Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Expecting


Well, if you are reading this then, I actually got to press "publish"on this post draft. Which means our homestudy has been approved. Which means that all the months and months of paperwork, background checks, social worker visits, classes, and payments have gone through and we are approved and accepted into the domestic adoption program. Or.......we are officially "expecting." We're gonna have a baby!! (*eventually*)

Of course, our "expecting" looks a lot different than what most families mean when they share their news about adding to our family. Truth is, I am not the one who is expecting and I don't mean to usurp the place of the woman who is *actually* carrying a child. When I share our happy news, I am well aware that there is another woman who is pregnant and creating a child. Her reality is never far from my mind. I know full well that for me to mother, someone else cannot. So my joy is tempered with reverence for the loss that both mother and child will feel as our family grows.

There is also the pesky detail about the timeline of how long we will be expecting. We have no clue!! We don't get a 40 week head start to plan. We could get a call tomorrow saying there is a child or it could be years and years down the road. Even once we are being considered by expectant parents, there's no guarantee that they will ultimately choose to make an adoption plan for their baby. Or they could go with another family. This, of course, throws my desire to plan, visualize and prepare for our baby completely into a tail spin. I'm a planner by nature and work well within clear boundaries. What season will the baby come? What size clothes: newborn or three month? When do we get the nursery ready? Too soon to get things out of the attic? Blerg! It will be okay....it WILL be okay. And as our social worker once told us, "It's amazing how quickly you can be ready to welcome a baby when you need to." So I'm taking that to heart and doing what I can to keep our home organized, simplified, and prepared for whatever life throws at us....and whenever it throws it at us.

One of the most vital aspects to "expecting" is the support of family and friends. Just as it is a new kind of expectation for our little family to adjust to, we realize that you might want a head's up on how to expect our baby to join us too! So here's three things to keep in mind:

First of all, expect that we *might* not be telling you everything. Through the waiting process we may meet with a few expectant parents. They might not pick us. That's cool. And then even when a couple does like us, we will say that they are "considering us." Nothing will be certain until the papers are signed and we can't expect them to say goodbye to their baby until they get a chance to say hello. So we will be working very hard to hold in "all the feels" and will be holding our cards pretty close to our chests through this time. Nothing personal....just be prepared to be suprised! Will we be dying to share our happy news? Of course (!), but we probably won't make it FB official until it's a forever kind of deal.

Second of all, we probably won't be bringing the baby home from the hospital. We have the benefit of the expertise of social workers who are on the forefront of adoption education. They have been learning over the past few years, through the study of trauma on the developing brain, just how vital the connection between biological mother and child is. While the good news is that love heals brains and close, repetitive, loving care can cover over a lot, the best way to transition from birth family to forever family is as gently as possible. Gentle care means that it is best for our child that he/she have as much loving contact with her birth mother as possible. Then over the first few days and weeks for the care to shift slowly over to our family. Every interaction with his birth mother, with similar sounds, smells, rhythms to the environment he has experienced over the past 40 weeks is precious and healing as our new family is gently phased in. What this means is that if we want what is best for our child, we need to set up the kind of environment that encourages care from her birth parents. That means that if we are the ones who are holding him in the hospital....guess who can't....his birth mother. So be prepared that we will keep our distance to allow that love to occur and then, when it is time, we will step in where we are needed. Will it be heart-wrenching to not be involved for parts our baby's life....uh, yeah!! But parenting was never really about us anyway. So we trust that when the experts say that this is the best thing, we're going to hear them and hold back for the love of our child.

Then once the baby is in our arms, she's going to stay there for a while. So thirdly, expect us to keep pretty close once our baby is home. That means that Nathan and I will need to be the ones providing all the care, soothing, feeding, diaper changes, and rocking to sleep for the first several months while our baby learns to trust us and grows to expect that all good things come from us. Sure, we will let you hold our precious little one....but not for long. And once he needs something, we need to be the ones to provide it. We will also be cutting back on activities and sticking close to home as we cocoon around our new little one. Feel free to make Tedy feel special and lavish attention on him as his little world grows. But know that things will be calm and quiet as bonds grow strong around here. Man, I can't wait. Holding a baby is my jam.

