Monthly Archives: December 2006

Adoption’s circle of love

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Maeve, December 2006 

Having dug out from piles of ribbons, wrapping paper and leftovers, I’ve had the opportunity the last few days off from work to sit back and watch Maeve. Really watch her. The kind of watching that brings you somewhere else, where you revisit dreams and hopes and fears, and think of how you got where you are and wonder where you are headed.

She’s been busily exploring her Christmas gifts, moving new books, toys and puzzles from one play spot in the living room to another. Unexpectedly, she’s found kinship with a big, soft panda bear left by Santa. She’s never been drawn to stuffed animals before, yet this huggable bear has struck something in her heart. She brings it to her perfectly-sized-for-her easychair where she sits, trying to squeeze both the bear and her tush alongside each other. She hugs it, carries it, gives it nose kisses. She’s also taken to a baby doll she received last year on her first Christmas — its skin as cocoa as hers, an effort on the part of family to incorporate part of her ethnic makeup into her daily life. She nestles the baby doll into the crook of her own neck, patting its backside, giving it her love. Her Maeve Love. I watch these tender moments and find pleasure in the idea that she’s learned about love from us. Perhaps somehow, amid trying to learn all these new-parent things on the fly, we’re doing alright. This little girl knows how to comfort, how to love. Her heart can be full for someone other than herself.

Yesterday, when Tom and I played a CD I received for Christmas and began dancing around the room, Maeve put down her books and climbed out of her little armchair to join us. We opened her new Band in a Bucket and had a good old-fashioned jamsession. Me, still donning my holiday gift of The Perfect Robe, began shaking a tambourine and my groove thing (wherever that is, I am sure it was shaking), her daddy hitting drumsticks on the little drum, and Maeve, bobbing up and down, tilting her head side to side, shaking jingly bells.

What noise. What a musical extravaganza. We laughed, we danced, we had so much fun. The spark in her eyes, the light on her face — it’s phenomenal to live that moment with her. I felt peace in seeing her so happy and thought of the adoption quotation, “I can’t take credit for the face, but I can take credit for the smile.”

As much as I love that notion — because I do work so hard to ensure that smile — I do think about the face, the eyes, the corkscrew curls, the pudgy fingers and toes. I think about the mother who gave those beautiful things to her.

It’s especially during these blissful family moments that I think of Maeve’s birth mother, B., and Maeve’s birth family. As much as my heart swells with love for Maeve, my heart aches for her and her birth mom, and their separation.

It’s so very bittersweet. It’s because of her birth mother’s choice in selecting us to parent her child — it’s because of her loss — that I am even present for such bliss.

I never forget this.

I am aware of the depths of love between child and parent, and I feel an uneasy aching for B. Yes, our adoption is open. Yes, there are pictures, letters, and an agency picnic in the summer. But it hardly seems enough. That’s especially so in these moments.

We hope our relationship with B. flourishes and the degree of openness increases. Right now, it’s up to B. to want that too. We’ve made it clear that she is always in our hearts and our lives and when she’s ready to increase her involvement, we’ll be there.

Some folks are uncomfortable with this. I see it on their scrunched-up faces. I hear it in their uneasy, skeptical questions. I try not to get angry at their unwillingness to understand.

What I want need them to realize, to believe, is there is no reason to be threatened. What is threatening in the bonds of mother and child? Naysayers ask: “How could you want a relationship between Maeve and her birth mother?” I ask them how I couldn’t want one.

Maeve is not a possession. Her story, her biology — these are not for me to control. I am not a gatekeeper. No one is; these things are hers and hers alone. My job is to protect them, to try to cultivate them for her until she can take the reins and do as she pleases.

Maeve is a gift. A gift in my life for which I am entrusted with loving and teaching and raising and, eventually, setting free to be her own woman. Isn’t it, then, my job to equip her with the tools to help her be as happy, as whole, as possible?

It is ironic that the skeptics questioning me on open adoption are, in their very own disdain for it, answering exactly why the openness is so important. If only they could see that.

