Monday, June 24, 2013

Connections

Although I do not actively participate in the UNITE meetings anymore, I cherish that group and all they did for me when I needed them.  I wrote more than once about the best group of people that I wish I never had to meet.  The people who know me, who get me, who have walked in my shoes and understand me.  Two of my friends from that group have recently had babies and I can't wait for Miranda to meet and play with them.  Another friend and her daughter have already met Miranda and I for lunch a few weeks ago and we have a play date scheduled for next week, too.  So although I do not need the meetings right now, I surely need and cherish the connections and am grateful for them.

Yesterday we discovered a new kind of connection.  Gary, Miranda and I met up with a family who was in our adoption group.  They took the classes with us, freaked out about the home study details with us, panicked when it was time to make the video with us...and then got matched with a baby boy shortly after us.  Their son and our daughter are 3 weeks apart.  So we met up yesterday to trade stories and meet babies and I was hoping it would be the beginning of something amazing.  And it was.

We were able to share our hopes and our fears about parenthood but also about adoption.  We were able to talk about the nuances of open adoption.  We were able to discuss terminology like termination of rights and birth parents.  We compared hotel stays (their adoption was also out of state) and the fear and confusion and then happiness and euphoria that went along with it.  It was amazing.

I feel like the connection we made with this family is one that we will cherish for a long time to come.  We are already talking about when we can meet up next and as the children get older, what kind of things we should do with them together.  Our connection will make them be connected and have (if they want) someone in their lives that they can talk about adoption with (should they want).  I think it's super cool!

Before we met up with them in the afternoon, I had brunch with some friends that I have known since my pre-teen days.  We went to Hebrew School together...and then as we got older, Dorney Park and Camp Ramah and NKOTB concerts.  There is nothing like the friends you had when you were in your youth - when not much else mattered but having fun and vanishing blackheads and who had a crush on whom.

Hannah and Miranda at brunch 
At brunch, as I passed Miranda around to my friend's 9 year old daughter (whom I remember all too well as a 12 week old!), I opened up about how much I am worried about going back to work in 2 weeks.  I shared how I do not want to go back at all and yet I really like my job!  I just can not imagine leaving Miranda.  My friends, 3 working mom friends, agreed that it would be hard.  I might stare at the clock all day.  I will probably miss her like crazy.  I might even hate being back. But they reminded me all the reasons that they went back and many were similar to my reasons.  They helped me see things more clearly and I left thinking - I can do this!  I can be a working mom! We are already planning our first Disney Trip (2017 - here we come!) and I want Miranda to want for nothing.  For now, that means I need an income.  And that's ok.   It's the connections I made and were able to keep that really helped me see the whole picture.


Our last but not least "connection" of the weekend came with the arrival home of my youngest brother and his wife.  After 21 months in New Zealand, Thailand, Japan, Bulgaria and places in-between, they have come home to settle and put down roots.  The minute they both laid eyes on Miranda, I could feel the love pouring out of them.  It made my heart soar and I am thrilled that my daughter has such an amazing family of aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents to help guide her way.  
Miranda and Uncle Jeff & Aunt Neda
And so with 2 weeks left, I will continue to make all the connections that I can and then I off to work I will go.  My mom will watch Miranda for 3 months so she is a little older when she finally goes to day care. We wound up choosing the same school we chose for Allie over 2 years ago and I know it's going to be just great for Miranda.  When October rolls around, it's off to school she goes.  Then Miranda can start to make connections of her own.  Oh my.

Monday, June 17, 2013

What Dreams May Come

I have only ever once seen Allie in my dreams.  It was not too long after she died and I do not remember much of it except that she was a toddler and in a high chair and I could not get to her.  I can't remember if I was trying to feed her or pick her up, but I know I was just so taken aback that we were in the same room together, in a kitchen that I can still picture but know I have never been to in reality.  It was unsettling, but also kind of nice to know that when I was asleep, my daughter was somehow still in my brain and in my heart.

Last night I had a different kind of dream.  For the second night in 11 weeks, Miranda gave us 10 hours of sweet blissful sleep. It was probably the first chance I have even had to dream!

I was in a laboratory of sorts and there were cases (like soda machines) of jars and containers.  I knew it was a lab but yet it had a personal feel.  The room was painted in browns and creams and it felt very comfortable.  I stood there and looked up and saw this sign about one of the cases: Al-Leigh.  I have never spelled Allie's name like that and yet I knew it was her case.  I also knew that whomever was in charge did not know us that well or else they would not have made that mistake.

