By – Trey Darnell
A very hot topic for individuals going through the adoption process is what to do about the nursery. Get the nursery ready? Wait until being matched? Wait until the baby is home? Will working on the nursery jinx adopting? What if it is a boy? What if it is a girl? Why are there so many questions?
There are many people that have told us not to worry about the nursery until after the baby comes. A common theme is family would have everything ready when you return home with the new baby. No offense to our family, but Matthew and I looked at each other and quickly determined that we wanted to work on the nursery during our wait and make it exactly what we wanted. Being able to walk into what has transformed from an empty room into what will one day be filled with rocking, changing diapers, feeding, laughter, crying and a little spit up, we could not be any happier. Would you like to see the result?
Colors – Choosing a neutral color usually means picking a shade of green, tan or yellow. In my opinion, there is nothing exciting about any of those. Matthew and I are fond of the color gray, and when all else fails, it is the color of choice. Valspar’s Colonial Woodlawn Gray has the record of our go to color. Our two favorite colors are gray and white. So it would be easy to guess that the nursery furniture color would be white.
Glider – The glider is by far my favorite piece of furniture in the room. From the very first moment we talked about growing our family, we would visit Pottery Barn Kids and relax in the various rockers and gliders. In the process of constructing the nursery, we have easily tested over 50 different rocker/glider combinations. Nothing ever seemed perfect. On a recent trip to Las Vegas, the first stop was not to In-N-Out Burger (surprising I know) but rather to Pottery Barn Kids. We vetted all of the options available and shared our adoption story to the staff and everyone helped in making the choice. What an excellent decision it was? Looking back, we should have gotten two.
Crib – The crib was also a result of the visit to Pottery Barn Kids. We had looked at various different baby and furniture stores locally. Everything was exceptionally specific to gender or a certain traditional style. Pottery Barn Kids had that special crib that matched the color, look and style that we had pictured.
Bookcases & Dresser – The bookcases are a neat feature of the room and hold a little personal sentiment. They are identical bookcases from Ikea with a twist. Instead of using the particleboard backing, we repurposed twenty year-old lumber that belonged to my parents. This completely changed the look of the bookcases. With the addition of a little lighting it helped finish the room, once bolted to the wall.
Accents – The accents in the room are neutral and have a variety of different textures. The side table next to the glider is a repurposed telephone pole. We have children’s books that Matthew and I both read in our childhood. We also added books that help show the positive message of adoption and having same-sex parents. Birds have become a popular theme in the room. Maybe it has to do with my love of flight. There are two accent pieces that will have a new color once we know the sex of the baby. A baby boy would produce the color blue, and if a little girl we would repaint purple.
The nursery has become my favorite room in the house. I used to think of the nursery from Father of the Bride II. It was beautiful, soft and warm. I could be biased, but our nursery has all of those feelings and then some. There are days that the door to the nursery is open, and we sit and enjoy what will be. There are days the door remains closed. As I mentioned in the last blog, we are expecting a little one in late summer. This is an exciting time for us and allows us to add the pops of color to match the gender of baby T-Rex.
To see other photos showing the creation of the nursery visit our Pinterest at pinterest.com/mattandtrey
I originally had something else planned to share today, but chose to share something different with all of you. Matthew and I have debated what we want to share as well as to what extent. We began our adoption process in August 2012 and became a “live” waiting family December 17, 2012. We just reached the four-month mark as a waiting family.
In my first post with The Next Family, I shared our excitement and sense of optimism after seeing the number of same-sex families that have matched and placed with the Independent Adoption Center (IAC). The Atlanta, Georgia office has two different bulletin boards. One of the boards portrays the brochures of waiting families that have matched and the other shows the brochures of families that have placed along with a picture of the new addition. The number of same-sex families that appeared on both of these boards was inspiring to Matthew and me.
This past week I received a photo from our counselor located in our agency’s Atlanta, Georgia office. The picture also included this message. “Thought you might enjoy seeing your letter on the match board.”
