Friday, December 27, 2013

It Takes a Village

Christmas was insanely special for me this year.  This year was Miranda's first one.  But she did not wear a Santa hat or leave homemade cookies out for Santa and his reindeer.  She did not help us decorate a tree or have to decide if she was naughty or nice.  Being Jewish, we do not do any of those things.  But luckily for her, her cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents do!

So off to New Jersey we went for our first Christmas with Miranda.  My mom also came with us this year (as she had for the past few years) and her being there is really special for me, too.  Upon arrival, my brother-in-law came right up to the car and took Miranda's car seat off they went.  She has him wrapped around her little itty bitty finger. 

We grabbed our presents and followed them inside. The house was warm with laughter and music and the aromas of dinner that I can still smell if I close my eyes.  The love in the house was palpable and it was just a delightful day.

When we sat down to dinner, everyone took a moment to say grace.  I love that they do that and that Miranda will get to experience that since we do not do it.  I think it's a nice tradition and I love hearing my little nephews and niece give thanks.  Especially on a holiday.

Then Gary asked if he could add something.  Forks in the air and ready to plunge into their plates, everyone stopped.  I am gonna paraphrase now, but this is essentially what he said, "2 years ago we learned that it takes a village to mourn a child.  Now we know it also takes a village to raise one.  Thank you all for being a part of our village."

I am not sure that I ever loved him more.

We would not have survived Allie's death without the love and support of those around us.  And I wonder what kind of parents we would be to Miranda without the love and support of those around us.  Not very good ones, I believe.  It takes so much more than just us. It takes a village.

Miranda will be 9 months old on New Year's Eve.  She is a full fledged crawler now.  She is into everything.  And we are loving every single moment.  I full out belly laugh with her sometimes.  She makes me that happy.  She is surely what has been missing from my life...from my soul.  She is the piece of the puzzle that I was searching for all along.

I wonder what it would be like to have a 2 1/2 year old and a 9 month old.  But alas, I can't allow myself to think like that.  I can miss my Allie, sure.  And I do.  But I can't do the "what if" game.  It hurts my heart too much. 

Instead I choose to live in the moment as much as I can.  To appreciate what (who) we do have here and to remember as much of it as I can before one stage turns to the next and then the next and then the next.  It's already going much too fast.

I hope everyone had a happy holiday season and that your wishes and dreams became a reality.  I know mine did!


Friday, December 20, 2013

Gotcha Day

March 13, 2013 - We were chosen to be Miranda's parents
March 31, 2013 - Miranda Hope was born
September 13, 2013 - Termination Hearing was held to terminate the rights of the birth parents
December 18, 2013 - Finalization Hearing.  Miranda Hope was officially and legally declared "ours"

Gotcha Day was this past Wednesday and it was nothing short of spectacular.

Judge: "Do you understand that if the court approves this adoption, you will legally assume all of the rights, duties and responsibilities of a natural parent of the child?   Do you understand that if this decree is granted, this child be the same as a natural child to you?   Do you understand that you will have all of the duties toward this child to educate, support and to supply moral guidance and upbringing?  Do you understand you have a duty of love and affection to this child?"

YES YES YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

With those nearest to us in the court room seats, Miranda and I took the witness stand first.  I placed my hand on the bible and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  My tears could not be stopped as my heart was so full and I was so happy.  The judge asked me to introduce all the people we had with us and I proudly showed off our family.  I gladly answered the questions that the judge posed and our attorney chimed in as needed.  Then we switched and Gary took the stand.  He was so proud to be there, holding our daughter.  It made me weep some more.

It was about a 10 minute hearing.  It was surreal.  It was amazing.  We walked into the courthouse with Baby Girl B (her legal name this whole time) and walked out with Miranda Hope Koellhoffer.  Yesterday we received an official certificate of adoption.  She is ours.  We are hers.  Life is good.

We came back to the house and hosted a small lunch for those who were able to celebrate with us. Very hard on a weekday and a week before Christmas.  But many people were able to attend and share our joy.  I will never forget a moment of that day.

On the witness stand, holding Miranda on my lap, I felt a little tingle.  It was Allie.  I am sure of it.  She was there.  She was watching.  She was protecting her little sister.

And so, now we are just a regular old family.  No more legal bills, no more social worker visits...just a normal family.  Well, our version of normal, anyway!

