Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Katie's Story--Part 4

Chapter 6 – And They All Lived Happily Ever After?

It was terrible. That first month was hell. I have never been in a place so dreadful. All I could think was that I had made a terrible mistake. My life was over. What did I have to go on for now? My best friend Drew was at college, my plan to get high school credit at a local college had fallen through, and I had been fired from my job when they found out about the baby. What was I supposed to do now?

I had nothing. Nothing to get my mind off the pain. I walked through life doing nothing. All I could think about was how much I missed my best friend and my baby. No, not my baby. Their baby.

I was angry. I hated Rachel. How fair was it for her to take care of MY hard work? I had been good for nine months. Given my body away for something I couldn’t even keep. I was a mess. I didn’t want to do anything but lay in bed and pretend it hadn’t happened.

I was numb.

The girls at my support group said it would pass – that this hatred and sadness didn’t last forever. I didn’t believe them. It was so hard. I stayed that way for about four weeks. Nothing could console me. One day I would be fine and the next minute I was circling the drain.

Then, on Noah’s one month birthday, something happened. I got on my computer in the middle of the night, and I wrote Rachel and Ryan this email:

Dear Ryan and Rachel,

This has been the best and worst month of my entire life. It seems so crazy that an entire four weeks has already gone by. I'm not even sure if I'll be able to tell you both exactly how I'm feeling right now, but I'll try my best; hopefully it won't sound too scatter brained.

Right now it is 1:31 AM on September 1st. I wasn't sure exactly how I should prepare myself mentally for this day, because I didn't want to be caught off guard by my emotions. This was something I didn't really do before Noah was born, because it was too hard to think about how I would be feeling those first couple days. And honestly, how could I have prepared myself for all the things I've felt since Noah has been alive?  There's just no way to know what to expect.

I hoped today would go all right, and even though the day hasn't completely started yet (since it has only been the 1st for an hour), I think it will turn out to be a good one.

I guess I should start this story at the beginning before I get ahead of myself.

The day Noah was born, I cannot express the happiness that he brought to my life. I have never felt the way I did holding him for the first time and seeing his beautiful little face looking up at mine. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about, and you also know how hard it is to explain that kind of feeling - whatever it was, it was wonderful! Never in those first moments that Noah entered the world did I think about what was coming in the next few days. I could feel nothing but utter joy that this amazing baby boy had finally been born. It was incredible to see how many people were there to see such a tiny thing, and how much love filled that room during his first hour of life.

This feeling continued on into the next day. When everyone was coming to see him, I couldn't feel anything but happy. There wasn't time to be sad, which I'm grateful for because I would have hated the time I spent with him if I had been sad the entire time.

Then on Tuesday night, after the last of everyone had gone home, it finally hit me. Hard. My little baby, my sweet little baby, was going to be gone. For the first time since his existence, I wasn't going to be there right by his side, right there whenever he might need me, right there to take care of him. That was the worst moment of my entire life. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed, and couldn't stop. How was I supposed to let go of this tiny miracle? Never before had I really questioned whether what I was doing was right, but in that moment, nothing seemed more wrong then to place Noah with another family (even one as great as yours). These were things I would never have said out loud at the time though, because I was afraid that by saying them, it would make it impossible to give him to you, which I knew in my heart was where he belonged - no matter how much I wanted things to be different.

That's part of the reason I decided signing the adoption papers should happen before I had gotten to spend tons and tons of time with Noah. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to bring myself to do it if I had been with him too much. Signing was easy; actually walking to your room and placing him in Rachel's arms was the hardest. That night is one I never want to relive again.

Going home from the hospital was strange. I felt numb. I wasn't exactly sad anymore, or maybe I was and had just finally run out of tears... I'm not sure, but whatever it was, I was okay with it. Feeling numb was way better than feeling the way I had earlier. But then, laying in bed while I looked at pictures and videos of Noah, I couldn't stop myself from letting those feelings creep back inside. The only thing that really eased the pain was knowing he was still in Utah for a little while longer, and that I would be able to see him again within the next couple days. If you guys had just left that night, I don't think I would have been able to pull myself together.

The following week I was still feeling okay. It hadn't been long enough for me to really miss him, because it had only been a few days since I had seen him. It wasn't until about two weeks ago that those same feelings started forcing their way back into my head, which is a place I don't like. Actually, I hate it. I hate feeling like there is no hope, and that I had done the wrong thing because in those moments of weakness it is so easy for me to blame everyone except myself for losing him. I hate even going there, and when it's all over (usually the morning after) I know exactly why he is being raised by you two and I know I've made the right decision again. That dark place is a place I try to avoid at all costs if I can. Unfortunately, it's not always so easy to stay away from there.

Lately, especially a lot this past week, I have been thinking about Noah. It seems like everywhere I go, there are things reminding me of him. It also doesn't help that now Drew is gone, so whenever I feel a little down, I can't look forward to seeing him. He always has a way of making me feel better without having to say anything. It's nice to have someone to talk to who can understand how I feel when that dark feeling is taking over.

I was really scared about what I might be feeling today, with both of them not here. But, what I didn't expect was feeling calm, which is exactly how I feel. Today, I know what Drew and I decided was entirely correct for our little baby Noah. It doesn't even really seem like it happened to the same me. Almost like it happened in a different lifetime. I feel at peace with everything.

I was texting Drew earlier tonight, and I'm sure he expected me to be a mess after the bad couple weeks I've had. I bet it was a relief for him to find out I actually feel good about everything. I couldn't be more thrilled that Noah is being raised by a mom and a dad who love him so very much and who can give him all the things I never could have given him. I wanted Noah to have a mommy and daddy who were not only married but were sealed in the temple and would be teaching him about God and the gospel in his life.  I hope one day I can attend Noah’s marriage in the temple. I was raised by those same standards, and even though I've made plenty of mistakes in my life, I'm so glad that I was baptized and that my faith offers me so much to look forward to. That was something I wanted to make sure my son would also have growing up: A healthy family relationship and a love for God.

Without my faith in God, I don't know if I would have been able to accept adoption. It has been such a comfort to me to think that whenever I'm sad, I can just say a prayer and think that He knows exactly what I'm going through and that everything will turn out in the end. It helps so much to think that this is just a challenge He knew I could overcome.

