Sunday, May 31, 2015

Knitting Together Grief and Memories

My mother-in-law is a masterful knitter. She makes beautiful scarves, cowls, and hats. She knits beautifully striped socks with tiny wooden skewer-like needles, tiny clicking movements creating amazingly uniform garments. For my birthday, she made an adorable yellow and green striped, super-soft baby cocoon and hat for our slowly materializing FutureBaby.

And shawls. She has made beautifully nuanced, colorful, and almost lacy shawls for her mother. Grammie lived in a nursing home for the past seven years, during which time my mother-in-law visited frequently, made stuffed quilted cats and window gardens and holiday decorations to cheer up her room. She led crafts at the home, such as Christmas gingerbread house making and wheelchair-height container gardens. She took Grammie on outings, dressed to the nines in flowery dresses and floppy hats. She brought joy and light with each visit. And she knitted shawls to add some color, warmth, and homemade love to Grammie's outfits.

Grammie passed away in early May the Sunday before Mother's Day. She had been ill for a time and her passing was slow. My mother-in-law sat by her side through the whole process, and she knit.

She was knitting a shawl, one for Grammie, even though in her heart she knew that it most likely would not be completed in time for her to wear it. And the yarn was spectacular.

It was multicolor yarn, bought in Florida at least three years ago when she had just begun to learn to knit. It was shades of green and bluish-gray, mottled and marled, so that when knit together it would look like ombre stripes of meadow and silvery river, fields and narrow seas. It caught her eye, without knowing what project she might make with it. So she bought four beautiful skeins and set them aside for a future time.

In three years, my mother-in-law has become a delicately skilled knitter, and the project revealed itself. She sat and knit and kept her fading mother company with the clicking of needles and creation of a soft landscape of yarn.

The shawl is now morphing into a lap-blanket of sorts, and we are here in Maine for Grammie's memorial service. It really does look like meadows and rivers.

What struck me, though, was a thin, dark line of teal that goes across the knitting, interrupting the landscape but also complementing the colors. It is like a dark ring on the inside of a tree, marking a time of trauma.

That line of teal was knitted at the time of Grammie's death, a marker of loss, a solitary stripe in the sunrise-silver tidal river blue grays and the grassy greens of the rest of the open-work shawl-turned-throw-blanket. It will be the only rows of that color.

It is so beautiful to me, this physical representation of grief in the beauty of the yarn patterns. A timeline of sorts. The yarn tells a story, of time spent in love, hoping for a sense of peace through the presence of a loving daughter sitting vigil through her mother's final weeks, days, and hours. A story of the dark grief and loss at the time of passing. And then a continuation of the beauty of the pattern, taking on new life as a cozy lap-blanket, the clicking of the needles becoming a healing process, the shawl turning to an every day square of beauty that serves to hold memories of a beloved mother.

A stranger sitting on the loveseat may see this throw in the future, marvel in its beauty, and not know the significance of the story behind it, the sadness of that single dark teal stripe, the continuation of a pattern, interrupted.

Monday, May 25, 2015

#Microblog Mondays: An Intense New Relationship With My Phone

An interesting piece of advice given at last weekend's home study classes: Have your phone on, ringer up, and near you AT ALL TIMES once you are profile-ready.

I am used to having to have my phone on me, and expecting a call that could be life-changing -- so many phone calls about progress in a cycle, estrogen levels, and beta results that had me clinging to my phone, waiting for it to ring, hoping that I didn't miss the very important information that was coming to me.

But that was for a specific DAY, and a specific window within that day -- after 11:00 on Tuesday, or before 3:00 on Friday.

Now, NOW (okay, sometime late summer, we're not quite profile-ready yet) I have to be on call, all the time, because you just don't know when that call could come -- it's like waiting for a beta but without any kind of window at all, and for weeks, months, even years on end.

I could get a call at 2:00 in the afternoon and need to get ahold of Bryce and have a serious conversation in order to make a decision by 4:00 pm THE SAME DAY. This is not super frequent, but enough that I am freaking out a bit about this intensifying relationship with my phone.

I will need to teach with my ringer on and near me at all times...I will need to be sure that I have cell phone coverage in the building (it's an old building and parts of the first floor used to be nuclear bomb shelter, so that's tricky)...I will need to be sure that they have my school phone number as a backup, too so that I can be called by the PA to receive my call or call them back.

I may not actually receive a call for months or a year or more... but I will need to act like that call is imminent.

Those who have gone before me on the adoption journey, please help me to stop hyperventilating.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Home Study Classes -- Part I

One of our big milestones in the adoption process was completed a week ago.


Until these are complete, we cannot be assigned a social worker, we cannot start our home study visits that will complete the home study process. This is apparently true as long as you are doing an agency adoption--I found out in the classes that if you are doing private adoption, assisted by an attorney, you do not have to complete these classes.

Which to me would be a terrible loss. The classes were awesome, informative, and even entertaining.

It was 12 hours of coursework -- six two-hour classes spread out 5-9 on Friday night and 9-5 on Saturday. There were breaks built in, but we were often listening and eating at the same time. Or in my case, listening, frantically taking notes, and eating at the same time. Like the nerd I am, I took 28 pages of handwritten notes over the course of the weekend. But I have news for you -- nerds rule, and I will have a reference for EVERYTHING -- since there weren't a ton of handouts.

The classes were as follows:

Welcome/What to Expect When You Are Adopting (my own title for the second half but it's pretty accurate)
Talking About Adoption
Adoption Law
Child Interest: Considering Referrals-- The Grid
Creating New Relationships -- Post Adoption Contact Agreements (PACA), also Grid
Child Identity (more Grid, considering transracial adoption and other differences)

The room was a training room, set up with 6 circular tables (okay, one was a rectangle but most were circular) with space for about 6 people at each. I'd say there were at least 20 couples there, if not more. Although, they had a staff training and a 15-year anniversary gala that same weekend, so there was a table of about 6 social workers, too. Which may or may not have made us all feel a little more...observed, although probably not rationally so.

Seats were not assigned, but we sat with the same people Friday night and then...the same people Saturday, although at a different table and with another couple joining us. There were opportunities to mingle during breaks and some forced mixing during group activities, which I actually appreciated and wished there was more of. I am always afraid at these kinds of events that we won't find anyone to talk to, that we'll be the weird people on the periphery, that no one will want to get to know us, that we'll be picked last... basically middle school all over again. There's a fine line between being friendly, being assertive in introducing yourself, and being desperate..."please like me! WANT to talk to me! Sit by me!" I think we did a pretty good job not being desperate but also not being too wallflowery. I did get email addresses for three couples, which is great because it's always nice to have people who are in this with you. I have friends who are at varying stages in this process, but I think you can't have too many friends who are also adopting and will "get it."

