyone a small update.  Small, because not much has happened since the last time we were presented.  However, on Monday, two adoption related things did happen.

First of all, we had to have another home visit.  Every six months, someone from our adoption agency has to come out and check out our house (mostly just check to see if our fire detectors still work) in order to keep up our DCFS licensing.  It used to be that these home visits totally freaked me out.  I would worry about if the dog would behave (she rarely does) and I would worry about if the house was clean enough (it rarely isn't).  However, like everything else in this process, we are starting to get used to the home visits.  They no longer hold the same kind of power that they used to.  They no longer inspire fear in me.  They do inspire me to clean the house (which was handy since we are having Thanksgiving at our house this year) and they do inspire us to stock up on chewy things to keep the dog occupied.  All went well.  The home visit itself only took a few minutes and it was done.  Fire detectors work.  The house is still well-suited to raise a child in.  Our pets are still overly friendly to all who enter our home.  So now we have another six months until we have to do another home visit.  That means another six months until the basement floors get a good mopping!

In addition to the home visit on Monday, we also met our new adoption counselor.  The counselor who has been with us since the beginning of our work with our agency has been reassigned to a different department.  She will now be working on the post-adoption side of things.  So on Monday, she came to our house with our new adoption counselor who seems very nice.  While I have not always seen eye-to-eye with our first adoption counselor, it was a little sad to leave the comfort that we had established with her.  I am sure that we will attain that level of comfort with our new counselor, but I also know that it will take some time.  One of the nicest things about the meeting was that we got a chance to hear from our first adoption counselor how much she really liked us.  I often wondered what she really thought of us, because she is a hard lady to read.  But, it was really nice to hear the things that she told our new counselor about the kind of couple that we are.  So now, I look forward to working with our new counselor and hope that she will be the one that is with us until the end.

So that is it.  That's the only update that we have for now.  It has actually been really nice to not have a lot of activity right now.  It has been nice to return to the normal kind of waiting.  It has been nice to be able to return to the kind of waiting that allows you to almost forget, though not entirely, that you are waiting.  It is nice to have a chance to focus instead on cooking Thanksgiving lunch, which is an entirely different kind of challenging.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I am a stuffer.  No, not the kleenex in your bra kind of stuffer.  A feelings stuffer.  I am getting much better as my life goes on, but from a very early age I was a stuffer of my feelings.  I would pretend that everything was fine, until it built up to a point where I couldn't take it anymore, and then I exploded.  People usually couldn't see it coming, but when it happened, there was no mistaking it.

It is only recently, perhaps starting with my coming out, that I have learned to be honest with people about what I am feeling.  It is still not easy for me, hence this blog, but I am learning to answer honestly when people ask me how I am doing.  Because this is still a relatively new skill for me, I am still not quite used to always hearing people's reactions to my emotions and some people are still not used to hearing my honest emotions.  But what I have loved most about this blog is that it is easy for me to share with people how I am feeling throughout this adoption process.  From the safety of my own home, tucked away behind my computer, I can let everyone in my life know what I am really feeling without having to actually say it over and over again.  It has been wonderful and really freeing.  In many ways, it is the most emotionally honest I have ever been.

However, opening myself up like that sometimes results in some messages that I am not always prepared to hear.  Opening myself up and being completely honest invites the kind of advice that I spent much of my life shying away from.  After the last few blog posts, I have received lots of advice.  I am so touched that people care enough to want to reach out and am even more touched to know that there are people who are rooting for me throughout my life.  What I know about advice is that it is always so well-intentioned.  But what I also know about advice, is that it is sometimes hard to know the right kind of advice to offer.

Over the past few months, I have heard one piece of advice over and over again.  "Be positive.  You have to stay positive."  I have heard this more in the past few weeks ever since I entered my fairly significant slump.  I completely understand why this advice is given and I have often given it myself to many people in similar emotional places.  But for some reason, this piece of advice was upsetting to me in a very deep way.  I couldn't figure it out for a long time.  Why should this bother me? Why did I somewhat resent being told to stay positive?

