Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Week with Katie--Noah's Adoption Story Part 2

I got to spend the week prior to Noah’s birth with Katie.  Her family was out of town, so I went to Utah to hang out.  I stayed at Ryan’s grandpa’s condo in Salt Lake, not too far from where Katie lives, and she and I did something fun together every day.  Ryan drove to Utah with me for the weekend, and on Saturday night, we took Katie and Drew on a “double date” to Hires Big H and then to play Kan Jam in the park.  So fun.

On Sunday, we made a cake.  I know that sounds random, but Katie loves to decorate birthday cakes; it’s something that she does for every member of her family, and she is really good at it.  This is something I would like to do for Noah, as a yearly reminder of his birth mom, so I asked her to teach me how.  We made a sports-themed birthday cake for our own Dr. Ryan and my soon-to-be-sister-in-law, Sara.  (Sara just got engaged to Ryan’s little brother, Cole, over the weekend—hooray!—we couldn’t be happier for them!)  The cake turned out amazing, thanks to Katie.  All I did was the green grass frosting on the cupcakes.  I’m afraid Noah’s cakes might be pretty pathetic (like Laney’s J), unless Katie comes every year to help me.  That night, we had a family dinner/birthday party with Ry’s brothers and their fiancés—it was fun for everyone to meet Katie.  I love that she wanted to meet the people who are going to be important in Noah’s life.

You know I love your awesome cakes, Laney, but they just don't compare to this one. :)

Ryan flew home on Sunday night, so Katie and I were on our own for “girl time” the rest of the week.  We got massages, went to The Melting Pot for dinner, stayed up way too late watching movies, (she had never seen Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, While You Were Sleeping, or A Beautiful Mind…so we watched all three!), went out to lunch with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, and went to dinner with her grandma.  We had fun shopping for some things for her hospital bag, including lots of snacks.  At one point, we were trying to decide between the Hazlenut or the French Vanilla Pirouette cookies (seriously to die for), and Katie said, “Well I want to be able to share them with my guests—and you’re going to want to eat some too, right?”  I nodded vigorously.  “Then I think we need both flavors!” she said, grinning and throwing them in the cart.  Girl after my own heart!!

The opportunity to spend a week bonding and preparing ourselves emotionally for the huge event we were about to share was priceless.  I will always treasure my memories of that week with Kate.  We had many good talks about life, the baby, our hopes for an open relationship after the adoption, and our futures.  We also talked a lot about baby names.  (Ryan and I narrowed it to about five options, and then we asked for Katie's and Drew's input--it was important to us that all four of us love the name.)  Katie and I also went on a tour of the labor-and-delivery wing of the hospital where she would be delivering and attended a support group of birth moms at the adoption agency.  It was just a perfect week, and I am so glad we got that time.

I know a lot of people are freaked out by open adoption, and I do think in some cases, open adoption could be difficult.  But in this case, it feels so right.  I don’t think there is a limit to love.  How can it harm Noah to know that he is loved by so many people?  From an outsider’s perspective, it might seem strange that Katie and I are so close, but let me assure you that there is nothing strange about it.  There is not awkwardness or jealousy or resentment or possessiveness between us.  Ryan and I probably wouldn’t be able to have this relationship with just any birth parents, but we feel so comfortable with Katie and Drew--and so truly blessed to have them in our lives.

To me, when it is feasible and a healthy situation, open adoption is ideal for everyone involved: Noah will know his birth mom and dad—he will never have to wonder if they loved him or what they are like—he will know their reasons for choosing adoption; Katie and Drew will hopefully feel peace in the decision they made to place Noah for adoption as they see that he is happy, loved, and thriving in our home; and we will continue to be blessed by their friendship and love for us and for Noah.

Just before Noah’s birth, a wise friend of mine wrote me a letter, and I’ve been thinking about what she said ever since:  “Your little boy, even though he hasn’t even been born yet, has managed to bring so many universes together…There are people who work their whole lives trying to bring others together and to teach them about being kind, considerate, and selfless to each other--and this little baby has already started!  As all of you figure out in the coming months and years how your relationships will grow and change, this little baby will keep on providing opportunities for everyone to learn more about love.” 

