Tuesday, November 30, 2010

National Adoption Awareness Month - Week 4

If Buddy had been identified as having special needs at the time of his referral, I'm not sure we would've adopted him.

It makes me feel sick to my stomach to say that, but its the truth. Granted, his needs are not severe, but I'm not sure we would've been comfortable with even minor special needs. As first time parents, becoming a mom was overwhelming enough. I imagined the extra work and worry of parenting a child with special needs and I didn't think I'd be able to handle it. I imagined parents of such children were better than me - more patient, less prone to anxiety, better at seeing the glass half-full. And, if I'm being honest, I felt like we'd already struggled enough. The years trying to get pregnant, the fertility treatments, the miscarriage...it was our turn to be happy, not to commit ourselves to years of extra work, worry and heartbreak.

Thank God none of Buddy's issues had been identified at the time of his referral. Thank God he hadn't been "labeled" as special needs.

That label could've been the difference between Buddy becoming our child or another family's son. Far worse, that label could've been the difference between Buddy being adopted or becoming a waiting child, sent to live in an orphanage with a greatly diminished chance of ever joining a family.

I can't imagine what that label could've done to Buddy's life. I can't imagine what it could've done to mine.

By the time we arrived in Guatemala to bring Buddy home, it was obvious his development was not following the path of a "typical" child. I never would've walked away from him at that point; he been our son from the moment we'd accepted his referral 9 months earlier. But I won't lie and say we were instantly comfortable and confident we could handle the situation either. Those first few months I definitely had many "Why me?" and "I can't do this" moments. Truthfully, those feelings still surface from time to time.

The difference is I know now that just because I struggle sometimes doesn't mean I can't be the mom Buddy needs me to be. Parents of children with special needs aren't perfect, they aren't saints. Even someone like me, who is impatient and easily frustrated and prone to pity parties, can do it. Not only do it, but enjoy it.

Ordinary people can parent a child with special needs. Don't convince yourself you can't. Don't turn way from waiting children without really considering it as an option. I know that might sound like ridiculous advice coming from me, since I stumbled into this situation instead of choosing it. But if I had known then what I know now, I would've chosen it...should we ever decide to adopt again, the waiting child list will be the place we start.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Its been two years since Chris & Buster boarded a plane and crossed an ocean together to get home.

Two years since I stood in the terminal with butterflies in my stomach, anxiously anticipating the moment I'd finally get to hold my 10 month old son.

Two years since Buddy knelt down and whispered "Hey brother" to the baby who for so long was only a picture on our refrigerator door.

Two years since we became a family of four.

Happy Family Day Buster - you have filled the last two years with joy and adventure.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Picture of a Picture

Yesterday Buddy drew a picture of an airplane:

I know, who takes a picture of her 4 year old's picture? Four year olds draw pictures all the time.

That's true, 4 year olds - even 3 year olds - draw pictures all the time.

But Buddy doesn't.

In fact this is the first picture he's drawn that doesn't consist of a few half-hearted squiggly lines and shaky circles.

It's a picture that's the result of hours of occupational therapy and hard work.

Which makes it a picture worthy of a picture.

Monday, November 15, 2010

National Adoption Awareness Month - Week 3

There comes a point during the application process when prospective adoptive parents must complete paperwork identifying what type of child they are open to adopting. I remember filling out this form during both our adoptions and each time feeling the full weight of the moment settle on my shoulders. It's one thing to know you want to adopt a fairly healthy infant, its another thing to look at a checklist of medical conditions and understand that your answers to these questions mean rejecting real, waiting children in need of a home.

Filling out that form is a moment a lot of prospective parents dread. It feels wrong, for example, to actually check "no" when asked if you are open to adopting a child with fetal alcohol syndrome. It feels like you're saying these lives don't matter, that these children aren't "good enough". It's not an easy moment. However, it's an essential step in the process to ensure that children are placed with families that have the desire and capability to parent them.

Because that's what adoption is about - the desire to parent a child.

