Sunday, August 30, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I waited a week*. This was a lot if overwhelming stuff to take in. -your family - your history -your pain - your hunger - your future - your smile - your ears - your hands - your eyes ooooh those eyes!! Was I worthy of you? How God? How am I worthy of this boy? I need him. I really really do. Somehow... my salvation is intertwined with his.
My guard was still up. I felt like- *they* could take it all away. Like somehow it wasn't real. Honestly- it still feels like that- but it's *normal* now.
I waited a week. By Tuesday morning, there were only a few people that knew I was your Momma. Tyler & Travis in Michigan (I hope by the time you read this, you look up to them like the big brothers they are), Dodie & Steve, Todd & Dee, Sarah & Wes. Only those that started this journey with us, by writing letters recommending Momma. By Tuesday night, I showed Auntie Carla your picture and she cried. I still hadn't. (big ugly grin still stuck on face but no cry's yet) Then Christy and Mike. Happiness all around. Christy and Mike was the first of the family. Nana & Papa would be PO'd if too many others knew before them.
Wednesday night. After a muggy warm evening with your cousins at Ellen's pool- I handed Nana and Papa your referral pictures and said "It's a Boy".
"I knew something was going on!!" they gasped as they hugged me. Then, they took a look at your picture and fell apart. It's another week later and Nana has continued to cry at least once a day. I've had to replace her copy of your picture a number of times already. They loved you immediately. Their love for your broke their heart a little.
Thursday: I went to my favorite store to find you some warm jammies. As I measured their length and compared to your measured height, I got numb. So small. So tiny. Should I get a size smaller? Check the tag for a weight indicator. Oh my. You are so fragile. For a moment, I can smell you, feel you. My heart tears. Here it comes. In the middle of the store. The ugly cry. I can't stop it. My knees buckle. Lose my breath. Big tears. And yet I'm so happy that it has finally arrived- I can physically feel you in my heart - I smile. The big ugly smile. I just keep smiling. I don't hide the tears. (The other ladies in the section looking for the bargains on the new Carter shipment give Momma room. They figure she's crazy with a big free wheeling grin and tear stained face. )
I love you T. I love you so much already. That scares me. I worry. Am I good enough? Will I be able to raise you to be happy? Will they really let me love you?
One day, I called Ashlee at 8am. "What can go wrong?"
A: Huh? What are you talking about?
Me: Tell me. I need a logical person who knows- Tell me. What are the possibilities? What are that will make this not happen? What can go wrong?
"Stop WORRYING!!" She said. Driving myself insane is a hobby of mine.
I give my self to you my boy. I hope I do right by you. (and still- even as I write this tonight- the dark side is telling me it will never be. I'm not worthy. Go to Hell dark side. Back where ya came from!!)
*"waited a week"- I made a small error in my digital communication capabilities, through a number of 'user errors'- more people knew than intended. But at least not anyone here at home!
Thursday, August 20, 2009
I thought I had a few months to cover some things- but apparently I’m needed now. So I’ll tell you a few details, and some important stuff that I never intended to throw out all at once.. so forgive- but please- it is important- so stick with me. J Thanks!
One this blog, for now we'll refer to him as SweetP- T. It means “His Deed”. It’s reported, he was named that specifically so he would grow to do good things. He is 2. He’s still a little small weighing in at a whopping 16 lbs at last weigh in. No worries on head size though. He’ll carry on the giant pumpkin head tradition.
I’m sure you have lots of questions. I’ll do the best I can in answering them. This is all a bit exciting and curious. Many things about this process are new and I am more than willing to discuss details of what happens, in general, with adoption these days- but specifics on my child’s history are- well – it’s their details and their story. I may not answer your question- I may not know the answer myself- and I hope you’ll understand. But most of the things you are curious about time lines- what next- is he cute (yes!) I can do my best with.
Now- here’s the other strange and important part. Strange- because I never thought about having to write about- Important because- well- it deals with YOUR kids as well as mine. Some food for thought BEFORE talking to kids about any specific adoption (but mine in particular).
Bear with me: These quick reference points are pertinent to my train of thought.
