By Trey Darnell
Matthew and I matched with a wonderful expecting couple more than a month ago. The time had come for us to travel west and meet them. This past Thursday we said goodbye to our cats and flew to Texas. Our flight arrived in Dallas, and we rented a car to complete a three-hour drive to Abilene, Texas. I am sure most of you are aware of our love of In-N-Out Burger. Driving through Dallas-Forth Worth, we spotted several locations, but we did not stop. We were on a tight schedule and needed to be in Abilene for our match meeting early that afternoon.
To be truly honest, Matthew and I had a lot of anxiety leading up to this meeting. It seemed to escalate while driving to Abilene. A counselor from our agency, Independent Adoption Center, would facilitate the meeting. This would be the first time that we would meet the expecting mother and father. We were overly excited and nervous to meet both of them. The moments leading up to the meeting felt like a first date. We had built a foundation of communication over the past several weeks and now it was time to meet each other.
Our counselor had reserved the children’s activity room at the Abilene Public Library Mockingbird Branch for everyone to get together and participate in the match meeting. There was not much about this exceptionally large room that indicated children or activity. It was full of six-foot tables and chairs. It did not have that small quaint feeling that we hoped for. We picked a table in the middle of the room and allowed our anticipation and nerves to build even more. We heard a library representative say, “The activity room is located in the back”. We stopped breathing.
Matthew quickly stated what I think we all were feeling. “I know we are all extremely nervous”. The ice had been broken. Questions were posed to both couples and with each one it seemed to get more and more comfortable. Thirty minutes quickly turned into an hour and a half. During this time, we learned about the expecting mother and father as individuals and as a couple. Looking back on the match meeting, all the anxiety left as we said goodbye to the counselor and began our weekend in Abilene. I am thankful for the anxieties as it allowed us to be aware of this truly memorable moment and prepare us for the spectacular time we would have the rest of the weekend
Over the next few days, we were welcomed into this energetic, funny and loving family. We were able to spend time with parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins. Each and every one of them made an extra effort to spend time with us and show their support for us as a couple and potential adoptive parents of their future daughter, granddaughter, great-granddaughter, niece and cousin. We told stories and listened to stories. Needless to say, some were embarrassing. We learned about them, and they learned about us. We laughed a lot. Family members commuted from hours away, and everyone made sure they had ample time away from work to meet and support the mother and father and Matthew and I. We felt so welcome and loved by this family, and we are extremely excited to merge them with ours.
The final night was marked by an epic family barbeque Texas style. Many hours went into the preparation of the BBQ. Cloth napkins, table decorations, a T-Rex and a roadrunner. The menu was overloaded with superb food. The menu included brisket, baby back ribs, sausage, green peppers stuffed with cream cheese wrapped in bacon and then grilled to perfection. This evening was certainly a celebration, a family celebration that we were a part of. There was not a better way to end our visit to Abilene than enjoying each other’s company after a terrific Texas BBQ.
I have to say it was a little emotional to say goodbye to everyone that night. Over the previous three days, we felt as if we were a part of their family. We know that this goodbye is only for a short period of time because in just 16 weeks baby T-Rex makes her arrival. We are extremely excited for what the future holds for our entire family, which has now grown much larger. We have already started talking about future family vacations.
Oh, we did stop at In-N-Out on our way back to Dallas before flying home to Tennessee.
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.
So as most people already know, we are well into an election year. We have been watching for weeks as various Conservatives battle for the position of Republican party candidate. It seems as if each passing week brings us new levels of crazy among them, and I shudder at the thought of any of them in a position of power or leadership.
Among the candidacy-seeking, we find Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum (thank God Rick Perry has already dropped out of the race). Last week, Santorum visited our area and met with local pastors. I was planning on going to cover the event in person, take photos, and try to get a question in to the ultra-conservative campaigner. When I couldn’t find anyone to watch the baby, I thought about taking her and introducing her to all the fundies as our gaybie, but ultimately decided to just stay home and watch the live feed.
