Saturday, August 20, 2011

Leavin' On A JetPlane

So this last Monday I put my 6 year old on a herself.  She flew to N. Carolina to see her "big sis" Michelle and her husband Sean.  I am so grateful she has had this opportunity.  I am so proud she took it all in stride.  And I am a little amazed I was good with it.

It's been a weird week for me.  I am ashamed to admit it but I have enjoyed this time alone...sometimes.  When I've had to get go to work or get work stuff done, it has been easier.  We've skyped with one another and I think this has helped the "miss yous".  It makes me a little sad that she is having so much fun; I don't get to do enough of the "fun" stuff with her.  Real life can truly get in the way.

She is having the best time.  Today's activity: horseback riding.  She has been to Great Wolf Lodge; spending hours (so it sounds) in the wave pool, waiting for the bucket drench, going down the "big slide" and playing "Mommy shark and Baby shark".  She went to the drive-thru zoo in Charlotte.  Her favorite animal was the Emu there.  And she's had her first real pedicure; she had to make the difficult choice of a diamond or a flower for her big toe.  (Guess which one bling-girl choose...yupe, the diamond,)

So I have three more days of Me time.  I will enjoy it...most of the time. 

Love you Most Lttle Girl!!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The "Rena" Dress

In my last post I stated one of the first things I did when Isabella and I got to our hotel room was put her in the "Rena" Dress.

The "Rena" dress is one of the dresses I bought my friends Angela & Bill's daughter when she was a newborn.  I love(d) that dress.  It is white with a gauzy overlay with little pink flowers on it.  I always thought Rena looked adorable in it as a newborn (and Auntie Becky certainly wouldn't be partial).

When Rena was about 3 years old Angela gave me the dress back.  I remember saying to her, just give it to Jasmine (her sister) for her one of her daughters.  I think I was about a year out from my hysterectomy; I never in a million years expected having a daughter who would fit in that cute little dress.

Angela adamantly refused to send the dress on to Jasmine; she insisted I take the dress back (and those of you who know Angela understand the statement "insisted").  I am so glad she made me take the dress back.

That first day with Isabella I remember proudly taking her all over the hotel (the adoption agency rules forbade us from leaving the confines of the hotel).  I remember going into the Jade Shop at the hotel and the gentleman waiting on me asked if I was in the country on business or pleasure.  I remember saying I was there to visit my daughter.  He asked me if she worked at the Marriott; I laughed telling him Isabella was my daughter. (OK, so he thought she was my Granddaugher),

So after strolling the hotel grounds...and showing off the most beautiful baby, we went upstairs to our room where I received a phone call; I initial thought it was my cousin, Lorei who was in Guatemala with Physican's without Border's group, but it was Auntie Angela.  Isabella was cooing away, and Angela was the FIRST of my friend's to hear her "Rena" dress.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Love at First Sight

I received the referral for Isabella in December.  The first of February I let the agency know I'd be going to Guatemala in late February.  I was told the paperwork was going quickly, and this may not be soon enough for Isabella to be a US citizen when I finally brought her home.  Oh what to do??  I really wanted her to be a US citizen as soon as she entered the country because it was less paperwork.  So on Friday February 12th I decided to fly to Guatemala on Sunday morning...yes, two days later.  Oh yes, and I would only be staying over night.

So the flight and hotel were booked.  Now I just needed to sit back and relax...right.

On Saturday I was so excited, anxious, nervous, and a little frightened I couldn't sleep.  So naturally I stayed up all night making a baby blanket.  I've made many, many blankets for my friends over the years, but this one was for MY baby.  I'd like to tell you it was a beautiful pink, lilac and purple, but oh no, it was a pee green.

So I am up before the sun on Sunday.  I am pretty sure Angela took me to the airport that morning.  I flew into Miami and then on to Guatemala City.  I remember waking up as the plane started to descend into Guatemala.  My first thought was, "What a beautiful city, all ringed with mountains." My next thought was, "What if this is a big mistake!!  What if she hates me?  Maybe I don't want to be a Mom?"  Terror, absolute terror. 

It was about 10 am when I got to the hotel.  I called Fifo, my contact; we would meet in the lobby in about an hour.  Jitters, nerves...

