baby development

Friday, December 23, 2005

Our First Night With "Sugar Cookie"

My dad has given this little baby girl her new nickname - "Sugar Cookie" - in honor of Christmas and how sweet she looks.

Sugar Cookie arrived around 4:30, and slept until it was time to watch Jeopardy - so TV viewing included feeding her while trying to feed myself some pizza.

She is 7.5 lb snuggly baby born Tuesday, and so far all has gone well. We are praying constantly (not just because we are told to do that, but...) because Sugar Cookie had cocaine in her system - so much so that the test does not register any higher, so no on can tell to what extent she truly was exposed. Apparently she did experience some symptoms of withdrawl in the hospital, but she checked out healthy otherwise. We were instructed to look for symptoms, but since she arrived, we haven't seen any. She can get fussy - but once she is held, changed, or fed (the trifecta of baby-dom) she seems to be quite peaceful and content again. She slept off and on last night like any other baby we've had. If no one had told us about the drug exposure, we would not have suspected a thing was wrong. Praise God for that! Given her other family circumstances (which I will hold off on writing about for a while to come, if ever - it is that severe), she truly is a Christmas miracle baby.

Michael got up at 4 am with Sugar Cookie so I could get a couple hours of solid sleep before work today. I appreciated that more than I can express - so does my head and the rest of my body. When I left for work, she was asleep on the sofa next to Michael (who was busy working away on catching up on email on the laptop). He was able to take a quick shower before I left for work, and I should be cut loose here about 1:00 or so.

The closing on the house was a very smooth and pleasant expereince. We knew the sellers already, and we had fun chatting. They left us their BBQ grill, the barstools, and all the curtains, blinds, and other window treatments. They have good taste, so all will remain as is for a while I suspect. The power will be on come Tuesday, but we will take car loads of clothes and books over during the weekend. We will not have movers until the first week in January because of the holidays, but that will work well too. Now that we have the baby, the move needs to be slower and less frantic anyway. We have our apartment until the end of January, so the timing really is perfect and there is absolutely no rush. The sellers left the house spotless, and I am so grateful that my pre-move cleaning will be merely wiping down surfaces and steam-cleaning the carpets. That is a huge blessing as well.

So, in one fine day - December 22nd, 2005, we became first-time homeowners and foster parents to a brand-new baby girl. I can't think of nicer gifts to get this Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Foster Placement #4!

We have officially lost our minds. We close on our new house today at 3:00. Then, at approximately 4:30 a social worker is coming to our house and bringing us a newborn baby girl who is being released from the hospital today.

The baby's two older siblings have already been adopted by others. I know absolutely nothing other than that. I don't know the baby's name. I don't know if the baby is brown or peachy-beige, or if the baby has any health problems. I just know we will most likely have a newborn baby on Christmas. Who knew. Again, this placement is "concurrent planning", but we will also continue with the plan to do a private adoption since foster care placements for us seem to be extremely short term.

So, I'll be leaving work at 2:30, going to the lawyer's office to close on the house, and then home to meet the social worker - who, incidently, has already worked with us once before and was pleased to be working with us again. I'm glad we still have formula in the house - because who knows when we will be able to get an appointment with WIC with the holidays and all. Hopefully, they will send lots of premixed formula with the baby when they discharge the baby from the hospital.

Well, I should get scooting. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Good News Re: Home Study

The agency that will be doing our home study is willing to use part of our home study from the state - so we will most likely be able to say a few hundred dollars on paperwork processing.

I contacted our worker, and told her that we had decided to do a private adoption with an agency. I don't think she was surprised at all. She said she would check with her boss, but that all we needed to do was send her a letter with our signatures, social security numbers, etc. authorizing them to release our home study. This is great news.

Also, after talking with the domestic adoption person at the agency, I learned a few things.

First, most of the adotions they do are also "open" adotions. She asserted that most domestic adoptions nowadays are open adoptions. I'm really not sure how I feel about that other than uneasy.