Sorry about getting all churchy. It's probably the most I've talked about the church and how I feel in a long time.

I just want you both to know that I am so happy with my decision to place Noah with you, in such a loving family. And even though at times I might get sad and hateful, I don't really mean it. It's just my way of dealing with this whole thing sometimes. I'm so glad that you are allowing me to be a part of his life. I really cannot thank you enough. I don't know what I would do if this had been a closed adoption.

I love you both so much and there are no two better people on the planet I could think about letting take care of my son.

After Drew and I signed the adoption papers, my dad gave me a Willow Tree statue of an angel girl holding a butterfly up towards the sky so it could fly away. He told me that this was supposed to represent that even though what I was doing was hard, it was the best thing in the end. And even though letting go of Noah and letting him live with a different family would be hard, it would be worth it and so much better for him.

Rachel and Ryan, you are both incredible and I couldn't have asked for a better plan then the one we were given. Everything almost seemed to perfect the way it worked out, which is part of why I know this was meant to be and that God knows this was the right thing for all of us.

Please remind Noah of the reasons Drew and I chose this for him. I can't stand the thought of him ever thinking it was because we didn't want him. We love him so much. 

Everyone knows that if you love someone unconditionally and with your whole heart, then you will do what is best for them, not you. I have never learned a harder lesson than giving Noah up for adoption and I probably never will.  I cannot wait to see all three of you in October, and I hope this email kind of explained a little more about how I was feeling (especially to you Rachel), because I never want you to feel like its your fault when I'm down in the dumps. Sometimes, being depressed is just something you have to be for a little while in order to experience true happiness.

Love Forever,
Katie
. . .

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Katie's Story--Part 3

Chapter 5 – It wasn’t Goodbye, more like See You Later.

I was in labor for twenty-six hours. Noah was born on August 1, 2011 at 1:51 AM. That day at the hospital was sort of a blur. I didn’t have an epidural, and I don’t really remember much of the day that Noah was in the process of greeting the world with his cuteness. But I guess if women remembered all that pain, we would all only have one baby.

When Noah was born it was like a wave of calm and happiness washed over me. I couldn’t stop smiling. He was so handsome. And Rachel and I had been worried he wouldn’t be cute--I can’t help but laugh at how silly that thought is now.

I spent those next couple of days in the hospital with Drew, who after seeing the miracle of birth finally realized how much he loved Noah too. Rachel and Ryan had a room down the hall, and Drew and I decided they should be with Noah at night. On the morning of August 2nd, we signed the papers relinquishing our rights as his official guardians. That was the easy part.

For those few days, so many people came to say hello to our own little superstar. We all couldn’t get enough of him. Really, no one could only stop by once. But on the night of August 2nd, Drew and I told everyone to leave and we spent the last hour we had Noah by ourselves. We held him together and cried with each other. He just laid there peacefully and slept. I have never been so happy and so devastated at the same time. I couldn’t help sobbing, and I never imagined it being that hard. When our hour was up, we asked for a little more time with our precious boy.

We packed all of his things with him in his little baby basket and walked him to Rachel and Ryan’s room. Drew put his arm around my shoulder as I wheeled his little cart. When we saw Rachel and Ryan, I couldn’t stop crying. This was it. This was the last chance for me to turn around and never look back, but I couldn’t do that. That whole day, Ryan and Rachel had looked so happy – they deserved a baby to love more than anyone I had ever met before. When I entered the room, Rachel smiled at me lovingly, and I just started to cry.  I looked over at Drew and picked up tiny little Noah. I put my hand on his cheek and felt his soft skin in my palm.  I took a deep breath and walked the two steps forward to Rachel and handed over their precious baby. The baby I knew they would give as much love, and more, as I would. For a couple minutes Rachel and I stood, embracing, with Noah in the middle of us. We didn’t need words. We just hugged and cried. Finally, I pulled away and gave him a kiss. Drew gave him one too.

That was as much as I could handle. I pulled Drew to my side, we said our good byes, and we left the room. We slowly trudged back to our hospital room. It seemed so empty. So dark. My eyes were flooding with tears and Drew grabbed me. We held each other for what seemed like forever. I was too scared to let go. It was done. It was done. It was done. He was gone. I couldn’t stop shaking and sobbing. I cried out in pain and Drew just held on tight. He was braver than me. Even though he was feeling the exact same way as me, he had to hold it together somewhat for both of us.

. . . 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Katie's Story--Part 2

Chapter 2 – Now what?

Drew’s mom hated me. She always had, and as far as I was concerned, she was not going to love me anytime soon. I had corrupted her son.  How was I supposed to tell this woman that her first grandkid was going to live with another family? I had read about people trying to let their baby be adopted and the birth father’s mother wouldn’t let it happen.

What if that happened to me? I couldn’t take care of this baby.

I thought back to early December and the Christmas card my mom had gotten in the mail. The brown card with the photo of the girl in the wedding dress on the front. Hadn’t that card said something about a couple looking to adopt? Was it the newly married couple? I couldn’t really remember. Back then, I didn’t actually think I would need that card. Now, I didn’t even know where it was. Maybe it was already thrown out. Why would my mom think to keep that card?

That’s what I was thinking about as my twelfth week rolled around. You have to see your doctor before thirteen weeks and I hadn’t made an appointment. I hadn’t even told my parents yet.  I just kept hoping that this problem might disappear somehow. Like it hadn’t really happened to me. How could I be having a baby? I was only 16. Drew wasn’t even an adult yet.

I walked upstairs to my mom and dad’s room late one night and sat down on the edge of their bed. My mom was watching TV and my dad was putting my siblings to bed. For weeks now I had been trying to tell my mom what was going on but it had just never seemed like the right time. And this is what I learned:

It’s never the right time to break your mom’s heart.

She was sad, but for the most part normal. I hadn’t expected that. I thought she would cry, but she didn’t. Not in front of me, anyway. I told my dad and it was about the same reaction. I was shocked. I told them about the brown holiday card.  Those were the people I wanted to give this baby to. It had to be them.

