#HonorAllMoms

Hands

Mom. A word that evokes…

So many labels:

Biological. Adoptive. Foster. Expectant. Bereaved. “Real.” Birth. Legal. Spiritual. Single. Working. Stay-at-home. Soccer. Helicopter. Teen. Grand. Great-grand. God. In-law. In-love.

So many descriptions:

Sleep-deprived. Stressed. Worn out. Exasperated. Caring. Strong. Selfless. Gracious.

So many emotions:

Grief. Bitterness. Worry. Disappointment. Joy. Pride. Gratitude. Love.

So many seasons:

New. Veteran. Challenging. Fulfilling. Full house. Empty nest. Waiting; waiting; waiting: For the positive test. For “the call.” For the paperwork to go through. For them to come home. For them to leave home. For you to go Home and see them once again.

Whichever your type, whatever you’re called, however you’re feeling, wherever your place…

You are important. You are worthy. You are loved.

Your Heavenly Father is carrying you, His precious child, as you carry yours in your arms, in your heart, in your clinging to Him.

#HonorAllMoms

A tribute to Tummy Mommy

 

Due to the craziness of life I’ve been pretty terrible at keeping this blog updated. It isn’t for lack of timely topics about which I could wax eloquent: the Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood debacle, the Obamacare birth control mandate, and the reported demise of Khloe and Lamar’s marriage partly due to their struggles with infertility – if you think that’s the only thing driving them apart, apparently you don’t keep up with his insanely annoying in-laws.

What finally motivated me to get off my literary butt and write something was the celebration of a special day that for a few years brought me sadness and heartache. I thought about sharing a very Emo poem I wrote one Mother’s Day awhile back, but decided to save that for another time when I was feeling more pensive and melancholy. Instead of singing that same old song about my pain and suffering, I wanted to talk a little about an important person who has significantly shaped my life and blessed me with one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given.

Since adopting Calvin, I’ve fortunately not received many comments or questions about me being his “real” mother. This has always struck me as a silly thing to say, when you think about what “real” means. And I’m not talking about a full-blown Matrix-style ontological discussion; I just think it should be obvious in many cases that the adoptive mother is a real mother, and not some random woman posing as the child’s maternal caregiver. Of course, what people are really asking is if the adoptive mom is the biological mother, and for lack of understanding about the appropriate terminology, refer to the latter as the “real” mother.

Calvin is very blessed to have two women who love him extravagantly. As his adoptive mom, I get the incredible joy of caring for and nurturing him every day, fulfilling the traditional role of being a mother. His birthmother, or Tummy Mommy as we call her when with Calvin, does not get the opportunity to see him or take care of him on a daily basis, but her love for him is no less real or important. She carried Calvin for nine months and made a difficult decision to place him with an adoptive family because she loved him and thought that was the best plan to give him a full and happy life. And because of her decision, she gave me and Colin a much fuller and happier life.

Many people ask me what it’s like when we go visit our birthmother and her family, which we try to do 3-4 times a year. In all honesty, I kinda freaked out the first few times, but always before we saw her. In anticipation of our visits, I would worry that she would be jealous of me getting to take care of Calvin, or I would be jealous of her having a biological connection with him, which I believe is important even if the birthmother is living a terrible lifestyle and/or making poor choices (totally not the case with ours). And, because our adoption situation entailed a waiting period before parental rights were terminated, I was afraid that she might change her mind, even though she gave no indication of doing so.

However, by the grace of God, my fears were relieved every time we met up with her and her family, so much so that I was able to truly enjoy spending time with them and seeing them interact with Calvin. And now that we’ve hung out together several times, I look forward to seeing her and her family, and want them to hold Calvin and play with him as much as possible to make the most of our visits. Seeing the joy on her face as Calvin smiles and laughs with her makes me so happy, because I know what a wonderful little guy he is and how being with him makes my heart full, and I’m glad she gets to experience that, too.