The event was to be at the Bella Donna Chapel in McKinney, Texas. It’s not a church but a beautiful event and wedding venue not too far from where I live. It was supposed to start at 9:30 AM, but Santorum was late. Once he did finally arrive, they ushered him in where he and his wife, Karen, were seated on the first row pew. One of the chapel owners, Donna, introduced the event and Santorum by talking about plans for painting angels in the arches of the chapel. She revealed a painting of Santorum’s daughter (who battles with a childhood disability), and told them that she was to be painted on one of the arches in the ceiling (her name is Bella). She said it was a “God thing,” and also gave Bella a key to the chapel on a necklace, saying that the family was always welcome there. After this presentation, she introduced Rick Santorum and he stepped up to take the microphone.
Santorum started off saying that he really believes that the foundation of our country rests on two institutions: the family and the church. He said, “Without those two institutions, we can’t be free. Faith + Family = Freedom.” Now once upon a time I would have believed every word that this man said, simply because he claims to be a “man of God.” I’m so thankful that I woke up to the blind follower that I had been raised to be, and now think for myself. He also said that he doesn’t like the term “freedom of worship” instead of “freedom of religion” that is often used. He says it’s not about just WHEN you worship, but what you do in public. He says that the Obama administration’s “attack on religion” is about trying to stop people from living their faith in public. Every time I hear one of these candidates speaking of “Obama’s attack, or war, on religion,” I am always surprised! I have never gotten that impression from him or his family, and I thought I had been paying attention! Silly me!
Santorum soon moved into his topic of choice: abortion. He said, “I don’t think that God will bless this country when this country chooses to take over one million innocent lives per year through abortion. There’s one thing about VOTING pro-life, and there’s another thing about TALKING pro-life. You can be the most conservative person ever, vote for no government, and you’re fine. But once you speak out on moral issues, you will have your head out of the trenches, and you will be shot at.” But wait a minute…didn’t Santorum’s wife have an abortion?
While fighting for moral issues and against partial-birth abortion, Santorum’s wife became pregnant with their fourth child. When they had the sonogram, the doctor told them that the baby was going to die. They went to a children’s hospital and had a doctor perform surgery on the baby in utero – it was successful. Everything would be fine, the doctors warned, unless his wife got a fever, which would indicate an infection in her uterus. Ultimately, she DID get an infection and developed a fever, and Santorum was called home. They were told that she was going to die if she didn’t “deliver,” and the baby boy was going to die. She labored and she delivered him alive, where he lived for two hours; they named him Gabriel. So is it an abortion if he was born alive, just way too early and unable to sustain life? The definition of abortion, in the dictionary, includes the following: the removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus in order to end a pregnancy; any of various surgical methods for terminating a pregnancy, especially during the first six months; an immature and nonviable fetus. In the Santorums’ case, it was technically an abortion, because all parties involved knew that the baby would NOT survive once extracted from the womb. And this is the same man who has publicly said that even in the event of rape or health crisis, that a pregnancy resulting from it should be carried to term no matter what.
He then started sharing about his daughter, Bella. They found out about her disability four days after her birth, and were told that they were lucky that she was alive because babies usually die in utero from this particular condition. They were told to let her go. Bella lived for ten days in the NICU, and they brought her home on hospice care; they celebrated her birthday every week. But she didn’t die. Santorum said that he had to be “the rock, and had to detach from Bella a little. I loved her, but I had to detach from her, treat her a little different.” When she almost died, he was reminded by his other daughter that he hadn’t done anything to save her. This woke him up and he decided that he couldn’t hold back from her any longer. This is why, according to him, he is SO outspoken about abortion – because of his disabled daughter. Even for a dude that I absolutely cannot stand, and I believe that he is a homophobic bigot who is brainwashed, I was still touched by his stories about his children.
Once he finished, he was supposed to take questions from the pastors and then go outside to take questions from the media and his constituents. I guess because he was late, he was only able to take a couple of questions from the pastors. The first question, which I couldn’t hear, was something about intolerance. His answer started out talking about the 9th circuit court decision regarding Prop 8 the day before in California. He said that “it is intolerance to say that people are bigots and haters if you believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. The intolerance of the left, the intolerance of the secular ideology is a religion unto itself – it is just not a religious-based religion. It is completely intolerant of dissent. They want their worldview to be accepted without question.” He was talking, and I just kept hearing “blah blah blah” and watching as countless sheep blindly nodded in agreement.
