baby development

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

TPR? Check!

Today at 3:45, R. came by the house, and as soon as she stepped foot in the door announced,


The judge signed the TPR in chambers. It was that simple.

But that isn't everything. The best miracle is what I am about to tell you.

Cookie's birth father VOLUNTARILY terminated his parental rights. You read that correctly, folks. He wrote that he wanted Cookie to grow up with two loving parents who could take care of her. He said that he and his wife could not. He asked for only one thing - a picture of Cookie. I did better than that - I sent with R. a whole set of her most recent pictures to add to the stack of photos she already never got to give to Cookie's birth mother before she fled. I felt great about it. That man did perhaps the most unselfish thing he's ever done. A photograph was the least I could do to acknowledge that act.

We will learn more about Cookie's siblings that were adopted over a year ago. One of them had (or has) Wilms Tumor. There is evidence that it is genetic. We will certainly talk to the pediatrician and others we know about Cookie's risks. It only occurs in children, and is almost unseen in children over the age of 8. But, we ALL have some kind of rick factor for something-or-other, so I'm not overly concerned. If anything ever happens, we will proceed as any parent would do - we'll seek the best treatment available.

In the next few weeks, we will be assigned an adoption worker, and R. will bring her by our house and that will be R.'s last visit with us. It will be a bittersweet day, really - she's become "Auntie R." and has done absolutely everything in her power to ensure that Cookie's best interest was protected.

I have only vague notions of what will happen next. I only know we will work quickly to do everything we need to do. I will also try to document every step of this adoption process here so that everyone who may be looking to learn about how adoption from foster care happens (at least in one state) can have some idea of the steps involved. So, you can learn along with us.

We continue to be eternally grateful to all of you who read, who pray, who offer positive thoughts and support. I would never have gotten through this as "sane" as I remain without you. And God heard and answered all of these prayers - in His way, in His time.

Love to you all. For the bottom of our hearts, Thank You.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Adoption Timeline

Well, our SW came by for her quarterly visit with us this morning. M. admired Cookie, checked clothing receipts, medical book, and lifebook progress. Then she talked with us a bit about how the adoption will proceed from here on out. So, in a nutshell, here's what it will likely look like:

Oct. 31 - First TPR court date - judge may rule from the bench, or wait 2 weeks to rule. Pray we get a TPR from the bench.

November 30/December 1st - TPR finalization is signed by the judge

December 15 - January 15 - Adoption worker is assigned, Guardian ad Litem is assigned and both visit our home. We complete some paperwork and hire an adoption attorney. We can hire an adoption attorney who will bill the state directly so we never have to pay a penny our-of-pocket.

January 15 - February 15 - Sometime within this time period, we will get our court date at which the adoption will become final.

I know, I'm stunned that everything will likely go quickly from here on out. I'm thankful. We pray that the judge rules quickly, and that no birth parents suddenly appear our of nowhere from a drug-induced haze to appeal the ruling. Stranger things have happened in foster-to-adopt cases.

So, if all goes as planned, Cookie will be our legal daughter forever and ever by February. This is excellent news!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Infertility and Adoption

Together, my husband and I are an infertile couple. Alone, each of us would have been sub-fertile. Together, we are clinically infertile. It took a while for me to process the weighty implications of infertility - from aspects of my identity as a woman, to my carefully honed image of the future of my family.

Adoption for us was not a result of or reaction to infertility, and that is a noteworthy revelation. Adoption has always been an option for us. It was something we discussed before marriage. It always seemed like simply another way of doing family. For us, adoption came about after we discovered we were infertile, but we never viewed adoption as a lesser choice. It might have been interesting to experience pregnancy and childbirth and breastfeeding, or to see what a child would be like who had Michael's and my DNA. But Cookie is not our second choice or our last resort.

To have gone into adopting as a means of trying to lessen the impact of infertility or viewing adoption as somehow second-best would have been a grave disservice to any child. Cookie is not our salvation from anything. She does not fill an aching void, or make up for any of our imperfections. She is not a commodity, a posession, or an acquisition.

She's our daughter.

I hope to never treat my daughter in a way that communicates to her that she is "lucky to have us", or to treat her as if the world revolves around her in a way that communicates to her that we will "never be worthy of having her". What I do hope to communicate to her is that we are blessed to be a family, and that God saw that we would be good for each other.

I am grateful that we had the time and opportunity to process the reality of infertility before adopting. I am grateful our foster care R&C worker questioned us both about it as much as she did. It is critical that adoption not be a reaction, but instead is a choice. It's not about wanting a BMW, but settling for a Kia because that's all you can afford or access.

