Monthly Archives: March 2007

Do you see what I see?

Several months ago, my local adoption group hosted musician and adoptee Zara Phillips, who shared her adoption story and performed several songs from her album — quite an interesting evening as I detailed here. This month’s meeting featured as speaker Margaret L. Schwartz, a single adoptive mom from the Washington, D.C., area whose children were born in the Ukraine.

Since Thomas and I are always interested in hearing other folks’ journeys in adoption and believe there’s always something to learn from someone else, we were sure to be there.  With our adoption being domestic, I did expect differences in our stories and experiences. What I didn’t expect was learning a lesson about myself.

She’s written a book, The Pumpkin Patch: A Single Woman’s International Adoption Journey, and for this meeting in the building’s cozy library, she sat among the attendees, comfortable in our wing chairs and loveseats, and shared her story.

I sat, pen and paper in hand (perhaps it’s the journalist in me, sitting in a newsroom five days a week has its influence, after all) ready to travel alongside her in the journey to Ukraine and parenthood. Within moments, though, my heart skipped and sputtered, and I gently put my pen down. I found myself disappointed and thinking, I would have little to learn here, thankyouverymuch.

What on earth had she said that had me so bothered? That she had selected the Ukraine because she wanted her children to look as much like her as possible.

Ack.

Anyone who knows me could imagine my grimacing at such a statement. Even as a very young adult, when I thought about adoption and how it seemed natural it would fit into my life one day, I imagined traveling to a world far from mine, welcoming into my family a child that needed a loving home. And, looking back now at those daydreams, I realize that child never looked at all like me. Their skin was darker, their hair was textured in ways I’d never known. This is what felt right to me. I don’t know the impetus for such imaginations about how I imagined adoption in my life, but this is the truth of it.

In researching adoption and selecting our agency, Thomas and I never discussed the need for a child to resemble us. It just wasn’t even a blip on our radar. In fact, my husband, who was adopted into an all-white family, is bi-racial (or is thought to be based on the little known about his birthparents) and nothing ever seemed to matter of it to anyone. He’s lucky that way, we’ve since learned in our years together.

Turns out, we also would adopt a child that is bi-racial. I know, as I write this, what someone might glean from that: Since he’s bi-racial, we chose similarly so our future child would resemble him. That actually couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it’s even funny because, although they both have curly hair and skin tones shades darker than mine (not so hard to do, by the way) that’s about where the resemblance between Thomas and Maeve stops. His hair is much, much darker, hers is lighter. His curls are loose, hers are tight spirals. Her eyes are big and round and brown and his are green and, because of the uniqueness of their shape, many people ask him if he is part Pacific-Islander. The differences go on.

After knowing Thomas, whose adoption was domestic and closed, we agreed open adoption was best for us, which put us squarely at a domestic adoption. We came to selecting a “non-white program,” if you will, because our research led us to the understanding that many more prospective parents were seeking caucasian children rather than those with bi-racial or full African-American backgrounds. We felt children in the caucasian programs would then certainly have homes and families and, since skin color meant so very little to us, we selected a program that offered various ethnicities. After all, for us, people looking similar does not necessarily a family make.

As I listened to Schwartz, I found myself running a dialogue in my mind that began with, “What! Did she just say she needed her children to look like her and that she specifically sought out a country that could provide that?” She detailed her fears and concerns in adoption and the need to adopt within what she called her comfort zone. This included declining the first child she met.

Before the night’s end, I began to realize that as fervently as I share among the inquisitive people I encounter that open adoption works for me and for my family, her message is as valid to her. Although our viewpoints differ, I needed to be as open to hearing this adoptive mother’s story as I’d hope she’d be to hearing mine. Open. Receptive. Respectful.

After all, her wanting to adopt a child similar to her did not invalidate my own family and its multi-hues.

The lesson I’m making (and taking) from my evening with Schwartz is one of tolerance, patience and understanding in the complex world of adoption — actually, in this complex world, period. Lessons I plan to teach my daughter. After all, part of growing in life is being open to others’ viewpoints, perspectives and experiences — especially when they differ from our own. Not only do we learn about each other, we learn about ourselves. A simple lesson, really, but one I needed reminding of.

So, duly noted.

(And next month’s meeting topic: A reunited birthmother from San Diego will address our NJ group on “Why Can’t My Son’s Two Mothers Share Him Now?” As an adoptive mom touched by both open and closed adoptions, this promises to be fascinating!)

