Monday, December 27, 2010

Adoption Diaries Part 2- Birthmother "The Placement"

Despite the morning sickness (awful nausea) in the first trimester, I had a fairly easy pregnancy. I did swell towards the end of my third trimester thanks to the heat and humidity in late May in NC, but being uncomfortable towards the end was really my only complaint. I think I lived in yoga pants, tank tops, my brother's boxers, and sundresses for the last month! I spent my 18th birthday seven months pregnant with my best friend, Morgan. We went to Greensboro for a Carolina Hurricanes game and I remember being very uncomfortable in the stadium chair. It also felt like everyone was staring at me no matter where I went (they really weren't). I think I was ashamed of my predicament and judging myself based on my upbringing to not have sex until marriage, considering I lost my virginity to the father of my unborn baby boy. I also worked part-time at a local Real Estate Company and attended community college full-time double majoring in Accounting and Business Administration throughout my pregnancy.

As my pregnancy progressed it got harder and harder to keep up in school and go to work as I was so exhausted and uncomfortable. I'm very thankful that I had two very understanding bosses at work. They knew of my intent to place my son with an adoptive family and my parents for the most part were supportive without being overbearing. I was fortunate with school in that my quarter would finish just before my due date and barring an early delivery, I would be able to complete my semester before giving birth and have the summer off to heal and regroup after placement.

My due date came and went with my son. The wait was bittersweet. I looked forward to relief in giving birth, but dreaded that every moment would be my last with my son. My boyfriend at the time, the baby's father, lived in New England and was not around although we did talk on the phone often. We saw each other once during my pregnancy when I was five months along and just starting to get a belly. He flew down to visit with me for a long weekend with what little money he had. The plan for the birth, was for him to drive down when I went into labor and hopefully, he would make it in time. Then, he would spend time with me and our son in the hospital before we would sign the adoption papers and hand our son over to the adoption agency at discharge from the hospital.

Since I was overdue, I had to start going to doctors appointments every other day and get NSTs (non-stress tests) and extra ultrasounds to make sure the baby was still thriving and the fluid levels were okay. At one appointment, my mom was reading in the chair next to me, while I waited out the NST. At that moment, I felt my first contraction. Oh my gosh the pain took my breath away, I held my breath, turned beat red, and I began to worry what labor would be like. It turns out that it was just really early labor and perhaps the start of things to come as I didn't go into actual labor until a few days later. I went to my 41 week appointment and was told by my doctors that I was in early labor, so they sent me over to the Labor & Delivery unit of the hospital for monitoring. The baby looked great on the monitors, but I wasn't making any progress, so they sent me home. In the meantime, I had called my boyfriend to let him know what was happening and he decided to come down to NC. If I didn't go into labor naturally, I would be induced soon anyway.

He drove through the night to get to NC and it's a good thing he listened to his instinct and made the trip. Not two hours after he arrived I went to the bathroom and felt a gush as I stood up. I called my mother and she called my doctor. The gush was only about the amount of a soda can and then nothing more afterwards. I wasn't contracting yet, either, but the doctor wanted me to come in and be checked out since we lived about a half hour from the hospital. When we got there, I was monitored for awhile and come to find out my water sac was still in tact. I had what they called a "pre sac" that had burst instead, but I was far enough along (3cm) that they admitted me. Once I was settled in my room, I was sent to walk the halls of the hospital to try to get things to progress more quickly.

The pre sac broke at home around 10:30am Friday morning and I labored all day Friday. In the afternoon, I was started on Pitocin and I was also offered pain meds. I had hoped to go med free, but I had horrible back labor and needed a break with the long labor I was having. I tried taking the narcotics and they were awful. They did nothing for the pain, but made me nauseous and feel like I was in another world. I hated them so much that I vowed for my next birth it would be med free or epidural, but nothing else which is exactly what I did with Mariela. Finally, I was able to get an epidural and get some rest before I had to push. I slept for a little over an hour when I was woken up by the nurse putting an oxygen mask on my face. After that, there would be no sleep for me for awhile...the epidural was wearing off and I was in intense pain. The back labor was awful and every contraction left me in tears. The doctors tried to adjust the epidural to give me some relief, but I could get none. The baby's father slept through the worst of my pain (go figure!), but my mom was there holding my hand and coaching me through the contractions. She attended my birthing classes with me and was my official birth coach.