I remember having a conversation when Tyler was 3 or 4. People were always commenting on his red hair calling him a “Red Head”. He started proclaiming “I am not a RED HEAD” I have “Brown Hair like everyone else”. After digging a little deeper with him, (he knew the color of his hair)- I came away wondering if he was concerned about what “went along’ with being declared a ‘Red Head’. “What does that mean?” As if the label itself was implying character traits and behavior. It was uncomfortable, unknown and he wanted nothing to do with it.
Another conversation with Tyler went like this (Note, we’d had similar conversations before- but each time he processed it a little different.
T: “Papa is my dad’s dad. Who is your dad?
Me: “You know who. It’s Papa.”
T: “But he’s not your real dad right?”
Me: “Papa is my real dad, Ty. Why do you think he is not real?”
T: “I don’t know. So I guess- you just have 2 dads. “
T: Confidently says- “Some people have 2 Mom’s”…. To which I introduced Aunt Christy & Uncle Ryan into the mix. But by now he had the relationship structure figured out and could quickly relate. And he was quite confident (or bored, with this chat) and I was bushed off with a "Ya. I already know that."
Having a celebration dinner with my good friends - Fred, Thelma and their two girls age 5 and 3. In her excitement, the Mom, Thelma, shows her kids the picture of my son (My SON! Can you believe it? My SON!) and says something to the effect of “Look kids. Isn’t he beautiful. Auntie Shannon is going to adopt him and bring him home!!” None of us was prepared for her oldest darling daughters reaction. Daughter looked quickly quizzically and said, with a torqued face “Where’s his mom & dad?”
Stumped and ill prepared- Thelma reacted by using an old stand by, we’ve all attempted before – trying to put the cork back in the bottle. “That’s not nice. We don’t talk about that. Hush.”
Not a light bulb- but one of those big question marked popped up above my head. What is she really asking? What could I have done better to prepare the children in my life? Hmmmm... (obviously I AM HIS MOM. But that probably wasn’t what she was registering)
I returned to my ever loving- been there done that peeps for advice. This is what I learned and figured out.
This is a BIG concept for children. It’s a BIG concept. With a lot of implications. It could be a little scary. At its VERY VERY BASIC LEVEL (as a young child will understand) a child leaves his home to live with someone else. Now- you and I, know the implications- complications- necessities that coincide with this. But for a child- It can be scary and confusing. So- Let’s try and steer clear of scary and confusing. (Not good feelings to attach to a picture of my son… thank you very much) (MY SON!!)
I wonder- Are ‘Labels’ - too much for young children? I am a “Step- child”. Is it necessary to INTRODUCE me as such? No. In fact- it’s out of place and confusing.
At this point Tyler (7yrs) knows that I have 2 dads and one has died - his name is on the wall where he can scratch its impression with a pencil. He came to this understanding naturally, through curiosity and his developing sense of relationships. Through family being willing to answer his questions when they naturally occur and not trying to force a concept he wasn’t’ capable of understanding. At a certain point- children start drawing these parallels on their own and will ask
So how to bring up this with your kids?
Good question. Another point where I have more questions than answers.
Very few of you have children over that age of 10. At a certain age/dev level- children recognize a more worldly view. Some families have worked with their kids for a long time on this. For those children- they may be able to grasp what is happening quickly.
For those of you (us!!) with younger ones- I have a suggestion. This is your family and these are only a suggestion- do what you think will work for your children. I just ask that we steer clear of using my child (MY CHILD!!!) as a sort of ‘learning opportunity’. I know that isn’t anyone’s intent.
Perhaps beginning to include him so that he begins having a physical presence. How?- I can give you a picture or 2 of Sweet T. (I can’t email it or post in on line anywhere until he passes court). Post the picture along side your own kids/friends/cousins etc someplace at kid prominent area. Fridge for example.
This begins to allow your child to start ‘recognizing’ him. Eventually your child may start asking questions. This serves to let your child ask on his own terms and timeline- AND it gives you time to consider what some of your answers may be.
Each child is different. And how they phrase things will vary from child to child, age to age.
- What about his Real mommy and daddy?
- Where is his mommy? (I am his mommy.)