Finally I head downstairs to meet my daughter.  When I first saw her she was in her Foster-mother's arms (Ruby),  sound asleep.  I took her into my arms and burst into tears.  She was perfect.  Simply perfect.  What had I been thinking being nervous. So silly.  I just cried and cried, telling her what an amazing, perfect baby she was.  Ruby was trying to give me information about Isabella (eating schedules, etc) and I am completely oblivious.

After about 10 minutes or 12 hours, I am not sure which I stopped staring at Isabella and asked questions, "how long does she sleep at night?" (all night), "how frequently does she eat?" (every three hours), "what do I need to do for her earrings" (the only words of English Ruby didn't need translated; nothing she had them pierced at a week old).

So Ruby and Fifo were getting ready to leave when Isabella woke up.  What amazing brown eyes; and then she smiled, her "gummy girl" smile.  She was the most beautiful baby in the world.  Really.

She was perfect; I took her upstairs and counted fingers and toes, checked her hips and back.  And then dressed her in the "Rena outfit".  It was the best Valentine's Day EVER!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Just a short reflection....

Tonight Isabella & I spent the evening at TOP (Top of the Park) in Ann Arbor.  I watched my daughter run around with her "new friend" she'd meet this evening trying to catch fireflies.  The joy on her face when she would catch a firefly.  She proudly showed it to all of our friends.

Is there any greater joy than this?  It brings back wonderful memories of my own childhood.  And I hope this will someday be a part of Isabella's sweet memories.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bucket List??

So this last weekend we spent the weekend with my college room mate, Laurie.  At one point she asked me what was on my "bucket list".  My only response was "raising my daughter." 

When I really think about this question, I still don't have a different response.  My dream for so many years was to have a child. Anyone whose done the fertility route can pretty much tell you what an obsessive compulsive, all consuming roller coaster ride it is.  And then I became the Mom of the most special baby in the entire world.

Of course I have dreams for Isabella and I.  Someday I hope we will work in the National Park system together.  Her during her summer vacations from college and me in my motorhome/camper.  She can live in the dorms of NPS and me in my quiet camper.  I am hoping she gets over her fear of all bugs before this.

So I guess my bucket list of Summer 2011 include: going to DisneyWorld in the next year, getting a good enough second job for the fall & winter so I can take most of next summer off to spend with Isabella, scrapbooking once a week with friends and getting my house clean.

I don't think this is what Laurie had in mind.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gotcha' Day

Last Monday was Isabella's Gotcha Day.  I can't believe it has been 6 years since the woman at the US Embassy asked me if I would adopt her if she was in the United States, and I replied "Yes, in a New York minute".  What a time to quote Bill Bonds.  Then with a click of her stamp we were a family...forever.

This year Isabella has been interested in her Birthmother.  I showed her the one picture of her I have with her holding Isabella.  We had a few discussions about what a brave thing she did by allowing me to adopt Isabella.  I think Isabella "gets" about 60% of these discussions.

I've always said Isabella looks like my Dad.  Not so much anymore.  She has his sense of timeliness-God help me. I know there are people who think she looks like me, but really she looks somewhat like her birthmother.  All I really know is that I adore those big brown eyes, those amazing eyelashes and that laugh.  I've never met anyone who likes to be tickled before in my life.  But she sure does. 

Tonight I told her the story about what we did 6 years ago today.  We went to Church (she had a little sailor outfit on complete with hat) and all the ladies in the back 2 pews made eyes at her.  We went to the scrapbook store so I could show her off to all my friends.  And we went to the Art Gallery Doris and Gary Galvin used to own.  Gary's Dad and my Dad were best friends.  Gary cried when he saw her; I was overwhelmed with his response.

But yet I understand.  There are moments I look at her and I just want to cry.  I just can't believe it is my responsiblity to raise this amazing child.  And I am thankful, I will be forever thankful to the woman who gave birth to my baby and made the ultimate sacrifice to not be her mother. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

An ending...a beginning

Tonight was Isabella's Kindergarten Graduation.  How did that happen??  It seems like yesterday she was this extraordinary small thing in my arms.  Or that she'd decided it was time to potty train.  Or that she was, you know, just a baby.