The second question was asking Santorum who his favorite Supreme Court Justice is, to which he answered Clarence Thomas. “Because he [Thomas] sees the Constitution itself, but also sees the Constitution in relation to the Declaration. Because he sees that there is more to America than just the Constitution itself. Scalia seems to focus a little too much on the original words of the Constitution and its meaning….” What the what??? Are you kidding me Rick Santorum??? See, I knew that this yahoo has probably never even read the original Constitution – well, and he and his kind are constantly trying to amend and change it to fit their beliefs.
After this, the group of pastors gathered around Santorum, laid hands on him and prayed for him. He then went back out the side door; was supposed to answer media and voter questions outside, but the feed went dark, so I assume that it didn’t happen.
Wow. It was pretty insightful to watch him speaking in a small forum, versus the large crowds that we typically see him in front of on television. I’m glad I didn’t go. It would have been hard to keep my mouth shut. I’m very afraid for the future of equality in our country if this man has even a remote chance of becoming President here. He has openly declared that if he were to win, he would reverse virtually every act of legislature that has occurred in the name of marriage equality, or equality in general. I have plenty of friends and family who are hardcore Republicans, having grown up both in the south AND in the church. It gets really hard to choke down the knowledge that people who claim to love me and my family will vote for whomever is the Republican candidate, simply because they are Republican. The question is constantly swirling around: If you love me, love my family, and believe in equality, why and HOW can you possibly give your vote away to a person who is openly and blatantly against ME, my family, and equality??? Just because they are Republican? Shouldn’t our vote be behind the person who represents the closest of those values that we hold dear to our hearts?
Needless to say…it should be interesting indeed.
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
So I may have mentioned this previously, but it annoys the hell out of me that I have to adopt my daughter. Yes, it makes me want to run, kicking and screaming at the top of my lungs, about the unfairness of it all. Well, when it comes right down to it, it pisses me off in a way that I don’t think many things have. Every time I think about when a hetero couple has a baby, the father’s parentage is automatically assumed, solely on the word of the birth mother saying that yes, this dude is the baby daddy. The dude doesn’t have to go through the process of having to adopt the kid, just because he didn’t birth it – so why should I??? Because our relationship and our family is dictated by a government full of assholes who SAY that they want smaller government, yet have to keep their fingers in countless people’s lives, marriages, and families.
It’s very hard to be part of an openly gay marriage, as well as be the non-biological mother to our child, when living in a conservative, Southern state. It’s hard to hear, over and over for years and years, that my marriage isn’t real or legitimate or legal (all three of which it completely IS). It’s hard to know that people look down their noses at us when we’re all together, disgusted by all of our same-sexness. It’s hard to be out in public during the day with the baby, and have people assume that I am her aunt or baby sitter, because I can’t possibly be her mother, given the way that I look. It’s really hard to sit back and watch hypocrites run for office who are SO against marriage equality, yet have in their own history adultery and divorce…multiple times!
In the very near future, I will have to shell out the money for my BFF (aka attorney) to file a petition to the state asking permission to adopt my sweet baby girl. After that, I will have to shell out even more money (of which I will have to put aside, since it’s not just lying around) to a social worker. This is my favorite part. The social worker will come to our house to complete a Home Study – she will examine our home, interrogate me, Erikka, both of us together, and maybe even Noah. She will decide whether or not she thinks that I should be allowed to adopt Harrison. If she says she doesn’t think that I should, then what happens? Well, the adoption won’t happen, but nothing else. I will still continue to live here and always be her mama, but without those legal protections. If she says that she thinks it will be okay, I think we then proceed to going to court to stand before a judge. At that time, then HE or SHE will decide whether or not they think I should be allowed to adopt my own daughter. Here is where it all comes down to it. If the judge says no, that’s it, I’m screwed. IF my adoption request is denied, there is no opportunity to try it again. That’s it. I could get all of the recommendation letters in the world, and if we don’t get the right judge, it could all be for nothing.