Second, the costs - $1900 for our home study (minus a few hundred bucks if all goes well getting our state home study to her so she can just update that), $9,500 placement fee, and then she thinks the legal fees will only be a few thousand dollars on top of that. She estimated that if we adopt domestically through her agency, that our total cost will be less than $15,000.

We set up a meeting to go ahead and submit our application (another $50) on November 29th. That will be our "informational meeting", although we are really ahead of the game.

The third thing I learned is that most all domestic adoptions work this way: the birth mom (plus whoever is helping/accompanying her) gets to choose the family to adopt her baby. Yikes. I must say, I hate feeling like I am competing against other hopeful individuals and couples for the chance to adopt a baby. I know we have strengths and weaknesses - and that the things that I see as strengths, someone else might label as weaknesses. For example, we are a biracial couple (sarcastic **gasp**) - which some might view as a plus for raising a child with dual ethnic/racial identities, and some might view as a social stigma. Also, the fact that we both work full time could be seen as a positive or a negative depending on your perspective.

To address the question of our jumping into adoption too quickly, please allow me to assure readers that I have known since I was 16 that conceiving a child would be difficult for me. Thus, my relationship with my husband has always involved conversations about adoption. In fact, when we were dating and understanding issues surrounding interracial realtionships, we talked about the possibility of adopting biracial children (even before we found out with "certainty" that we could not conceive). We've also known for a year now with "certainty" that we are infertile. As a result, we've talked about adoption for a year now - and started the process of training with the state last May. So, I may not have blogged about it a great deal - but it has always been a topic of conversation and prayer.

And, yes, I have grown impatient with the state. There's a lot to like about the system - and a lot to dislike greatly. There are pros and cons of each. And there is also some impatience that accompanies infertility. From reading accounts of other infertile couples looking to adopt, it seems that there is a sense of urgency - to move past the pain of infertility to the joy of starting your family. There is indeed an impatience, and my infertile friends all have that in common. To someone outside looking in, it may look very rushed - even crazy to move this quickly. But we also know how long the process of adoption takes (and can take). We know that even after we finish our home study, we could wait a very long time (even years) before we are selected by a birth mother to adopt her baby. Since we turn 35 in 2006, it seems to us that we should start this process quickly. We would like to enjoy our kids while we are still (relatively) young.

It's a good question to ask - how do you know it's God leading and not some other stimuli? That's tough to put into words - and one that I will surely keep thinking about and praying about. One thing I do know for certain - when I was younger, I mistakenly thought that in order to be in God's will, I had to feel"at peace" about something, or "have a good feeling about it". On the contrary! Many times we are called to do something we feel completely uncomfortable doing - or scared to death of. It doens't mean we are not supposed to do it, or even that we are supposed to wait until we feel a certain feeling. After all, if you are of the philosophy that language creates thought and thought creates feeling, then you understand how skewed our human feelings can be (or how accurate!). As a result, I try not to rely on my human-feelings as much as I try to rely on doing what I am called to do, or what is right to do. And it's tough to know what you are "called" to do. I think many people look for "signs" from God to lead them, only to end up calling every convenient thing that goes their way "a sign". (i.e. "Oh, look, the cost of this agency is cheaper - it's a SIGN!", "Oh look, I slept good last night - it's a SIGN!", "Oh look, it's snowing - it's a SIGN!"). Personally, I think chipmunks are good luck - but that's a whole other blog.

Making the Call

At 9 am on December 21st, I made the call to Adopt!inc. I believe they are the people God has led me to in order to do out home study. They cost more than others, but I just feel they are the right way to go. A colleague here at work used them to do his homestudy when he adopted his daughter from China. He said he would go with them again if they adopted another child. The personal recommendation is a big plus for me. In addition, the agency's operators are evangelical christians. We feel this will be a good fit for my husband and I.

The cost for the home study is $1900.