This sharing of joy can be difficult to understand for those who have not adopted, or who do not have open, healthy relationships with their birthmothers, and frankly I didn’t get it either until we adopted Calvin. I have to give his birthmother much credit for being so mature about our interactions and for showing us a great deal of respect. The first day we met her, before we even got to see Calvin at the hospital, she referred to us as Mommy and Daddy. She clearly expressed her desires to have an open relationship with us and Calvin, and completely accepted the level of openness and communication guidelines we stated at our initial meeting. That first meeting at the adoption agency with her and her mom was quite incredible, because although everyone was understandably nervous at first, we hit it off right away, and it soon felt like we were old friends hanging out, shooting the breeze talking about sports. Colin joked that her family of Saints fans must’ve really liked us, as they picked our profile – which proudly displayed a picture of us in Seahawks gear – right after the Hawks beat the Saints in the playoffs.

And since then, we’ve felt more and more comfortable spending time with our birthmother and her family. We ask how they’re doing; they ask what’s going on in our lives. It’s cheesy to say, but it does feel like we’re one big extended family. They give Calvin toys and clothes, and she often gives me or Colin a special little gift that she knows we’ll like – for example, she knows I love frogs and did a frog-themed nursery for Calvin, so she got me some frog-shaped soap bars along with antibac lotion from Bath & Body Works, one of my favorite shops.

I know this friendly, close relationship is not the case in other adoptions. Sometimes the birthmother and/or father cannot and/or should not have an open relationship with their children, and that’s OK. I’m a proponent of open adoption but don’t think it should be a requirement, and also understand that there are infinite shades of openness depending on the comfort level of the individuals involved. I’m thankful that we do have a good relationship with Calvin’s birthmother and her family, and that he will grow up knowing that many people love him.

Beyond our mutual love for Calvin, I admire and appreciate his birthmother for modeling God’s love in an amazing way. Most people, when talking about adoption and Christianity, emphasize the adoptive family’s role and the way they demonstrate how God adopted us sinners into His family of redeemed saints. This is true, and one of the reasons why I think adoption is so beautiful. However, people don’t often acknowledge the role of the birthmother, and how her sacrificial love for her child mirrors the Father’s love in sending His Son to die for us, and Christ’s love in willingly choosing to suffer death in order to give us life. Calvin’s biological mother, the one who brought him into existence and sustained him for nine months of growth and development, chose to give her son to someone else because she loved him and wanted to protect him more than she loved and wanted to protect herself. It is such a stunning picture of our Savior’s sacrifice that it brings to mind a refrain from an oldie but a goodie, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: “love so amazing, so divine.”

I have many, many women to be thankful for on Mother’s Day: my own mom, who never tires of caring for and faithfully serving others; my grandmothers, who lived full lives honoring Christ and are now home with Him; my mother-in-law, who provides continual encouragement; and my grandma-in-law, who makes me feel like an important part of the Hesse family and tells great stories that I get to hear more than a few times. 🙂 And I am forever grateful for the mother who made it possible for me to be a mother. I thank her for the gift of our son.

A New Year

The year 2011 has gotten off to a crazy start. First, the Seahawks upset the Saints in the NFC wild card game. Then, we got a call informing us that a birthmother who had already delivered her baby had selected us as her adoptive family, and we became parents overnight.

Before I launch into the story about how our son, Calvin, joined our family, I want to provide the backdrop for the amazing sequence of events that the Lord orchestrated in a way and at a time I would have never anticipated. I should also forewarn you that this post will be quite lengthy, so unless you have mad speed-reading skills like Colin and Gavin, don’t expect to pound this out in five minutes or less.

In my last post I wrote on Christmas Eve, I stated that my hope in Christ as my loving Savior remained firm, which was and is absolutely true. However, my hope for becoming a mom was pretty much toast. The trials of the past year – all the failed fertility treatments, unanswered prayers, and physical and emotional struggles, in addition to the accumulated disappointments over the course of the past three years of trying to conceive – weighed down on me during the holidays, and I felt totally defeated. Being around my pregnant sister-in-law, Kim, who treated me with utmost sensitivity and respect, for which I will forever be grateful, made my heart ache simply because I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to become a mom; I didn’t know if I’d have a little one to hold and care for next Christmas or any thereafter.