They ask if I am threatened when B. holds her, plays with her, kisses her. They tell me, “But you are her mom now.”

(Insert deep breath here.)

Clearly they believe in the importance of a mother and her bond with her child. In fact, in their incredulousness, aren’t they implying no one should be interfering with such a cherished relationship? Well, then — why don’t they want Maeve to know the mother that created her, carried her, gave birth to her? The mother that judge, attorney and adoption agency had nothing to do with.

What they don’t see is that this doesn’t take away from me, it only adds to me. It makes my daughter more complete which makes me more complete.

And, at the end of the day, is it so terrible that Maeve has another person in her life to love her? Oh, the horror.

There are bonds in our lives that are so fundamental they simply are the core of our being. B. is Maeve’s biological mother, the woman who chose life for her. The woman brave enough to acknowledge when she couldn’t be everything Maeve would need. She loves Maeve that much. That’s a bigger love than many are capable of. Maeve and B. shared an existence, months of moments together. They are part of each other. Biology cannot be altered. (And, by the way, if there was some bizarre scientific way to do that, I wouldn’t. Ever. She wouldn’t be the same little girl I adore if she were biologically mine. Irony again, you naysayers, you.)

It’s simple: I can be many, many things for Maeve. And don’t get me wrong, being her mom means more to me than — well, than I can adequately express via keyboard.

But I can never be the woman who brought her into this world.

I am the one lucky enough to love her in person each day. Every uh-oh and sad tear, every milestone, every hug and nose kiss, even every tantrum, are mine to receive, to witness — indelible marks on my heart.

Unlike B., I am here, within arms reach, to feel her love at any moment. I am sad that B. is several hours away, the next state over, unable to feel this Maeve Love anytime she wants. Unable to hear the raucous of her jingly bells.

I do not pretend to know B.’s pain, her thoughts, her fears. When I try to imagine these things, I fear how large that cloud of pain and sadness could be. I fear the shadows it may cast for her. I only have my own experiences as a mother within which to craft some idea of what choosing someone else to raise my child feels like. I will never adequately know.

But I do try to understand. I try to understand the complexity of emotions involved. I feel connected to B. in a way that brings me 1) humility at her selecting me as Maeve’s everyday mom and 2) promise — promise to do right by her. Promise to be the best mother I can be to a little girl that forever binds us.

Every morning I wake and embrace the commitment I made to B. to raise a giving, loving child with a heart so big that no one and no creature be excluded from its myriad gifts.

I share these dreams and aspirations for Maeve as honestly and fully as B. chose to share this beloved little girl Maeve with us.

Although miles away from us, B., I send you my love. And know that it is love from Maeve too; it’s the love you first shared 17 months ago coming back to you. Like a full circle, your love for Maeve gave us the chance to love her and to receive her love, and we share it with you now and always. We are all forever entwined in this circle of love.

A circle of Maeve Love.

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Filed under Adoption, Birth parents, Children, Family, Friends, Gifts, Husbands, Love, Maeve, Open Adoption, Parenting, Promises, Relationships

The Gift

So Maeve’s had a nasty stomach virus for a couple days. This involves lots of fluids, lots of hugs, lots of schedule-juggling for her folks, and many, many more diaper changes than should even be legal. And it’s during those times of tushy-wiping that I’ve had some time to think. (Who knows, maybe this is when I get my best thinking done.)

Don’t get me wrong, spending time home with Maeve, even a virus-laden Maeve, is absolutely my all-time favorite thing to do. Between sharing loads of wonderful cuddles, building oh-so-impressive towers of blocks together only for her to howl with laughter as she swipes her little arms through them, and offering innumerable recitations of her most beloved books (Thank you, Sandra Boynton for those lovable hippos and their silly pajamas, those belly-buttoned hippos in their undersized bikinis and the big and tiny, smooth and spiny dinosaurs crammed in an elevator), this mama has had some major diaper duty.

