They say as you proceed down the adoption track, it can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. I would say that’s true. From moment to moment, my emotions run amok. One moment I am excited about being an “employed” mother again, the next I feel guilty that I want to have children other than Jordan, and then I swing over to worrying I won’t love an adopted child as much as I loved Jordan, then I swish back to being so impatient for a baby I want to throw things. You wouldn’t know it to look at me. But everyday, I get up on that high wire and try to stay balanced, be productive, make “to-do” lists, remember future appointments and obligations (that one is a tough one), and, ultimately, stay on course to our goal.
The positive is our Home Study is complete and we can officially adopt if we have the opportunity. However, now, we are in the marketing stage: collecting pictures, writing the “Dear Expectant Mother” letter, and trying to present ourselves in an honest, yet cheerful way. It reminds me of a scene from How to Lose a Guy in 10 days— “Yes, we’ve had two miscarriages, but we’re still positive and upbeat about the future. And yes, we lost our son. Yeah, we are terribly sad, but…surprisingly resilient and, you know…upbeat!”
Part of the problem is that I have a bit of an attitude. The match agency sent us a list of required photos and descriptive paragraphs they need written. My first reaction was to, metaphorically, stomp my foot and complain about the restrictions. We needed to take couple shots with our heads close together and without glasses and hats? How contrived! We need staged action shots? How inauthentic! We must only submit photos from the last year, maybe two? How can we possibly show our lives without delving into the recesses of our history? We have thousands of photos from our trips and life together over the last eleven years, why take more?
As often happens, I was brought to reason by my husband. Suck it up, Buttercup, he said (in a much more kind and round about way). I took a deep breath and acknowledged he was right. This is what we needed to do. It was not all about me. The birth parents needed to get a sense of our life, so they could choose who to give their child to. When I thought about it that way, the pictures seems pretty important. So, I’ve reoriented. I’ve written our letters and descriptions. and culled through our photos. We even planned to take a few action shots, and my sister is coming over to help photograph us as a couple. This is what we need to do. We have to keep taking one small step after another, trying to keep our balance as we walk to the other platform across the crevasse. It’s not that far away, right?
We had Jordan’s 2nd year memorial on Sunday, March 26th. But today is the day we lost him two years ago. It is really hard to believe that two whole years have passed. In so many ways, it feels like a few months ago. But when I look back at how we felt during that first year, to how we feel now, I can see the change. You do heal some. I think less and less about the night he slipped away and more about the times I held him, played with him, and bathed him. I’m grateful for the diminishing memories of pain. The “What if’s” are less frequent, and I can change a thing or two in his room without massive guilt. We are doing okay. Thank God.
I was playing with one of our cameras and found some pictures from the NICU. We have a couple of family shots! My husband and I look tired, but we only have this and one other family picture, so I am pretty excited about them.
There is no easy way to jump into this so…I had a miscarriage this last month. After the blessings of having Father Archimandrite Sergios and the Icon of St. Anna visit us, we thought we should put our faith in God’s hands and try for a baby. I kept taking pregnancy tests but they were negative despite my overnight bloating (which is usually a tale-tell sign). Days passed my period due date, I took another test. It was one of those plus/minus deals and the plus was just a little too faint to be convincing. So, two days later, I took a digital test. No complicating plus-sign, minus-sign B.S. That Wednesday morning, I believed that stupid test when it said I was pregnant. I immediately downloaded those pregnancy tracking apps and tried to wait to tell my husband since he was at work. I couldn’t, so I took a picture of the test with the caption “So…surprise!?” I knew the result would bring on a load of worry for him but I hoped he would be happy too. He reminded me to call my fertility doctor. So I did and they said to come in for hormone testing.
Man, was I pumped. I pushed away a nagging feeling that I felt too good to be pregnant. By week 5, I am usually yelling at my husband for eating garlic while fatigue takes hold of over my limbs. But I felt great. Like better than I have in months. I just tucked that worry away and said, this is a miracle baby and maybe it will be one of those energizing pregnancies. Denial is a beautiful thing. Two hours after the blood test I got a call from the doctor. He did not have good news. My hormones were ridiculously low. Whatever pregnancy I had going was already on the way out. He was surprised I even got a positive pregnancy test. He told me I would probably start bleeding in the next couple of days. I couldn’t be delusional anymore. Hormone levels that low don’t make sense for a healthy pregnancy. Most likely, the embryo tried to implant but was not successful. I cried. My husband cried. The day was an emotional mindf*#@. Pardon my French.