I cringed when I heard that.

Then they told me their placement cost for domestic adoption is $9,000.

I cringed some more.

Then he told me that the legal fees will run about $10,000.

(big deep breath)

I said, "Okay, that's what I expected."

He asked when we wanted to get started. I said as soon as possible. Someone is going to call me back today.

It feels good to have at least made the initial call. It also feels terrible to be starting over again. We had high hopes of adopting throught the state and foster care, but perhaps it was just God's way of preparing us for bigger and better things.

I'll keep praying about the decision, and trusting that with God's guidance we cannot make the wrong decision. God already provided Michael with winter interterm teaching as well as a summer class in order to give us the extra income we will need. If we are careful, we can save up enough money to pay for the placement so we only have to borrow toward legal fees. And, we will have that lovely 10K tax credit from the government. Praise God for that.

My goal is to be able to have our first home visit by the end of January. That should give us time to completely unpack from the move and child-proof the house, as well as finish the mounds of paperwork we will have to complete. The good news is that we still have a lot of what we turned in for our home study with the state, so hopefully that will give us a good head start.

Hopefully, I can document our progress here, and perhaps assist others in their pursuit of adoption. I no longer have the goal of adopting in a matter of weeks or months. I know it will take a very long time.

We have decided to go ahead and set up the crib in the new house instead of taking it apart and putting it in the garage or in storage. If we get a call to do foster care and if God leads to to say "yes", we will accept the placement. We know we will not get a call unless God is behind it, and we know we will be able to say "no" if it is not the right situation or time. We are not leaving the foster care system, but we are not counting on that to be where we will adopt our children from.

My goal for 2006 is to complete the home study and have signed with an agency and have our profile "out there" waiting to be selected. We certainly may not be able to adopt within the year. I'd love to have a child by Christmas of 2006. But I am going to prepare myself now for that to not happen. As long as I am making progress toward a goal, I'll feel better about everything.

At least now, I'm not sitting around and waiting and wondering. I'm taking action. I'm stepping into the Jordan river. Sometimes, God doesn't calm the waters until you've gotten enough faith to step into the rushing current. This is my Jordan river. The rushing waters could pull me under and send me to my death - but God promised if I trust him, he will still the waters so that I will be safe. If I sit by waiting for him to still the waters first, I have no faith. God will still the waters, but He requires I do my part first.

He I am, God! I'm jumping into the Jordan! Let's go on together!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

New House - New Adoption Mission

We have a final time for the closing! 3:00 Thursday - in 50 hours we will officially be homeowners for the very first time. Then, in another 2 days, it will be Christmas.

Tonight we are driving to a little shop in Georgetown, KY where we had UK Christmas stockings personalized with our names on them. After the closing, we are going to go hang them on the fireplace in the new house.

We are staying here for Christmas. While I am sad that we won't get to see family, I'm grateful for the timing of all of this.

Michael is teaching a winter interterm class - next week he will have off, then he will teach every day the first week in January and finish right before Spring semester begins. We need next week to move into the new house before everything starts for Spring.

Not having children makes this Christmas more difficult, but it also makes this transition much easier. There will be no concern of upsetting a child who has already had to move out of their house once.

I am looking at adoption agencies around KY, and thinking about which ones I'd like to talk to. Once we are in the new house and everything is put away, we will select an agency to do our homestudy. Michael's paycheck from teaching winter interterm will pay for that in addition to paying off another outstanding bill. The blessing will be not going into debt for the homestudy. Sicne I kept all of the information from our homestudy with the state to be certified as pre-adoptive foster parents, I figure I can make it go fairly quickly.