You might read our story and come up with different conclusions. You might say that God sent Cookie into our lives, or that the Universe brought her to us, or fate, or circumstance. But that is precisely how we chose to create our family.

We chose to say "no" to fertility treatments because we knew in our hearts that if we did, that adoption would become in our hearts second-best, the least-hoped-for outcome. I never wanted to even risk taking on the mindset that somehow mother nature, or God, or the Universe had screwed me over. I never wanted to play the martyr, or roll around in my own pool of self-pity.

I am sorry that I do not know anything about Cookie's birth family except their legal and moral choices. I can tell her that J. chose to give her life. J. left the treatment center knowing she was about to be served with paperwork terminating her parental rights. It has all had to happen without her. Since she has experience loosing children in the past, my guess is that she knew she was also leaving her child. My guess is that she knows Cookie is better off. I can only hope.

There is pain in adoption somewhere. Cookie's Biomom is undoubtedly in her own personal, drug-induced hell. She's loosing her third child. I do not know if Cookie's Biodad cares. He did not care when he was molesting and beating other children, so I can only assume he does not. But I sense the pain. I have sensed it all along.

I have read acccount of other adoptive parents who write about falling in love with the "concept" of a child. I did, too. Then I fell in love in different ways with four children before Cookie came into our lives.

We chose foster care as a way of adopting for a number of reasons. First was the grave need for foster parents, and the many children that can never be reunited because of drugs, abuse/neglect, and criminal activities. Second was our extreme aversion to the competitiveness and "pick me, pick me" world of private adoptions. A small amount of surfing websites promising to serve as your personal PR firm to make you look great as a couple made us want to vomit. It seemed not only wrong at a gut level, but bordered on immoral to us. The world of fostering to adopt has its fair share of problems and challenges, but there is no competitiveness. We were renters, I am divorced, we are a bi-racial couple, and I am no cookie-baking SAHM. Still, we made good foster parents because we would love on children - and there were far more children in need of a home than there are families willing to take them. It's risky, it's heartbreaking, but it's for the best cause in the world.

People have told us we are good people for adopting - saintly even. We are far from it. We are selfish, scared, imperfect people who wanted to have a family. We were not desperate, and we did not feel like a child would "fix" something broken, but we wanted a family very much. We went about it in the best, most cost-effective, close-to-home way we knew of. At the time, I was fostering kittens for the Humane Society, and my mother jokingly said I needed to go get some human children and foster them. So, I went about educating myself. We went to 30 hours of training, and did mounds of paperwork. It was that simple.

I'm grateful my husband and I were able to openly discuss and move beyond the label of infertility before adopting. It would have been so unfair to Cookie for her to grow up feeling like we love her, but wished we could have had a biological child instead. On the contrary. Cookie did grow inside of me. While she was gestating inside J. somewhere across town or across KY, she was growing in my heart - and I didn't even know if she was a boy, or girl, or brown, or peachy-beige. I didn't even know when she would show up. All that I had was a "concept", and that "concept" was as real as it gets.

There are times when people remind us that Cookie is not our biological child - like when they ask my espresso-skinned husband if the little red-headded girl "is adopted", or when they ask him "Is that your kid?" But the feeling in my soul is real. I hope she will not feel a loss as she grows up. I hope she never feels she has to write a blog detailing the pain of knowing she was born of a drug addict and in foster care. If she does, we will talk as much as she wants to.

We might foster-to-adopt again someday, and it won't be because Cookie "wasn't enough". It's just that we've discovered that we have a whole lot of love to go around, and a life that's terrific enough that we want to share it with at least one child, and maybe more. We can't avoid acknowledging the pain that is going on elsewhere even as we celebrate on November 4th - the day of our first "baby shower". What we can do, is be certain that Cookie was not our second choice - she was God's first choice for us, and that makes her first in our book any day.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Happy 10 Month Birthday, Sugar Cookie!

You're very close to being our daughter forever, and this is a huge relief to your Mommy and Daddy! You're a busy girl, and growing up faster than we ever imagined. Here's some things we've noticed about you:

You can now use your index finger to poke at things or push little buttons to turn things off and on.

You're walking with pretty good skill now, and getting much better balance. You can zip around the room with amazing speed, and even crouch down to pick something up without falling down. You can even walk while carrying something in each hand (something you love to do).

You have 4 teeth - two on top and two on bottom, and no real signs of any more poking through just yet.

Your favorite "toys" are our car keys, cell phones, and wallets.

Everything still eventually ends up in your mouth.