Finally, I felt the urge to push and started to push while lying on my side (with help from the nurse to roll from one side to the other since my legs were numb). Yup, I pooped the bed which is one thing nobody warned me about! I should've tried to go to the bathroom BEFORE I had gotten the epidural. I was having horrible back labor because my son was posterior or face-up and pushing on either side helped him to move down. I know I threw up during transition and I believe I pushed for close to two hours, and at 5:32am my son was born. I had a very specific birth plan that I had typed up for my doctor due to the adoption and not knowing how I would feel after giving birth and they were fabulous about following it. They asked if I wanted him placed on my stomach as was customary and I did. I think I cried harder than he did after the birth! I was a bundle of sadness. awe. I never knew I could love that instantly and that deeply.

My son was a big guy at 9 lbs 4 oz and 21 inches long at birth with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a dimple on his chin (from his Dad). He also had a strawberry birthmark on one of his knees (which would fade over time). Due to his size, his blood sugars were tested regularly while we were in the hospital and he tested fine for all of them. While I was moved from the labor room to the post partum ward, my son was sent to the nursery to be bathed and examined while I settled into my room. His father and I had just spent over an hour cuddling and holding him and just staring in shock at what we'd created. A "tiny" miracle. We named him Jacob Michael, which would be his temporary name until he was officially adopted and his new family changed his name.

Another thing that nobody told me while I was pregnant was how hungry and thirsty I would be after giving birth. I ate like I hadn't seen food in a month and drank to my heart's content. Whoever's idea it is to only feed a laboring mother ice chips should've been shot. I was happy to see that this philosophy has changed when I gave birth to Mariela! I was also allowed juice, popsicles, water, and ginger ale while I labored with her. SWEET! Okay, back to my story. While I was in the hospital I had a few visitors. My parents (of course), my closest friends at the time, my brother, and my social worker from the adoption agency. I think my older brother's visit was the hardest (my younger siblings did not visit as they were only toddlers at the time) as he was actually moving to Florida the same day I gave birth. Losing him as my support system was hard for me as we were very close and with the baby's father living in another state, I needed him to vent with at times.

On my final day in the hospital I held my son and stared at him for hours. I took pictures of him and the one thing I completely regret is that I didn't get a single picture of me with him as I was the one behind the camera. I used to cry about it, but alas there is no going back to change it. I did not feed my son, he didn't spend the night in my room, and I did not change his diapers. When we wanted to see him we walked to the nursery or would call the nursery to bring him to our room...they did not ask us to be involved as it was part of my adoptive birth plan. One reason, is that I didn't want to bond anymore than I had carrying him for nine months and also despite the fact I was a certified baby sitter and helped my mom out a ton with my younger siblings, having a newborn as a teen is downright intimidating. I was afraid I would break him! Our social worker arrived and while we reviewed the paperwork, we sent our son to the nursery one last time for his final examination before discharge.

The review of the paper work was a blur...partly due to my tears and partly due to all the thoughts running through my head. In the state of NC we had 20 days to change our minds and go to court to get our son back. During those 20 days, he would be placed in a foster home. He would not be placed in his final adoptive home until after the waiting period to avoid potential emotional turmoil on the adoptive parents in case we were to change our minds. I signed the papers through my tears. I was not sobbing or actively crying. The tears just fell. It was agony. I didn't think that I was strong enough to go through with the adoption. My parents had said their goodbyes to their grandson the night before, so that it was just my boyfriend and I there that morning with our social worker.