The rest of the dream is a blur.  In it, I was told by someone (no idea how) that they knew what had happened to Allie.  And that because of this knowledge, it would not happen again.  Her death would not be in vain.  I remember feeling a calm - not a sadness in her absence, but a calm that no other mother or father would have to know what that absence really feels like.  

When I woke up, I knew right away that it was a dream.  I glanced over the baby monitor and saw that Miranda was still sleeping.  Having her own dreams, perhaps.

The pain of Allie's death is still with me and it always will be.  But it is no longer the current that flows along side of my every day.  It seems, though, that it may be the current that flows beneath the surface, even when I cannot feel it.

In the past month, Gary and I have freely and happily celebrated Mother's and Father's Day.   We had been celebrating since 2011 as there was no denying that we were parents, but this year, we were able to really feel good about celebrating.  I guess though, and the end of the day, my mind still wants to know why.  Even with Miranda in our lives, even with the chaos and frenzy and joy and light that parenting her bring, my mind still clings to the past.  To what was.  Not what is. 

The dream has haunted me all day.  As I fed Miranda.  As we went to visit a family friend who has known me since I went to her nursery school when I was 3 years old.  As I had lunch with Miranda and my mom.  As I did laundry.  As I prepared dinner.  (Ok, heated up leftovers from yesterday!).  What sticks with me now, at the end of the day, is how sad I am that the dream was not a reality.  We will most likely never know why babies are born still.  We will most likely never understand the randomness of it.  My hope is, though, that someday we can prevent stillbirth.  That's a dream I would not mind having.  I will not give up hope that my new dream can indeed come true.

I still believe more than ever that Allie was the daughter I was meant to carry and that Miranda is the daughter I was meant to raise...and yet every once in a while, in the darkness and the still of the night, I guess I wonder what it would be like if I had them both here.  I guess I need to just search in my heart and know that in many ways, I actually do.

Miranda "Hope" being cuddled by Ann, the same loving woman that used to hold me as a little girl.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Family

I went to work on Wednesday.  Well, not to the office but to an off-site meeting that was held very close to our house.  They are making some changes to my department and both Gary and I thought it would be a good idea for me to go.  He took a vacation day to stay home with Miranda and I spent the day with my colleagues.  In the end, I was glad I went.

There were some new faces at our meeting so one of the first things we did was to go around the room and introduce ourselves.  There were little piles of cards around where we were sitting that we were to choose to read from.  Each card had a question and we were to answer our question after our introductions.

I started with my name and what I do for the company.  I explained that I have worked there for 7 years next month.  I have had a few different roles but that the one I am in now is by far the best fit for me.  There were a few more details and then I got to my question.  

"What is your favorite part about Thanksgiving dinner?"

I felt like the easy answer was apple pie or stuffing but I am not one to take the easy way out!  So I said family.

Family to me is everything.  This year, my daughter will be at Thanksgiving with us.  My mom will be there beaming with pride. My youngest brother and his wife, who have been literally traveling all over the globe, will be back in the states with us.  My other brother and his family will be there.  Heck, we eat and his wife's mother's house!  Our family tree has a of of branches and we all love it that way. 

I explained all of this and then said how extra lucky I am to have the family I have.  I met Gary when I was 34.  I had exhausted all of the online dating sites and was pretty sure that I was never going to find Mr. Right.  I pondered having a child on my own and thought it might be too hard and the risks were too high so I have pretty much assumed that motherhood was not in my cards. 

Ha.  What did I know?  My life was sitting in a cube 10 feet away.  In the one place I had not looked.

So to have a family - the one I was born into which means more than I could ever say and the one I married into - which means more than I could have ever dreamed....well that's the best part of Thanksgiving for me.  To be celebrating with the family that Gary and I are making...with Allie in our hearts and Miranda in our arms...that's the best part of any day for me!

But as is much with my life, Thanksgiving is also bittersweet.  It's the holiday I spent with my step-brothers and step-sister growing up.  We spent many hours over super buttered mashed potatoes and lots of laughter.  But those days and those relationships are in the past.  Memories of a different time. 

It's also a holiday that meant so much to my dad.  My dad who is now in a nursing home and who just met Miranda this week.  We walked into his room and I said, "Hi Dad.  Meet your new granddaughter" and he smiled his famous smile.  But the smile did not reach his eyes.  I believe in his heart that he knew who she was and who I was and why we were there, but the diabetes and dementia have taken over and the man I saw sitting there, confined to a wheelchair, was not the dad that I used to see over Thanksgiving.  That dad has been gone for some time.  Sometimes I wonder if he was ever really there at all.

So did I answer the question correctly?  I think I did.  My favorite part of Thanksgiving is all the people that have made me who I am. All the people that have celebrated with me.  All the people that have grieved with me.  All the people who have loved me.  All the people who continue to love me.  My family.

