Monday, November 30, 2015

Adoption Awareness Entry 16: Encouragement said to you

Okay so I am way behind in making this actually follow the November calendar, so I have just decided to change it to entries and make me way through them all despite tomorrow being the end of November! 
Encouragement said to me falls into 2 categories; the while I was waiting and once he was here.
While waiting for adoption to finalize and then to travel it was hard I think for people to find things that were truly encouraging to say about the wait, but many said things that were comforting as I got frustrated. When I didn't pass court the first few times people who called and let me cry or vent was so greatly appreciated. Even the "you'll pass next time" was helpful. While I may not have appreciated it in the moment the reassurance that while I was missing "firsts" that there were many more "firsts" to come was encouraging. The general encouragement of the adoption as a whole was wonderful. But probably the best encouragement came simply in peoples words about me being a mom. I was embarking on not only adopting from a foreign country but becoming a single mom and I was scared. The reassurance that I was going to be a great mom, that they could already see how much I loved him were things that kept me going when I felt discouraged. My students checking in to see what news there was and being so excited to see me as a mom and meet him meant the world. So many people stood behind me and more importantly stood beside me through this process that often words meant little and their presence meant so much more. 
Now when we got home I think the encouraging words as a new adoptive mom are no different than the words that encourage any new mom period. Things like "You are doing great" , " He looks so happy", " I know you are tired, but he sure does make you light up." Those are things that make any mom feel a little better. When I wasn't sure if I was doing it right those comments made me feel a little better and little more confident. Now I will also say as a mom of black child some of the best encouragement came at the hands of strangers who would comment on his hair looking good or how attached he was to me. smile emoticon
I wish I could say I didn't need encouraging words or comments anymore but that is not true. Parenting is tough and positive, kind words are always helpful. As an adoptive mom with a child that comes from a hard place with a trauma background encouraging words, comments and actions keep me pushing forward. People who remind me how far he has come and how much he has grown help me to remember the journey we have taken. 
So my encouragement here would be to find a parent and give them some encouraging words, I don't care if they are adoptive parents or birth parents, if it is a young child, a teenager or a grown child we all need to feel encouraged.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Adoption awareness Day 15: Miracles

My childish a miracle! (Okay scientifically speaking every child really is a miracle, but I won't go into all that😀)
Now I recognize fully that I am biased when I say my child is a miracle because, well he is my child! But let me cover a few things for you. Little Man was born in a country where statistics (and yes it depends on where you get them) from the year he was born say this: in sub-Saharan Africa 1 in 9 children will die before the age of five. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of first day deaths for infants. Malaria is the leading killer of children under age five in Africa, leading to 600,000 deaths in 2010. Only 6 in 10 births are actually attended by a trained medical staff in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is one of poorest of the African countries. The rate of malnourishment across the generations is TOO high. Yet, Little Man made it. He survived to be delivered, he lived past day 1 and he lived for a year in an orphanage. Against most odds he survived.
Then he came here and he clung to survival. He was malnourished, sick, parasitic and living in "fight or flight." He recognized as a baby that I would provide that which he had not had. So bonding happened quickly, at least survival bonding happened. And then permanence settled in, I wasn't going anywhere, this was home, I was mom and he was safe. His body relaxed and the next "fight" began. 
Through all that he experienced before coming to me and all that we have been through since; migraines, GI issues, sensory delays, PTSD and countless other things that have lead to many doctors appointments Little Man is a happy, sweet, kind and thoughtful kid. He loves deeply and completely. This child who has every right to not trust and to be angry looks out at the world and see beauty and life and opportunity. This little boy brings strangers into his imagination and reminds us all to pause and appreciate the beauty we see and the beauty that can be. 
His heart and mind are miracles, that no matter the strikes he started out with they can't touch him. I think he will change the world one day or at least he has change my world.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Adoption Awareness Day 13: The 93% giving support