I am going to look into non-profit agencies here in town (and close by) that do domestic adoptions. Catholic Charities sounds good except for this: they prefer to do open adoptions. I will most likely write about that later, but I can tell you that in an informational presentation, the respresentative from Catholic Charities talked about open adoption and that most adoptive parents and their children will visit the birth mother several time a year. I respectfully assert that this is something I cannot do. I understand that placing a child for adoption must be an enormously difficult task - but so is adoption. I'm open to anyone reading this to respond about your thoughts on open adoption - and why you would choose it or not. It is a highly personal decision - and I respect those who choose it and those who do not. I could also tell you my reasons for not wanting to do an open adoption - but I feel I'd be setting myself up to be attacked. Furthermore, there is no "nice" way to say that I do not wish to share my child with the birth mother, or have a relationship with her. I do not mind an information exchange of sorts, or my child knowing who their birth parents are after a certain age. It's fine that people know what we looked like, what we did for a living, etc. But it is not fine to know us personally and be a part of our lives. It just isn't us. But again, I may write more about this - I just don't want folks to feel a need to attack me for my politically incorrect view on open adoption. No matter how many times I've heard the good news preached about it - it sounds awful for reasons I've yet to be able to fully articulate.

So, if we can find a good agency willing to do a closed private adoption, and we can adopt a fairly young child who is bi-racial or African American, I will be willing to go domestic. Otherwise, my happy self is looking elsewhere.

Thank you for your support and encouragement. Again - if anyone has experience with open adoption - or making that decision to have open or closed - feel free to share how you came to that decision.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Goodbye Little Snapper

This morning little Snapper went to live with his grandparents. I hope he will be safe there. I hope bio-dad has a major life change. I hope this is the last he will see the foster care system.

It would be nice to get another call before Christmas, but I already feel like we got to have our Christmas baby. It was a nice gift - all snuggly and warm and perfect. I wish you all could have seen how incredibly beautiful this baby boy was. (And I'm not the kind who thinks all babies are beautiful - some are just plain strange looking at birth.) Though it was a lovely Christmas gift, we are looking forward to a long night's sleep tonight and to doing some packing - in addition to averaging final grades for our semester's classes. This Christmas gift was exhausting (and did not sleep well at night - and crashed out during daylight hours instead).

My New Year's resolution will be to devote myself to doing a private adoption - domestic or international. It will take a tremendous amount of work, and the process seems so confusing. I wish someone would just tell me where to go, what to do, and who to pay - and I'd do it. I just don't know where to start. If anyone has ass-vice, ring in. I guess we should find an agency to do our homestudy? I did find out that adoption agencies do not accept the home study done by the state for foster care - so we will have to start from scratch there. Is that the best thing to do first? Maybe our process and learning can translate into us helping others. Certainly, as I learn about the process and the steps we need to take, I'll write about it. Goodness knows, I wish someone would walk me through the process.

Last night after I got the news that he would be leaving, I cried a little - but not too much. I held him and ate a pint of Hagen Daz cookies and cream, which was tremendous. I cuddled him in bed while lying on my side - he had a pacifier in his mouth and I held him up next to my chest. The last thing Michael said to me before he fell asleep was "That's beautiful." He rolled over and fell asleep and as I took my turn caring for the baby, I understood the depth of what we were had done for the past couple of days. I understood why so few people do this. It is gut-wrenching, terrifying, and nerve-wracking (I cry as I write this feeling so many different emotions - equal parts good, bad, and confusing). It causes you to examine all of your hopes and dreams, strengths, and faults. It forces you to be honest with yourself.

Before this process, there were a lot of things I hadn't experienced. Some things I hadn't even considered - and even if I had considered them, I was off-base on my perceptions.

I'm grateful for my husband's involvement - even if it isn't how I would have designed it. Nevertheless, it is priceless and I shall try harder to not take it for granted as often as I do.

I'm grateful for intimacy as my husband defines it - even if it doesn't match how I would have drawn it up. Hugs are wonderful, and he gives fantastic hugs that carry a lot of meaning. I shall try harder to remember that those moments mean a lot to my husband even though I too often dismiss them as unimportant.

