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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Unconventional Mommyhood

I've never been a fan of anything that was over-hyped. If everyone is watching it, reading it, talking about it, I'm not interested. So when all the Chicken Soup for the Soul books came out, I wasn't even the slightest bit curious.

But then my dad surprised me and sent us a bunch of Christmas presents! He doesn't do much for holidays, so that was quite a shock. Even more shocking was that he included TWO gifts for me! Amazingly, jewelry! And he also sent me a copy of Chicken Soup for the Expectant Mother's Soul. (He felt bad that it didn't arrive until after I was no longer an expectant mother, but I still really appreciated his gift.)

So I read the book, and was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved it. I also am quite glad that they covered all aspects of the "expectant" mother spectrum. Pregnancy, Adoption (both adoptive and birth parent perspectives) and even Surrogacy.

What I found interesting was that even having just been through the birth of my first biological child, it wasn't the pregnant mother stories that touched me the most. It was the stories involving adoption that had me blubbering.

As I've mentioned before, Pirate Munchkin is adopted, and I thought I would share her story.

My ex-husband and I started trying to have a child of our own when we'd been married a year and a half. I went to the OB-Gyn office to have a basic exam done to make sure we were good to go. The nurse practitioner who I met with (no doubt seeing the way my eyes sparkled with insane amounts of hope) told me that most healthy couples take a year to conceive. I told her I understood. Secretly, I knew she was wrong in my case. In my head, I said "yeah right, see you in two months!"

Months passed. Nothing.

By the time we hit six months, I had become very depressed. It was a dark time in my life. Looking back, it's laughable. If I'd had any idea how much time it would take before I became a mother, that six months was no big deal.

After seven very long years of hoping and praying - pleading actually - I still hadn't given up hope. I had watched pregnancy after pregnancy after pregnancy of my friends, family and co-workers, but I was just sure every month that the next month was going to be my time.

The ex and I went to a movie almost every Saturday afternoon. One particular Saturday in September of 2005 was no exception. My ex was late to almost everything - work, church, time with friends, etc. - but he was NEVER late to a movie. We were always there 20-30 minutes before the previews even started. So, on this Saturday afternoon, we were sitting in the movie theater talking and waiting for the movie to start, and his cell phone rang. It was his sister. She asked him a question that would change the rest of my life. "Would you be willing to adopt my granddaughter?"

I knew immediately what she was talking about. My ex was 11 years older than me. His sister was a year older than he was. She'd become a mom at a very young age, so by this point, she was a grandmother. Her son's girlfriend had been pregnant the same time my best friend was. We had invited them to our house for Thanksgiving the year before, and I'd gone out of my way to make sure she was comfortable - treating her the way I would have treated my best friend if she'd been able to be there. We'd heard sometime later that they'd gotten into some trouble and their baby girl had been put in the foster care system. In asking questions, we found out that the birth parents had run out of time with the foster system and were going to lose their rights to this little girl. If they could find family members to adopt her, they would still be able to see her on occasion.

We told her we needed to think about it.

I don't have a clue what the movie was, and I'm sure I didn't pay the least bit of attention to it. The only thought I could process was the word "Wow" over and over.

By the next morning, we were both feeling like this was something we wanted to do. But I wasn't sure if that was exactly the right thing for us or for this child. I'd been praying, but didn't feel like I had my answer yet. He left for work, and I went to church.

Once a month in my church, we have a testimony meeting - where anyone who feels like it has the opportunity to get up in front of the congregation and talk about whatever they feel in their hearts to say. Prayer, the scriptures, love of family and serving others are regular topics. That morning, an older gentleman got up and talked about his family. As long as I've known him and his wife, I've known that all of their children are adopted. He specifically talked about how blessed he was to have been able to adopt. When he got done and sat down, his son - who was in town that weekend with his wife and children - also got up and talked about how lucky he was to have been adopted into that family as an infant. The tears streamed down my face as I realized I had been given my answer. This little girl was meant to be mine.

We'd gotten some pictures of her from the birth parents. I scanned one of the pictures and emailed it to my mom with no explanation. She emailed me back "She's very pretty, but who is she?" My response of "Your new granddaughter" prompted an immediate phone call for explanation. :)

The social worker arranged for us to meet her. I will always remember what she wore that evening, tan suede pants with a little flare at the bottom and a pale pink shirt with a little girl on it. She was very sullen and scared, not sure who these people were. I had bought a very soft stuffed monkey for her. She took it shyly. I wanted so badly to just hold her and snuggle with her, but I resisted the urge knowing it would probably scare her more. By the end of the visit, she would let us hold her, and we got a picture of the three of us together.

We met the current foster mom - a retired nurse who was amazing with her foster kids. This little girl had been bounced around so much in her short little life that she was very sullen and scared. She wasn't walking or talking by the time she'd arrived there, but in the month or so that she'd lived there, she was walking, starting to talk, and was starting to give hugs and like to snuggle. The foster mom was more than willing to open her home to us so we could get to know our baby while we went through the steps of getting her.

