Monday, March 28, 2011

A Letter to the Baby


**Excerpt from a letter to the baby, written Saturday, March 19, 2011:

Dear Baby Boy,

Yup, it’s official: you’re a boy!!  It was confirmed yesterday when we went to an ultrasound with your birth mom Katie.  We saw you wiggling around on the screen (I think you waved at us :)), and we saw the profile of your little face for the first time.  You are only ½ a pound right now, and already you are cute as can be. 

I’ve heard people say that pregnant women “glow.”  Well, I feel like I must be glowing today.  I have this little burning excitement inside, and I can’t help myself from smiling and from thinking about you and your birth mom.  We met her for the first time this weekend, and as I think about her, I am amazed by this experience that we are having.  She is so generous to invite us into her life and to allow us to be a part of her pregnancy.  I think she is beautiful, inside and out.  I hope you have her almond-shaped blue eyes and her strength, wisdom, and spirit. 

On Thursday night, we took Katie and Drew out to dinner at the Olive Garden.  I was quite nervous.  I just wanted them to like us, and I wanted it to be natural between us.  I had been fretting about the perfect outfit for weeks, and I even video chatted with your Aunt Laura the night before to get her approval on what I had picked out.  (For the record, it was dark jeans, a long gray sweater, a red shirt, and my favorite colorful scarf.)  I also brainstormed a few discussion topics/questions, in case there were awkward silences.  :)

Well, I think it went well.  Of course there were a few awkward silences, but we managed to keep the conversation going.  We all asked each other questions, and I told lots of stories.  (I hope they didn’t think that was annoying.)  I told them about when I took a massive spill on the ski hill the first time that I met the Nielsons, when Ryan got mugged near our apartment in Buffalo, when a woman at our church banged her shoe on the pulpit during testimony meeting, when another woman at our church said my dad would “look good in some shorts,” and when Ryan disappeared in El Salvador until some nuns and I went looking for him in the middle of the night.

Although the main purpose of our “double date” was just to get to know each other, we did talk a little bit about you.  I asked Katie how she is feeling, and she said pretty good.  (She looks great…you can barely tell she’s pregnant, and she is almost 20 weeks along.)  I asked Drew what he thought about adoption, and he gave me a big thumbs up.  He said something like, “Adoption is awesome!”  They said that they knew from the beginning that adoption was the best option for you and for them.

Your birth dad is really cool.  He has a distinctive style, kinda like a skateboarder/snowboarder but with his own flair.  He was pretty quiet around us, but he seemed smart, funny, and kind.  He has a mischievous sparkle in his eye and a cute dimple when he smiles (I wouldn’t mind if you ended up with those traits!).

I also loved that we got to spend a lot of time with your birth grandparents this weekend.  We spent time with Katie’s mom on our way to and from the ultrasound, and that evening, they hosted a barbeque for everyone at their home.  Drew and his mom came, and I was amazed by how natural the conversation and humor was between all of us.  Ryan and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.  Baby, you come from a heritage of awesome people.

My favorite part of the weekend by far was getting to know Katie.  I really really love her.  She and I went out to lunch after the ultrasound, and at first it was a little quiet, but then we got talking, and we couldn’t stop.  (One of the restaurant workers eventually asked us if he should set up a tent. J  We talked for about two hours!)  I think Katie and I are kindred spirits.  Though our life experiences are very different, I think our hearts are similar.  I love reading her emails and her perspectives on life.  This weekend, she let me and your dad read a letter that she wrote to you, and it was my favorite thing to read yet.  We were sitting in her living room—everyone around us was talking—and yet their conversation became muted as I read her sweet words to you.  I felt something run through me—love? the Spirit? humility? awe?—and I looked at her across the room, and she never looked more beautiful.  She is so selfless.

Baby, if there is anyone deserving of your love, it’s Katie.  She is going through the difficulty of pregnancy to give you life.  And then, after all of the morning sickness, weight gain, uncomfortable nights, and judgmental stares from others, she is going to place you in our arms so that we can give you the life that she thinks you deserve. 