- Why is he brown?
- Will he give me presents? Be at my birthday? Come to my school?(perhaps they are establishing expectations of where they see each other)
There are some children’s books you can put in your reading rotation. “A Mother for Choco” is one. Another is “Rosie’s family” (I think that’s the name?) Which ever way our children meet- I’m just grateful they will!!
What’s NEXT: For now- there’s more waiting. We wait for a Court Date and for court to happen in Ethiopia. Once we clear court then he is legally my son. Until then - I can’t post any pictures of him publicly. After court- I’ll be assigned an embassy Visa appointment for him. Best case scenario- I’ll travel before Christmas and bring My SON home.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
This day would serve to change my life. Change? Hmm…? Yes. Daily life will change. But in the more important ways – solidify- confirm – comfort- progress. Everything before this day- seems smaller- in comparison to the HUGENESS of this day. There are few ‘defining moments’ in my life thus far. Very few. Moments that thrust me forward on the path- or send me veering off on an entirely new adventure. This day- has done both.
Many of you reading this in 2009 want to hear the details the in’s and out’s – specifics of what happened on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 12, 2009. But I feel the need to write this in the context of those that will read it in the future. My son. My family. Myself.
I’ve read many account of referral calls. The all seem to involve calling someone else so that the recipient isn’t the only one hearing about their new family member for the first time. Usually this is a husband, wife, mother or brother. I didn’t have a plan. I am a single woman, unattached, on this day. At least- at the start of the day. If I’m starting out being a single mom – I better be able to handle a simple phone call that kicks the whole thing off. (I’m sometimes a bit stubborn)
Many of you know- my referral call came much sooner than I – or anyone- expected. Only 7 months along- when forum friends and blog buddies are waiting over a year. Following their journey I ached for them- got excited as anticipation has grown expecting the call- and cried for them as it still hasn't. Lesson in expectation. I expected to be a bit of a voyeur and watch them as the celebrate referral- rejoice upon passing court- laugh as they panic over packing to pick up the little ones- and cry at their union. I expected to do all of this as a means to keep my spirits up on the down days of waiting. I wait no more for my son. I continue to wait for all our unions.
Approximately, three and a half months into ‘the wait’, I reviewed the required health and history form. I did more research- I did a gut check and prayed- “Could I have the strength to refuse a referral if a child was expected to have so many complex health issues that I couldn’t parent effectively??” “Yes.” I was sure that I would be able to refuse if necessary. It wasn’t likely that would be the case. I also prayed that it was loud and clear when I was to say yes. I became more decisive on the form. Changed many of the “maybes’ to ‘yes’. Changed a few “no’s” to ‘maybe’s’. I didn’t do it blindly. I didn’t do it to speed up the process. I just *knew* I needed to make changes.
My ‘specialist’ was supposed to be calling me every month. She’d been my specialist for 3 or 4 months now and I hadn’t heard from her at all. I had emailed her 2 weeks before this date to remind her that she was my specialist and I hadn’t heard from her.
When I opened my email in the morning- there was a message from an Alexa at CHSFS. I’d never heard of Alexa before. (Ugh. I wondered- “Anther new specialist??”) Nope: It was the dossier specialist requesting that I get new Power of Attorney documents signed, notarized and state certified. Apparently, the forms I filled out 7 months before were no longer valid as they were made out to someone that no longer works in Ethiopia for CHSFS. To say I was confused and on the verge of being P.O.’d is an understatement. My old specialist had told me that all my paperwork would be in Ethiopia 4 months into my wait. But here, my dossier was still in Minnesota- waiting to travel to DC- waiting to be translated. “What does this mean?” was the least pointed question I asked.
After a few hours- she returned my email with answers that everything was fine and everything still on track. But I still needed new forms.
I do not have a ‘home’ phone. I carry my cell everywhere. So when the 651 area code showed up on my OFFICE phone- I didn’t think twice about it. In an Alumni office- I get calls from this area code and a thousand others in any given month.
“Good afternoon. This is Shannon.”
“Shannon? This is Kim from Children’s Home.”
Me: Hello Kim. What can I do for you?
