Adoptee Drama

I am an adoptee. At the ripe age of 16, my birth mother was whisked from her family in a veil of secrecy to the other side of Texas to “live with an aunt” for a year. She lived in a home for unwed mothers, where she was able to continue her education and hide her pregnant belly as it grew before releasing me to my family.

I’ve always known I was an adoptee and my family celebrated it as something that made me special. My parents always said that they chose me and we celebrated my adoption day each year. I didn’t think a lot about it as a child, but being an adoptee has shaped a lot of who I am today as an adult. While I never longed for a relationship with my birth mother, I always wanted to one day to connect with her to see if there was someone in the world who was like me. I also wanted to thank her for what must have been a very traumatic experience, because her sacrifice gave me the life that I have today.

Texas has strict privacy laws – some of the most stringent in the nation – as it relates to adoption. In order for adoptees and birth families to connect, they both must separately apply to a registry. If there’s a match, both parties are contacted. When I was a young adult, I added my name to the registry and discovered that my birth mother wasn’t looking for me because she was not on the registry.

A few years later, while surfing the internet when I should have been working, I stumbled upon a website for adoptees and birth families who were looking for one another. I did a quick search to see if any of the few random details I know about my origins were listed anywhere on the site. They were not, so I drafted a quick post about my details before promptly forgetting that I had done so.

A few years later, I received an email from someone who said that they might be my birth mother. While guarding myself against potential disappointment, something inside me said that the email was, indeed, from my birth mother. I instructed the person about how to go about joining the registry and, while we awaited word from the adoption agency, we continued to correspond back and forth.

The adoption agency confirmed that I had been talking with my birth mother, Ruth, and we continued the process of getting to know one another. I flew to the Houston area to meet her and her family twice. I learned the name of my birth father, whose family owns a line of Western boots, and received confirmation of the sordid tale I had always assumed was the truth – that he didn’t believe Ruth was pregnant with his child and other subsequent douchebaggery.

Ruth told me about the pain and shame surrounding the adoption and I did my best to comfort her. In the end, the trauma seemed to have won out, as she stopped communicating with me, despite my many efforts. Still, I occasionally added her to mailing lists associated with major milestones – our wedding announcement, Christmas card with our wedding photo, E’s birth announcement and Christmas card with his photo on it.

As we were planning our wedding, we received a save the date card from my half-sister, and she was planning to wed the same day as K and I. We never received a formal invitation to the wedding, not that we could have attended, but I assumed that Ruth decided that it was too much for her and convinced her daughter not to invite me.

After years of radio silence, I sorted through Tuesday’s mail to find a letter from a random Texas address I had not previously seen and immediately knew that it was from Ruth. In the letter, she apologized for letting so much time slip by without getting in touch, inquired several times about E, and updated me on some of her family’s news. She moved from the address I had when I sent E’s birth announcement, so it’s clear that she never received that, but I’m unsure how she was still able to receive the Christmas card I sent with E’s photo on it. Her daughter’s fiance suddenly broke off their engagements a few months before their wedding, leaving her heartbroken and in a lurch, which explains the lack of a formal invitation to her wedding. My half-sister has since met a nice man and is pregnant with her first child, a little boy due in mid-March. My half brothers are currently living apart from Ruth in the town where my birth mother last lived – one is working and the other is in his final year of high school.

I’m not quite sure how to feel. I’m honestly not allowing myself to feel much of anything. I don’t want to extend my emotions or get my hopes up that this communication is a sign of her desire to reconnect in any meaningful way. I plan on writing her back and providing information about E (“I hope there is a very happy story I need to hear,” she says), as well as some photos, which she requested. Beyond that, I think I need to consider each communication as a singular interaction and not think about them in succession or as perhaps something that could become a trend.

K thinks that she was driven to write the letter to find out more about E. It’s clear that it was of interest to her, given her several references to him in the letter. K also theorizes that she likely wonders about whether or not they share a biological connection, which I hadn’t even considered. I’m not really letting myself go to the place of analysis, especially as it relates to E, because I’ve long since stopped wondering why Ruth does what she does. She has a right to her emotions and has a responsibility to steward her past trauma in a way that makes sense for her. I’ve always hoped that she’d be able to get to a place of peace, mostly because she’s a nice person who deserves to feel released of that shame and guilt, but I know that there isn’t anything I can do to control whether or not that happens for her. Besides, my energy needs to stay focused on my own family.

Whew. What a can of worms.

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Looking forward

One of the bonuses of being really, really sick to the point of depleting my vacation time (because of course my sick time is hovering at the zero hour mark), if I have to find one, is that I actually had some time to focus on planning E’s first birthday party.