A special thanks to everyone that made "Gotcha Day" so special.  Phyllis, Rita & Mike, Gary & Brenda, Paul, Caraline, Sean, Ryan & Maddy, Dan, Lauren, Ella & Summer, Jeff & Neda, Amy, Tina, Estelle, Kara, Jon, Jackson & Joss, Mel, Pearl & Leslie, Cheryl, and Ashley.  And for all the texts and emails and well wishes...not to mention the 135 or so Facebook likes...thank you.  Thank you all.

Daddy's side of the family
Mommy's side of the family

With "Aunt" Amy
Judge Ott and Us
The Koellhoffer Family
Our daughter, Miranda Hope

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pay It Forward

Last night we were invited to speak at the adoption agency to people that were considering adoption.  There were 5 couples that were supposed to be there, but only 2 showed up.  That was fine by us - it gave us the chance to really talk personally about our experience.  

November 2012, we went to the same informational meeting.  13 months later, we kicked off the meeting with a squirmy (but adorable) 8 month old in our arms.  Holy crap.

The night started off a little crazy.  Gary hurried home from work so we could down there in time.  Miranda, in a fashion very unlike her, cried the WHOLE WAY THERE.  We thought she would sleep.  No such luck.  At one point we pulled over to the side of the road and tried to give her a small bottle.  Then we took off her coat.  Then we tried to entertain her.  Nothing.  However, by the time we arrived, she was calm and smiling.  Thank goodness.

We were prepped by the social worker as to what kind of questions we could anticipate and what we should try to highlight.  We were not worried.  We lived and breathed this process and in many ways, still do.  So we were ready.

We walked out and introduced ourselves and started to tell our story.  Home studies and profile books and educational classes.  Open adoption and birth mothers and what a typical visit is like.  Feelings and emotions and fertility and loss.  Our journey that led us to adoption and our journey since adoption.  It was empowering and exciting and it felt good.  The people in the audience were respectful and interested and Miranda was pretty good, considering it was past her bed time.  She smiled and cooed in all the right places!

When we were done, we could not stay for the rest of the meeting so we gave Miranda her night time bottle and started to head home.  Luckily, this time she slept and heavy sleep, too!  We were able to transfer her pretty easily to her crib when we got home.

It felt good to tell our story. To pay it forward, so to speak. We were honored to be asked.  I hope we helped someone else.  I really do.  But if not, I know it helped us to say it all out loud, to realize again how lucky we are that Miranda is in our lives.  Not that we need a reminder, but it was fascinating to tell our story.

5 days until the judge officially declares Miranda "ours".  Then this chapter is closed and we start the next one.  The one with the little girl who is THIS close to crawling and then walking and then talking and oh's too much!  Let me take it one chapter at a time!!

Adoptions From the Heart

First Snow Day!

Saturday, December 7, 2013


For our anniversary, Gary got us tickets to see Pink.  We are both pretty big fans of her music and have seen some of her concerts on TV and they are pretty amazing. So he lined up a babysitter months in advance (Thanks, Uncle Paul!) and after months of anticipation, last night was finally here.

The show was amazing.  It was everything you would hope to see from a performer such as Pink.  Lively energetic acrobatics and great songs and catchy tunes and just the most amazing vibe in the whole arena.  I love seeing concerts but Gary (having seen so many growing up) had tired of going.  So part of my gift was that we were going together.  Standing next to him, clapping hands, dancing and singing along, a few lyrics got to me more than when I listened to them in the past.

If someone said three years from now
You'd be long gone
I'd stand up and punch them out
Cause they're all wrong
I know better
cause you said forever
and ever

who knew

I felt like this lyric was crafted for Allie.  If three years ago someone told me she would be long gone, I would never have believed it.  Sigh. I am not sure the lyrics ever hit me like that before.

The rest of the show was more of a positive experience for me.  It was such a fun night and at the end, it was so nice to have a little girl at home waiting for us.  I feel so damn lucky that I am afraid to breathe sometimes.  I am worried if I blink, it will all go away.

In spite of our losing Allie, I still feel lucky.  Lucky to have known her at all.  Luckily that she led us on the path to Miranda.  Lucky to be Miranda's mom.