People wonder how I just knew that Rachel and Ryan were the right couple for me when I couldn’t even remember their names. It wasn’t even their card-it was Ryan’s mom’s! But God works in mysterious ways, and you don’t fight what you feel in your heart.

The truth is, every couple out there trying to adopt is the right couple. They are all great people and are so ready to start their forever families.  I knew that if I went searching further for the “right” family to take care of my little baby, they would all be right.  Somehow, I just knew that Ryan and Rachel were who I wanted, so it wasn’t worth my time to try and compare them to someone else.

You can’t do better than perfection.

Chapter 3 – The Second Trimester

It was after school and I was around 16 weeks. I still hadn’t called Rachel, and I was so nervous. How do you call someone up and say, “I’m pregnant and I want you to have my little baby”?

Well, that is exactly what I did.

I’m sure Rachel’s heart practically stopped and I’m very glad she didn’t get into a car wreck (considering the fact that she was driving when she found out this life changing news). We talked for over an hour about me and my plans and who I was exactly. Then we hung up and I called Drew. I had told him I knew who this baby was going to, and he thought whatever I wanted would be the best thing. I just wanted him to know I had told our couple the good news.  He didn’t answer so I left a voicemail.

Later that week, Drew and I had a meeting at LDS Family Services to talk more about the adoption. I drove to his house to pick him up and waited for him to come outside. I waited. And waited. And waited. After many angry and threatening texts Drew came outside. He had been crying. He had just told his mom for the first time. I felt like the most heartless person in the world for being so mean to him for not being on time.

After our meeting, we went back to Drew’s house where his whole extended family was waiting for us. And when I say the whole family, I mean the whole family. This was extremely awkward for me. Drew’s mom said she was sorry for hating me, and that it was different now. Not exactly how I wanted her to start loving me, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers. Since that day, Drew’s family has basically been my family. I love them as much as I do my own flesh and blood.

The rest of this part of the story goes something like this:

Drew turns into a jerk. He acts like a typical teenage father and almost disappears off the face of the earth. His friends are more important than the girl carrying his baby. I get fatter, but not cute baby bump fatter. Just thicker, and one-too-many-cream-filled-doughnuts fatter. My friends stop calling me to come over, and I sit at home watching sad movies and sleeping. School sucks. People start wondering and I could care less. Let them talk.

That pretty much sums up my crappy junior year.

Chapter 4 – Those Summer Nights

I was a whale, an extremely fair colored whale. My best friend tried to make me go outside and get a tan with her, but carrying around an extra life makes you hot already. I didn’t need the sun to heat me up even more.

Drew was gone. He had a life beyond me and was out partying with his friends all the time, on vacations and having fun while I sat in my boring old town because I wasn’t allowed to go on vacations. Dang doctor’s orders…

The only real thing I had to look forward to was Rachel coming to stay with me while my family went to Washington (which happened to be the week Noah was born).  Ryan and Rachel had always gone out of their way to make the pregnancy special for me and to remind me they were thinking about me. I received many care packages in the mail filled with anything they thought might brighten my day. That really helped and cheered me up when I would get a surprise package in the mail after a bad day at school or work.  When Rachel came to stay with me, Drew wasn’t really a huge part of my life. I wanted him to be, but he was dealing with this the only way he knew how: By pretending it wasn’t happening. I wish I could hate him for that, but I can’t help understanding what he was going through. 

Rachel and I hung out almost every day that week: going to dinners, watching movies, even baking cakes for Ryan’s early birthday. Towards the end of the week though, I started to spend more and more time by myself. I was really irritable and just wanted my pregnancy to be over. I wanted to see what my little boy looked like already.

I tried all the ways in the book to make Noah come, and on Saturday, July 30th at midnight my water broke.

. . .

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Katie's Story--Part 1

Now that you’ve heard far too much from me, it’s time for you to hear more from Katie.  I hope you all got to read the letter that she wrote to another birth mom.  My blog was doing crazy things this week with repetitive posts and posts that disappeared.  If you somehow missed Katie's letter that I published a few days ago, scroll down and check it out. 

These are the questions that were submitted for Katie to answer:

-What is your “story”?  What was it like when you found out you were pregnant?  How did you choose adoption?  How did you choose Rachel and Ryan?
-How did people treat you during your pregnancy (those at school, church, in the community, friends and family)?  What was helpful?  What was hurtful?
-Was it helpful to choose your adoptive couple early in the your pregnancy?  If so, how?
-What did Rachel and Ryan do for you throughout your pregnancy that was helpful?  Anything you wish they would’ve done?
-How did you prepare yourself for placement?
-What was the time in the hospital like?  If you had it to do over, would you change anything about that time?  Did Rachel and Ryan do anything that was helpful during those days?  Anything you wish they would’ve done?
-What were the days and weeks after placement like?  What helped you cope?
-Did you ever regret your decision?
-How are you feeling now?
-Has your experience with adoption changed your relationship with your family?  Has it changed your view of yourself or others? 
-What do you think of open adoption?  Does it make it easier or harder for you to see photos of Noah and have visits with him?  What do you envision for the future of the adoption relationship with Noah and Rachel and Ryan?
-Have you changed as a result of the adoption?

In response to all of these questions, Katie wrote ten pages about her experience.  She broke it up into different “chapters,” and I will post a portion every day this week.  I hope you are as excited to read her perspective as I was. 

Chapter 1 – Once Upon A Time

A lot of people might think my story is too good to be true, and they’re right. This story of how I found the perfect couple for my son is too good to be true.  It’s like when you watch those cheesy chick flicks where at the end the nerdy girl gets the perfect hunky guy and they drive off into the sunset, and all you can think about as you’re leaving the theater is, “There was no way that story could ever be true.” Things like that just don’t happen to ordinary people.

But this time, they did.

I was, for the most part, a good girl. I had tried the whole “bad girl” scene and decided it wasn’t for me. I finally had the life I had been searching for since I’d moved three years previous. I had the friends, I had the grades, the world’s best boyfriend. I had it all. The relationship with my parents had been slowly rebuilding to what it once had been, and for the most part I was happy. It was the first time in a very long time that I had been happy with my life.

I asked Drew, my best friend and also my boyfriend of half a year, if he would want to go to the Christmas Dance with me. The Christmas Dance marked the day before our one year anniversary of meeting each other, and of course he agreed to go with me. To everyone, it seemed as if nothing was wrong. Everything was fine and dandy.

