Thursday, June 16, 2011

My little angel

I know I've long been absent from this blog. I haven't recently felt like I had anything to add to Julie's excellent posts and, true to form, I think she has done a great job telling the story of how Lianne came into out lives. But now I feel like writing a bit about how it feels to become a father. More than anything else I write this so Lianne can read this and know how much she means to me already.

In just three short weeks this little girl has brought me (and us) such joy and happiness. It is a little amazing to me that this little person could have such an effect - I find it hard to not hold her constantly even, or maybe especially, when she is sleeping (she looks like a little angel). But my absolute favorite times so far have been cradling her in the (very) early morning. It is during this time, post-feeding, when she is calm and will just look at me and smile. Yes, I know it is not really a smile but I'm gonna go ahead and take it as such because that is my prerogative as a father. I think I especially treasure these moments because I know that very soon she'll be constantly moving.

Even knowing what to expect, I wasn't fully prepared for any of being a parent. The joy, the exhaustion, the moments of terror (is she breathing?)... As someone who is pretty dependent upon getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, I think I have adjusted pretty well to getting a lot less than that though it helps that I can sleep through just about anything (earthquake proof up to a 5.0). I also wasn't prepared for the emotional ups and downs - I mean as worried as her perceived lack of breathing or even her poop (sorry Lianne) can make me, I can't even begin to imagine how I'll feel the first time she drives off in a car alone or goes on a date. I think I need to start really developing good relationships with the folks in charge of the Reaper program (surveillance and strike capability - what more could you ask for?). And of course I am so looking forward to all the milestones - first word, first steps, etc. as well as being able to share things with her that I love to do like reading, music (already getting her listening to the greatest radio station in the country - KFOG), working in the garden (yeah I know this one is a long shot) and photography. So much to look forward to and more to come...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lianne's Story

Because inquiring minds want to know, and because there just isn't the space in a facebook post or email, Bill and I want to share more about Lianne and how she came to us. It is divine, really, in every sense of that word.

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.