For months, I have refused to even think about the notion of this event, mostly because of my reluctance to admit that our child is careening toward this milestone, but also because we have a teeny, tiny house that couldn’t contain our immediate family, let alone close friends. The latter concern, now that I’ve solved it, is laughable, given that I am a skilled, professional event planner, but the challenge truly threw me for a loop.

While digesting episode upon episode of the Law & Order franchise, I researched budget-friendly local venues, potential entertainers, and themes. I discovered that a local community center rents rooms of all sizes for very reasonable rates and called their scheduler to inquire about availability. I determined that the musician that E loved when she performed at his daycare Halloween party regularly plays for children’s parties, so I asked about her rates and availability, as well. Within a matter of mere days, I had hired the musician, who will play a half an hour set and bring a craft and an instrument for each child, reserved the room at the community center, paid deposits on both, decided upon a generic music theme, researched decor and sent out preliminary e-vites to close friends and family members.

I guess that settles it. We have a little kid who is turning one year old and we’re celebrating it with a party. Commence freak out.

A River (of Vomit) Runs Through It

Sorry for the revolting title, but it truly felt apropos, given the weekend we’ve had.

On Thursday, after a few days in denial over the clear bronchial symptoms I was experiencing, I broke down and left work early to go to an urgent care clinic. The doctor confirmed my suspicions: my bronchitis had unfortunately returned. He prescribed an inhaler and nightly cough syrup with codeine.

E was still fussy from his ear surgery and teething, so he was sleeping between us that night when he vomited in our bed. In a sleeping med induced haze, I changed our sheets while K got poor E all cleaned up. When we attempted to settle back in, E barfed again. K spent the next several hours with E on the couch, and was blessed by yet another massive tidal wave of vomit all over both of them. Between my bronchial hacking and sleeping meds, I was in and out of consciousness for the remainder of the night.

Early the next morning, we received an email from E’s daycare, alerting us that several children had gotten sick from a stomach virus, and requesting that we keep little ones home if they’re experiencing any of those symptoms. It was clear that E had gotten the virus. K stayed home with both of us, since I was way too sick to care for E alone.

By Saturday, we were feeling well enough to go to lunch with K’s cousins and their husbands, who hasn’t yet met E. It was an enjoyable couple of hours as we caught up with them and E, of course, dazzled them.

A few hours after returning home, K started feeling nauseous. He spent the entire night between the couch and the bathroom in total intestinal misery. I meanwhile did my best to care for E in our bed while I continued to hack away with my bronchitis symptoms.

K was feeling slightly better by Sunday morning when I succumbed to the stomach virus from hell. Even though he was still somewhat weak, he spent the majority of the day caring for E while I was doubly ill.

I stayed home from work again today, though I was finally feeling well enough to eat and drink. K took E to daycare and drove himself to and from work so he could pick E up. I spent the day resting and regaining my strength, and when I had small bursts of energy, I doused the entire house in Lysol, changed our germ-infested sheets, and washed some laundry that had accumulated from our weekend of doom.

What a helluva way to start the week. Is it Friday yet?

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Surgical Success!

I’m thrilled to report that E’s surgery was a resounding success!

K and I woke up at the injurious time of 5 a.m. so we could be prepared to get to the surgical center by 6:15. We weren’t sure if the roads would be icy or congested with traffic, so we wanted to leave some cushion.

My intent was to wait until just before leaving to change E’s diaper and clothes and put him in a coat. I knew he’d be grumpy with the requirement of an empty stomach. He woke up a lot earlier than I had intended and was in happy spirits before promptly losing his shit in an epic meltdown. K and I had to continue bustling about to get ready to leave while trying without success to console him. K was also teary from the stressful experience, bracing himself for the possibility that this response could continue up until the point of surgery.

I’m certain the screaming E woke up half of the neighborhood when we put him in his car seat for the departure. I sat in the backseat with him and, after a few more moments of tears, he settled down.

20140114-202532.jpgWhen we got to the surgical center, we registered and were whisked back to a room, where a nurse conducted an intake. E was in great spirits and charmed every employee who walked by. We then met with the anesthesiologist and nurse anesthetist. We were slightly concerned that they’d reschedule his surgery because E has yet another cold, but the anesthesiologist felt his vitals and energy were strong enough to move forward.

E was abruptly taken back to surgery and we barely had time to give him a last-minute kiss. K and I trudged, exhausted and stressed, back to the family waiting area.

I kid you not – the surgeon came to talk to us after only five minutes. He said that the surgery went well and that it was aptly timed because he has another ear infection. He gave us antibiotic ear drops to use and told us that E would have some bloody drainage from his ears, which is normal, albeit gory looking.

