Monday, October 10, 2011
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
It's official -- the adoption of our beloved Lianne Elizabeth Murray was finalized by Judge Drue Farmer in Lubbock County Court on Friday, August 26 around 8:45 AM! She is now forever our daughter and we are forever her parents. Wow.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
- How we chose her name, including her middle name, which was that also chosen by her birth mom.
- How much Lia has grown -- she was 9 lbs, 12.6 oz and 23 inches long as of Monday's two-month appointment!
- How she is developing so quickly and in the most amazing ways, smiling, "talking" interacting with her toys and with us.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
I don't have to go all the way back -- you've likely read this blog and know where we've been. So I'll set the stage from the end of May. It was Memorial Day weekend. I was working on feeling whole and happy, trying to practice better self-care and mindfulness after all that we've been through. Bill and I spent a day out at Antietam on a hot Sunday, spending much-needed time together and getting out of the fray of the city.
Still happy with our local agency, we were tiring of the long wait for a baby. We decided to get through June before exploring working with other agencies that might have shorter wait times. My 20th high school reunion was coming up (and still is -- June 25) and the July 4 weekend, along with numerous work-related deadlines and events. We also knew that our agency was working with a few potential birth mothers and we could be a match. So we decided to get through another month and see where things were before making a change.
The long weekend came to an end. I returned to work on Tuesday, May 31 ready to tackle things for the big work event on June 8. It was a busy, productive day and I headed out at the end of it for a session with my fabulous therapist, Ginny. We had a good session and I went home to wait for Bill to come home from his bocce league game. I picked up Bill around 10:00 PM, came home, logged onto email. And saw the following forwarded note from a friend of mine:
Adoption Covenant needs a HOMESTUDY READY family immediately for placement of a female child born May 30, 2011, 6 lbs 3 oz, Apgar 9/9, Hispanic, reportedly eating and pooping and healthy as can be. email xxx@xxx immediately.
Let's step back a minute. Who was this friend?! Well, Carrie and I knew each other in high school. We were friendly and, as I recall, both on the track team. We lost touch after high school, but reconnected thanks to the miracle that is facebook. She had recently adopted her first child (through the agency who sent the note above) and we had bonded over our struggles and joys on the road to be adoptive parents. I was grateful to be connected with her before she shared this information -- it meant so much to have her support and share in her joy with her son. And now, she has changed our lives forever!
So back to the story. Bill was outside, watering the veggies in his nice garden. Should I consult him before sending an email to the agency? Naaah. I'll just send a note. So I did. I shared that we were homestudy-approved, lived in DC, friends of Carrie and that we could be there in another day. I let Bill know that I sent the note. And I had some exchanges back/forth with the head of the agency that night. How soon could we get there? They wanted us there asap. While I could have figured out getting us there the very next day, that felt insane. There was work to wrap up, documents to collect, packing to do. So Bill and I agreed that we could be there on Thursday. I sent that response and went to bed, unable to sleep.
On Wednesday, I got up and contacted our local agency, asking them to send our completed homestudy documents to the agency in Texas, which they did immediately. Then, I went about my day, albeit distracted. I had a few morning meetings and had an off-site afternoon meeting. I arrived at that meeting and shared that I was awaiting some important news. Just as we got the meeting underway, the phone rang. It was the Texas agency's director, Merinda. She shared more about the situation, and asked how quickly we could get there. I said we could travel the next day. She said that the hospital had agreed to care for the baby one more night and that we were the couple chosen to parent this baby. I about fell over. I called Bill, who had more questions. He called Merinda so he could get a sense of her and the agency. And he called me back. It was an easy decision -- this baby had come into our lives for a reason. We had to go.
So we spent the afternoon and evening wrapping things up, buying plane tickets, booking our hotel, renting a car, and packing things for us and for baby. Our flight was scheduled for 7:00 AM the next morning.
Around 6:00 PM, we learned that baby's birth mom, in an act of love so profound it overwhelms me, terminated her parental rights. She is baby's first mom forever -- who cared for her and herself so she would be healthy and know love from the start and I am grateful for the rest of my life to her for her selfless love of this baby.
We were up at 4:00 AM on Thursday, showered and got ourselves out the door, car seat in hand, unsure of what awaited us in Lubbock, Texas. A city that I had heard of (go Texas Tech!) but had to find on a map to know exactly where it was. We spent the flight sleeping, daydreaming, and coming up with a list of names for this baby. We'd always had a boys name, but never had one for a girl. Amazingly, we both agreed on our top two first names and a set of possible middle names.