I couldn’t agree more, and I know that the time Katie and I spent together in the week prior to Noah’s birth strengthened our relationship in a way that made the moments after his birth truly perfect.  When I see this photo, all I see and feel is love:

As you can probably imagine, the last month hasn't been easy for Katie and Drew, as they've been missing Noah.  Katie recently posted a link to this song on her Facebook, and it brought tears to my eyes.  She is so brave.

Please keep Katie and Drew in your prayers.  We love them so very much.  

Monday, August 29, 2011

Beauty for Ashes--Noah's Adoption Story Part 1

Baby Noah will be four weeks old tomorrow.  I simply can't believe it.  Sometimes I look at him, and I can't believe he's actually here--I'm actually a mom--I have a son!  Other times, I look at him, and I can't believe he hasn't always been here--he's just such a natural part of our family--he was always meant to be here.

There were many days in the past several years when I truly and honestly wondered if I would ever be a mother.  It started to seem impossible.  A pattern had been established: All of my pregnancy tests were negative, and all of our adoption opportunities fell through.  That's just the way it was and the way it would always be.

Looking back on it now, it seems almost silly that I was so disheartened.  I should've known that God always had a plan for our family.  And I guess I did know that even in the midst of the trial--but that  didn't make each disappointment any less real or overwhelming.

And now Noah is here.  He's here, and he's ours, and he's perfect.

Isaiah 61:1,3 says, "...the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, the opening of the prison to them that are bound...to give unto them beauty for ashes..."

I've thought about that promise a lot: "to give unto them beauty for ashes."  From the ashes of our infertility grief has come the beautiful opportunity to adopt Noah.  How often does God take the hardships in our lives and turn them into blessings?  Opportunities for growth, or to meet new people, or to start over, or to develop traits that we'll need later, or to bring us closer to our families?  I don't believe that God makes bad things happen to His children.  I do believe that He allows bad things to happen to His children but promises that He will help us make the most of any trial that we face--He will give us "beauty for ashes."

As I look back on the past year of our lives, it's overwhelming to see how we've been blessed.  If you don't already know our history, I will include a few links below that explain our "journey to Noah" as I sometimes call it (it really does feel like a journey).  I am going to blog about his birth and first few days of life this week too.  It's a week for looking back, remembering, and giving thanks: We have a son!  He is one month old!  He is totally adorable, and I want to squeeze him all day long!  He looks especially cute in his ducky bath robe and in his tiny church shoes!  (Seriously...shoes for a one month old??)

Okay, and now for the links:

The first time I blogged about my infertility and our desire to adopt (April 20, 2010)
A post written in the midst of a lot of heartbreak (January 13, 2011)
A post written as I was recovering from the heartbreak (January 14, 2011)
The announcement that Katie had chosen us to be her baby's parents (March 6, 2011)
A letter to the baby about our first visit with Katie and Drew (March 28, 2011)
The post announcing Noah's arrival (August 1, 2011)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Adventures as a New Stay-at-Home Mom

I've never liked cooking.  It takes so much time and effort--and the product of all that time and effort is gobbled down far too quickly.  If I spend an hour or two working on something, I don't want it to disappear in less than ten minutes.

Many of my friends have told me that I will like cooking more now that I am a stay-at-home mom.  They say it's no longer a chore when you actually have time in the day to plan and prepare the meal.  Plus, it's "rewarding" to know that you are making something delicious to be enjoyed by your family.

I decided to test their advice, and I've attempted to make two meals in the last several weeks.

Attempt #1: Chicken Pot Pie

Attempt #2: Sloppy Joes

I don't know if it's the oven or just me...but neither of these meals turned out too well.  The experience was rewarding for neither me nor my family.

Something that I do love is baking!  Baking is the best because the entire process is edible--from chocolate chips to cookie dough to finished product.  Yesterday, I made cookies with my nephew, Callum, and we had much more success than I did with either chicken pot pie or sloppy joes.

Yes, I am wearing Callum's chef hat.
Callum also appreciates the cookie dough...in fact, he was eating so much of it that I had to scold him.  After telling him to stop about five times, I said it a bit more brusquely, and he started to cry and ran to his mom.  She was snuggling my baby (who was super fussy yesterday) on the couch, so she suddenly had two little criers on her lap.  I think she loved it.