I am not sure that my card was supposed to provoke me so, but I am glad that it did. I am also glad that I have one more month before I really have to go back to work! 

To my family...and you know who you are...thank you.
Custom made onesie designed especially for Miranda from one of my BFF's

Monday, June 3, 2013

Our First Visit

Yesterday was the annual Adoptions from the Heart picnic.  We decided to make it our first visit with Miranda's birth mother, too.  We agreed to 2 visits a year and this seemed like an easy one.  This was before we knew it was going to be 95 degrees out yesterday, but I digress!

I was nervous as hell to see M again.  (Let's call her M for the sake of her privacy).  We had not seen her since the hospital (aside from our video chat last month) and I was not sure how I would feel.  We never really spent any time together...there was our first meeting and then there was the hospital stay.  So I did not know what to expect.

We arrived at the park and checked in.  As we started to walk to a shady spot to stake out as our meeting area, we happened to see M walk by.  She was with her family and we all greeted each other warmly.  Hugs came naturally and immediately their eyes were drawn to the stroller.  I saw instant joy.  

As a group, we all walked over to a nice tree covered area and put down some blankets. Gary took Miranda out of the stroller and handed her over to M.  She was all too happy to take her and hold her. She cradled her and said hello and kissed her head and tickled her toes.  She asked how she sleeps and how she eat and asked how we are adjusting.  She took pictures and enjoyed every second.  I sat down next to her and observed it all but did not interfere.  This was her visit.  I have forever.

I took Miranda to feed her and promptly gave her right back.  I tried to stay close but to not hover. Gary and I both wanted to respect their visit but also needed to make sure our daughter's needs were met.  They were.

We walked over to the picnic photographer and asked if we could have more than the 1 picture allowed per family.  We took one of both families with Miranda right in the middle.  Then we got one of Gary, Miranda and me.  I can't wait to see how they turned out.

After about 2 hours, we decided to go.  It was simply too hot to stay.  M said goodbye and shed a few tears.  I cannot imagine how hard that was for her.  We will do another video call in late Summer and then our second and last visit this Fall.  

It was hard for me and yet it felt right to let M have that time with her.  After all, it's because M hand picked us that we have the privilege of being Miranda's parents after all.

I think we will all go next year.  Miranda may be running around by then.  Playing with the other kids.  Learning how adoption builds families.  Learning how love comes in all shapes and sizes and colors.  

I did not take any pictures of the day as the memories are more for M than for us.  And we will have the professional picture for Miranda when she gets older.  But I did take this one when we got home and bathed her - she was one happy little lady!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Healing

"Is this your first surviving child?" she asked with a kind voice.
"Yes" I replied.  Then sighed.  It was a nice way to acknowledge both Miranda and Allie.

Today was the annual tree planting ceremony hosted by the hospital where we delivered Allie.  The first year we went, I was numb and raw.  I remember being loved and being part of a community of others who understood my pain, but not much else.  The second year we went, we had lost Allie over a year ago and were still not any further along in having a living child.  It was also Mother's Day weekend which made it extra hard for me.  I was sad and frustrated and not in the best place.  This year, Gary, Miranda and I all went together and although I felt like we climbed a mountain to get there, the fact of the matter is that we made it there.

As we pulled up, we saw that there were already a lot of families there.  I said to Gary that it looked like a good turn out this year.  He said that sadly, it did look that way.  So many families that gather to celebrate the children they had but that they do not really have.

Everyone there is so kind.  They all know the agony of losing a child.  The smiles are genuine and their tears look familiar to me.  It was nice to being able to talk to other people who unfortunately understand.

When it came time to plant the tree for this year, they passed out a program which contained several poems.  This one, by an unknown author, resonated the most with me:

"We never had the chance to play,
To laugh, to rock to wiggle.
We long to hold you, touch you now
And listen to you giggle.

I'll always be your mother.
He'll always be your dad
You'll always be our child,
The child that we had."

In so many ways, Miranda is like an elixir that melts away my pain.  But she does not make me forget the past nor do I want her to.  Today I was able to talk about her sister to her and Gary wrote Allie a note from all 3 of us that we planted in the soil of the new tree.  We are a family of 4 - even if to many, we look like a family of 3.

Overall, it was a lovely ceremony and a pleasant way to spend a few hours.  I am healing - slowly but surely.  Not forgetting.  Not moving on.  Not ignoring the past.  I am remembering.  I am loving.  I am healing.



Learning to Love Yourself No Matter What

One of the problems with being a writer is that I use words as therapy. By writing my thoughts and feelings, I can often make sense of the w...