After the papers were signed, the nurse brought my son so that we could say goodbye. I kissed him and rocked him as I sat gingerly on the end of the hospital bed. How would I be able to let him go? I have no idea how I did it, but I said goodbye...not forever, but for now...and laid him back in the bassinet. As the nurse rolled him out of my hospital room for the last time I lost it. Literally. I collapsed in sobs on my hospital bed as the social worker held my hand and my boyfriend rubbed my back. My boyfriend was beyond himself...he felt he should be strong for me, but was having a hard time choking back his own tears. He wasn't nearly as vested with our son being that he lived 600 miles away and didn't experience the pregnancy like I did. After a time my boyfriend went to get his car and the social worker stayed with me in the room. I stared out the window weak, sore, and feeling totally deflated. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. In my head I said that I would give it twenty four hours and if I still felt this much pain- an agonizing emotional pain, like my heart had been ripped from my chest- that I would go to the courthouse and file a petition to get him back. That is what my counselor take it one day at a time.

Next installment: "Ever After"

Merry Christmas!

My family on Christmas Day
We had a wonderful 1st Christmas with Mariela and my brother, who flew up from Florida to be with us. On Christmas Eve we drove up to MA to spend the afternoon with my Grandmother. Mariela played at her house for awhile, then we went out to dinner, and then to see the lights at La Salette. It was a great day spent with Mariela's Great Grammie.
At La Salette with A.R. & Mariela
After we drove back, we went to A.R.'s parent's house for their annual Christmas Eve party. We didn't arrive until 9pm and the party was just starting to get kicked off. We left just before 11pm and people were still arriving! On Christmas morning (Saturday), we were able to sleep in an extra hour thanks to Ms. Mariela and then we leisurely got up, made breakfast (pancakes, eggs, bacon, and toast), and then let our baby girl attack her presents.
Mariela had a blast helping rip the wrapping paper off her gifts from Santa and then trying to eat it. She actually got a couple pieces in her mouth and proceeded to throw up all over me, almost in slow motion, as I tried to fish a piece out of her mouth. She loved all of her presents! After her morning nap, we went out to Ruby Tuesday for lunch. Yes! I felt totally guilty for eating out while those poor people had to work on Christmas Day. We gave her a huge tip to try to make up for our guilt!
Christmas night we went over to my in-law's house so all the cousins could open their gifts. We don't exchange gifts among the adults in his family as there are now 6 kids and it can get kind of expensive. Watching the little ones excitement opening their presents is so much more fun, anyway. Three of the boys (ages 5, 3, and 21 months) are now old enough to understand Christmas and had a blast opening gifts. There was wrapping paper from one side of the room to the other. My brother-in-law put all the gifts he bought for each kid together in diaper boxes and then wrapped the box in Christmas paper. When my 5 year old nephew opened his, he was so disappointed he thought he got a box of pull-ups! We had to open the box for him, so he could see the toys inside. :)
It was a wondeful Christmas weekend with family and I have fond memories of Mariela's 1st Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cranberry-Orange Oatmeal Cookies

I loved these cookies! I got the idea from my cafeteria at work when they served these one day. I found this recipe on and made them for a cookie swap in November.

Cranberry-Orange Oatmeal Cookies

Sherried Gravy Pork Recipe

I've been experimenting with crock pot recipes and this is one of the latest favorites on our "make again" list. Enjoy!

Sherried Gravy Pork

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Adoption Diaries Part 2- Birthmother "The Decision"

I remember the weekend I got pregnant well. It was the same weekend my Great Grandmother turned 100 and the same weekend Princess Diana died in that horrible car crash. We were stupid and didn't use a condom...stupid. I always wanted to be a mother, but I envisioned that I would be married and have a good career before I took that leap. You always hear of things happening to other people and never think that it could be you in those shoes. I was always a good kid, I did my homework without being asked, cleaned my room, never skipped class, and was horse crazy. I think my parents just assumed I'd be responsible when it came to having sex and I have no idea why I wasn't. I knew better.

It finally sunk in that I was a pregnant teenager the day I had my first OB appointment. I was 17 and had never had a pelvic exam before. Exposing my girl parts like that for the first time while confirming my pregnancy was embarassing. Thankfully, my mother's insurance provided me with a female obstetrician who was wonderful in explaining everything to me. I was due the end of May 2008 two months after my 18th birthday. When I heard the baby's heartbeat for the first time, I cried. I didn't get an ultrasound until I was around 18 weeks along and I decided to find out the baby's sex. My mother came along to my appointment and as soon as the nurse put the wand on my belly we knew it was a boy. He was NOT shy at all at showing off his boy parts! I cried in awe that day. When I told my boyfriend we were having a little boy he was actually disappointed and didn't hide it well. He had been hoping for a girl as I think he thought it would be easier for him to give a daughter up for adoption rather than the first baby boy in his family that could pass on the family name.