The past two weeks of our adoption journey have been filled with so much excitement. This picture prompted so much emotion for both of us. We struggled with just the imagination of our letter making it onto the board. This was a special morning for us and for her to take the time to send us the picture helped us both realize that this was actually happening. In this case, pictures speak just as loud as words. Matthew and I have matched with an amazing expecting mother. We will share more in the future as we await the arrival of baby “T-Rex” in late summer.
We decided we wanted to share this with all of you. We will share the blog that was supposed to post today “A Shade of Gray” next time.
By Meika Rouda
I heard a story on the radio the other day that made me cry. It was on StoryCorps, an amazing program of personal stories, recorded and archived through the Library of Congress. It is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind and is open to the general public for free. This particular story was a father being interviewed by his ten-year-old daughter. She was asking him about what made him decide to adopt a child.
“I want to tell you something. You have absolutely changed my life. The most interesting thing for me was the idea of the Red Thread. In Chinese adoptions and in the Chinese culture the Red Thread means that we are, with our souls, connected to a specific person. And we got you. And I am so pleased that you’re part of my life. I just love you so much.”
I had never heard about the red thread before. It is such a simple idea that I know every adopted parent would agree with. We are bound in a predetermined sense with our children, adopted or not. When you adopt a child, it does feel like a soul connection. A connection so strong and so much larger than yourself, it feels destined. It also truly simplifies the complex reasons for adoption, that sometimes people can’t get pregnant while other people may not be able to parent at a certain time in their lives. Adoption is complex, but when I am explaining to my five-year-old why he was adopted, I think the red thread is a beautiful metaphor for the invisible link we feel with our children. While I don’t want to oversimplify it, I know there is plenty of time in the future to discuss the details and feelings of his adoption. For now, while he is five, there is the red thread.
By Trey Darnell
Hurry up and wait. I am not sure there is a better phrase to describe the adoption process. There is no known equation to determine how long the wait might last. The time spent waiting has the potential to lead some down a path of self-reflection and endless questioning. I often see posts made by other waiting families that have even started questioning whether they will become parents at all. An adoption agency, a facilitator, and an attorney put in a lot of effort in representing their waiting families equally and positively. A waiting family can and should help promote their wish to adopt. The goal is standing out to that one expecting mom.
There are countless articles, blogs and recommendations for what a person could and might want to do while waiting to meet an expecting family. Designing picture books and profile brochures. Printing business cards with all of your contact information. Email, Facebook and Twitter, oh my! A simple Google search will produce thousands of pages of families and people who are trying to navigate their way through adoption. When we wrote our first draft of our profile letter it was twice as long as our agency recommended. I must say it is very difficult to condense everything you want to say in fewer than 1,000 words.
As a same-sex couple, Matthew and I have a unique opportunity to share our story of growing our family through adoption. Instead of marketing ourselves as a couple hoping to adopt, we have a platform to promote gay couples parenting in general. There has been no greater moment than now for us to open up about our lives. Today, the Supreme Court will begin hearing testimony and discussions about marriage equality. Now is the time for Matthew and me to share and speak. When we started the adoption process, it was our wish to grow our family with a child and three months into our wait it has become much more than we could have imagined.
This past week we received an invitation to share our adoption story with H.E.R.O.E.S., a LGBTQ support group for students at East Tennessee State University. This wonderful group meets weekly and works to promote equality through advocacy, education, and support. Going into the evening, we both expected to give a few statistics and answer several questions. Thirty minutes turned into an hour that quickly reached an hour and a half. We both left the meeting feeling proud and encouraged. Any apprehension we might have felt about opening up and sharing the ups and downs we have experienced quickly vanished for both of us. We never thought of ourselves as activists but we hope by sharing our story that it will educate and make it easier for those who come after us. Adoption will be part of us for a lifetime.
Our local newspaper asked permission to visit our home to interview us about adopting. There were several concerns but we were very optimistic about how our community would relate to the story. The interview turned from one scheduled morning into two separate days with a photographer. We gained a friend and ally in the journalist -whether the story printed or not.