After about fifteen more minutes, we were called back into the recovery area, where a nurse was holding and cuddling with our smiling, somewhat groggy son. The nurse reported that he did well, didn’t cry at all, and spent the majority of his time in recovery charming patients and staff alike. We cuddled with him in one of the large recliners in the recovery section, gave him a bottle, and slowly changed him back into his pajamas before heading home.

We were all really sleepy from the ordeal and lack of sleep the night before, so we took a luxurious three-hour nap together in our bed. Throughout the remainder of the day, E played and ate mostly as he normally would, but took longer than usual naps as his anesthesia continued to wear off. Toward the evening, it was obvious that his ears were bothering him and we gave him pain medication to try to make him more comfortable.

After an abnormal amount of daytime rest, E was impossible to get to sleep at night. K tried everything. At one point, K reports that E was jumping in bed between us and I groggily turned to him and, in a sleeping med induced haze, said, “What… the… fuck…?” E was wild but eventually went to sleep between us, leaving us very sleepy the next day.

I’ve already noticed a couple of major changes since E’s surgery:

  • E can definitely hear sounds more clearly. The slightest sound causes him to swivel his head around, which doesn’t bode well for going night-night in an old house with a creaky floor.
  • For the past few months, E has been an absolute nightmare during diaper changes, kicking, screaming, and wrestling to try to flip onto his tummy. I chalked it up to a normal developmental response to having better things to do than sit there while someone changes your diaper. Almost immediately after surgery, while he still might express displeasure, E will lay on his back for diaper changes. It’s clear to me that being horizontal was exacerbating the ear pain!
  • E is also exploring his sounds a lot more and seems to really enjoy yelling louder than I’ve ever heard him. I’m curious to see if he has a developmental explosion as it relates to verbal skills.

Thanks for all of the support, positive energy, and well-wishes, dear readers. K and I are very happy that we made this decision for our little guy, even though it was anxiety provoking.

A Potpourri of Updates

I wish that I could say that we made it through the polar vortex unscathed. The good news is that we were only trapped at home for one day. Our jobs are flexible enough to be able to accommodate occasional work from home, though it was much trickier with E there. At the end of the day, I cheered and dramatically sang “The Wind Beneath My Wings” a la Bette Midler when we saw the snow plow pull up in front of our house. We knew that it meant an end to our isolation.

A few minutes later, our dog went ape shit crazy when we all heard an assertive knock at the door. I carried the dog into our bedroom while K answered the door, surprised to find a police officer on our doorstep. The officer handed K some literature and said, “Here’s how you obtain your police report. It will be available tomorrow.” K, flummoxed, asked, “What police report?” The officer flatly replied, “Oh. The snow plow hit your car on the street,” before turning on her heel and swiftly departing. Uh, what?! K’s car, which as you know, we obtained only a few months ago, was stranded on the street in the snow and sustained enough body damage to impede our ability to drive it. Now, we must wait for the City’s insurance risk assessment team to review the damage and tell us how much they’ll pay toward our repairs. Since the car is not worth much to begin with, we’re slightly afraid that it will be considered a total loss, and there’s no way we’ll find as reliable of a car as this for the amount they’d pay for it.

Here’s a funny diagram of the accident, as found at the bottom of the police report, for which the plow driver was cited for “improper backing.” I have no clue how he failed to see K’s vehicle when he drove right next to it before backing into it!Untitled

We recently transitioned E to a convertible car seat in our primary vehicle, which, thanks to the snow plow incident of ’14, is our only currently working vehicle. It has been such a change from the lugging of a baby inside an infant seat to wrangling an active, wiggly almost-kid! With the baby bucket style seat, he was more contained and it allowed me to better manage all of his belongings, especially when picking him up from daycare. Now, I feel completely incapable of managing it all!  His daycare is a shoe-free environment, so you need to remove footwear (or pop booties on over them) before entering the main space. With all of the snow and the necessity for boots as of late, adding just one more step to the process of picking up or dropping off makes me feel especially inept. I’m sure it will eventually become second nature to me, but in the meantime, it’s an additional frustration that I don’t need.

E’s surgery to insert tubes has been officially scheduled for Monday morning. He needs to fast starting at midnight beforehand, which makes me a little sad. He loves his morning bottle. Hopefully, in a matter of days, he’ll be feeling much improved. Maybe ear pulling will be a thing of the past!

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I’m a firm believer in the power of positive thinking, so we appreciate any woo, light, prayers, meditation, etc. in an effort toward a positive outcome for E.