I didn't decide on adoption right way. For the first 5 months of my pregnancy I was going to keep my baby. I started researching bassinets so that the baby and I could share my room in my parents' home, I bought a baby book, a few onesies, and started trying to follow a budget. I wasn't your typical 17 year old, though. I had already graduated high school two years early at the age of 16 and was enrolled in a local community college double majoring in Accounting and Business Administration. With a little luck I would only have to take the summer quarter off from school to have my little one and I could return to class back in the fall. I also had a job already working as a cashier at a Hardee's in town. I actually met the baby's father while working there.

With the horrible morning sickness I had (I only threw up once, but the constant nausea was debilitating- I couldn't sit up in bed in the morning unless I nibbled a saltine first until was 13 weeks along), I ended up having to quit my job at Hardee's as I had to fight the nausea and urge to puke throughout every shift. I lucked out finding a job at a small property management company in town. The owner had also been a teen mom, but what got me the job was my love of horses. I had put my job as a working student at a local farm on my resume and it caught my future boss's attention. I didn't tell them that I was pregnant until I was offered the job and that's when the company owner told me the story of her teen pregnancy. It was crazy how I met people like my new boss during times when I really needed their stories to keep going. Hearing stories like hers gave me confidence and a hidden strength that helped me carry my chin up high and not be ashamed of my circumstances.

Being a pregnant teen in the small town that I was living in was rough. Every time I was out in public I found myself hiding my ring hand to avoid the stares and gawking that came along with my large belly. I had no wedding band on my ring finger and you would be amazed at how many people actually check for it! People gossiped about me within ear shot and stories of my pregnancy flew through my old high school. Some days were harder than others, but there was no changing what happened, so the best I could do was take care of myself and my growing baby boy. During my 5th month of pregnancy shortly after my "big" ultrasound, I started to have second thoughts about keeping my son. My parents were living on a really low income and really had no room in their house for another person (I was already sharing a room with my toddler aged sister). My boyfriend lived in another state with his mother and had no savings and I couldn't support myself financially. I was living at home and still working towards my associates degrees. My mother offered to help all that she could, but I knew she wasn't able to do much and I also knew that I didn't want my mother to raise my own child (yes, she offered). There was no way I could provide the kind of life I wanted for my son and still finish school so that I could get a good job and better our situation.

To make sure I explored my options fully, I contacted the adoption agency that my parents used when adopting my younger siblings and began meeting with one of their counselors. The agency provided free counseling no matter what my decision was and I'm so glad that I utilized it. After quite a few sessions with my counselor and speaking with my boyfriend more, I realized that being parents was something that neither of us was ready for financially or emotionally. While we made a mistake that day chosing not to use a condom, our son was not a mistake, and he deserved a better life with two parents that could provide for him and love him as their own. He could be the answer to a couple's prayer for a child to call their own. I began looking at profiles of prospective parents for my son and didn't have much luck at first. None of the couples stood out to me. After awhile I found a couple that I liked, but another one stuck out in particular. The father was in accounting like I was and the couple had given birth to two of their own children, but they had both died from a genetic neurological disorder as toddlers. One of the pictures in their profile made me was a picture of the mother holding her son in the hospital. He had tubes attached to him everywhere and he was just looking up into her eyes with this pleading expression on his tiny face. I couldn't imagine going through that with my own son. I knew then that they would be my child's parents regardless of what my boyfriend thought of their profile once he got to actually see it, himself.

