Thursday, May 25, 2017

It's a Small World

Miranda goes to school three days a week. Her school is literally down the street from Gary's office, so he normally brings her in and picks her up. Except for Wednesday's. I take those days to drop her off so that he can have a non-rushed morning and I normally head to the YMCA after to get in a workout, so it's a win-win.

Why mention the Y? Well, because yesterday at drop-off, in my sports bra, workout clothes, and frizzy hair splendor, I held the door open for a mom who looked right at me and said, "Are you Samantha?"

I stared directly into her face. I searched my brain for who this person could be. Nothing. Blank. Nada.

"Yes," I replied tentatively. I think I said that word as more of a question than a statement as I had no idea where this conversation was going. I know many of the parents at Miranda's school, but they either know me as "Miranda's mom" or they know my name. Usually, I know theirs as well. I was stumped.

The mom looked at me and smiled. "We were in an Adoptions from the Heart class together."

I then looked down and noticed that she had the most adorable little girl in her car seat carrier and my heart burst inside of my chest.

I love seeing families being made. I especially love seeing families being formed through adoption. 

So we started to chat. Four years ago, we first met. We were in the same course together, with our husbands, talking about our Profile Book. The Profile Book is a tool you use to market yourself to prospective birth parents. She remembered me from all that time ago and said I was so excited about our book and had told our social worker we would have our book done right away.

I must have been super annoying. But I wanted a baby, and nothing was getting in my way!

The new mom and I parted ways after catching up for about 15 minutes. We connected on Facebook and are going to make plans for our girls to play together. We had a short wait to get Miranda. They had a longer wait to get placed. However, it's always nice to connect with people that are on the same journey as you.

What are the odds that our paths would cross? The adoption agency that we used is a good 45 minutes from our house. One day a week for about ten minutes, I am in Miranda's school. That's it! We both must have hit the same traffic patterns and the stars somehow aligned for us to run into each other. There are many many child care facilities in our area, and yet we both chose the same one.

I smiled all day yesterday. I love new connections. Now my daughter will know another friend who is adopted which is super cool to me. Gary and I will have another couple that we can share stories with and even look to or share advice. Open adoption is wonderful for the child, but it can be a bit tricky for both the birth parents and the adoptive parents. It will be nice to have each other.

It really is a small world.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

From Then Till Now...

Six years ago yesterday was my first blog post. From then till now, I have had 94,791 views to my page. That is not including the views I have had to my pieces that have been published. I am still baffled that I get paid to write stories about my life! I have authored 30 pieces so far and my memoir is coming pretty well.

When I first started to blog, it was because my friend Estelle had sent me an article that explained that there was a whole community of women who bonded over the loss of their babies by writing. I am not sure if I even knew what a blog was before then.

I always wanted to be a writer, but I never knew how to get started. I was also never sure if anyone would be interested in what I had to say.

Turns out that many of you are interested and have stuck with me all this time. I am not sure how I would have survived the empty and still house that I was forced to recover in had it not been for my laptop. I am not sure how I would have survived the wait for our social worker to call and tell us that a birth mother had picked us to be parents if it were not for the kind words and positive feedback I received from this blog.

I am the mom that I am because I am able to express myself in this space. It's impossible to put into words how grateful I am for that.

There is not much I do not write about - from depression and anxiety and loss and bereavement to happiness and rainbows and family and vacations. My writing is very much a reflection of my life. The good and the bad all mushed together with a pretty image or quote to make it that much better.

I received this note just last night, "I happened across your blog on Kveller... just wanted to reach out and let you know that your posts resonated." A complete stranger was moved enough to send me a note and let me know how my words made a difference to her. She is about to celebrate her son's third birthday of when he was born still and she was pleased to see she was not alone in her quest to honor her child that is not here with her.

It's such a fine line between wanting to grieve and be sad forever and also wanting to be free of the grief and live life. Knowing there are others out there is key. At least for me.

I am one of the lucky ones. My family and friends all remember our loss. I have to remember that they all lost someone, too.

We have been teaching Miranda about honesty and respect. She is just barely old enough to understand. It's so important to believe in those traits and to abide by them for yourself and for others.