And THIS, my friends, is why I am pissed off.
There is no question whatsoever, or at least there shouldn’t be, as to whether this little girl is mine. She has been mine, along with Erikka’s, since the moment that I watched the doctor perform the intra-uterine insemination. Since the moment we laid the cell phone on the bed, speakerphone on, as the nurse told us that the blood test was positive. I went to all of the doctor’s appointments, saw all of the sonograms, shopped, worried over her and Erikka’s health, changed my diet along with Erikka, painted, and helped build her little Dr. Seuss world in her nursery to prepare for her arrival. I got to meet her before anyone else, and I took care of her while her other mommy was recuperating after the birth.
I have bathed her, clothed her, fed her, changed her, sung to her, and rocked her to sleep. Beyond all of these things or none of these things, I have loved her. Because she is MY daughter. I shouldn’t have to prove this, to a social worker or to a judge, just to have the legal protections that I rightfully should.
We need a change in this country, in this state. We need a LOT of change. The government needs to stop being such a puss and make the declaration that they have a hell of a lot more to worry about than same-sex couples marrying or having families. They need to grow a spine and make the decision that they are going to stay out of it, and they are going to cease allowing any of us to vote on anyone else’s equality. Sigh. Sounds good, huh? Too bad it is unlikely to happen.
Soapbox empty now.
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
Do you ever feel, as a parent, that everything you do is wrong? I mean, I’ve had these moments over and over during the course of the past 20+ years (oh my God I’ve been a parent for over twenty years!), but I don’t remember feeling it quite the way I am this go-around.
When Harrison was first born, we bragged that she was the perfect baby – eating, burping, sleeping, pooping all when she was supposed to, or so we thought. After about two or three weeks, however, her sleeping became erratic. Her eating became episodes of vomiting that just seemed to get worse and worse. Her pooping became less and less, and at times, non-existent. I had been so confident that it would all come back to me, no problem. I was cocky enough to believe that I was “older and wiser” and whatever this baby threw at me, “I got this.” HA! She currently has my arm twisted behind my back, and I am quickly being brought to my knees, about to cry “Uncle!”
As her eating/spitting-up issue has gotten worse, I still maintained my history that walked me through this not once, but twice. Both boys had reflux, accompanied by projectile vomiting. I remember, all those years ago, that friends and family alike called Nicholas “the vomit king”, affectionately, of course. When Noah came along many years later, I was well prepared when he followed in his brother’s footsteps as heir to the vomit king’s throne – only his was worse. Back then, pediatricians didn’t put them on medications, but rather referred us out to pediatric GI doctors at the children’s hospital; those doctors, in turn, would run tests, perform upper GI series (which was an awful ordeal in and of itself), and threaten surgery for conditions that continued to get worse. I tried everything with the boys, thinking that the next thing would help somehow and give these sweet babies a tiny bit of relief. Nicholas ultimately went on fresh goat’s milk around ten months old, and I had to drive an hour to a farm to buy it. Noah nursed almost exclusively, but because he was a preemie, had to supplement with formula – and we tried so many different ones. He ended up going on cow’s milk at around ten months old (to supplement breast milk), and his condition got remarkably better as well. It was so bizarre that both boys were preemies, both were born five weeks early, and both had terrible reflux conditions.
So now here I am, all these years later, with a new baby girl that seemingly has the same awful condition that her older brothers had. We are trying everything and nothing seems to be bringing relief to her. It feels like everything we are doing isn’t working or is just plain wrong. She is on her sixth – yes, SIXTH – formula, and vomiting just as much as ever. She tried Zantac, but threw it up. She is on Prevacid, and we have to time her meds not near eating time, or it will get spit up as well.
We bought her a special thing to lay in – The Nap Nanny – in hopes that it will put her in a position that will alleviate the heartburn and allow her to nap without spitting up so much and waking herself up. I feel like everything I do is wrong, and I don’t remember ever feeling like this before. It is a horrible, helpless feeling to hold a screaming baby, knowing she is in pain and being powerless to make it better. She had gotten to the point where she was spitting up blood, so back to the doctor we went, where we were switched to our current formula and medication regimen. We’re tired mommies, and we know that she is just exhausted every day from constant bouts of heartburn.