After a lot of thinking and talking, I have finally figured it out.  I dislike being told to stay positive because I believe that I have never stopped being positive.  That was it.  It was the assumption that my sadness somehow automatically disqualified me from being positive.  The truth is, my positivity is so much bigger than my sadness.  Let me try to explain.

This road to adoption is filled with so many ups and downs.  The downs are really hard, which makes sense because the ups are so very high.  It hurts to fall from a place that high up.  So when I hear a no, I am sad.  I am disappointed.  In some ways, I am even grieving.  I grieve the loss of the idea that starts to take shape in my mind of our life with a child.  Hearing no makes me sad in a way that I have never been before.

But here's the thing, being sad doesn't mean that I don't think this is the right path for us.  Being sad doesn't mean that I don't think that this will all work out when and how it is supposed to.  Being sad doesn't mean that I think we should give up or that it is never going to happen.  It is quite the opposite in fact.  I believe with my whole heart that things WILL work out when they are supposed to.  I believe  with everything that I have in me that we WILL adopt a child.  I believe with one hundred percent certainty that Carla and I will be mothers to, what I will believe to be, the most wonderful child in the world.  All of the sadness that I have experienced has not changed any of that.

That is how I remain positive.  To be positive does not mean that I will never feel sad and never feel disappointed.  It does not mean that I will never feel frustrated with our current situation.  But it does mean that I do not want to give up and I do not want to change the course that we are on.  This is what we have chosen to do and this is what I continue to believe is the right choice for us.  So please know that I have not grown any less positive.  Sadness does not equate with negativity.  When I cry because things didn't work out the way I thought they might, I am not crying because I think things will never work out.  I am crying for that moment. But I have never lost sight of the bigger picture.  I can clearly see in my mind how it will look the day when things do work out how I want them to.  And as long as I can still see that picture, I know that I am still thinking positively.  And now, I hope that you all can see that as well.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Feeling Better...Finally

Today, I felt like a normal human being.

It took a lot to get back to this point.  Most of the work was done by the amazing people around me.  The kindness that has come from friends, family, coworkers, my amazing wife, and even from strangers has been so overwhelmingly heartfelt, genuine and supportive.  It is what has brought me back.  The randomly kind flowers brought to me by a coworker, my wife cooking dinner on the nights when I was too overwhelmed to stop working even for a few minutes, a delicious plate of homemade cookies brought into work as a moral booster, friends sending emails insisting that I join them in something fun to take my mind off of sad things, friends sending texts knowing that I wasn't going to be able to respond.  It has all been what has brought me back.

Last week continued to be awful.  I returned from Florida and simply was not able to pull myself out of things.  Once I allowed myself to admit I was truly still sad, things got easier.  Once I no longer tried to act happier simply for the sake of other people, I actually began to feel genuinely happier.  And then just when I thought I was coming out of things last week, work threw a real curveball at me.  I got called to the principal's office.  For real.  There were some meetings where I offended some people.  I stood up for the kids at our school who struggle with math and who I worry will be left to struggle on their own without the support that they need and while perhaps I stood up too loudly and too forcefully, I do not regret the things I said.  Sadly, our administration didn't quite agree with me and I got called into the principal's office and ended up having to apologize for things I wasn't really sorry for.

Had this happened last year, I would have kept fighting.  Had this happened last year, I would never have apologized, but in that moment I just needed the whole thing to go away.  I have worked so hard these past few weeks to get back to a good place and all of this with my administration was truly just dragging me right back down.  And while I will never, ever, change the type of teacher that I am, I decided that it would be better for me to change the type of employee that I am (at least for now).  And so, I made a decision that sort of made my heart break, I decided to just let go and worry instead only about the twenty-one precious children in my classroom.  I am leaving the rest of the fight for someone else.  As I said, a year ago, I could never have imagined saying those words, but there is simply too much other stress in my life to take on one more fight.