But…some of the elation of being pregnant stuck with me for days afterwards. First off, having the miscarriage was, finally, a definitive answer: if I am going to try for pregnancy, I need to suck it up and take the fertility drugs. Second, the course we are on for adoption is the right one. Another answer, yeah! Third: I was so scared to have another loss. It was almost paralyzing. But we survived. I mean, I am feeling a little bitter about it today, and can’t say that I am emotionally at 100% but I am still putting one foot in front of the other. We are stronger than we think we are. Lastly, it means that Jordan was a flipping miracle baby. He fought to be with us. He fought the conditions of my subpar womb so that he could be here and struggle with us. I don’t know why he chose to be our son and engage in the suffering of this life. I am beyond grateful. Really, there is no way to express my gratitude at having that little boy.
In the meantime: The Home study is almost complete. We have one more visit today. Then we just wait for the official write up that says we are on the market as parents. We have looked into some International adoption options as well as domestic. I think we are going to do both. Which means more paperwork and profiles and jumping through flaming hoops. I’m almost ready to face that all. Maybe just one more day of pouting and staring out the window…
I am sure there is plenty written on the dreaded home visits required for adoption . We have to have four in order to complete the home study, which is the basis for all things adoption. We were assured the first visit is the most time consuming. Part of the paperwork for the home study involves filling out questionnaires about your life, your childhood, your partner, your family, basically, everything. The social worker takes those questionnaires, reads through them, then marks the questions she thinks need clarifying. For this meeting my husband and I shared our answers together. In the same room, at least. For future questions, we will be divided and questioned. Presumably to make sure we are sharing the full truth? I suppose that is good to make sure everything is out in the open. At least, it will be interesting to see what our answers will be. Like the newlywed game. That is how I will picture it.
I ‘m not nervous about the future questions and I wasn’t nervous about the visit. I did clean like a possessed woman. But that is pretty near normal for me. However, it did prompt me to clean Jordan’s room. This would be the room a new baby would use as well. I wanted it to feel like it could be used, not like a shrine to our lost child. J-O-R-D-A-N is still plastered across the wall and his pictures are scattered around the room, but I did throw out more medical supplies. And more than that, I did the laundry that has been in his basket for almost two years. It was mostly, the washcloths we used for everything because babies are always sharing some kind of fluid. It actually felt good to have the room cleaned and attended to. I want to feel like there is hope, and I do.
The home visit took over three hours. We talked about everything: how we met, how we interact and make decisions, our roles, our differences, Jordan and the reasons why we are pursuing adoption now. Our social worker is kind and direct, which makes it easy. But we were wiped by the end of it.
Now this week Lent starts. For many Orthodox (including us) this means fasting for 40 days by abstaining from meat and cheese. It is meant to quiet the passions and focus on our relationship with God. I was looking forward to it. But life feels a little chaotic right now. There is more paperwork to fill out and books to read for the adoption, programs to develop and recruit for at church, plus the impending projects and maintenance of the estate I call my home. Sometimes I just want time to stop for a little bit. Wouldn’t that be nice? We are planning on slipping away to the Holy Dormition Monastery in a couple of weeks. God willing, we will find a little solace there. In the meantime, Happy Lent (if that is a thing), and enjoy the quietude of what has been called the Bright sadness of Lenten Spring.
There are a couple of great and easy books regarding Lent, if you’re interested:
Lenten Spring– Thomas Hopko
Great Lent– Andrew Schmemann
January felt like an emotional Tilt-a-whirl and it is leaning right into February. At this point, I just wanted to get off the ride. The adoption proceedings are actually going fine. We have our home study coming up and are still gathering the necessary paperwork. We even took a little jaunt down to New Orleans and that was very helpful in relieving this continual restlessness I’d acquired. I felt like I had all this built up energy that needed to go somewhere; I just wasn’t sure where. Getting out of town helped to relieve some of that uneasiness. My BFF says I am coming out of a two year emotional cocoon. But acknowledging that very idea creates a whole host of guilt and grief.
Part of me is so ready to let go and move forward. But then a part of me is anchored to the memory of Jordan. I don’t want to replace him. Sure, you can tell me that I’m not replacing him. That I could never replace him. You can tell me that until you’re blue in the face. But when I picture myself heating up milk or trying to soothe a new baby and I feel guilty.