I do not mourn Allie like I once did - I celebrate her.  At least that is how I feel today.  I celebrate when her name is mentioned or when a memory pops into my head.  I am still sad when I think of all that we had planned for her and all that we wanted to do together as a family, but in general, I am smiling when I remember her.
I am starting to think about going back to work.  Since none of my loyal readers have offered me a book deal (ha!), I will probably need to make money some other way.  I interviewed at the adoption agency we used and that job seemed really great and interesting to me.  But there were 17 other people that interviewed and over 100 resumes.  So although I was in the running, it was not in the cards.  But I liked the idea of working professionally with an organization that personally has so much meaning to me.  I have not looked at a single job posting (that posting was sent to me by my brother who was looking at the time) but it's probably a good idea to start.  Is there a career in stillbirth awareness?  I think that is more of a personal crusade.  I could choose another avenue with regards to adoption to pursue.  Or I could see what is available in Marketing or Training that is close to my house and has decent hours and pays well and...oh man.  Maybe I will stay home a bit longer.

We got our court date - finally!!!  On December 18th, a judge will officially declare Miranda "ours".  Our close friends and family are coming to bear witness to this monumental event, almost 9 months in the making. To say we are excited is an understatement.  This is the last step in the adoption process and we could not be more thrilled. 

So here I sit with last night's concert still playing in my head with my husband playing on the couch with our baby so I can write.  It's not a bad life.  It's not bad at all.  It some ways, it's quite perfect.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New Traditions

Thanksgiving.  One word.  So many meanings.

As a kid, I remember going to the Thanksgiving Parade on the Parkway in Philadelphia and watching all of the floats go by with my grandfather.  My grandparents had an apartment with a beautiful view so I remember watching the parade in person but also from the great big windows of their place.  My brother and I would sleep over the night before and I remember it being so much fun.  I do not remember any other sleepovers there, but I am sure there must have been some. 

As a teen, Thanksgiving lost its luster.  My parents had divorced by then and I guess we were too old to go to my grandparents any more.  So the holiday was split between parents and often times, my siblings and I were split, too.  The day was always ok, but the joy was gone for me.  I was always welcome where I went and my step-family took me in without a second thought, but something was always missing.

As an  adult, Thanksgiving became ok again.  My parents, while still divorced, had become amicable enough for us to spend the holiday together.  By then, my dad had an apartment in New York and we would all go there for the long weekend.  Turkey dinner was just the start - there would be Broadway shows and shopping and pretty much all you can imagine Thanksgiving in New York would be.

Over time, the New York tradition got phased out and we were back to being local.  Our family started to grow.  We started to include others.  Other people hosted us.  But we were always together as much as we could be.

This year is Miranda's first Thanksgiving.  How I have waited for this day!  I remember not too long ago asking if I could bring my boyfriend to Thanksgiving.  He then became my husband.  Then there was the Thanksgiving where I was pregnant and we all laughed at how different the next year would be.  And it was - but not for the reasons we thought.

We contacted the adoption agency in mid-November last year and hoped and prayed that we would be parenting within the year.  Tomorrow, we will have an almost 8 month old sitting beside us at the table.  Just goes to show that you never know what will happen from year to year.

Last year, Ella was at the table at Allie was in our hearts.  This year, Ella is joined by her sister Summer and her cousin Miranda.  And Allie will still be there tucked in our hearts.

I am not sure what traditions Miranda will grow up with on Thanksgiving.  It's funny that her first Thanksgiving is also the first day of Hanukkah.  That's not too confusing, right?  It will not happen again in her lifetime so in a way, it's cool that she can experience it, I guess.  As she gets older, will we take her to a parade?  Will her grandparents?  Will she have memories of her cousins all playing and the smells of delicious food cooking in the air? Will she love apple pie like me or prefer turkey like Gary?  Time will tell, I suppose.

I would be remiss not to mention my dad.  He loved this holiday.  He loved to host.  It was his parents that formed some of my earliest memories.  He is currently in a nursing home and not able to be with us.  He is deteriorating quickly.  Dementia has taken much of his mind.   He is a shell of who he used to be.  

My dad and I have such a splintered past.  But he is my dad and for that, I love him.  And I will tell Miranda all the good things about him and make sure she knows what kind of man he was, when he was a good man.  Most likely, our new family traditions will not include him, but the best of him will always be with us.

I am thankful for that.  For the memories of the past and the hopes of the future.  I am thankful for it all.

Getting ready for Hanukkah!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Giving Thanks + My List

It seems the trend on Facebook this month is to list the things you are thankful for each day and to list a certain amount of fun facts about you that few people know.  I decided to combine them both in a post.

I am thankful for...well, what am I not thankful for?  I am thankful for my life.  Every day of it.   I am thankful for my husband who is the kind of man that goes on a business trip and sends me flowers.  And notes.  Every day a handwritten note to Miranda and me.  I am thankful for Gary's heart and that he let me into it and then also opened it up for both of our girls.