The other day, after she had been screaming for a particularly long time, I had to put her in her swing and sit down, head in my hands. I sat and cried, talking out loud to both Harrison and God, asking what I could do to make her feel better. It wasn’t a good afternoon. For the first time since she was born, I felt totally and completely inept and over my head. Just when we think that we’ve tried everything, we somehow come up with something else to try, waiting to see if it will be the magic trick that will ease her pain and bring us back to some sense of normalcy. Right now, our days and nights are managed by a tiny, eleven-pound baby girl who needs us every moment that she is awake. I get frustrated and irritable because the house is a wreck or because the laundry never gets caught up, but I have to stop and remind myself that she is tiny and defenseless, and that this is not a permanent condition. I’m trying to enjoy the snuggling that at times, for a few quiet moments, makes her feel better and brings her some rest. I know that there will come a day when I will want to hug on her and she will not be interested any longer. I will want to hold her hand and she will pull away. So for now, I will hold her when she needs holding and rock her to sleep so she won’t cry. I may be flubbing up everything else, but I will be able to one day tell her that I did the best mommying that I could when she was new.
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
So 2011 is rapidly coming to a close, and it always brings me to a place of reflection on all that has taken place in my life over the course of a year. Sure, this past year has brought us the death of Osama bin Laden, the murder trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor, and Charlie Sheen doing a lot of “winning.” But 2011 also brought a lot of huge changes for me and my family.
We started out this year with plans for Erikka to have surgery in mid-January. Little did we know that a short month later we would be making our first attempt at insemination and pregnancy. It was a long five weeks before we would find out that our one, and only, attempt was positive and that a new little life was on its way. Noah turned eleven and won the spelling bee for his elementary school for the second year in a row. I couldn’t believe that he would soon be going into middle school, and Nicholas would be turning 20 in August, and that we would have a newborn baby not too long after that. I was going to have three only children, practically….wow. We also had been planning for a trip to Disneyworld, just Erikka and I, in May so that we could use some airline vouchers and Disney dollars that were about to expire. I wondered how that would work once we found out that Erikka was pregnant, but she did great and we had a wonderful time getting away – knowing it was probably one of our last getaway trips for a long time. We managed to getaway one more time in July for our anniversary, where we went to our favorite bed & breakfast in Little Rock for a weekend, promising when we left to come back with the kids next time.
I think that by June, it had been discovered that Erikka had developed gestational diabetes, so we went on a drastic diet change to accommodate all of the many doctors and their demands of her. The days got hotter and her belly got bigger, and we shopped and planned and dreamed about this baby that we still couldn’t believe was going to be here by the first of November. Once we found out that we were having a girl, the excitement got even more strong because Erikka had always wanted a girl, and I had only experienced life with two boys. I turned 41 in August, and started to panic about having a new baby – I felt OLD. We soon got into high gear and launched into a season of baby showers, nursery painting parties, and furniture-putting-together gatherings. The room that had, for the year that we have lived here, been the middle, guest bedroom was slowly turning into a beautiful Dr. Seuss nursery for the little baby girl who would have everything.
By the time that October arrived, we were battling with blood pressure issues along with blood sugar issues. Doctors were on the case and we were going every week to one doctor or another. Erikka was registered at the hospital, and her c-section was set for November 1st…only this baby and Erikka’s body had other plans. She was put into the hospital on fulltime bedrest around the 18th of October, and late on the evening of October 24th we welcomed our beautiful baby girl – Harrison Sinclair Jayne-Anne – into the world (during the 5th game of the World Series where our Rangers were playing!). The world as we knew it previously was changed forever. We had some complications for the first few weeks, with Erikka and her body getting used to all of the drastic changes, but then by Thanksgiving were sharing our new addition with the world. Nicholas enlisted in the Navy shortly after Harrison was born, and married the love of HIS life on October 31st. It took all of us by surprise, but because we love him (and her, too), then we support them as best as we can. I anxiously awaited for Christmas and spending time with family – both Erikka’s and mine.