Waiting for Baby – Local Couple Look to Adopt ran in a recent Sunday edition and by mid-afternoon we had received an email from a same-sex couple in our area. Excitement was the only way to describe how we felt about them reaching out to us. This adorable, sweet couple shared their rollercoaster journey to adoption and showed excitement in ours. Our biggest concerns when starting the adoption process were the home study and the finalization process. They were successful in two adoption finalization hearings for a same-sex couple in East Tennessee and were eager to share their contacts and experiences to make it easier for us. Matthew and I are thankful to the Johnson City Press for sharing our story because it allowed this couple to find us. Reaction from the article has been nothing but positive.
Not trying to sound cliché, but the truth is, the wait will be as long as it will be. We have no idea the length until we look back and reminisce. This is just one small step in our journey to parenthood. For now, we will share our story and happily promote the positives of gay parenting. We are very thankful for the support from our community and feel blessed by those that are now a part of this adventure with us. Adoption touches so many lives in so many ways and being able to hear the joys and the heartache provides more encouragement and optimism for us both. Excitement is filling us as we continue to speak. The truth is we will not have much time when the kiddo finally arrives.
Find out more about Matt and Trey’s adoption journey at mattandtreyadopt.com
By Trey Darnell
Hello! We are Matthew and Trey from Johnson City, Tennessee, and we are adopting. We are a same-sex couple hoping to grow our family through open adoption. The hope of sharing our story is to give you a glimpse into our life, the adoption process for a same-sex couple, and the positive message of becoming gay parents.
Here is a very quick introduction. Matt is employed as a Registered Nurse and I am flying high as a Commercial Airline Captain. Matthew was born in Glendora, California and I am a native of Kingsport, Tennessee. Our story, as a couple, began in 2007 through the power of MySpace. (I am almost certain that got a few giggles.) Our connection sparked over a picture of Matthew in front of an In-N-Out Burger restaurant. We share our home with two cats named Barbara and Beezer. To be completely honest, they allow us to live with them. Matthew and I are best friends and we laugh a lot. We enjoy being competitive with each other, and we are very excited to become fathers. Do you want to know a guilty pleasure of ours? Nerf gun wars in the house.
Our journey to becoming parents started in August 2012 while on a road trip to Charlotte, North Carolina to- apologies to Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware, and West Elm- visit Ikea. Matthew wanted to browse through the modern-looking furniture, and I wanted the Swedish meatballs. We already had the usual criteria before starting a family, like solid careers, a large enough home, a big yard, and financial stability. So there we were in a Holiday Inn in Charlotte, North Carolina when we looked at each other and said, “Let’s adopt!”
What does anyone do when they want to find out how to do something? Google it. Excitement, giddiness and optimism were all reactions that we had. We did our due diligence researching the process of adopting, possible agencies, and the differences in open and closed adoptions. We decided on adoption over a surrogacy to prevent the choice of who would be the biological father. Matthew and I are indecisive when trying to decide where to have dinner; we could only imagine the process of deciding who would be the sperm donor. (It is a little embarrassing typing “sperm”.) Emails and information requests allowed the excitement to build. At this point, it was way past midnight and we needed sleep before our return home the next morning.
While still feeling the euphoria of all the positive information we obtained from our online research, we didn’t float back to Earth; we came crashing down. Matthew and I received the following email from a prominent domestic adoption agency,
Thanks for asking about our Domestic Program at Bethany Christian Services.
Our agency has not proven to be the best fit for same sex couples, as the birthparents looking to make an adoption plan for their child through Bethany are overwhelmingly looking for more traditional, married couples to place with. That tends to be the reason they come to our agency as opposed to working with other secular or public agencies. I certainly do not wish to mislead you or “just take your money” when the chances of receiving a placement would be unlikely. As you live in the Tri Cities, I would recommend that you contact Harmony Adoptions, Youth Villages or the Dept. of Children’s Services office in your area. These agencies, I believe, could serve you well.
A traditional married couple? Really? We would never fit into that category. Our state does not recognize marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships of same-sex couples. Questions of doubt started to form. What family would choose us? How will we ever be parents? What are people going to think and say? The email was not meant as hurtful but it was successful in being destructive. Now what do we do?