Another part to the psychosis of anxiety is that I’m scared. I’m scared I’ve forgotten how to be a mom. I’m scared I won’t be as good a mom with another baby as I was with Jordan. It felt like we were tethered together. Will I have the same connection with another child, my own or adopted? My rational brain says, yes, but it will be different. But my irrational brain seems to be in charge right now and it is taking a lot of effort to subdue the misgivings.
This weekend we had a retreat at our parish. The Abbot of St. Tikhon’s Monastery traveled with the Icon of St. Anna to give some lectures and offer an opportunity for people to venerate a miracle-working icon. The icon streamed Myrrh for a few years and still emanates the scent. Since I was part of the planning committee, I was running around making sure coffee was made and things were set during the morning session. But I stopped long enough to hear him speak about the hesychastic tradition of stillness. Instead of putting out a lot of prayers and words, we should allow God to reach out to us by being still for a little while. “Be still and Know that I Am God” (Psalm 46). I am so busy running my mind and being anxious, that I forget to let God guide me. I put a new picture of Jordan on my phone with the words “Be Still and Know…” God will reveal the “Know.” I just need to let it happen. I put that picture on my phone and then noticed one of the attending priest holding his toddler baby. He wsa Looking over his shoulder at me and I instinctually broke out my bag of goo goo’s and peek-a-boo. It felt natural and easy. And for that moment, I knew we were doing the right thing by pursuing more children. Just a simple moment. So, I will try to hold on to that vision and continue going forward. It feels a little like taking a machete to the Amazon, but going backwards is stupid. How is that for a succinct resolution?
I came down with the flu even though I had the vaccination. Harumpf! That was how December ended. Harumpf! I don’t know what happened. At the beginning of November I was feeling pretty optimistic about trying for a baby and about the future in general. But sometime in the midst of taking two prescription meds, two bouts of sickness, and the month that is holiday crazy, things took a turn.
We “tried” my last three cycles to get pregnant, watching for ovulation, taking Letrozole at the beginning of the cycle and progesterone at the end. I put tried in parenthesis because one thing or another caused a roadblock to the actually trying. The first cycle, I didn’t ovulate. We were traveling a little and sometimes that happens. Okay, I said to myself, the new cycle started on Jordan’s birthday and that’s auspicious. But when the ovulation came around for that cycle, my lady-parts broke down. TMI, but it was a yeast infection. Okay, I said to myself, we will fast for two weeks, wear the rope blessed on the belt of the Theotokos from Vatopedi Monastery. We will contact the Monastery of St. Irene of Chrysovalantou in New York for a piece of blessed apple which has been known to help women conceive. In addition to these pursuits, I made an effort to do my daily pray and prostrations. We broke the fast on Christmas Day, each eating a piece of the blessed apple slices sent from the monastery. Ovulation was schedule for the following weekend, and I was feeling pretty good. Until two days later when my temperature spiked and I was hit with body aches and a sore throat. The doctor diagnosed the flu and the weekend of ovulation was obscured by coughing and sinus drainage. I am just now starting to feel better in the last couple of days.
Overall these last couple of months have felt very stressful. But if I think about the actually level of activity, yes it was a little higher because of the holidays, but was it really bad enough for me to feel the stress and panic that I felt? Was it bad enough for me to get the flu despite the vaccination?
After running my mind in circles the last couple of weeks, I have surmised the following theories: 1) Holidays and fertility don’t mix, 2) God allowed these roadblocks because it is not the time to try for pregnancy, or 3) I am too broken to be able to handle the possible complications of pregnancy and my body knew it.
Probably, I’m focusing too much on the last theory. But I had these great expectations. I have been waiting for my husband to be ready for over year. Waiting as we went to countless doctor’s visits and tests and supplements and then finally hormones. I tamped down my feelings of restriction and impatience and held it together while we waited and waited some more, only to fall apart when the time came to actually try. I hate the confines of modern fertility. But we did it my way before and look what we ended up with? A miscarriage and my son passing away too early. So I thought I could manage to go through the doctors visits and the calendar watching and the pill taking but it feels confining and unnatural. I don’t want to feel like I am forcing a result. I want things to feel blessed and sacred.
Least you be concerned that I am going into a fatalistic tailspin, it’s not that bad. When I came down with the flu, I decided I had enough, at least for now. I know other women go through months and months and good for them. But for my sanity, I am putting pregnancy on the back burner. I am holding off on prescriptions and easing up on watching the calendar. For now, we have decided to pursue adoption. We are just starting the process, going through the extensive paperwork and background checks. My feeling, as of now, are that we will go forward with this process as long as it feels right. We will fill out one form at a time, move through each step, and if it is God’s will, it will work out.