Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Verdict: Mom-Guilty

Oftentimes when my family wakes up in the morning  - I'll rub down my daughters' legs and we have our little morning chat, 
"Did you sleep good baby?" 
"Let's stretch those legs!" 
"No, I want breakfast and iPad mommy!"
"Okay after we stretch."
My typical toddler.  As I stretch her legs and arms I start thinking about yesterday and how I could have stretched her better throughout the day, then I think about all the things I could have done better yesterday. Oh yesterday...   I pause my happy deep-thought and ask her to do some simple commands. She never really is able to do the things I ask, but I remain hopeful that one day she will, so I ask anyway. Then it happened, a few days ago she wiggled her toes on command for the first time!!  I shrieked, "Wiggle again! Wiggle again!!"  It was as miraculous as all get out! I teared up, ran downstairs and beamed with joy as I told my husband what amazing thing she had just done. I even texted a few of my close gal-pals about what a great day it already was! 

A fellow Mom-Blog recently reached out to me and asked me to write a piece on 'motherhood and everyday life'.  I thought, ok I'll just write about all of our daily routines and therapies, gee what an exciting article that will be.  The more I thought about what to write, it just seemed to be too full of facts and less present with emotions. The truth of it is, when I think about how I feel everyday, there are two constants: guilt & hope. I feel a sense of guilt for yesterday yet I hope and pray for little miracles today. Call me dramatic.  I think most moms can identify with me on this topic though, right? That we start out each day feeling somewhat already defeated from the day before, because we go to bed feeling like somehow we failed - like we are just surviving until daddy gets home.  So we wake up hopeful like, "Today is going to be better! 'Cause yesterday was a big fat fail!"  

We are in an era full of way too much information! I can think of several mom friends who were never paranoid people to begin with, that have entered into the world of "reading into everything & over-analyzing".  It's sort of all of us right?  Perhaps this has happened to you. You enter into a mom group all excited to maybe learn a little- but mostly you just know that your baby is pretty much perfect... and then you find yourself questioning all these potential issues your baby might have that you never thought you'd be questioning;  "Should I not have vaccinated?" "Does my baby need a helmet?" "Is she tongue tied?" "Does this behavior constitute as 'colic'?" "Should I cut out dairy and gluten?" "Why isn't he sleeping better?" "Is he sleeping too long?" "Are there GMO's in this?" "Why can't other people understand what she's saying, does she need speech therapy?" "Why did/didn't I get the flu shot?!" 
The list goes on and on... Forever. 

 I know that no one loves the parent who is always boasting about their perfect child(ren)- but man, don't you wish sometimes you had what they are having? Even if just for a second. To be able to leave some of the "worry" behind.  Social Media has a funny way of making us feel like we are lesser in some way. It's easier to look at pictures and imagine that their life is perfect. It's a culture where most are projecting an "image" of what they want others to believe. Truth is behind those pictures they are every day humans living every day lives, facing all the same types of emotions and problems as you. We all are on this worry-train together and this isnt just when being on mommy-mode... Don't even get me started on wife-mode, work-mode, friend-mode, etc.. Sigh. Mom-guilt is the worst. Some days every other mode seems to follow suit right? Ugh. That's what wine and reality TV are for, lol I'm kidding. Not really. 

A few posts back I posted "That Special Word" which touched base on not rushing through the milestones. Now I'm saying, try not to worry through them either. I know that seems impossible. If you've surrounded yourself around other healthy-minded moms then I'm sure you've heard, "you have to do what you feel is right for your family" a time or two. Sometimes we can be so full of worry that we miss the small miracles happening everyday.  This can be anywhere from a simple successful trip to the store, to a great nap, to your little one hitting that next milestone.  Do me a favor, please limit your online reading in those groups.  You know, the ones that are obsessed with identifying, labeling, and fixing every little so-called problem? Also, start trying not to beat yourself up - you simply cannot do it all, and that's okay. There should be no comparison between any two families. Try to kick that guilt to the curb!  Like a diet, limit carbs and guilt. Haha!  I can assure you- if you question your mom-self daily, then you are obviously doing the best you can because you are concerned on how you could be doing it better.  Which is the mark of an amazing mother. Keep up the good work mama, you're doing a great job. Those tough days are going to come, and I suppose that's when Netflix and Chill can apply to us moms.

( Seriously though, what does that even mean? )

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Adopting Educational Terms

Odds are you've come across - What Not to Say - type articles, this one is a little different. Having been a part of the Adoption Community for almost 3 years, I've learned a lot.  I realized that there is still so much to learn.  I've asked my friend Becca to weigh in and add to my article.  She's an Adoptee & also a Birthmother- she recently placed her beautiful daughter.  She's also the gal behind the Inspirational Adoption Instagram @adoptthelove.  It never baffles or upsets us if, in a genuine conversation, any wrong terms are used.  It just always makes us think we want to help in the education process.  Adoption being a taboo thing to discuss, is a thing of the past.  Open-Adoption has become more accepted and as a result, there are terms that everyone needs to be aware of. No one ever wants to sound inconsiderate or ignorant, especially when in a sincere conversation.  So here are some adoption terms that we suggest you learn & hopefully use:

1. Birth-terms. Birth, Birth, Birth. Instead of referring to a child's "real" mother, the appropriate term is "Birthmother".  Both moms are real, right? One gave birth and the other is doing the rearing.  Birthparents also often like to be referred to as, "First Parents" and this is acceptable too.  We even have some friends who like to be called "Belly Moms".  Once the Birthmother signs the papers relinquishing her rights, the "Hopeful Adoptive Mom" becomes "Adoptive Mom" or preferably just "Mom". If you are friends with the BirthFamily- you may want to ask them what they would like you to refer to the Adoptive Parents as. Actually this can apply when describing all adoption-related family members, unless you know them by first name. It's always a safe question to ask.  