Your blue eyes have not changed in the slightest, and you now have a head full of very silky strawberry blonde hair.

You are extremely confident, and explore everything like a little scientist. You love to get into things. Pulling objects out of boxes and drawers excites you.

You adore your daddy, and when he pulls up in the driveway, I carry you to the front door and let you look through the glass storm door and watch him walk up the driveway. You always grin like crazy and flap your arms in excitement. Daddy then walks in, gives us both kisses, and scoops you up to give you hugs. I think it is your (and his) favorite part of the whole day.

You have separation anxiety when Daddy takes you to daycare, though Ms. Razi usually helps make the drop-off a little easier on you and Daddy.

You don't seem to mind strangers too much, as long as they keep a "safe" distance and allow you to explore at your own speed, and assuming that Mommy and Daddy are close by.

You still hate wearing shoes, hats, or bows in your hair, and will rip these off if at all possible.

You still share the family bed with your daddy and mommy, and enjoy snuggling up close now that it's getting downright cold at night. Your mommy and daddy feel much less pressure to get you out of the bed now that they know how much it has helped you develop.

You enjoy being in the kitchen whenever one of us in in there. You enjoy helping do the dishes - especially if it means you can pull utensils out of the holder (no knives, though) and fling them onto the floor.

You just got over your second ear infection, thrush, and a yeast diaper rash all at the same time. You were particularly aggravated about it all, and let us know. The thrush had caused you to regurgitate your entire bottle all over us after a feeding at least once a day. I still need to steam-clean the sofa.

You enjoy trying to eat whatever we do, and I assume it won't be long before you are chowing down on most things. The other night you enjoyed eating a bunch of peas out of my Chinese fried-rice, though you did not particularly care for the rice.

You smile and laugh all the time, and your personality is enormous. You are dramatic, and even like to "perform" for us, and enjoy putting on little shows of sorts. Your laugh shakes your whole little body. I know I've smiled more these 10 months than I have in a very long time - just from watching you.

You seem to enjoy the version of "Ridin' Dirty" I sing to you while changing your diaper: "My poop is so foul and stin-ky. Mom's hopin' that she won't catch me ridin' dirty. Tryin' to catch me ridin' dirty..." Daddy, on the other hand, sings "We Want the Funk" as well as other assorted things that I've never even heard of before.

You know how to wave now - and you first did it to "Uncle Paul" when he was here to visit a couple of weeks ago. We were sitting on the sofa and were astonished when he waved at you - and you waved back! From then on, you've loved waving "hello" and "goodbye" on a pretty regular basis.

You're becoming like your Daddy and I in various ways. You've got my dramatic, stubborn streak, and enough attitude for both of us. You can throw a conniption-fit as well as I can. You love eating as much as the two of us do. You're willing to try anything just like me. You already seem to have my appreciation for good jewelry and high quality bedding. You enjoy watching Jeopardy with us - even if Daddy knows all the answers way before we do.

You've got your Daddy's scientific inquiry, and his tendency to go into periods of quiet thoughtfulness or reservation. Like Daddy, you don't care for large and noisy groups of people. Like Daddy, you enjoy your books and like to visit them every day. Like Daddy, you have a hard time actually finishing a book before moving on to something else.

We are very proud of your continued development. You challenge us daily, and remind us that there are far more important things than committee meetings, rude bosses, and irritating co-workers. You make coming home at the end of the day even more enjoyable. We still stare at you, and admire the lovely little girl you are becoming.

While we would love to have your adoption wrapped up before Christmas, just knowing that we're on the way there is enough for us.

Happy 10 Month Birthday, Sugar Cookie. We love you.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

My Not-So Little Girl

I can't believe you've been my daughter for almost 10 months. You are so smart and so beautiful, and just when I think I can't possibly love you more, I wake up the next morning to find I do.

Monday, October 16, 2006

We Have A Court Date!

Just got the call from R. - the court date for TPR has been set for...OCTOBER 31st at 1:30


Baby shower is now scheduled for Nov. 4th, and my parents will meet their grandaughter for the first time on November 10th.

Life is good.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Midterm Reflections

On top of my full-time day job in research integrity, I also teach part-time on Thursday evenings. I teach a 400-level class in Persuasion. It should be more fun than it is, but sometimes the whining and complaining gets the best of me.

Tonight is the midterm exam - thought it starts at 6, I have 2 students who have already sat down to take it. One student who came by my office early to take it took 2 hours - and it's only 46 multiple choice and 12 short answer questions! You'd think I'd stabbed her from the way she crept into my office when she was finished. Whatever happened to the geeky students like me who actually enjoyed college?