I am thankful for my mom who lives 7 minutes away and who is here when I need her to be and also knows to not be here when I don't.  And I am thankful that she knows the difference. I am thankful for my 2 brothers and their wives and am so glad that we all enjoy each other as much as we do.  And I am so glad we are all there to support each other like we do.  I am thankful for my 3 nieces and 2 nephews that bring me more joy than I could ever explain.  I am thankful for Gary's brother and his wife and know how lucky I am to have them as family and as friends.  I am thankful for the family I married into as they are as much mine as Gary's and have enough compassion and advice to fill any empty space.

I am thankful for my friends.  The ones I text and email at all hours of the day and night who keep me sane.  The ones who hold me up when I need support and who laugh with me when I need the release.  The ones I share my hopes and my dreams with and the ones I share a bottle of wine with...without my friends, I would be lost.

I am thankful for the 37 weeks that I got with my first daughter and am glad that time is not diminishing my love or memory of her.

I am thankful for M for choosing Gary and me to be Miranda's parents.  Can we ever thank her enough?

I am thankful for Miranda.  For her smile when I walk into a room.  For the way she fills my heart.  For the way she makes Gary light up.  And for the thousands of other things she does without even knowing it.

I am thankful for it all.  

Now on to my list (in no particular order):
  1. I used to hate country music but now I kind of dig it
  2. My middle name is Jill
  3. I never thought I was going to be a wife or a mother and now those are my 2 favorite roles
  4. I wish I applied myself more in school (high school and college)
  5. I wish I had better willpower
  6. My favorite color is pink
  7. I don't drink coffee and am still baffled that it is as big an industry as it is
  8. That being said, I love caffeine and Diet Coke is one of the best inventions.  EVER.
  9. I am Jewish and proud of it
  10. Quitting smoking is one of the things I have done that I am most proud of to this day
  11. I love getting mail
  12. I love name brands and feel like I should not care what a label says but still do
  13. I used to bite my nails
  14. I was once hypnotized to lose weight.  I wish I could get a refund
  15. I love to make people laugh.  I hate to see people cry. But I believe in the power of both.
  16. I love all the shows on the Food Network but can't cook at all
  17. I think being a grown up is WAY harder than being a teenager
  18. I was voted "Most Dramatic" in my High School yearbook and wonder where I would be if I had pursued acting as a career
I think that somewhat random list gives some insight into who I am.  

Lastly, I am thankful that I discovered writing as a way to connect my heart and my head.  And I am thankful that anyone bothers to read my ramblings at all!  I am thankful for the chance to be thankful.

Miranda with her 2 boy cousins

Miranda and my mom (aka Gram)

Cousin Ella helping Miranda with her puffs

Aunt Neda, Uncle Jeff and Miranda

Saturday, November 9, 2013

I Remember

Most days, I remember.  I remember that Miranda is our rainbow.  Our hopes, our dreams...our beauty at the end of the storm.  Sometimes, in the middle of the night, when she is up for a reason that is only known to her, I forget she is my rainbow.  I get frustrated.  Upset.  Annoyed even.  The guilt that washes over me then is like a tidal wave for how can I forget even for a MOMENT that raising her is a gift?  Each laughter, each giggle, each tear even - a true gift.

My day to day life is to take care of our gift.  We schedule our days around bottles and food and (with any luck) naps.  We go for walks and we meet friends for lunch and we pass the days with laughs and smiles and joy.   It's hard work - way harder than I ever knew.  It's also so rewarding - way more than I ever knew.

On Wednesday afternoon, late in the day, I got word that there were 2 new families attending the UNITE meeting that evening.  I had not been in a year.  I wanted to stay home and just relax.  It had been a long day and I wanted the down time.  

Then I realized how selfish I was being.  What if, on the night of my first meeting, someone was too tired to go?  Would I have had the same experience?  The same support? So I threw on some old jeans, texted my mom that I was going to go (she was planning to go regardless as she has now had some training to help facilitate the group when needed) and off we went.

For 2 hours that night, I got to remember Allie with a group of people who "get it".  I had not been there since Miranda.  In a way, I did not know how to honor and remember one baby while raising another.  Turns out there is enough room in my heart to do both.  But the best part...the part that makes my heart swell even now as I write about it...that was being there for the new people.  Sharing my story and being able to be supportive.  Letting them know that they are not alone.  My baby died, too.  I survived.