There is a statistic that gets tossed around that states if 7% of the christians in the world adopted there would be no more orphans. So let me start by saying A) I don't know how true that statistic is but I am guessing that is what this topic is suppose to cover. B) I don't believe only Christians are "called" to adopt. C) I don't believe every christian should adopt.
In light of that I am going to tackle the topic slightly different. If enough people adopted that there were no more orphans then what do the other 93% do, to which I believe this topic is referring. Here it goes... they still need to give in whatever way that looks to them maybe it is money, maybe it is a talent, maybe it is time. Getting all the orphans adopted today certainly does not solve the crisis that created orphans around the world. So whether you fall into the category of the 7% or the 93% the work isn't done. Children around the world are losing one or more parents at an alarming rate. Adopting doesn't make me done. If I am honest I should be leading a group of those 93% in how to help.
In practical right now ways, if you are the 93% and you know someone who is adopting or has adopted call them, encourage them, take them a meal, bring them a coffee, offer to babysit while they get out for a bit. Parenting is hard, parenting a child whose life started or was interrupted with the loss of a parent or parents is really hard. If you pray, then pray. Let them know you are there. 
And please don't say "if you need something just let me know." Pick something and do it for them. Parents of newly adopted kids, kids in crisis don't ask and let people know...we just keep going because that is all we can do at the time. ( I am sure much like an exhausted mom of a newborn doesn't know what to ask for) We don't know how to ask for help, so if you want to help do something...anything, I promise we will appreciate it. I will never forget Jamie Batts Langley and Lori Paschall bringing me dinner the night I got home from Ethiopia and the respect they gave me by waiting until after I had Little Man in bed even though I know they wanted to meet him. I will always remember Dana Graves and Courtney Gunnels sleeping on an air mattress in my living room to help take care of Little Man at night because I was SOOOO sick after getting home from Ethiopia. And the list can go on of people who just did for me.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Adoption Awareness Day 12: Open

So this was a topic I was not totally sure what was intended. Was I suppose to talk about open adoptions or was it meant to be open to any topic I want to talk about? Well since I did not complete and open adoption and any information I could post here, would be simply second hand from friends who have, I chose to make it mean open topic. And so I chose to talk about "Paper Pregnant"
So there is all of this paperwork that you have to do for an adoption and for those of you who are married, you had/have more than I do as a single! Anyway, you get a list of things you need to get together to compile your dossier for adoption. These papers include letters of reference, tax returns, proof of employment, fingerprinting at state and federal level, home study paperwork, medical paperwork, background checks and I am sure there was stuff I am forgetting. So once you have all the paperwork complete and turned in to your agency you are ready. And by that I mean you are ready to WAIT. 
Now comes the waiting for the call or email from the agency that says "we have a match" Which means that there is a child that meets the criteria that your social worker said you were able to adopt. ( In the home study the social work will list ages and special needs that you are approved to adopt.) Once the call comes in and you decide to accept the match, which in an international adoption meant I took the provided medical background to a pediatrician in the area to have him look at it and tell me what all the numbers meant and how "healthy" this child was and what struggles I might anticipate. Once you accept the referral people often then say you are "paper pregnant", some will say once the dossier is in and you are waiting that you are "paper pregnant" Either way this pregnancy just involves more WAITING. I guess much liking being physically pregnant and waiting the 9 months for delivery. The difference with the adoption wait is that it may end in a much shorter time or it may take way more than 9 months. For me funny enough I received Little Man's referral on March 2nd, and accepted the referral on March 6th. It was November 18th when I passed court and December 18th when I arrived in Ethiopia and Dec 21st when I got him in my arms. So my paper pregnancy was just over 9 months long. My labor....a 15 hour plane flight to get to Ethiopia and get to my son....or maybe the labor was actually the 17 hour plane flight home with a baby that was all sorts of sick and had only known me for 4 days.
My "pregnancy" was not measure in doctors appointments, gaining weight. feeling kicks and ultrasounds. My pregnancy was packing up care packages to send with the families that traveled before me and then waiting, repeatedly checking email during the day to see if pictures came in from the families that had just come home. It involved talking almost everyday to Jennifer Matasovsky as we waited for our boys and talking late at night to Sarah Tjepkema as we waited to pass court. It involved fear and excitement when the phone rang on court days. It involved me watching my child grow for 9 months in someone else's care and yearning for the day I could kiss his cheeks, play with those curls and look into those big brown eyes.
Paper pregnancy or physical pregnancy they both put a toll on your body, they both changes you and they both teach you patience!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Adoption Awareness Day 11: Cultivating adoptive family culture

