Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summertime Blues

The best part of being a teacher, is that we have don't work in the summer. However, ask any teacher and they'll tell you that most teachers work in the summer to supplement their income. There is one income in my house: mine. That salary has to stretch 12 months and include daycare plus the major needs in life for myself, E, and my fur family. 

I've been a teacher for almost 10 years and have worked almost every summer to earn extra money. There are 2 exceptions: when I got my first teaching job, lived at home, and made more than enough to take care of my bills, and the summer after my son was born (but I still worked 2 weeks of summer school so I don't know if it counts). 

This year I'm teaching 3 weeks summer school again. I'm lucky that my mom is able to come down and watch E or this wouldn't happen. However, it's sometimes hard not to feel upset when I realize that I barely see E during the school year work week and, though the hours are better, I'll be gone again during the summer. The mommy guilt will kill you if you let it. Also, the summer is when I mentally recharge from everything so I'm fresh and ready for another year with my students.

The money is going to pay the bills, as well as pay for next year's vacation to Disney (yay!); therefore I can't complain too much. I need to work and there's a venue for me to help kids, which is why I became a teacher in the first place. Let me end this by saying that maybe money doesn't buy happiness, but it certainly helps.

Friday, June 21, 2013

It Takes a Village

A lot of people tell me that they could never be a parent on their own and they don't know how I do it. Whenever someone says this to me, I am not sure what to say. I grew up in a two parent household. My parents were very supportive of my decision to adopt as a single mother. This may be because I am adopted or because I have always wanted to adopt and made my feelings very clear from the time I was 20.

I've seen a lot of great relationships (my grandparents) and countless relationships that ended in break ups, divorce, or one spouse doing the work of 2 spouses in a marriage. Don't get me wrong: I believe in marriage. I would love to get married one day, but I also didn't want to wake up one day and realize that I missed my chance at motherhood. Single parenting is the only way I know how to be a parent. We're a team of 2 instead of 3!

How do you do it? Build your village. I have a village surrounding my child. Hillary Clinton wrote a book with the same title, and she's completely right (I'm sure my dad is rolling in his grave as I'm writing this). E is surrounded by a loving family, even if they are far away. He is the center of attention at family gatherings and when we visit home, my aunt and uncle always make sure they visit so they can see him. He has 2 Nanas and one Papa (my uncle) as well as my sister, cousins, and their spouses that get very excited when he comes to visit.

I also have extremely supportive friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Helpful hint: when someone says they'll babysit when you need them, take them up on the offer. I had a co-worker say that she would take E if I ever needed her. He brought home the stomach bug when he was 7 months old and passed it on to me. My mother lives several hours away and was working at the time so she couldn't help. I couldn't take care of E (my worst fear) and I called my co-worker for help. She picked him up the next day so I could sleep and kept him for 6 hours. She's also taken him so I could have a Mommy's Night Out with friends (well needed!).

I have three very good friends that E sees regularly and have been with me from the beginning of the adoption process. Two of them are moms and I have called them many, many times for advice or hand holding. The other friend is a great listener and, though she has no children, takes E once a month so that I can get my hair cut and styled (one of my few mommy must haves).

Build your village. Surround yourself with friends and family (if possible). Don't feel guilty if you need to call one of them for help or advice. You would do it for them.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Picky Guy

E and his favorite food: yogurt

The Picky Eater

Now that I've finished telling my story, I can fast forward 2 years to today. I now have a healthy, active almost two year old (next month!) on my hands. He is on the go from the time he wakes up til the time he crashes at night. Nap time is sacred in our house; it's something we do religiously everyday and no one messes with it. NO. ONE. 

But now we're going through a different stage: the Picky Eater. E has decided that food is overrated and only wants to eat certain foods: cheese, yogurt, goldfish crackers, and fruit snacks. He also only wants to drink milk, not juice or water. This has made meal times very difficult, as E is already small for his age and I am always pushing food at him to get him to gain weight. I am turning to Pinterest, Facebook, and to make anything that'll get him to eat. I'm hoping that I won't have to make a goldfish omelet or something but if that's what it takes, then I'll do it. I'll also be gagging while I make it, but I'll do it.

