Thursday, December 15, 2011

Found this while Christmas shopping and thought it was profound. I do not know who the author is (otherwise, I would give credit , where credit is due).  Happy Holidays !

Sunday, November 6, 2011

When Life Hands You Lemons, What do you do with them?

It's been awhile since I posted to this blog. It hasn't been an intentional decision but one that has coincided with several life events: the death of my 96 1/2 year old Grandmother, health issues with other family members and the preparation for/eventual surgery that I had just eight weeks ago. Eight weeks ago, I had my remaining ovary removed due to an over production of estrogen which was fueling another health condition that I have. To say that I didn't really want this surgery to happen would be an understatement. Who really wants to enter menopause at any age? But at 41 years young wasn't what I expected.Of course, life is never what you expect it to be. I never expected to have to have a subtotal hysterectomy at age 30 and be told that we would never be able to have any children. I never expected to have the surgeries I have had through the years after having a lifetime of never being hospitalized. I never expected to wait four years for our baby to find its' way to us and I DEFINITELY never expected to hear that I was not eligible (pre-surgery of course) to have a surrogate carry a biological child for us due to the amount of estrogen that I would have to be given to produce enough eggs for implantation because that amount of estrogen could impact my life severely. So, the question in my mind now becomes: What do I do with the lemons that have been handed to me? Right now, I don't feel like making lemonade. I just feel like taking the time to grieve the true end of my reproductive years that I never had a chance to experience. I am taking steps in the right direction by seeking counseling and searching for support from other women who have been through what I have and am also navigating the ever confusing "hormone jungle". I can not take any HRT due to a condition that I have that feeds off estrogen which really stinks because the hot flashes, night sweats, and exhaustion don't seem to have an end in sight. I am doing the best that I can with what I have been given. It isn't easy and it isn't fun but somehow, I muddle through. I have to be "here" for my husband and my daughter and I mean both physically and mentally....not an easy task when I'm still sorting out how to deal with changes that my body has not had the luxury of time to adjust to. I am seeing my life from a whole different perspective and trying to keep the eventual advantages of this surgery in mind. Hopefully, staying positive will make it easier to make lemonade with the abundance of lemons that I have been handed in the past few months. We'll see.... stay tuned.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A follow up to my previous post ......

The Adoptive Mother's Dilemma
Should you label your child as adopted?
by Carrie Goldman Segall | May 31, 2011

I was sitting in the sandbox with Katie as she busily tried to cram a handful of sand into her mouth. “Katie, give the sand to Mama; don’t eat it. That’s yucky.” Katie dutifully dropped the gritty clumps into my hand. “Mama,” she said. “Katie,” I sang back to her. “Mama, mama, mama,” Katie chanted to me. It was her favorite word. "Yes, love, Mama’s right here.”

We had company that day — there was another mother with her baby in the sandbox. I noticed her look curiously from me to Katie, then back at me. She watched us, taking in my dark-brown eyes and even darker brown curly hair, then openly staring at Katie’s incredible blue eyes and pale-gold hair. I knew what was coming. The mother could not help herself. “Where did she get those blue eyes?” she finally blurted out.

This wasn’t the first time I’d been asked this question. I live through this scene in waiting rooms, on store lines … everywhere. I watch as strangers examine my daughter and me, unable to reconcile the physical differences. I answer to their curiosity: “Is your husband blonde?” “Who has the blue eyes in the family?” “Wow, you are awfully little to have such a big daughter. Is your husband big?” Some days I just find it easier to reply with, “My mom has blue eyes,” rather than explain to them that her birth mother is actually the one to credit. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed; I just don’t feel the desire to reveal Katie’s personal situation to strangers.

More adoption stories on Babble:

CBS segment warns against CBS segment warns against adoption scams

Oprah Discovers She Has a Half-Sister Who Was Given Up for Adoption Oprah discovers she has a half-sister who was given up for adoption

Jane Russell, Hollywood Icon and Adoption Pioneer Dead at 89Jane Russell, Hollywood icon and adoption pioneer dead at 89

Katie was in foster care when we adopted her. Before getting to her door, we had lost a baby, suffered through fraudulent birthmothers and birthmothers who rejected us. We traveled back and forth by airplane to Katie’s town 14 times before we were able to bring her home. Is this something I really want to get into with people I don’t know?