I have to say this is not a topic I have truly thought a lot about. Since Little Man was only a year old when he came home he has spent his life surrounded by the American culture. 
I have exposed him to family traditions that I grew up with and I have deliberately started new traditions with him. For example I have continued with the tradition of having monkey bread for breakfast on Christmas morning, but I have added to it that we make a second and deliver to those men and women who are working to serve us on the holiday, so we have delivered to the fire station and the police station.
Overall I try and expose him to Ethiopian traditions, my families traditions, and a variety of other traditions as well. Raising a child who is knowledgable about many different cultures, one who can blend them into himself or at least see the value of others traditions is important to me. So we read, we talk and we experience what we can from Hanukkah dinner with friends, to International Festivals, to the black barbershop, to the Veterans Day parade and whatever else we can do. America is rumored to be "the melting pot" although I think we have not "melted" into each others cultures as much as mixed together retaining some piece of the original and adding on more.
I hope that overall the "culture" I give him is one of acceptance for things that are different, kindness toward other, and the strength to stand up for his. traditions and beliefs

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Adoption Awareness Day 10: Cultivating birth culture

    Ethiopia is a beautiful place. I will admit that I was a bit surprised when I started researching the country before deciding to adopt from there because the images I had in my mind were the ones media had put there in the 80s and 90s of starving children sitting in dusty, desert like areas. While I am sure that was effective marketing to get people to help donate and is a reality in part of Ethiopia, there is so much more to Ethiopia than that small glimpse. The culture is rich in tradition and the countryside is beautiful.
     When you are being interviewed by the social worker for your home study you are asked many questions, but added on in an international transracial adoption is the questions of how you will help him identify with his/her race and heritage. I am blessed to have many families that have adopted from Ethiopian living in the same basic community I do and so we do get our kids together. While culture is much more than food it is a way for me to expose him to pieces of his home land and such traditions as the coffee ceremony.
While in Ethiopia I purchased traditional clothing and small gifts to give to him each year on his adoption day for the first 5 years he was home. We also have things like the Ethiopian alphabet, toys and art work in the home for him to see. We always discuss and recognize Ethiopian New Year and other holidays.

   This last year Little Man has started asking about visiting Ethiopia. It is in the works, probably not for a few years, but we will go. ( He is hoping I will bring a baby brother home for him when we go, not likely to happen but he is hoping) We will go and visit, tour the country he came from, eat the food and hear the language, smell the spices and see the beauty. I will attempt to give him memories of his birth place. I will attempt to balance the America he lives and breathes everyday with a pride for his birthplace as well.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Adoption Awareness Day 9: Boundaries between the triad

Open adoption. Closed adoption. Domestic adoption. International adoption. It matters not, you can not escape the adoption triad. The triad is not bad and for some in fact it is a great blessing to have the birth mother be a part of their lives. For some the triad is bad, for what happened before this family was not good. For some the triad is a big unknown with questions that may never have an honest answer.
There is woman some 7000 miles away that I share a bond with every day. There is a woman who I ache to know, but if I am honest am scared to know as well. There is a woman who I work to honor everyday. A woman whose legacy I raise. There is a woman who I know so little about, who I could not pick out of a crowd, but who I see glimpses of everyday in my son. Little Man calls her his Tummy Mommy and knows that she is far away. 
I have held him and told him the story of how he came to be mine and I came to be his. I have rocked him as he cried for her, as an infant mourning a loss he didn't understand and couldn't verbalize, as a toddler when he was first told by a stranger that he didn't look like me, as a child who is beginning to understand more about adoption. I have stopped my car and rocked a child who wanted his brith parents so badly he was sobbing in his car seat. I have reassured a little boy that I am here, that this is family, that we are "stuck together" forever. I have wiped away tears when he asks why I can't bring her here. And I have cried silent tears as he questions "she would have kept me if she could have, right?" She is a part of us. She is the missing hands that complete our circle. 
This is a short excerpt from a longer piece I wrote a long time ago: One woman’s journey to her child begins with the heartbreak of a mother and the cries of a baby who does not understand. He is placed in the arms of the nanny and his story begins, a story of heartache and of love surpassing understanding, a love that oddly, starts with letting go. 
When I wrote that I was thinking only of her having to "let go," I have realize it involves my letting go so he can have both of us in his heart. I am the mother that he sees everyday, who hugs and kisses and smiles and laughs and grows with him everyday, but she is the mother who gave him to me.
‪#‎knittogetherbyadoption‬ ‪#‎adoptionawareness‬ ‪#‎loveknowsnoboundary‬