I really have no doubt that you will love her.  We will teach you about adoption as soon as you start walking and talking.  Katie and I are going to write a story book for you about our lives and how they intersected and how you came into the world already loved by four families: your birth dad’s, your birth mom’s, your dad’s, and mine.  I hope you will never doubt how very loved you are, and I hope you will always feel nothing but respect for your birth parents. 

Baby Boy, I am so happy.  I can’t believe how this experience has come together so perfectly.  God works in mysterious ways.  A year ago, I had just suffered an ectopic pregnancy after years of wanting a baby and months of fertility treatments.  Six months ago, we were in the middle of our first adoption heartbreak with a birth family stringing us along and then changing its mind.  During those dark days, there were moments when I wondered if I would ever be excited about a baby again.  Would my heart become numb and guarded?  Would I eventually lose faith that I would ever be a mother?

This year, I’ve read and re-read scripture verses about “waiting on the Lord.”  There are 47 verses that mention a variation of that phrase, and tonight, one seems especially fitting: “And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you.”  (Isaiah 30:18)

God knew best.  He waited to bless us until the situation was perfect and right.  He knew that you were on your way.

The wait was worth it.

I love you, Little Man.

xoxoxx
Mom


Sunday, March 27, 2011

This Made Me Really Happy Today...

I blurred everyone else's last names because I didn't want to share their personal info.
I still need to post about our trip to meet Katie!  It was so perfect.  We loved it.  I will post about it very soon, and I might even include an ultrasound pic of our cute Little Man, so stay tuned...

Happy happy happy!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fun at the Rainbow Rink

I've been feeling a lot better the past couple of days.  I just needed to pick up my house, unpack my suitcase, sort the piles on my desk, and do the laundry.  Though my "to-do list" still looms long, it somehow feels more manageable when my living space is in order. (Does anyone else feel this way?)

It's true what they say: Joy cometh in the morning (especially when you wake up to a clean house).

In my last melancholic blog post, I said that I have "regrets" about our time in Buffalo.  I think maybe "regret" is too strong a word.  Though we have worked harder than we have played, I do think we've made the most of our time here.  We have loved pretty much every minute of it (with the exception of robberies, muggings, and late nights grading papers).  We've made some of the most wonderful friends, and when I think about leaving them in a couple of months...well that is what makes me truly melancholy.

Last night, our friend Tiffany invited us to go rollarskating.  She warned us that she'd never been to the Rainbow Rink on a Friday night, and the place might be full of thugs.

I told her that we like thugs.

As it turns out, it isn't thugs who hang out at the Rainbow Rink...it's middle schoolers!  We were easily the oldest people out on the rink--by about 15 years!

While at first I felt a little silly, once they turned down the lights and started blasting Katie Perry, Pink, and Taio Cruz, I lost my inhibitions and skated my heart out.

Ryan and I had a little too much fun in the arcade playing skeeball and shooting hoops.  Did you know that Ryan and I went on our first date to an arcade?  It was a blind date.  I had requested a "skateboarder" when my friend insisted that she set me up with someone.  I was picturing DC shoes and shaggy hair.

Ryan showed up wearing Doc Martens with his hair gelled in a very preppy swoop.

Despite my disappointment in his non-skater appearance, by the end of the evening, I was sold.  I think it was the way he dominated Mrs. Pacman and won me a Fun Dip.

Then:


Now:

I know I'm hot...you don't have to tell me.
You may notice the awesome glow-in-the-dark finger Ryan is wearing, along with the high-quality back scratcher he is holding.  He was quite pleased about all of the little prizes he won at the Arcade:


It was a really really fun night.  Thanks to Tiffany for inviting us!  We are going to enjoy our last few months in the Buff.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Melancholy

I am feeling melancholy.  I feel like I shouldn't admit that because I know I should be brimming with joy every day because of the good news that we got recently--but the truth is, I am stressed.  Not necessarily about the baby (though I will admit that I am not happy about the ginormous folder of Colorado adoption paper work that appeared in our mailbox this week)...I am just stressed.  About everything.

Our house is a disaster.  We have "to do" piles everywhere--stuff to be sorted and dealt with.  We haven't unpacked from our trip yet, though we've been home for two days.  We haven't had time.

I work "part-time," but I've been at the school until 7 p.m. three nights in a row.  I will never catch up on the grading that I have to do.