So this week, I went back in to work and vowed to leave the fighting to someone else.  I walked directly into my classroom early this morning and didn't leave for the rest of the day.  My children made me smile in multiple ways and I was so happy to be back and focused on the people who are really important, my students.  They allowed me to take those final steps back to happiness this morning.  And by the end of the day, I actually felt rejuvenated instead of drained and exhausted.  I felt hopeful instead of frustrated.  I felt lucky instead of cheated.  And all I can do for now is hold on to these good feelings for as long as they might last.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Serious Funk

Thursday night, I hit bottom.  Literally.  I fell down the stairs.  I blame it on slippery socks and complete and utter exhaustion.  I sat in a heap at the bottom of my stairs and cried.  As Carla came running down the stairs to check on me, I truly felt like I just gave up in my heart.

Well, there has been forward progress.  I am no longer spontaneously erupting into tears (well, maybe, it almost happened once today, but I managed to stop the tears before they fell).  I can feel things getting better, however I still find myself deeply entrenched in a pretty serious funk.  It's hard.  I want to return to my normal self.  I want to be able to sleep through the night and not deal with the headaches I have had for the past week.  I want to be able to not get frustrated by things easily.  I want to be able to make it through a meeting without yelling at my administrators (okay, that might happen no matter what condition I was in).  I want to just get over it and be okay.  But, sadly, I haven't been able to.

I find myself stuck in this place where I want to act like everything is okay because I know that is what people expect.  But, at the same time, I am just not there and the more I pretend to be okay, the worse it seems to get.  So I do what I tend to do best.  I retreat.  I don't answer phone calls.  I don't reach out.  I tend to walk into my classroom early in the morning and stay hidden safely inside of the walls of my room.

I have been overwhelmed, as I often am, by the support from people in my life.  The most unexpected people have reached out in the most wonderful ways.  I wish people knew what a difference it makes.  When I go to extreme measures to isolate myself, it makes a world of difference just to know people are still thinking of me and ready to provide help when I am ready to accept it.  As I have said before, this journey would be much harder without the support of the incredible people in my life.

But I guess that support can only do so much.  I don't want to let people down.  I don't want people to see that I am just not ready to be positive again quite yet.  I don't want people to know that I am still just really sad.  I know it's funny that I say I don't want people to know and yet I am writing it for all of you to see.  So I guess what I really mean is that I don't really want to explain all those things.  I just want to be all of those things.

In a way, I guess this post is sort of my apology.

I am sorry for not being much of a good time right now.  I am sorry for not really carrying my weight at work or with my family or with my friends.  I am sorry for not really being the Jess that I usually am.  I like to think that I will get back there soon.  I like to think that this headache of the past few days will go away and I will resume taking joy in the things that used to bring me joy.  It is just going to take a few days.

In the mean time, Carla and I are about to go vote.  For tonight, I will hope for good things with this election.  And then, perhaps after that, I will hope for good things in general.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


I'd like to spare you all the details.  We had another no.  This one was particularly hard because of the timing.  We found out on Tuesday of last week that a mother had requested to see our profile.  She requested us and three other couples.  We decided to tell no one.  We are starting to get how this whole process works and we are coming to realize that the fewer people we tell, the better.  So the waiting began.  Our profiles were given to the mother on Thursday.

On Saturday night, I found out that my grandmother passed away.  My heart instantly hurt for my mother, who has dealt so bravely with so much this past year and now had to deal with the loss of her mother.  My heart hurt for my grandfather who loved my grandmother so very much and whose entire life purpose these past few years has been to take care of her.  Theirs was the kind of love that made you believe that people really do love each other for entire lifetimes.  And now he must find a way to live without her.  I was so deeply saddened.  I wanted to get on a plane the very next day to go and be with him and to be with my mom and to be with her family.

But instead, I was waiting.  I couldn't get on a plane without knowing what decision this mother would come to.  I was so stuck.  I didn't know what decision to make.  And then my mother called and in her infinite kindness and wisdom, she told me that I was not to get on a plane until I knew what was happening.  She reminded me that my grandmother was so excited that we were in the adoption process and she would have wanted me to stay even if there was only a small chance that this could be our child.  My mother will never know how much those words meant to me.  I decided to stay here in Chicago until I heard either way.