As I sit here with two cats staring at me, I can tell you we are proud of not being a traditional couple, and we feel ecstatic about our journey to becoming dads. How does one go from a pessimistic view to a very optimistic attitude? Exactly what anyone would do: go on vacation. So we took a weekend trip to Atlanta, Georgia to attend a free monthly informational session offered by the Independent Adoption Center (IAC). We were both surprised to learn that it was also the same weekend of Atlanta Gay Pride. I personally had never been to a gay pride event. Did you know Dykes on Bikes always start a gay pride parade?
I can honestly say that weekend with the IAC and the Pride events changed everything for us. Today we are proud to declare we are a same-sex Christian couple from East Tennessee, and we are on the way to becoming fantastic parents. The journey will consist of adoption and then eventually marriage. Can anyone say shotgun wedding? They say traditional. We say boring!
Read more about Matt and Trey’s quest to become parents on MattandTreyAdopt.Com
By Meika Rouda
As an adoptee, I never felt like an outcast until I started attending adoption conferences. It seems silly that I, an adoptee and adopted parent, would feel like an outcast; I am intrinsically ingrained within the topic of adoption. But when I attend these conferences, I am chastised for not seeking out my birthmother and having a “reunion” with her. I have friends who haven’t spoken to one of their parents for years but no one is on their back for a “reunion”. I am even more judged for not having an open adoption or communication with my children’s birthparents. I am neither for nor against open communication, it just didn’t work out that way in our adoptions.
So, I just got an email announcing a new adoption conference called “Adoption: A Lifelong Journey”. I was immediately put off. Why does adoption have to be a lifelong journey? It sounds awful, like a condition one suffers from. Again I feel myself, alone, beating my own drum, saying “Get Over It. Adoption is natural in many ways and has been in almost every culture since the beginning of time.” I realize some adoptees have had difficulty with their adoptions, never felt one within their adopted families and yearned for their biological mother. I know this can be very real, it just isn’t real for everyone and the idea that it is, that all adoptees will have a lifelong journeyis not true. Everyone I know is on a lifelong journey, whether adopted or not. And to quote George Bernard Shaw, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
The journey part is one thing but then the conference really took a turn for the worse when they described the breakout sessions including choosing the right school for your adopted child. What? How is it any different to choose a school for a child who is adopted than for one who is not? Apparently this session focuses on how to tell if a school will be “adoption friendly”. I don’t think adopted children are any different than any other child and should never be made to feel that way. In my son’s public school classroom, there are, coincidentally, four adopted children, almost a quarter of the class. It would seem to be an “adoption friendly” school but frankly it is just the local public school down the street from our house in the suburbs.
I know these conferences have good intentions, but I think they miss many of the potential issues in adoption by not addressing all sides. I have offered several times to talk on one of the panels, to provide a different and positive view on adoption but the organizers have always declined. I guess I don’t fit the mold. Talking about adoption and the positive effects it can have on a person and a family just isn’t as interesting as choosing a school for your adopted child. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to get back to my lifelong journey and pick up my son from his adoption friendly school.
By Rob Watson
Some of those fighting marriage equality these days want you to believe that there is only a single possible right way to create a “real” family. The way they suggest is by means of unprotected, unplanned, procreative sex. Or, as Nan Hunter observes, “accidental procreation” which then warrants 1500 protections and benefits by means of a “bribe (for) heterosexuals “ to get married. Only the biologically created family deserves marriage -they argue- and all the rewards to stay together.
The notion is insulting and absurd, not only for same sex coupled families, but for opposite sex families as well. Real families come together in a variety of ways, the best of which is when all the members love each other and deeply desire a lifetime bond.
That is what happened in my family.
My partner and I had pursued various options to expanding our family beyond the two of us. We explored surrogacy, and we explored private adoption. All potential routes to family have pitfalls. As we were going through our evaluation process, I remember discussing the options with a total stranger at an airport. She saw me poring over literature and shared stories of her numerous miscarriage heartbreaks on her way to having a family. “Whichever way you choose, just know it can be hard, but it will be OK and worth it,” she stated as we said goodbye.
My partner and I ultimately chose fostercare/adoption. Having come from recovery experiences ourselves, it was a great fit. We understood the situations of the birthparents without judgment, and we understood the real need of the children as well as the obstacles they might face. We committed, trained, and waited for the call for a placement.