I don't have to have a child to have a full and happy life. I have a full and happy life now. I just want more - and I allow that quest for more to lure me into the false belief that somehow my life now just isn't good enough. But I will learn that what I have now if perfect.

We will be enjoying Christmas alone as a couple for the first time ever this year, and whatever happens that day will be perfect. My desire to have a child in the future cannot obscure the abundant blessings I enjoy today.

Okay, Father God, I'm ready for what you have laid out for me next. Thank you for our time with Snapper and for the lessons we learned from this experience. Be with his grandparents as they care for he and his brother. Bless the social workers, for they too are doing your work. Father, thank you for the many blessings you've bestowed on us - our marriage, our new house, our careers, and our families. We know you've promised to bless us even more if we seek out and follow your will. We are ready and willing, Father. Lead on!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Li'l Snapper

My dad had given this little baby his nickname - we shall call him "Snapper". I'm really not sure why - Dad just called him Li'l Snapper. So, Snapper it shall be. I figure we can call his older brother "Jack" to stay with the fish trend.

Snapper is a vision of perfection. He was born Sunday, and weighed 9 lbs., 5 ounces and was almost 21 inches long. He is healthy and doing great. He looks like the Anne Gedes babies that you see photographed in a cabbage or as a big flower - that perfect.

He is with us because bio-dad has an anger management problem and Jack (who is his step-child) ended up in foster care 6 weeks ago. When Snapper was born, he couldn't go home because bio-dad had not fulfilled his plan dictated by the state. Apparently he has done some things and not others, and slowly at that. Bio-mom has two other children who live with their father (another man) somewhere else. Not a good situation for anyone.

For now, Snapper will live with us. Jack will join us on Decemebr 26th (if not earlier) because his foster family is going on vacation out of state starting on December 26th and will be gone a week. (Pretty poor planning, if you ask me - but then again, no one asked). This was this foster family's first placement, and now 6 weeks into it, Jack has to go somewhere else because his foster family wouldn't take the newborn as well and siblings need to stay together. Enter Michael and Tamara stage right.

Jack will have his second birthday in January, so if we have them until then, we will be planning a little celebratation for the first time ever. That would be pretty darn cool.

Yesterday, we just lounged on the sofa with Snapper - admiring him and letting it sink in that we are foster parents again. In this situation, we really have to look at it as short-term while bio-dad does whatever he needs to do for the state to be satisfied that the children would be safe around him. (His threatening to kidnap the baby in front of the police yesterday upon the baby's removal was not a good start.) But, from what I can see, children are returned to birth parents rather quickly - especially newborns, whom the courts see as needing to bond with their birth mother especially (why not a birth father, I'm not sure - as research shows the relationship with the father has more impact on self-esteem throughout the lifespan...but, I digress.)

I have to write about something - though it will seem to appear out of nowhere for no reason... Snapper is circumcised. This bothers me on many levels as I am strongly opposed to the practice (as much as I am female genital mutilation) for many reasons. What was painful was knowing the baby had urinated, and that it had burned where his tiny penis had been cut. It is so raw and angry red, I can hardly stand to touch it to put the salve on it with each diaper change. I tell him how sorry I am that it hurts. There are little blood spots where the diaper touched his penis, and I cringe when I see that. I wish people made a more informed decision - one not based on "tradition" or what might "look better", but a decision based on logic and knowledge. We are the only nation in the world that circumscises baby boys for cosmetic reasons. 85% of the world's men are not circumcised. Once again, the feminist in me digresses....

Michael is home with Snapper today so I can be at work...blogging and not working. He he he (wicked evil laugh). I don't want to be here - I want to be home watching in case he makes a noise or moves - or breathes.

The nursery has now been changed out into boy-stuff. The crib has blue sports bedding on it now. My inner feminist has now slapped the crap out of me - she would have suggested something nice and gender-neutral instead of buying different bedding for different genders. My inner homemaker won that round.

