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How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?

Practice.

Yesterday I took care of a friend’s 7 month old while she went to the dentist. This is not news. I have been babysitting since before I hit double digits. But this time felt different. This time it felt like a trial run at parenting. And not just because I got the opportunity to manage a hungry baby while I had a contractor over so I could sign paperwork to get our roof redone.

Even though Little D was only here for a couple of hours, she taught me a lot. For example, she helped me realize that not all cat toys are baby friendly (although Little D never caught sight of the one I put away after she arrived). She also taught me that our rocking chair is not a comfortable place to hang out with a crying baby. Which made me even more grateful that Little D’s mom passed on a super comfy glider chair (which is upstairs in the future baby’s room, which is why I wasn’t sitting on that).

But the most important thing that Little D confirmed for me is that I am ready to be a parent. Not in the way that the social workers determined that we would be fit parents for a child. I actually never had any doubts about that.

Being in an adoption pool (even for such a short time) has provided me with more than adequate time to obsess on my own fears and anxieties about becoming a parent (which I should add, are mostly irrational) But hanging out with a 7 month old today, when it was just the two of us, felt very natural to me. And I am choosing to take that as an indicator that I am as prepared and ready as I can possibly be to become a parent.

I am fully aware that I will not know how to manage every situation that comes up and that I will be relying (heavily) on my friends, my reference books and my pediatrician for support. I understand that parenting is best done in community. But when push comes to shove, it all comes down to the parent(s). And that kind of responsibility is, to be completely frank, kind of terrifying. But it is also something I am feeling ready to do.

Since I didn’t publish this yesterday after I first wrote it, I thought I would add an addendum. Today my arms are sore in unusual places which I attribute to holding a squirmy baby yesterday. I want to hold on to this feeling to keep me motivated to go to the gym and strengthen those muscles while I still have the time.

 

All Quiet on the Western Front. Well, sort of…

We have been fully approved and are now in the adoption pool. We’ve contacted our adoption lawyer, are editing our wills and have all the basics we need for the first week of having a baby at home. From here on out we just wait for a call asking if we want a given birthmother to see our book. We have no idea when that call will come. Or even if the first, second or third call will result in a birthfamily choosing us.

As you might imagine, this is making future planning a bit of a challenge. Not that that has stopped us. This summer David and I have already been to Bermuda and Lake Placid, NY. In addition, I have made one trip alone to Westchester to see my brother and his family.

Coming up in the next few weeks we have tickets to see Wicked, my Mother and Stepfather-in-Law are arriving in town, I head out for a week of work in Toronto and I return home to a friend visiting from out of town. Then in October we head out again. This time to Western Massachusetts for David’s stepsister’s wedding.

Looking at my life now I have no idea how we are going to fit a baby into it. And the short answer is we aren’t. When the baby comes we are going to fit our lives around her. Not the other way around. That’s just the way things work when you have 24/7 responsibility for a tiny human being. And I am completely okay with that.

I love traveling and I love theater and I love my work and all of the other things I do to keep myself busy. But if the past few months of reading baby books and writing essays and responding to endless questions has taught me anything it is that I am ready for a change. A big, scary, somewhat overwhelming change that will come with serious sleep deprivation on a level I can barely fathom. It will also come with some very disgusting moments involving bodily fluids not my own. But it is not all about fear and anxiety. It is also about the wonder and joy that comes with raising a child.

I have certainly spent my fair share of time wondering who my daughter will be. But I more often than not try to stop myself because I do not want to be too prescriptive with my expectations. What I want more than anything else for her is that she grow up to be herself. Whoever that may turn out to be. So I am patiently (well, at least most of the time) waiting to meet this little person who will become the centerpiece of my life. And in the meantime, I am just continuing on with my busy, occasionally chaotic life.

That Unsettled Feeling

I am back in Portland and fully recovered from my jetlag. We also seem to be on a short hiatus from the awful heat. By all rights I should be going for a walk. Right now.