Ultimately, underlying the uncertainty and fear of what could happen is the soaring happiness and deep love of a baby! coming to our family! forever! And I think that it's okay to celebrate that. So here's where we are: with baby gear in our attic, baby registeries dated for 2016 (because, eh...who knows?!), and  flexible plans for the next year. We're re-reading baby books and dreaming of holding our sweet baby in our arms.  We're expecting! And now maybe you know what to expect too.

Thanks- Nathan, Jenny, and Tedy




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Friday, March 20, 2015

How We Talk About Adoption in Our Family

I feel like a post of this kind needs a few prefaces. First of all, picture that we are having this conversation on my living room love seat. I'll take your coat as you slip off your shoes. I'll hand you a warm mug of steaming coffee with a plate of goodies on the coffee table as you sink back and curl up into the pillows (I love a good throw pillow about as much as I love coffee!) We'll look each other in the eyes and speak lovingly as we try to figure this thing out.

Secondly, I need you to know that I love to give people the benefit of the doubt. I realize that most are nicer than they sound. Most of the time the way that we speak about adoption is simply how we have heard other people speak about adoption. Really, I get it. Only 2% of the population has been impacted by adoption so for most people it's something that has affected "other" people and have never had to think critically about how they speak about adoption. And I've entered into most conversations with people as they say, "Well you know what I REALLY mean."

And here's the thing: most times I do. I know what's in your heart. I know that you are loving, empathetic, generous, and thoughtful. I know that you believe that family comes from attachment and commitment and love, not solely from the sharing of DNA. I know that you believe there are no qualifiers, no second class family members.

I know that. But I've also come to realize that hearts change before language changes. And it wouldn't be such a big deal except......little ears are listening. Precious little ears that mean the world to me. Little developing ears are soaking up what is said about them and how they came into their family. I know that the way other people talk about us can shape our perception of ourselves and our place in our family and world. Language is powerful. So let's all get on the same page and use language to accurately reflect what's in our hearts :) Here we go:

 

What we say: Parents / Child
What we don't say: Adoptive Parents / Adopted Child / Adoptee
Why: There are no qualifiers in our family. While adoption might accurately describe the process by which we became a family it is not our primary label. You don't call other people "The daughter we didn't plan on having," "Our son through fertility treatments." Most of the time labeling someone is meant to set them apart as a way of identification. In our family, our primary roles and identification remain the same as most families.


What we say: Was Adopted 
What we don't say: Am Adopted
Why: Adopted is a past tense verb, not a present tense adjective. It's a small grammatical shift that identifies a huge shift in meaning. It describes an act that happened, where we were brought together as a family, not a label to continually carry through every interaction in life. Adopted is one and done. Done. Forever.


What we say: Birth Parents / First Parents / Biological Parent
What we don't say: Real Parents/ Natural Parents
Why: This falls under the category of "just what people have always said." And while it might take a conscientious effort to change the terms you use, it clearly and accurately describes the relationships in our family. Nathan and I are the real parents and calling us anything other than that might invite doubt or confusion or fear into our place in the lives of our children. (Birthparents are really parents too and have a special sacred place in our family.) 


What we say: Placed for Adoption / Made an Adoption Plan
What we don't say: Gave Up for Adoption/ Gave Away
Why: While it's okay to acknowledge the loss and grief involved in making an adoption plan, we don't use passive terms. Placing a child for adoption is an active, thoughtful, selfless act that takes lots of meetings, planning, and care. In most modern adoptions, birth parents (dads too!) take an active role in seeking out the family they want for their child. We want to use empowering language that accurately describes the dignity and effort of selfless love needed for a child to be placed for adoption.


What we say: Decide to Parent a Child
What we don't say: Keep a Child
Why: Family isn't about possession. We don't want to use language that polarizes Parents "versus" Birthparents. It's not about who "gets" whom. It's about placing a child in the best situation for him/her. Often times that's a decision best left to birthmothers (with support from lawyers and Social Workers) who are the experts on their circumstances, resources, and goals.



What we say: Family Day 
What we don't say: Gotcha Day
Why: This is related to what we talked about above. We don't want to use terms of possession when we speak of family. It's about celebrating the love and commitment of family not "getting" someone from someone else.


What we say: Unexpected Pregnancy/ Unplanned Pregnancy
What we don't say: Unwanted Pregnancy/ Crisis Pregnancy
Why: Even in the most traumatic circumstances, I believe that every child is a wanted child. Making an adoption plan for your child isn't a matter of desire, it's about circumstances that impact your ability to parent. Ask yourself: How would I feel if I heard my coming into the world described as "unwanted" or a "crisis"?