At least for everyone except me.

Our dance group had Chinese food at my house before the dance. We were all having a good time, but inside I couldn’t help but feel sick to my stomach – literally. I just smiled and pretended like it hadn’t been five and a half weeks since I’d had my last period or the fact that I felt like going to sleep even though it wasn’t even eight o’clock.

The evening turned to night and the dance was almost over. I had a great time and before we left, I headed to the bathroom with my best friend. Still, the little spot of blood wasn’t there. She knew I was worried and asked me if what I suspected might be wrong was really happening. I blamed it on the stress of planning the dance, that’s why it hadn’t come yet.

But I knew the real reason why. You don’t need anyone to tell you – when you know, you know. Some stupid test doesn’t change what you already know.

The rest of the night I tried to keep from vomiting as we played games. Well, everyone else played games and I fell asleep on Drew’s shoulder. It had been a long day, that’s why I was so exhausted. I kept telling myself that, even though I didn’t really believe it.
The next few days flew by and there was no period. I drove to Planned Parenthood so they could tell me what I already knew was the truth. I was pregnant. I was six weeks. And I knew what I had to do, but could I do it?’

“If you are indeed pregnant, what are you going to do?” the nurse asked.

“I dunno,” I replied. “Adoption. Maybe I’ll decide to keep it. But not abortion. Definitely not abortion.”

I cried then. I cried and then I was done crying. What was there to cry about really? You shouldn’t cry over babies, at least not a sad cry.

I called Drew and he came over after work. My family was gone, so we were alone. Before I even opened my mouth, he understood. He kept pacing and saying, “We screwed up big time Katie. We screwed up.”

And that was the truth. We had screwed up. Katie had most certainly screwed up.

. . .  to be continued tomorrow

Friday, November 25, 2011

Looking Back: Journal Entry, June 6, 2011

**To celebrate National Adoption Month, I have been posting some of my journal entries (written in the midst of our waiting) to try to give a clearer picture of what it's like to adopt.  This journal entry was written four months after Katie first contacted us, two months before Noah was born.
---
June 6, 2011

When I was visiting Sarah in St. Louis in February, right after Katie found out the gender of the baby, we went shopping for some baby clothes.  Sarah asked me how I was feeling—was I still sad about my infertility? Or had that been cancelled out by my excitement about the adoption?  Did I wish we were shopping for maternity clothes?

It was an interesting question—and a thoughtful one.  I felt grateful that she acknowledged the fact that I might still have some infertility sadness, since I felt too ungrateful admitting that to anyone.  I told her that, yes, I was still sad about my infertility, but it was okay because of my excitement about the adoption.  I told her that I’d learned to let go of my old dreams and to form new ones instead.

I’ve had to let go of a lot of dreams, both with fertility and adoption.  At least for now, I’ve had to let go of the dream of being pregnant and giving birth to Ryan’s baby—a little boy or girl with his eyes and sweet nature.  But I’ve formed a new dream: Kneeling across from Ryan at an altar in the temple, our little baby all dressed in white in between us, being sealed to us forever.  A different moment, but surely just as sweet.  I’ve also had to let go of some adoption dreams, like getting a baby while we were still in Buffalo so I could be close to all of my friends.  I even had the dream of getting the baby with just a few weeks notice, not telling any of my friends, and then just inviting them over for dinner and surprising them.  (Man, that would’ve been fun.)  Instead, I will have to wait for six long months for the baby to arrive, and I won’t be with my friends when he comes.  But my new dream is forging a special and close relationship with Katie, as we support each other through the pregnancy.

A few months ago, my friend Nelda wrote me the most profound letter (she’s good at that), and in the midst of telling me about a disappointment in her life, she wrote, “Sometimes our disappointments are someone else’s tender mercies.”  I don’t know why that line hit me with such force, but it felt like a direct answer to my prayers.  My infertility disappointment will hopefully be a tender mercy for Katie.  Our adoption disappointments (with so many birth moms changing their minds about us) eventually became other adoptive couples’ tender mercies as they received babies.  I used to feel jealous of those families that ended up with “our” babies, but now I can see that things have worked out the way that they were supposed to.

Nelda’s letter, which was dated February 13 (just a few days after we were initially contacted by Katie and before I was telling anyone), went on to say, “I went to the temple yesterday morning, thinking about you and Ryan.  The temple is only two blocks from my house, so when I walk there I like to think about people who anciently went up to the temple in Jerusalem with their lambs or doves, ready to offer something to God.  Yesterday, I was thinking about Elizabeth and Zacharias, whose prayers for a child probably included sacrifices.  But I don’t have any doves to offer for Rachel and Ryan, I thought, so what should I bring?  And I didn’t come up with an answer, other than the thought to write a letter to you, and to put your names on a little slip of paper to be prayed over in the temple.  I heard a story recently about a Japanese fisherman who had a special request of his ancestors, so he rang the shrine’s bell three times to get his ancestors’ attention.  And I thought about how wonderful it is to know that God’s attention is already on us, no bell-ringing required.  I love you, Hermana, and wish you the best of Februarys.”

I am so blessed to have people in my life like Nelda, who think about me and pray for me and share in my joys and my pains.  Feeling so much love and support was an unexpected dream come true throughout this adoption journey—something I probably wouldn’t have felt if I didn’t have fertility problems. 

Life doesn’t always (or ever) turn out as planned—but God always has beautiful things in store for us.   Somehow, He can always make “beauty for ashes.”
---
I think it's appropriate that this journal entry be posted during Thanksgiving Week.  Ryan and I have so much to be grateful for.  The experience of adopting Noah has been a dream come true in so many ways.  We are thankful for him, for Katie and Drew, for family members and friends who have offered so much support and love, for our religion and the hope that it brings us, and most of all, for a loving Father in Heaven who brought little Noah Bug into our family.  

I recently attended the funeral of a close family friend.  Her life was one of challenges but always of joy and faith.  She lost her mother at 15, and as an adult, she struggled with a period of depression and a period of infertility.  In spite of her trials, she was one of the happiest, kindest, most Christ-like people I've ever know.  She died of ovarian cancer, though she was only in her early fifties.  I left her memorial service feeling inspired to follow her example and live a better, fuller, happier life. 