We remember our babies while sitting in a circle in the basement of a church.  It's drafty and the lighting is bad and yet it's one of the warmest places I have ever been.  I told Allie's story and it felt good.  I love hearing her name.  I love that others know her name.  I love talking about her.  And at the end of the meeting, I loved going home to my other daughter.

I will never forget Allie.  Those that love Gary and me will never, either.  Miranda will grow up knowing she had a sister.  I want to make sure I honor Allie's memory and I think that I do.  I also want to make sure I never forget that Miranda is our "rainbow".  The burst of color at the end of a ravaging storm.  For both of my babies...I remember.

 What's so amazing
That keeps us stargazing
And what do we think we might see
Someday we'll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me 
- The Muppets 

We love taking "selfies"

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Only The Good Die Young

They say there's a heaven for those who will wait
Some say it's better but I say it ain't
I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
Sinners are much more fun...
You know that only the good die young
 -Billy Joel

My uncle died at 42.  It was the first time I remember seeing my mom cry.  We were all very close and I remember even as a 9 year old wondering how my cousins (who were roughly the same age as me) would ever survive without their dad.  How do you go on when someone who is a part of you is gone?

As I got older, death became a more common "thing".  My favorite grandfather was first.  He was sick and in the hospital and I remember sitting on the bus coming home from 8th grade and picturing my mom saying to me, "Pop Pop died today" so that I would be prepared.  It did not work.  When the news came, we were all devastated.  Then death went to the other side of my family.  My aunt died of suicide at way too young of an age when I was in high school.  Then my mother's mother when I was in college.  In time, both my father's parents.  Some of the deaths were easier to accept.  Some took away the suffering or allowed for another to be with a spouse who has since passed.  In Judaism, we are taught that there is no heaven or hell.  And yet I always felt like when people die, they are reunited with those that have passed before them.

I like the "dance" of the funeral.  In Catholicism as well as Judaism, there is a prayer and a song and then a reading or a eulogy.  A well choreographed way to say goodbye.  It's soothing to hear a familiar hymn or song.  Often times the emotions get the best of you and you are standing there mourning not just the person who recently died, but the people that have died before him or her.  

We did not have a funeral for Allie and I do not regret that.  Gary and I needed a private way to say goodbye to the baby we had, in fact, just said hello to.  I remember thinking that a funeral is for the living and in that moment in time, I did not care about the living.  I only cared about her dad and me and how we were going to say goodbye.  

Yesterday, I went to another funeral.  The uncle of one of my very closest friends.  I grew up with this friend and her family is like my family.  Her uncle was too young to die.  He had such a kind heart and a gentle soul and a smile that felt like he saved it just for you.  

It seems to be like the extra good people - the ones with the big hearts and the big souls - the ones with so much life left in them are often the first to go.  Ours is not to know why but I think we can question it (and we do!).  Why do the good die young?  What is the reasoning?  What is the logic?

So for my uncle who never got to see his kids grow and create families of their own or to my aunt who never got to see me graduate college or to the mother of one of my college roommates who never got to walk her daughter down the aisle, I ask why?  For all the babies that are loved more than the heart can handle, only to be born with no cries.  Why? 

I am not sure we will ever know.  So we have to accept their fate.  We have to wipe away our tears and tell stories about them and keep their memories alive.  We have to do the living they cannot.  For only the good die young.

Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation.  For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.  ~Albert Einstein

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sharing Is Caring

We are taught from a young age to share.  Share our toys.  Share our feelings.  Share our lives with others.

I want to be a good sharer.  But it's hard when I have to share my daughter with her other mother.

Gary says it's not really sharing.  And he is right.  But in some ways, it sure feels like it is.

We agreed to open adoption.  We agreed to 2 in person visits a year.  We agreed to share our baby's life with the woman that gave it to her.

It's so good for Miranda to know that her birth mother (M) hand picked us to raise her.  It will be so good for Miranda to know what her birth mother looks like and sounds like and well, is like.

None of that takes anything away from me.

And yet today, sitting in a restaurant watching her feed my daughter, I felt like I wanted to grab Miranda and run.

Far away so no one could find us.  I do not want to share!

But M got 2 hours today.  I got that with Miranda just on the drive to and from the meeting.  M fed her a bottle.  I feed her several bottles today.  M held her and gave her kisses.  So did I.  Isn't the point for Miranda to have as much love and as many kisses as possible?