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Filed under Adoption, Birth parents, Children, Family, Husbands, Love, Maeve, Open Adoption, Parenting, Someone else said, Still learning

Love Thursday

 maeveflowersunglasses.jpg
Love is …
Maeve, in spiral-curled pigtails and “Daaahling, Let’s Do Lunch” sunglasses.

Love is …
Me, hurrying barefoot across her MegaBlocks (ouch!) to grab the camera.

Love is …
Asking “Who’s a cute girl?” and actually catching
her hand-to-cheek response in photographic form.

***

But most of all, Love is …
Believing I’m at least partly responsible for that glimmer in her eyes.

maeveflower.jpg

Happy Love Thursday, everyone!
For more images and sentiments of love, visit
Love Is All Around and Love Thursday: Love is All Around Us.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Curls, Family, Love, Love Thursday, Maeve, Parenting, Relationships

Courting Adoption

maeveincourt.jpg
Fish Face,  March 2006
Maeve holding grandma’s hands on court finalization day

One year ago this week we sat next to our attorney, in front of a judge, and swore to love Maeve forever.

The day’s sights and sounds are as clear in my mind as if it were today: Waiting in the hallway with other families, children and attorneys. Court clerks goo-goo-gaa-gaa-ing at eight-month-old Maeve from their perch high on the bench. The judge and our attorney trying to speak over the clang of Maeve knocking her toy against the conference table. Court reporter rap-tap-tapping away into the stenography machine. Us nervously answering the judge’s questions. Camera and DVD recording moment by moment. Our families watching it all.

And in one final gesture, the judge looked up at us from his glasses one more time and signed paperwork that made our family official in the eyes of the court, the state and all government agencies.

But we didn’t need an officer of the court, a Bible to swear on or raised-seal documents to make our commitment real. That had happened long before. Countless hugs, diapers, cuddles, bottles, kisses, laundry piles, moments and lullabies ago, we had become family.

The impact of that sweeping judicial pen? Tremendous joy in being deemed Maeve’s mother in some official capacity — absolutely. Yet in those deeply satisfying moments, the finality of it all brought with it an underlying awareness of loss.

It’s a bittersweet balance in adoption: boundless bliss in being mama to a child perfect in my eyes, yet grief deep within for another mother living without her child, and for my daughter living without her first mother.

A most stirring and complex juxtaposition, indeed.

There is some solace in knowing that our seeking an open adoption helps ensure the child that didn’t come from me but would become part of me would not lose the woman she came from, the woman she had always been part of.

Surely the closed adoption in our lives helped shine light toward the path we needed to travel. In choosing to love and parent a child in an open adoption, we embrace the whole of Maeve, well beyond strict custodial confines. We hope our efforts, and her birthmother’s, together create a loving context within which Maeve’s story will read most clearly to her.

That day, one year ago, officialdom took notice of the sweet girl in the red and white polka dot dress.

But long before that, she was noticed, loved, embraced and committed to in so many ways by parents numbering more than two.

Of course, the magnitude of the day’s events was lost on the silly baby making fish faces at court personnel. We hope, though, the magnitude of all her parents’ love is never lost on her.

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Filed under Adoption, Adoption Finalization, Birth parents, Children, Family, Love, Maeve, Open Adoption, Parental surrenders, Parenting, Promises, Relationships

Raisin Mayhem

“Chew.”
“Choooooo, Maeve, choooooo.”
“Maeve?”
“Chew.”

It’s a word I say and action I mimick more times a day, it seems, than the number of breaths I take. This child o’ mine — although quite a healthy eater and adept enough at feeding herself with spoon, fork or finger-pinch, has yet to recognize what constitutes a reasonable — and chewable — bite.

Her cutoff for The Perfect Bite seems to be when her cheeks are stretched to their limits. Ideally, at this point the little chipmunk will then mash and grind or otherwise pulpify the food until she swallows. Sometimes we are this lucky.

But most often, when she reaches Maximum Cheek Intake Level, a panicked look appears on her face that beckons, “For the love of Legos, how did this insanely huge amount of food get shoehorned into my mouth? This cannot be! I simply must … get … it … out.”

And she does. With tongue-pushing and a gentle sputter, out it tumbles, down her chin and into the abyss of the floor beneath her chair (much to my husband’s chagrin, as the floors are one of his household duties).