Last Easter, she wrote her family a letter explaining how she had gained a testimony of Jesus Christ throughout her life, and her daughter read it at the funeral.  She started in her childhood and touched on those experiences throughout her life that had defined and tried her faith.  As she wrote about her years of infertility, she quoted a scripture from Job 23.  It brought tears to my eyes.

     "Behold I go forward, but He is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive Him:
     On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold Him; He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him.  
     But He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."

I related so much to the longing expressed in the first few verses--the desire to find God and to know His will for your life.  The waiting and wondering and praying and pleading.  And then the declaration that even through those times of darkness and confusion, when it seems so difficult to decipher God's hand in your life, "He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."

I have learned so much and grown so much through our adoption journey.  I would not change a moment of the heartache due to what it has taught me and where it has lead me.  

After all, it lead to me this:


And surely that picture is my dream come true.  

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!!!  

Looking Back: Journal Entry, April 17, 2011


**To celebrate National Adoption Month, I have been posting some of my journal entries (written in the midst of our waiting) to try to give a clearer picture of what it's like to adopt. 

With this journal entry, I wanted to illustrate that even after we had been chosen, there were still lots of moments of uncertainty, worry, sadness, and guilt. 
--
April 17, 2011

Dear Baby,

Little one, I am sad tonight.  I haven’t really heard from Katie in a month, and I am worried about her.  I think about her every day and wonder how she is doing.  I know she must be showing by now, and I wonder how her peers at school are reacting to her pregnancy.  I wonder how she is feeling physically and emotionally. I wish I could be closer to her and to you during this pregnancy. I am envious of people who get to carry their babies with them throughout an entire pregnancy.  It must be amazing to have your baby inside of you—to have him with you all the time and to feel him and to know that he is growing, thriving, and on his way.  Right now, you feel so far away from me.

Sometimes I feel so very guilty that Katie is enduring all of the physical and emotional hardships of this pregnancy, and she won’t even get the reward of having you. Sometimes I think she must hate me for that.  I really hope that she doesn’t because I love her, and I love you, and I don’t want to cause anyone any pain. 

Oh how I pray I will hear from her soon.

Love you, Baby.
Mom

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Looking Back: Email to Katie, February 28, 2011

**Throughout Katie's pregnancy, she and I often wrote each other long emails.  I have kept all of them.  They are in my journal, and I am also going to put them in a special book for Noah to read someday.  I decided to post this email to Katie because it records how my family supported me throughout the infertility/adoption process, as well as how God reminded me through small "tender mercies" that He was aware of me and my situation.  Though He can't always intervene to save us from heartache, He is always there.
___

Date: February 28, 2011
Subject: God Answers Prayers, Even Little Ones

Hi, Katie!

I am stuck in an airport in Detroit without a cell phone to call Ryan and tell him what's going on.  Man, life can be inconvenient sometimes!  

My getting stuck in this airport is a long and harrowing story...and since I have nothing to do whilst sitting here and waiting for the next flight...and since I want to record this story for my posterity...I'll go ahead and tell you the entire tale.  I hope you don't get bored!  The day after our last failed adoption, I wrote a blog post titled "Heartbroken" about all of our disappointments in trying to get a child.  My aunt Muriel, who is a famous artist, read it, and she said that she just started crying for me, and she wanted to do something to help--she wanted to fix it, but she knew she couldn't.  So, instead, she decided to do something to show me that she loves me and is constantly thinking of us and praying for us to get a baby: she did a painting.  I was so touched because this is a woman who literally gets thousands of dollars for her paintings, and she did one just for me.  Such a sweet and thoughtful gesture of support.  The painting is of a baby inside of an avocado—that sounds a little weird, I know, but she said that it was a "fertile image" and that she was sending lots of "good baby mojo" our way. :)  (I love that woman.)  Interestingly, you contacted me just a few days after she sent me a photo of the finished painting.  And even more interesting, the day after you called me--literally, the day after when no one but Ryan, Sally, and my dad knew about you--she emailed me this message:

"Hi honey!
I had a dream with YOU in it last night. Sometimes I do have such strange dreams...almost a pre-cog kind of thing. I am wondering if there is some baby action running high right now? OK this will sound weird to you because it did to me! I was with you and your sisters and all of us were creating things. Cooking creations, art creations, crafty creations all together in the same room~ and the strangest thing....I WAS PREGNANT! It was a bit disturbing to me in the dream even. But when I woke up, I realized it was you who was pregnant in my dream, not me...hmmmmmmm~I wondered if there was something big going on. Or am I just the crazy aunt? Yeah, that could be true too! (=
Love you and hope that my dream was a hint of things to come (one can be pregnant with potential adoption too you know!)!
XOXOXO
Auntie Muriel"

Crazy, huh?  It's like the woman has ESP!  

Anyway, this aunt lives in St. Louis, so she gave me my painting while I was visiting my sister this week.  It was all cardboarded up to protect it, and I brought it as one of my carry-ons on the flight.  I also have a ginormous and heavy duffel bag because I didn't want to pay to check a bag.  Well, the flight from St. Louis to Detroit went off without a hitch, and I was careful to protect the painting.  But then, I went to the bathroom in the airport at my layover in Detroit, and I accidentally left the painting in the stall!!!!  I was so weighed down by my big duffel that I didn't realize it.  I had a very short layover, so I hustled to my next gate (which was literally across a huge airport in a totally different concourse), and I just made it to the gate as they were boarding.  Standing in line, I looked down at my duffel, and it dawned on me: "I left the painting in the bathroom."   I completely panicked.  I stood frozen for about thirty seconds trying to decide what to do: If I run for the painting, I will almost definitely miss my flight...But if I don't run for the painting, I will be losing a priceless and precious heirloom from someone who really loves me...If I run for the bathroom and I miss the flight, I will probably have to pay big bucks to rebook a ticket to Buffalo...If I get on the flight, I could probably call Lost and Found and get the painting shipped to me, but I've lost stuff in airports before, and it was never found...