I'm not saying that the opportunity to help a waiting child is not a factor in many people's decision to adopt, but the bottom line is the choice to adopt has to stem from the desire to be a parent.

Adoption is not an act of charity.

I think that's an important point to make this month. Adoption is wonderful, but it is not the solution to the orphan crisis. Even if it was, there are an estimated 143 million orphans in the world. Adoptions barely put a dent in that number. Plus, it does nothing to address the extreme poverty and cultural issues that make adoption necessary in the first place.

Adoption is far from the only answer; its important to be aware of that. Just because you are not adopting or just because you are not adopting a child with special needs, doesn't mean you can't be part of the solution for those 143 million children. It doesn't mean you can't help end the poverty and societal pressures that leave so many families no other choice than to hand their children over to someone else.

You can help someone like my friend Deanna. Deanna's daughter Ragen has down syndrome and she and her husband Rob have recently decided the best way to expand their family is by adopting Melanie, another child with down syndrome. They are working with Reece's Rainbow, an organization helping orphans with down syndrome and other serious special needs around the world. Consider contributing to Melanie's adoption fund or supporting other RR children and families.

You can help by becoming a sponsor of Eastern Social Welfare Society, the Korean organization that coordinated Buster's foster care and adoption. Although ESWS's primary focus is adoption, they continue to expand their services to better assist those in need. This includes operating homes for disabled children, children unavailable for adoption and single mothers. They also provide financial support to students from low income families and to single mothers who choose to parent their children despite the intense social pressures they face in doing so.

You can help by supporting Mayan Families, a small organization providing services to people in one of Guatemala's poorest regions. In addition to meeting the community's immediate needs for food, shelter and medical care, a primary goal of the group is to provide long term solutions for families in need. Among other things, this program provides educational opportunities to adults as well as children and supplies other essentials, such as water filters & chickens, that families need to stay together and break the vicious cycle of poverty.

Reece's Rainbow, ESWS and Mayan Families are just 3 of countless organizations and individuals trying to make a difference. It's easy to say "someone should adopt them", but the reality is adoption will only be the answer for a small percentage of the 143 million orphans in need. In a month dedicated to raising awareness about adoption, I think its equally as important to acknowledge that it takes more than adoption to help those 143 million children and to find ways to save future children and families from the same fate.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

National Adoption Awareness Month - Week 2

It took us one year to decide to adopt after we went to our first agency-sponsored adoption meeting. I remember driving home from that meeting thinking "Adoption is a great option...for somebody else's family". It wasn't something that felt right for us.

Part of that was coming to terms with infertility, but truthfully, it was mostly about fear.

Fear that an adopted child would never feel like "mine".

Fear that we'd end up a horror story on the news, our child ripped from our arms and returned to a birth parent years after our adoption was complete.

Fear that I'd view adoption as a consolation prize and my child would know it.

Fear that my child would end up resenting me because I was not the "real parent".

Fear that our child would carry physical and emotional scars from orphanage or foster care that we wouldn't be able to handle.

Fear that adoption would mark us as different, that we'd never fit in with "normal" families.

I know adoption isn't for everyone, but if fear is your motivation for dismissing it without much consideration, look again. Read adoption websites and blogs, research agencies and programs, talk to other parents. If I haven't done that, I would've missed out on the chance to parent the two people I love most in this world.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I Get It Now

When Buddy first learned to give kisses, he would frequently surprise his recipient with a wet smooch, leaning in toward the receiver with lips closed and then opening them as soon as his lips touched yours. It was equal parts adorable and disgusting.

I can't remember when he stopped doing that, but he did. Never again will I be on the receiving end of one of baby Buddy's wet kisses.

I started thinking today, as Buster sat next to me, absently petting my leg as he frequently does, that one day that too will end.

Its inconceivable to me right now, when the presence of a toddler on my hip or gripping my hand is so commonplace, that the sheer physical closeness I share with the boys won't always be.