Kim: Shannon. This is Kim
Me: Hi Kim. How are you? (remember- she was supposed to be calling me anyway...)
Me: (getting slightly annoyed at the repeating pattern) Yeeeessss.
Kim: I’m calling with some good news.
At this point -I’m pretty sure my redneck-ed-ness came out my mouth. I’m pretty sure I threw the big “F” bomb although it may have been the smaller “Freakin” bomb. “Are you F’n kidding me??!!” (actual word- and at quite a volume if I’m remembering correctly. And at this point I may not be-)
Kim: Laughs and picks herself off floor from having cusses thrown at her.
Kim: I have a little boy here to tell you about.
Kim: Shannon? Are you there?
Shannon: (incomprehensible sound)
Kim: Should I go on?
Shannon: (grunting ugly noise attempting a uh huh)
Kim: Starts talking about details. I couldn’t tell you what she said. She could have been reciting the Gettysburg Address I still wouldn’t remember.
Shannon: Panic sets in. Looks out window. Thinks ”Should I get someone else in here? I don’t know what I’m supposed to do right now?”
I think we were on the phone for a while and yet the only thing I do remember Kim saying was- “I’m going to send this all to you in an email”. At this point I remember clearly thinking (and I really hope I said it more politely than how it sounded in my head) “Then why are you still talking? Shut up & Send it to me NOW!”
Note to self: God has taught me a lot about patience and control during this process- ----- apparently I have more to learn.......
Unconsciously(or bordering on consciousness) I get up and walk to the window. Drop to my knees and thank Him. It would be some time before my knees would let me stand again.
Once I can stand again- Let the pacing begin: Pace Pace Pace. My office is nice but it doesn’t have enough pacing room. I changed direction so many times in those few minutes it was like spinning in circles. I got dizzy and almost passed out.
Finally, the "Ding"- indicating it had arrived.
Pray. “Please God- Give me your eyes- your wisdom- your grace. Speak clearly. I will obey.”
Double click- Open the email.
Double click- Open the attachment.
I force myself to read the background info first. “Listen First. Your eyes deceive you.”
Ugh. Ouch. Sigh. Pray. Pray for this family. Concern.
Finally- I see your face. Two pictures. One that is close. I can see your hands. Your eyes and long lashes. I can see your hands holding a little blue book or puzzle piece. Your little smirk on the edge of a smile.
The other picture is full length. Your shirt reads “rock star”. I can tell you are small. You are wearing infant sized clothes and a pair of new blue Nike sneakers. I can tell you’ve got one ear that sticks out a little further than the other. The picture is slightly distorted and it makes your head look a little extra big. But I have a big head so I think we’re a good pair.
My eyes deceive me. I question. For what ever reason I thought I would be referred a girl. No reason to think that. I had no real preference one way or the other- but I get something in my head and it sticks. So in my complete numbness- I thought, "did she send me the right file?" Has she called ME by mistake? What if I say yes- start to cry, start loving you- and they take it all back- "oops sorry. I made a mistake" is what I thought they'd do. Take you away. I was shocked by the fact- there were sooo many still waiting. And yet-.. "am I dreaming?" "Is this real". It can't be. Go through the motions. You'll wake up soon. I'm quite sure my brain turned to concrete- or sludge- or disconnected from my body.
I wonder? Is this really my kid? Where is the jumping up and down? Where is the crazy shouts for joy? Is this real? Is this really who I’m being given to?
“YES! You are his. He needs you. You need him.”
Loud and clear.
There was no more questioning. All Clear. I have known all along- through the singles scare of November- through the homestudy fiasco- through the threat of closure in the future- that I would only ask for this, - for us- if my child was heaven sent. T'was made clear, loud and clear – within moments of reading his story- seeing his face- loud and clear- I knew.
The referral calls I’ve read about and video’s I’ve watched, of couples seeing the face of their child the first time- seems so foreign to my experience. There were no tears. No hugs. No screams (ok- yelling the f-word may qualify). There was no one to hold. To cry on. No one with whom to share ... and yet... I knew I wasn't alone. I knew this was only the beginning.