On Tuesday we heard.  It was a no.  You would think that this would get easier.  And in some ways it has.  In some ways, knowing what to expect makes the no so much easier.  In other ways, this was the hardest no yet.

Wednesday was Halloween.  An elementary school teacher's most difficult day.  But I went to work.  I allowed myself to get lost in the kids for the day.  I cried a few times while they were out of the room and then I put a smile back on my face and made sure to make the day a good one for them.  As usual, it was hard not to smile around them.  We had a good day.  We had a great party with parent volunteers who took care of every little thing.  I somehow made it through the day and then came home and by the time Carla got home from work, I just sat on the couch and cried.  I haven't really stopped since.

Tomorrow, I will get on a plane and fly to Florida to be with my family.  I so badly want to be able to put my sadness aside to help my mom and my grandfather to deal with their own sadness.  One of the hardest parts of this process for me is that I don't really love the person that I am becoming.  I kind of hate the sad version of me.  I hate the jealous part of me who looks on Facebook and gets a little sad when I see that someone else is pregnant.  I hate the mopey part of me that feels like doing nothing but sitting on the couch and eating the rest of the leftover Halloween candy.  I hate the part of me that dropped my dog off at the "pet hotel" tonight and then got in the car and couldn't stop crying.  I know I have to allow myself to be that person, but it doesn't stop me from disliking it.

I try to always leave these posts with a smidge of positivity.  I can't do it today.  I know that I will feel better after this weekend.  I know that this will all be worth it someday.  But right now, in this moment, I am just kind of miserable.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What I Have Learned These Past Three Weeks

What I have learned these past three weeks is that people are simply incredible.  I have learned that, when I let them, people step up in amazing ways, to be there for me.  When I let them, people will go out of their way to make me smile and make me feel just a little bit better.

What I have learned these past three weeks is that I am surrounded by people who care.  Carla and I are surrounded by people who are rooting for us. We have amazing people in our lives who are as excited at the thought of us having a child as we are.  Not only, however, are they there to celebrate the successes, but they are there in so many incredible ways to help us pick up the pieces after things don't work out how we would want them to.

What I have learned these past three weeks is that this process is grueling.  As frustrating as the paperwork stage of the process was, this stage is so much more heart wrenching.  We have absolutely no control over what happens. When we are frustrated, there is absolutely nothing that we can do.  This is where we are.  This is what we are doing.  This is the process that I have faith in, that I believe will work for us one day, that I know creates the best possible situation for the child.  This is what we are doing.  Though it can be heartbreaking, we are in it now.

But, the other thing that I have learned these past three weeks is that we are incredibly strong.  Yes, we crumbled when we heard it was a no.  But then, somehow, we have been able to pull it all back together and keep on going.  Because that is what you do.  That is how you build a family.  No matter what circumstances you are faced with, that is what you do. That is what we are choosing to do.  That is what we will keep on doing, until that one magnificent day comes when we get a phone call and it's a yes.  That's why we will keep going.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Another No...

Well, now we know it does get a bit easier.  Not much, but certainly easier than the first time.

That's right.  Today we got our second no.

Again, let me back up.

So what I didn't mention in the last post was that on the same day that we got our first no to a potential adoption match, we also were presented with a second situation.  This situation was a bit more complicated than the first and there was a bit more to think about.  Not only was I still reeling from the first situation not working out, but now I was faced with making a difficult decision that I just didn't feel prepared to make.