I guess one of the lessons of parenthood really is that your goal is to do what is in the best interest of the child.  So if that means that I have to "share" my baby for a few hours a YEAR, that's not so bad.  And even if it was...if it was difficult and miserable and awkward, I would do it anyway since it really is what is best for Miranda.  And yet it was not difficult.  Or miserable.  Or awkward.  For we have one very special bond between us and that is the special little girl that we both call our daughter.  

The birth father is not in the picture and I often wonder what it would be like if we had to share Miranda with him, too.  I guess it would be the same.  Respecting where she came from but knowing that we get the honor and privilege of raising her and parenting her and teaching her so many things.  Like sharing.

So at the end of the day, when our daughter is tucked in safe and sound and I have a few minutes to write and reflect, I find myself feeling sad for the woman who cannot raise the baby she gave birth to and yet grateful and happy at the same time that we were chosen to do the job. 

It's by far my favorite job yet.  I love being Miranda's mom.  Turns out I am really good at it.

So I guess sharing is caring.  And sharing is loving.  And sharing is complicated.  But what isn't??

Thursday, October 24, 2013

5 Years

Time is a subject that a lot of people write about.  I have written about it plenty.  Since Allie died, I saw time as a chunk or space of my life without her. 

Today I want to reflect on the passing of time in a good way.

5 years ago this evening, Gary and I went out for drinks.  Drinks turned to dinner.  Dinner turned to me practically moving in a few months later.  Everyone was worried it was too fast.  I was freaked out.  Gary was calm as ever.  It was right.  He just knew it.

The first time Gary told me he loved me, we were in the parking lot of a movie theater.  I said something along the lines of "No you don't" which is what every guy longs to hear, I am sure.  I just did not see how he could know after dating for such a little time.  He said he just knew it.

It took longer for Gary to propose. To be fair, it was less than a year from our first date but when I decide I want something, I have NO patience (most people reading this blog have an example of this trait).  When he did propose, it was in the parking lot of the restaurant that we went to for our first date.  He was so excited that he could not even wait till we went inside.  

Tonight we are going back to that restaurant to celebrate 5 years of our lives together.  Hopefully we will make it past the parking lot!  (Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law for babysitting!). While there, we will surely reminisce.  Here is some of what 5 years means to us:
  • family
  • love
  • honesty
  • security
  • faith
  • life
  • death
My gut instinct is to say how sad it is that we have experienced death the way we have in our short time together.  But then I realize that I would not change a thing.  Having Allie, and later having to say goodbye to Allie, has made us who we are.  Stronger than ever and more dedicated than ever.  Experiencing a loss like we did almost laid the ground work for our relationship.  Would we be the couple that crumbled or the couple that got it together and plowed forward?  Some days were not our best, but all in all, at the end of the day, there is no one I want by my side more than my husband.  My partner.  My best friend. 

5 years since we walked into the restaurant with 2 different lives only to emerge with 1.  I can't wait to see what the next 5 and then the next 5 and then the next 5 years have in store for us.  One thing is for certain - we will face it head on and keep on going.  That's what we do.  I just know it.

Our Housewarming / Engagement Party
Out for one of my birthday celebrations
My Bridal Shower

Our Honeymoon

Saying goodbye to Allie

At "Mission Adoptable"
Gary, Miranda and Me

    Thursday, October 17, 2013

    The Journey

    Six and a half months ago, I was working full time and had no baby to raise.

    Now I am a stay at home mom with a very full plate.

    I went from training classes on Communication Skills to training Miranda how to eat solids and to nap.  Quite a difference!

    I am not a patient person and that is coming out more and more every day.  I also question myself and my skills much more than in necessary and end up in tears more than I care to admit.  Parenting is HARD work.  Rewarding?  Yes.  Difficult?  Yes!

    Sometimes I feel that it's harder for me as I did not have the 9 months of a pregnancy to prepare.  There are some very unique things about adoption.  I think the biggest is "the wait".  You do not know when you will get the call that you have been chosen and when you do get the call, will it be that a birth mom chose you and you have x amount of months till the baby is born or could it be that a birth mom chose you and your baby was born last night?  Both happen.  Both change your life in an instant.

    We had from March 13th to March 31st to prepare.  (Yes, Gary plays those numbers.  A lot).  But we had Allie's whole pregnancy to prepare, too.  We had multiple baby showers so we had a crib and a changing table and a stroller and diapers and a bumbo seat and a bouncy seat and everything else in-between. Luckily, since our call was that a baby girl was on the way, we also had all the right clothes. And for all the right seasons since Allie was also born in the Spring.