The agency that I used allowed birthmothers and adoptive parents to chose how open of an adoption they were comfortable with and what kind of communication after the placement was acceptible. I chose not to meet my son's potential new parents, but I did want to get the monthly pictures and reports after his birth for the first year which would be delivered through the agency. I'm not sure why I didn't want to meet them, but I think it stems from the fact that I read all I needed to know in their profile and I felt that meeting them really wouldn't change my mind. I also think it would've been harder on me emotionally and not provided me enough separation to heal after the placement took place. There were days even while I was still pregnant that I already grieved for the son I was going to lose and it wasn't easy towards the end of my pregnancy to feel his kicks and wonder if that's the last time I would feel them. I both dreaded and looked forward to labor as I knew it meant my time with him was short and yet I was so uncomfortable and swollen I was ready to have him out of me. I continued with my counseling sessions and held fast with my adoption decision. I knew this was the best decision for him and our situation, as hard as it was on me.

Next installment "The Placement"

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Chicken & Sausage Paella (Crock pot!)

This is one of my new favorite recipes. I can't wait to make it again.

Pomegranate Glazed Turkey

I made this recipe on Thanksgiving and it was delicious. I found the Pomegranate Glaze in my November 2010 Food Network magazine. It's by Cat Cora (love her!). I always cook my turkeys like this as they always come out really juicy and tastey.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Adoption Diaries Part 2- Birthmother "Finding Out"

I've sat down to write this post several times now. A few times I even started to type and then erased what I'd written and walked away. I have so many memories and thoughts in my head that it's hard to organize them in print, so please bear with me. I'm going to break up my story into several installments as I have too much in my head for just one post. I've always said I should write a book about my experiences with adoption both as a sister and a birthmom. Perhaps one day, I still will. Adoption Awareness month has now passed, but I would still like to share my story in the hopes that someday a scared, lonely pregnant girl might come across it and feel a bit of hope whether she chooses adoption or not. Here is how I became a birthmom...

My legs were shaking and I kept glancing at the clock as I sat in my Accounting class that evening. I swear the second hand was moving backwards, but maybe it was my eyes playing tricks on me. My parents wouldn't be home when I got there as it was my mom's birthday and they had gone out to celebrate. My best friend at the time was babysitting my younger brother and sister, so she would be there with me. I had no idea where my older brother was...probably out with his friends. I was so anxious I had butterflies in my stomach and I would glare at anyone who dared ask a question to prolong the class. Finally, after a small eternity our professor dismissed us. I shoved my books in my back pack and dashed to my car and sped all the way home.

When I got home, Morgan had just finished putting my brother and sister to bed and she came down the hall to greet me. She had a thoughtful look on her face. Half sympathy. Half fear. I think we both already knew. I took the small white bag (that I bought in a neighboring town so I wouldn't get recognized) out from its hiding place and walked to the bathroom. I think there was lead in my feet as time seemed to stand still. I fumbled to open the box and read the directions and then for the first time in my life I peed on a stick.

There is something completely unnatural about peeing on something when you are a girl. Guys pee in the woods, on trees, in parking lots, and on bugs, but think nothing of it. Trying to angle a stick in your stream of urine is an artform I'll never do well. After I was done I laid the test down on the kitchen sink, squinted my eyes shut so I wouldn't peek at it while I washed my hands, and bolted out the bathroom. Longest. Three. Minutes. EVER. Morgan said it was time, but I couldn't do it. I couldn't go back in there. She did. She picked the test up from the counter and sat down on the toilet dumbfounded with her hand over her mouth. I begged her to tell me the results praying that it was just a false alarm. I could tell by her look that it wasn't. She just said, "I can't be the one to tell you this. You HAVE to look at it." and shoved the stick in my face. There they were. Two dark pink lines. "Maybe it's wrong." she said, "Do you have another one you can take?" Of course I did, but I didn't have to pee anymore. There was no denying the result of this test, but I would end up peeing on at least a half dozen more sticks before I accepted the result. Positive. I was pregnant and only 17. My boyfriend lived almost 600 miles away. I felt so alone.

I stumbled out of the bathroom that night with the stick in my hand and laid on my brother's bed and just sobbed. Morgan patted my back. She didn't know what to say or do. Thankfully, my parents were running late and wouldn't be home for another few hours so I could compose myself. I hear a gentle whisper, "Heather you need to call him. He needs to know." My fingers shook as I dialed his number. His mom answered the phone. I asked for him and soon I heard his voice say hello. Our conversation went like this:

Me: "I need to tell you something. Are you alone? Can you sit down?"