And those that know me know I am not a girl who likes to talk bodily fluids or functions. They’re “Unmentionable.” That’s the word I use in conversation and these folks know to use the context of the conversation to figure out what I mean. Call me crazy, I don’t care. (And by the way, all you naysayers were wrong: Becoming a mom has not somehow enabled me with the ability to talk in the Language of Bodily Fluids, which includes, much to my dismay, matters of color, texture and frequency. Nope. Hasn’t happened.) None of this is cool to me. None of it is even remotely comfortable for me.

Since I have been changing so many diapers, I got to thinking about one morning a couple months ago when my daughter gave me a special gift. I’d written it down then to share with a friend via email and, since I’m deep in diapers these days, it seems like the perfect time to share it with you. Here goes:

This was my morning greeting from little Maeve, the girl who is sunshine on my cloudy days, sugah in my coffee of life, a bright light in a dark … well, you get the idea. I was running late (what’s new about that, you ask? Well, read on, read on) and Maeve was awfully quiet in her crib. I knew she was awake because she was playing the music on her cribside aquarium toy.

But most mornings in her crib she is in deep conversation with herself, cooing, babbling, laughing, singing “Tinkle, tinkle dada tar.” Not today. This should have been a clue.

Since I was running late, I happily accepted her silent solitude while I hurried around getting myself together for the day. Finally, about 15 minutes behind schedule, I went into Maeve’s room to greet her. It’s always such a precious time — her face beams with excitement at seeing me and then she peers over my shoulder to see if a kitty cat has accompanied me. So today as I pushed open the door in my usual fanfare, I found her standing at the far end of her crib, her big doe eyes looking larger than usual and guilt-ridden, like I had just caught her trying to climb out her bedroom window into the arms of her heavily-tattooed, much-older boyfriend. (I’m almost wishing that had been the case. Almost.)

She had no diaper on. Now, I know that Tom and I get tired at night, but I know we put her to bed with a diaper. After scanning the area, I see the diaper cast aside at the other end of the crib. As she continued to stare (in slow motion of course, because that is exactly how this scenario happened — no, really, the entire morning occurred in slow motion, I am sure of it) I noticed — and you must excuse my grossness here, if you are eating or drinking or even thinking of eating or drinking anytime in the next, say 24 hours, please stop reading — sitting on the yellow chenille carpet on which I had envisioned hours of frolicking and frivolity when I bought it, was a pile, a  dark, um, pile of — I can’t even bring myself to type it. Let’s just say that in the dead of night or dawn of day she managed to take off her diaper and toss its contents over the crib railing. Right onto the rug, in a pile, like a little gift, like a cat leaving a dead mouse for its owner. And since it’s not my birthday, I guess I’m just one lucky mama.

I stood there, aghast, my eyes moving across the room taking in the picture painted before me. I was shocked. Not mad, of course, because, bless her poopy little heart, how does she know that What’s in the Diaper, Stays in the Diaper? So I just stared, mouth open, while I composed myself and let the hopeful thoughts of Candid Camera enter my mind. No such luck. I don’t think the darn show’s been on the air for decades.

She contined to stare right back at me, all big-eyed. Neither of us moved. It was like the OK Corral, with whistling music and tumbleweed gently bouncing across her chenille carpet.

Who would move first?

She blinked. Literally. I swear I heard her eyelids move over her eyes. Ca-clink.

At this point I’m trying not to laugh. She takes the tiniest of tiny steps forward in the crib toward me (still standing in the doorway, unable to move). On a normal morning, she would have bounded toward me. After this Actual Baby Step, she ever so quietly, like barely audible, in the tiniest of whispers, with her big brown eyes still locked on me, said, “Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.”

All I could say as I forced myself into her room was, “Oh, Maeve. Oh, Maeve. Oh, Maeeeeve.”

Inside the crib there were more gifts, like an infomercial: “But wait, there’s more!” This kid is generous. Based on location of said “gifts,” I figure the crib gift was made after the diaper had met its demise. Like right there in the bed, on the sheets. Just willy-nilly, poopy-poopy everywhere.