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Adoption Awareness Day 8: What makes me Smile!

This one can have so many stories and answers. His smile, his laugh, the stories he tells about his day, or the stories he creates for fun, his daily sneak for morning snuggles in my bed before the day many things about this child make me smile. He is sweet, he is kind, he is caring and I am constantly reminded that "he has a lot of words." 
But here is a story that makes me smile and maybe even laugh out loud.
A few weeks ago we went to the pumpkin patch and Little Man was playing in the corn pit (see picture above) There was a little girl probably a year maybe 2 older than him. They were both competing over who could swing further out into this pit of corn using the rope. They were playing, giggling and having a good time. I eventually asked him to get out so we could take the hayride to go get our pumpkin! He got out, after a little convincing. We got on the hay ride with a couple of other families. A few minutes later the little girl, from the corn pit, and her family start to head toward the hay ride. Little Man narrows his eye and quite seriously states "Oh no here comes my corn nemesis." The lady across from me chuckles and asks him what nemesis means to which he replies "she is the evil I fight against."
All those words...he has all these words and sometimes he is so comical about it!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Adoption Awareness Day 7: Other Homes

This is a post that can bring up lots of emotions for me and even sometimes for Little Man.
Home is a word that is suppose to bring images of safety, warmth, care, and love to mind. It is the difference between a home and a house.
I will never forget the first pictures I saw of the Care Center where Little Man was waiting for me. And my trip to visit the Care Center will always be in my mind. For most of the images I have of Little Man as an infant he is either laying on a large bed with many babies or laying in a crib with 2 other babies. Eventually as he gets bigger he is sitting on the floor or in a stroller. I have pictures of him being held during the preparation of coffee for a coffee ceremony. Pictures of him receiving the gifts I sent. But I don't believe this was life everyday. 

There were many babies and many older kids to care for and meet their needs and not always many nannies. Many times older kids, sibling or not, watched younger babies. Were his cries met when he got hurt or was hungry in the night? Was he held and talked to? I will never truly know how often he was held or the care he received while there. I know what the pictures tell me or at least what the pictures tell me was happening on the days families came to get their children. 
I also know what it was like when he came home. I know when he cried there were no tears for a long time. I know that when he got hurt he didn't cry and had to be taught that response. I know that nights brought about terror and fear. I know that he had to be taught to drink a full bottle and learn that food would be plentiful. He will have no concrete memories of his time in the Care Center. Without pictures he likely won't be able to create an image of the place or the people there. But there is lasting effects that no one can see. Memories the brain and body hold on to. Memories of a home that wasn't always safe.
Today this is home. Home to him involves me, his cats, his bed and food that is plentiful. Home involves love and kind words, hugs and snuggles. It involves friends and a church family, "aunts" and "uncles". It involves safety and trust. Most importantly it is a place of healing. 
#knittogetherbyadoption  #adoptionawareness  #loveknowsnoboundary