Finally, I just started running.  I knew that the painting could not be replaced.  I ran all the way across the airport hauling my ridiculous duffel bag.  I wanted to just throw it into a corner and come back for it later, but I was afraid that I would cause a bomb scare.  (Crazy girl throwing a bag in a corner and then sprinting away probably wouldn't look so good in an airport.)  By the time I got to the bathroom, I was so out of breath.  I was coughing and panting and praying (literally).  It wasn't in the bathroom, so I ran out to ask a janitor or worker if they had seen anything.  Unfortunately for me, I chose the meanest Delta worker in the history of mankind to ask.  She was so snippy, and when I told her that the painting was really important to me, she said, "Well, if it was so important to you, maybe you should've held on to it."  Uhhhhhh....DUH LADY!  DON'T YOU THINK I KNOW THAT?  Thanks so much for your empathy and compassion!

The mean lady told me to go try the airport Lost and Found but she doubted it would be there.  At this point, I started bawling.  

I started to walk toward the Lost and Found, saying a silent prayer asking Heavenly Father to help me find the painting.  All of the sudden, I had the thought that the painting was probably still close by.  After all, it had been less than an hour.  I turned around and found another flight attendant.  Luckily, she was really nice, and she actually tried to help me instead of making me feel like an idiot.  After a few minutes of searching, she found the painting behind one of the gate desks (someone had brought it from the bathroom).  Talk about relief!!  By this point, I had missed my flight, and when I told her that, she rebooked me on a later flight for free.  I was so grateful!  

Anyway, I wanted to record this story because I plan to hang the painting in the baby's nursery, and I want the baby to know that the painting was created by my Aunt Muriel's love and was saved in the Detroit airport by God's love.  

Stories of God helping people find things sometimes really bother me.  When I hear people bear testimony that God helped them find their CTR ring or cell phone or whatever, I think it somewhat trivializes the true meaning of prayer.  I always think, "There are people in this congregation who have been earnestly praying for years for God to bless them with children or heal them of a terminal disease or help them overcome destructive addictions...If God hasn't yet answered their heart wrenching prayers, how is it going to make them feel to hear that He has responded to such trivial concerns?"  Yet, I do think that God helped me find the painting.  Despite my skepticism of such tales, I had the thought, "The painting is around here.  Talk to someone else."  Maybe God can't always solve all of our biggest problems (such as infertility or disease) because they are just part of the mortal experience and the test...but He can show His love for us by helping out with little things along the way--those "tender mercies" that let us know that He is listening and wants to help us in any way that He can.

Anyway, that was a long story!!  I told you it might be boring!

My flight is now boarding, and I don't want to miss another one, so I better run.  Thanks for listening, and I'll write later.  :)  I can't wait to finally see Ryan in just a few hours.  This has been quite a week!

xo
Rachel

Aunt Muriel's painting hanging in Noah's nursery.  (Sorry the picture quality isn't great.)
Doesn't the baby look like him with the wild brown hair?  She really does have ESP! :)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

From One Birth Mom to Another

 A friend of mine recently emailed me asking how she could support a friend who is placing her baby for adoption in the very near future.  She wanted to know what to say to assure her that she is making the right decision.  (We will get to my thoughts on this question in another post.)  She ended the email by asking me if I could ask Katie what she should say to support this friend of hers (since Katie would obviously know a lot better than either of us).  I forwarded the email to Katie, and the next day, I got the most beautiful letter in response.  It was not addressed to me or to my friend--it was addressed to the brave young woman who is about to place her baby with an adoptive family.  I love Katie's amazing insight, and man, can she write.  Most seventeen year olds do not express themselves this articulately (believe me, as a former high school English teacher, I know).  I asked Katie if I could post the letter on this blog, so any birth mother who needs strength can read it.  Katie agreed.  She is a really open person and has written a series of posts about her experience which I will be posting next week.  So this is just your first taste of the amazing woman that Katie is.  I love and admire her.

--

Dear Friend,

My name is Katie. I am 17 years old and I placed my baby boy for adoption on August 2nd, almost four months ago. I don’t know your story, or how you’re doing, I don’t even know your name but I wanted to write you this letter so you could know a little about me and my experience.

Letting my son be adopted was the best decision I have ever made, but it was also the hardest. When I found out I was pregnant, I immediately knew the right thing for me to do would be to give that baby the best life possible. I was only 16, I wasn’t ready to be a parent, and neither was my boyfriend. How could I be a mom when I was still living with my mom? There were so many questions about what I should do, but in reality the only thing I felt was right was adoption.

I started going to group sessions at my local LDS Family Services, and they helped a lot! I was super nervous before I went to my first one, but after the second or third time I was hooked. The girls there all knew what I was going through and it helped me understand that life goes on after adoption, and it isn’t sad forever.

The decision you’re making is the most selfless decision you could ever make. I have the greatest respect for you and what you’re doing. But, just because your decision is selfless doesn’t mean that part of it isn’t selfish. I wanted my son to have the best life, but I also didn’t want to be a mother. And that’s okay. It’s okay to not want to be a mother yet.

I’m going to tell you what I hated hearing in the weeks leading up to when my son was born, and you’ll probably hate it as much as I did: It does get better. For me, the turning point was the night of his first month birthday, September 1st. I was sitting at my house, looking at pictures of my beautiful baby boy and hoping that the bad feelings inside of me would stop and that I would stop crying long enough to be happy for my little guy making it to one month. One month had gone by since he had been mine. Mine for a day. That was the happiest day of my life, and not only because he was mine, but because I knew that the next day he would be someone else’s. Someone I knew would love him as much as I did. I was happy that first week. I had done the right thing, and I knew it. So I was happy.

But then week two rolled around, and I suddenly felt devastated. It had been a while since I had seen him last. What had I done? That baby was mine, I knew he had to be mine, why else would I be feeling this kind of loss and pain? I was angry and hurt. Nobody understood, except the girls at Group. They knew exactly how I was feeling those few weeks. They told me it would pass, but I didn’t believe them. I didn’t think it would ever be the same with me, I missed him so much. I would lay awake at night looking at his pictures and videos I had taken, and I would cry. I would cry and then fall asleep and wish that tomorrow would be a better day.