Okay, on to the actual classes. To prevent this from becoming a novel, I'm going to publish it in three parts. This one covers Friday night. Part II will be Saturday morning, and Part III will be Saturday afternoon.

Welcome/What to Expect When You're Adopting:
This was basically, "Hi! Welcome to your home study classes. Please introduce yourself to everyone, these are not assigned seats, and get ready to learn a whole lot!" It was facilitated by one of the family advocates (a social worker who works with the adoptive family throughout the process but does not do the home study, but who DOES call you with profiling opportunities once all that is complete).

- It started with some interesting information that I wished had been shared earlier: Your home study report expires a year from when it is approved. (This I knew.) HOWEVER, any paperwork that you completed prior to the report that is a part of the report (background checks, medical forms, etc.) ALSO expire, but a year from their completion date. So, while the agency will keep track of all your expiration dates, you also should know when they expire. COMMENCE HEART ATTACK. Because, when we did our application in February, I took advantage of February Break and hauled ass on a lot of that paperwork. So my medical form was completed in February. And our clearances have March dates (which was surprisingly fast, since I thought the FBI child abuse clearance took months). So, since our home study report will most likely not be done any time earlier than July or August, we only have SIX MONTHS on those other forms. Which means, if your home study is good and you get a profile opportunity but one of those other forms has have a problem. So, in some ways, the early bird gets screwed. However, I did find that fingerprints are good forever, and the background checks just need internal updating, so the only one that requires going out and completing something is the Medical Form. Just in case, you know, you acquire some kind of condition that would make you less likely to be able to parent. No pressure. If you live in New York, the nice thing is that the Adam Walsh form that clears you for child abuse in the state is good forever, if you've lived in the state for five years. Which we have. Whew. I just kind of wish I had known that some paperwork was not worth speeding through, because it expires. I might have pushed my doctor's appointment out a little further. (Score for Bryce for not having his appointment until the week of the classes...)

- Then, you got to the Expectant Parent Information--Things to Remember. Some bullet points on the excellent advice that was given:
       - Until surrender documents are signed, decisions belong to expectant/birth parents. This includes circumcision, but naming is the legal right of adoptive parents. However, it was stressed that you may have discussions with the expectant/birth parents on names because there may be a middle name or other inclusions that are wanted.
       - Let expectant parents lead the way -- follow their cues especially around the time of the birth.
       - Use the agency for guidance--they are there to help you navigate this complex process. Don't hesitate to call with questions, if you're overwhelmed, or to share good news. They like good calls, too. (Not dissimilar from teacher calls -- make the good ones too so a phone call home isn't always ominous.)
       - Have awareness that the process is emotional -- education is key. Oh, and avoid, avoid, avoid people who tell you what you "should" do -- its' not always good advice and will make you feel bad.
       - RESPECT expectant parents' right to confidentiality. This applies to facebook as well as in-person conversations. It is possible that you could accidentally see the birth mom's last name at the hospital -- if this is not part of the information she wants you to have, SCRUB IT from your memory, as best you can. (This is not an opportunity to do internet research. SCRUB IT.)
      - DO NOT JUDGE. Expectant/birth parents can be in tough situations. No one has the right to judge another person, even if it is tempting. You don't know what you would do in certain circumstances unless you yourself are in those exact same shoes. So don't judge.
       - You will be fearful of mind-changing. This is totally normal. However, the time right before and right after the birth are the scariest, and even if decisions were made ahead of time, the expectant mother has the right to change her mind as to what she's okay with. This doesn't necessarily mean that she is CHANGING HER MIND about the placement. It's just a very, very emotional time and it is malleable. So try not to be terrified and be malleable, too. It is possible that the birth mother could change her mind before placement occurs (this is a failed match, not a revocation). You need to be okay with this. You will be devastated. Completely and utterly devastated, but you do not want an adoption where someone felt obligated to place against their better judgment. Also, the placement could still be happening, but the expectant mother has changed her mind about your presence at the hospital. This can go either way -- you can have been invited to the birth but now not, or you could have been planning to be in a nearby hotel but now you are invited to the birth. Be flexible. No matter what happens, this is totally beyond your control.
       - Always, always follow through with open agreements. The agency does not want you agreeing to ANYTHING that you cannot do for 18 years. You will want to promise the world. Promise what you can definitely follow through on at the minimum, because you can always do more as the relationship evolves. DO NOT OVERPROMISE. It's bad for everyone.
       - Remember that disrespecting the birth parent is disrespecting your child. Be careful what you say in the moment if you are upset with something that has happened -- your child WILL hear it and they will internalize that. Share this with your friends and family. Birth parents are not to be bashed, ever.
       - FINANCIAL PREPAREDNESS: once you have your home study done and your profile is ready and printed and five copies are in the agency's hands, you are considered a Waiting Client. At this point, you must have your finances in order and easily accessible. You don't want to miss a placement opportunity because you couldn't transfer your money over and write that check.
          - You need to have available all maximum placement and post-placement fees, PLUS an additional 10k buffer, available. (GULP. Gulp, gulp, gulpity gulp gulp gulp.)
           - Fee is per placement and is discussed at the time of profiling. It varies dependent on the situation, the state, etc. In the states covered by this agency birth parent expenses are limited to certain timeframes but covered by the adoptive parents. This includes legal representation for the birth parent. So fees can vary quite a bit. All fees are for the support of the birth parent and services provided by the agency pre- and post-placement. YOU ARE NOT BUYING A BABY. THIS IS NOT A "COST" FOR THE BABY. HOLY JEEZUM I CAN'T STRESS THIS ENOUGH. ADOPTION IS NOT BUYING A BABY.
          - From the time you receive the profiling call, the fees are due anywhere from a few days to weeks to month or more, but once you are selected by the expectant mother, you need to have the money ready. Sometimes there are last minute situations, and the fees are due TOMORROW. You want to be prepared for that possibility.
       - There is a sister organization within the agency meant to support families post-adoption process, this covers issues with family, issues within your own nuclear family, issues with the birth family. You can utilize these services for mediation as well as counseling and other support.

WHEW. Are you totally overwhelmed yet? That was the first two hours, done. On to the next class.

Talking About Adoption
This course was facilitated by the agency's Client Relations Manager. This is the person who calls you after the application is received and approved and welcomes you to the agency. He was super nice and helpful.