What we say: Biological Child
What we don't say: Child of Our Own
Why: Because, really, even when children don't come through our bodies, they are our own. Forever. And because I'm sure you want to join us in sending the consistent message to our children that they have a solid, sure commitment in our family. Forever. 

Other things to avoid: Jokes where adoption is the punch-line.
What's underlying in these jokes is the assumed understanding that coming into a family any way other than birth is something to be make fun of.


So there ya go. How we talk about adoption in our family. I know that when I challenge words, terms, and labels that have been used for generations to describe adoption there is often defensiveness and push back. It's not anything personal. Truly. It IS about what is best for our children. Advocating for their place in our family and for their developing self concept is something I'm committed to. I'm sure you agree. And know that you know, we can be in on it together.



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Notes for the Babysitter

Thanks so much for agreeing to watch our little bundle of joy. Here are a few notes to help make communicating with our 22 month old a little easier.

-"On" means he wants something on. Unless it's already on. Then "on" means off.

-"Wawie" means water. Now, he can pronounce the "RRR" sound. Just not here. Or with flower. That's "flowie."

-And, again, he can say the letter R. As in "Cackor." Which is "cracker." Except when it isn't. Sometimes he means "tractor." Rely heavily on context cues. He has 9 tractors and four kinds of crackers to choose from. Good luck.

-"Cookie" refers to his stuffed cookie monster. "Cakey" refers to either cake or cookie and gets louder with increased intensity as you try to hide it from him or eat it faster.

-If you see the lights in the other room flash repeatedly, don't fear. It just means that he has pushed his chair, drum, the end table etc. over to the light switch. You will hear "On!" with each flip.

-We're working on manners, so encourage "please." Like "Cackor, PEESE!" You will never hear thank you. And if he says it to you first....pretend like it never happened :)

-He's started saying "Sorry" complete with the sign language gesture, and a lateral lisp that's so adorable, you will want him to slap you in the face again so that you can hear it again.

-He'll answer any question you ask him. "Are you ready for a nap?...Can you stop banging on the window?...Do you want to stop flashing the lights?"  But we should warn you that his "Yes" and "No" in no way represents his true desires. He's kind of like a toddling Magic Eight Ball. You might get the answer you want, but it doesn't mean a hill of beans.

-"Poopa" means "I have soiled my pants." "Puppa" means his dog. "Puppa Uh-Oh!" means he dropped the dog. "Poopa, Uh-Oh!" means something else entirely and I apologize in advance if you hear this. There are more wet wipes upstairs.

Thanks again for agreeing to watch our baby. He's dressed as a pirate and ready for action.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Loving the Wife of your Pastor

First of all, I realize that the title of this post is a little sexist. I know dozens of families where the wife is the minister or where both husband and wife have been called to vocational ministry side by side. But, to be honest, I can't speak to that life. I write what I know. And this is what I know. My husband is a pastor, and I'm his wife.


We don't deserve the blessings we receive. I can't keep up with all the heirloom tomatoes I'm finding lovingly tucked inside our doors. From restaurant gift cards, to written notes, to free babysitting, our church knows how to love us and love us well. This isn't a passive-aggressive rallying call for more gifts on our doorstep. Really, we're all stocked up on zucchini here.

Instead, with these words I hope to offer a glimpse into my life. And if you have a small tug on your heart to bless the one who is married to the one who ministers to you, here ya go. My take on things (with a tiny bit of Monday snarkiness :)

-I find vulnerability tricky. Do I long for belonging? More than you know. And more than a crumby kitchen floor or dirty laundry run amok, what I'm worried about uncovering is spiritual struggles. Don't be surprised if I can't really tell you about the tough times in my marriage, because truthfully, do you really want to see the human side of your pastor? Will it change how you see him on Sunday to hear from his wife about all the ways he fell short during the week? I can talk about my life, but really, don't surprised if I keep quiet about my husband. He's a wonderful provider, strong leader, and the hardest worker I know. He's also human. So just know that I can be a good listener but I might need to go outside our church to find someone to be a listener for me.

-Make us part of the fam. Most pastors minister in communities hours and even states away from their families. Added to that they fact that weekends and holidays are the most important work times for vocational ministers, and we are often isolated from family on important days. So we would love an invite for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, or Mother's day. We probably won't stay long, and we won't judge your uncle who tells off-color jokes. We'd just appreciate that chance to be a part of a bigger circle and not eat our turkey alone.