The heat has definitely thrown me off my walking. As did my travel. But I think what really did it was that the unsettled feeling that motivated me to get out of the door disappeared. I had long suspected that my walking was associated with the loss of my father. The timing always made sense and now that the acute grief has passed, my old inertia has returned.

I have made some progress though. I am 126.8 miles into my second 500 mile walk. However I seem to have also lost interest in tracking. I now regularly go out for walks without my handy app tracking my mileage. The good news? When I do hit 1,000 miles I will be confident that I have undercounted my mileage. The bad news is that I have no idea when I hit my second milestone. To rectify this situation, I just invested $15 in what is basically a fancy pedometer. It tracks my distance whenever I wear it and it syncs to an app on my phone.  This is a massive improvement on my old method. RunKeeper, the app I have been using to track my mileage, used to crash my phone, so I always had to bring my mother’s old iPhone with me to run the app.

The bigger question is why bother tracking at all. if I am walking, that is all that matters, right? Well, yes and no. Yes, the goal is to walk and I have not abandoned that completely. But I am hoping that getting back to tracking without having to drag a separate tracking device with me will help keep me motivated to at least achieve my goal.

I hate not achieving a goal. Especially one that I have already given myself a reward for. I have decided (somewhat arbitrarily) that my Fun Home ticket was my reward for the second 500 miles. Therefore I need to retroactively earn it. Obviously the fact that I am typing out this post rather than walking when it is only 67 degrees out means that I still have some work to do when it comes to motivation.

But I have not been a complete slacker. I have been redirecting a lot of my walking mojo towards the purge. Which is all for the good. And believe me, is quite a workout in and of itself. So here is the deal I am making with myself today. This afternoon when I finish work, I will either put 30 minutes into the purge or go for a walk. And now that I have said that publicly, I will really have to do it.

Ring of Keys

Today, at long last, I am finally getting to see Fun Home. I have been a fan of Alison Bechdel’s since I discovered her Dykes to Watch Out For series in 1988. When I first encountered her, she was an obscure lesbian cartoonist whose compilations were published by an obscure lesbian publishing house which went out of business mid-series. Now she is a MacArthur Genius and author of two amazing (that is not just me talking, the critics agree) graphic novels about her life.

When Fun Home first came out I had to almost physically carve out space to read it. My life was filled to the brim with CubeSpace and reading was a pleasure that I had pretty much given up. Nevertheless, I bought Fun Home almost the minute it came out and devoured it quickly. I then passed it around the CubeSpace staff to read because it was that good.

Back then I was very fortunate to get to see Alison at Powell’s read from Fun Home. This was before the hordes realized what a gem she had produced. The room was small but even so, not all of the seats were taken. Despite her obvious nerves, she was very frank and upfront about herself, her writing process and her family.  She also spoke about the challenge of being an incredibly private person writing a very personal memoir.

One of the other reasons I came into New York this time (besides, of course, having an opportunity to dote on my niecelettes) was for the unveiling of my father’s gravestone.  Even though it has been 18 months since my father’s deaths, seeing his name on the stone felt like ripping the scab off a wound that hadn’t quite healed.

I didn’t intentionally set out to go see a show about a daughter and her father on the same trip as my father’s unveiling. But I am glad I did. And not just because it meant I had my choice of seats because I got my tickets before Fun Home won 5 Tony awards. What I am trying to say is that I am confident that I will end up in tears at least once today.

Unveiling aside, my father has been very present in my mind since we started the adoption process. I know he would have been thrilled at the opportunity to become a grandfather again. And I am very sad that my daughter will never get to meet him. But I hope he will still be a presence in her life through me.

Love is Love

My brain is still agog with joy at this morning’s SCOTUS ruling that marriage is a fundamental right for all. I have never understood the opposition to marriage equality. It served no purpose, protected no one and simply served to make some families lesser-than. Today’s ruling corrected that injustice. And I can honestly say I did not expect to happen in my lifetime.