The complicated parts of this new situation were a medical condition that we didn't know much about and some family medical history that gave us some things to think about.  After I calmed down a bit from the first situation, Carla and I were ready to start thinking about the second situation.  It was an unbelievably difficult decision to make.  We were forced to be really honest with ourselves and think about what we could handle and what would be right for us and our family.  Luckily, I am married to a woman who believes in taking action and learning as much as she can about any situation that we confront.  (As a side note, here is an example that helps illustrate the differences in how we handle things.  Our back door lock broke.  My solution was to call someone to come out and fix it.  Carla's solution was to research how to fix the door, buy a six dollar part at Home Depot and fix it herself.  Our back door is now fully functional.) So while I sat on the couch completely overwhelmed and paralyzed by the decisions we had to make, Carla researched the medical condition, placed multiple phone calls to doctors, spoke with a child psychologist that we saw present at one of our classes, and ended up speaking with the head of hematology at Children's Memorial Hospital.

By Monday, I was ready to listen to what she had learned.  The child in this new situation had a mild form of Hemophilia.  He also had some mental health issues in his family.  After listening to all the information that she had gathered, I started to believe that maybe we could say yes to this situation.  Maybe there was a reason this situation and this child came along when they did.  Maybe this was something that we could not only handle, but do really well with.  By Tuesday morning, I knew my answer was yes.

So on Friday of last week we were presented to the birth mother.  We were one of four families who was presented to this mother.  Again, we began the wait.

Waiting for an answer was much easier this time around.  It was easier for me to believe that it was truly up to fate.  It was easier for me to believe that if this child was supposed to be a part of our family, he would be.  It was easier for me to wait calmly and know that what was supposed to happen was going to happen.  And so that is what I did.

And then today after school, right before I went into a meeting, I received a text from Carla that we were not chosen.  This time, I was able to put it aside for long enough to make it through my meeting (though I certainly was NOT the best version of myself).  But as soon as the meeting was over, I was crying in the copy room.  Luckily, I was able to get a good solid hug from a coworker and then head home.

On my way home I made the necessary phone calls. Carla, then my sister, and then my mom.  I cried to all of them.  Received sympathy from all of them.  They all knew that there was nothing to really say.  Nothing to make it any better.  I know all the things that anyone could possibly say. I know that it will happen one day.  I know that this meant that this wasn't the baby we were supposed to have.  I know that it will all be okay.  But in that moment, I just didn't care.  I was sad and I was thankful that sad is exactly what they allowed me to be.

One of the hardest parts of this situation was the amount of thinking that we had to do to even say yes.  We couldn't help but think about what our lives would be like with this specific child.  We had to imagine this specific child in our home.  We had to think about what our family would look like with this specific child in it.  We had to imagine our lives with this specific child in order to make a responsible and informed decision. And then today we had to un-imagine all of that.  That was the part that really got me this time.

Throughout this evening, there were moments of tears, but there were also moments of laughter.  I didn't quite feel the complete devastation of the first no, but there is certainly a deep sadness that has settled into a very heavy heart.  I do believe that I will wake up tomorrow morning feeling better, but this stuff is just so hard.  It is significantly harder than I thought it would be and I am still getting used to all the feelings that go along with this phase of the process.

So tomorrow morning we wake up and return to our normal lives.  It is nice to not be waiting for an answer for the first time in two weeks, but it is also scary to not know when the next situation will come along.  It is just one of the many sets of conflicting emotions that go along with this adoption process. It is just one of the many things that we must learn to live with for now.  But, I am learning to manage.  I am learning to let go of the things that are out of my control.  And I am learning that there is just no predicting what will come next in this journey that we are on.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Blog Changes

Okay well there is really only one change, but I am very excited about it.  I found this new background and feel like it is much more me.

I suppose that's all I have to say for now, but I am sure I will have more later.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

One Very Long Week

There were moments this week when I thought I might be sitting down to write a very different kind of blog post.  But it turns out that I am writing this post with a pretty heavy heart.

Let me back up.  Last Friday, I happened to check my cell phone when my students went off to lunch.  There were multiple texts from Carla telling me to call her right away.  As two coworkers sat next to me, I called Carla and was told that our adoption counselor had called Carla and told her about a situation that we had to make a decision about.  Each time our profile is going to be seen by a birth family, we are contacted to see if we want to be presented or not.  So that was the decision before us.

