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 my...it's too much!  Let me take it one chapter at a time!!

Adoptions From the Heart

First Snow Day!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

P!NK

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.

A Letter to My First Daughter

My Dearest Allie, It’s been a while since I have written to you. I find it easier to write about you than it is to write to you. ...