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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Leo's Story: Short and Sweet

Mother's Day is approaching.  I am in the throws of being a mom, for sure!  I'm having trouble finding time to take a shower, let alone write the next two sections of Leo's story.  So in honor of Mother's Day, of letting ourselves off the hook sometimes, of keeping it real. . .  I thought I would share with you the short and sweet version that I wrote for my friend's blog, EllieAdorn.  (A great resource and forum for talking about the most intense and emotional aspects of motherhood.)

2007 was a horrible, terrible, no good year.  Well, except for the fact that my handsome son was born and I didn’t die.  That pretty much sums up the year.  After a pregnancy plagued by a rare neurological disorder brought on by high levels of progesterone, we were sternly warned to never attempt another pregnancy.  They needn’t have said a single thing to us; one was more than enough.  Our extended family had been blessed by adoption several times and we knew before John Henry was ever born that our future children would come to us through adoption.

We began filling out our mountains of paperwork before John Henry was a year old.  We were approved to adopt in January of 2009.  We knew that the average waiting time for a domestic adoption was a little over two years.  We also knew that couples who were proactive in their adoption efforts often decreased that wait significantly.  I have an MBA with an emphasis in entrepreneurship and social marketing.  We learned everything we could about domestic adoption and I threw the full force of my education and experience into promoting our desire to adopt.

One of the things that couples looking to adopt domestically are rarely told is that most of them will go through at least one failed adoption.  Laws in this country protect the rights of the birth parents (as they should) to parent their child until after the birth of the baby, depending on the state, for as long as six months.  (Three to seven days is a more common waiting time before a birth parent can sign relinquishment papers.)

Lincoln, my husband, and I are just over achievers, I guess.  In 2009 we suffered through four failed adoptions.  In November of 2009 we pulled all of our profiles down.  We weren’t giving up, but we were heart broken.  We needed some healing time.

I believe that God often lets us get to that broken hearted stage so that we will truly recognize and appreciate a miracle when he sends it to us.

In December of 2009 I got a call from our agency.  I didn’t respond right away because I thought they were only calling to tell us that we needed to renew our home study.  I didn’t want to think about that right then.  A few days later I got several phone messages and an urgent email from our case worker to “Call her right away!”  I finally did.

Because we had matched the very specific requirements of a potential birth mother they had sent our profile to her.  She wanted to talk to us, and more so, she wanted to place with us!  WHAT?  We were so excited, and yet so afraid to open our hearts once again.

I talked to Lisa* on the phone for the fist time a week or so later.  It was as if we were long lost friends.  Her story was heart breaking and I mourned with her.  We spent the next several weeks getting to know her through email and over the phone.

In February I flew to Alaska several days before Lisa was scheduled to be induced.  Those were precious days for me.  The day I first saw Lisa in person there was no awkwardness, we hugged as if we had known each other our whole lives and fell into the happy and comfortable conversation of old friends.

Lincoln and I spent the entire day in the hospital with Lisa the day she was induced.  It was a slow and painful labor and we did what we could to make her more comfortable.  Finally, more than 12 hours after her initial induction, they gave her an epidural and things moved fast from there.  Leo was born late at night.  I was with Lisa as she delivered.  I cut the umbilical cord.  It was one of the most miraculous experience of my life.  I cried as they handed this precious baby to Lisa.  A baby who would bond two mothers together for life.

She held him, I kissed her and told her how amazing she was, and then she handed him to the nurse and I was torn.  Should I go with the baby or should I stay with Lisa?  As a true mother, Lisa told me what to do.  I called Lincoln to come into the room.  We assisted as the nurse cleaned, measured and swaddled our new born son.

The next few days were a whirlwind of emotions.  If you were under the impression that a person can only feel one emotion at a time, let me assure you that you are wrong.  I was flooded by every emotion known to man, often hitting me in waves, one after another, without respite.  But in the chaos of emotions swirling around the adults, the perfect calm of a sweet new baby anchored us and we moved forward.

Lincoln had to return to Washington to our older son and to his job.  I stayed behind in Alaska waiting for clearance to leave the state and for an opening on a flight back to the lower 48.  Lisa and I spent at least part of every day together.  We took turns holding our precious boy, kissing him, feeding him, smelling him.

Some might think this would have been difficult for Lisa, spending so much time with the child she had carried, nurtured, and given birth too, but would not be parenting.  I’m sure it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, but she cherished the time to tell him how much she loved him and to say goodbye.  Like most birth mothers, Lisa is an amazingly strong woman.

Some might think this would have been difficult for me, ‘allowing’ Leo’s birth mother to spend so much time with him, to cuddle him, to bond with him.  Some might assume I would feel threatened or anxious that she would change her mind.  They would be wrong.  I would not have had it any other way.