Of course, even as adults, there will be hugs and kisses and pats on the back, but just like Buddy's baby kisses, there will be so many other moments that will come to an end. I wonder, will it happen abruptly, a sudden refusal to sit on my lap that knocks the wind out of me? Or will it be gradual, morphing ever so slightly over such a long stretch of time that I don't notice until it's gone?

When will be the last time I feel the weight of a sleepy child's head on my shoulder? When will I stop holding their hands, kissing their boo-boos and tickling their bellies?

And years from now, long after they've left childhood behind, will I still feel the urge to pull them onto my lap or carelessly stroke their heads?

Suddenly, I understand why my parents still remind me to drive carefully, still ask me to "call when you get there!", still rush to my side when I struggle.

I'll try to stop rolling my eyes at them. I get it now.

I once sat on their laps too.

I Wish There was a Button for That

I wish there was a "I'm being ironic/sarcastic" button on blogger.

Just in case it wasn't clear, I meant my last post in an ironic, sarcastic "Isn't it funny how huge milestones you look forward to just shift the type of work parents need to do?" way. I absolutely did not mean it in an "OMG, its so annoying that my kids still require any effort from me at all" kind of way.

So you know, just in case you were thinking it, it's not true...I'm not that whiny mom who complains about everything including the nerve of her children for, you know, reaching age-appropriate milestones.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I'm very proud to announce that this week we've managed to achieve two major milestones...

In exchange for 1 M&M (2 if he pulls his own pants up and down), Buster has traded in his Buzz Lightyear pull-ups for some big boy Mickey Mouse undies, making our family completely diaper-free.

We've also had a major improvement in our sleep situation, skipping Buddy's afternoon nap in favor of an earlier bedtime and a huge decrease in the amount of time it takes him to fall asleep.

There are so many things I love about parenting babies and toddlers, but it's definitely a very labor-intensive job. I'll admit that even though I shed a few tears when I packed up our bottles or when I sent the boys to preschool, I still looked forward to what I envisioned would be the "easier" days of being baby & toddler free. I mentioned this to my uncle once recently and his response was "It never really gets easier". At the time I laughed, but I'm starting to think he wasn't actually kidding.

Yes, it is nice to have some one-on-one time w/Buddy. We haven't had that since we brought Buster home 2 years ago. It's also great that we have time to do preschool workbooks and practice letter sounds and play board games Buster doesn't understand yet. And that 7:00 pm bedtime is A.W.E.S.O.M.E. But, frankly, 12 uninterrupted hours of parenting, especially when it involves an afternoon w/a hard-to-please 4 year old who is still adjusting to his new sleep schedule, is H.A.R.D.

Speaking of hard, do you know how much work it is making sure 2 preschoolers keep their underwear dry all day? Yes, its great not to buy diapers or to carry them with me everywhere I go. But, I still need my diaper bag to carry extra sets of underwear and clothes for the accidents that happen in the early months of wearing underwear (or is it years???). Plus, now the most important factor in everything we do is "Will there be a bathroom there?".

So while I'm so proud of the boys' recent accomplishments, it's a little bit of a let-down too. Maybe my uncle was telling the truth, maybe it never get easier. I'm not sure I'm ready to accept that...I'm sure once Buster starts kindergarten and both boys are in school all day, my mom-work will become more like a part-time job and less of an all-consuming commitment....right?

Monday, November 1, 2010

National Adoption Awareness Month - Week 1

November is National Adoption Awareness month, something I usually remember on about November 29th and then fail to recognize in any way before the month is over. This year, I actually made a point of noting this on my calendar in October, in the hopes that I could prepare in advance and write an adoption-related post every Monday in November.

This week, I wanted to write about the conflicted feelings I have that the greatest blessing of my life, being parent, is the direct result of some very harsh realities of the world in which we live. I don't often struggle with words, but on this topic, I can't seem to get it right and have several half-written drafts sitting unfinished.

Luckily for me, Daily Dose of Mama wrote this post awhile back and managed to express with amazing clarity the very thoughts I've been struggling to define. So today I will refer you to her words because when it comes to this complex issue I can't seem to find mine.