Babies on a bed

3 to a crib

Coffee Ceremony
The gates to the care center

Friday, November 6, 2015

Adoption Awareness Day 6: How we met

I left the US early on a Friday morning and arrived in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia early on Saturday morning. I technically traveled by myself by met up with another family from my agency in DC before the flight to ET. I spent Saturday and Sunday exploring Ethiopia. I shopped, took pictures, went to church, ate and tried to adjust to the time change and the altitude difference. The rest of the families in my travel group were not scheduled to arrive until Monday night and meet their kids on Tuesday. I decided I couldn't wait and that maybe the calm of it just being me might actually be easier. So I had Little Man brought to me Monday morning/early afternoon.  
I spent the morning impatiently waiting every time I heard a car. I changed toys I had brought down for him to have 3-4 times. I may have even paced a little. Thankfully the lovely ladies who worked at the guest house where I was staying were kind and loving. When he did arrive they took video and pictures for me since I was there alone.  
Then he arrived and all the nerves was my son. He came in the arms of the nurse from the care center. My one year old child in 6 month size clothes that I had sent, with a baggie of gifts I had sent over the 9 months. He was tiny, frightened and very unsure. I sat and talked to him for a few minutes while his nurse held him and eventually reached out to take him. He was unsure. He cried, reached back for his nurse calling her "Amaye" (mother in Amharic) as she headed back to the car. She left, he cried, I held it together for the time. And slowly he calmed in my arms. I was a mom holding my child for the first time. He was a child learning his mom for the first heartbeat. We stayed downstairs for a while and then I took him inside, fed him a bottle and laid him down for a nap. That is when I cried as I looked at my precious sleeping child and examined his fingers and toes and ears and all of that!
#knittogetherbyadoption  #adoptionawareness  #loveknowsnoboundary


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Adoption Awareness Day 5: Outside Perspective

Now this is a topic I can take two different ways!
1) The family and friends in my life have been wonderful. They asked questions but never questioned why I was adopting. The questions were always more like how does this work...when will you know..when will you travel...when can we see his picture. smile emoticon My family was so great about the adoption and since the day we have come home Little Man has been family. No questions, no hesitation just acceptance! My friends helped fundraise, prayer, cry, laugh and smile through the whole process and eagerly waited when we got home to come meet him! 
2) Outsiders I don't know is the other perspective to look at....Most often people are wonderful and curious. They may say things that make me cringe a little in their wording, but for 99.9% they are well-meaning and just did not think about the words that came out of their mouth. As transracially adoptive family, I get many many questions/comments on his hair and his eyes! (they are beautiful) I will say my favorite comment came from an older lady in the store who looked at me, looked at Little Man and quietly and politely turned to me and said "Excuse me honey, but how dark is your husband?" I chuckled a little and explained that he was adopted from Ethiopia. She apologized and then said he was beautiful and we made a cute family. Moments like that make me smile. Occasionally I do get the offense comment, but those are few and far between where I live thankfully. And most often I chalk it up to a lack of education about adoption.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Adoption Awareness Day 4 Thoughts after on Adoption

I have been struggling to write this one. Not because I don't have anything to say, but more on how to say it correctly. 
Adoption is wonderful....wonderfully hard...wonderfully beautiful....wonderfully sad. 
Adoption breaks you and puts you back together, more beautiful than you were before, because now there is this amazingly beautiful child that is a part of the mosaic of your life. 
I adopted an infant (easier by many peoples definition) not by mine. We bonded quickly and by many standards easily. There was just him and I and so time together was constant. I wore him in Ethiopia, I wore him as we flew home and I wore him when we went out here at home. I wore him so he could feel my warmth, hear my heart and feel safe that he was cocooned in my life.
But what I have learned is I simply laid the foundation that I will need to continue to build. I have learned that PTSD doesn't care about age. I have learned that an infant will mourn the country he lost. He will mourn it through night terrors, he will mourn it in sobs that shake his small body, he will mourn it in quiet tears that roll down his sweet cheeks early in the morning or at night as he tries to find rest.
He will mourn for the mother who gave him life...for a father I know nothing about. He will feel worry or guilt that he hurts me as he mourns. And I will feel sadness that my greatest blessing comes from another mothers' greatest loss.
I have learned to FIGHT. I fight for him. I fight for his truth. I fight for understanding. As he grows and wants/needs more answers I will fight for those too.
I am stronger. He is stronger. And together we are stronger. We are strong because he can be weak in the moments he needs. He can miss her. He can miss Ethiopia. He can be angry. He can be sad. And at each stage I know now, what I didn't know as I started this process, that we will mourn again and I will give him the warmth of my body, the comfort of the sound of my heart and the knowledge that he is cocooned.
And he will look me in the eyes and call me mom.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Adoption Awareness Day 3: Thoughts before on adoption