The situation seemed pretty wonderful and stressful all at the same time.  The baby had already been born.  He was a week old and was at the nursery inside of our adoption agency. The baby was a healthy baby boy, both of the parents were involved in the process, and for whatever reason, the birth family was requesting same-sex couples without children as potential adoptive families.  So that is how we were brought up.  The only difficult part in saying yes was knowing that if we were chosen, this baby was coming home right away.  After only a few minutes, Carla and I knew our answer.  Carla called our adoption counselor and told her to go ahead and present our profile to the family.

That moment began the longest week of our lives.  We had been well prepared by our adoption agency for this moment.  But no amount of preparation really prepares you for what it feels like.  We knew we weren't supposed to tell too many people, because all of those people would then have to be told that we weren't chosen if that was the case.  We knew we weren't supposed to get excited, because it would only be that much harder to hear if the answer was eventually no.  We knew all these things, but they were impossible for us to do.

And just like we were told not to do, I immediately called my mom and sister to tell them both the good news.  We were going to be presented.  There was a possibility that we were going to be chosen.  As soon as I told them, they were excited.  There was now this excitement building around me.  A few of my co-workers knew, my family knew, and I knew.  The thoughts became consuming.  We knew that they were not giving the birth family the profiles until Monday, but after that we had no idea how long we would be waiting.

Can I just tell you that the "not knowing" is almost unbearable.  Looking back, I don't know how I made it through.  It was hard to sleep, it was hard to eat.  The only time I really was able to not think about the whole thing was when I was teaching the kids.  I started to dread when the kids would leave the room to go to art or music because then I was left alone with my thoughts.  As soon as I started thinking, then things were bad.

As the days went on, I completely understood why we were told to be careful of who we told when we were being presented to a birth family.  Every time I saw someone who knew, I knew that they were hoping for good news.  Every time I talked to someone who knew, I knew that they wanted to hear what we had found out.  It was hard to go the whole week with no information to share.  At the same time, I don't know how I would have made it through the week if these people didn't know what was going on.  I drew so much strength from my family and friends.  I drew so much comfort from my coworkers who truly got me through the week.  My teaching assistant even resorted to tap dancing for me to help me get my mind off of everything.  Talk about true friends! I needed these people to know and though it was hard, I am glad that they were there.

Yesterday was when we found out.  I was sitting in a meeting when I felt my phone buzz.  Carla told me to call her.  I ran outside of the building and called right away.  We weren't chosen.  None of the families who were presented were chosen.  It turns out the birth mother had more to think about then it first seemed.

I was heartbroken.

I didn't think it was going to be that hard to hear the news.  I thought I had kept myself realistic.  I thought I had prepared myself for a no.  But hearing the no was much harder than I thought.  Immediately, the tears started.  Once they started, they were hard to stop.  Here I was, standing outside of my school, in the rain, crying on the phone.  A good friend came out to check on me.  I asked her to go to my classroom and tell my teaching assistant to just keep teaching.  I just needed some time.  I told Carla I would call her back.  One of the challenges about working in an elementary school is that there are few private places to go.  I ended up in our conference room where it quickly became clear to me that I wasn't going to be able to go back into my classroom and teach.  I was so unprepared for the emotions that I felt.

Luckily, I work at this really amazing place with these really amazing people.  I was able to lean on those around me and figure out how I could just go home.  The people who helped me figure it out will never know how thankful I am for them in my life.  To know that I could just go home and be sad and not worry about what would happen in my classroom was such an amazing feeling.  And so, that is what I did.  I left work and just went home.

The rest of the day passed with a lot of tears and a lot of food.  We ate our feelings.  We cried when we needed to.  We told our families.  We received a wonderful delivery of wine and ice cream from a very good friend.  And we were okay.  We are okay.  We are sad and we are also okay.

And most importantly, now we know what it feels like.  Now we know what to expect.

And now we carry on.  It has been an incredibly difficult week.  I am drained in a way that I never really thought I would be.  I have gone from picturing a baby in our house to knowing that it isn't going to happen, at least not right now.  That's a really hard mental shift to make and I am still struggling to settle back into the reality.  A big part of me knew it couldn't possibly have been that easy.  It couldn't possibly have worked out that nicely.  But none of that rational stuff really mattered this week.  My heart started thinking of the possibilities and I am glad that I allowed myself to hope.