- We were given a group name, so that we could call in and see where other people in the group were in the process. Since obviously we can't ask about specific couples or individuals due to confidentiality, this gives you a sense of if others have been profiled, or someone has had a placement, or most people are still doing the massive amounts of home study paperwork. I kind of feel like calling to get this information might make me feel worse, not better, but maybe it's comforting in some way to others. Previously, they had a giant box of crayons and each group received a color. Each group is completely unique--no duplicate names ever. Since they ran out of crayons, we were on to wildlife flashcards. And our group was designated... African Elephant. I found this somehow hilarious, given that elephants have always been a good luck totem of sorts throughout our IVF process, and I have a little stuffed elephant on my tiny rocking chair in the little room. How very fitting.
- The class started with an ice breaker of sorts, two sets of envelopes that had different questions in them. The first questions were randomly distributed to people at the table, and included things like, "Do you remember when you drove alone for the first time?" "Do you remember when you were first told that someone you knew had died?" (Way to bring us down, question.) "Do you remember your first date?" Then the second envelope had questions like, "Do you remember when you first walked?" "Do you remember being born?" (He said that previous classes had people who claimed to remember this, which was just plain bizarre to me.)  "Do you remember the first storybook that was ever read to you?" Then he asked us what the difference was between the two groups of questions. Can you guess?
       - The difference was, that you can remember the things that happen later in your life, but some things just ARE, because they happened so early. They are just a part of your story, not something you remember.
       - The point? That adoption for your child should be something that they DON'T REMEMBER EVER BEING SAT DOWN AND TOLD -- it's just part of their identity. The story should begin as early as possible, the first day you bring your child home, a part of bedtime stories, just a part of their identity. Not an event when they are eight, or twelve, or eighteen -- a suckerpunch surprise. That is helpful to no one.
       - Start the adoption story early -- it is a part of life, not a revelation.
- We were advised to write down all the info from our phone call for the adoption story, as well as for our own decision-making processes. Because from that call (and I would argue from the day you fill out the application), your child's adoption story has begun. They deserve to know it. It is part of their identity.
- Stress that ADOPTION IS NORMAL. It should be talked about. It should be okay to discuss in school or anywhere.
        - He gave us some names of famous people who are touched by adoption -- adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents. There is a list on the website. Point out how normal adoption is and famous people who give representation to this experience.
       - Find good TV shows and movies, and point out how adoptive families are normal. Discuss when it's not realistic.
- ADOPTION IS FOREVER. Stress to your child that this is permanent. Your child may be worried when you share their adoption story that they could be placed to another family by you, stress that your family will not change.
       - Talk positively about birth families and reasons for placement that are different than the permanent situation you currently have.
- Remember, your child has a BIRTH STORY, too.
       - Young children will sometimes say, "I wasn't born, I was adopted." Your child WAS born and that is part of their story. Even if it is uncomfortable for you, it's a need all children have. Meet it.
       - Whatever you know, share. It is completely normal for children to want to hear their birth story in addition to their adoption story, they go hand in hand.
       - Celebrate birthday and Adoption Day, but separately. They are BOTH important, but they are separate events and should be treated as such.
       - When you say, "Your birth mother made a plan out of love," be careful. This can be confusing to young children especially who don't distinguish the nuance of love. They may hear YOU say, "I love you!" and then think, "But my birth mother loved me too, and she made a plan out of love, are they going to make a plan for me and place me elsewhere?"
       - So, uh, do not necessarily use "LOVE" with regards to the decision to place, use "care" or "a loving decision"
       - Try not to muddy this, but be aware that this confusion could exist and talk about it.
- Okay, here is where he had me read the Did My First Mother Love Me? book that was somewhat traumatizing.
       - You can call the birth mother: First Mom or First Mother; Birth Mother or Birth Mom; First name. All are fine, all can be interchangeable, you decide what's right for your family.
- Be sure that your sharing of the story of placement is cumulative. Add more details as is age appropriate, but DO NOT leave things out, smooth over unpleasant realities, or lie. This breaks trust, big time. Do not share your child's story of placement with anyone else outside your immediate family (you, your spouse/partner, your child). You do not want someone else to accidentally tell your child information about themselves that you did not already share. That's bad.

- Here is where we watched a home video of children being interviewed about their thoughts on adoption, from various ages. And then... it was revealed that all of these children were siblings, some adopted, some not, and they were all siblings of... our facilitor--he was also adopted. And then, a smattering of the children in the video, now very much more grown up, came out to do a panel on talking about adoption. And, it turned out that all of these young people (I feel so old saying that, but the oldest was 27, and now that's a young person to me, what's happened to me?!?) were the children of the founder and CEO of our agency. She has ten children, some biological, some not, some special needs, some not, some transracial, some not... and so they all spoke to us about their experiences. I won't do a nitty gritty on it, just a bulleted list of the topics that they covered. I will say that it was very eye-opening for both of us, and they were the most well-adjusted family I've ever seen in my life. Not everyone was there, but those that were did such a beautiful job of answering questions and speaking to experiences that came from people bungling talking about adoption:
       - Loss -- Information and contact helps. What happens when contact ceases; dealing with the rollercoaster that comes with contact. The danger of social media--being able to find out information from searches or "friends" on facebook that maybe you were better off not knowing (or finding out in that way).
       - the fact that the parents had contact with birth parents, but gave children choice when they were older as to whether or not they wanted to have contact themselves. Which I found interesting.
       - School, bullying, surprisingly awful statements from teachers with narrow minds as to what constitutes immediate family.
       - Dealing with outside comments that are stupid, being given a great toolkit by parents and having the confidence to deal with situations outwardly and/or inwardly
       - Older children transition/adjustment: grief, bad situations, trauma, feelings of impermanence
       - Sibling search, birth sibling relationships are important, sometimes more so than birth parent
          - openness is important, not just for parents but siblings.
       - Find movies/TV shows to give opportunities to discuss with kids. Try not to overprotect but give dialogue about it. Often shows/movies that mom was worried about were just fine for kids.
       - What is my alternate reality? Fantasy of what birth parents were/are really like, when there is contact/openness the fantasy is more reality but you always wonder...what if
       - HONESTY, HONESTY, HONESTY. Most important thing to all siblings was honesty from parents. Real answers to tough questions. No secrets.

And that, THAT was the end of the first night of classes. We went home to our hotel room, I typed up the blog post about reading that picture book, Bryce read his book on making speakers from scratch, and we CRASHED. Because we had to get up early the next day and get ready for...