Eustachian Frustration

After months of agony, trips to the doctor and round after round of antibiotics, K and I finally took E to see a Pediatric Otolaryngologlist (ENT) with the support of his pediatrician.

E had a follow-up with his pediatrician yesterday, who said that his cough and wheezing were improved enough to discontinue the nebulizer. His ears also looked a lot less inflamed but the fluid was still present. She said that tubes were still likely in his future but that the ENT might want to wait a few more months.

K and I battled terrible driving conditions, creeping along with a grumpy and wailing E in the back seat as we crept through traffic to get to his ENT appointment this morning. We saw several cars in the ditch along the way. We were about fifteen minutes late to the appointment but they luckily saw us without any grief or wait. A PA initially assessed E before the doctor came into the room, and kept remarking that E is a very happy baby. We all laughed as E willingly opened his mouth when the PA held up a light and tongue depressor to look at his throat.

The specialist was really nice and informative, explaining as he showed us anatomy charts that E was prone to chronic otitis. He said that E could likely benefit from tubes, saying that we could either have them inserted in the near future or pursue a watchful waiting approach. K and I both liked that he said that there was no wrong answer between those two options, and that he gave us many factors to consider, including those we hadn’t initially considered, like the days upon days we’ve had to take off of work and constant visits to (and associated copays with) the pediatrician.

K and I both agreed and communicated to the doctor that we want to schedule the procedure in the near future because we really feel that this is impacting E’s quality of life and causing him a lot of pain. We also said that we’re concerned with the amount of pain medication we’ve had to administer as a way to keep E comfortable. As soon as we told the doctor our preference, the doc said, “It was the best decision I ever made for my daughter.” We were really impressed by this specialist and feel good about our decision.

The ENT told us that if we, as adults, needed tubes, he would provide the very quick procedure (the doc quoted roughly 30 seconds per ear!) during an office visit by numbing our ears. But E, as a little guy who would likely be stressed and fidgety during the procedure, needs to be given some gas to keep him still and calm, which will, in turn, allow the doc the ability to perform the delicate procedure with much more accuracy.

I’m awaiting a call from the office staffer who schedules these procedures and anticipate that, in the very near future, E will finally have some relief to the months of ear pain hell. We’re finally feeling optimistic about his ears!

Picture Perfect

One of my least favorite things in the entire world is being photographed. I take a lot of pictures of the people I love, mostly with my iPhone and, to this end, K bought me a Photo Jojo macro and wide-angle lens for my iPhone and an online phone-ography class. But I mostly avoid being the subject of others’ photos, much to K’s frequent disappointment.

I knew that he’d been wanting a family photo for a long time and, while I did too, being in said photos felt akin to having a tooth drilled. Since gifts aren’t really supposed to be about the gift giver and I wanted to show that I valued his wishes, I purchased a family photo shoot for K for Christmas.

We were originally supposed to have our photos taken on December 26th, but with both of my guys sick, no one really felt up to the task. Plus, there’s not a frame in the world that’s beautiful enough to overcome the sheer amount of mucous that would be present in the resulting photos.

I rescheduled the shoot for New Year’s Day. Earlier that morning, despite the frigid temperatures and heaping cover of snow on the ground, I trudged outside to install E’s new convertible car seat, a Diono Radian RXT, which K’s parents got for us as a Christmas gift. It was trickier to install than our infant seat, but not too bad.

I knew that with the terrible winter weather and the steep learning curve of putting E into his new car seat, we would need to leave early for our photography shoot. Unfortunately, upon placing him in his new seat, E had the biggest meltdown I have seen to date. It required me to sit in the backseat with him, placing a paci in his mouth and trying to comfort him while K bravely traversed the slippery roads to get us to our destination. There’s nothing quite like three grumpy people headed toward an activity that pretty much demands sincere, lovely smiles.

E rings in the New Year by nomming on some steak

E rings in the New Year by enjoying some of his Daddy’s steak fajitas.

When we arrived, we gave E a bottle and we were relieved that his mood immediately brightened. He was a total charmer during the session and, much to my surprise, a lot of the resulting photos satisfied me. The present I got for K came with a disc of three of the photos, plus two printed sheets, and allowed the option of ordering additional sheets for a discounted price. I liked so many of the photos that it was difficult to decide and we ended up ordering a few extra sheets.

The disc and prints will arrive in two weeks and I plan on posting E’s solo photo that we chose as his 9 month commemorative shot as a part of the package. Since we plan on maintaining our anonymity as best we can, though, I won’t be posting the family photos we selected. You can all just take my word that we looked great. Haha!

Happy 2014, all!