    At first I thought I would want all new stuff for the new baby.  Then I realized exactly how much I wanted to use Allie's things.  Not all of it - some were so "hers" that they went into her memory box or just away.  But most were things we had chosen with love and excitement and I have to say, I got extreme joy out of seeing the nursery put back together and using all of the things that had been given to us with so much love.

    This month is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and it is a very different month to me than it was the last 2 years.  With Miranda by our sides (or on my lap), my grief is different.  In some ways, I do not have time to mourn as I once did.  In other ways, I feel so lucky that Allie prepared us for parenthood that I feel pride and not grief.  But then I go to visit her tree or light a candle in her honor or attend a balloon release and the tears flow now just as much as they did then.  I guess grief really is a journey and sometimes there is traffic and sometimes you are the only ones on the road.

    To everyone that light a candle for Allie on Tuesday (the official Day of Remembrance) and to everyone who supports and loves us each and every day, thank you.  We have come a long way.  We have even longer to go.  With a still guarded heart, I can't wait to see what route we take next.

    Look how much our life changed in six and a half months.  Amazing.

    October 15th

    Allie "Bear" and Miranda
    Happy baby

    Monday, October 7, 2013

    Are you there God? It's Me, Samantha

    Today I had one of the most unique experiences in my life to date.  Back in March of 2012, my mom and I learned of a Spiritual Healing Psychic that was supposed to be very good.  People raved about her.  We reached out for the first available appointments.  After waiting for a year and a half, our appointments were today.

    We signed up for 2 sessions, but decided once we were there that we shared many of the same people and that we should have our sessions combined.  This was a good idea and a bad one.  Good for my mom who had tons of people that wanted to come through and bad for me who has NO patience and got frustrated waiting.  But in the end, it all worked out.

    I do not know how spiritual healing psychics work.  What I do know is that I believe in life past what I can see or understand.

    Many people from our lives came through to see us.  My mother, who lost her brother when he was just a little older than I am now, came in to say he was ok and that he was sorry he did not get to say goodbye.  My grandparents on both sides came through.  Gary's grandfather popped in to say he is always watching over his daughters and his grandsons and their families.  A husband of a long time family friend stopped by to say hello and asked us to pass on that he is always with her.  A father of another friend conveyed a message.  There was a lot of telling us that this person or that person was out there and watching us and loving us from afar.

    Miranda came through as sunshine and rainbows which gave me goosebumps.  And then the Medium asked about my other daughter.  

    She did not have a lot to say except that she was with my mother's parents and with my mother's brother and they were watching out for her.  She knew she was loved and she was ok.

    We were there for 2 hours.  We recorded the sessions so we can go back and listen when we are ready to hear everything again. 

    When we left, I felt empty and confused.  A few hours later, I feel joy and light.  I needed time to process it all and writing it down is helping me do just that.

    There were lots of other things that came through that are impossible to explain.  People I have not thought about in a long time.  People I think about every day.  It was comforting to know that all the spirits are together and telling stories and laughing and protecting each other and us as much as they can.

    I am not sure what I believe in anymore.  I have struggled since Allie's death to make sense of everything.  Does everything happen for a reason?  I am not sure I believe that anymore.  Will I one day understand why I carried Allie to term and yet I am not raising her?  To prepare for my session today, I went and looked at Allie's pictures from the hospital.  I saw her perfect little nose and her dark curly hair and her fully formed face and the tears started to flow.  How is it that she is not here??

    Then I look at Miranda and know that if Allie were here, she would not be.

    I do not think we would have adopted a baby if we had a 2 year old running around. 

    I cannot imagine a life without Miranda anymore than I can imagine a life with Allie alive in it.

    So to whomever is out there, please just promise me that you will keep my little girl close to you. Make sure she knows right from wrong.  Make sure she knows how to laugh.  Make sure she knows that she is loved.  Are you there?  Can you do that for me?

    Images from my baby shower - April 2011

    Saturday, September 28, 2013


    I vividly remember being in grief counseling and trying to explain to Gary and to our counselor how I was not really a mom.  I mean, I was...but I wasn't.  I had the stretch marks and the c-section scar, but I had no late night feedings and diaper changes and intricate knowledge of what it was like to parent.  They were both so sure that I was a mom that in time, I came around and agreed that I was a mom.  For the months that I carried Allie under my heart to the years that I have mourned her, I am indeed her mom.

    Miranda made me a mom for the second time.  It's very different this time around.  With Allie, being a mom meant exhaustion from crying and grief and longing to hold her.  With Miranda, being a mom means exhaustion from playing and feeding and laughing and living and all the while, trying to make sure that I am doing the best job I can for her.