When my husband, Andrew, and I are out in public with Katie (and now our two biological younger daughters), we often see families with children that are instantly recognizable as adopted: Usually it’s two Caucasian parents with Asian children, although there are certainly many other combinations of parent and child. The population at large sees these children, notes that they are of a different ethnicity than their parents, and deduces that they are adopted. But since Katie is the same ethnicity as we are, people do not assume she is adopted. And yet she looks so different from us that people stare and try to make sense of it.

Their scrutiny makes me feel like I have a secret, and as time goes by, Katie, too will bear the burden of the secret. A little Chinese girl with Caucasian parents is not carrying around a “secret” about her adoption — her situation is already assumed. By contrast Katie will continuously be evaluating social circumstances as she grows up, deciding whether or not she wants to disclose the fact that she is adopted. Since she’s still young, I frequently make the decision for her. And I struggle with it.

Each time people ask about Katie’s blue eyes, I know the answer is far more important to the impressionable child standing next to me than to the inquirer. It’s a delicate dance: I do not want Katie to feel the stigma of being different yet I want her to embrace her uniqueness. If I avoid telling strangers the truth, will she feel as if it’s something to be hidden? Studies show that it is healthier for adopted children to acknowledge that they are adopted and to accept that they are different and have special emotional needs, but Katie should not think of herself as my “adopted daughter” — she is simply my daughter who happens to be adopted. How do I show her that it is okay to be adopted without constantly labeling her? I do not know the answer.

Perhaps Katie will be blissfully well-adjusted, regardless of how I answer these questions. And perhaps Katie will spend years in therapy, struggling to accept her adoption. The dance continues, the choreography always subject to interpretation, to refinement. As we dance together, moving and leaping through space, I am confident of what matters: I am her Mama, and she is my baby.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Will the "Real Mother" please stand up?

The other day I brought my daughter to the home of one of the students that I homeschool. This is not a normal occurence but since she was home with me this week I decided to bring her along. Everything was going well- the kids got along beautifully, said daughter was happy to look at her new surroundings, watch the fish and play with new toys.

Then it student asked the question I've been waiting for someone to ask: "So, who is your daughter's real mother?". To say I was stunned by this question would be an understatement. My response was "I am her REAL mother". I am not implying by that statement that my daughter's birth mother isn't real, didn't give birth to her or isn't a part of her life because that's not true on any level but I am saying that I am the one who takes care of her on a daily basis, loves her like no one else possibly could and is here for her forever and always no matter what comes hew way in life. Right now, my daughter does not yet fully understand what it means to be adopted. She knows she has a birth mother and father and a half brother but even these concepts are very abstract to an almost 3 year old. What she does understand is that my husband and I are her family---we are her parents in all the ways that matter.

My students' parents were embarassed that their child had even brought this question to the fore front. I,on the other hand decided that the question wasn't meant to hurt me or my daughter but to help my student understand what adoption truly means. I think the best explanation of adoption that I have heard recently was actually while viewing an episode of "Sesame Street". Gina, decides to adopt a baby from Guatamela. When Elmo asks what adoption is, Gina's reply is straight forward and to the point. Gina discusses how there’s a baby who needs love and caring for and she wants to be the person to provide those things. What a perfect way to describe such a complicated topic to preschoolers. This explanation offers just enough detail without being overwhelming.

When I was a child, our family had some friends that had adopted two children that were about the same age as I was. I never questioned who their parents were because to me it was obvious, THEY were their parents even if someone else gave birth to them. As someone recently pointed out to me, giving birth doesn't make you a parent. The only thing I could think of when I heard this quote was something that I read in a Joyce Meyer book which said: "Just because you go to church doesn't mean you're a Christian. I can go sit in the garage all day and it doesn't make me a car!. Same principle just different words.