We started the process of adoption. Since she was ward of the state, we had to become licensed foster parents first. Once that was done, she would be placed with us and then we had to wait 6 months to make sure our family was a good fit for her before we could file adoption paperwork. The classes were long and tiring. And frustrating! I just wanted my baby girl!

Once we were licensed, the process was gradual. The first step was a few hours with her one evening outside of her foster home. We went to McDonalds for chicken nuggets and then back to our house to meet the fur family. (The picture above is from that night - she found the kitties fascinating!) After that, we were able to take her for a day, and then by Halloween, we were taking her overnight.

Finally, on November 15th, 2005 when Pirate Munchkin was 18 months old, she was ours!

By then, she knew she could trust us, and she was having severe attachment issues. I remember one morning as clear as if it just happened. It was her first day of daycare. I had gone outside to start my car so it was warmed up before I put her in it. She stood at the front door sobbing! I'd never started my car so fast! I hurried back into the house, scooped her up and rocked her - promising I would always come back for her and that I was her mommy forever and ever. It still breaks my heart to think how many times she'd been moved around - no stability in her life.

The adoption process took longer than I expected - almost a year. But on September 1st, 2006, she was legally declared my little girl!

Sadly, the adoption didn't end the losses she would have in her childhood. The ex and I got divorced. We'd been fostering her baby sister, and the birth parents were able to regain custody. The loss of our Angel Baby was hard on her. And probably the most difficult was when the ex decided he was no longer able to be a good father and gave up his rights to her (although in turn, Surfer Pirate had already become the best father a child could ever ask for, and we were able to make that legal last summer.) But through it all, she has grown into a lovely, smart happy girl. She laughs easily, makes friends everywhere she goes, loves books and animals and is too smart for her own good.

And I love her more than words can even express.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Captain Kitty is Trying to Kill Me

Our house has a cool feature that's just perfect for a household with dogs who like to steal cat food. There is a ledge above our basement stairs that's a perfect place for cat food. It has a small walkway to get to it. With a baby gate in the doorway to the stairs, it's a fortress of doggy-proofness.

Except filling the cat food can be hazardous.

Especially with Captain Kitty's new habit.

The thing about the ledge is that it's on the far side of the stairs - so you have to go down several stairs to get to it. Captain Kitty thinks it's a good idea to be on the stairs when I fill their food. Directly in front of my feet.

I'd swear he's trying to trip me so I'll fall to my death and they can figure out how to raid the fridge.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Birth Story Forgotten Detail

I almost forgot.

The night before I went into labor with Pirate Baby, there was a lunar eclipse. There was a discussion on my birth board on BBC that a bunch of us would probably go into premature labor because of it. I figured that would definitely happen, but knew I wouldn't be one of them. Not me. I was going to go late.

And then my water broke the next night.

For the record, two other women from the group who were due in late January had their babies within days of Pirate Baby's birth. So at least I wasn't alone.

Darn moon.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


(First of all, if you haven't seen Despicable Me, go rent it right now, right now, right now! Funniest movie I've seen in a long time!)

Long before this hysterical movie came out, back when my sister was spending quite a bit of time in hospitals, she declared a great truth: It's good to have minions.

After 5 days in the hospital when Pirate Baby was born, I discovered just how very right that is. It's an amazing thing having people who's job it is to clean up after you, bring you food, constantly ask you if you need anything, etc, etc.

Pretty much as soon as my mom found out I was pregnant, she was making plans to come visit. The plan was she would be here the end of January, and Pirate Baby was supposed to go along with that plan - being born near the end of the month. (Preferably on the 30th, my sister's birthday.) She was going to cook and clean and take care of me while I recovered from having a baby.

Good plan, right?

Then Pirate Baby decided he didn't like that idea, and he came over a month early.

Mom bought insurance for her tickets so she could change them if needed, but Dad was having health problems and she couldn't leave him.

But the time came for her trip, and Dad was (barely) healthy enough for her to go. She's been here for a week, and it's been heaven. My mom is amazing! She's one of my closest friends, and I can tell her pretty much anything. She's an incredible cook, and has been stuffing us silly with good foods. I've spent more time than I should admit sitting in a chair doing basically nothing while she kept my house in order. But she let me!

See? It's good to have minions.

Sadly, she leaves tomorrow. We're all really sad to see her go, but Dad needs her at home. I'm okay with it.

So why is it that NOW when she's getting ready to go; NOW when she has to fly out tomorrow; NOW when things need to be getting back on a regular schedule around here, I get sick? I'm having hot and cold flashes and my stomach feels awful. I've got a fridge full of yummy food, and it all makes me feel sicker.


Someone please contact Universal Studios and ask them how I can get minions of my own.