We arrived in Lubbock around 1:00 central time, picked up our car, and headed to the agency. We were prepared to get there and then go with the women from the agency to the hospital. But when we called the agency, they had already picked up the baby. We were just a short drive from uniting with her!
We arrived at the agency about 10 minutes later, walked in the door to almost the entire staff, just waiting for us. Merinda handed the baby to me. It was surreal. She was - and is - the most gorgeous baby I have ever laid eyes on.
We spent several hours at the agency, finding kindred spirits of these amazing women at Adoption Covenant in Lubbock. After so much research and challenge in finding an agency that we felt comfortable with, here was this incredible agency that came to us out of the clear blue sky. We felt right away that we shared a common bond with these women and incredibly grateful for their caring, compassion and kindness. They are now an extended family for us and for baby.
After a few hours, we signed paperwork, packed up the baby and headed to the hotel. The days at the hotel are already a blur; there were many sleepless nights (is she still breathing?! is that poop the right color?!) and just odd days. I can honestly say that I don't know how single parents do this; having two of us there to trade off time with baby so the other could nap, pick up lunch, run to Target, etc. was essential.
We spent a good two days figuring out her name. But, in the end, she chose it herself. She seemed so much a little Lianne Elizabeth. It suits her so well. We call her Lianne or Lia. Her name has roots in our families -- my maternal grandmother and my aunt are both named Leatha (or Lea for short), we have close friends (including my oldest friend who was also adopted) named Lea or Leah, my middle name is Anne and Bill's sister and Nana have the middle name Ann. Elizabeth is my mom's and sister's middle name, and is the middle name given to her by her birth mama. So Lianne Elizabeth. As soon as we decided, it just felt right and has ever since. And we have to give credit to Auntie Caroline, who suggested the name.
On Wednesday, June 8, after spending a long lunch with the whole Adoption Covenant team and enjoying time together, we got word that both Texas and DC had approved our paperwork to take Lianne out of state. We were allowed to bring her home! We got her in for a doctor's visit on Thursday, June 9, shipped a bunch of stuff back, and got ourselves packed up. She was an angel on the flight back -- not a peep, she slept through both flights. We got to our doorstep around 5:00 PM.
So now, here we are. A family of three. Is the adoption final? Not yet. There is one date we need to get through from here; Lianne's birth father (who is unknown to us) has 31 days from her birth to claim paternity. While this happens only rarely, we may not exhale until we have word that he has not done so. While I believe in my heart that he (and all birth fathers) are entitled to this right, I don't want her to have any more disruption in her life. I want to be her forever mama, and for Bill to be her forever daddy. I feel selfish saying it, but we've been through enough. And we love her with every grain of our being. And she is meant to be in our family.
So as if this post isn't long enough, it isn't complete if I don't tell you about the dream. About three and a half years ago, I had the most vivid, powerful dream of my life. It was October, and about eight months after I'd had a miscarriage. In the dream, I had had a baby and was in the hospital, but I couldn't get to the baby. I was in a hospital gown, and spent what felt like hours walking down long corridors, through the basement, past check-in desks. After what seemed an eternity, I finally got to my room and the baby. There were (as is so often the case in dreams) an odd assortment of friends and colleagues in the room. And there was the baby -- a girl with dark hair in a bassinet or car seat. She had a beautiful and sweet face. And it was only as I got closer that I saw that her little hands and feet were malformed. What was wrong with the baby? I began to cry in the dream and asked the nurse -- she'll get better, won't she? But the nurse said "no," that she was born this way and would not get better. Her hands and feet would never be normal. And I cried and cried in my dream and woke up at 3:00 AM bawling. Through my tears, though, I had a very profound feeling that this baby was sending me a message. "I'm coming, but I'm not ready," she was saying. I got up and wrote down every detail of the dream and it, and this baby's message, have stayed with me all this time.
When we had Stephen in January, I thought, "oh, well. I guess that was just a dream." And when things fell apart with that adoption, I thought that maybe it was because that baby wasn't the one from the dream. Our dark-haired girl hadn't come yet.
So imagine my response when on Wednesday, June 1, the agency sent me our first picture of Lianne (the picture you see above). She is sitting in a car seat (the hospital was doing her "car seat" test to make sure she can breathe okay sitting up) and has her perfectly-formed little hand under her chin, as if to say, "look, mommy! I am ready!"