I hope that my words continue to heal me...and maybe you, too. 94,791 views sure leads me to believe that they are! 

Future Writer!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Nothing and Everything

Earlier this year, I took advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures and went to the local zoo with my young daughter.  My sister-in-law and two nieces joined us there. I could not stop smiling.

To the outside world, we looked like just a couple of moms, taking our kids on a little adventure, passing the time with laughter smiles.  Many of the exhibits were closed since it was off-season, but the playground was open and there were just enough animals in their habitats that the kids were pleased.

It was nothing and everything at the same time.

There was a time that I did not think we were going to be able to raise our children together. I worried that I would never parent a living child. I thought my arms would be empty forever.

My sister-in-law and I were pregnant for the first time at the same time. We had our baby showers within weeks of each other. We were both expecting girls. We were excited and scared and happy and so very blessed.

Her daughter arrived first. It was just a matter of weeks until it was my turn. I held her daughter on my swollen pregnant belly as she napped the sleep of a newborn. I could barely wait till it was my turn.

Twelve days later, we learned my daughter's heart had stopped beating. Just like that. One day she was kicking me so hard that it took my breath away and the next day, I noticed little movement. I felt silly calling the doctor as I was sure I was being dramatic. It turned out that my intuition was right.  She died in my womb and the next day, I had to deliver her still.

That was a little over six years ago. There were so many feelings of guilt and sadness and loss and disappointment. I realized early on that my husband and I were not the only ones who lost a child. Our family lost a cousin, granddaughter, niece, and friend.

Now fast forward to two years later. My sister-in-law was pregnant again. By then, my husband and I decided to grow our family through adoption. It was surprisingly seamless for us, and the moment we held our daughter in our arms, we knew she was ours.

Now there are three girls between us. They are the best of friends. They can’t wait to play together, and no matter how much time we give them, it’s never enough.

One child will always be missing. I think of her every day, and I suspect that others do as well. But what that missing child has taught me is that you have to live each day to its fullest. Live without regrets. Live with intention.

If that means going to the zoo on a warm winter day, then go. Enjoy the sights and sounds. Enjoy the peals of laughter and the smiles on the faces of the ones you love. Enjoy it all.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Please tell me that did not just happen...

It was a beautiful Easter day. Although not my holiday, it is a day I happily celebrate with my in-laws and we always have a terrific time. There is food galore, a frenzied and exciting Easter egg hunt, lots of laughter and more love than can fit in the house.

In the midst of the chaos and excitement and heat-wave that was Easter 2017, I excused myself to the go the bathroom. The window was open and I sat there for a moment, enjoying the sounds of the kids squealing outside. Then I picked up my phone and checked to see if I had any messages. I may have also scrolled through Facebook.

I stood up, washed my hands, checked my lip gloss and promptly dropped my phone in the toilet.


I have never moved so fast in my life. I retrieved my device, dried it as best as I could, ran outside to tell everyone and promptly put my rose gold beauty in rice (at the suggestion of almost everyone there).  

And then I was to wait 24 hours to check my phone.

After about 15 minutes, I started to sweat. And it had nothing to do with the temperature. I am so attached to my phone that not being able to look at it when I wanted to was actually giving me a panic attack. My hands were clammy and my mind was distracted. Even though there was nothing I needed my phone for right then, I was immobilized with fear as to what I would do if my phone was soon going to just be used for parts. 

Several hours later when we got home, I was able to check my iPad for urgent issues. Other than that, I had to wait.

Life without my phone was calmer. Life without my phone was less distracting. Life without my phone was scary! All I wanted to go was look up "What in the world am I supposed to do without my phone?!?!?!"

About an hour ago, I held my breath and powered up my electronic friend. The screen came to life. Everything seemed fine. There were a few rice kernels wedged into places where they did not belong, but with a thumbtack and patience, I got them out. All seems fine.

And now? Now I am writing about the experience while it is fresh in my mind. My daughter is in the room with me waiting for me to play with her. And my phone? It's sitting on the desk next to me safe and dry. There it will stay when I hit "publish" and go play with Miranda. There it can stay for the rest of the day. There are a lot more important things in this world than my phone.