On top of that, my best friend and boyfriend left for college a week later. My two favorite people in the world were gone, at least for a while. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Things in my life just kept not working out and I swore I had made the wrong decision. I was supposed to keep my son, that’s why nothing was going right.

But I was wrong.

September 1, 2011. That was the night I finally realized that it would be okay. It felt like someone had wrapped a warm blanket around me and was telling me that everything was exactly the way it was supposed to be. I was reading something my adoptive mom had written about my son and I couldn’t help but feel comforted knowing how much love that baby was getting. So much love.

So I’m sitting here writing to you that yes, it sucks. It sucks big time at first. But I promise you that one day, I don’t know when that will be for you, it will be okay. You will know in your heart that you did the best for your little tiny miracle. You are giving the most precious gift to someone that nobody else could ever give them. Your adoptive couple will be so thankful for this, and I am too. I wish more of my friends were brave enough to do the best for their children.

It takes a lot of strength to go through something like this. Not only did we have to suffer through nine months of morning sickness, leg cramps, and a twenty-six hour labor with no pain medication (been there, trust me), then we are expected to give up that thing that we have been fighting for the past year of our lives. Giving up our time to just give it to someone else. That’s brave. Not very many people are as brave as the girls like us.

Life is hard and the road is rocky and treacherous, but you are one step closer to giving your beautiful baby a jump start on life; a little leap of a better shot. You are not being cruel. You are being a mother. A mother only wants what’s best for her children. I wasn’t what was best for my son. I knew that, but it didn’t make it any easier. Time is all you have.

In the hospital don’t have any regrets. If you want to have alone time with your baby, take it. If you want to sing and read that child stories then do it. Do everything you want to do, because that time is your time. Not anyone else’s. No one should be able to take that away from you.

The hardest part for me wasn’t signing the papers relinquishing my rights; it was when I actually walked my sweet little boy to my adoptive parents. I had spent the last hour in pure agony. I sobbed and held that baby tight, and gave him the last kiss as his mommy. I cradled him in my arms and handed him to his new mother who held us both and we all cried together, hugging each other a little while longer. Remember, when you’re saying good bye, that it’s not good bye, more like good luck and see you soon.

I will never forget the look on my adoptive parents’ face when they were looking at their new baby. He was never mine. I know that now. He was always meant to be theirs. It used to be hard to say that out loud, but now that I know it’s so true, it’s easy.

I hope this has helped you, even just a little bit. I hope everything with you goes well and that you don’t ever regret your decision (even though all us birth moms do). I hope you understand that it will be okay and it will get better, I promise.

God loves you and your baby; He knows what’s best for both of you. Remember, God only gives us the challenges He knows we can manage. We are the strongest people that can be, and He knows that too. He knows that we can do this for those who couldn’t enjoy being parents without us. I love you, and I love what you are doing.

 From one birth mom to another,
 Katie

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Looking Back: Journal Entry, February 12, 2011


**To celebrate National Adoption Month, I am posting some of my journal entries (written in the midst of our waiting) to try to give a clearer picture of what it's like to adopt.  
--
February 12, 2011

A week ago (last Saturday), I had a very sad day.  I just felt empty inside, aching for our baby, wondering when it would happen.  I was starting to lose hope and faith.  I lay on the bed and just felt so very discouraged.  I prayed fervently for Heavenly Father to send me some guidance.

Later that evening, I started surfing adoption blogs.  I like to read adoption blogs sometimes because they help me realize that there are lots of women out there who understand what I am going through, and reading their stories gives me hope that something will work out for us in the Lord’s time.  I read a blog post by a girl named Brittany who said that, after months of waiting, she got a phone call at work one day from LDS Family Services.  She said that when she saw the Caller ID, she just knew that they had been chosen by a birth mom.  Before she even picked up the phone, she “knew.”

I filed that story away in my memory.  Sometimes I hear stories like that with adoption—that birth mothers "just know" when they’ve found the right family, or adoptive couples "just know" when they read that special email contact.  I’m never sure if I can totally believe those stories.  Are they just exaggerated because human beings love to feel like there is great meaning in all of our life experiences?  To be honest, sometimes those stories almost freak me out a little because they set such a high expectation of what it “should” feel like.  I start to think, “If I don’t get a lightening bolt answer like that, does it mean it isn’t right?” 

Anyway, reading Brittany’s story didn’t make me feel freaked out; it actually made me feel a little better because she did end up getting her baby, and it reminded me that I will too.  That, plus prayer, scripture study, and a good talk with Ryan and Natalie Dayton, left me feeling much better.  In fact, all day Sunday and Monday, I felt really peaceful.  I almost felt like it was a premonition that something was coming—very soon—and I almost half expected to see “the” email in my Inbox each time I checked over those couple of days.

Well, I was right.  Something was coming.  But it didn’t come in the form of an email; it came as a phone call.

I was driving home from work on Monday (it was February 7, for the sake of posterity), and I looked down at my ringing phone to see an area code 801 phone number that I didn’t recognize.  I immediately thought, “This is probably a birth mom.”  But then I thought, “That’s nuts—how could it be a birth mom?  It’s not like our phone number is published with our adoption profile.  How would a birth mom get our phone number?”  But for some crazy reason, I really felt that I “knew” it was going to be serious news about our adoption.  (I don’t know if it was the story from the blog I’d read or what.)  After deciding that it couldn’t possibly be a birth mom, my next thought was, “Maybe it’s a case worker in Salt Lake telling us we’ve been chosen.”

When I answered the phone, an obviously nervous young woman said, “Hi, is this Rachel?” 

I answered, “Yes it is,” and my heart started to pound.

“Is now a good time to talk?” she asked without identifying herself further.  As soon as she uttered those words, I knew without a doubt that it was a birth mom.

“Yes, this is a good time to talk,” I said, holding my breath a little.

I don’t remember exactly what she said next.  All I know is that it came out in a tumble of words—like she had been holding them back for quite some time and was rushing to get them out.  I remember hearing “Katie….related to Ryan…I want to give you my baby.”

I literally could not speak.  A million thoughts flashed through my mind: “What is the appropriate response right now?” “Is the baby already born?”  “Is this really happening??”