It's so nice to have family in town now that Noah is here.  I have a cold, and it's hard to get better when you aren't getting too much sleep at night, so Sarah watched Noah for me yesterday while I took a long nap.  While I was sleeping, she tried to take some photos of him with her fancy camera.  He wasn't so thrilled about the "posed" shots.

I am still planning to blog all about the experience of Noah's adoption, but it feels like a daunting undertaking, so I haven't even started yet.  Maybe I'll get to it by his one month birthday.  He had his two week doctor appointment yesterday, and he is porking up quite nicely.  He was 7 lbs 4 oz when he was born, and yesterday he was 8 lbs 7 oz.  Little chubber! :)  They stabbed his heel to take a blood sample, and he was super ticked off.  I think that might be why he was fussy for the rest of the day.  Poor guy.

Overall, I think we are adjusting well to our new life.  Ryan is working crazy hours, so he's not around as much as I'd like, but when he is, he sure loves his little dude.  I found them napping together on Sunday, and it was about the cutest thing I've ever seen.

I get lonely being home all day and part of the night without Ryan--I don't really have any friends here yet--but Noah keeps me company and Ryan assures me that his super busy schedule is only temporary and he'll be around more once his current rotation is over.  In the meantime, thank goodness for my sister and sweet little Noah!

Life is good.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Update on the Two Loves of my Life

First family photo taken outside the Salt Lake City Temple, 
right by the condo where we were staying in Utah
We are home!!

Legally, Noah and I had to stay in Utah until all of the adoption paperwork cleared, but we got clearance to leave the state and drove back to Colorado on Monday and Tuesday.  Today was our first full day at home—it was heavenly!

While I was in Utah, I was staying at a condo with no internet access (hence the lack of photos and updates).  I thought I would be super bored, but lots of family and friends came to visit and help me, so it turned out to be a great week.  Noah has now met all of his grandparents and almost all of his aunts and uncles.  J

Noah is the most precious baby on the planet.  I am absolutely in love with him, and I have so much to write about (including a full report of the week before and after his birth with far too many photos), but for now, I wanted to focus on another love of my life, namely Mr. Ryan Nielson.  Ryan’s 29th birthday was on Saturday, but his big day was largely ignored due to the excitement surrounding the arrival of Little Mister.  So I thought I would take a moment to write a blog post devoted entirely to Ry Guy, in honor of the day he was born.

Noah isn't pleased to be sharing the attention with his dad
Last year for Ryan’s birthday, I gave him a little red journal.  The journal wasn’t actually for him—it was for me.  I told him that I was going to use the journal to record something I love about him every day for a year.  It was my goal to capture all of the little moments that make me love Ryan so much.  Though I didn’t end up writing in the journal every single day, I did do it consistently; so for his birthday blog post, I thought I would share 12 of the entries from my Ryan journal, one per month of the last year.  I didn’t have time to read back through the entire journal and pick the best or most varied entries; I just opened the journal to the middle of each month and typed the first entry I found. I must say, reading all these random memories of Ryan made me smile.  He is basically the best ever.

August 26, 2010—Each day, Ryan leaves for school before I get up.  I love that it is his routine to kiss my cheek before he leaves, even if I am sleeping.

September 8, 2010—Today I read some old journals from our first year of dating, and the memories made me giddy.  It’s amazing to look back and read the words and recognize that even back then, I knew Ry was special.  I was absolutely right to marry him.

October 12, 2010—Ryan is hot.  Today, I pulled up in the car just as he rode up on his bike.  His hair was windblown, he was wearing his handsome Marmot jacket, and he grinned at me.  My heart melted.  He’s a hunk!

November 19, 2010—Ryan’s been gone a week, hopping from pedo interview to interview.  It’s been stressful.  With the time difference, it’s been difficult to connect on the phone, and when we do, he’s been jet lagged, discouraged, and grumpy.  We’ve felt distant and annoyed with each other.  Thank goodness this week’s interviews are over, and Ryan is back to himself, and I’m back to feeling very close and attached to him.  I’m so glad our marriage isn’t usually estranged and stressful!  (And I’m also so glad the pedo interviews are almost over!)