Him: "Ya, whatever. We've got company, what's going on I need to go."

Me: "Just call me after your company leaves, okay?"

Him: "No, tell me what's wrong."

Me: "I'm pregnant."

Him: Silence. "Are you sure?"

Me: "Yes."

Him: "Can I call you back later?"

Me: "Sure." Click.

I honestly never thought I'd hear from him again. I couldn't hold back the tears and asked Morgan to come get me if he called and went outside to where I felt most at home. My horse, Dan, looked up at me with hay hanging out of the corners of his mouth as I rounded the corner of the barn. He was in his stall for the night eating his evening snack. I opened the door and he turned and looked at me as he chewed away. Dan was great for hugs and tears and he never told my secrets. I hugged his neck and cried into his silky fur as he nuzzled my back pockets looking for carrots. "Not tonight buddy," I said as he proceeded to swish his tail, snort, and go back to his hay. He listened as I talked to him and his huge brown eyes showed concern whenever he looked up to nuzzle me. If he could speak, I'm sure he would've said that I would be okay and everything would work out even if the road along the way was bumpy.

I have no idea how much time had passed, but Morgan came rushing around the corner and breathlessly said, "He called, Heather. He called." "He asked if you were ok and I let him have it. He never should've hung up the phone before. The bastard. I never liked him. " I hugged Dan goodnight and rushed back to the house to speak with him. I sobbed on the phone. He asked again if I was sure and told me he threw up after he hung up the phone with me. I told him I'd do another test in the morning, but I was sure. He told me he'd send the money for an abortion and come down to be with me for the appointment if that is what I wanted. I told him I couldn't do it. There was a life growing inside me and I couldn't be the one to end it. It just wasn't something I was comfortable with emotionally. We talked some more about keeping the baby and adoption and he promised to call again the next day to check on me and asked me when I was going to tell my parents. "Not tonight," I said. "Not on my mother's birthday. I'll wait and tell her this weekend."

My brother came home as I was hanging up with Him and asked Morgan and I what was up. I told him and he gave me the best hug and offered me a beer. No joke. He had some warm ones in his trunk that a friend bought for him. I had never seen this side of my brother and actually took two sips before realizing that I was pregnant. The fear came crashing down on me again and silent tears streamed down my face. I handed him back the can and he said, "Oh ya. I'm sorry Sis." We sat in the carport for awhile and chatted, so we wouldn't wake our younger siblings. He reassured me he'd keep the secret and that everything would work out. I went to bed before my parents got home so they wouldn't see me so upset. I know my mom would realize something was up.

The rest of the week dragged by and I just couldn't wait anymore. One afternoon, I asked my mom to walk to the mailbox with me because I wanted to talk to her. She agreed and off we went. I think we took maybe three steps outside before I just blurted out that I was pregnant and started crying all over again. I started apologizing to her for not being more careful and telling her so close to her birthday. I was so scared of ruining her memory of her birthday that year I forgot to realize that she was my mom and her love was unconditional. My mom teared up and said, "I know. I've suspected for over a week. Remember when you were telling me you were so tired and you didn't know why? It kind of dawned on me then that a pregnancy might be the cause." My own mother knew I was pregnant before I did. She later told me that she and my dad had a few scares before they got married and she was going to talk to me about the pill, but never got her nerve up to actually follow through. We cried together and she hugged me close and tight and told me it would all work out no matter what I decided. We agreed to tell my Dad that Saturday. Together. Thank. God.

I remember that the day we told my father it was gorgeous out for a fall day. We were in jeans and short sleeves and the three of us started talking in the drive way. I told my dad while my mom held my hand, but then instead of yelling or calling me careless he hugged me. Tight. When he let me go there were tears in his eyes and he said that I would be okay and so would the precious baby growing inside me. He assured me that we'd figure it out and if adoption was my choice he would be okay with it since they knew what joy a baby could bring to a family, but he asked me to please not abort and thanked me for telling them before I went that route. I assured him abortion was never an option for me. He hugged me tight and thanked me for choosing life.

Next installment: "The Decision"