This morning it got ugly. And the culprit couldn’t have been worse.

Perhaps it’s my distaste for the dark, wrinkly, chewy little bits of weirdness known as raisins that made such an impression. In fact, as I type, my lips are pursed and face is scrunched at the mere mention of the R word. I so dislike raisins I’m actually quite sure that even raisins injected with milk chocolate, thrice-dipped in white chocolate, embedded in double-chocolate ice cream, then covered with dark chocolate sprinkles would not be granted permission past my lips. (Although, hypothetically, one could fish them out and pile them nearby, partake in the ice cream and sprinkles and, if the coast were absolutely clear, bite down on the darn things to get the chocolate filling inside, finally tucking the empty raisin shells neatly in a napkin as if he or she didn’t have an unhealthy relationship itty-bitty issue with chocolate. Or raisins. Yes, one could do that. I’m just sayin’.)

But, I’ve digressed. This morning, as my husband toiled at the stove making his girls a hot breakfast in what is a most wonderful weekend tradition, I gave Maevey Gravy the kid-sized red box of raisins so a bleary-eyed me could focus on my steeping tea bag.

A mama mistake if ever there was one. She smiled, half-giggled, and began plucking each tightly packed raisin from the box and popping them into her mouth. Pluck. Pop. Pluck. Pop. Pluck. Pop. Once or twice, her hand would get stuck inside the little box and she’d let out a little yelp, but she’d soon unwedge her fingers, return them to safety and continue with her mission. Pluck. Pop. Pluck. Pop.

Sooner than I would have thought possible, her cheeks stretched to their limits. So as any good mama (who was totally paying attention) would do, I quickly pried the box from her clutch until she could finish the mouthful she had.

This, it seems, was not part of her plan.

There she sat, crying for the box, with her little mouth open so very wide, saliva-laden raisins to its brim. Her little pearly whites interspersed between little, wrinkly, brown bits of dried grape. (See? I said raisins were gross.) When she tried to offer a toddleresque appeal for the Red Box of Raisin Bliss (RBRB), a couple of the wet and wrinkly buggers would fall from her disturbingly full mouth into the abyss below. She’d look down in horror, distraught and desperate for the raisins she’d just lost, and cry even harder. As she did, additional raisins hurtled from her mouth to their demise below. A vicious, vicious cycle — the humor of which, by the way, is totally lost on a 20-month-old.

It was Raisin Mayhem, I tell you. Raisin Mayhem.

Husband and I launched into the “chew, Maeve, chew” routine, explaining over all the screaming that she could have more but first she’d have to chew what she had.

Suddenly, before nary a baby jaw moved up or down, her cheeks returned to their normal level of pudge. A single, leftover tear fell from her big brown eyes. Quiet and calm, she reached toward the RBRB, opened her mouth and asked for more.

The blasted raisins were gone. All 4,398 of them — whole — in one single swallow.

Something tells me I haven’t seen the last of them.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Diapers, Family, Husbands, Maeve, Parenting, Still learning

Love Thursday

So today for Love Thursday I was planning to post a picture of how my dear Maevey Gravy looked as she went to her little school yesterday morning.

But the ‘conversation’ she and I had this morning as I changed her diaper trumped even the most wonderful of images, which I’ll share another time. I’m letting her words speak for themselves, sans photo.

As I changed and dressed her, I began asking her what sounds animals make. Maeve, what does a lion say? From elephants, cheetahs and sheep to bumblebees, monkeys, kitty cats and snakes — she nailed them all, and sometimes with animation so perfect, National Geographic or Animal Kingdom just might have to do a double-take.

(I’ve always said the girl is a genius, thankyouverymuch.)

So then I asked her: Maeve, what sound does mommy make?

She looked me dead in the eye, clutched her little paws together, brought them tight to her body, and said:

“I … wuv … wu!”

‘Nuf said.

Happy Love Thursday!
For more images and expressions of love, visit Love Is All Around and Love Thursday: Love is All Around Us.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Curls, Diapers, Family, Love, Love Thursday, Maeve, mamagigi, Parenting, Relationships, Someone else said

By the way…

Something exciting is abrewin’ here in mamagigi’s land, but it’s too soon to divulge. Of course, there’s no guarantee it will actually be a to-do to anyone but moi.