Many times throughout this whole process of trying to expand our family, I’ve felt that I’ve reached the end of the line, that God had dealt me more hardships than I could handle. Last month was one of the lowest of those lows, as I had reached the point that I didn’t want to pursue any more fertility treatments. We had a consultation with a specialist at Seattle Reproductive Medicine, and though it did provide some useful information, which I won’t go into detail about now, it didn’t make me much more inclined to keep trying the fruitless, expensive medical route. And while we knew there were several options still available to us, including embryo adoption and traditional adoption, I didn’t really want to think about any of them. Stick a fork in me, I was done. Done with the disappointment, done with the uncertainty, done with thinking about ever having a baby.

Interestingly, during a conversation with my mother- and sister-in-law over the holidays, I told them about how some adoptive families get matched with a birthmother immediately after she gives birth, that they get a call and have to drop everything to pick up their child at the hospital, going from a childless couple one minute to parents the next. I asserted that that was something I couldn’t ever imagine doing since I’m such a planner and would not feel capable of making that drastic life change in such a short amount of time.

(Insert “never say never” and other applicable cliches here.)

This feeling of hopelessness pervaded my thoughts at the start of the New Year. I even began writing a blog post about the aftermath of IVF and how we’d decided to take a break from fertility treatments. But before I got a chance to finish that post, we got a few e-mails from our adoption agency. Apparently they were having a busy start to the New Year, as they had three birthmothers contact them about wanting to make adoption plans, including one who had already given birth. Colin and I read the e-mails explaining each situation and decided to show our profile to two bmoms, the first time we had elected to do so. With one of those e-mails, I broke my own rule about not looking at baby pictures the adoption agency sent for fear they would make me cry, and I did almost break down when I saw the photo of a sweet, cherub-faced baby boy sound asleep in his hospital bed. There were some health concerns about this baby, but his MRI results came back normal, so we told the adoption agency we still wanted our profile shown to his bmom.

That was Friday, Jan. 7. We spent the weekend praying about the two bmoms, trying not to get too worked up about the possibility of adopting one of their babies. At church that Sunday, Pastor Dave gave a sermon about how Abraham and the rest of the individuals in Genesis who made it into the Faithful Hall of Fame in Hebrews were pretty much all screw-ups. They lied, cheated, stole, murdered, committed adultery, rejected God’s sovereignty, etc., and yet God still remained faithful to them. The sermon really spoke to me, as I’ve felt like a total failure in terms of trusting the Lord throughout these struggles with infertility, and yet He has provided for me and comforted me despite all my shortcomings. So that was encouraging, but I still felt nervous about the bmoms looking at our profiles, and had a hard time getting to sleep that night. I didn’t know it was the beginning of the end for me as far as sleeplessness goes.

On Monday, the day the bmoms were going to look at the profiles, I tried to get some work done, and to distract myself, thought about what we should do with the new hutch we bought on Saturday (only $160 on craiglist!). I carried my phone around with me to the bathroom and everywhere else, and checked my e-mail every two minutes. I repeated Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” – to myself over and over and over again. Colin went into work briefly in the morning, then came home and started to freak out, which is a rarity for him. The impact of becoming a parent instantaneously hit him before it hit me, but after some time to think about it and talk to his bro, he calmed down, thankfully just in time for my freak-out.

In the late morning, I got an e-mail from our caseworker, who said we were a finalist for the bmom of the baby boy whose picture had melted my heart. I gotta say, that was a weird message, knowing that we were finalists for the bmom, as if this was American Adoptive Idol or something. She wanted to verify that we were OK with an open adoption, to which we replied yes, as long as we started out slowly and used the adoption agency for facilitation. We waited for a few agonizing hours after that until 5 p.m., then I resigned myself to the probable fact that we wouldn’t hear anything until Tuesday. We made dinner, started watching the BCS championship game, and tried to relax. Then around 7:30, I got a call from an unknown phone number. It was another caseworker who told me that the bmom had looked at all the profiles and had made her decision. She had picked us.

It’s difficult for me to describe my feelings at that very moment because I was absolutely shocked. My mind couldn’t process what the caseworker was telling me, and I could barely say anything to her other than “That’s great.” What a lame response to the news that you’re going to be a parent! She mentioned a few things about the baby boy, like how there were a few minor medical issues and tests to be run, but overall he was healthy and quite alert, already interacting with the nurses and others who came to visit him. She told us we needed to drive out the next day to meet the bmom and our son. Then she asked if I had any questions, and for the life of me I couldn’t think of anything, other than “What the freakin’ heck is going on?!?” (which I refrained from saying aloud).