I can't believe how much my girly girl has changed this year.  It's not just the fact that she's reading at almost a 2nd grade level, or doing simple addition and subtraction with ease.  She has changed.  I can actually explain to her WHY she can't do something, have something, etc. and she actually listens and makes a judgement call on the WHY.  (Not that meltdowns don't occur, every 6 year old has to "keep face" sometimes, you know.)

I am beginning to be able to use REASON with her.  Now, don't get me wrong, frequently the reason is because I'm the Mom and I said so.  Period.  But when we are having a particularly bad moment, hour, day over really nothing, I can ask her, "Are you having fun, because I'm not having fun arguing about {name something stupid}"  And 7 times out of 10, there is no more discussion.

I am hoping this is the new beginning.  The beginning of CALM.  Now, for those of you who know my daughter and have ever entered into debate with her, I am not delusional, foolish, crazy, etc to think my house will now be a place of butterflies, woodland creatures and sweet singing birdies.  But a relative time of less drama. 

I fully plan on hearing: "you're a bully" (one of her favorites), "you're mean", "stop it now", "don't tell me again" (one of my favorites)...on a daily or hourly basis depending on how it's going.  But I think (or maybe it's only hope) that reason will occasionally overrule, for both of us.



So those are just some of my thoughts on the day of my sweet child's graduation from Kindergarten.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day...Wishes

Today is Memorial Day.  I think about my parents today and a part of me aches not only for my loss, but for that blank spot in Isabella's life where doting Grandparents should be.

I think about the fun my Mom would have FINALLY getting her "girly-girl".  Isabella's closet would be filled with so much frill and fluff I wouldn't be able to find anything.  Not to mention the fact that our house could become a Doll Museum because she'd own every doll made.

My Dad and Isabella would form an unholy alliance.  I am positive I would have bald spots from ripping my hair out over what the two kindred spirits could come up with.  I can almost hear him planting little plots of minor and mass destruction in her wee-little head.

But then I think of those people who somewhat fill the grandparent void for my sweet one.  Of course, at the top of her list is Auntie Patti, her first and foremost, BFF.  Aunt Patti is sort of the combination between my Mom and Dad.  She comes up with some things capable of making me speechless (jumping on the bed...really!) and showers her with presents and attention (every girl needs a purse collection to rival Coach and Gucci).  Not to mention a Disney Cruise next April.

Then of course there is Poppy.  But I think that is a story for another time.

So Happy Memorial Day...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Out of Order"

So I am getting tired of the "what happened next scenario" is important for Isabella, but that is not what I intend this blog to be.  Now, those of you that lived through the "Waiting" with me, I will talk about it.  Because lets face it, if you were around me, you DESERVE not only acknowledgement, but an award...or maybe two.

But I want to talk about what it's like to be a single Mom of a very bright, VOCAL, funny, opinionated (yeah, I don't want to hear about how she came to have that quality), sweet girl.

And Baby Makes Two

So I started my application for adoption in July 2004.  I learned being a single woman who has never been married is a quite desirable social work client...less paperwork.

I have to say the process went very smoothly.  I was done with all the paperwork by September.  Then again, I did pretty much work on everything as a full-time job.   I make it sound simple, but I remember looking at the "to do" list of paperwork, references, FBI fingerprinting, criminal background checks, etc, etc, etc, and just crying.  It was overwhelming.  But I think I may have been working on the paperwork until the wee hours of the night when this occurred.

I will never forget the first question out of my social workers mouth:  "What will you do when some child at school teases your child because of the color of their skin?"  OK...this is the answer I gave:  "Blah, blah, blah, blah"; this is what I was thinking:  "Well, I am sure I will let my foot off the little B*#%tards neck long enough for them to squeak an apology."  Let me tell you, it is hard to come up with a politically correct answer when this is what you'd like to burst out!

So I went on the waiting list in September.  I was known as family #10 on the list.  My social worker, Katie kept telling me to hurry with the paperwork because there were LOTS of families in the process at the same time as me.  So I knew as the tenth family it would be a while.  This was probably the least stressful time of the whole adoption process.  There was really nothing I could do but wait.  It was all out of my hands.

Sometime around November I was told there were many potential available infants after the New Year; I was getting anxious, but at least I had a timeline....

On December 20th I was at my friend Angela's house scrapbooking.  Angela, my friend Michelle and I decided to go to Zuppa's for lunch.  We were standing in line when my cell phone rang and my SW Katie's name come up on the caller ID.  I was prepared for THE call in January; I just thought she was calling for a check in or something. 