I guess I better get used to questions because people are people and they have inquiring minds. We also know that our daughter will have a lot of questions as she grows and understands more as well. Does this mean that we should never tell anyone that she is adopted to protect her and us from the pain the "REAL MOM" question poses? I don't think so but I do think as she grows, she will choose who she will or won't want to tell. In reality, being adopted doesn't make our daughter different in a negative way. In fact, she is lucky to have more branches on her family tree than the average child her age.

So, yes the "REAL Mother" has stood up and taken credit for all that she has done and will do throughout her child's life. "REAL" has never sounded so good :) .

Until we meet again,

Cheryl and Jason

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Up, Up and Away.....

This past weekend we went to visit family in Virginia. We were unsure of how our sensory sensitive child would do traveling via airplane. In the past, she has been pretty predictable but this time, we just weren't sure what would happen. This time, we decided to prepare her in advance by showing and talking to her about traveling on a plane. She was so excited about the plane, so much so that she pretended she was a plane all week ! We also decided to bring her a busy bag full of fun things to play with, snacks/drinks and settled in to our last row seats. She loved the freedom of the seat belt and was fascinated by the feeling of being in the air. There was tons of noise because of the location of our seats. The noises annoyed Jason and I to no end but our daughter loved them...they were soothing to her.

I wish I could say that the flight home was as easy. Our flight did not leave until 10 pm which gave us plenty of time to visit with family but did not make travel easy for us. On the way to the airport, our toddler was fine...singing, talking, etc. The same held true for the check-in once we got to the airport and entering the plane. She sat in her seat with her seat belt attached. We had two seats next to each other and she had decided that she was going to sit next to me on the flight. My husband sat across the aisle from us without a travel companion in the other seat next to him. Things seemed to be going well. My daughter and I read books, colored and then BAM !! instant meltdown when she was told that she couldn't have something that she wanted. I think I have mentioned before that when our daughter is angry, she's a bit like 'The Incredible Hulk' i.e screaming, crying, clenched fists, a change in the color of her normally porcelain cheeks and teeth that like to bite. Now, I have to say that we are not in love with the biting part but for the most part, we can usually stop her before she does any harm to anyone's skin. This time, however, I was not so lucky as her razor sharp teeth bit my thigh. I was very calm considering the circumstance and told her that biting was not ok and that it hurt. Do I think she understands what I am telling her? Absolutely. Do I think she bites for fun? No but I do think she bites out of frustration with not having the words to tell us what is really bothering her. After she calmed down, I massaged her head and got her comfortable with her head on my lap, boots off and a pillow made from my coat. Not even two minutes later, she was fast asleep on my sore thigh.

As she lay there fast asleep, I began to cry. It doesn't happen often but when it does, it's like a waterfall. I know I was crying because my thigh was hurting but I was having doubts about my parenting skills. Was I really that bad of a mother that my child felt it necessary to bite me? Or was she so comfortable with me that she felt it was okay to bare those pearly whites? Rationally, I know the answer to these question but when your at 10,000 feet and have a mind that never stops working, any rationality you had goes out the window.

Suddenly, as if a message was sent to me through God through the two gentlemen that were sitting in front of us. One of the gentlemen turned to me and said "Don't get frustrated or be embarassed....we both have kids. I have 5 and my friend has 5. Traveling with little ones isn't always easy. We won't be upset by anything your child does....we are used to it !" Those were the right words at the right time and I really let them sink into my jumbled brain. Someone finally understood EXACTLY how I was feeling at that moment and it was a relief to me. I wasn't the only parent that felt frustrated with their child at times... HALLELUJAH !

Now that I have had a few days to reflect upon what happened on our return flight, it is easy to see that so much of H.'s frustration had to do with being overstimulated, tired and not getting her way....a deadly combination if there ever was one. It was not about how much she loves me or even if she liked me at that moment. It wasn't about me and I shouldn't have taken it so personally. We learned from this experience, we will never again travel at 10 pm until H. is much older. I do have to admit that the time of the flight was an honest mistake....hubby thought he had made it for 10 am but had done 10 pm instead. By the time we noticed the error, it was too late to change our departure time which was unfortunate.