It was as if the whole world stopped. I couldn’t speak (that continues to be a problem – mixing up words- stopping mid sentence-) I think my heart may have literally stopped. My brain had so much information flying into it all at once- it literally shut down. I mean stopped. My world stopped for about a week.
(Your Momma has strong introverted tendencies when it comes to the BIG STUFF.)
I waited for the tears. My eyes darted around my office. Looked at the door as if someone was supposed to come in pick me up off the floor. I waited for the big ugly cry. But I just found myself on my knees with a big ugly smile- looking to the sky. Two days later I would notice my face hurt- I'd been smiling so much.
At home- I knew I didn’t want to tell a bunch of people right away. I needed to keep this for me for a while. The introvert in me needed to process this. This was too precious to give away. But at the same time- I couldn’t be alone. I needed a safe place. Safe people to be with. Safe to process. Safe to talk and safe to not.
I called Dodie. I managed “Hi”.
She talked for a while. I listened. My brain slowed a little. Only a bit though. “Shannon? What’s up”
“Speech isn’t working right now. So bear with me. I. ummm. Got. Umm. The call.”
“ok, What call? ....... WHAT! THE. CALL?”
“ummm. Uh huh.”
Dodie freaks out. We talked although I cant’ tell you if I spoke or what I said if I did. I ended up at their house for dinner and evening festivities. Safe. Happy. My SON!!
My son: There was a few question marks in your initial paperwork. The dates were a little screwy. I requested further explanation. You needed medical care before entering the orphanage. Your doctor fell in love with you and wrote that you were now his favorite child. (You are already my favorite.) I asked for some updated information and repeated tests. CHSFS asked if I wanted to put your referral acceptance on hold until the tests came back.
“NO. He is my son. I need these tests to know what he needs and how he is doing”. I asked “Please- No delays.”
And this is becomes my continued prayer. “He is my son. Please. No delays.”
Monday, August 10, 2009
2 Questions from folks lately have been: "Have you heard anything about your adoption?” Nope. No. Nada. Truely, from here out, they won’t tell me anything until they find a child to pair with me. It’s just a ‘wait’. But, Hey- That’s what cell phones are for. They’ll find me when they need me. "Waiting for referral", has been known to drive perfectly sane, people absolutely nutty!
“Have you picked out names yet?” : Honestly, I don’t know. In all likelihood, she/he will know their name and was named by their birth family. I would never take that away from them. This is a complicated & personal issue in the adoption world. But with considerable thought and sensitivity to those who I know,love & admire- I will not take away their given name. Nicknames may develop and names may be added- but at this point I won't know more specifics until I meet them. (if you haven't noticed- one of the things about adoption - is there are alot of questions that are answered: "I don't know." It is an internal battle of controls... one that is never won... so it is a useless struggle)
Some of you will be surprised to know that I actually started filling out the initial adoption applications and paperwork 15 months ago. Yup. 15 months. Ask a woman in her 8th month of pregnancy how long 15 months would feel. (Hint: do NOT actually do that!! She’s likely to rip your tongue out through your butt)
Throughout each step of the process- before applications- during acceptance- Home Study – Placing agency acceptance – Post Acceptance – and even Post Placement- adopting parents are required to open our hearts and minds to see what lies before us. Some of which we expect. Most of which- we never knew existed – or never wanted to.
We are locked in rooms for days for basic adoption training - given 200 page books with 80 essay questions to answer – put under the microscope of parental fitness – tested on ‘culture keeping’ – incorporating culture – confidence building – and racial identity. All of these are in addition to specific training and books specific to Ethiopia and developmental development of children. It is A LOT. As beneficial as it has been - it was life disrupting. But I enlisted- so I expected it. (I feel like I earned a Masters Degree. Seriously. I’m not kidding). Weeding out the stuff YOU need to know is hard. So I asked my “peeps” (other adoptive families), “If you could do it over, what would you have wanted your family and closest friends to know ahead of time?”
The responses were overwhelming and clear. (Thank you peeps) The repeated points were specific to Race, Loss & Attachment Parenting. Another one that, as a single Mom, is critical for me to be aware of, and helpful if you are- is Modeling.
This week- let's just get one out of the way. (Then I’ll end with a very exciting update!!!)