PART II -- a FULL DAY of classes.

To be continued...

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Our Family Life, Through the Mail Carrier's Eyes

Today was an exciting day. We mailed out our FINAL batch of paperwork to our agency today -- our child interest grid, and all the homework from our classes. Once this paperwork is received, we can be assigned a social worker and scheduled for our home study visits. As nerve-wracking as that seems to me, even as I feel more relaxed about it than I did when we were first dipping our toes into this process, I am really looking forward to it. We are moving, inch by inch, step by step, closer and closer towards becoming parents. Actual, physical, recognizable parents, not just in our hearts.

So, needless to say, we were super excited and had to photograph the event, although somewhat poorly as it was a beautiful sunny day today:

Super happy, a good one of Bryce and partial-nuclear-blast for me. 

Better of me, and a great shot of the bottom half of Bryce's face.
Between the two you get the idea. :)

When we heard the sound of mail carrier picking up that precious package, I had a thought.

What has our life looked like through the eyes of the mail carrier?

I mean, I don't think they necessarily actually notice what they drop off and pick up, but if our super friendly postal lady did...

She'd notice that we were receiving an awful lot of mail from the University of Rochester Medical Center for years. Not too much of a tell, since there was never anything that said "Strong Fertility," but you might wonder if one of us was seriously ill.

She'd notice that four and a half years ago, we had a subscription to Am.erican Baby, a free publication I'm not sure still exists. Yet there's no evidence of a baby in our yard or cars.

She'd notice that we started getting flyers for Bu.yBuyB.aby, again without evidence.

She'd notice a lot of cards. (But not flowers since those are delivered separate from the mail.)

She'd notice that Amer.ican Baby stopped coming.

She'd notice that three years ago, we started receiving Paren.ts magazine, something I subscribed to for a dollar when I was pregnant with promise. (A promise that was broken.)

She'd notice that Par.ents continues to come to our house.

She'd notice that I also get the Resolve newsletter, which might offer some insight into our childless home with the parenting magazine subscriptions.

She'd notice that a year ago we started getting bills from Buffalo Infertility & IVF, no guessing there.

And now those bills are slowing to a trickle.

She'd notice that we started receiving a lot of mail from an adoption agency.

Did she notice the big manila envelope today?

Does she know that we finally have hope, and that our story that has been told through the mail is headed to a much brighter future? If she notices, is she happy for this turn of events, since we will be far more likely to have toys in our yard sooner than later now than when we were receiving those medical bills?

That manila envelope is a huge milestone. It ad me feeling strangely last night, a little sad-and-scared, because as I addressed it and sealed up our very sensitive and confidential information, I realized...this is the last piece that is truly within our control. After that paperwork, we are at the mercy of others' schedules, others' decisions. Bryce helped me not panic by reminding me that we still have the profile books to do, and that is 100% within our control, and a really fun and positive thing to work on. Encapsulating our beautiful life together in pictures should be incredibly rewarding. But still, it felt kind of like a relief and a terror to let that final piece of home study paperwork leave our grasp. It felt a little like jumping off a cliff into a void.

Now it has been picked up by our mail carrier, who possibly unwittingly has witnessed the entire evolution of our family-building journey. This nondescript envelope is making its way through various machines and being touched by many postal employee hands, without any of them knowing just how significant it is.

We are really, truly on our way. And today, I am nothing but excited.

Off it goes... someone today told me the
envelope looks like it's smirking. I prefer
to see it as a little knowing smile,
satisfied with the job it's doing for our quest.

Monday, May 18, 2015

#Microblog Mondays: Why Is There Such A Difference?

Last Thursday, I had another opportunity to tell people that I was in the adoption process. Up until this point, most people have been excited and happy, equivalent to announcing a pregnancy.

This was not quite the same.

I was at a training, and the training unfortunately seemed to be one giant infomercial for a week-long conference over the summer, which I am considering going to (but kind of feel like NOT going to because of the wasted time where I was being sold something rather than learning something). As a final selling point, the gentleman in charge said to me,

"Do you have children?"

And instead of just saying "No," what I said (with a fair amount of enthusiasm) was:

"No, but I'm in the adoption process!"

SILENCE. CRICKETS. He fumbled over himself and explained that there were activities for children 9-12 (I guess I could have a 9-12 year old, but that made me feel really old), but the other teachers in the room, some of whom KNEW me, were silent and made the raised-eyebrows, "wow-she's-just-TMI'd-us" face.

Fast-forward not FIVE minutes, when one of the younger teachers says she's enjoying this summer before she starts trying to have a baby. And everyone was like, "OHMYGOD, that's so EXCITING!" Coo, coo, coo.

WHAAA? Wait, hold up... HOW IS THAT ANY DIFFERENT THAN WHAT I JUST SAID? Especially since hers involves SEX and whatnot and mine does not (on our end, at least)?

I will never understand this double standard -- there's more than one way to make a family, people. It amazes me that the way with actual sex involved is the one that makes people the most comfortable.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Friday, May 15, 2015

I Might Deserve a Medal

Here we are, in Buffalo, the first session of our home study classes complete. Tomorrow is the long slog, 9-5, a marathon of sitting and absorbing. I am planning to do a whole post on what the home study classes are like, and I have been taking meticulous notes (and looking like an insane person who is doing some kind of undercover journalism or something in the process) so that I can share with you what goes on during the classes. It's good stuff.

It does not escape my mind that a year ago, we had just come home from Buffalo and I was recovering from the hysteroscopy that would result later in the uterine scarring that put the final nail in our conception coffin. Thursday and Friday of this week are the Washington, DC trip days at school, and so last year I took advantage of those days to have time off for the surgery without needing sub plans, and this year our home study classes just happened to fall on that Friday as well, so again I took advantage of no sub plans to take a personal day and get stuff done about the house and for paperwork before driving out to Buffalo. For an entirely different kind of experience.

Last year at this time, we had already had one highly disappointing cancelled cycle with our new clinic, and we were going in to have polyps removed that had showed their ugly markers in my endometrial biopsy. We were frustrated, but still hopeful that maybe IVF would still work, although we were tired and the cancellation was my first after 4 and a half years of treatments -- it threw me for a loop. The hysteroscopy seemed to go without a hitch, although I had a lot of pain afterwards.

Now, going into these classes knowing that we will become parents through adoption and that our infertility treatments are on hiatus if not completely over (still puzzling over those frozen embryos we weren't able to use, a discussion for another time), we feel at peace. Excited. I do not miss shooting myself up. I do not miss the physical and emotional pain. I do not miss hoping, always hoping, and always, always being met with disappointment. I feel pretty well-adjusted, actually.