2.  Placed. "Why did she place her baby with you?" Instead of "why did she give up her baby?"  You'll commonly hear the words "given up". (I know they even use this term in Juno.)  With domestic adoption the way it is now (open), most Birth-Mother's had the ability to choose the family that raises their child. Which is really incredible. Even if a Birth-mom chooses to be in a closed adoption,  she still gets to choose the family that she places her child with. [In many Foster situations the child was most likely taken away, and even then - the term "given up" does not apply.]

3. Biological Child. This one is probably the most common in my life, and again - it does not upset me - I'm just trying to encourage appropriate word usage. "Do you want to have a child of your own?" I always say, "You mean a biological child?"  My adopted child is my own, but I get the question that is being asked.  Let's make another mental note with this one, I believe it's 75% safer to assume that people choose adoption as a "last resort" in growing their family. Not everyone is like me and the rarer few who chose it before fertility treatments.. So, asking about a hypothetical future biological child will likely just strum up the kind of emotions that you do not intend to by asking that question.  It's pretty safe to stay away from that one, unless you want to discuss fertility and miscarriage, then by all means- discuss that. I'd lead with a different question though. 

4. Expectant Mother. A Birthmother remains titled an Expectant Mother until she signs the parental-relinquishment papers. Typically these papers are signed once she is realeased from the hospital - about a few days post birth. An adoptive mom may be talking for months with her potential child's expectant mother, hoping that one day she becomes their child's birthmother.  Pretty simple, yeah?  

5. Placement. You may have seen a viral video going around of a "placement ceremony". I had never seen anything like it, but apparently it's not too uncommon in some states. I got a little flack on my ignorant comment that I thought it "seems like something you'd do in a closed-adoption?" (Yikes! Hey, I'm still learning.). Actually some Birthmothers love that their child's parents receive a ceremony like this.  Placement can happen at any time and differs in each adoption process. It is when the Adoptive Parents take the baby Home or into their custody.  This time can vary from, as soon as baby is discharged from hospital - up to a few weeks post-birth. 

6. Being Triad conscious in Open Adoption. This isn't really a term, but I felt it was necessary to include. It's most important to be conscious of everyone in the triad, which is the Birthparents, Adoptive Parents, and Adoptee.  Most importantly the Adoptees. Like any parent, we are always wanting the best for our child.  When applying this logic to adoption it just looks a little different. When you dive into researching Adoption the evidence is overwhelming that Healthy Open-Adoptions are most beneficial to the Adoptee. Makes sense, right? Never having to question where you came from? Or Wondering who's eyes and nose you have?? Parenting in the triad will differ in each adoption. Some Birthmothers live with their biological child and his/her parents. Some get pictures once a week, some get visits once a year. There are many degrees of "open" and there's no right or wrong.  Open adoption typically is any adoption where Birthparents identity and medical records are present.  In most cases there are no legal contracts bindibb the adoptive family as to just how open they shall remain, it's basically left to the honor system.  Some states carry a 310-contact agreement. However, if a birthmom can't financially keep the agreement in current legal standings, she hold no legal grounds.  I find it heartbreaking when my friends, that are healthy Birthmothers, are cut-off from their biological child's life because "open adoption" doesn't fit into their lifestyle anymore. I wrote a letter to myself the day we took our baby home, I often re-read it to remind myself how grateful I am for the Birthparents who chose us. They handpicked us and placed their baby into our arms. They made our family complete and for that we are eternally grateful. 

Adoption is such a divine thing, and although I think it's interesting to see the memes that say "Adoption is the new pregnant" and "Adoption is the Cool Option" - I'm gonna have to add those to this list.  Please don't send these to your Hopeful-Adoptive friends.. The Adoption community views these as inconsiderate to parts of the triad and for different reasons. (I agree.)

My husband and I grew our family through the Adoption Process. There is SO MUCH to learn, and I have to say I'm so proud of our family and friends who use all of these terms appropriately. If you have a friend that is a member of the triad, I bet they will be pleasantly surprised if you appropriately use any of our suggested words...try it! 

(This photo is of Becca & the lovely woman who Adopted her daughter. This pic just says it all.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

That "Special" Word

A Someone recently said to me that it takes a - special person - to raise a child with special needs. I told her, "It's actually quite the opposite... these kids make you a special person."

