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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.