    Being a mom to Allie meant talking about her and remembering her.  Being a mom to Miranda means living in the moment and giving her all I have to give, even on those days when she was up most of the night and Gary is at work and I can barely keep my eyes open.

    Both definitions are of a mom - it's the subtle nuances that make them different for me.

    Now I can add the words "stay at home" before the mom.  And holy crap - for those of you that are or were in the same boat, why are there no awards for this service?  Every day I think I should get a plaque and balloons and national recognition that we made it through the day.  And that's on the good days!

    Here's what I have learned about staying at home (that work for me).  GET OUT OF THE HOME!  All kidding aside, we are trying out different gym classes and possibly a music class.  We have met up with friends for lunch.  We have run errands.  We have driven around aimlessly just so Miranda could sleep.  Gas prices be damned.  On the days when it's just us and this house for 10 hours a day, it ain't pretty.  I have learned that we need to leave once in a while.  If not in the car, then in the stroller for a walk.  Miranda loves the fresh air and the sunshine and I love the times when she is quiet and happy and at peace!!

    Being a mom to Allie is easy.  Emotionally hard, but physically easy.  Being a mom to Miranda is emotionally easy but physically hard.  My love for the girls is the same but my actions around that love is different.

    October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  We will light a candle on October 15th and we will possibly attend a balloon release.  My mom and I are attending a Zumba-thon for UNITE.  I do not attend meetings anymore but I feel so strongly about what they do and how they were there for me.  I feel good doing these things in Allie's memory.  I am proud to be her mom and in time, look forward to sharing the love I have for her with Miranda.  

    Every second of every day, I worry about Miranda.  Is she too hot or too cold?  Is she tired or does she need to be changed?  Is she happy? Does she know she is loved?  I eventually step back and inhale deeply and remind myself that I am a good mom and that she is fine.  More than fine.  She is thriving.  It's just that I have no experience with the baby that thrives.  My only experience was with the baby who died.

    But no - that's not true and I refuse to have Allie remembered like that.  When she was here, she was very much alive and as long as her dad and her sister and I are here, so too shall her memory be.

    I love both my girls so very much - even if in different ways. Love is love and I now truly believe...a good mom is a good mom. 

    1st gym class

    Goofing Around

    Celebrating Fall

    Tuesday, September 24, 2013


    In all my years, I thought I knew the definition of the word love.

    I was so wrong.

    Love is all encompassing.  Love is romantic.  Love is never ending.

    Blah Blah Blah

    Love is someone holding your baby so you can go to the bathroom.  Love is your husband cooking dinner AND cleaning the dishes after you have been home with the baby all day.  Love is the person who brings you lunch.  Love is hand-me-down clothes.  Love is listening to your anxiety and fears and telling you that you are a good mom in spite of it all.  Love is sharing a funnel cake with your close friend on her birthday because you wanted to take the baby to a carnival.

    Love is what makes MY world go round.  Love is how I can stay home with Miranda full time.  Love is indeed all we need.  (And a cleaning person, professional laundry service and full time nanny!!)

    It takes many months to acclimate to a new job.  I am glad someone reminded me of this fact yesterday.  Learning to be home with Miranda full time is as adjustment to us both.  My first week home, I had a head cold and she had a tooth coming in and I was not sure what end was up.  I need to find my rhythm and in time, I know I will.  While waiting for that to happen, I get rewarded with enough giggles and smiles to make any day a great one.

    At lunch with a friend last week, it was pointed out to me that motherhood may be harder for me than some because I came to it later in life and was so used to a life that just revolved around me.  And then Gary and me. Adding a baby to the mix tossed our world upside down - but in the best possible way.  The 37 weeks of pregnancy with Allie prepared me to be Miranda's mom but there was a 2 year gap.  In that time, I got used to sleeping in and binge watching shows like Dexter.  We had 2 weeks to adjust to parenthood this time around and now that I am home, I am adjusting even more.

    And I would not have it any other way.  I wish I could add "Miranda's Mommy" to my resume for this is by far my hardest job yet.  And I am beginning to suspect, it is also the one that I am gonna to rock the most!


    Pumpkin Pickin'

    Happy Birthday to my college roommate who drove 6 hours round trip to spend the some time with Miranda (and us!)

    Enjoying tummy time

    Adoption In My Heart

    Today was the Adoptions From The Heart Annual Picnic . We love this event. It is close to our house, it is early enough in the summer that i...