Still, though, can’t ya just feel the electricity?

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White wedding, white weather

Well, well, well. I survived the Two Days in Boston Sans Maeve.

I also got laryngitis, so, ironically, when Tom and I called to talk to Maeve, she had no idea who I was. (And, considering her usual way of saying hello to someone on the telephone is waving at the keypad, I’d already had very little chance at an actual conversation. Yet, when she gets her paws on a coveted remote control, she’ll stick it to her ear, say “Hello?” and chat up a storm. Explain that.)

We also seemed to bring with us the blizzard that assaulted the East Coast on Friday as snow, sleet and ice pelted us the entire trip. The four-hour drive to Boston actually turned out — thanks to driving between just 15 and 40 miles per hour, passing 18 accidents each with police cars, tow trucks and the occasional ambulance, pulling over to de-ice the windshield, reaching outside the moving car’s window to catch the wiper as it swept toward us and “flick” it down to dislodge chunks of ice, following tire tracks because lane markers were buried in snow, debating whether a particular highway was a three- or four-lane road, driving behind plows and salt trucks at a snail’s pace — to be more than eight hours long. Yes, more than eight hours.

And that lofty goal of using the travel time to finish conversations stalled since becoming parents? Well, here’s essentially a transcript of what transpired between wheel-gripping, ever-patient Tom, and handle-gripping, nervous-ninny me:

Me: Tom, slow down.
Him: Yes, dear.
Me: Tom, that’s a bumper I’m seeing!
Him: Yes, dear.
Me: Brake, Tom, brake.
Him: Got it, dear.
Me: Tom! Careful!
Me: Bumper! Tom…
Him: Gretchen
Me: Tom, slooow down.
Me: Tom, be care-
Tom: I’m on it. Dear.
Now repeat. (Repeatedly.)

We did arrive, but not in time to see my friend’s ceremony in what was described as a most-beautiful cathedral. I missed her walk down the aisle. Although I’m told her floor-length veil was lovely as it draped down her back, resting atop her strapless Carolina Herrera gown, I’ll have to take my friends’ word for it. I didn’t hear her I Do as she commited herself to the man she loves, before friends and family. I missed her first kiss as a married woman. Disappointing, for sure.

There are, however, plenty o’ things I didn’t miss, including the fact I should be grateful we even arrived at all, safe and (reasonably) sound, as well as:

In the rush to check into the hotel, shake off the drama of the roadway and get dressed before the wedding guests returned from the church for the reception, I managed to keep from poking my hand through my stockings. (Always a victory for me, even in the calmest circumstances.)

The cocktail hour — a most-blessed sight after that commute — and a lovely reception.

Eating, drinking and being merry with longtime friends: Nice conversations, clinking glasses, sarcastic jabs, lots of laughs and plenty of poses for pictures.

People-watching.

My newlywed friend impressively belting out Janis Joplin’s Bobby McGee at the request of her guests, and the many accolades that followed.

Dancing. Lots of dancing.

Finding the hotel bed, down comforter, featherbed, half-dozen pillows and chenille throw to be a most welcoming place to finally rest very late that night.

Sleeping in and ignoring the knocks of hotel housekeeping as they made their way down the hall.

The Saturday brunch-turned-lunch with my friends and the waitress we’ll all remember — when all we wanted was caffeine and carbs.

Bagpipes and green Mardi Gras-style beads.

Knowing that some spring day in Boston, as the ice and snow begin to melt, a lone, homeless hubcap will make its way to the surface. And it will have been mine.* Let it now serve as a quiet reminder that, most important, I was there to share with my friend the start of a new chapter in her life.

Being in both Boston and Manhattan on the same festive St. Patrick’s Day night. How cool.

Discovering the perfect way to end an eventful and enjoyable weekend: Coming home** to Maeve and holding her tight.

* This is what happens when two people, frazzled by substantial delay, treacherous weather and a wedding ceremony already in progress, finally reach their destination. They are so completely spent that despite sliding into a curb and seeing their hubcap fly off the car and land in a median snowdrift some distance away, they Just. Don’t. Care.

** It will be discovered upon returning home from the two-day jaunt that, in fact, a second hubcap also had gone missing somewhere between leaving the Boston hotel and entering the driveway alongside the house.

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Filed under Children, Friends, Husbands, Love, Maeve, Parenting, Relationships, Weddings