We got numerous calls for toddlers on temporary care. Those were great experiences. Then, we got a call about a newborn baby, born six weeks prematurely to a heroin-addicted mother. He weighted 4 lbs, and had heroin exposure himself. He was to be ours for the foreseeable future.
I carried him on a sling on my chest for the next few months. We had to make sure he got a sufficient amount of nourishment in each feeding to avoid brain damage as we went through the process of supporting his birth parents through possible reunification. When those efforts failed, we went on to full adoption. We named the baby, now ours, Jason.
As Jason passed his one year birthday, we opened up our home for the potential of adding a sibling. We got a placement. She was a beautiful baby girl, and she looked just like Jason did when he was a newborn.
We had warm feelings to keep her, but were equally enthused that her birth mother was responding well to the recovery program. We supported that momentum and looked forward to a safe mother and daughter reunion.
Meanwhile, good friends of ours, another foster family, had a 10-month-old little boy placed with them. He had been discovered abandoned in a trailer. My partner often did play dates with them, and the little boy in their care and our son Jason became very close and attached.
They seemed to speak a common language, playing well together. My partner called me at work one day, “You have to come see this little boy and how he and Jason are. I told the other family that if anything was a problem with their placement, to let us know and we would love to take him.” I was alright with this, but a little guarded as our plan had been to have a boy and a girl—not two boys. Plans change and life takes over.
When I got home that evening, the play date was still going on. I will never forget the moment that I first saw Jesse. He was crawling around the corner headed toward the dishwasher as I was headed the other way… and we locked eyes. It was one of the most profound moments of my life. Here I was with direct eye contact with this toddler and the look between us said it all… “Hi Dad, I am your son. Hi Jesse, I am going to be your dad.”
A week later, it happened. The fostermom called and asked if we were serious about our offer. It turns out that her family had to move into very tight quarters temporarily and she was much better equipped to care for the baby we were nursing than Jesse, the rough and tumble toddler . So, we called the authorities, and made the switch. Jason and Jesse, new best friends, were now on the way to potentially becoming brothers.
I was worried however, being the working dad, that I might not get to bond with Jesse as I had with Jason. I did not get to carry him on me for months, and saw him in the mornings before I left for work, and in time for a kiss goodnight when I returned. He was exposed to my partner, other fostercare providers, and others more than he was seeing me.
I wish I could say that road to brotherhood was trouble-free. It was not. Jesse was still on a unification plan with a birth parent, and it looked like things in that regard might be successful, until one horrible weekend. Jesse came back from an overnight visit battered and bruised. We called the social worker immediately and the reunification attempts were closed.
I slept by his crib for the next two weeks, and although he was normally a through-the-night sleeper, he awoke nightly screaming and crying. Controlling my own anger and pain, I grabbed him and held him. Eventually the reaction grew less and less until he was again able to sleep through the night.
I don’t know if being there for him in that way was the factor, but our bonding was not an issue. As he has grown, we are lock step and almost able to read each other’s minds. As I look at my sons, I am filled with the awareness of a love for each that I could never fathom in my wildest imagination previously. The love I have for each is unique, each powerful in its own right, but its own “color” if you will. Jason is the son of my heart, Jesse is the son of my soul.
Today they act as twins. Since he is physically bigger, they have decided that Jesse is the “big brother”. Since he was born four months earlier, Jason has been dubbed, by mutual consent, as the “older brother”. We do not have a “little brother” in the family.
That is how two little best friends became brothers. It is how my gay family came together. We have a unique story, but we are not unique. All same-gendered parent families have a story. While my friend at the airport was right, “all ways can be hard”, all ways can also be miraculous, loving and intensely wonderful.
How our families come together is being judged today, and in the next few months. It will be judged by the US Supreme Court. Our families are likely to be judged long after that as well, no matter what the results.
And, no matter what the judgments on our value, I will always know the truth. I know how thoroughly REAL we are. I live it and I have seen it. I saw it as I looked into a little boy’s eyes for the first time in front of a dishwasher.