Despite all of the drama of the return trip home, we really did have a fabulous time in DC. Jason and I actually had a "date night" to go see "Bon Jovi" in concert (which was my Christmas gift from hubby this year) and H. had some much needed bonding time with my in-laws. She was also fortunate enough to spend some quality time with her cousin, Jaz and Godmother touring my in-laws farm. She loved the whole experience of being on a farm...particularly petting the baby calf. Overall, H. did very well in a new and different environment. Hopefully, that's what I will be able to reflect on one day when I am older and wiser. Two will only be here for a short time and that's what I need to keep in perspective.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Terrible Two's ,,,,,

As I may or may not have mentioned before, our daughter has a slight developmental delay. This delay is centered around the fact that she was premature by 8 weeks and also had a Grade IV brain bleed (serious stroke) three days after birth. Incredibly, she has overcome any initial prognoses her doctor's gave her and to most people she looks and acts like a typical two year old except for one difference---she has what we believe to be SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder). I hate labeling kids, so I would rather positively state that she is a "Sensitive Child" which means she is sensitive to many things in the world around her. Her brain goes into overdrive when she hears certain sounds, has clothing on that she find uncomfortable for some reason or even when she is told "No" for any reason. She does receive Occupational Therapy to help her integrate sensory input into her world. In turn, this helps us to understand what her needs are when this happens and how we can teach her coping mechanisms to deal with them. But don't think I am saying that this is all easy because it just isn't.

The sensitivities are one thing but God obviously thinks that we can handle more to deal with as she has just started what most deem as the "terrible two's". This is the stage when your sweet, obedient child turns into something that resembles "The Incredible Hulk"... destroying things, angering easily, tantruming for an apparent reason at times and no apparent reason at others, etc. I used to love watching "The Incredible Hulk" when I was a kid. My favorite part of the whole show was usually just before David Banner turned into the Hulk as his line always was: "Don't make me angry, you won't like me when I'm angry!". I never realized that I would one day be dealing with a miniature version of this creature as a parent. We love her but sometimes, just sometimes, it is hard to like how she behaves.

So what is a first-time parent to do? Drink lots of wine? Give yourself a "time out"? This is where the real challenge lies. So far, we have continued to give her the structure she craves, ignore the tantrums, praise her efforts and remain consistent with disciplinary issues. Our daughter is enjoying the sights and sounds of the holiday season right now but two weeks from now, she may dislike the same commotion. The hardest part about this is that you can't help but think that you and your "egocentric" child will ever make it through this phase and become the independent, responsible adult that you hope to raise but I guess it does happen.

We are finding over time that our daughter is becoming more aware of the world around her and more frequently asks for what she needs to cope. This is truly a blessing because for the longest time, she was unable to verbalize what she needed which led to frustration on both our parts. Sometimes to cope, all she needs is a simple hug, other times she might enjoy being wrapped up in a blanket like a burrito, sometimes it's wearing certain clothing items that help to apply deep pressure to her joints, and finally being asked if she can go on her slide or be swung inside a blanket seems to also have a calming effect on her.

This whole area of "Sensitive Children" is not something I am very educated in despite being a Teacher. I have had students with SPD before but they were a bit older and the fact that they weren't my child made it much easier for me to deal with on a daily basis. I have been told that things will only get better as she grows older. That's reassuring to hear but I won't believe it until I actually see it happen before my eyes. Right now, we are working on accepting the fact that the sensitivities she has now may or may not follow her into the future. I guess acceptance is the first step to conquering whatever comes our way.

Until we meet again,

Cheryl and Jason

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

From crib to toddler bed....