I was born into a post-Stonewall world, so I have no experience of a time before gays and lesbians started the fight for equality. I was also around for all of the hideous homophobia and general hatred that followed the emergence of HIV/AIDS. That also means that I was around for the community solidarity that emerged from that (ongoing) crisis. I am not willing to go so far as to say that HIV/AIDS was or is a blessing in disguise. I cannot say that about a disease that continues to kill so many people worldwide. But I am willing to say that I believe it was a catalyst. And I do wonder if we would be where we are today without it.

We are living in a complicated time. A time when same-sex couples are being granted equal status while blacks in prayer are killed for simply being black. A time when pop culture celebrates a trans woman of color (as we should, she is awesome), but men of color are killed for being “thugs”.  And I am in a position now where I need to make some sense out of this because I will have the responsibility of explaining this all to a child.

We do not know the race or color of the child who will be joining our family. And in some very important ways, it makes absolutely no difference to me. But in other very important ways it is a very big deal because the conversations I have about race and equality with my child will likely be different depending on her own racial and ethnic make-up.

A woman of color will most likely have a different set of challenges in her life than a white woman. That was a difficult, but important sentence to type. Difficult because it is a reality that I wish my daughter did not have to face. Important, because it is a reality that we, as a society, need to own and correct.

I remain hopeful that my daughter will grow up in a world where the cultural aspects of an ethnicity will be celebrated while the barriers associated with skin color diminish. And decisions like this morning’s give me hope. But we still have a far ways to go.

Struggling with my thoughts

 

I have been working on this post for 4 days now. I keep getting about 300 words in and the deleting it all. My thoughts are all jumbled in my head and the words just don’t seem to want to cooperate. Every time I write a post I keep reminding myself that every one doesn’t need to be a home run. Even with that admonition to myself, I just can’t seem to get to first base.*

Regardless, I am stubborn and don’t give up easily. I keep rewriting this poor post in the hopes that I will eventually get the words out in an order that makes some sense.  So please bear with me as I try to get my thoughts out in bits and bytes.

On Father’s Day, a friend posted an image of himself with empty arms. He and his partner recently lost their daughter while she was still in utero. This was meant to be his first Father’s Day and instead of celebrating his joy he is left bereft and alone. I struggle to describe just how devastating that image is to me. Suffice it to say that he, his partner and their daughter have been constantly in my thoughts since Sunday.

I have had friends suffer miscarriages in the past and I have done my best to comfort them in their pain. But when one suffers that devastating a loss comfort doesn’t come easily. As with all losses, it is only time that makes life bearable again. And these friends have not had near enough time yet.

I have another friend who has just been told that her chances of having biological children are very low. She and her husband had hoped for a large family and she is struggling painfully to accept her new reality. These friends are very resilient however, and have started down the long road to adoption. Accepting one’s reality does not always come easily. They still need to mourn for the children that will never be.

Both of my friends’ situations remind me of just how little control we have in our lives. I find this thought disconcerting. I like thinking that I am in charge of my own fate. I like the idea of cause and effect. And there is plenty of that in life too. We cannot just sit passively and expect good things to happen to us. But at the same time, no matter how hard we try, there are way too many forces involved to be sure of any outcome.  And it is that uncertainty that I am struggling with right now.

I am on the cusp of handing over the reigns of the adoption process to some unknown force. Until now, the pace of the process depended solely on my ability to make things happen. From here on out, we will need to rely on any number of forces to come together and bring us our daughter. And I am finding that uncertainty and loss of control very discomforting.

People keep telling me that the uncertainty and loss of control is helping me prepare for parenthood. Perhaps they are right. I don’t know. I have never been a parent before. What I do know is that I have yet to make my peace with my own helplessness.

 

*I really should know better than to use baseball metaphors. My brother, husband and father-in-law are all avid baseball fans and therefore know what they are talking about. Whereas, I can easily screw up and show my ignorance. So to protect the innocent, please understand that any baseball metaphors used in this post are reflections of my own ignorance and bear no reflection on those in my life who actually have a clue about how baseball works.

Circular Thinking

Once again I have been delinquent in my blogging responsibilities. At least now I have a good excuse because the last few weeks have been crazy busy. Memorial Day weekend I was in Chicago hanging out with several friends, the following weekend we had a Baby and Toddler class and this past weekend was the long awaited orientation for the adoption.