Which was put to the test during our home study class tonight.

One of our classes was "Talking About Adoption," and it was amazingly informative and made us feel like we were absolutely on the right path for us. I am trying to squelch my inner Hermione a bit, the piece of me that makes Bryce cringe and shows that I was THAT person in classes. I can't stand it when people say, "Do you have any questions?" and there's crickets. I feel badly for the presenter. I HAVE to raise my hand. I HAVE to volunteer for things. I am usually the one in groupwork who ends up presenting. So, I ended up talking, a lot, in this first night. Hand shot straight up in the air. At least I didn't correct anyone's pronunciation...I can control my Hermione that much. (Levio-SAAAAAAAH...)

One of the icebreakers was questions in little manila envelopes that one person at each table opened, and read, and answered, and then it was put to the rest of the room to answer as well. So few people volunteered that it was a little painful. So, when the question was, "What is the first storybook that you remember being read to you?," I shared about a storybook that was read to me when I was a child, The Dream of the Little Elephant, published in 1977 and given to me for my 5th birthday in 1981. Very pink-and-green, very seventies color scheme.  (I don't really remember it being read to me per se, but it's special to me.) I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it before, but it is a beautiful story about a little tiny green elephant who is living with all these big elephants who mock him, and he feels like he doesn't belong. So he has this dream about a place with green grass on the other side of the ocean and elephants just like him, and he goes on a quest to find this place, which he does after asking the waves and getting the wind to take him over the sea and asking a stone, and a worm, and following a bird, until he gets to a nest with another little green elephant and he's finally home. I CRY EVERY TIME I READ THIS BOOK. And for some reason, I read it to my class every September as part of my "Important Book" project modeling, and I tear up then, too. And I teared up a tiny bit telling the summary to a room full of prospective adoptive parents. I said that it was given back to me a couple of years ago, leaving out that my mother gave it back to me along with my little mahogany-stained rocking chair the last time I was pregnant. Because elephants were one of my fertility charms.

So, anyway, back to the classes. At this point, everyone knows that a) I wear my emotions on my sleeve and b) I am a teacher of reading.

Fast forward to a discussion about how important it is to have books about adoption in your home. Not just books for you, about the process of adoption, but picture books for your children, to tell a story of family that is familiar to them and to show how normal and natural adoption is as a way to make a family. Several picture books are presented, covers only, and the facilitator offers up one book that is great for talking about the curiosity children have about their birth mothers...except he has a terrible reading voice per his own admission and would like a volunteer to read it.

Guess who is encouraged to volunteer, by her husband and also people who caught on that I read books as part of my living?

So I set myself up on a chair at the front of the room, do the one-handed book hold that all reading teachers know (so we can see the text and everyone can see the pictures), and I read THIS book out loud for the class:

Everything is going swimmingly, as the little girl in the book is asking her parents about her first mother, and whether or not she loved her. And the parents in the book decide to share with the little girl the beautiful letter that her first mother wrote to her when she was still in her tummy. STILL IN HER TUMMY being the operative part.

I did great until I realized that the entire middle section of this book was going to be about pregnancy. That the first mother is telling her about how she found out she was pregnant, and then she felt her like a tickle in her tummy, and she loved her so much, and her belly grew, and all of her hopes and dreams for her baby, and how she could not provide those hopes so she found two parents who could give her all the things she could not, and that she was sad but that she was so happy that the baby would have the life she dreamed. It was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.


But I did it. I did it without out-and-out crying. I think I disassociated a bit. In the middle of the book, where the first mother is explaining how she could not be the little girl's parent, and when the little girl hugs her parents and exclaims how much her first mother loved her, I did get dangerously close to spilling over and yelled "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!" so that I did not start sobbing. Most people laughed, and I could not look up because there was an awful lot of sniffling and I wasn't the only one feeling intensely emotional.

As someone who never made it to feeling a baby on the inside, or having a belly that grew to noticeable proportions, it was somewhat painful to read this very detailed description of what it's like to be pregnant and love your baby so much but not be able to parent. I felt emotional for me for describing the pregnancy part, but I also felt emotional for the first mother. I could imagine myself in her skin, having these experiences I have never had and in all likelihood will never have, and feeling an intense grief that I could not provide the dreams and hopes I had for my baby. It is a freaking miracle that I made it through the book in one piece.

I walked back to our table and Bryce had tears running down his face.

"Are you okay, babe?" he whispered as I tried to calm my pounding heart and keep the tears from pouring out.

"Yes. I think I went outside my body a bit, but I'm good. If this was last year, I would NOT have been okay. But I'm okay. That was NOT easy."

I completely understand why that book was chosen. It offers an opportunity to talk about different terminologies for birth mothers, to discuss first mother as a great option, and to talk about not skirting around the grief when you share information with your child about his/her story. It showed that the child clearly discerned the difference between her first mother and her parents, and that it was so comforting to know that she definitely, DEFINITELY loved her to place her with parents who could make those dreams possible...and that it was very, very hard and sad. The message was overwhelmingly love, though. Love tinted with grief encompassed by love.

However... I could have used a warning. It would have been helpful to know that the book was hugely pregnancy-focused. I probably would have read it anyway, but I could have steeled myself a little earlier, rather than four pages in when I realized, Oh holy jeezum this book is going to stomp on my heart just a little.

So Bryce went up during a break and shared those thoughts with the facilitator, not to discourage the book from being read (because it is fantastic), but to just give feedback on the helpfulness that a simple warning could be helpful to people who are coming to adoption from the pain and loss of infertility.

The book is amazing, and I will probably buy it. I don't regret reading it out loud, because in a way it helped me see how far I've come (last year or even four months ago I probably would have been a puddle in the fetal position on the floor mid-book). It also showed me that my sense of empathy is really healthy, which I kinda already knew, but it's nice to have confirmation.

I feel like it was a test of sorts. A feat of emotional athleticism, quite possibly medal-worthy.

Monday, May 11, 2015

#Microblog Mondays: Autobiography Love Letter

Six years ago or so, I proposed to Bryce via a letter: a typed manifesto on why I thought marriage was a really, really good idea for us and why we should just do it. I put a lot of heart and soul (and logic, because he's an engineer) into that letter, and it was strangely validating when it made him cry.

I think maybe that moment for him was what reading Bryce's autobiographical statement for the adoption agency was for me.