So now we are really in it.  Now I know why this process is so grueling.  Now I know why adoption is so very hard.  But I also hold on to the knowledge that I know one day it will all be worth it.  I know that when it is supposed to work out, it will.  It's not that those things make it any easier, it's not that those things make me any less sad about this situation, but those are the things that keep me going.  Those are the things that make Carla and I want to regroup and be ready for the next situation that comes along.  So a sad week ends and we will allow ourselves to be sad.  And we will also know that one day there will be a baby in this house. One day all those people who are waiting and hoping along with us will be able to celebrate instead of comfort.  And one day all of this truly will be worth it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Why We Chose Adoption

This is the first night since the new school year started that I haven't brought home a huge pile of work. Mind you, this is because I arrived at school at 7:00 am and left at 5:30 pm, but I digress.  Being home with no work to do made me think about my lovely, neglected blog.  And I am.

A few posts ago, a wonderful and kind reader of this blog wondered why we had chosen adoption in the first place.  I thought it was a fair question, so here is my attempt at an answer.

Before I say anything about our decision, please know that I do not believe that any one way is the right way for all couples to build their family.  Whether gay, lesbian, or straight I believe that there is a right decision for each couple.  The reasons that worked for Carla and me, obviously don't work for everyone.  But here is how we knew adoption was right for us.

When Carla and I came to the conclusion that we wanted to add a child to our family, we immediately discussed if either one of us had a desire to carry a child.  Not that this is the most important part of our decision to adopt, but it was what had to be ruled out first.  Neither Carla nor I had ever felt a need or urge to carry a child.  Some women know their whole lives that it is something they want, but it was never a consideration for either of us. So right away, we were able to rule out insemination.  

So then, we started to look for reasons as to why adoption might be right for us.  Here is what we came up with:

First of all, adoption provides us this wonderful opportunity to both be equally involved in bringing a child into our family.  We loved the idea that we were on equal footing and that we would be going through the same process together.  Of course we each reacted, and will continue to react to our journey, in different ways.  We know we will each forge a unique and special relationship with our child that will be our own.  But we also knew that we loved being able to enter into motherhood, both filling the same role, both having an equal part in the building of our family.

The next thing that made adoption feel so right for us was the amount of love that is involved in the entire process.  Obviously, no matter how a family brings a child into its life, there is going to be a whole lot of love.  But for us, when we thought about adoption we saw this incredible amount of love on the side of the birthmother.  What an amazing decision to put your own wants aside in order to give your biological child the hope of a better life.  The fact that women do this, simply amazes me.  I see it as an incredible act of love and we both feel so lucky to be a part of that.  We feel so lucky to know that is how our child's life will being, with this incredible act of love.  One of the things that drew us to open adoption was the possibility of a birth family being a part of our child's life.  To have so many people loving and supporting one child just amazes me.  Yes, there is heartbreak.  Yes, the decision a birthmother makes is heart wrenching and something I will never fully be able to understand, but knowing that it comes from a place of such love is one of the big things that drew us towards adoption.  

In addition to the love that goes into the decision to make an adoption plan or to adopt a child, Carla and I were both so taken with the idea of bringing a child into our family that might not have had the stability that we know we can provide.  In a world that so often tells us that we are not as good as other families, we hold on to our truth and know that we have so much love to give.  We are so strong and our relationship is so strong and to know that we can share this with a child who might not have had it otherwise is an incredible thing for us.

Another reason we ended up at adoption has to do with the things about insemination that I knew I couldn't handle.  I know myself and I know that the medical, clinical process of insemination would get to me.  It would have made me shut down. I know that I could have handled it if I needed to, but I also know that it is simply not something that would be my first choice.  I hate all things medical.  I hate that cold feeling of a doctor's office and I knew that if we pursued insemination there would be way more doctor's appointments that I was comfortable with. Instead of feeling like we were on a journey toward building a family, I would have lived the entire time dreading the next doctor's appointment.  Maybe that's a reason that doesn't make a lot of sense to people, but it is how I felt and I was glad I knew myself well enough to know that before we began.