The home visit part of the home study process is June 16th, so I suspect this following weekend will be spent focused on The Purge. I only wish this week were cooler. It is going to be awfully unpleasant to be upstairs sorting through stuff when it is in the upper 80’s outside.  And unfortunately, downstairs is only marginally cooler. Our house generally remains cooler than outside in the summer, but it was designed for a more typical Portland summer and not this post-global-climate-change version.

In other news, I am beginning to understand how all-consuming becoming a parent can be. I am some yet-to-be-determined time away from actually bringing a baby home and I find it has already taken up much of my spare brain power. Things may normalize once we are actually in the adoption pool and the wait begins. The Purge will continue, of course (apparently it will go on forever, or so says my friend who had a head start on me and is still at it 2+ years later). And there is some travel scheduled. And in between, there will just be a full on effort to distract myself.

In the distraction category, I still want to finish my Firefly embroidery project and I have a couple of new knitting projects floating around in my head.  And in related news, David has convinced me to keep my loom and just store it in the basement until I am ready to come back to it. There is a piece of me that is thinking that it is just his packrat tendencies at work here. But the pragmatic part of me says that I am much more likely to go back to weaving if there is a loom in the house rather than having to drive over to the Multnomah Arts Center or purchase a new one.

Which reminds me that our basement is scary and is desperate for some attention. But, that will have to wait until our bedroom and the baby’s room are set up appropriately. Which brings me back to stressing about The Purge. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?

 

Really?!?

I generally avoid wading into shark-infested waters, but sometimes things people say are so egregious that I just can’t ignore them. If you are not in the mood for a rant I encourage you to just skip this blog post. I am sure that once I get this out of my system, my posts will return to their usual blather.

This morning someone that I follow on Facebook posted an article about a tragic incident in Omaha in which a relatively new mother was gunned down shortly before she was to start her maternity leave. The TL;DR version of the story is that this cop gave birth back in February to a premature infant who needed to remain in the NICU. She chose to postpone her maternity leave until her baby was ready to come home.

Let’s put aside the issue of our country’s skimpy parental leave policies that forced a new mother to continue working so that she could spend her (likely) unpaid parental leave with her infant at home. What really got me was a response from someone I follow on Facebook (I am posting it in its entirety):

This is a really sad incident and I pray for the family and other officers involved. However this does raise some interesting questions about family leave and the effects of childbirth on new moms. Many women day [sic] they don’t think clearly after childbirth.
I don’t say this to blame the officer, but we have to fix this family leave issue. Despite the well documented postpartum “mom brain” but having a baby in the NICU would be distracting also.
My heart breaks.

Despite saying otherwise, this commenter was, in fact, blaming the victim. Yes, I imagine having a newborn in the NICU is distracting. There are plenty of things in our lives that draw our attention and our emotional reserves, but that doesn’t justify assigning them as cause.

There is absolutely nothing in this article that suggests that the shooting was at all the officer’s fault. She was a 7-year veteran, wearing her vest, who arrived at the scene after initial gunfire had been exchanged with the suspect. She never fired her weapon.

The only reason the article even mentioned the fact that she was a new mother was because she was hours from being able to take her daughter home for the first time.

And how much of the postpartum “mom brain” the commenter mentions is due to the sleep deprivation that comes with having a newborn? Would the commenter have said that a new father was “distracted” or had “dad brain” if the officer in question had been a man? Given that this person is someone I have been Facebook friends with for a few years, I feel safe saying I doubt it.

I know that I shouldn’t be feeding the trolls or giving this post more eyeballs than it might have otherwise. However, there are some statements that people just need to be called on. And to me, this was one such response.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Nerxcited

My niecelette N coined a new word: nerxcited. It is a state of being both nervous and excited. I wanted to share it because it is the perfect descriptor of how I have been feeling ever since we started down the adoption road. I constantly feel like a kaleidoscope of butterflies have taken up residence in my stomach, living side-by-side with a pit of nervousness.