At some point during this conversation, I looked at Colin and mouthed the words “I can’t do this.” When I got off the phone, my hands were shaking, and the floodgates opened wide. The emotions of that moment – joy, relief, fear, and surprise – totally overwhelmed me, and my stalwart husband hugged me tightly and whispered soothing reassurances until I calmed down. Honestly I don’t remember much else about that particular moment due to the shock. As you may remember, the last time I was in shock was after I got the call from the doctor that we didn’t get any embryos from IVF. So in the span of a little more than 50 days, I went from one state of shock to another, each under very, very different circumstances.

Once I had regained a semblance of composure, we began calling various family members and friends and telling them the news. I e-mailed my boss and sent her all my work in progress, apologizing for ditching work so suddenly. Then I did what any sane person would do and started furiously cleaning the house, which is one of my foremost coping mechanisms. Colin resorted to his: playing Call of Duty.

As you can expect, I didn’t get much sleep that night. I got up early on Tuesday and shoveled the driveway (it had snowed several inches over the past 24 hours) to help prevent Colin from wrecking his back before our drive and to help us get on the road as soon as possible. We dropped Kaffy off at the kennel and headed out in a snowstorm. En route, Colin downloaded a baby name app on his iPhone, and we started discussing possible names for our baby boy, an experience that was and still is hard to believe that we were undertaking. We narrowed it down to our top three: Calvin, Caleb, and Caden.

Immediately upon arriving at the adoption agency office, we were told that the birthmother and her mom were there waiting to meet us. We walked in and said hello to our son’s biological mother and grandmother, which was a strange and wonderful experience. I won’t go into much detail about our bmom to protect her privacy, but I will say that she is a friendly, sweet young woman who impressed us with her maturity and strength. The grace with which she was handling the whole situation was amazing to me, and I am so, so very thankful for her and for how much love she demonstrated toward our son.

As weird as the scenario was, we actually had a great time chatting with her and her mom, and to me it felt very comfortable and natural. She told us she picked us because of our personalities as illustrated in our family profile, and especially liked how important our family was to us, because her family is so important to her, and they’re all supportive of her adoption decision. Apparently, they had all looked at the family profiles separately, and each of them had picked the “Seahawks couple” for the adoptive family (we had a photo of us in our jerseys in the profile book), which to me is another example of God’s hand at work in this story.

After socializing for a while and discussing our preferences for an open adoption – starting out slowly with pictures and e-mails and occasional visits at the adoption agency – we said goodbye to our bmom and her mom and headed to our next meeting with the attorney. Fortunately that meeting was pretty quick, and our attorney laid the groundwork for the necessary legal steps. As part of the conversation, he had to start a document for the new birth certificate the baby would be given when the adoption was finalized, and he asked us what name we wanted to give him. So right there on the spot, we decided to name him Calvin, representing Calvin and Hobbes, Colin’s favorite comic strip; giving him the same first and last initials as Colin; and providing him with an easy nickname I love, Cal. My bro-in-law John later pointed out that Calvin is a combination of Colin and Gavin – how cool is that!

Finally after all these meetings, we got to go to the hospital and see our son for the first time. Walking into the hospital, I was so nervous I thought I would pass out. I’m not sure why I was so nervous then, maybe for some ridiculous fear that he wouldn’t like us. But in any case, after sterilizing my hands before entering the NICU, I walked into my baby boy’s room as if in a dream. I saw him in his little plastic hospital cradle, hooked up to a ton of monitors, and watched him breathe peacefully in his sleep. Then the nurse asked me if I wanted to hold him, and she handed him over to me, a moment I will remember forever. My first thought when I held him was “This is the most beautiful baby I have ever seen.” My second thought: “This is not my baby.” Not in the sense that I didn’t feel a connection with him, but more in the sense of incredulity. I was completely astonished that this amazing blessing was happening to me, and try as I might, I could not hold back a few tears of joy and wonder. We took several pictures, and then Colin held him for the first time, and I cried again. It was unbelievably precious for me to see my beloved husband being a loving father and cradling our son in his arms.