And now here we are, looking at the tail-end of 2011 over our back shoulder; looking forward to 2012 and all of the adventures and experiences it will bring to us and our family. I pray that 2012 will bring to us new legislation that will write equality into existence where it was not before. Every year should bring change, for without change there is no growth. It may be small change over a long period of time, or it may be big, life-altering change that happens in a blink. Either way, change is growth, and growth is good.
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
It’s hard to believe, after all of the anticipation and waiting, that Christmas has already come and gone. We’ve had such a busy few months: new baby in October, her first Thanksgiving in November, and now her first Christmas. It came and went too fast! But on Christmas night, after celebrating for two weekends in a row, I sat and reflected on these holidays versus those of the past few years. It is amazing the difference of a few years….and a baby, apparently.
When Erikka and I got together in the summer of 2008, we didn’t expect the sh*tstorm that would occur once people started finding out – namely, MY family. By October of that year, my mother found out, and it wasn’t pretty. Needless to say, I didn’t spend any part of Christmas with her that year; I took the boys over to see her on New Year’s for a couple of hours so that they could exchange gifts. That was my first Christmas not only with Erikka, but with her wonderful family as well and the first without my boys. I was emotional, and felt like an orphan with no family, all because I was now living my own life out loud. The weekend before Christmas that year, as well as every year since, we drove to Henrietta, Texas for her family’s annual Christmas family reunion. I had met some of them at Thanksgiving, so it wasn’t completely new territory. We then traveled to Erikka’s parents for Christmas Eve, just she and I, where we had dinner, opened gifts, and spent the night to wait for Santa to visit. Even though they barely knew me, they welcomed me into their home and treated me like family, for which I am forever grateful. That was a hard Christmas, without my kids AND my family, so I was appreciative for being included in their Christmas traditions. The day after Christmas, we spent the day together shopping and touring the Dublin Dr. Pepper plant in Dublin, Texas – hey, it kept me and my mind occupied! I knew, even more, that Christmas that Erikka was most certainly the love of my life and the person with whom I was meant to share all of my Christmases.
By the time Christmas 2009 rolled around, we had gotten married and excitedly looked forward to the holidays, knowing that the boys would be with us that year. The weekend before, we traveled to Henrietta again, taking both boys to join in on all of the craziness, which they loved. I had arranged for a surprise for Erikka and the boys, and we drove from Henrietta to Oklahoma City to stay with one of my best friends, Burt (aka Lorrie “Hellcat”). I had gotten tickets for all of us to go see Trans-Siberian Orchestra, where we dressed nice, took pictures, had dinner out, and enjoyed a fantastic concert and light show. It was a great weekend, and I was eagerly anticipating Christmas as well. We all loaded up, including the dog, and traveled to Erikka’s parents again, and the boys really enjoyed their first Christmas at the new grandparents’ house. We had a white Christmas that year, and were snowed and iced in at the in-laws for the holiday, which was perfectly okay with everyone, I think. Once again, I didn’t spend any time with my mother over the holidays, other than taking the boys by her house for about an hour to swap gifts with her once again. I told her that I had come the year before without Erikka, even if it was only for a few hours on New Year’s, and that I wouldn’t do it again. I told her that Erikka was part of our family, and I would not leave her at home to have some kind of weird Christmas dinner with my mother because it just wasn’t right. I was shocked that she had a couple of gifts for Erikka, but she clearly acted like I wasn’t supposed to make a big deal about it.