He was nervous about it, agonized for weeks, convinced it was no good, waffled between letting me read it and not letting me read it. My proposal was that we read each other's after they went out the door, so it was too late to change anything for any reason...but he decided we should read them before sending them out, in his words, "In case mine is completely awful and you hate it."

It made me cry. It told our story in the most loving way, adding in emotion that I'd actually left out of mine for the sake of being pragmatic, and was basically the longest, most beautiful love letter to our relationship and our desire to add children to our already happy home. I sobbed uncontrollably after, hugging him and sob-heaving "thank you, oh thank you, that is the most BEAUTIFUL thing I've ever read, thank you..." while he hugged me back and laughed uncomfortably because he was STILL convinced that it was no good, that I was upset, that he'd have to redo it.

It was perfect.

And the funny thing was, after we'd both read each other's autobiographical statements, we realized that our different perspectives told the same beautiful story, weaving in and out and filling in each other's gaps in a way we couldn't have planned any better.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

(Obviously I struggle with brevity, so I try to keep it under 10 sentences because 7 is near impossible for me...)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

This Is Not (Really) a Mother's Day Post

This was my sixth Mother's Day where I am not a mother, but really, really want to be. Somehow, though, this wasn't quite so awful.

I have written so many Mother's Day posts before, where I talk about staying off of Facebook, and hanging out in my backyard so I don't have to see the Stroller Brigade and/or other people's festivities, and drinking lovely cocktails at 2:00 in the afternoon, and celebrating my own mother on a different day to save myself the torture of going out somewhere for brunch and witnessing the joy that everyone-but-me seems to have.

But this year? This year I almost missed writing a post near Mother's Day at all. Partly because life is ridiculously busy right now, with the merging of adoption (home study classes next weekend and last of paperwork in this week), my birthday, the kitchen renovation, and Bryce's grammie passing away. And partly because we inadvertently didn't really celebrate it this year.

Originally, I was going to host a brunch with my sister at my mom's house on Saturday. I was up for doing it on Mother's Day proper, but my mom wanted my sister to have more flexibility with her travel arrangements and so Saturday it was to be. My sister, who is very enthusiastic about our adoption plans, expressed interest in doing something just us ladies to celebrate our various ways of mom-ness. My mom for having us, her for having her stepsons, and me for having my soon to be baby. Except I'm not quite ready to celebrate that as if it is a given. We are not eligible yet; our home study is not complete. I don't know if I'll be a mom for NEXT Mother's Day, and so it seems premature to be celebrating my impending Mom Status now. Plus Mother's Day is still really, really hard. Did I mention there's been six of them without any change in my parental status? I felt badly, because she was bursting with joy and feeling like FINALLY, we can celebrate this holiday without this specter of loss for you! (My words, not hers.) But I'm not ready. That cloud is still raining on my Hallmark Holiday parade, and I have suffered too much loss throughout this journey to feel confident that I'll be a mom sooner than later and have the right to celebrate Mother's Day for myself. Still an empty hole where someday there will be joy on this day. So I politely declined and said I'd be happy to celebrate the two of them, but I wasn't ready to be included.

But it turned out I didn't have to walk that line of celebrating and feeling excited but nervous and like a Mother's Day imposter, because Bryce had a calendar snafu and made the whole Mother's Day celebration shift.

He called me on his way home from work last Friday, and was all excited. "I booked your birthday trip! I got us something really special! It's going to be great! We're not doing anything NEXT weekend, right?"

I felt horrible and didn't want to burst his bubble, but I kind of had to. "Um, nothing except it's Mother's Day..."

"SHIT SHIT SHIT! I can't cancel or I'll lose at least half the room fee! SHIT!"

So I let him know that it wouldn't be a problem, I would call my mom, I would explain the situation, we would move Mother's Day and celebrate it separately. And so I did. My mom was totally understanding, and so was my sister. And, in a way, I was kind of relieved. I could take my mom out on Wednesday to a lovely dinner and not worry about feeling awkward that I was the only non-mom in the room. And really, what's better for an infertile woman, albeit one who has started the adoption process, than to spend Mother's Day weekend in a B&B in Ithaca, far away from all the Mother's Day brou-ha-ha?

And so that's just what we did. My birthday weekend trip was AMAZING. I was able to (mostly) forget that it even was Mother's Day, and focus on a nice romantical weekend with my awesome, thoughtful, handsome husband.
Said handsome husband, in the rock garden on Cornell's campus.
We went to an Inn in Ithaca, right near the Cornell Campus. It was so neat, a very modern and almost industrial sensibility but with lovely details like a private deck. A private deck where we had our customary first-night-on-vacation glasses of champagne from a mini bottle, and then had delicious cheeses and a yummy pinot noir out there in our pajamas until it was time to go to bed:
Birthday/Vacation bubbles on the deck
Sunset view from the private deck
Using evil fertility medication coolers for good...
The next day, we enjoyed our homemade muffins for breakfast (mine gluten free, including a very yummy lemon streusel made with almond flour that was incredible) and coffee. The setup was a little off-putting, because you made your own coffee and everything was self-service, including the dishes, which wasn't made entirely clear ahead of time but was fine. Things like that are nice to know, because usually when you go away you don't want to have to do the chores you do at home. But, it left us on our own without needing to socialize much for most of our stay, which is kind of un-bed-and-breakfasty, but fine with us. We ate outside on the public deck, keeping company with the bizarrely drone-like carpenter bees. Those things are hilarious -- they are like giant bumblebees, but attracted to wood and super territorial. Also, you would hear a buzzing near you, and see a big hovery bee shadow RIGHT ABOVE YOUR HEAD, and when you looked up it would zoom off and then go right back to behind your head. Very disconcerting at first, but then kind of endearing. Like little alien spies hanging out with you all the time, reporting your movements back to the mother ship.

Saturday's big activity was walking ALL OVER the Cornell campus. Man, that is a beautiful (and huge) campus. It was gorgeous. And HOT. We are not used to this much sun. We went to all the places that a friend at school had highlighted on a map of the campus -- she'd gone there some time ago and knew all the really pretty things to see. So we visited Sage Chapel, and the student union (whose name I can't remember but it had a really pretty lookout over the hill and down to Cayuga Lake), and the A.D. Dickson house's azalea gardens, and the Cornell Store, which is completely underground and a mecca for interesting books. I may have spent some birthday money there and added to my giant stack of to-read next to the bed that is creating a fire hazard. I cannot WAIT for summer when I have more reading time! Sage Chapel was really gorgeous, although for some reason the heat was on. There were astronomical paintings on the ceiling above the buttresses, and stained glass and mosaics on the walls, and intricate stonework on the floors. There was a crypt of sorts with amazing sculpture work (of people gone by, but still beautiful) and more mosaics and stained glass. It was AMAZING. We felt really, really old walking around campus surrounded with people at least 20 years younger than us, but it was also kind of invigorating. It was a place that got Bryce all jazzed up about academia and his upcoming exploration into a PhD program. He just thrives in that kind of environment.