Do I believe in fate? More now than ever. Stephen's role in our lives feels crystal clear -- had we not had him, and every possible thing we could ever need for a baby, we might not have been in a position to travel on a moment's notice for Lianne. This dream feels like prophecy. Dreams really do come true.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Friday, April 22, 2011
I also have been really sad to see some friends I love go through their own fertility struggle. I guess I always hope that if Bill and I have had to go through all this craparama, it should be to prevent my loved ones from experiencing the same heartache. I know that logically we can't prevent our friends from having this journey of their own, but I guess I had hoped that somewhere on the karma scale, we'd paid forward some sunshine onto others. While that isn't happening, I hope that knowing they have friends who have been through this can help at least a little bit.
So where are those rays of hope? They're out there. In the form of my dear friend T, who adopted her sweetie pie nearly four years ago -- her daughter is amazing and while we aren't geographically close, every photo and video warms me tremendously. In the form of my friend A, who had a years-long fertility struggle and welcomed her daughter into the world just a few weeks ago. Two completely unrelated friends, C and C, who also experienced infertility and loss and are both now pregnant -- I am sending up prayers for you both, girls!
Those are just a few of the many friends whose personal stories of struggle and ultimate triumph help me every day, whether they know it or not. Thanks, dear ones.
Monday, April 4, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Thursday, February 10, 2011
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
So sang my dear friend Mimi, accompanied by my dear friend Premila at our wedding: November 9, 2002. Despite the heartache of the last week, I am trying to spending some time thinking about the many gifts I have.
I know that I live a very lucky and blessed life. I have a supportive and loving family, there for good times and bad and who raised me to love deeply and to approach life with an open heart and mind. I have an amazing husband and a strong marriage, built on a foundation of honesty and complete trust, and that sustains me and brings me incredible joy. I have the best friends anyone could ever want who have come out for me in a hundred ways over the last week: calling, emailing, texting, bringing by food, sending flowers and plants, giving me shoulders to cry on and ears to listen and crying with us, for our sorrow is their sorrow… I have the gift of good health and the insurance to keep it so. I have a great job with amazing and compassionate people and the flexibility to take the time to get through this grief. Yes, despite the hell of the last week, I know that in the grand scheme of the world, I am a very lucky person and I have far more than many, many people.
I also feel so fortunate to have received many gifts from Stephen in the two weeks I had with him. Quite frankly, I don’t know that what I gave him can measure up to all that he gave us. And these gifts will impact my life and the life of our forever child. Among them:
1) He brought us joy. In the two short weeks we had with Stephen, he made us incredibly happy. It was just pure joy to hold him and to feed him, to change him and to burp him, to see him smile (yes, I know that was gas, but I’ll take it as a real smile) and to hear him coo. To see how much a tiny person changes in just two weeks was nothing short of a miracle.
2) He proved that love is stronger than genetics. When we decided to pursue adoption to create our family, we had to look at some very hard issues. What it would mean to raise a child that we did not bear? Would it take a long time for us to grow to love our child? Would a child, particularly one not of our race, feel like “ours?” And we learned with Stephen that we could love fiercely from the earliest of days and that a child from adoption could feel as deeply ours as if I birthed him myself. That it was for us, quite frankly, impossible to resist loving a baby.
3) He showed me that I am ready. The night that we found out that Ying had chosen us as adoptive parents, I had a complete meltdown, terrified that we weren’t ready to be parents. After all, we had a pretty great life already -- enjoying good dinners, flexible schedules, carefree lives, fun with friends (and wine), disposable income and plenty of sleep. Was I really ready for all that to end? Was this really what I wanted all along?! Thank you, Stephen, for showing us that the answer is yes, yes, yes. We were (and are) ready to jump, head first, into parenthood.
4) He gave me a fierce determination to be a parent. He showed me that Bill is going to be an incredible father – loving and engaged and joyful. He showed me that I am going to be a great mother and that I can learn to put aside my micro-managing of all situations so that Bill can have his own relationship with our child. He showed us that Bill and I are great as a team – we each fed, burped, changed and held him and passed him back and forth seamlessly in our time with him. He showed me that being a parent is as incredible as I could ever hope it to be and he left me knowing that it is what I am meant to do.
Thank you, Stephen, for all that you gave us in our short time together. You have given us the strength to continue our journey and whether it be one month, one year or five years, we WILL be parents.
Monday, February 7, 2011
On January 5, we were matched with a local birthmom. On January 13, we met her. On January 19, her son was born. I held birthmom's hand for the c-section. I was the first to hold him. I was the first to feed him. We named him together: Stephen Chanon Walker Murray. Stephen is my father's name, Bill's middle name, and the middle name of two preceding generations of Murrays. Chanon is the name that birthmom chose. She is Thai and it means "thirst for knowledge" in Thai. Walker is my mom's maiden name. He was born at a healthy 8 lbs. and 20.5 inches.