Our time in Buffalo is drawing to a close, and I have regrets.  I don't like having regrets.  I regret not spending more time with friends.  I regret not spending more time with Deborah.  I regret not spending more time with our neighbor kids, who haven't been over to make cookies since the summer.  I regret that I didn't let go and have more fun while we lived here. ...it's difficult to explain to someone who has never been a teacher what it's like to be a teacher.  I wish I wouldn't have spent so much time on teaching.

Do you ever feel like you can't do everything in your life well?  So you just do as much as you can semi-well, but it never feels really satisfying?  Do you ever look back on previous years and think, "How did I do it all back then?"  It seems like I used to be able to do more and handle more.

I feel like I run around every day "putting out fires," and yet I never seem to make any progress.  I wish that I could just accept this as the reality of my life and stop feeling stressed about it.  I wish I had a more eternal perspective.

I hope the snow on the ground melts tomorrow.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Announcement

Katie and I are sitting here getting pedicures.  It is quite relaxing!  Who knew that nail salons offer free wi-fi and use of their computers??

Anyway, we just wanted to take a moment to announce that Ryan and I will be adopting a baby BOY in August!  :)  We went to the ultrasound with Katie this morning, and we are so excited!

We are having a great weekend and have loved meeting Katie, Drew, and their families.  I will write more later, but I couldn't resist making the announcement now.

Now, back to our pedis!

:)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Teaching and Adoption Updates

I recently admitted to a group of friends that I have a teacher's version of "senioritis."  I am losing motivation to grade papers, conduct writing conferences, and instruct effective development of an argument.  I am so tempted to just tell my students stories the entire class period or let them tell me stories.

I have been teaching English for five years, and I tutored writing at BYU for three years before that.  I did the math (I'll admit, it was difficult for me), and I think in the past eight years, I've helped about 750 students with their writing.  With each of those 750 students writing several essays a semester...oh, I don't even want to think about the number of papers I've graded or hours I've spent grading.

I will not miss the grading.  But I will miss witnessing the learning.

Yesterday in class,  I stood at the front of the room and smiled as I watched my students intently peer editing.  I told them it "makes my heart happy" to see them ferociously writing comments and then thoughtfully conferencing with one another.

It also made my heart happy when I was grading essays during my lunch period, and I realized that their writing is improving.  I looked up from the stack of papers and said to my co-teacher in an awestruck voice, "Sherry, their writing is getting so much better...do you know what that means?  It means they're listening." 

I am proud of them.  And I love them.  I love that we have ridiculous conversations like this one that occurred in the computer lab earlier this week:

Me:  Nick, you can't eat your lunch in here.
N: Oh come on, Mrs. Nielson.  I'll give you one of my cookies.
Me: No--put it away.  [I walked several steps before his words registered, and then I stopped and turned back to him:]  Are the cookies homemade?
N: [Sensing that he had identified my weakness:] They are.  My mom made them last night...chocolate chip.
Me:  [Pausing to think for a moment--but not much of a moment because we all know what a sucker I am for homemade chocolate chip cookies:] Okay.  Just this once.  [The entire class laughed as Nick handed me one of his cookies. I turned my attention to the rest of them and said:] Don't look now because I'm accepting a bribe!!

These are the moments that I will miss as a teacher.  And, believe it or not, I may only have about six weeks left.

Ryan and I recently found out that we are going to have to move to Colorado sooner than we had thought in order to be approved to adopt before the baby comes.  It took us months of paperwork to get approved to adopt in the state of New York, and we basically have to do it all over again for the state of Colorado. 

So we will be leaving Buffalo very soon after Ryan graduates.  My last day of teaching will probably be Friday, May 6th, and I will spend the next week packing and participating in graduation festivities (including our families coming to town).  Shortly thereafter, we will drive away from the life we have built and loved here.

It makes me sad just thinking about it.

My students don't yet know about the adoption or that I have to leave before the end of the school year.  I think I am going to tell them about the adoption on Tuesday, and I will tell them about our move before the end of the month.

As excited as I am to be a mom, I know I will miss my students.  This has been a great phase of my life--but I know the next phase will be great too.