-Treat us like single parents on Sunday. Of course, I have such big time respect for ACTUAL single parents and loving them could be a whole other post: but for wives of pastors, we are going it along on Sundays. So don't expect us to have it all together because Satan usually hit us hard in the A.M. If we make it out of the door without having to eat crackers off the floor or having poop on our hands, then it's a small miracle. If you need to tell me something, maybe an e-mail or a message at a later time (when the baby's not making a dash for the coffee bar) would be better. Maybe sit by me during the service so I don't have to sit alone. And if you offer to carry the baby while I make up our plates through the pot-luck line, well, I might have to kiss you.

-Expect the same commitment that you would any other woman with my age and responsibility. In cases like mine where my husband got the call and I got him, it's not fair to expect me to be a minister just because my husband is. I love God. I love the church. I love you! I'm called to make disciples and draw ever closer to God just like every other fully devoted follower, but it's not a two-for one deal. I have my own gifts, talents, and passions apart from my husband.

-I don't know everything my husband knows. Whether it's the juicy gossip about the organist or the time for the next board meeting, there's a lot of stuff that we don't talk about over dinner. Actually, in our marriage, Nathan keeps his boundaries pretty clear. We really don't talk shop about church. When he comes home, he's ready for a break, not to re-hash everything from his day. Lots of times I find out about scheduled events from the bulletin like everyone else. My pastor-husband fiercely respects the confidentiality of anyone he ministers to, so don't bother asking about it. I probably don't know :)

-Living in a parsonage can be a delicate balance of gratitude and assertiveness. Thankfully we live in a beautifully re-done turn-of-the century home with original moulding and stainless-steel appliances. (I know, right!) But I've actually heard of church boards that had quarterly inspections to see how the family was keeping their home. I've heard congregants say to other pastors "it's not your house anyway." Yikes. I've also witnessed church members just walk into a parsonage, catching my friend by surprise and grateful that she was fully dressed. It's a blessing to have a home provided and kept as a part of your compensation. Just make sure that your church is making it a blessing and not a burden for the family. 

-Realize that YOU are the normal one. If you are thinking about what your pastor's spouse is going through, then that is strong evidence that you are thoughtful, empathetic, and probably the best part of their day. If you aren't texting us at 1:28 Sunday morning, or walking into our home without knocking, or dramatically pointing to your watch in the middle of my husband's sermons (Ha!) then, don't worry about it. And if you want to see any pastor's spouse beam...just say nice things publicly about the one we love. Because when you love the ones I love, well, it doesn't get any better than that.



Monday, September 30, 2013

Labor of Motherhood

Once I knew that my baby would come to me and not through me, I knew that my connection to motherhood would be different. Naively, I thought that the hard physical work of mothering would be growing, carrying, and then delivering the baby. And to be sure, there is sacrifice and labor that I will never know in bringing a child into the world. And yet, as the months turn and my baby grows, and GROWS, I'm blessed and burdened to unwrap the groaning, tangible work of motherhood.


He's a year and a half now. He runs and climbs and explores and rides. Most of his waking hours are spent away from my constant touch, and so I savor the times I get him: snacks on my lap, music and blocks in from of me; the lingering, dripping, towel-wrapped dance from the tub to his nursery. And yet there is so much more lifting than a year ago. Each trip up the stairs is double weight. When he needs to be picked up and comforted, I'm more keenly aware of this boy-baby I'm holding.

Unlike most mothers, I was already injured when he came to us. A little more broken with bulging disks and damaged nerves, I made plans on how to compensate with caring for a newborn. I had baby carriers, had a high changing table, a kitchen sink-accessible tub. But then he grew. And I hadn't really thought about what it feels like to carry thirty pounds up the stairs while it strongly protests. Getting in and out of car seats, strollers, bath tub, I'm sharply reminded that mothering takes sacrifice. Mine is just physical.

I hurt. Some days worse than others but always a little.

It won't define these days, so I hesitate to talk about it. here. But when I look back, I want to see a full picture of these days. The bursting love, the soaring joy of discovering life through his eyes, but also the deep pain of caring for someone else.