We spent every day, all day, at the hospital with birthmom and Stephen. While her friends and family came and went, we were there to care for her and to care for baby. To get her water when she was thirsty. To make a McDonald's run when she was hungry for non-hospital food. To comfort her when she was in pain or feeling sad. She was reassuring, wanting us to know that she wasn't changing her mind. She had been working with the agency for about seven months, and was confident in her decision to make an adoption plan.
She chose us because she wanted an open adoption. She wanted to visit Stephen and we wanted that, too. We wanted an involved birthmom. One who would help our child to understand the unique story that brought him to us. One who would help connect our child to his cultural heritage and biological family history. One who would be an extended part of our family -- "the new American family" as I joked in the hospital. We all laughed.
Because of DC paperwork, Stephen had to go with one of our agency's foster families before he could be in our custody. Marilyn and Chris and their niece Colleen took exceptional care of Stephen. He was loved, held, fed, washed and kissed. And we visited him nearly every day. It was more than an hour for us to go to the Virginia town where they live (and much more in traffic), but no distance was too far. When we were there, we fed and diapered him. We held him while he slept. We played with him and cooed with him when he was awake. We fell madly, wildly, head-over-heels in love with him. We may have been separated by genes, but we he was as much our child as if I had given birth to him myself.
I sent photos of him to birthmom and we exchanged texts often. We were setting up her first visit to see him since his birth. She was preparing to go back to work.
My friends threw me the most amazing, joyous baby shower. Friends sent boxes of their own children's clothing. We set up Stephen's nursery: crib, changing table, book cases. We renewed our Costco membership and bought wipes and formula. Bill installed the car seat. We reorganized our kitchen cabinets for all the bottles. We were ready to bring Stephen home.
And then, the call.
Birthmom changed her mind. She wants to parent the baby. An outcome that was so wildly beyond our imaginations, given the "perfect" situation and relationship that we had with her. With assurance from the agency that she was "doing well" and "looking forward to going back to work." Which may have been exactly what she was telling them, but clearly what wasn't going on in her mind.
Having never been able to make it beyond seven weeks of pregnancy myself, I can't imagine the onslaught of post-pregnancy hormones. And as someone who has done everything in her power to try and become a mother for the better part of the last five years, I can't imagine having to make the decision that the best option is for another person to raise your child. So I can only pretend to know birthmom's anguish. Her vulnerability. Her emotional pain, resonated in the physical pain from her c-section.
That pain was powerful. And timely. At her most vulnerable moment, she was influenced by family that it was best to keep him in the family. A changed financial situation gave her options that she hadn't had before.
I have a million questions. What happens to us? How will I ever move beyond this grief? Will he be okay? Will his mother, who shares an apartment with two other women, make sure that he has male role models? Will she end up raising him or will she feel (as she originally felt) that being a parent is too much? How long will it be before her financial support dries up? What will become of him then? Will any other child ever be so beautiful to us? Will we be able to keep our hearts open for another child after all we have been through? Why does the world hate us so much, preventing us from being parents at every turn? How do I forgive her for stealing our family name – the only boy’s name we ever chose, with connections to my family and to Bill’s?
Last Wednesday, at 12:00 noon, we said goodbye to Stephen Chanon Walker Murray. Our almost son, who will be in our hearts forever. I wish for you a life of joy, opportunity and meaning. Wherever you are, know that you are deeply loved.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
How to even start this. I apologize because this is going to be crappy, choppy writing. It is totally stream of consciousness and I don’t have the inclination to edit. This will be repetitive for some of you but I’ll start at the beginning of this story. As many of you know, we were approved (in Virginia) to adopt a little less than a year ago. We have been planning on an open domestic adoption. On January 5th we received a call from our Agency that a birth mother had picked us and that her due date was January 17th. So we scrambled to get things together, which we managed to do mostly because of the generosity of you all and many others. We met the birth mother (Ying) on the 13th and had, by all accounts, a wonderful meeting with her.
On paper this whole match was about as good a situation as one could ask for. The birth mom had been getting pre-natal care for most of her pregnancy, had been working with the Agency for most of her pregnancy and, we assumed, had really thought through her decision to make an adoption plan for her baby.
At our meeting we expressed to her what we hoped to name the baby and said we would like to have one of his names incorporate Ying’s Thai heritage. We walked away from that meeting so confident as did the Agency personnel.