If anyone else has a picky eater on their hands, I'd be open to any advice. This Llama Mama is getting desperate!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

So today is Father's Day. We celebrate Mother's Day with a lot of glitz and glamour but Father's Day is a much quieter holiday. Facebook blew up with all of my friends wishing their husbands and fathers a Happy Father's Day. Every time I read one, my heart twinges a little. Even though I went into adoption as a single mother, I do secretly worry about if I did the right thing. I see the happy photos of the family unit: mom, dad, and kids. I tell myself that all families are different, and that I don't need a husband to raise my son. Then someone posted on another Facebook site the statistics of children who are raised without a dad. It wasn't pretty. I keep telling myself that those numbers won't apply to E, that our circumstances are different. And then I remember the stories of my friends, who have dead beat fathers or ugly splits between them and their significant others. I carefully planned E's adoption and I watch him bloom daily into this beautiful, active toddler who is secure in his family's love. Fathers are wonderful and one day, I would love to get married, but for now he will have his uncles to be the dad in his life.

For 30 years I had a wonderful father. He was a sports guy and a PE teacher at my local high school. For such a guy's guy, he had such a soft spot for his daughters. My sister and I were also adopted as infants through international adoption. My dad and mom requested daughters through their agency and when I arrived, my grandmother told me he brought me over to her and said "Isn't she beautiful?".

Dad died exactly 3 weeks after E was born. It also happened to be my birthday. It was sudden and unexpected. It's been two years and my heart still aches with missing him. I've finally gotten to the place where I don't cry every time I think about him. He did meet E and held him twice. I also have one picture of the three of us together, so I can show E and tell him how much he would have loved his Poppy. I remember holding E and sitting to talk to my dad. I asked him if he thought I'd be a good mother and he said, "Yes, because you love him." 

My dad was my best friend. I could tell him anything and we talked several times a day. Now I pick up the phone to call before I remember that he's not there to answer and there are no phone lines to heaven. My mom is wonderful, but it's different. That father/daughter connection isn't there anymore. 

So I look at E and know that I am mom and dad to this amazing child. I will raise him with the values instilled by my parents and know that my dad is always with me, if only in spirit. Happy Father's Day in heaven, daddy. I miss you.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The First 9 Days

Here are some things I learned the first 9 days:

  • E didn't sleep without my holding him. The first few days I held him and slept flat on my back (hey, desperate times call for desperate measures). After that, I bought a travel bed and kept an arm in there so he felt my presence while he slept. Thankfully, this didn't last long.
  • He slept all day and was up all night. You learn that the advice to sleep when your baby sleeps is 100% correct.
  • Wearable baby carriers are amazing. It was the only way I could eat during that trip, as E wanted to be held at all times.
  • We quickly fell into a routine: we would get up for the free breakfast, then E would take his first daytime nap so I could shower. We would then go out for the day on a trip, then come back for another nap. Unfortunately, he slept so much that we would be up every hour or two at night, meaning that I was very sleep deprived the next day, when our cycle would start all over again.
  • You will quickly learn how to give a sponge bath, change dirty diapers, and eat one handed.
  • Bonding with this little human being is a little conflicting because there's always that slim chance that the adoption will not go through. I remember thinking that he was so cute, but I felt like someone was going to come for him at any moment, almost like I was babysitting and his parents were going to walk through the door.
  • Your heart will hurt for his first mom, because your hearts and arms are filled with your new baby, but hers are not because of her selfless choice.
  • Traveling by myself was the best thing for me as a new mom. It proved that I could take care of my son without help, and if we could make this trip together, we could make it through anything as a team.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Family of Two

The agency worker's husband met me at the door of the hospital. He led me down the hallway, where we were met by all of the maternity nurses. They congratulated me, handed me a poster that they all signed with good wishes for my son and me, and took my camera so that I didn't have to worry about taking pictures. Then they pushed me into the hospital room and there he was, being held by P. 