She was reaching out to me now, with puckered lips and those darn doe eyes, practically begging me to pick her up, to rescue her from the field of fecality. But I was too grossed out. I wanted to step back. I wanted to, well, run. But I’m her mom, I argued with myself. This is what I have to do. This … is … what … moms … do.

So I plucked her from the crib only to realize her entire backside was also covered. I tried not to gasp too loudly — I didn’t want to scare the child. I just needed to get my bearings, to figure out how to place her on the changing table without making the mess worse. That, and I needed to boil my eyeballs and I’d be fine. She’d be fine. We’d be fine.

Mind you, the clock was still ticking, mocking me and my tardiness. I’d have to explain why I was late to work and this really wasn’t something I wanted to have to do. Out loud. To my boss.

I had to hurry.

So I took care of Maeve, cleaned the pile from the carpet and, as I headed out of the nursery, a giggling Maeve on my hip, I looked back at the crib and its sheets, still in their gooey glory.

Don’t “What!?” me. Come on, a girl can only take so much in one morning. The soiled crib would have to wait (for daddy to come home this afternoon and take care of it). After all, I was now really late.

And sharing is nice, right? Don’t we teach our children to share? So, call it role modeling on my part.

Even better, call it re-gifting. Yes, re-gifting.

What??? People do it all the time.

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Filed under Children, Diapers, Family, Gifts, Husbands, Maeve, Parenting

One of those days

Ever have one of those days?

When construction detours on your commute home from work actually lead to nowhere? When wind advisories and severe storm warnings slow traffic to a crawl? And when you finally arrive at your daughter’s nursery school she breaks into a big smile and toddles into your arms — only to spot a banana in her cubby and melt into a puddle on the floor when she can’t have it?

Ever have one of those days?

And even though dinner (whatever it turns out to be) will be served in a half-hour, you hand her the banana to avoid the meltdown just so you can get out of there?

But instead of happily walking out, toting the intact banana (as you’d hoped she’d be happy to do), she stands, immobilized with sadness, banana in her little paws, tears welling in her big brown eyes, crying, “Na…….na, na…….na”?

Ever have one of those days?

In defeat, you peel the stinkin’ banana, hand it back to her and head out the door, at least relieved to finally be on your way.

But as you lean over to buckle in the Happy Girl With Nana Breath, fierce winds hurl her school bag from the trunk of your car some five feet away, into the dark, wet parking lot?

And it just so happens that as the bag sails by the window you notice a sippy cup fly out of the bag and roll under — waaaay under — the minivan parked next to you.

Ever have one of those days?

So you consider your options and lock up the car, only to have Banana Girl start to cry again because she thinks you’ve abandoned her — when in reality you’re mere feet away, fetching a bag and trying to squat low, crawl gracefully and reach as far as your five-foot frame will allow under the minivan to the freakin’ sippy cup that now mocks you.

Wind whipping hair into your eyes, you hurry back to the little one in the backseat, open the door and explain that you’re right there and you’d never, ever leave her — but she’s too young to understand and her crying is so fierce now (and you are so exhausted) that you begin giving her whatever’s in the backseat to calm her down.

Ever have one of those days?

And as you stand there weighing just how much trouble a sippy cup is worth, you see that what’s caught your daughter’s interest is a brand-new box of tissues — and you don’t even care that she’s pulling them out one by one, wiping her little nose, crumpling the tissue up, handing it to you for proper disposal and then clapping at how nicely she’s cleaned her face.

You don’t care because you’re busy eyeing every parent leaving the building, waiting for Minivan Man to come and remove his automobile from atop your child’s watered-down juice.

And you wait. And wait. And you make a mental note to buy more tissues.

And then he comes! And you want to glare at him because surely this is his fault. But you don’t, because it’s not.

Instead, you let your little one wipe your nose with one of her balled-up, used tissues. And you laugh. And she claps.

(And you vow that’s the last time for a long time you’ll stray from the routine and suggest to your husband that you’ll pick the baby up instead.)

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Babies, baths and beads

Is there anything better than a freshly bathed baby, wet ringlets dancing on her head, cheeks pink and cool, little toes peeking out from polka dot pajamas just begging to be ‘eaten’?