Christmas 2010 was unusual, to say the least. We made it to Henrietta the weekend before, and I’m not sure if we had one or both boys with us. Nicholas had moved out and then come home for the better part of December, while waiting for a January move-in to an apartment with his friends. I’m not sure when it happened, or who it started with, but it was like the plague moved through our house that Christmas. The few days leading up to it brought fevers and vomiting, first to Erikka, then to Nicholas, then to Noah. I was spared from the puking, but had the fever and congestion. By Christmas Eve morning, it was clear that none of us was up to participating in any kind of family festivities, so we ultimately had to call up Erikka’s folks and cancel Christmas. As it turned out, Erikka’s dad was pretty sick himself, so it worked out. They had been planning to come to our house for Christmas last year, since we had just moved in and wanted to spend it here. We had planned to go to my mom’s for a brief gift exchange some time over Christmas weekend as well, which didn’t happen either. The boys’ dad came over on Christmas morning to see them and exchange gifts, but didn’t stay long so as not to get sick himself. With that, we re-scheduled Christmas for New Year’s weekend – it was all we could do. After spending a few more days sterilizing the house and getting all of the fevers finally gone, we planned for Erikka’s parents to come for our Christmas/New Year’s weekend, where we went to dinner, checked out light displays and shows, and stayed up until midnight to have a toast of bubbly grape juice with Noah. He was thrilled to finally be included, and barely made it to midnight to toast the new year. I think that on New Year’s Day, once the in-laws had gone home, we made our way to my mom’s to exchange gifts and have some dinner. It was nice, but it was still a bit strained and there was not a lot of talking – except between the boys and me.
And Christmas 2011? It has come and gone, and was a crazy, hectic, fabulous occasion! My fourth Christmas with Erikka, with the addition of a daughter AND a daughter-in-law! We went to Henrietta the weekend before and had a wonderful time with family once again. Noah went with his dad and new stepmom on the 21stfor a few days, taking a trip to San Antonio. Once again, we went to Glen Rose on Christmas Eve to Erikka’s parents for the night, where Noah joined us just before dinner. Lots of gifts for everyone, and Santa as usual did an outstanding job for everyone. We drove home on Christmas day around mid-day, before going to my mom’s for dinner and presents in the evening, where Nicholas and Krystal Fay joined us. There was lots of talking and laughing once again – the first time in a long time. And as I drove home, I couldn’t help but be thankful that while it had taken a few years, that my mom has been coming around a little at a time, and slowly. I know that some people, when they come out to their parents and families, never see a change occur (which is totally what I thought would be the case in my situation).
What have I learned about the holidays and about family this holiday season? I have learned that traveling, even for one night, with a new baby is a pain in the ass. There is so much to take and carry, to load and unload and then bring back into the house again upon return. We have decided that we probably don’t want to travel anywhere again until Harrison is sleeping through the night…just sayin’. And I have also learned that family is family, and when you add a new baby into the mix, the expectations get ramped up. But the family we have is the family we have, and they are ours, and we love them. Some, like Erikka’s parents and extended family, have supported us from the beginning; others have needed a bit more time to adjust to the fact that things don’t always conform to what they may have envisioned for their family.
And it is amazing what a few years, and a new baby, can do.
Merry Christmas 2011!
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
After our multiple trips to the hospital, and our lack of sleep, and Harrison’s new development of reflux and a LOT more spitting up episodes, time is still flying by and she is soon going to be two months old. On top of this, she turns two months on Christmas Eve. Yeah, her first Christmas is already here, and she is oblivious to the wonder of it all. But there is something about being in the Christmas season that brings out so much in so many, and while she may not know what is going on around her or what Christmas even is, it is still fun to walk through the holidays with a new baby.
Having a new baby during the holidays is always exciting, no matter how old they are. It brings up reminders of holidays past, memories shared, gifts exchanged, family gatherings. It also points to what is upcoming: a new year. There are hopes and dreams for ourselves, for our children, for our family; things to change, goals and achievements to aim for, and new memories to make together. For many families like ours, those in the LGBT community, there is always a hope and longing that things will change in this country for us. We look forward to a new year with hopes and dreams of equality, and changes in laws that will allow for equal treatment among all of its citizens.