Oh well...I figured I'd take a moment here to breathe and update the blog that doesn't get updated nearly often enough.

QueenBee over at My Ebenezer wrote recently about the tough days of being a mom. I'd like to give a cheer in response: Amen, Sista! It is so, so hard so many days. I am exhausted, and there are many days I question how good I am doing (though it is worth noting that I have absolutely no idea what I would do differently to be better). There are even moments when I must force myself to remember why I wanted this so badly. There are moments when I remember being blissfully single, or blissfully married with many fewer responsibilities. I wonder what I did with all the free time I had. I realize how much I frittered away (frittered is a cool word).

Cookie can throw a pretty decent tantrum. I must give the girl credit. She can become downright dramtic, animated, whiney and pathetic. She'll arch her back and throw her head back and kick her legs and become stiff. Of course, while all this is going on, she's also keeping a keen eye on us to check our reaction (Is this working?). At first, it was cute. I was even pleased that her development was progressing so nicely and that she was learning to be so expressive. Now, it is a frustrating reality. God bless my husband for his endless patience. He can handle any irritating behavior she can offer up, and not get angry. He keeps me in check, and is quick to offer to take her for a spell while I get my bearings. In fact, we do an excellent job of sharing tasks and baby-duties. Even as I type, he is picking her up from daycare and will play with her at home and even likely get her into bed all before I get home from class. It is a partnership I never fully comprehended.

I value my husband in brand new ways. It's quite amazing, really, when I consider my experiences with the male homosapien sapien. I have a lot of experience - damn good ones, really. But never have I valued partnership as I do now. I miss the physical intimacy, but we have nicer times together with Cookie between us now. A while back, my husband and I were lying in bed together about to fall asleep with a sleeping Cookie between us - when he stretched his leg out and began to rub my leg with his across the bed. He said it was "cricket love" and I giggled like a little girl. It was very special to me, and most every night now we have cricket love. Crickets should be so lucky.

I also have a deeper appreciation for house and home, and for the times when I can sink down into the sofa and just breathe and exist in the peacefulness that is my space. I now share my space with two others, but the space is alive and full and energizing. I feel older in some ways (my back, the circles under my eyes, the lack of energy), and younger in others (an anticipation of the future, a richer sense of humor, a more laid-back attitude about the "little things"). It's interesting how I am learning to reclaim myself even as I feel myself stretched to the limit in so many directions.

Hubby and I have decided to apply for positions at James Madison University. It would mean a position where I could teach full-time - it's a 3-yr. rotating appointment lecturer position - as well as a lovely faculty line in Michael's specialization. We have until Nov. 1 to get our materials in - so guess what we'll be doing this weekend? I know you're jealous - don't even try to hide it. Life's good here in Lexington, but Michael's department is less-than family-friendly (his department chair actually had her tubes tied in advance just to make sure children would not ruin her career - damn crumb-gatherers). Senior members of the department met and wrote (and distributed this summer) a department credo (no, I am not lying) that addressed that faculty should not allow family matters to get in the way of classes, office hours, appointments, and committee responsibilities. It was horrifying. I must post it here soon so all the world can read the insulting basura that is this so-called credo. BTW - the only people in his department that have children at home are 3 untenured males. How's that for reverse discrimination? Hubby asked wether his bringing Cookie to class with him was partly behind the "credo". He got a less than stellar response. Academics. Screw them all. Onward and upward we go - Cookie in tow.

(Ah, students are finishing in 45 minutes flat...not a good sign with those 12 short-answer questions. Well, less for me to grade!)

I really can't wait to get home tonight. It's so cold outside, and I know the house will be all warm and good-smelling with Brooklyn pizza, and LOST waiting to be watched from last night on the DVR (God bless the inventors of DVR.)

Ok, so far 6 different students have come up to ask me what the word "salient" means, and just as many have come up because they did not know what "mutually exclusive" meant. *sigh* 11 students left to finish - and 3 are now just sitting there staring off into space as if aliens are about to beam the answers down to them.

At 1 hr and 15 minutes, 8 are left... and one dude is now taking a break and eating cookies he brought in his backpack - honestly, folks, this is not your livingroom!

There's not much more to report on the home-front. Life is good, Cookie continues to thrive, and we are starting to make plans for the holidays (well, I am starting anyway).