The next several hours were a blur (well, the whole trip was a blur, but this timeframe wasn’t all that exciting, and thus can be summarized without going into too much detail). We had a quick dinner, went on a shopping spree at Target to get a few essentials like a car seat, and headed back to the hospital to see Calvin. His birthmother was there with her father, and she gave us a gift for Calvin – a little teething toy and a froggie rattle, which she had bought because I’d mentioned that I’d like to do a frog theme in his nursery. They took off, and we got to spend more time watching Calvin sleep. The nurses used this time to inundate us with instructions about how to care for a newborn. They were all so kind and nurturing, and apologetically commented on how “This is probably a lot of info to take in.” It was, and by the end of the evening, my brain was ready to explode. It was exhausting staying there so long, but definitely worth it, as we got to see Calvin open his eyes and watch us intently as he ate, which we’ve now discovered is his absolutely favorite thing to do. Needless to say, it was a long day. We got to our hotel, exhausted from all the day’s emotional activities, and tried to sleep (unsuccessfully).

The next day was no less busy, involving another meeting with the attorney and a long time of kickin’ it at the hospital, waiting for the doctors to finish their business with Calvin. They ordered some tests but didn’t seem concerned about much other than his tiny extremities, which were tightly clenched and lacked flexibility. The working theory is that he was pretty squished in utero, and all the doctors thought he would improve with some physical therapy. They also had him wear some splints that looked really uncomfortable, and after getting home, we ditched them since they were too big and he obviously hated wearing them.

We waited and waited and waited, all the while having nurses coming in and out overwhelming us with more info about what and what not to do. Our caseworker came in and had us sign a ton of paperwork, then finally, the doctor gave the OK to release him. That was around 5 p.m., just in time for us to hit rush hour. Calvin did great on the way back and slept the whole way, even though I kept checking on him every three seconds to see if he was still breathing.

When we arrived home, our friends Chris and Elizabeth were there to greet us with dinner. They said “Welcome home, Mommy and Daddy!” and I wondered who they were talking about. On our doorstep was a pizza and bag of baby gifts from Colin’s colleagues, the first of many gifts and care packages given to us from our wonderful friends. Calvin started to wake up, so we picked him up and took him into his room. That is another moment I will always remember, as we walked into the room that our friends from church had completely furnished, with a crib and diapers and blankets and everything we could possibly need plus more. They answered our desperate call when we let them know we were leaving to pick up our son, and they outfitted Calvin’s nursery in a room that had not been prepared at all, save for the paint on the walls.

On the wall, they posted signs of encouragement, including one with 1 Samuel 1:27 on it – “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him.” I am still amazed to think that this has happened, that God has answered my prayer. And though there are many issues still unresolved, especially concerning the legal process, and I’m pretty tired, after several sleepless nights even before we brought Calvin home, I am overjoyed to be a mommy to the most precious baby boy.

Our main prayer request right now is for the remaining legal issues. To try to summarize them, the birthmother has signed consents, but the birthfather is undisclosed. According to state law, a notification must be printed in a legal journal as a formality to allow the birthfather to acknowledge paternity. From the date of publication, which will be in a few weeks, he has 45 days to step forward and try to claim parental rights before they are automatically terminated. It is highly unlikely that this will happen, and according to the lawyer, no one ever reads the legal journal. However, there’s still that scary possibility that he could find out, so we’re praying that that doesn’t happen, and that parental rights will be completely terminated so that we can proceed with our petition for custody. Of course, we could also use prayer for us learning how to be parents, and for Calvin’s legs and arms to continue improving in flexibility.

There’s much more I can talk about Calvin and his fun personality, our experiences during our first week of having him, how Kaffy is adjusting to having a little person in our home, and our first court hearing, but Colin and my mom are telling me to go to sleep since Calvin is currently asleep, and from what I hear, all moms know they should sleep whenever their child is sleeping.

So I’ll wrap up this story by emphasizing God’s amazing timing in bringing Calvin into our lives. He planned for Calvin to be born at a time when Colin was still on break from school, when we somehow miraculously had enough money in the bank for the hefty adoption fees, and after we had tried an unsuccessful attempt at IVF. Had we not tried IVF yet, or if IVF had worked, we would not have elected to show our profile to any birthmothers. We would not have taken home our beloved son.