Exactly 3 weeks ago, our Physiatrist told me that Finley was an ideal candidate for this procedure called the SDR that they do in St. Louis. I knew exactly what he was talking about, because when we first learned of Fin's diagnosis it would always pop up in my google searches. The past few weeks we have been busy gathering documents, filling out applications, and making videos for her to get this crazy surgery.  It was all consuming. The Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy is where they to go into the spine and cut the nerves that send the signals from her brain to her leg muscles, these are the nerves that tell her legs to be "spastic" or tight. That's my layman's terms of it for you, it's a big surgery. One Huffington post article called it "Life-Changing".  In essence a "cure" for my daughters disability?? My 2.5 year old might be able to walk soon??  I could not fill out the paperwork fast enough! A friend that I made through an online support group shared her daughter's very recent SDR success story with me. This was the ultimate sign of hope, it made me feel as though our life could be "normal" one day.  Words simply cannot describe the way it made me feel. 

I think of my blog every time I'm in a waiting room, which marks 3 times this week (and it's Tuesday). We just got home from the Orthopedic Surgeons office. He encouraged us to wait on the surgery. Sigh, we all know waiting is my favorite thing to do. His words struck me to the core (I'm often dramatically emotional in these specialist's offices). As soon as he removed the possibility of this surgery from my immediate future, the little impatient girl inside me wanted to cry and say "no, I want it now!" He went on to explain the hypothetical risks. He concluded with, "She's still a baby.  Look at her progress since even just a few months ago.. I don't want to give up on her abilities just yet, look at her! She's perfect." I was tearing up, I agreed with him. I respect him & his professional opinion. I've been through my share of doctor visits that I disagree with.  (Including the Neurologist that told me there was "no hope" for our then 8 month old, to walk but that he could prescribe me valum to give her daily to "relax" her.  I think, back then when I left I was laughing out of disbelief.) 

This was different. This doctor has done so much for our CP journey with Fin. He was the doctor that diagnosed her and fought to get her insurance to cover more & more therapy coverage. He cares. 

It's so easy to look to that quick fix for hope (even though Fin's quick fix would entail a very intense spine surgery in another state!) By longing for the future, I was in a sense "wishing away" the current moments I have with her. As mothers we can't help but hope for that next milestone, right? Like, oh I can't wait for the day when my baby can hold their own bottle,  it will be easier when they can crawl, it will be so much nicer when they can tell me what they want... and before we know it they are grown up! (I've obviously been reminiscing - did you see my last post?? Lol.) 

I honestly feel a little sense of mom-guilt now, I was blinded the last few weeks... Why was I putting so much pressure on this surgery? Was I getting obsessed with the idea that it could be MY "fix"? I think it's human nature, I'm not going to beat myself up about it, but I thought about it the whole way home from the Doctors office. I cried some more (note to self: get it together, good grief.)

Life as a parent is tough, and life as a special needs parent is definitely not for the faint of heart! Even on the days where I feel like I'm a big fat failure, my negative thoughts always subside and I feel grateful for the life we have and the perspective it gives us. That little saying, "A pair of shoes can change your life," couldn't be more true.. Having Finley's special shoes in our lives has brought immeasurable meaning.  

Nothing that's worth having comes easy, and I'll be darned if we don't work our butts off the next few years getting our girl up and walking! I dream about it and I know she does too. That day will come soon and when it does... you better believe there will be some gi-normously special tears! 

Special- adj. exceptionally good or precious

(I want to clarify that I fully support the SDR surgery! If Finley continues to be a candidate for it, we will pursue that option in the future.) 

Monday, February 8, 2016

That One Time in Little Italy

I remember -like it was yesterday- my husband and I were celebrating our 2nd Wedding Anniversary in New York City. We'd been hopeful-adoptive parents waiting to be matched for several months. The trip was over Fathers Day Weekend. I loved to go away on that specific holiday, because the year prior I lost my dad AND we found out about our fertility issues. Needless to say I wanted to get the heck away for Fathers Day. We were having dinner in Little Italy and I told him, "I pray we get a call next week! How cool would that be?!" I gave my husband a cheesy "soon to be dad" card & told him even though we were empty nesters, I still saw him as an amazing father. We spoke candidly about what it will be like to be parents one day, we discussed further about baby names that we loved and hated. There we were in The Big Apple, lovesick and yearning for parenthood.  

Sure enough... Not even a week later, we got a call from our attorney with a match! Com-plete-shock.  I remember being so excited that I didn't even ask if it was a boy or girl!!! Talk about cloud nine! Haha.. Needless to say that's how our journey with Finley began. A week after NY dreaming. 

We just had to do her first birthday in the Little Italy theme. I even had to learn to play the accordion. Just had to, makes sense right?

Here are some pics from her 1st Birthday Photo Session. We opted to do a "spaghetti smash" in lieu of the traditional cake smashing photos.. 

Here is a few from the party: 

This last one is my favorite! It's Finley's beautiful birthmother - LeeLee, Fin, and me. I'm so happy I'm able to share these milestone moments with Fin's birth family. Open Adoption is amazing, especially in our own little Italy!  (And go figure you are looking at three italian gals in this pic.) ❤️