November 4th our small group at church is having a baby shower for us and Cookie - that's as far back as we could convince them to push it. I just don't think they wanted to wait any longer. I've registered for a few things at Babys R Us, but honestly, I really don't want or need anything. Cookie's grandparents keep her well-dressed and stocked with plenty of good books, and we keep her well-stocked as well. I even broke down and bought her a pair of Robeez shoes. They are quite cute, albeit expensive in my book at $26 a pair.

We still talk about putting ourselves back on the list for placements, but it seems like each day holds new challenges that convince us to wait. Our one little girl sure is demanding.

I'm amazed at how beautiful Cookie is. Don't you other parents just stare endlessly at your kids? I pet her so much when she is sleeping that she often whines and rolls over as if to say "Enough, mommy - now let me sleep!" He hair and skin are so silky, and I love how she smells. As big as she is getting, I still love the feel of her against me. It will be sad when she doesn't want to be held anymore.

Well, one lone student is finishing up the exam - an hour and 45 minutes after he started. Ugh. I will now begin packing up to motivate him to finish!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Cookie Walks!

Well, last night I had gone into the kitchen to grab some paper towels and Windex because I thought I'd be productive and clean the windows before our company comes in on Friday. Just as I turned around to come back into the livingroom, I see Cookie come WALKING around the corner holding my cell phone in one hand. There she was, just walking as confident and happy as can be. I about passed out.

So, since the digital camera was stolen, all I had was the little camera on my cell phone. So, here's the talented Ms. Sugar Cookie:

So, last night marked THE MOMENT we officially entered a new level of "I'm in trouble." She was so proud of herself. I promise to get a new digital camera in the next couple of days - she deserves better pictures that aren't fuzzy.

YAY Cookie! Next: basketball!

Added: Here's Cookie preparing to walk at daycare:

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

MORE teething, company, baby shower...


Yikes. Someone really should have warned me about teething, and that it is pretty continuous from about 6-12 months of age.

Cookie now has her bottom 2 teeth fully in and her two top teeth about 3/4 of the way in.

For the past several nights, she's been waking up crying every 2-3 hours. Before, she was only waking up once for a diaper change and a snack (hey, even I wake up sometimes and have to pee and go downstairs for some chocolate milk, so this I understand). But lately she's been waking up and crying like something's wrong. I strongly suspect she's about to cut some more teeth. At 9 1/2 months, she's just about on schedule.

There's no difference in what she puts in her mouth because freakin' EVERYTHING goes in her mouth. She loves our keys, our shoes, the mail, the strap of my purse, Michael's wallet - everything she can find.


We're getting company this weekend - Michael's good friend from graduate school and his wife. They'll be here from Friday night to Sunday evening, and we're going over to catch the Bruce Hornsy concert in Louisville. Michael's a big Bruce fan, and this will be my 3rd Bruce concert with him (I think he qualifies as a "groupie"). Anyway, I'm afraid the only impression I ever gave Michael's friend was a very bad one. The only time I met him I was sulking, and Michael and I were fighting (as was customary during that pre-marriage time period). I am sure he thought I was a bee-atch. Heck, in retrospect, I think I was a bee-atch. I'm hoping this weekend I'll have a chance to resemble a reasonable human being and make a better impression.


Well, our Sunday school class leaders said they are tired of waiting and want to have a baby shower now – and then an adoption party later. So, they TOLD us (after we had been out of church for weeks being sick) that the party is October 21st after church. They are having a cookout at their place and inviting lots of people from church and asked me to get them addresses of folks from work that we want there too.

When I stressed an “adoption party” and baby dedication/baptism (yeah, they do that in our church – the water-sprinkling thing) – they all said they wanted to do that too once the adoption is finalized.

So, I was looking at christening gowns at Burlington – they have a pretty assortment there, and was sad because they only went up to 6 months of age. I guess they assume babies get baptized or dedicated by then. Hmm. This is discriminatory. Lemme know if you ever see any for a 1 yr. old. She might just have to have a pretty white dress instead. I bet they sell them for tiny little flower girls or something. I may have to look into that.

So, this is very nice of folks at church. I just think they didn’t want us to be left out – there have been a ton of baby showers take place since Cookie came to live with us, so I know it’s been a long time in coming and they’ve been asking about doing it for a long time.

That's about all the updates I have for now. I'm recovering from being ill, my house is fairly clean, and everything seems to be falling nicely into place without my overt attempts to control the universe.

Oh, and Cookie got a new "big girl" car seat. She is actually heavy enough and long enough to face forward now, so she got a new fabulous Eddie Bauer car seat (because she IS a fashionista - and because Big Lots freakin' ROCKS). She loves her new view of the world - no more watching the world go by backwards. This is a big deal for her (and us, a little).