In my post-IVF entry, I spurned any forthcoming Christian-ese comments about how God didn’t want IVF to work because He had something better planned for us. I should’ve known He would prove me wrong, giving me a gift that is far, far better than what I had asked for in a way that I had never, ever expected could happen.


Retrospective Perceptions on Normative Family Constructs and the Impact of Revised Expectations: Reframing the Paradigm of Parenthood

Wow, time sure flies when you’re getting three shots in the belly each day.

Actually, this was my first day of three shots. After my appointment yesterday, the doctor said to begin taking the third type of injection – an ovulation suppressant (called Ganirelix) – and decrease the dosage of another – an ovarian stimulant (called Follistim). These new orders came as a result of my ultrasound and blood test, which showed that things were “on track,” with the follicles growing and my estrogen level rising. Apparently the doctor thought enough progress was being made that the Follistim could be cut back a tad and the Ganirelix regimen could commence to avoid premature ovulation. In other words, this was good news.

Five days into it, and we are already looking better than last time around, thank God. We still have a ways to go, with many more potential disruptions and disappointments. But for now, I can certainly be thankful for this one step forward, and pray that the Lord will continue to carry us each step of the way.

In the meantime, I’ve got plenty of bright ideas for blog topics, including a top 10 list of some of the most insensitive things people have said to us related to infertility and a rant against irksome pregnancy-deifying Facebook status updates. However, I recently discovered that November is National Adoption Month, and since I haven’t talked much about that part of our story, I thought I should share how God has grown our desire to adopt a child. My criticisms of society and social networking can wait for future posts.

Colin and I started talking about adoption when we were dating. Obviously, we didn’t want to do so at the time; we just discussed our views on adoption, how we considered it to be symbolic of God’s love for us, and agreed that we’d be open to it if/when we got married. We tied the knot, waited a few years, and started trying to conceive. Then the you-know-what hit the fan, and it became apparent that this whole getting pregnant thing wouldn’t be as easy as it looks.

Thinking back, I don’t recall how the topic of adoption entered our conversations, though I do remember that it was a mutual initiative – both Colin and I thought it would be a good idea to start pursuing adoption even in the midst of beginning fertility treatments. So we did some research online, talked to friends and family (especially drawing on my mom’s expertise as a counselor at Care Net pregnancy services), and discovered Bethany Christian Services, a large U.S.-wide agency that provides domestic and intercountry adoption.

We attended a Bethany informational seminar in April and quickly got the ball rolling on the paperwork for domestic adoption. It was incredibly time-consuming and exhausting filling out all the forms and procuring the necessary documents, and at times felt invasive, as we had to answer question after question about our personalities, our marriage, our infertility, our faith, and numerous other topics that were part of the home study.

But honestly, I enjoyed it. Not that I took a great amount of pleasure in rehashing my whole life story in the questionnaires or learning about the grief that birthmothers experience when they make adoption plans for their children or talking to the case worker about our childlessness and struggles with infertility. The adoption application and home study process wasn’t enjoyable in that sense; rather, it was a blessing in terms of how it appeased my task-oriented nature and allowed me to do something working toward the goal of being a mom. I had been feeling overwhelmed with loss – loss of control, loss of fertility, loss of a biological child I didn’t know if I could have – and adoption gave me hope that the Lord would redeem those losses and create a beautiful family for us, just in a different way than I had expected. Hence, the title of this post, with buzzwords straight from the pages of Colin’s academic journals.

There’s a lot more I could say about adoption, and I plan on doing so in the future because we plan on adopting regardless of whether or not IVF works. Of course, we’re not just doing IVF for kicks – we wouldn’t be spending this much money or investing such a ridiculous amount of emotional and physical energy into it if we didn’t think there was a chance of success. We believe that God works miracles through biological pregnancies and adoption, and we know that He answers the prayers of those longing for children (see: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth). We just don’t know how or when He’s going to answer our prayers.

In the absence of that knowledge, I’ll continue to blog about IVF and adoption, and perhaps in the future blog about having a biological child or adopting a child. Hopefully I’ll get to do both.