I recognize that I’m asking you to look at something you are not accustomed. Looking the unfamiliar in the eye is not comfortable. It transforms your perspective. And the reality is: I’m asking you to broaden your perspective. I'm asking alot. I'm asking you to humble yourself enough to wonder: "Is there more to see here? Have I been missing something all along?"
You see, my child will have brown skin. In America- he/she will be called “black”, “African American” or a number of ugly monikers.
We, here in Maine, live in, likely, the whitest state in America. For most of us, race hasn’t mattered. Some of us may have said, proudly “I don't see color. Race doesn’t’ matter.”
We have had the privilege of not having to look it in the eye and consider its impact on our life- simply because there hasn’t been much interaction/impact at all. We haven’t been forced to see- that race matters. In an ideal world, maybe, it wouldn't. But we don't live there...
For a lighthearted departure: Yes. Parenting a black child is different than, raising a white child, which is different than raising an asian child, which is different than raising a downs child, which is different than raising an ADHD child, which is different than raising an asthmatic child, which is different than raising a daredevil child... etc, etc, etc. But the basics – all remain. Love. Honor. Nurture. Comfort. Teach. Lead. Laugh. Etc. All those are the same. But I’m bringing home a child from Ethiopia. It would be irresponsible to ignore and be unprepared, for the differences.
As I’m preparing to raise an adopted child – I’m preparing to raise a black child.
There is outright hatred out there. I’ve seen it. But as of yet- it hasn’t personally effected me or my loved ones... An arms length away... As much as we'd like to prepare - I don’t know how we can - but it will show its ugly head. Perhaps the best we can prepare, is to know that it will happen, and envision our best response. I pray that God will grant us Grace when it does show up. But ultimately, Hatred will visit. If you have a moment to read an example: Click here and see Julia's recent encounter.
There is stubborn ignorance. - I'll leave this one alone, ..... for now.
There is passive naïveté. - It was surprising (and more than a bit disturbing - to be honest) for me to uncover so much ignorance and naivete inside myself. From this understanding, I suspect we may all hold similar unexamined beliefs that, may infact stem from something as simple as INexperience. As I write this, there are all kinds of people expressing and acting on these beliefs - someone you know - someone you've seen- an act you've witnessed - words said, that until now - were easy to ignore as having nothing to do with you.
It is easy to look at others- so I ask you first - consider to yourself, “Is there something I’m ignoring?” - "Am I being naive?" -"Should I, a white person with my personal history, be making statements on race relations or should I be asking questions?"
When your conversation is overheard by your youngest family members, what are they hearing? What are they learning? Look around you. Notice a child at the park. Picture a black child acting the same way? Does it make a difference if the child is 2yrs vs 10yrs old? What about if there are 2 black children vs. 10 black children at the same park? Would you take your little ones there to play? The innocent best in all of us screams - "Yes! Of course we would."
Would those they encounter react or treat these kids the same, if they had brown skin? What about the UPS man? Your neighbor? What assumptions are being made about that white child? That black child?
I’m not asking you for answers. For the most part, I don’t have any either. I’m asking you to consider it, for more than the moment it takes to dismiss it.
This took me a long time to write. Two reasons really- but this subject is not easy, at first. Its sensitive. It can make people dig their heels in and get emotional.
Being a sensitive issue, indicates that it is important.
So I appreciate those of you that choose to pause, take the time to look at things slightly differently. There will be recurring opportunity to discuss this further. I am no expert, in fact rather immature in my knowledge and dialoge. Regardless, It shouldn't be- and can't be a taboo issue. Questions, points, discussions are welcomed! I hope, this email doesn’t end the topic. This is just the opening...
UPDATE: The friends I told you about last month who found their children and switched agencies: I met with her in Portland last Tuesday (had Ethiopian Food.. YUM!), as she was preparing to send a care package to her little ones. Another So. Portland family is headed over to Ethiopia, to deliver it. When this other family arrives and gives the kids the care package- At that point: they will show them pictures and tell the kids, for the first time, that they have a family! That there are people in this world that love them more than anything in the world and are coming to take them to America soon!