We are going to meet Katie and her boyfriend and their families this week.  I am so excited!!  It has been such a wonderful experience to correspond with them this past month, and we can't wait to meet them in person.

I want to thank everyone for your overwhelming support.  Your blog comments, emails, phone calls, and in-person congratulations mean the world to us.  We are so very fortunate to have so many people rejoicing with us.  It is humbling and so exciting.

Several of you have asked if we will find out about the baby's gender.  At Katie's last doctor appointment, they gave her an ultrasound and were pretty sure that they could determine the baby's gender...but we will know for sure on Friday, and I will announce it at that time.  Eeeeeeeeee!  (That is an excited squeal.)

Can I just say that I am so excited to have a chubby little baby to squeeze and snuggle???

We feel so good about everything with Katie, and we have removed our adoption profile from the LDS Family Services website, so anyone who has our button on your blog can take it down.  Thank you so much for your help and support!!  It filled me with hope when I would see our button on the blogs of our friends and family.  It was a constant reminder, "Rachel, people care.  People are praying for you."  Really, as difficult as the last year and a half has been for us, it has been a huge comfort and blessing to feel the love of so many people.

I will never be able to say this enough: thank you.  Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.

Wish us luck this week!  Keep us in your prayers!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sarah


Today is my older sister's birthday.

I wish I had a digital copy of my favorite photo of me and Sarah playing together when we were little; she is almost three, and I am almost one.  We are peeking out from underneath a bed.  Sarah is gripping my ear, obviously saying something very forcefully.  It looks like she is trying to drag me somewhere.  I am looking at my mom (who was behind the camera) with wide eyes, as if to say, "Mom, save me from this crazy woman!"

I love my sister.  She is a force of nature.  She has the biggest opinions, reactions, and emotions of anyone I've ever met.  She is passionate.  You would think this would've lead to a lot of arguments when we were little, but it really didn't.  I think I was mostly overwhelmed by her and did what I was told; and I think she was always much too sweet underneath all of that bossiness to ever use or manipulate me.  She has always been my greatest protector and fan.  Of course we had our petty fallouts, but a day has never gone by when I wouldn't answer "My sisters!" when someone asked who my best friends are.

This past year has been especially difficult for me, and I've been grateful for our incredible friends and family who have supported us.  Sarah, perhaps, has supported us most of all.  She was often more able to rejoice, cry, or yell than I (who got fairly numb after all the disappointments).  When we got good news, she screamed in delight.  When we got our hearts broken, she sobbed in agony.  When we were again searching for a baby, she posted our profile link on Facebook so many times it was almost embarrassing.  This past week, when I met some of her friends in St. Louis for the first time, they said, "Wow, we feel like we are meeting a celebrity--Sarah talks about you all the time."  Uhhhh....that's a little mortifying! :)

A few months ago, we had a particularly promising adoption opportunity, but the legal logistics were very complicated.  I knew my family was anxious to know what was going on, so I emailed them the update.  This is an excerpt of what I wrote (expectant mom's name has been changed):

Family,

I talked to our case worker.  She says Haley is 100% sure that she wants us to adopt her baby.  This is great news.  The bad news is really bad though, and I am just going to give it to you straight.  There are serious legal risks with this adoption.  Haley isn't sure who the father is, and she isn't sure that either guy will be willing to relinquish his rights.  When the baby is born, they will have to determine through DNA-testing who the father is, and then he will be given the opportunity to take custody.  My case worker said that we could go for weeks, maybe even months, not knowing whether or not we will get to keep the baby. 

Ryan and I need to figure out what to do.  We need to talk, and we need to pray.  I've never needed to pray so much in my life.  I've never had to make a decision so weighty.  

I want you to know what's going on, but I don't really want to hear any strong opinions.  You can share your opinion, but ultimately, it's me and Ryan who will decide what to do.  And we will do that based on what God tells us.  I desperately want a baby, but I don't want that to get in the way of what is reasonable...and more importantly, what is right.  I recently prayed and told Heavenly Father that we would take care of any baby, no matter how complicated the situation, if He wanted us to.  But how can I tell what He wants?

Can I quit my job and take care of a baby that may or may not eventually be mine?