A pretty quad-faced view from the lookout at the union
A lake-facing view from the lookout at the union
After walking around campus, we went around Beebe Lake and walked around the Cornell Plantations wildflower and herb gardens. So pretty, and we come there at least once per year but at different times, so it was interesting to see what was blooming now.

Obligatory silly-face picture in the gardens...I think we have
one exactly like this in all our vacation photos.
We spent about 4-5 hours walking all over, in the sun, and then went to the Farmer's Market to have some Ethiopian food for lunch on the docks. I've never had Ethiopian food before, but it was AMAZING, and the injera (strangely spongy tortilla-like bread-like substance) was made with teff flour, so I could eat it all! We had to get back to the inn to shower and maybe nap and relax on the deck and then get ready for dinner out, so we ate it in the common area and headed up.

Unfortunately, all the pollen (SO MUCH POLLEN) and walking in the heat and asthma issues and weird atmospheric pressure doings had started a massive migraine brewing. I had been trying to stretch out my neck and shoulders and prevent the stupid head pain from happening full-force, but it was not to be. I took a nap to try again to get rid of what was fast becoming a nasty migraine, but it only made it better for a short while. We had dinner at a beautiful restaurant up at the top of the hill, in Cayuga Heights. It was set to be a great evening, except we BOTH weren't feeling well (probably too much sun) and my head was throbbing to the point where I had to massage it constantly, and for some reason our room of the restaurant was about 80 degrees. Seriously, everyone was sweating buckets and someone even tried to open the emergency exit door to get a little air in there. So that, combined with the fact that I ordered duck (because I love me a good duck) and it came out awful (dry, overcooked, hard to cut, and the fat wasn't crisp) was a disaster. I felt awful. Poor Bryce was beside himself that the evening was such a bust. There was nothing to do but go home early and go straight to bed.

However, in the morning I felt MUCH better (and so did he). We got up early, since we'd gone to bed at 8:30, and headed out to the Sapsucker Woods Bird Sanctuary. My goodness that is a beautiful place. We saw a zillion birds, and I inexplicably took at least five pictures of GEESE. Canadian geese. We have those all over, but for some reason they were picture-worthy in their natural, swampy habitat. It was a fun walk, although we heard bullfrogs. IN MAY. I don't think those are supposed to be much more than tadpoles in May! It's been so hot they must be on speed development or something. Very strange and disconcerting. We took a lot of fun pictures in Sapsucker:
Can you find the turtle?
The strangely-arresting-in-the-wild goose
I think you can actually SEE the pollen in this picture. Also,
it was snowing apple tree blossom petals, which was really
pretty, if you could stop sneezing enough to see it. 
The elusive purple-breasted Jess. Har har.
A different kind of silly shot. It was so bright we couldn't see
the screen, but that turned out kind of hilarious. Also, I
enjoy that Bryce's head looks bigger than mine. That isn't
so in real life. At all. I can eclipse him, easily.
After the bird sanctuary shenanigans. we headed back to Cornell to check out the Cascadilla Gorge and the suspension bridge. If you know me, you know that I HATE BRIDGES. I hate driving over them, I hate walking over them, I hate them, period. So I consider it an accomplishment that I walked over the suspension bridge and then ANOTHER bridge to loop around the short gorge trail. (Bryce had to point out that the two cables were ALL that were holding that bridge up, and that it was swaying while we walked across it, and didn't I want to lean over and look straight down? NO SIR, NOT AT ALL, AND NOW I WILL RUN ACROSS THIS FREAKING BRIDGE.) The views were spectacular, though, and although it was really hot and I was ridiculously sweaty at this point, it was so worth the 126 or so slate steps we walked up and down:

This is from the Stewart Street bridge looking up. See that
line all the way at the tippy top of the tree line? THAT'S
the suspension bridge. I want super duper credit for
walking across that thing. 
Looking down from the street bridge. There is
a man standing down there! Beautiful, but
really, really high up. 
That pretty much ended our trip...we came back and packed up and ate the last of our muffins and checked out. Except I broke my own rule and went on Facebook, and was pleasantly surprised but brought to tears. Several of my friends had posted something on my timeline, either about adoption being a child growing in your heart, not your tummy, or a post on thinking of those who aren't quite celebrators of Mother's Day yet, and it moved me to tears. I was super cranky and the tears and posts reminded Bryce that it was actually Mother's Day and that even though we had done a REALLY GREAT JOB escaping from it, that specter still cast that damned shadow. This time I was touched by the posts and text messages I received from people who were thinking of me and waiting for the day this day is truly mine. I know now to skim past the "rah rah I'm a mom and it's the best thing ever and the most meaningful thing in life and my body is amazing because it made so many people parts, blahbitty blahbitty blah" posts. But still, I felt a little empty, because even though we are so much closer to becoming parents than we've ever been, and those home study classes coming up next weekend are going to start an epic ball rolling (and then an epic period of waiting for some indeterminate time), it's still a holiday that does not apply to me. It's another little stab of being outside the club.

I'd say we did a good job of trying to celebrate other things this weekend though, spending quality time with Mother Nature and each other, enjoying our time just the two of us while it hopefully dwindles down to nothing. I am so grateful to Bryce, for giving me the best birthday gift of a fun experience (and a distractor from a holiday that normally throws me for a loop). I hope that your Mother's Day was filled with peace and love, and if you are waiting to celebrate, that that wait dwindles down to nothing soon as well.

Monday, May 4, 2015

#Microblog Mondays: It's My Birthday (tomorrow)

Tomorrow is my birthday -- the last one in my thirties.

Previous birthdays have been spent in a horrific funk, usually involving copious cocktails or wine if not cycling at the time, and hearing a feedback loop in my head of...

One more year I'm not even pregnant, let alone a mom. 
One more year I'll be creakier and tireder if we manage this feat anytime soon. 
One more year I'm probably less appealing to a birthmom. 
One more year closer to forty with no real progress in this area. 
One more year for my metabolism to continue its grind to a halt and make my BMI scarier. 