He was burritoed up in a blanket, the smallest baby I had ever seen. He was perfect. They placed him in my arms and I began to cry with happiness. All of the emotions I had been feeling about adopting my son came together in that moment. I unwrapped him and counted his little toes and fingers. He had, and still has, the longest little fingers and feet. He had the softest skin and looked a lot like Mr. Magoo (but my sister said he looked like Gollum) with his little wrinkled face. He was without a doubt the cutest baby I had ever seen.

The camera was snapping, recording our first moments as a family. The doctor who delivered my son, who I will call "E" on this blog, came in and answered my questions. I was staying overnight with my baby at the hospital and signing the initial paperwork the next morning. I still had to book my hotel for my stay in the agency's city and unpack a few things to get me through the night.

Apparently, the statewide high school FFA was in town and there were almost no hotel rooms available. I think I found the last one and booked it just in time, all at the hospital. Also, E had to be held at all times. He would not settle down unless he felt your arms around him. The second he felt your arms pull away, he would cry. Loudly. Sleeping would prove to be a challenge. Thank goodness for the night nurse, who took him for a few hours so I could sleep. It would be the last night of uninterrupted sleep for a very long time.

The nurses and staff were so kind to us. One nurse gave me her son's preemies clothes, another gave me a bottle of Dreft. The best gift was the hospital social worker, who gave me E's sonogram pictures. 

The paperwork went through smoothly and we were off for E's first car ride. P offered to drive, as E was still fretful and I was exhausted. Our road to our little family of two was lying ahead of us.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Last Leg

After gathering my backpack, suitcase, car seat, and stroller (and figuring out a way to haul it all), I made my way to the rental car desk. The girl was so helpful, even upgrading me to a larger car when she found out I was in Texas to adopt my son. I was off for my 3 hour ride!

It was over 100 degrees each day of my stay and today was no exception. I drove for hours with no houses in sight and the only cell reception was through tiny little run down towns that looked like sets from zombie movies. I saw tumbleweed for the first time in my life and prayed that the heat didn't break down my car. And then suddenly, I was there.

I pulled into the McDonalds for a bathroom break, but also for a last ditch attempt to wrap my mind around what was going to happen next. P, the agency representative, called me to see where I was and to find out when I was going to get to the hospital. It turned out I was 5 minutes away. I got into my car and headed to meet my son.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Traveling Solo: The Flight

The next morning arrived too soon. My mom drove me to the airport. I sat in the passenger seat with my heart in my throat. This was it. It was really happening. I was going to meet my son and we were going to begin our life as a family.

This was the first time I had ever traveled by myself. Anywhere. There was no direct flight to my son, so I would be laying over at DFW before landing at my agency's city. I would then drive about 3 hours from the airport to the hospital. I checked into my flight while waiting for my mom to park the car and learned a few valuable travel lessons:
  1. When flying through American Airlines, you are charged for your bags. The first bag is $50, the second is $75, and the third is $150. As I didn't have my baby yet, the car seat and stroller I brought with me counted as checked luggage, which had to be paid for. The lovely, helpful (yes, this is my sarcastic voice) airline employee thoughtfully inquired if I really wanted the last 2 bags. I explained that I was on my way to adopt my son and that I needed them. "Humph" was her reply as she put my credit card through. 
  2. When it asks if you would like to be upgraded to first class for an extra $150, say yes. Then I would have received breakfast (not that I was hungry) and the extra bags would've been free.
My mom and I stood together just outside the security gate when my phone rang. It was P, the agency worker. She wanted to let me know that my son was born just after midnight that morning. He was 5 pounds, 10 ounces and was doing well. I calmly answered the medical questions about what I wanted for him (yes to the vitamin K shot, the drops, and circumcision) with no hint of apprehension in my voice (I hope). I relayed the information to my mom and asked her if I was doing the right thing. "Yes," she replied. "He's waiting for you." I think if she had said no, I would have headed back to the car; I was that scared.

I hugged and kissed her goodbye, went through the security check, and waited for my flight to get called. I texted my friend Heather (the one with the amazing little girl who started my mommy longing) to tell her I was waiting for my flight. She asked if she could spread the word to my incredibly supportive co-workers who've been with me since the beginning of this adoption journey. Sure, why not. 