December 20, 2010—The other night, Ryan wanted to go to bed (it was past midnight), and I wanted him to stay up with me (story of our lives).  He was a little grumpy with me about it, so I dropped it.  But then in our family prayer, I said, “Please bless Ry that he’ll get a good night’s sleep, even though I’ll miss him if he goes to bed without me.”  He burst out laughing—and then I started—and we couldn’t stop.  I love laughing with Ry. 

January 26, 2011— When I was just so sad about our adoption disappointments, Ryan played with my hair until I fell asleep and then cleaned the whole house while I napped. 

February 1, 2011— I love when Ryan wanders around the house wearing his big Russian fur hat.

March 20, 2011—Ryan and I are in Utah.  This weekend, we met our birth mom, Katie, our birth dad, Drew, and their families.  It has been a great weekend—very spiritual and exciting and humbling and fun!  Ryan has done a great job interacting with everyone.  One of my favorite moments was when Katie and I walked in from getting our pedicures, and Ryan was sitting at the kitchen table with all of Katie’s younger siblings, just chilling and chatting.  He is so comfortable and at ease around children, and it’s endearing.

April, 28, 2011—Today we found out that Ryan passed his dental licensing exam.  After he'd opened the letter and told me the good news, he disappeared for a few minutes.  When he came back into the kitchen, I asked where he had gone.  He said, “I had to thank Heavenly Father for getting me through the past four years.”  I was surprised because it isn't always my instinct to immediately pray and thank God for my blessings and opportunities in life.  Ryan is an example to me, and he is the most humble man I’ve ever met. 

May 10, 2011—Today we went for a walk with Laney and her kids in the beautiful Forest Lawn Cemetery.  It made me so happy to look back and see Ryan running and frolicking with Henry.  He is going to be an awesome dad!

June 22, 2011—I often find little scraps of paper around the house covered in Ryan’s handwriting.  He writes reminders, to-do lists, academic notes, and even journal entries all over napkins, little scraps of paper, and sticky notes instead of in an actual notebook.  I have no idea why he does this, but it’s kind of cute.

July 16, 2011—Ryan is the best to go on adventures with because he’s up for anything, he’s relaxed/low stress, he doesn’t have overly high expectations, and he’s fun.  Over the past seven years, we’ve had all sorts of small (and sometimes big) adventures—from climbing trees, to bus rides in Central America, to random road trips, to pizza dates in the park, to running in the rain, to watching lightening on a hilltop.  I’m grateful for the years of just the two of us.  We’ve had lots of magical moments, and we’ve grown so close. 

August 2, 2011—Watching Ryan snuggle with Noah is the best sight in the entire world.  I am the luckiest. 

My two boys enjoying a midnight snack
Ry can't bear to put him down, even when he's working. :)
Happy birthday, Ryan!  I love you, and so does Noah!  Thank you for being so good to us.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Letter to my Noah on his One-Week Birthday

Dearest Sweetest, Most Precious Noah,

One week ago, I held you in my arms for the first time.  I heard your tiny cry and saw your perfect little face, and I shed tears of joy, amazement, and relief.  You are a miracle.  A tiny, perfect miracle—with a head of soft brown hair and a set of piercing dark blue eyes.

In the hours leading up to your birth, I marveled at the strength and courage of your birth mom, Katie.  She labored with you for over 12 hours, enduring unimaginable pain to bring you into this world.  Throughout her labor, I sat in awestruck silence in the corner of her hospital room, wanting to support her but not sure how, realizing this was a journey that only she and God would ever fully understand.

And then, I watched her push you into the world.  I stood beside her and held her hand as you emerged, first your head, then your shoulders, then your perfect little body, fresh from heaven.  That’s when the tears started.  I have never witnessed anything so sacred.

And then you were in my arms—all wrapped up in a blanket with a tiny little hat on your head.  You looked up at me, and I looked back at you, and your dad wrapped his arms around both of us and rested his head on my shoulder.

I had imagined this moment for so many months and wondered how it would feel.  Would I feel immediately connected to you?  Would I feel like your mother?  Would I fall in love at first sight? 

Looking back on it now, all I remember is the love that I felt—for you, for Katie, and for everyone in the room.  I knew without a doubt that you were my son, and I knew that I could not have been granted such a gift without Katie.  She and I are now connected by something deeper even than friendship or respect.  We are connected by our love for you, and that is a bond that will never break, no matter what the coming years bring.