It was not Katie, it was one of the program directors.  I just remember her asking me if I was going to be home over the Christmas holidays because they had a referral of a baby girl but didn't yet have the details.  I grabbed Angela's arm (and am sure I left a bruise); it was a surreal conversation, like talking in a tunnel.  I could vaguely hear Angela in the background yelling, "It's the baby, it's the baby!!"  When I hung up the phone Michelle, Angela and I hugged each other (my daughter would call it a sandwich hug) and the whole restaurant erupted in applause.  Everyone on the staff was congratulating me; we even got free cookies!!

The next day I got pictures of the most beautiful baby in the world.  I remember calling the agency, telling the director that my daughter was just perfect.  What an amazing Christmas!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Where to Go From Here???

So I've had the hysterectomy.  What now??

I am almost 40 years old at this point.  I still want a baby.  Single woman wants baby...where to go??  At this point adoption from China was pretty much what I had my heart set on.  I'd been mulling this over for a couple of years and had pretty much decided this was my "path". 

Until the Chinese government had an epiphany that some of those single-Mothers who've been adopting unwanted baby girls may actually be (GASP) lesbians.  I won't get on my soapbox here about how loving and caring for a child is the same if you are married, gay, single, have two left feet, etc. But lets just say I'd become disillusioned with and no longer qualified for a China adoption. 

So hey, what about Cambodia???  Small orphanage's, babies/children may not be in the cleanest environment but are LOVED.  Some adoptions are "suspicious" so no more US/Cambodia adoptions.

So what about domestic adoptions?  Not really interested in baby with drug or alcohol issues.  Really not interested in someone knocking on my door. 

So what about Guatemala adoptions??  I can't really tell you why I checked this off my "list" at the time.  Heartbreak over not being able to adopt from China??  Or Cambodia??  I don't really know, but I decided no.

Three years go by and I am still kicking around the idea, but it's fading.  I remember being at a party one evening when my friend Candace B. says to me, "I thought you were going to adopt?  Whatever happened to that?"  (I think I was probably holding or playing with my friends' Bill and Angela's children).  And it really hit me.  I looked at Candace and said I am almost 45, I am too old.  (She tells me I'm not too old, I tell her neither is she...we both cry.)

And I think this is when I made the decision...I either had to "do this thing" or get rid of all that baby stuff I'd been buying over the last decade or so.  Period.  I recognized I would always feel a loss if I did not adopt a child, but I really felt it was an idea whose time had passed.

So I went to another informational meeting about international adoption at Hands Across the Water in Ann Arbor, MI.  I have to admit, I thought I was going to exit this meeting saying to myself, "Yupe, you looked into and this isn't for you." 

So I went to the meeting; my application for adoption was completed and submitted the next day.

Someone asked me one time, Why?  Why was I able to "hear" this time?  What was it that made me so sure this was "right"?  (I was, and still am, really reliant on the "little voice" inside myself"...That little voice frequently is right on the target. And it said "this is perfect".)  I had no answer for these questions then.  I do have the answer now; it is simply, Isabella.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Medical Boo-boo

If I am going to tell this tale, I should say that I knew from my first visit to the gyn oncologist there was a chance that my tumor had not re-occurred.  It was discovered during that visit there was a contradiction in my medical record.  The problem: one place stated my right ovary was completely removed (which is what I'd been told and what was eventually correct), while in the case summary it stated that my left ovary was removed.  That's Bad.

In retrospect it was somewhat amusing (I have my Dad's sense of humor...just go with it); picture me in a room with my Dad, my college roommate Laurie (who is posing as my sister), the Attending Physician, and a small group of Interns, Residences, and Med Students.  So Dr. Johnston (my attending MD) states something about still having my right ovary.  I corrected her and she states, no the chart states my right ovary.  So here she is looking through my chart and all the sudden she has a verbal explosion; she has discovered the contradiction.  So the Doctor is having a meltdown, my Dad is about ready to explode and my best friend nearly comes unglued. 

And there I am, reassuring everyone that it's going to be all right.  I still remember Dr Johnston, sort of yelling at me, "It is not alright.  This means you either have cancer or your don't!!"  But really I had had it.  Some of my friends were aware that I'd been living in constant pain ever since I started the fertility drugs.  At times the pain was much worse than other times, leading me to worry the tumor was back.  I just wanted it to be over.  Sorta.