It is hard to remember my thoughts on adoption before my adoption. But here is what I do remember. I knew early in my adulthood that I would adopt at some point. I knew love was not limited by biology. 
But I remember being afraid of the "what ifs...." What if the birth mother comes back? What if my child asks about their past that I can't answer? What if there are special needs I am not prepared for? What if I can't afford the whole process? And the what if thoughts continued. It took me lots of years before I jumped with both feet, arms wide open into the adoption world. 
One day though I just knew. There was a sense of peace that I was meant to be a mom for a child who needed a safe place to land


Monday, November 2, 2015

Adoption Awareness Day 2: Introduction

I am Jenn and this crazy, funny, smart, silly, beautiful child is Little Man. We have been a family for almost 6 years. We were placed in each others arms in December of 2009 in Ethiopia. He is my greatest gift. He made me a mom.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Adoption Awareness Day 1: Fact

I have one adopted child from Ethiopia.

He is my child, not my "adopted" child

I am his "real" mom


I did not "pick" him out.

He is not "lucky" to have me.

I am not special .


Sunday, January 18, 2015

A time of emotions and words that are a jumble.

      Each night I hold his hand and rub his back as part of the night time routine. And each morning I kiss his cheek, slide my finger into his hand, which he still instinctively squeezes, and call his name to wake him up. Some nights he still asks me to lay down and snuggle with him as he goes to sleep and some morning he climbs into my bed and asks for snuggles. I cherish these moments because I know that at some point he won't want/need me to do that anymore.
    This week after watching him drift off to sleep I have knelt and prayed. I have prayed that God protect his heart, that God help me raise him into a young man that loves Him, that he grows to be a man of strength and honesty. And then I have prayed that God gives me the words, the strength and the  courage to face that which is hard and scary. That I know what to say to him, when the time comes, about all the information I have received and will hopefully be receiving in the coming weeks to months. I have prayed that God protect us both and I have prayed that God is protecting the heart of Little Man's tummy mommy.
   I have spent this week ranging in emotions from scared to angry to proud to sickened. I have searched for words and found none. I have felt strong and then felt the wetness of tears on my cheeks. I have laid down to sleep and had words racing through my mind. I see Little Man as a baby in Ethiopia and then a slideshow of pictures of him here with me race through my mind. I see all the faces of those here that love him and lift him and I up.
  The last two weeks have been ground breaking for the adoption world. Through the strength and determination of a group of adoptive parents charges were brought against International Adoption Guides. (Yes, this is the agency I used to adopt Little Man) While I was not in the group that brought charges, I completely supported the group that did and even offered the investigator anything I might have that might be helpful. But I adopted a baby so there was not much information I had to contribute. In the last 2 weeks both the Director and Executive Director pled guilty to some or all the charges brought against them. There was no trial and thankfully no media circus to get caught up in. But their guilt means a so many things on so many levels.
   Most important to me, is that hopefully it will mean I will have  the true story to one day give Little Man** about his Tummy Mommy. But it also may mean that the story I have given him is not true. That there could be a mom in Ethiopia wondering where and how her child is tonight.
       The guilt of these people means that there were kids who had loving parents that wanted to raise them, who lost their children to greed. But their guilt also means that as adoptive parents we are standing up and saying yes, we want to adopt ORPHANS, not kids you "find" and claim are orphans. It means that kids, babies, birth moms and adoptive parents matter more than money. Lives matter, no matter their language, country or financial status.
   So many have been hurt by this and sadly so many more will be hurt as the truth comes out. So tonight as I lay him to bed I let my fingers linger a little longer in his hair. I pray one more time to protect him and me. And I pray that his Tummy Mommy is safe and some how,  knows he is loved and cared for every day by so many people. But I also pray for a future that is now riddled with more questions than an adopted child normally has. I pray for the safety and trust of our relationship, that while he may one day question it,  that he knows in his heart I was honest, I was safe and I fought for his truth.
   Adoption is a beautiful thing. Corruption makes it ugly. May we come through this time holding something beautiful at the end….our family…however it now looks.

**Please don't asks me for his story. Even when I do know as much of it as possible, it is his story to share when he is ready. I will protect it fiercely just as I protect him