Even as I gazed down on you in amazement, I could not stand to be away from Katie’s side.  The nurses had ushered me to a corner of the room where they could clean, warm, and weigh you, but I could see Katie in the bed, craning her neck to catch a glimpse of you, and I could not possibly stay away.  I rushed to her bedside and showed her the miracle that she had just delivered—a beautiful, healthy, precious, perfect little angel.  She reached out for you and smiled, and I have never seen such joy and love in someone’s face. I lowered you into her arms, and she cooed and kissed you and held you close.  It was a beautiful and perfect sight.

Your birth dad, Drew, was beside her.  He had been beside her for the entire twelve hour labor, holding her hand, putting pressure on her back to ease the pain of the contractions, doing whatever was asked of him.  Throughout the labor, my heart swelled with love for him as I watched his support of Katie.  He is a good, kind, strong young man who loves you very much—that was apparent in his tears the moment he first saw you and in the awe on his face as he watched Katie holding you for the first time.  A few minutes later, after he and everyone in the room had held you, I put my arm around him and told him I was proud of him.  He said, “Don’t count me out of this kid’s life!” I responded sincerely, “You’re in, Drew—you’re definitely in!” He grabbed me in a tight hug and didn’t let go for several minutes.  It was one of the most precious moments of my life.

In the minutes after your birth, it felt like time slowed down in that hospital room.  The Spirit was tangible.  Peace blanketed all of us, as we passed you from family member to family member, and we all gave a little piece of our hearts to you.  In the first ten minutes of your life, you were held by your mom, your birth mom, your dad, your birth dad, your birth grandparents, and your grandma.  I’m sure that so much love has never been poured on one little boy in such a short amount of time.  As we all shared you and loved you, I have never felt Heaven so close.

Sweetest Noah, you are so loved.  So loved.  Before we left the hospital with you, Katie held you in her arms as you were surrounded by three men who gave you a special priesthood blessing. Katie’s dad, your dad, and Drew’s grandpa all laid their hands on your tiny little head, and Mark voiced the blessing, promising that the love of your birth parents and of all of the family members in that room would become a part of you and go with you throughout your life.  That is a remarkable promise, and I have no doubt that you will grow to be a remarkable man.  Every morning, as I cradle you and feed you a bottle, I look into your dark blue eyes and say a prayer thanking God that you are my son.  I ask Him to protect you, be with you, and bless you to grow up strong, honorable, honest, and kind.  I ask Him to bless me as your mother to know how to love you, teach you, and meet your needs.

You are our miracle, Noah, our gift from Heavenly Father.  I have grown so much closer to the Lord through the process of waiting for you and then watching you come into this beautiful, complicated world.  I can only imagine how much closer you will bring me to Heavenly Father in the coming years, as I strive to be the mother that you deserve.  Truly, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.”  Philippians 1:3

With a heart and soul brimming with love and gratitude for you,

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

To Katie and Drew

Today, these two incredible young people bravely signed the paperwork that made Noah Atticus our son.

Their first good look at Noah, only moments after his birth
His first bottle
 Katie and Drew, we love you more than words can say.  Our family and friends around the country are praying for you and sending their love.

Thank you.  Thank you for our son.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Worth the Wait

One of my best friends from high school is a very talented musician, and she recently wrote a song inspired by our experience waiting for a baby.  She gave me a copy of the lyrics with my baby shower gift, and then she played and sang the song for me on our piano after the other shower guests left.  Amazing gift, huh?

Click here to go to her blog, where you can listen to the song and read the lyrics.  She is so talented.

Little Noah was definitely worth the wait!

He is here!

Noah Atticus arrived at 1:51 a.m. this morning.  

The first time I held him, I bawled like a baby.

Katie was in labor for over 24 hours, and she did the whole thing without an epidural.  SHE IS AMAZING, and I cannot express in words how much I love her.  I am in awe of her strength, beauty, courage and selflessness.  It was an amazing experience to be there with her, Drew, and their moms as she delivered Noah.  The moment was sacred.

As the sun was rising this morning, I sat on the window sill with Noah in my arms and showed him the new day.  "Welcome to the world," I said to him. "It's your first big day."

This is the best day of my life.

More photos to come...maybe in a few days.  :)