This year, I feel a bit of this, as my knees creak disgustingly audibly as I trudge up the stairs, forcing Bryce to sing with his fingers plugging his ears because it's so gross-sounding. I fear I am headed towards titanium knees. I feel a bit betrayed that I got to be this old and still haven't managed parenthood yet. I am definitely mad at my metabolism.

BUT, I feel a lot of... not this. A lot of lightening of the load that's plagued me for nearly six years of attempting to build our family. Because...

This is the year we are doing something truly HOPEFUL and FORWARD-MOVING about our lack of parenthood. (Both "progress" and kinda sorta "expecting.")

This is the year I found out that my thoughts on birthmoms being afraid of my "advanced maternal age" were erroneous -- with age comes stability, and it was lovely to be told, "you're not that old, you're fine, I wouldn't even worry about it" by our Family Advocate. 

This is the year that I decided that I can do what I can to be a healthy person, but obviously my body is doing whatever the hell it wants to, and if it is going to be fluffier, well then I'd best embrace that to an extent and get me some clothes that are flattering for my voluptuousness, as-is. (It's sure as hell appreciated by my husband, who adores a curvy shape on a woman.) So I ordered a boatload of pretty dresses in a size that made my throat close momentarily from Mod.cloth, and decided better to go bigger and  fit than to have the distressing experience of having not one dress be flattering when they arrive. Thank you, mother-in-law, for the gift card... I shopped the hell out of that thing! 

I want to CELEBRATE my birthday this year. This year could be (maybe) the best year ever, or at least get us a heck of a lot closer than we've ever been. This year I am going to stop hating my body (or at least try really really hard) and accept who I am each moment, not who I wish I could be (or fit into, as I am not my size). This year I am going to spend my birthday having wine and good food with my adoring husband, and there will be no crying.

Happy birthday to me...may this be a year of acceptance, and progress, and self-love, and preparations in earnest for FutureBaby!

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Balancing Joy and Reality: Goodbye, Pollyanna

I can be wound really tightly.

I can make arbitrary deadlines and goals and timelines for things that I have zero control over. (I can also do this for things I have lots of control over, and that goes really well...)

I can be optimistic to a fault.

There is a teacher I work with who calls me "Suzy Sunshine." She says it kind of like a slam, and one afternoon after a frustrating day said that I could be downright delusional in my hopes that some of my students will turn things around when it comes to work completion or behavior or motivation. I like to think that I just never give up hope. SOMEONE has to keep the faith.

I loved the quote attributed to Churchill, "Never, never, never give up." I use it with my students all the time. I used it as a mantra and had it as a magnet, holding up protocol calendar after protocol calendar after protocol calendar on the fridge.

I STILL believe in "Never, never, never give up." I am not giving up on parenthood. I am not giving up on my quest for motherhood. I am not giving up on bringing a baby into this house. I DID have to readjust how that was going to happen, and it was HARD. Hard because I clung so tightly to the idea that I could change what can't be changed, that if I just hoped hard enough I could influence the universe and my uterus and make it be so because I thought I could. I had in my head dates, "surely we'll be pregnant by THIS date," and "if it happens HERE, then I can go out on maternity leave THERE!"

And I was always disappointed.

I think I might have been smarter when I was younger, when my best friend and I agreed that, "It is always better to be pleasantly surprised than to be bitterly disappointed." This after both of us experienced divorced parents and the disappointing events that follow divorce -- promises that can't be kept, visits that don't happen, parental behaviors that make you realize your time as a child are over. Counting on things becomes almost silly.

Somehow, when enduring fertility treatments, I lost that bitter edge. Maybe because I thought that it was possible that the hard times were over, and now that I had the husband I deserved, surely things would work out positively from now on? Each loss did not teach me to be cautious. Each disappointment and setback and piece of bad news somehow didn't break my optimistic hopeful nature, which I stuck to like a Pollyanna chump. In some ways, it's a strength to remain doggedly optimistic and hopeful in the face of such continual tragedy. And in some ways, it's not facing the music that is rising in a crescendo to the end of the piece.

I felt freed when we finally realized that treatments were a vicious circle, and not a single or concentric circle, but a spiraling pattern leading down, down, down, down a drain. Once I realized that I couldn't hope anymore, that it was feeling pretty futile, that the disappointment train had taken its toll and Pollyanna had morphed into Debbie Downer, it was easier to realize...this was NOT our path. Bryce got there sooner, but he fluctuated, too. And once I could put my energies into a new process, I was a lot happier, and had hope again.


That hope is tempered. I can't have my optimism at top speed, careening towards heartache. I am different now. I am changed. I have learned my lesson.

I look at my adoption journey, and I am full of hope. But I am also realistic. I refuse to put an arbitrary date on when we might bring a baby home. I won't even put a firm date on when I think we should be home study certified -- I hope it's by the end of summer, but who knows what can happen? Better to accept. Better to realize that things will happen when they will happen. I can set dates and hope all I want, but the truth is... our baby could come sooner or later than we think. And it will have nothing to do with anything we do, attitude-wise.

I could hope that because our fertility journey was so dismal, that our adoption journey should be a breeze. But I know that's not a correlation that is accurate. Just because pretty much anything that could go wrong, did go wrong with that pathway to parenthood, doesn't mean that adoption will be smooth as silk. I expect false starts. I expect failed matches. I expect a long wait. Not because I don't have faith in the process, but because I can't be Suzy Sunshine when it comes to becoming a parent anymore.

I would rather be pleasantly surprised than bitterly disappointed.

And so I let go, in a way I never could with fertility treatments. I loosen my screws and accept things as they are. I am not catastrophizing, but I am not naively thinking that I will be matched and have a baby for Christmas, either. I hope for the best, but know that the worst could happen. And I live in the now.

Right now, we are waiting to be eligible. We have our classes in two weeks. We are that much closer to having our home study finished and approved. We are closer to being parents than we ever have been before. But we are NOT parents yet. And we don't expect an easy road.

We're just taking it one step at a time, and I think we will be more sane for it. I feel a slight loss of innocence and mourn a little bit of the Pollyanna I used to be, but I know that I will manage this journey better for being cautiously optimistic, emphasis on the caution. I always tried to live in the now with fertility treatments, and I couldn't do it. But it taught me something...

Now is all we have. Preparing for a someday baby that IS coming is a good thing, thinking that it could be in 2015 is maybe not. FutureBaby will come when he/she comes. And that will be amazing, and joyous, and change us forever. But until then... all we have is now, and each step as it comes.

Joy, and reality. Reality, and joy. Walking that line will bring us to our family without losing our minds.