Six years ago on Easter weekend, we lost Allie. Four years ago on Easter weekend, we found Miranda. This time of year is supercharged and I do not need to add to it with my reliance on my phone. I get it, universe. Lesson learned. Either leave the phone where it is or for crying out loud, make sure the toilet lid is closed!

Monday, April 3, 2017

On Death and Dying

Miranda turned 4 on Friday and virtually overnight, she has changed. While always interested in the world around her, in the past week, she has become more perceptive and more inquisitive. She no longer accepts my reply of "just because" or "because I said so". Suddenly she wants more.

She has always confused butterflies with her sister...she thinks they are one and the same. I have tried to explain that Allie was a person, a baby, and that we use butterflies as a way to remember her and honor her. She always nodded but I knew she did not get it. I never pushed the issue because I also knew she was too young.

Last night, right before bedtime, she asked about Allie the butterfly and wanted to know why she was in heaven. I explained that she was there because she died. I am not sure I ever used the word death before, but I sensed it was time.

Her eyes opened really wide and she said she didn't want her to die. Then she was worried that she might die.

With a tear rolling down my cheek,  I tried to explain that all living things die eventually. That the birds and the trees all around us are alive now but that one day they will die, too. I reminded her that our cat Zoe was once alive and now she only lives on in our hearts. I reminded her that my dad, Pop Pop Jim had also died and so did her Great Aunt E who loved her very much.

She understood it more than I thought she could. Within a few minutes, we were back to brushing teeth like nothing had happened at all. And maybe that is how it is supposed to be. Maybe I am not supposed to make a big deal out of it. Death is just another part of life, after all.

I worry so that my daughter is going to have her share of difficult conversations. But maybe what is difficult for me is not so tough for a 4-year-old. Maybe if we start the conversations now, they will be less severe than if it waited until she was older.

"I will explain it to you when you are older" was a phrase I heard so often growing up. Maybe keeping the truth from me did not do me any favors. Or maybe it did and that is why I am who I am today. I am not sure there is a way to know.

So I will continue to be as honest as I can with Miranda until she asks too much of me or asks me something I simply do not think her little brain can handle. Until then, I guess I will just do my best. I think that is fair!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hannah Rose

When I was in third grade, I met a girl in my Hebrew school class that would change the course of my life forever.

At nine years old, this girl and I were mostly concerned about getting our ears pierced - something both of our dads strictly forbid. She had blonde straight hair and I had dark curly hair. While we did not look like sisters, we both felt that connection right way. She had three brothers and I had two and we were both sorely in need of a girl to confide in.

Our friendship grew and grew over the years. Our brothers became friends. Our parents became friends. We went to the shore together. I rode in my first limo with her and spent summers swimming in her outdoor pool. I called her parent's mom and dad and they were very much like parents to me. I slept over her house every weekend and we spent rang in many New Year's Eves together.

We celebrated out Bat Mitzvah's together. I remember her Sweet Sixteen party like it was last month and not several decades ago. I remember each and every New Kids on the Block concert. I remember walking around the mall on Friday nights just because. I remember it all.

We were in our synagogue's youth group together and had our first crushes together. She fell in love first and I was envious and worried about what it might do to our friendship. It only strengthened it. I signed the ketubah (marriage contract) at her wedding and she and her husband, in turn, signed mine (although many many years later!).

Estelle and I have been friends for as long as I can remember and I can't imagine what my life would be like without her by my side.

Noam was instrumental in getting me a job that opened up many doors for me. I made a lot of friends, build up a nice resume and oh yeah, also met the man that would later be my husband.

When Estelle called to tell me she was pregnant, I already knew. I had dreamt it. I also knew her name. I can't explain it - I am the least clairvoyant person there is...and yet I knew the world was soon going to meet a girl named Hannah Rose.

Hannah turned thirteen this past December. And this past weekend, she celebrated her Bat Mitzvah.

It's hard to put into words what the weekend meant to me. Friday night, my mom and I went to synagogue services and sat with another friend that has been with us on this journey for almost as long. We watched the evening unfold and took it all in.

The next morning we went back to synagogue. Gary and Miranda came, too. Miranda sat through almost two hours of services that were mainly in Hebrew. That is no small feat for an almost-four-year-old! She drank it all in and I hope that experience will excite her about her upcoming Jewish education. I think it did.