So on the 19th we get a call from that Agency that Ying is at the hospital and would like us to be there. We arrive at the hospital and spend time with Ying in her room as she is in labor. Fast forward to that evening, and the doctor has decided that Ying needs to have a C-section to deliver. Ying tells the Agency social worker that she would like Julie to be in the OR with her while the C-section is performed. Julie suits up and is there, holding Ying’s hand through the whole thing and is actually the first person to hold little Stephen.
Because of the C-section Ying has to stay in the hospital until Saturday and the baby stays with her. We visit every day (making sure that it is OK with her) and get to spend quality time with Stephen and with Ying who was going to be part of our extended family. This was, after all, a completely open adoption and we had agreed there would be regular visits.
During this time we’re also racing to finish up some outstanding paperwork. Because we had moved to a new home in DC from Virginia, the Agency needed to update our homestudy with a visit from the social worker and we needed to get our FBI background check redone and get a DC Child Abuse database check. Now indulge me for a moment as I rant about the FBI background check. I see the purpose in this background check – no question. Here’s what I don’t understand. We had the same check done to be approved in Virginia – fingerprints are sent to the FBI to be run through their NCIC to make sure we aren’t criminals. If we had still been in Virginia this check was still valid – not like a lot of time had passed BUT states (or in this case a state and DC but it would be the same if we had moved anywhere) don’t have reciprocity. So it wouldn’t have mattered if the check had been done the week before, DC wouldn’t recognize it. Luckily we had started this process before Christmas and before we knew there was a match. So this check came back (negative of course) during the course of events. /rant. So what all this means is that until the paperwork comes through, we can’t take Stephen home – he has to be with a foster family (I suppose in retrospect this was a bit of a blessing). Now he was placed with a truly wonderful foster family who took fantastic care of him but they were in fucking Haymarket, Virginia (yes fucking needs to be part of the name). This, with no traffic (rare) is over an hour each way. Maybe the Agency didn’t have anyone closer who was ready to take a baby but maybe they just didn’t look hard enough – I don’t know and my anger is probably getting in the way here. So after Stephen was discharged we would trek out to see him in fucking Haymarket. At first every day but we realized that the foster family had a life too and so cut back our visits to maybe every other day. I was managing to still work part time and eventually went back full time so as not to blow through all my leave before we even got him home. By the way (I warned you I would ramble), once our paperwork came through we still couldn’t take him home because we had to wait for ICPC (Interstate Compact for the Protection of Children) approval, which needed to be signed off by Virginia and DC. That would only take 7-10 days, during which we would be with Stephen but couldn’t leave Virginia. Of course through all this we were also waiting for the revocation period to end. Every state has a different period of time during which a birth parent can change their mind after signing a document giving up custody of their child. In Virginia that time period is 7 days.
So here we are, visiting Stephen (Julie more than me since I am working now) as often as possible, hoping the DC child abuse database check comes in soon when I get a call from the Agency telling me the birth mother has changed her mind. I am glad she called me instead of Julie because I can’t imagine her alone while I try to race home via public transportation.
That was yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon.
This morning (Wednesday) we had to wake up, get ourselves out the door, drive to Falls Church, Virginia (at least it wasn’t fucking Haymarket) to see Stephen for the last time and say goodbye. As far as goodbye visits go, it was perfect. He was awake, happy and active. We got to feed him and change his diaper. We had him for about an hour. Then we had to hand him over, walk out the door, collect the things we had given the foster family to use like the bassinet and drive away – family sans Stephen.
Now Ying has every right to make this decision and who knows, maybe it is the right decision. But from my position it can’t be. While her circumstances have changed a little I don’t believe they’ve changed enough to make that much of a difference. Yes I’m sure I am biased but I’m also sure that I’m right. So as my brain hurts itself trying to apply logic where none exists, I am left with nothing. No good reason for any of this other than to have Stephen in our lives if only for a short time. While it is so painful now, somewhere deep down I know that this brief time makes it worthwhile.
I still believe in the Agency we’re using and wouldn’t change them but I do have questions about this situation and, at the moment, believe there were dots not connected that should have been. Topics not delved into deep enough. You can be sure my questions will be more probing and more precise next time and if I have even a hint of something that doesn’t feel right, I will run that issue to ground and to hell with anyone who gets annoyed or pissed off with me. If given any choice at all, I cannot, will not and should not trust my situation to anyone else but my family.
I don’t know anything about Stephen’s future anymore – I don’t know who exactly will raise him, what country he will be raised in, whether he will have a father figure or even if his name will remain as Stephen. All I have is my love for him and my deepest desire and fondest wishes for all the love and joy he needs for a wonderful life.