By Meika Rouda
Lately I have been posed with the Do I mention my kids were adopted or not? quandry. I was at the dentist the other day and my hygienist who I have been seeing for the past few years was looking a little round in the belly. She is a little younger than me, smiley, always cheerful and I wanted to ask “are you pregnant?” but knew better. Maybe she had a huge lunch? Isn’t that what the celebs complain about when Star magazine says they are pregnant but really they just had a bowl of pasta and are bloated? Anyway, while my mouth was hanging open, I noticed the engagement ring on her finger and managed to say “You are engaged; congrats!” She smiled and said “and I’m having a baby in May.” She rubbed her belly. “I noticed you were a little rounder but didn’t want to say anything just in case.” She laughed. “I have had the strangest cravings! Licorice, something I don’t even like usually, I just can’t get enough. It is so strange. I feel like my body has been invaded.” She is talking to me while poking at my gums. I can’t say anything because I have a suction tube in my mouth so she continues. “And apples, this baby, oh he is a boy, he just loves apples. How were your pregnancies? Did you have any strange cravings?” This is when I have to think, do I just say “my pregnancies were easy”? (which they were since I never was pregnant). It is a half-ish truth but evades the issues. Or do I just say “I never was pregnant, we adopted both of our kids.” As is my tendency, I went with the latter. She looked at me and said “Oh- I forgot, you told me that before. So you did have easy pregnancies then!” And then inevitably the conversation switched from pregnancy to adoption. How long it took. How she knows a friend who has been waiting forever for a baby. How she knows someone who adopted form China. I wish we could just talk about pregnancy and not worry about that fact that I didn’t give birth. It isn’t a delicate subject to me but I can’t really explain that to my hygienist.
Later that same day I was at school picking up my son who I have mentioned before is tiny. As he was playing with another boy from his class on the playground, the boy’s mom said to me “he is so strong for being so small.” Kaden has mastered the monkey bars even though he is the size of a 3-year-old. It is amazing to watch him. “Yes, he is.” She turned to me and said “Well, you and Chris are tall so he will have had a growth spurt. At least you don’t have to worry.” Then of course I just had to pipe in and say “Actually, he may be small. Both of our kids were adopted and his birth mom was only 4’11″. ” She looks at me wide eyed and I realize she is shocked. It just never occurred to her that he was adopted and why should it? I didn’t mean to be so forthcoming; it is just the truth and I know my son will be in school with these kids for the next eight years so why not be straight up? Plus if I am coy about adoption that makes me feel like there is something to be ashamed of and I don’t feel that way. I feel like it is something to share and celebrate. So I am going to tell. Even if it makes people uncomfortable, that is their issue not mine.
By Natalie Sullivan
It says, “IUFD at 37.3 weeks.” And elsewhere in the records, “DIU at 37 weeks.” If you check my medical records, that’s how you’d know that our daughter existed. I’ve never looked it up, but I assume it involves terms like “death,” “intrauterine,” and “fetal.” We know her differently. Her name was Anna Elizabeth, and she was our first child. Our only pregnancy. Our only daughter. She died in my belly three days before her birth and eight and a half months after becoming a very important part of our lives.
After our daughter was born and buried, we went through a difficult time. For me, I just couldn’t wrap my arms around not having a baby to wrap my arms around. It was the emptiness, the lack of something physical to pour all of our emotions and attention into. Our daughter was stillborn, so we didn’t get a birth certificate because, according to officials, she had never lived. We didn’t get a death certificate either because, in the traditional sense, she had not really died because she had never lived. It hurt. The hospital did their best. They gave us a lock of her hair and a hospital certificate listing all of her statistics and bearing her foot prints. It wasn’t enough. We were lucky because, unlike parents who lose their babies much earlier, we had a body to hold and bury. We have photos; we have a grave to visit. It still isn’t enough. It never will be. But, a birth certificate will help.
For those who think parents would not want proof that their child died, they are mistaken. The birth certificate for a child, including a still born child, is proof that the child existed. Proof that he or she WAS. Proof that he or she was expected, awaited, anticipated. Proof that life sometimes takes an unexpected turn, sometimes for the worse. When the NY law allowing for birth certificates for still born children was passed in late 2011, my husband and I had just completed our adoption home study and were awaiting news of a birth mother who might want to meet us. By March 2012, when the law became effective, we were awaiting the April birth of our son. And yesterday, when I randomly thought to research the legislation, our son turned eight months old. With us since the very beginning, we completed his adoption a couple of weeks ago and are awaiting, ironically, his birth certificate in the mail from our attorney’s office.