Could anyone in our families even be excited about us getting a baby that we might not be able to keep?  Will anyone even be happy for us?  It will be so anticlimactic.

I don't know what to do, and I would very much appreciate prayers.  We're not telling anyone other than you guys until we have more information.

Love you,
Rachel

I hope Sarah doesn't mind if I post an excerpt from her response because I think it is so telling of her endearing personality.  Even though this and several other adoption opportunities didn't work out, I want to remember the amazing support that she gave me over the past year:

Rachy,

Here is my opinion.  I will try to keep it non-passionate, although it will be hard, seeing as how I truly meant it when I said yesterday that this baby was the best news that I have ever heard in my life:

We are all THRILLED!  I went out today and bought your little girl a gift, and I wanted to tell someone about you so badly that I told the checker at the store and I burst into tears!  (Incidentally, she seemed delighted.)  I will love that baby fiercely.  If it is only for a few days, then fine.  She'll be my neice for a few days.  I will make a detailed list of the things you should register for to get for baby showers once things settle down and the things you'll actually need RIGHT AWAY.  (Not much.  Lots of fuzzy PJs, bottles, formula, burp cloths, a couple of blankets, diapers, and a bassinet or pack and play.)  I was already telling Logan that I'll need to go out this winter or spring to help you and spend time with the baby.  You will have no shortage of help or support!  I will take beautiful pictures of your baby with my camera and we will hang them all over your house.  We can use my new cricut to make baby announcements!  EVERYONE will be thrilled for you, Rachel.  EVERYONE!  And, if the worst should happen, EVERYONE will be devastated with you and be there to do whatever we can.  But NO ONE will withhold their excitement and joy from you.  We love you and Ryan far, far too much for that to happen!!!

I think that you should pray about it and FULLY trust your ability to receive answers from God.  If you feel good about this baby then you GO FOR IT!  Let yourself get excited.  Spend money and plan.  Not allowing yourself to get excited won't make it any easier if things don't work out; you'll be fully committed emotionally either way.  You know you will!  So allow yourself to be joyful!  What if it DOES work out (which I think it will!) and you didn't even allow yourself to be excited about it or celebrate and love that baby from the first moment?!?  You will always regret it.   

You and Ryan are both two of the most thoughtful, spiritual people that I know.  I admire both of you so much and have full confidence in your connection to the Lord.  If you feel one way or another about this baby, then go with it. You've been living the type of lives up until this point that has led you to this moment and prepared you to be able to receive this most important answer.  When you tell us what it is, we will all trust it.  Because we love you.  And we trust you.  And we have all been hoping, and dreaming, and praying for you to receive this blessing.  

Have faith, Sissy!  You were promised joy with your family in this life, and I think that joy is about to begin.  I may have said that before, but I'm saying it again.  If you decide to go for it then I am going to plow ahead so crazily excited that I will burst into tears at at least 12 more cash registers.  I can't help it.  My sister is getting a baby, and I can not imagine a more joyous piece of news!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I love you!

xoxo Sary


Thank you, Sarah, for being my big sister.  I don't know what I would do without you.  Thank you for your exuberance, your joy, your passion, your thoughtfulness, your outrage when things don't go my way, your fierce loyalty, and most of all, your undying love for me, for Ryan, and for this baby that will join our family in August.

That little baby will be one lucky kid to have you as an aunt.

Happy birthday, Sister.  I love you.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

They Say That Good Things Come to Those Who Wait...

A few people have asked me why Ryan is smiling in spite of his black eye in the photos included with the previous post.

Well, I think it’s because we have some happy happy news.

On February 7, as I was driving home from a typical day at school, I got the best phone call I have ever received.

I don’t remember the exact words that the caller used.  Something like, “My name is Katie, and I am Ryan’s second cousin, and I read about you guys in Ryan’s mom’s Christmas letter, and I’m pregnant, and I want you to adopt my baby.”

I nearly drove off the road. 

After a few seconds to let her words sink in, I sputtered out an awesome and articulate reply--something like, “Oh, wow!  That is wonderful!  Thank you!”  (Inadequate, I know, but really, what can you say to the most important words you will ever hear in your entire life?)