I sputtered for several seconds.  You may think that’s an exaggeration, but it’s not…I literally sputtered, “That’s—welll---wow, that’s---that’s…” and then I burst out, “That’s wonderful!” 

HOW LAME IS THAT??????!!!!!!  “That’s wonderful!”???  Really, Rachel?!  That’s the best you could come up with in response to some of the most important words you will ever hear in your entire life?  I think I followed it up with, “Wow!  I don’t know what to say!  Thank you!”  Oh my gosh, I was a babbling idiot!!

 At that point, I swung my car over to the side of the road.  I couldn’t drive and have a conversation like that one I was about to have.  (For the record, I was pulled over on Eggert Road, just a few blocks away from home.)  As she and I continued to talk, the details unfolded.  She is 16 and lives in Utah.  She is Ryan’s second cousin, but we've never met her.  Just after she had found out that she was pregnant, she saw Sally’s Christmas card, which said, “We ask friends and family to pass along Ryan and Rachel’s name if you're aware of any potential adoption situations that might be promising for them.” 

Apparently, she just stumbled upon the Christmas card, and after she read those words, she never considered anyone else.  She hadn’t even seen our adoption profile or our blog, and yet she had already picked us.  I am totally amazed by that.  After all of the time and effort we poured into the “perfect” profile, it was God that guided her to us, not our own efforts.  It is a miracle.  When I had asked Sally to mention our desire to adopt in her Christmas card, I wasn’t sure she would do it.  It is a little awkward to put in a Christmas card, but I got the idea because Grandpa mentioned it in his Christmas letter to friends and family, so I thought why not ask Sally to mention it in hers?  (Thank you, Grandpa, for the idea!!!) But she did do it (though she admits now that she was a little hesitant), and it turned out to be the miracle we needed!!

Anyway, Katie didn’t tell her parents about her pregnancy until she was out of her first trimester.  When she did finally tell them, about two weeks ago (she is 15 weeks pregnant now), she also told them that she is sure about adoption and that she wants the baby to go to us.  At that point, she still hadn’t even seen our profile and didn’t really know anything about us.  Amazing!

Katie’s dad called Sally and told her that he knew of a young woman who was pregnant and considering adoption.  He asked her if Ryan and I were still looking to adopt; he asked about our personalities and if we were willing to do an open adoption; she gave him our blog and profile web addresses. 

At that point in the conversation, he said, “Sally, it’s my daughter.”

Apparently, she immediately started to cry.  She was overwhelmed with emotion thinking about how Katie's dad must be feeling.  At the end of the conversation, he told Sally not to say anything to us.  He said, “This is totally Katie’s decision; I will give her this information, and then we will let her decide.”  So Sally didn’t know for sure if anything would come of it or when they were planning to contact us.  I’m sure she was dying!

A few days later (Monday afternoon), Katie herself called Sally and asked for my cell phone number.  Sally chatted with her for a minute, but Katie didn’t confirm whether or not she had picked us.  So Sally was waiting by the phone when I called an hour or two later to tell her the happy news! :)

Anyway…that was kind of the background story…back to my conversation with Katie: I think I was super awkward because I was caught so off guard by the phone call.  When I’ve talked to other birth moms, I’ve had notice, so I’ve brainstormed questions in advance, prayed for guidance, and felt really composed and peaceful.  During this phone call, I was grappling for things to say and ask her--I knew I had a million questions, and yet not a single one came to mind.  I found out that she and her boyfriend, Drew, are still together but recognize that they can’t raise a baby when they’re both so young.

I told her that we’ve had a lot of adoption disappointments, and the last few months have been really difficult.  She said, “I know—I read a lot of your blog.  After I read about what you’ve been through, I decided that we couldn’t contact you until we were totally positive.  We needed to make sure that both sets of parents were on board.  We just told Drew’s mom this weekend, and she is supportive of adoption and excited about you guys, so we decided to contact you and move forward.”  I am blown away that she has thought all of this through and is being so considerate of our feelings.  She is youngest of all of the birth moms we've talked to, and yet she seems the most mature and compassionate.

I am sitting here trying to recall the rest of the conversation, but it is blurry.  I think I was in shock.  I did get her email address and phone number so I could follow-up with her later after I’d processed everything.  It was just such an unexpected turn of events.  It’s not very often that a situation renders me speechless, but this one honestly did. 

After I got off the phone with Katie, I immediately called Sally.  I was talking through everything with her while also trying to make dinner for a lady from our church who just had a baby.  Because of my excitement, I was not multi-tasking very well, so I finally gave up on making dinner and drove to the grocery store and bought a rotisserie chicken, bagged salad kit, and French bread and then dropped it off to the family.  I still hadn’t seen Ryan since 7:00 in the morning, and as I drove home, I got a little giddy thinking about how I would break the news.

When I got home, I couldn’t stop smiling.  Like really cheesily grinning.  You’d think he would’ve noticed something was up, but he didn’t seem to notice anything was out of the ordinary.  I sat him down on the couch and told him.  He was amazed and excited and shocked, just like me.

The first two days, I’d say the news didn’t really sink in.  I told a few people, but I am just more guarded in my excitement after what we’ve been through.  On Thursday, I got a really amazing email from her in which she answered a lot of my questions and really opened up to me.  As I read her words, I just started to love her, and for the first time, I let myself get really really excited.  I stayed up late writing a lengthy email reply, and after I was done, I snuggled into Ryan (who was sleeping peacefully beside me), and I kept saying, “I’m so happy, Ry!  I’m so happy!”

Today, though, I must admit that I feel worried and terrified.  I don’t want to be—I just want to be happy—but she has six months to change her mind, and I am so worried that she will.  Though she claims she is certain, she can’t feel the baby inside of her yet.  Should I really trust my heart to this situation?  Should we really take down our adoption profile and proceed with faith in this opportunity? Is this worry and fear going to consume me for the next six months?  (The baby is due August 11th.)  Am I going to worry if I don’t hear back from her for lengthy spans of time?  Will she want to communicate with me as much as I want to communicate with her?  How can I support her and be there for her?  How do I know if I am being too pushy? 

These are the questions that occupy my mind now. 

It’s been a good week—an exhausting week in a lot of ways—but I think our baby is really on his/her way to us.  Oh how I hope he/she is!!