The flight itself was smooth. As a solo flyer, I had a seat in the front of the plane (yes!). I read my book on baby care and watched a few episodes of The Vampire Diaries on my iPod. Damon and Stefan helped pass the time for sure! It was a 5 hour flight with a 2 hour layover and another hour flight before reaching my agency's city. I had time to kill. As my plane landed and I turned on my phone, the text messages started to arrive from everyone. They were so happy for me and were sending prayers my way. That helped a lot. All too soon, my second flight landed and I was in my agency's city. It was time for the second part of my travels: the car ride.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


It happened on a Saturday evening. I was supposed to have dinner with my neighbor and her family until my phone rang with its special ring tone for the agency ("You Can't Hurry Love"). This was it! My son's birthmom was in labor and I needed to get to Texas!

I was partially packed, so I threw the rest of my stuff in my suitcase while calling the airlines to make a last minute reservation. Helpful hint: Telling the airline representative you are adopting makes them even more helpful (I was told I made her day) and she helped me find a flight with a discounted fee if I had to change my return date. I gave my neighbors my refrigerator food and my mail key, put the suitcase, car seat, stroller, two dogs, and two cats in the car, and began the 3 hour drive to my parents house.

I was a wreck on the inside. My stomach literally hurt from nervousness. What if I couldn't do it? What if I was a terrible mom? My good friends called me on my ride to wish me luck and encouragement on my trip. They all assured me that I could do it and that it would be okay. It didn't work. I was still a mess, but was doing a great job of hiding it.

When I got to my parents, it was almost midnight and I was booked on a 9am flight (which meant getting to the airport, which was an hour away, at least 2 hours before the flight to check in and go through security). Oh, and I had forgot to rent a car, so I had to do that before going to bed as well. The agency representative was calling me as well to give me updates on my son, who still wasn't born when I made it to bed that night/morning. I think I had maybe 5 hours of sleep that night.

Did I mention that I had also never traveled by myself? Anywhere. Ever. This was going to be interesting.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Wait

I was matched exactly a month before my son was born.  I'm a teacher and a big perk of my job is that we get the summers off, so if my son was born in July, then I would have the rest of the summer to bond with him and get used to being a mommy.

I cleaned out the guest room and picked out the perfect shade of green for his room. I'm a huge Disney fan, and Home Depot has a Disney paint section, so of course I had to buy from them. The color was Christopher Robin's Swing; again, another sign since Pooh is my very favorite Disney character and my little guy's room would have a Pooh theme. 

My mom bought the crib, mattress, and conversion rails and wrote him a card that said "For many nights of sweet dreams. Love, Nana." Just thinking about this makes me tear up even now. My grandmother bought the car seat as my birthday present, my cousins sent books and the baby monitor from my registry, and my aunt and mom took me on a Mommy shopping trip for odds and ends. The first time I went into Carters and Gymboree knowing that I was buying for MY baby made me giddy with excitement!

Choosing his name was also somewhat easy. Being a teacher and coming from a teaching family, we had a list of names that were off the table. I had always loved the name Landon, from one of my favorite movies "A Walk to Remember", but when I was officially matched, the name just didn't seem right anymore. Thanks to, I found a name that went perfectly with my son's middle name (named after my father and grandfather). 

All I had to do was wait for THE CALL, and it could come at any time. I was given so many due dates: clinical, estimated, what his first mom thought her date would be. The agency was wonderful; the worker who was a liaison between the birth mothers and the adoptive parents kept me updated almost weekly, and called one Sunday to tell me the set date for the induction (if she didn't go sooner). I was so nervous that she wanted me to sit down (she tells me this through the phone) and wanted to know if I would be traveling with anyone. The answer was no, I would be going by myself. That is another story for another post.