If you were to go to my parent's house and look through photo albums, you would find late in the 70's pictures of my mother. When she was expecting my oldest brother, the doctor's advised her against gaining much weight. So she didn't. She gained I think around 12 pounds and the baby weighed 9. She told me how the months passed and the rest of her shrunk as her belly grew. "My body gave the baby what it needed." She said. And growing up with that story (and the sure knowledge that it's healthy to gain weight when you're expecting) I thought to myself "my body will know...and will give the baby what it needs."

I'm seeing that in full effect these days. Of course, not for the first 9 months of his life. Those precious times were for his birth mother to give him what he needed. But for the past year and a half, I've witnesses a rallying of all my physical strength as I mother this baby of mine. For the first few months, I cradled him in the soft bend of my left arm as I fed, soothed, and carried him. My left bicep grew. Then as he started to sit and preferred to be upright, he switched over to my right, stronger side. I see my hip grow, my right shoulder strengthen. In the lilting waltz of motherhood, my body changes as he grows and needs different things.


Now he explores and I squat behind him, unable to bend my back. Somehow with this wounded body of mine, I'm still able to give him what he needs: a hip to cling to, hands to explore the world, a soft place in the nape of my neck to sink into, grasped fingers to steady wobbly steps, a lap to curl into with a book. Month by month I get to share in the labor of motherhood. It's lifting into high chairs, transferring into the car seat, pushing around the neighborhood, picking up toys, picking up toys again, hefting hampers of clothes, shoving swings, squatting up the stairs, reaching over the bath tub, bending over diaper changes, rocking to sleep, carrying to bed.

It's hard.
It's sacrificial.
It's sweaty and it's heavy.
It's good, beautiful work.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Be gentle with Mama

Baby boy, you are not so much a baby anymore. I'm not quite sure where these last few months went, but I blinked when you went from a teetering 11 months to a joyfully rowdy 17 months. More little boy than baby, you confidently explore the furniture, test every door, grab the rail walk the stairs whispering "did it" with every step. Everything cylindrical becomes a "bat!" and any round object is a "ball!" to be thrown in my general direction.

You run and you squeal, meeting life with destruction and glee.


When I scoop you in my arms I am often met with open handed pats and slaps to the face. Tiny fingers roughly explore my eyes and the inner contents of my nose. Your father and I have suffered nibble marks, broken teeth, fat lips, and reddened cheeks from your wild joy. During your bounding romp through these months of toddlerhood I find myself coaching you on a daily basis: "be gentle with Mama." I grab your hand and gently stroke my face, teaching you how to touch with care.

And like the cooing newborn phase, the wobbly crawler, and the proud stander, this bombastic slapper phase with pass too. I will find myself staring at a growing boy, hurling yourself down the street on your bike, teetering on tree limbs, choosing friends, exploring how to express your own opinion, grabbing our car keys, maneuvering through adolescent relationships, packing up boxes for college. Oh baby, then I will long for chubby dimpled fingers in my face and the echo of your happy calls will ring in my ears.

Sweet boy I will find myself whispering low,




again and again: "Be gentle with Mama."

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

12 months

Sweet baby boy. you turned one year old on March 28th 2013.
  • you love to eat (as long as it's something you like.) you are not a fan of green veggies anymore. LOVE any kind of fruit and are eating more and more finger food instead of purees. 
  • LOVE crackers. in fact it's your favorite word "cacker?" adorable.
  • are sleeping through the night. hallujah. like,  the whole night. I can go to bed at 10 and stay in bed til you get up with daddy around 6. 
  • wear 12 month clothes on the bottom and are starting to wear 18 month clothes on top. 
  • took your first few steps a week before your birthday and you are SO, so proud of yourself when you walk. You start to clap your hands and howl :)
  • you only walk to nathan or me....haven't gotten the hang of walking just to get to where you want to go.
  • Grandma and Grandpa came for your birthday and man oh man do you love your grandma. Grandpa got the only kisses but you would flirt and choose grandma over me. You would even cry when she left the room.
  • you now say "Dada" "Mama" "Tedy" "Yes" and "cracker" You also started to say "Na-na-na" when we tell you no....so I don't think that's very effective.
  • your favorite toys are you tool set from Auntie Casey and your little pets.
  • favorite books are "goodnight moon" "bedtime teddy" and your peek-a-boo book
  • you push the furniture around. I don't know why but it makes you so happy.
  • When you see our neighbors dogs from the window you start to bark at them.