I have always had a hard time time with change. If you were to ask anyone that has know me most of my life, they would tell you that this is something that I have struggled with since childhood. The biggest change in my life was when our daughter finally came home from the NICU @ two months old. For as excited as I was about becoming a Mom, there was a part of me that feared it. After being just my husband, dog and I for so long, we had gotten comfortable with our lifestyle and had no clue how much having a child would impact life as we knew it. Despite many a sleepless night and what seemed like permanent insomnia (on my part), we made it through the transition from NICU to living together as a family.

Our daughter's life revolves around transitions right now and this is just the beginning of most of them. Right now, we are attempting to transition her from a crib to toddler bed. This is a frightening but necessary step for all of us because said toddler is VERY TALL for her age. This of course means that she is a bit like a superhero--meaning that she is able to leap over crib rails in a single bound ! We have only witnessed one episode of this leaping at home. I remember the day well. I was downstairs having my morning cup of ambition when I heard a loud thump from our daughter's room. This loud thump was followed by some crying and screaming. I raced upstairs to see what was going on and right there in front of me sitting on the floor was my precious baby girl who was obviously scared. It didn't take long to figure out what had happened. She had climbed out of her crib and in the process fell. Thank God she didn't get hurt ! She has not (as far as we know)climbed out of said crib at home again since that fateful day a few months ago.

Take note that I said we haven't seen this at HOME again which of course means that she is very comfortable attempting this feat elsewhere. Last weekend, we were at my parents' house for the weekend. When we arrived on Friday evening, our toddler was asleep. We carefully carried her to the crib and put her in. She slept for awhile without issue. Suddenly, we heard loud crying which sounded as though she had woken up and was deciding to go to sleep again. At least that's what we thought at first. My husband went to investigate. It didn't take him too long to figure out that our little spiderwoman had escaped the confines of her crib. He found her sitting at the top of the stairs sobbing and for a few minutes, she was inconsolable. It had been decided, there was no way that this child was going to sleep in that crib, that night. We knew that if we put her back in the crib, she would perform her trick for us again. We decided that the only way she was going to sleep was to sleep with us (not a regular practice in our household at all). I am happy to report after she settled in to bed, she finally fell asleep. Being the brave soul that I am, I moved her back to the crib once she was asleep so we could actually sleep without fear of rolling over on her.

The next day, my Mom and I decided to investigate the crib escape further and found out that my precious baby girl had used the aid of a pillow and a slightly tilted mattress to make her plan a reality. I have to say that I am very proud of my child for using her problem solving skills in such a creative way. That's the teacher in me. Maybe we have a child on our hands that will be a great Engineer or Scientist one day? Who knows... The point of this whole story is that at this particular moment in time, it hit us like a ton of bricks that our daughter would indeed need to make the HUGE transition to a toddler bed much sooner than we anticipated.

After reading our parenting books, talking to other parents and doing some on-line detective work, we decided that the best place to start would be to shop for a bed with toddler in tow. So, the next day we went bed shopping and bought her a white toddler bed to match the other furniture in her room. Taking my cues from many parenting experts, I decided that our daughter should pick out her new comforter set. She picked out what she wanted and we proceeded to set the bed up right next to the crib. She loves her bed ON HER TERMS which means that she will only stay in the bed if we are present in her room and IF she has her 4 baby dolls, Elmo, 3 teddy bears, several books, a blanket and last but not least, a full sized pillow. She is a very strong willed child

We have started to try to put her in her toddler bed just for naps. She's great about staying in it for about 5 minutes then we will hear things drop on the floor,some screaming and SUDDENLY without warning, SILENCE. When we have checked the baby monitor to see if she has actually made it to bed, she usually hasn't. We usually try to quietly creep up the stairs (in case she actually is asleep) and open her bedroom door. Much to our relief, she is usually asleep on the carpet by the door. We decided long ago that we should just leave her where she is because we KNOW that she will wake up as soon as we even try to move her the slightest bit.

There is a part of me that is very sad about this transition because it means that our baby isn't such a baby anymore. We are all growing together and it is the best feeling in the world. We are so blessed to have such an incredible child in our lives and couldn't imagine our life any other way than it is right now-- transitions and all.