The last reason is one that I didn't realize before we began our adoption journey.  But now that we find ourselves over two months into the wait, it is something that has given me peace during this journey.  While Carla and I wait, we can continue to live our lives.  As we sit on the wait list there are moments of incredible angst and anxiety, but there are also moments when we can completely forget that we are even waiting.  We can go away for the weekend, we can take a trip to California, we can go camping, we can live our lives and not have to worry about anyone's ovulation cycle or waiting impatiently for two weeks to see if we are pregnant or not.  I think it is amazing that there are women who can do that.  I think it takes such strength.  But it is just not something we wanted.  It has been so nice that since we have finished our paperwork, we have been able to just keep living and enjoying our lives as a married couple.  I am thankful for this time.  Yes, it is incredibly stressful not knowing how long this time is going to last and some days feeling like the waiting just isn't ever going to end, but it is also wonderful to know that we have the freedom to just keep living.

So I guess that's it.  I will never fully be able to put into words just how we knew that adoption was right for us.  In a lot of ways, the decision was a feeling much more than it was just a list of reasons.  Carla and I tend to know when things feel right and adoption just felt right.  It just felt like it was what we were supposed to do.  And so that it what we did.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Certain Things

Well, according to our blog counter, we have been waiting for two months.  We have been on our agency's wait list for two months.  It has been possible for birthparents to find us for two months.  And what I have learned in two months is that I must find things in my life to take comfort in.  I find myself enveloped in uncertainty.  I have no way of knowing when our child will arrive.  I have no way of knowing what heartbreaks and what happinesses lie ahead.  I have no way of knowing how our lives will change in the future.  And as I have mentioned before, I don't do that well with uncertainty.

It seems that because of all of this major uncertainty, the small daily uncertainties suddenly seem unmanageable.  We have a new schedule at school.   This suddenly seems like a really big deal, like a huge obstacle.  Our district began using a new math program. This, also, suddenly seems like a huge deal.  Any small thing that I encounter that I don't feel completely sure of, stresses me out.  To be honest, these things would stress me out no matter what, but I do wonder if my somewhat dramatic reactions to all of this has more to do with the uncertainties of adoption that I realize.

These past two weeks have been pretty tough. All the not knowing has been getting to me.  And so I have had to force myself to find comfort in things (besides just in ice cream) because I know we have a long way to go still and I can't imagine that living like this for all that time is going to be very successful or enjoyable (for me or for those around me).

So the realization that I have come to is that I must start to take comfort in the things that ARE certain in my life.  I must take comfort in the things I know for sure.  For example, I am certain that everyday that I come home from work there are going to be three furry animals there to greet me at the door.  I am certain that I have an incredible family who will always support me and be there for me.  I am certain that I have friends and coworkers and coworkers who are friends that are there to make me laugh and to listen to me vent.  I am certain that I have people who have known me long enough to know that they shouldn't ask how the adoption stuff is going because they know that when I am ready, I will share.  I am certain that I have a job that fulfills me in incredible ways.  I am certain that every day that I go to work, I will be greeted by the eager faces of twenty one children who are so ready to learn and to be inspired by the world around them.  And I am certain that through all of this, through all the uncertainty, I have a wife who constantly amazes me.  I have a partner that I am so proud of and who makes my life so full.

Those are the things in my life that I am certain of.  That I know without a doubt.  Those are the things that will not change no matter what happens with our adoption process.  I cannot let myself forget about all of that just because I am overwhelmed by the stuff that is less certain.  I cannot let myself stop enjoying what I have while I wait.  So as of today, I promise myself, and anyone who happens to be reading this, that I will take comfort in the certain things.  I will remember how lucky I am in this life and I will let that keep me company through the rest of this adoption journey.