And then of course there still was the whole issue of the "something" on my liver.  So I grieved for the child I would never carry.  I feared for my life.  And once again, I felt like a failure.

Potholes the Size of Elephants

This began my journey into fertility treatment.  Oh the joy of diagnostic tests, peeing in cups or on sticks, drugs, and daily temperatures.  After 6 unsuccessful attempts, I underwent a laprascopy to see if endometriosis was the issue.  I will never forget my Sister-in-law, Peggy telling me that there was a problem.  I had an ovarian tumor. 

I remember after Peg left the room starting to cry.  One of the recovery nurses asked me what was wrong.  When I told her she said to me, "you're a nurse, right?".  She and I just looked at each other, then she softly told me "you know what that means" followed by a softly spoken, "I'm sorry".

I had to wait a month for my next surgery.  It was complete torture for me.  I am fairly sure it was also a horror story for my family and friends.  The next surgery revealed my tumor was a low potential malignancy serous tumor.  My right ovary was completely tumorous (bad news), my left ovary the tumor was encapsulated (good news); my fallopian tube and bladder also showed involvement (bad news).  My right ovary, the encapsulated part of my left ovary, and the growths on my fallopian tube and badder were all removed.

So with my thumb nail size ovary I continued to with insemination's....for the next year.  By this time I was physically, emotionally and financially broke.  I felt like such a failure because I just couldn't go on with treatments anymore.  In the meantime, I underwent every 6 month check-ups to ensure my tumor had not re-occurred.  After about a year I realized I was not going back on the fertility merry-go-round and went to the gyn oncologist for a hysterectomy. 

I was about 2 years out at this point.  The oncologist gave me the news that latest methods to handle my type of tumor was to NOT do surgery and just continue to follow with 6 month exams and ultrasounds.  This went on from another 3 years; every 6 months I would become anxious and frightened each time  I really worked on dealing with my anxiety, and of course the first time I was actually relaxed weeks before and after my check-ups I was told my tumor had re-occurred.
More tests.  A CT scan showed "something" on my liver.  I will never forget setting on the exam table looking at my sweet Dad on the anniversary date of my Mom's death...from cancer with metastases to her liver.  More tests, ultrasounds, MRI.  And good news:  the "something" on my liver was just a "snarl" of blood vessels, nothing more.

I underwent a total hysterectomy a month before my 40th birthday.

My Road to Motherhood

At the age of 7 I knew the one thing I wanted to be was a Mom. 

At the age of 34 I still hadn't met the all elusive knight so I decided to go it alone.

Now I grew up on a small dairy farm in Michigan; when I was about 4 years old my younger brother and I were playing inside the milk house as my Grampa walked by leading a GIANT bull.  Right as they got to the door this bull "smacked" (repeatedly) my Grampa up against the side of the building.  My Dad heard my screams, came around the side of the building, grabbed a hammer and hit the bull (repeatedly) between the eyes.  (For those of you who fear for the bull, trust me, it took numerous hits with a hammer to even get his attention).  When my Mom heard of this episode all bulls were forever banned from the farm.  Thus began my introduction to artificial insemination.

I tell this story because I feel it helps to set the stage to aid in understanding the following conversation I had with my Dad.  I feel my recollection of the following conversation with my Dad truly were the first steps to Motherhood.

I called my Dad late one night asking for a large sum of money; I'd heard of a pregnant young woman who was thinking about placing her unborn child up for adoption.  I thought if I had all the money necessary for her prenatal visits, hospital bills, etc. that I might have a chance to adopt this baby.  I remember crying on the phone to my Dad about how I just wanted to have a child; it was my Dad;s turn to cry when I said to him, "Just imagine Daddy what your life would have been like without Ellsworth (my brother) and me". 

My Dad asked me if this is what I truly wanted; I remember telling him that what I really wanted was to bear a child.  He then said that this is what I should do. Next Dad  told me that I should not rely on the "kindness" of my male friends (turkey basters only) but should have a child using donor insemination.  I still remember telling him that the Daddy Handbook says you are not suppose to encourage your single daughter to get pregnant.