Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The One Year Anniversaries Begin

We are approaching the one year anniversary of when we first brought Millie home. There is so much to say about that.  So much to say about that day.  And hopefully, I will have the energy to say it all on the 31st, the day we brought Millie home.  Today, I do not have that energy.

But one year ago TODAY, was the day that we first met Millie's birth family.  I didn't write about it then, because I couldn't, for so many reasons, I couldn't.  But now, looking back, there are things that I want to say.  There are things that I want to write down before I forget them. There are things that I want to be able to show to Millie one day, when all of this has become a little bit fuzzy with the passing of time.

So, one year ago today...

We had already been selected by Millie's birth family.  Millie was in the nursery at our adoption agency.  Carla and I had not slept in many many nights at this point.  It felt as if our whole lives were on pause, like they were waiting to begin in many ways.  We had been chosen, but nothing was final yet.  Nothing would be final until it was final.

Carla and I both went to work in the morning.  We were scheduled to meet the birth family later in the afternoon and we both decided that we could not possibly just sit around the house waiting until it was time to go.  So we both went to work and then met back at home before heading off to the restaurant where we would first meet our adoption counselor and then, with our counselor, go and meet the birth family.

I can't possibly find the words to explain what it felt like that day.  I am not sure that those words exist and if they do, I am not nearly skilled enough to put them together to even begin to hint at what it felt like.  This was potentially the biggest, most potentially life-altering meeting that I have ever had and I had no idea what to expect.  Sure, we had talked to people who had been through it. And yes, we had taken classes on what it would be like.  But this was not something that could be prepared for.  Not for us anyway.

So we met with our adoption counselor first and sat for a while.  When I think back to right before we went over, my mouth gets dry.  That is what I remember feeling most of all.  Dry mouth.  That's weird, right? Of all the emotions going through me, what comes to mind most strongly is that my mouth was unreasonably dry.  But that is what is most vivid for me about those moments we were waiting to meet them.

And then it was time.  We went over to the restaurant where Millie's birth parents were already waiting with their adoption counselor.  We walked up to the table and we met them.  I am not exaggerating when I say that the second, I mean the second, we sat down, all of my anxiety went away.  All of a sudden they were not some faceless birth family.  They were them.  They were real and they were as nervous as we were and they were going through things that I would never even pretend to understand.  And they were so so strong.  They are so strong.  Their love for their daughter was so evident.  It was evident with every word that they said, even when those words were about nothing at all.  And so all that anxiety that I was feeling just sort of went away and we spent the next two hours just getting to know them.

I don't remember much of what we talked about.  I remember liking them right away.  I remember that my respect and admiration for them grew by the second.  By the time we left, I knew that things just felt right.  I didn't know what that meant, and I knew that nothing was final or certain, but I knew that things felt right. It felt like this was supposed to happen.  If nothing else, we were supposed to meet them.  They were supposed to be the first birth family that we met with face to face.

And then we went home.  The next day, they gave us permission to go and meet Millie.  That was something else entirely. Perhaps I will save that for another day.  And then the day after that, we found out we were going to bring Millie home the next day.  And that was the start of all of this.

But one year ago today.  That was when we began this relationship.  For those who have not experienced a relationship like this one, there is no real way to describe it.  And for those who have, you know that there is still no possible way to describe the incredible intricacies that exist within each birth family and adoptive family relationship.  It is complicated.  Perhaps the most complicated thing that has ever existed in my world.

In the past few days this relationship has increased in its complexities.  It has gotten a bit trickier to navigate and yet it is something that will always be there, always be a part of our lives and, more importantly, always be a part of Millie's life.  She deserves this relationship, with all of its struggles and confusions, she deserves all the good that it will bring her.  And so, each day, we figure out a little bit more what this relationship looks like.  Like any other relationship, it will grow and change and we will adapt and grow with it.  If there is anything in my life that has been worth working for, this is it.  And so, I might not always understand all of it, and I might not always know the best way to deal with it, but I will keep trying and working and I know that everyone involved will do the same.  Because in the end, we all just want to do what is best for this little being we all love.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

You think you have it all figured out, and then...

Today was an intense day.  A completely unexpectedly intense day.  I am left feeling drained.

There is too much to go into and most of it shouldn't be shared in such a public way, but I need somewhere to put some of this stuff.  So here it goes.

Today we received a call from our adoption counselor.  Millie's birthparents gave birth last night to a baby boy.  We did not know about the baby until today.  Until our counselor called Carla at work to ask her if we wanted to be presented to the family, Millie's birth family, as potential adoptive parents to this newborn baby.

Right.  This is where it gets intense.  Let me skip ahead and end the suspense.  We said no.

Here is how we got there.

Around lunchtime, Carla texted me at work and asked me to call her.  The kids were inside for recess and I was watching them, but assumed the call was about Millie having to get picked up at daycare (she has been having some awful, awful teething reactions and has been inconsolable as of late).  So needless to say, with a room full of kids who badly needed to let out a whole lot of energy, I called Carla and she told me what had happened.  I honestly and truly did not know what to say.

For a long, long time we have known that we have wanted to be a family of three.  Financially, we had planned on one child, our home is built for one child, our lives have the perfect amount of space for one child.  And we were just starting to figure out life as a family of three.  We never planned on adopting another child.  We never planned on adding another child to our family.  Our adoption agency knew that, we closed all of the paperwork we had with them.  We were open and honest with Millie's birth family from the beginning that our plans were to be a family of three. And yet, here we were, not one whole year since we brought Millie home, thinking about if we wanted to possible add another child to our family.