And Hannah? Well, that little girl is not so little anymore. She was poised and confident and radiant, just like her mom. I was so proud of her and so proud to know that I played a little part in the history of her life.

Estelle and Noam were beaming. There were tears of happiness and joy. I practically wanted to freeze time.

That night, we partied. We celebrated and laughed and cheered and cried a little bit more. Hannah has her whole life ahead of her and has a solid and strong foundation on which to build her whole life. Her younger brother, Zach, who just turned eight (and thus not so "young" anymore) was enjoying the attention that both he and his sister were receiving and they were both so amazing. 

Estelle's brothers and their wives and their kids were all having a great time. Noam's siblings and their families were spreading contagious smiles. It was a full-circle moment for me in that I went from the kid that danced the Wang Chung at Estelle's Bat Mitzvah to "one of her parent's friends" at Hannah's Bat Mitzvah.

We all held hands as we danced the hora and the feeling in the room was electric. Years of Hannah studying and practicing and learning. Years of Hebrew school lessons and tutoring and rehearsing over and over and over.

I look at this family that Estelle and Noam have made and I burst with pride. Then I look at my own family and think about how lucky I am. How lucky we all are. 

Judaism is more than a religion to me. It introduced me to my oldest friend and her family. I love the traditions and the culture and the spirituality of it all.

I am so proud of Hannah. I am honored to be a part of her life. I can't wait to see what's in store for her next. Something tells me with her parents and her brother by her side, it will be!

Hannah's Baby Naming
Miranda and me "striking a pose"
The Proud Family!

What a night!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Jewish Confessional

Since I am Jewish, I do not take or go to Confession. If I did, I feel like every other time I would go, I would say, "Bless me, Rabbi, for I have sinned. I ate a box of Girl Scout cookies...again."

I am not making light of confession; rather, I am illustrating exactly how big of a deal my weight is to me.

That's right. To me. Because I finally get that no one else really cares. As long as I am healthy and happy, no one gives a crap what size jeans I wear.

I have lost and gained so much weight, so many times, that I have stretch marks of every shape and size. Some of from being pregnant, but most are from bagels and pasta. And ice cream. And in college, lots of ramen and macaroni and cheese.

These days, I am busy taking care of my daughter and making sure my family is doing well. I am also trying to build my writing career. I got a new client last week and I am already doing work for them. I simply do not have time for the self-loathing that I have been doing my whole life.

When I am thin, I am not thin enough. When I am fat, I am too fat. So I am trying something new.

I do not want to be thin. I do not want to be fat. I just want to be me.

I tried my first Zumba class this morning. I figured those skills would give me the energy to keep up with Miranda on the playground or at the pool this summer. With sweat rolling down my face, moving left, swaying right, I looked into the mirror and saw my reflection smiling back at me. It was a tired smile, but it was a proud smile. I am taking care of me.

I started cooking. With the help of my brother and sister-in-law, I am cooking healthy recipes that my whole family seems to enjoy. With the help of my best friend since high school, I made fish for the first time last week. It was so good, Miranda picked it up and ate it with her hands. Then she devoured the string beans that went with it. Huh??

My mom tried her best with me, but I was stubborn. I refused to eat or try certain vegetables just because. Miranda is stubborn, too, but I am hoping if we set the precedent when she is young, she will never know the difference between good food or bad food. She will just know how we eat at home. And then I can rest easy knowing that I am giving her the best foundation that I can.

None of this is easy. I guarantee you we will have pizza night again - sooner rather than later. And when I am cooking, I like to have a nice glass of wine with me. We also still have Girl Scout cookies in the pantry and several boxes on order from my niece. For the first time, I know I do not have to get rid of everything in the house. I just have to make smarter choices when I can. And when I can't, it's ok. One meal at a day at a time.  It's not a perfect system, but it's sure better than how I have been living.

"Bless me, Rabbi...I have made an awful lot of mistakes but I think I finally found a way to fix them."

My shopping partner

It's a Small World

Miranda goes to school three days a week. Her school is literally down the street from Gary's office, so he normally brings her in and p...