Yep. When that sweet-smelling 16-month-old reaches over, puts her beloved beads around your neck, leans her forehead against yours, and plants a juicy kiss on your nose.

Life is gooood.

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Filed under AIDS, Children, Family, Love, Maeve, Parenting

Adoption leave, Part 2: Speak out

I’ve gotten feedback from New Jersey folks wanting to know how to contact their legislator to express support of S-2249.

To email your local legislator, click here. And for those of you writing your employer’s HR offices and wanting guidance on crafting the perfect argument for implementing an adoption leave policy, click here to see the advice and sample letters offered by Adoptive Families magazine.

Could concerns about misuse of the time off (by people who aren’t legitimately sick or aren’t actually caring for a sick family member) actually sideline or kill the bill altogether?

How can “misuse of time off” even apply to new adoptive parents? It’s pretty darn easy to prove you’ve adopted.

If the bill doesn’t survive because of all the non-adoption-related concerns being bandied about, we must use this as an opportunity to make clear to legislators that adoptive parents need deserve the same rights as biological parents.

Let’s not forget that in many cases (surely, not all — scores of people adopt children for myriad reasons other than infertility, and assumptions otherwise tee me off — but that’s another post for another day) folks who are adopting are not tapping into their employer-provided medical insurance to cover hospital bills for a birth, and bills for prenatal care.

And, let’s also not forget that these same people have already paid into the state’s temporary disability program which would cover their leave had they physically birthed their children. Sen. Sweeney’s bill would rectify that, making adoptive parents beneficiaries of the temporary disability leave as well.

So what kind of financial burden on employers are we really talking about here?

And would those mothers out there who’ve physically birthed their children please tell me if I’m wrong, but generally speaking, isn’t the period of disability in which you are healing from the birth shorter than the total time you’re given off for a leave?

So can’t we all agree that a traditional maternity leave, at some point, isn’t just about healing physically but also about taking time to bond with your baby and gain your footing as a parent? Don’t all new mothers/parents deserve that?

And frankly, isn’t this also about good-faith on the employer’s part? It’s nearly 2007, for goddess’ sake.

My child and my family aren’t any less valued than a co-worker’s, right? Right?

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Family, Legislation, Parenting

World Aids Day

In honor of World Aids Day on Dec. 1, one of my all-time favorite bloggers, Karen at chookooloonks, has pledged to send $1 for every person that logs onto her blog (and posts in the comments section) to the Cyril Ross nursery for children with AIDS.

I can’t say I’m surprised at this generous gesture on her part. Since I’ve been religiously reading her blog —  close to a year or so — she has, without even trying, made it painfully clear how committed she is to sharing love and spreading peace — all the while generously sharing a glimpse into the world she shares with her daughter Alex and husband Marcus through her beautiful photography, her humor and her genuine, thought-provoking posts. As she often says, “Love and light, people. Love and light.”

I found her blog through Adoptive Families magazine — where she was featured — and have been a member of her faithful flock ever since. Of course, that was all by way of lurking — until yesterday when I finally posted a comment (and forced her to cough up a buck on my behalf for the AIDS nursery!). And then I emailed everyone I know. And I see them getting on board and it’s fabulous. Let’s keep spreading the love.

Here’s the deal: Whether you’ve stumbled into this space by mistake or you’re here on purpose, kindly head on over to chookooloonks and post — it’s another dollar Karen will send to this important cause. It’s … that … simple. Here are the rules: Post your name (or “anonymous” if you prefer), your city or region, state and country. That’s it.

Last time I checked, it was about 300 people, or $300. And one of the folks posting pledged to match Karen’s ultimate contribution. So that would put the tally at $600.

That’s just so far. Because Karen’s offer is good through the end of Sunday (12/3). That’s right, at midnight, the wallet closes. So, go ahead. Click over there now. Empty her wallet! Ready, Set, Go!

In memory of my cousin Kenneth.

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Filed under AIDS, Charity, Children, Community, Love, Promises