And the thing is, it wasn't just any child.  This is Millie's brother.  My heart feels heavier even typing those words.  This is Millie's brother.  And so, of course, there is conflict in our hearts.  We know what is right for our family. For Millie.  For this new born boy, who deserves everything and more in this world.  And yet, our hearts want to say yes, because this would mean that, potentially, Millie would grow up with one of her biological brothers as a member of our family.

To be honest, at no point did I really think we would say yes.  I maybe wished we could say yes. In fact, I am sure that is what I felt.  I wished that our answer was yes, for so many reasons, I wished that it was yes.  And yet, it just wasn't.  And that hurt my heart.  It hurt Carla's heart.  It hurt our family's collective heart.

And so Carla called our adoption counselor back and let her know.

It tore her apart.  Absolutely tore her apart.  There were just so many emotions to feel and we both felt them so intensely.  Carla ended up having to leave work and went to pick up Millie.  At the end of the school day, I headed home to be with them.  We decided to go out to dinner.  Millie decided that was a terrible idea.  We ended up getting the food packed up to go and we just came home.

Things around this house tonight are heavy.  Neither of us really knows what to say.  Maybe there is nothing left to say right now.  We both know we made the right decision for our family.  And it was still so incredibly hard.

On top of all of that are the thoughts of where we were just one year ago.  How badly we wanted to find the child that was meant to be a part of our lives and our family.  We would have done anything.  I know how many people will see this and think it unfair that we were presented with a child that we could not say yes to, when there are so many families waiting for their child still to arrive.  It seems unfair and wrong.

There are many things that we are left thinking about.  Some of them can't be written here.  But the ones that are most present are the thoughts of what the future holds in store for this newborn baby and what our relationship with him and his adoptive family might look like and what his relationship with Millie might look like and what this will mean for our relationship with Millie's birth family.  These thoughts are swirling around pretty rapidly and I fear that a long and somewhat sleepless night is ahead for us both.

I guess what I keep coming back to, the thing I know for sure, is that our love for and commitment to Millie are immeasurable.  We would do anything for her.  And that includes doing whatever we can do to maintain strong connections to every member of her birth family.  That means that this, too, will become a part of the story that we tell her.  We will be open with her and honest with her. And she will know, always, that we have made every decision, since the day we met her, with her best interest in mind.  And tonight, for now, that brings some peace.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

To my dearest Millie, on your first birthday...


Exactly one year ago today, you entered into this world and the world became a better place.  Exactly one year ago today, our minds didn't even know that you existed, though our hearts had already found you and wrapped you up inside of them.  Exactly one year ago today, your birth belonged to your birthparents.  They brought you safely into this world and their hearts wrapped you up right away with so much love.  I love that this day belongs to you and them alone.  I love that you had hours with just them.  That you started your life with them.  That we were still quietly waiting for you.  This makes sense to me and when we tell you the story of your life, that is where it will begin and it will always begin with them. And with you.  

One year ago today, I had no idea what was about to happen.  Even if I tried to imagine the most perfect daughter for our family, I could never have imagined you up.  You are beyond every expectation that I ever possibly could have had.  You.  You are the single most amazing person that I have ever known.  You are funny and smart and wildly curious.  You love books like me and you love animals like your Mama.  You find your way into every single person's heart who you meet.  You bring people joy.  Such joy.  On even the saddest of days and in the saddest of moments, your presence makes people smile.  You have this inner light that shines so brightly and people are drawn to you.  I could sit and just watch you for hours.  The smallest things make you so happy and you only want to share that happiness with the people around you.  You have so much love to give.  You give it to me and to your Mama and to the cats and the dog.  You love us all so much.  You love your teachers and your friends and you express this love without even knowing how to talk yet.  All of it. All of what you are is so incredibly amazing.  

And yes, you get cranky.  If you are tired or you are hungry, you let us know loud and clear.  You hate having your face cleaned and you absolutely will not tolerate getting your nose wiped. You would rather throw your sippy cup than drink from it.  Your lack of fear puts you in constant dangerous situations.  You hit your head on something at least twice a day and you can be extremely dramatic when you do not like what is in front of you.  And I love all of that about you.  Now let me be clear, it is not that I enjoy these moments, but they make you who you are and I will always love you for all of that.  I will always love you for exactly who you are and I will try my very very hardest to always let you be who you are and love you for exactly that.  

This first year of your life has taught me so much.  I have learned so much about you, about myself, about your Mama, about being a mother, about the world that we live in, and about what love can really feel like.  This first year of your life has proven how strong you are.  How strong your love is.  How strong the love around you is.  How many people in this world celebrate your very existence on this earth.  You are so very loved, Millie.  People that you don't even know, that I don't even know, have been touched by your story.  You have made people believe in the power of adoption, you have made people believe in possibilities, you have made people believe that dreams can really come true.  

All of this is to say that you are one very special girl and your birthday is one very important day.  I can't even begin to imagine what this next year of your life will bring to you and to all of us.  I can't even begin to imagine how much better you are still going to get.  I can't even begin to imagine all that I will have to say by the time we reach your second birthday.  All I know is that there is much goodness in store for you and I also know that there will be difficult things ahead and from what I have already seen, you are going to manage those difficult things by drawing on all the love that surrounds you.  And you will be fine.  You will be more than fine.  Your life is going to be more than anyone could ever imagine.  

Millie, I wish you the happiest of first birthdays.  I wish you so many good things in the year ahead.  I wish you strength for the tough things.  I wish you so much love from all of us who surround you.  I cannot believe how you much you have changed this family, how much you have changed me, in your first year alive.  I am thankful for you.  For everything that you are.  I love you.  Happy Birthday.