The countdown to THE CALL was on...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Match

The wait was on for 4 long days. I cleaned (which I hate to do), went out with friends (which I love to do), and did anything I could to stay busy and keep my mind off of whether this was meant to be my baby. I called the agency daily, but all they could say was that it would be another day before they knew anything. So finally I packed my things for a week long stay at my parents' house. At least I would have good company while I waited!

It was there I made a decision: if I didn't hear from the agency about the baby today, I would move on to the other birth moms they needed to match. And then I received an e-mail: the medical information was attached, and if I wanted to proceed I was to call them and let them know. Of course I wanted this baby!..and yet my stomach was in knots. I panicked. How could I raise a baby by myself? It was one thing to look at the empty room and price baby furniture, but another to know that this was really going to happen. My life was about to completely change. 

So I talked to my friend who had a beautiful little girl just a year before and she gave me the best advice: that, yes your life will change, but now you have a little buddy to do things with. You'll be a team of two instead of running solo.

I was going to be a mom in less than a month and I was so excited!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

My Story Part 2

The new Plan A was to begin my journey through domestic adoption as a single mother. I had to gather financial documents, write two autobiographies, have 4 friends write reference letters on my behalf, take classes on adoption, and have 2 visits by a social worker to my home. This took 4 months and by March 2011 I was ready. I also had to find an agency to sign with to find my baby.

I found a facilitator in California that came highly recommended. Big mistake. After sending a large portion of my money, I was then informed that it would take longer than the time frame I was originally quoted and I might have to pay to extend my contract. WHAT???? I was hurt and felt misled. The facilitator also never contacted me unless I contacted them and the quarterly progress reports I was promised never arrived. The one thing they did do was help me make a profile book to show potential birth mothers.

So I networked on my own. I found and signed with two referral services, another adoption agency with no up front fees, and checked daily to view available adoption situations. The months crawled by with a few false starts on potential matches. And then in May, a posting appeared on the AdoptionSituations website. An agency in Texas needed a paper ready family for an already born baby girl. Could this be it? My stomach was in knots as I contacted the agency.

Unfortunately, dozens of families contacted them as well and it took weeks before I heard from them with their information packet. By that time, the little girl was already matched. I had written them off when I received an e-mail and a phone call from this agency. They had several birth mothers they were trying to match, and the head of the agency was a single mother by choice and a lawyer, which meant legal and finalization fees were included. Oh, and one of their mothers was due in a month with a baby boy. 

I immediately asked about that situation, only to find out that one of their contracted families had also been contacted about him. They had first rights to this baby, as they had been waiting for a baby for quite a while. I needed to wait until this family made their decision. It was the longest wait of my life.

Friday, June 7, 2013

My Story Part 1

I've decided to start a blog to share my situation with other adoptive families. I'm a single mother by choice through adoption to an amazing little boy. He's the light of my life and each day brings its own unique challenges and joys.

So how did it start?

I turned 30. Yup, the big 3-0. It was a number I never thought I'd see. After all, I was 21 at heart and certainly didn't feel a decade older. I struggled with it. I tried to fight it. And then my friend had her baby...and the pieces clicked into place. She was so happy with her little girl and I knew then that I was ready to start my own family. You see, I have always wanted to be a mother through adoption. Always. I've never had the need to have my "own" baby with biological ties. Maybe this is because I was adopted as an infant to wonderful parents. They never made me feel like I wasn't truly "theirs" because we didn't have the same genetics. I'd also always felt that I'd do this on my own, as a single mother. In my 20's, I'd extensively researched adopting a baby from China. I waited patiently until I was old enough to apply, only to find out that China had greatly restricted their program qualifications. So I went to plan B: Ethiopia. I had the paperwork filled out with the perfect agency when my father called with some research he had done on domestic adoptions. He asked that I check them out before proceeding.

I've seen the Lifetime movies on the adoptions gone wrong. I've read the articles in the paper and seen the news stories. I didn't want to bond with a baby and have it taken back by its biological parents months later. But, to humor him, I began to call around. It was then I learned that the movies were just that, fiction. I could successfully adopt as a single mother and be placed with a newborn. Wow. A mom from the beginning of a child's life. I switched to my new Plan A and began the proceedings for domestic adoption.