Lisa and I share the bond of motherhood, each of us giving our son something that the other could not.  We both love him fiercely, and each of us have and will continue to make great sacrifices to ensure he is given the very best we can give him.

Leo is now a year old.  We talk to Lisa several times each month.  We are friends on Facebook.  I send her pictures, she sends Leo presents!  She watches Leo grow and shares in the journey.  I get support from her as I parent, someone to ask about medical concerns, and best of all, the knowledge that Leo will know his birth mama and know how much he is loved by both of us.

Adoption is a miracle.  Open adoption is a living miracle.  It takes work.  It takes strength.  It’s rewards are infinite.

*not her real name.

(update) Leo is now four years old.  He is a little tank, full of energy and kisses for his mama.  He loves dinosaurs and puzzles.  We still have a wonderful relationship with Lisa.  We are planning our first vacation together later this year.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Leo's Story: Part 3, Welcome to Alaska and Meeting Lisa

Preparing to go to Alaska was an anxiety producing experience.  You name it, I was worried about it.  Only prayer got me through those few weeks leading up to Leo's delivery, well, and Lisa.  She was a pillar of strength and resolve.  It should have been me supporting her, encouraging her, giving her strength.  In fact, I felt as those she was doing all of those things for me.

Our community rallied around us to support us.  We were still emotionally fragile and recovering from October's failed adoption.  Dozens of people approached us with offers to help in every way imaginable.  One of the miracles of adoption, I learned, is the opportunity it affords a community to support a family and the opportunity for a family to truly be supported in an amazing way.  The love and friendship that is created and strengthened is a blessing for everyone.  So many friends helped us prepare to bring Leo home and all of them rejoiced with us when he finally arrived. 

One example out of many-- We were very fortunate to have some dear, dear friends who had accumulated a significant number airline miles on Alaska Airline, as tickets to the Alaska interior are very expensive, especially when they have to be purchased last minute.  They donated those points to us.  It was a the kind of gift that humbles you to your very core.  It was a much needed and un-repayable gift.  They told us, for them, it was like giving us play money, but to us it was a blessing beyond measure.  

We prepared in every way we could think of knowing we could never REALLY be prepared and then it was time to go.  I will never forget rocking John Henry to sleep the night before I left.  It was sweet and exciting and sad.  It was the first of many times over the next few weeks I would be surprised by my own emotions.

Lisa was scheduled to be induced at 38 weeks, but had been contracting on and off for two weeks prior to that.  As I was waiting to board my flight I got a call from her. 

"I think I'm in labor, I'm on my way to the hospitlal"  WHAT???  AHHH!

I was scheduled to arrive fairly late at night.  I told her to leave me a voice mail (or make someone else) and I would come straight to the hospital from the airport if I needed to.  I felt so helpless.  I was so grateful for my friend, Sarah.  I could think of nothing else to do, so I called her and asked her to light a candle for Lisa.  She did and kept it burning for hours until she heard from me that it was false labor and they had sent her home.

Some members of our church, whom I had never met, had left their van at the airport for me with instructions on how to find their house, how to get in, and to make myself at home, despite the fact that they were out of town visiting family.  This was another gift of immeasurable worth.  Bringing Leo "home" to a real home was such a blessing, to say nothing of the expense it saved us.

The morning after I arrived, I called Lisa.  She knew where the house was.  To save me driving on icy roads in a city I didn't know, she came to me.  (See what I mean, she was taking care of me. . . so backwards!)  The door bell rang and when I opened the door it was like opening the door for my sister.  She came in, we hugged one another, and then we fell into talking as though we had only seen each other last week.  It was simply natural and enjoyable.  I cherish those few days I got to spend with Lisa, one on one, before Leo was born.  (Link came up two days after I did.)

People ask me if I still "have contact" with Leo's birthmom.  I want to laugh when I hear this question.  Would you ask someone if they still "have contact" with their sister?    We talk on the phone, text, and are friends on facebook.  I know that most people don't understand the concept of an open adoption.  I think may people find it strange or uncomfortable because it challenges the standard adoption paradigm.  I want to tell them all.  OF COURSE!!!  She is the biological mother of my child!  We share something so special and precious it would be strange for us to NOT maintain close connections. 

We spent the next few days talking, eating good food, and resting.  Link came up the Monday evening before her Wednesday morning scheduled induction.  We explored the city and marveled at how different life is the arctic.  We all went out for a "last supper."  I ate an Elk stake.  It was a joyful few days that strengthened us and provided us with the energy to get through the following three days of turmoil. 

Part 4: Leo's birth, to follow.