One month later, after exchanging dozens of emails with Katie, talking on the phone to her, her mother, and her boyfriend, Drew, (who is totally supportive and awesome), and planning a trip in just a couple of weeks to meet them and go to an ultrasound with her, we are ready to announce:

We will be parents in August 2011.

The depth of our happiness cannot be expressed.  The depth of our gratitude to Katie cannot be expressed.  She is the most selfless, sweet, mature, open, amazing young woman we have ever had the privilege to know.  Really, she is.  She has invited us to be a part of her pregnancy and her life; she has sent us ultrasound videos with descriptions of what is going on in the images; she has communicated so honestly and sensitively with us, never keeping us waiting or playing with our emotions.  In fact, the first time I spoke to her on the phone, she said that she’d read our blog and seen that we’ve had a lot of adoption disappointments—so she’d waited to contact us until she was totally sure of her decision.  She and her boyfriend have talked to everyone involved, including their parents and a case worker with LDS Family Services, and they are certain that they wanted to proceed with an adoption plan.

How can years of pain be washed away by one conversation with a selfless sixteen year old girl whom I have never met but love more than words can say? 

We want to thank both Katie and Drew for the gift that they are giving us.  We cannot wait to meet you both, and we cannot wait to meet our baby in August.  

Friday, March 4, 2011

Jumped

Ryan got jumped as he was walking home from school today.

He was less than half a block from our house when two guys approached him from behind, demanded money, punched him in the face, threw him in the snow, kicked him, took his wallet, and walked away.

As they were wrestling him to the ground, his backpack got flung into the gutter, and they didn't take it with them.  But he was so disoriented and mad when he stood up that he didn't think about his bag and just started kinda following the guys from a distance as he called 9-1-1.  He was trying to see if they would get in a car, so he could get the license plate number.  They disappeared around the corner, and he turned around to go back and get his bag.

But alas, in the one minute that it took him to get his bearings and go back for his bag, someone in a maroon truck had come by and taken the backpack (with his laptop inside).

We aren't totally sure if the two incidents are related or just a bizarre string of bad luck--but a neighbor claims that the same truck circled back around with the two assailants in the back, ran a stop sign, and drove off at top speed.

The neighbors, who all came out onto their porches when they heard the scuffle, were very kind to poor Ryan.  One lady brought him a cold wash cloth to put on his eye; another invited Ryan to sit on his porch while he waited for the police to come.

When the first cop showed up, he asked Ryan where he lived.  "Right there," Ryan said, pointing three houses away.

The cop raised an eyebrow, "Are you a student?"

"Yeah, a dental student."

"You should move," he said matter-of-factly.

Another cop pulled up.  He said to Ryan, "You live on this street?  You should move."

Welp, we are moving in three months, thankfully.  But I feel bad for the residents of Rounds Avenue--I swear our neighbors are super nice, and they can't escape the thugs taking over their neighborhood.  The  lady who brought Ry the wash cloth said, "I hate this neighborhood."

You may remember a blog post with a similar title from a while ago...oh yes, the blog post was entitled "Robbed."

Ryan just said to me, "We lived in this apartment so we could save money.  But with the cost of replacing two laptops and several bikes, do you think we came out ahead?"

Probably not.  But you can't put a price on stories like these.



Oh, Buffalo.  We will miss you.  We really will.

Sisters Trip--Part 2

I had a great time in St. Louis with my older sister, Sarah.  We  went shopping and out to lunch, hung out with her girl friends, and talked far too much!  Of course, the highlight of the trip (no offense, Sary) was seeing my darling little nephew, Callum.

We made a mess baking cookies together:

Uh oh!  Flour got everywhere!
And had a great time playing with a box:

Oh the simple pleasures of life.

It was a relaxing week of fun, and it's a little difficult to be back to "real life" stress and responsibility.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Adoption Blogs

I've written before about the awesome adoption community that there is online.  I've read some great posts on adoption blogs recently, and since I know many of my friends and family don't know too much about adoption except through me, I thought I'd pass along these links:

Amy wrote about what it's like to adopt.

Brittany wrote about learning to be content, no matter the size of your family.

Excellent posts from inspiring ladies!