In other news, I am now suffering from some voluntary sleep deprivation and loving it. I have mentioned before that I work for a company where almost everyone works remotely. A few of my colleagues are in town this week for the Write the Docs conference, which means I have the pleasure of their company. It also means that I get to be an ambassador for this lovely place I call home.

My colleagues are visiting from Phoenix, LA, New Jersey (Philly area) and Toronto. Two of them are vegans and one cannot tolerate gluten. It has been a pleasure to been able to show off the marvelous food options we have here and watch their faces as they enjoy treats not usually available to them.

For example, yesterday we went to Petunia’s Pies and Pastries for lunch. Petunia’s is all vegan and all gluten free so everyone was able to enjoy pretty much everything available. And to Petunia’s credit, there was only one item that had soy in it, which is a rarity in vegan restaurants. After we all gorged on an absolutely delicious meal, we then proceeded to share 3 HUGE slices of cake amongst the 6 of us.

As someone who has dabbled in gluten-free baking, I must publicly recognize that Petunia’s bakers are miracle workers. Their party cake can hold its own next to a glutenful cake. Usually gluten-free baking is regarded as “good” when it can closely approximate its glutenful counterpart. Therefore, a gluten-free baked good that can stand up to its glutenful competition is a truly outstanding feat.

I has been a while since I did the food tourism thing in Portland and had forgotten just how filling it can be. I feel like I have been continuously full for a couple of days now, and I still have at least a couple of more meals to go. Then I have one day of recovery before I head to Chicago and overindulge on that city’s offerings. Although it is Spring, I feel like I will need to go hibernate and digest when I return home from my travels. Unfortunately, the following two weeks are pretty busy so I will neither get the chance to hibernate nor get back into my normal walking schedule.

I know I sound like I am complaining, but really it is just me appreciating the wonderful people in my life and just how much fun they are to be around.

A Still Mind

Right now my mind is anything but still. I have unfinished projects (some with looming deadlines), a lot of research to do, friends coming into town, trips to prepare for and then there is the whole getting ready for a baby part of the show. I am a strong proponent of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird practice, so I decided I tackle some discreet tasks this morning while I drank my coffee and hung out with Dancer.

First, I decided to research baby formulas. This was a very poor choice on my part because I was not yet awake enough to deal with the onslaught of guilt-inducing tirades on the importance of breastmilk. I get it. Breastmilk is the best. And if I was having a bio baby, I would choose no other option unless medically required. Although it is possible for adoptive moms to force their bodies to lactate, it is not easy. And I have yet to find a good reference to adoptive moms who have actually managed to pull it off. And unless I can get a prescription from our pediatrician for a breast milk bank (which tend to have very limited supply and distribution is prioritized by medical need), formula is our only option.

Once I managed to wade through the tirades against formula, I discovered that they all contain questionable ingredients. So it is a matter of choosing the best of the worst. I got excited when I read about a European brand that has probiotics (which naturally occur in breast milk), until I read that that brand also high high amounts of aluminum.  There is a good second choice option from Europe, but expense aside, I would have to buy it on e-bay. Which in itself feels sketchy.

That pretty much leaves me back with the less-than-stellar US-based options. Where in addition to questionable ingredients, I have to decide whether I want to go with a family-owned manufacturer or not. This is about where I reminded myself that we are not yet in the adoption pool and that I do have some time to ruminate on this issue.

Then I decided to explore travel insurance options. Not sure what I was thinking there either. Adoption/birth are only covered in “cancel for any reason” policies, which are both more expensive than standard travel insurance policies and only cover 75% of trip costs. My favorite caveat is that cancel for any reason coverage requires that you notify the company 48 hours before your trip. So, if we get “the call” less than 48 hours before we leave or if our trip gets interrupted we end up with nothing.

It was at that point that I decided that the time had come for me to step away from the computer. I had actually done a fair amount of work (even if I didn’t like any of the answers I found) and I had to get ready for my acupuncture appointment. My acupuncturist is very skilled at quieting even my busy mind, so the timing could not be better.  Plus, Dancer had just left my lap to go harass his brother, so I snatched my opportunity to get up and go.