Prince William and Princess Katherine of England announced their first pregnancy this week, after she was hospitalized for acute morning sickness. The condition, now increasingly recognized as hyperemesis gravidarum by those who had never before heard the term, has been described by the media as rare, serious and often indicative of twins. It can also be fatal to mother and/or child. My husband and I suffered from this condition for the duration of our pregnancy and, we hold it and its related conditions responsible for the stillbirth of our daughter. My husband, who doesn’t generally partake of entertainment news, came home today and told me with a serious look, “Princess Kate has hyperemesis.” He said it knowingly, with familiarity and almost in a way that made me feel like we were talking about a family member. I weighed a lot more than Princess Kate when I was diagnosed with the condition that plagued our 8 ½ month pregnancy, so I was able to sustain the loss of almost 60 pounds during that time. I look at Kate, thin- really too thin- and I say a prayer for a fellow hopeful mother.
Sometimes I wonder when the pain of our own hyperemesis, the stillbirth of our daughter and the adoption of our son will all sink in completely. But this week, the convergence of all three events- the immediate availability of both of our children’s birth certificates and the draw of attention to hyperemesis- was too much to ignore. I pray for Kate and William and their unborn child(ren). I pray for all the mothers and fathers, the unborn babies, the babies born and the babies yet to be conceived who will face this devil of a demon. As I get older, I’m learning that the vast majority of women have a very personal story to tell. Stories that are often tucked away through the passage of time, eclipsed by the arrival of children or hidden by the painful facade of avoidance. Stories of why, how, almost, never and forever. For me, it all lends tremendous veracity to what we hear so often that it’s almost a cliché, “My baby is a miracle.” Because, trust me…all babies are.
*For more information about hyperemesis gravidarum and to support efforts for more research on the condition, please visit The HER Foundation at www.helpher.org.
By Natalie Sullivan
Our child is crying and she’s holding him the wrong way. He’s only two weeks old, but already we know that he doesn’t like to be held on his back like a baby. This is the first time she has had the chance to hold him, and she’s holding him the way she can only guess he might want to be held. For my husband and me, it’s our last time visiting with our son’s birth mother before we leave the state with our newborn son to head home many long miles away. It’s the last item on our “to do” list and her first and only precious time with her son.
Sitting in the Santa-Fe inspired lobby of our agency, I realize it’s the most uncomfortable couch I’ve ever sat on. My arms, filled for the past two weeks with our seven-pound child, now sit uselessly in my lap, with my hands neatly folded in front of me like I’m at my first job interview. My urge to reach out to my son is overwhelming, but it wouldn’t be right. We feel so awkward at this moment, even though we’re so intimately linked. My husband and I smile like proud parents as we tell his mother what our child has been doing in the past two weeks. Our child -hers and ours.
She pats him so differently than I do and bounces him faster than I do to try and soothe him, but I can’t bring myself to tell her what he’s used to. We don’t know how long we’ll be here, but my husband and I agree, with a wordless glance, that it’s not our place to end her only visit with her son. At a moment where mother and son stare deeply into each other’s eyes, I snap a picture to help him remember, and so that she- and I- will never forget.
I call her his mama, and she calls me the same as she finally passes him back to me. I lean over in her direction, using my voice for his, the way people do with babies and pets. “Tell Mama you love her,” I say, meaning her and not me. We fail to escape the brand of awkwardness as we pose for a group shot- me holding our son and his mother leaning in to the two relative strangers who will share a lifetime with her child.
As we sit in the desert-themed room, I want nothing more than to scoop up my child and head for home. Now, when it is time to leave, my heart starts to ache and the idea of her never holding her child again becomes too much to bear. We hug her. We tell her we will take care of him. We love you, we say. You are our family now. And then we leave, carrying this beloved child into our eagerly awaited future together and out of her life forever.