Today Snapper will join Jack for a visit with bio-mom and perhaps angry bio-dad at the CHFS office. My darling husband is taking him in for the visit. If bio-dad pulls any crap, it will just draw out this process longer. Apparently bio-mom is pretty good - we just hope it all goes well.
We will also learn today how the workers will want to handle Jack's transition into our home.

Oh yeah, and in the middle of all this is our new house! We close on the 22nd. Yes, 3 days before Christmas. Now we will not get to go home, because we can't take the boys out of state for now. But we will plan to visit family some other time - or bring them up here. We have estimates from movers, and we think they will come and move us on or about the 28th. The good news is that because it is a local move and the off-season for moving, it will cost us well less than a thousand dollars for everything - maybe even more like $700. Have we packed up anything - Ha! What a circus.

Oh, and I have to give a final exam tonight at 6:30 and I still haven't finshed deciding what questions to use and which ones to omit. How tempting it would be to walk in, give everyone an A, and leave. I am so done with the semester.

I will certainly update regularly. Thank you all so much for your encouragement.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Could The Third Time Be The Charm?

11:00 am today - received a call from our social worker asking if we would like to become foster parents to a baby boy born yesterday. He also has an older brother already in foster care who is almost 2. This older brother would be transitioned into our home as well.

We said yes.

For all intents and purposes, these two children may be returned to their birth parents someday. The parents are slowly following their case plan. Of course, you never know. The children have been "labeled/categorized" as "concurrent planning" - meaning they now want them in a foster home that will adopt them should that option become available. The important thing to keep in mind is that adoption may never become an option here. But we said yes anyway.

No situation is perfect, and "ideal" always seems to exist only in our heads.

It's Christmas time, and these kids need a nice warm and loving place to call home for now. We have more than enough love and space and resources to make that happen.

Yes, we are setting ourselves up to get hurt again. But each time we do this we learn valuable lessons. We grow a little but, change a little bit, become more patient in some ways and more impatient in other ways. But the bottom line is that every time we do this, we do the Lords work. No one else can do this job. We used to have orphanages and children treated like animals lying in metal cribs with few workers to pick them up and comfort them.

12:05 - just got a call - worker on her way - will update soon - please pray!!!

Love you all so much!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Depressed, Angry or Both?

I'm not over it. It. The crap of the past, the infertility, the depression. Dang it, it's Christmas and I'm spposed to be all joyful and stuff. I'm not.

I want my own child. Now. I want my husband to actually care that we can't have children.

I made him go with me to get a Christmas tree. He had never had a real live tree before. I thought that was a shame. He didn't care one stinking bit.

I asked him tonight if he was happy. He said "sometimes". Then nothing.

I went to bed. I got back up, read a few blogs, then tried to write. Little is coming.

I want my mom to stop sending me stuff about the horror stories of fostering to adopt and all about these people who adopted successfully internationally. What would help is money. I do not need any more newspaper articles cut out and mailed to me.

When you are childless and don't want to be, the holidays suck ass. At least the tree has some lights on it now.

It looks like paying big bucks for an adoption seems like what we will have to do. Michael says that we will do what we have to do to make it happen. It still doesn't feel like he's with me on this. I know he cares about me and what I want, but it still doesn't feel like something we are doing together.

Why does the state make it out to seem like there is this huge need for foster parents, then this waiting game? At least we seem to get calls at least every other week or so.

I'm thinking about artificial insemination again. $5oo a shot. Three attempts. Turkey-basting for conception. Clomiphene. I feel insane enough as it is I can only imagine the pain in the ass I'd be on hormones. And I'm 34. It's all risky now.

I should be happy. On or about December 20th we close on our first house. It's really quite nice.

But with everything I have, I'm finding it very hard to be happy these days.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Prayer Request

Please click above to be a part of a much needed prayer circle for Bob and his family - this was sent by Curious Servant, and I am grateful for the opportunity to provide prayer from my little corner of the world.