Last year, we decided to begin educating Noah about Hanukkah, along with its history and traditions, blessings, foods, and games. While it is too early to begin teaching Harrison about these things, I look forward to it. Many people ask me if I am Jewish, to which I respond that I am not. I have studied Judaism extensively while in graduate school, where my area of specialty was Holocaust Studies. I decided a long time ago, even before I came out openly and publicly, that my children would be taught tolerance for others. I have done everything in my power to keep them from acting intolerant or hateful towards others, and it only seemed fitting to teach them about other holidays and cultures as well. Noah enjoyed hearing the story of the Maccabees, lighting the candles, spinning the dreidel, and sampling traditional, homemade latkes. I was ribbed a bit for celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas, but it didn’t matter. At the end of the eight day Festival of Lights, I knew that my ten-year-old was probably more educated on the holiday than most of his counterparts, and for that I was proud. I have also since learned a little bit more about the Kwanzaa celebration (of which I knew nothing before this year), and am debating on whether to educate him about that culture’s traditions as well. It can’t hurt for him to expand his knowledge, right?
This year we have a unique opportunity to show him all three of these holidays. Hanukkah will begin at sunset on Tuesday, December 20th; Christmas will occur, as usual, on December 25th; Kwanzaa always begins December 26th and lasts until January 1st. They are all so close, we will be able to begin with one and celebrate three different cultures over the course of twelve days – not very many can say THAT! And I may get criticized for my “unique” way of teaching my children, but I don’t mind. Ignorance breeds hatred, especially for those things that one doesn’t know anything about. Education breeds tolerance and acceptance, two very important virtues that I want our children to practice; and it begins with us practicing it ourselves.
So for all of our family, friends, and fans, I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmakkuhzaa. And a Happy New Year!
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
I’m finding out that life as we knew it is no more. Yes, I know that seems like it would be an obvious discovery, but silly me thought that our lives would be as before, with just a tiny addition. Right? Wrong.
Before Harrison arrived on the scene, we had a lot of freedom, even with a kid in the house. Noah is eleven, self-sufficient for the most part, and visits with his dad every other weekend. If we wanted to take a short getaway trip, we planned them for the weekends that Noah is gone. If we wanted to plan a fun family outing, we planned them for the weekends that Noah is home. We could go to a movie whenever we wanted, or out to eat or out with friends. We had a very precious commodity that I likely will not see for a long time: time to ourselves, just the two of us. For this, it didn’t matter if Noah was here or not; every evening, after nine o’clock when he goes to bed, we had time to be a couple. It was during these hours that we could talk, laugh, watch a movie if we wanted, or snuggle up together. Since Harrison has arrived, these moments have been few and far between, and I’m realizing every day just how much I miss those hours.
Erikka keeps telling me that it will get better as I keep bemoaning that everything has changed and that we’ll NEVER get any time to ourselves again. Don’t get me wrong, I am crazy in love with this little baby girl and wouldn’t trade anything to go back to life without her. I suppose I am experiencing some growing pains, much like a sibling does when adjusting to life with a newer, younger sibling. I’m sure I sound completely selfish to say it, too, but I miss my adult time with my wife. I miss family time that is easy and the only complication in going somewhere was, “Noah, get in the car. No, now. It’s time to go.” Going somewhere as a family now takes some prep time – diaper bag must be stocked, baby in the car seat, make sure she has a clean diaper and is fed and burped, do we have formula, a bottle, her blanket?
So now I feel guilty for even bringing any of it up, and I sound like a selfish ass, right? Surely this is normal. Is it because of my age that I am clinging so tightly to our former, easy-going life? Is it because I’ve been here and done this before, having had Noah when Nicholas was 8 ½ years old? I don’t know. I know that I will adjust and that one day we will have those hours back every day when children are asleep and we can have intelligent, grownup conversations about something other than diapers, spit-up, and feedings. I know that someday soon Harrison will sleep through the night, in her own room, and I will probably miss her being right next to my side of the bed where I can grab her the moment that she cries out. I know that someday very soon my wife will be ready to leave her with someone trusted for a few hours so we can have a date night (which I am looking very forward to, by the way). Patience has not always been one of my strong suits, but I am learning, through all of this, that I have no choice but to practice it. I love my family so much that some days it seems almost too good to be true. I look at our home and this beautiful life that I have been given and wonder what I did to deserve so much happiness – who am I to complain? I couldn’t ask for more than any of this.