Thursday, July 29, 2010

wherein my head explodes - part two

I didn't sleep well on Thursday night. I kept thinking about what I wanted to say to Allan and how frustrated I was that things weren't going in the (picture perfect) way I'd imagined. I thought the stressful part was GETTING Kelly and Sophie here. But now that they were here, it turns out they were miserable. Not good.

So Ryan and I carpooled to work (because of the pesky car situation from the day before...and I'm just gonna say one last time: I like plans.  I like when people make plans with me and I like making plans with other people. I like when I KNOW about the plans ahead of time. I'm not saying I can't be spontaneous, but if you KNOW that something is happening on a certain night at a certain time, just give me a head's up. Especially if I've been calling you saying, "Hey...what's the plan?" Chances are, I'm gonna need some time to 1. plan the right outfit, 2. coordinate the car situation, 3. purchase the appropriate card or gift, 4. write the appropriate message in the appropriate card, and 4. I really just like to plan my outfits. That's the main thing.

So Ryan and I were carpooling, still discussing what our plan of action might be. I asked if we should call him while we were sitting in the car together. Ryan didn't think so.  Just then, my phone rang. It was Allan.


"Hi Ashley, is Ryan with you?"

"He is...we are actually in the car together."

"Okay, well do you mind putting me on speaker phone?"

"Not at all...what's up?"

 "Well...I just don't want you guys to lose sight of the big picture. My job is to make sure that everything goes well for you in this adoption so the moment I present those papers to Kelly, she has absolutely no hesitation about signing them."

"We want the same thing."

"And if you guys start bringing her towels and blankets and pillows, answering to her every need, you are essentially breaking the relationship I am trying to form with her. I need her to trust me. I need her to understand that I am looking out for her and everything she could possibly need, she doesn't have to go through you guys - she can come to me. I'm right here. You guys created that account so whatever she needs, she can buy it for herself and I am here to manage that account on your behalf."

"Well, we were thinking that it's silly to use money out of the account when we have those things at home - we can just give them to her."

"And I understand what you're saying, but it's really important that she feels empowered in this situation. We intentionally take our birthmothers to the store so they can pick out their own blankets and pillows. We want them to feel like they have some control over their lives - that they're not just getting 'hand-me-down' stuff, and they don't have to ask anyone for help. It's the same reason we give them a bus pass and a map. We want them to feel pride in their independence, rather than this feeling of helplessness or dependence - waiting around for someone to come pick them up and take them where they want to go. We want them to feel like they've been making decisions this whole time about what's best so they don't feel manipulated in any way - all the way up to the moment when it's time to sign those papers."

"I understand what you're saying, we were just really horrified at the sight of that apartment and we immediately wanted to do something to fix it."

"I can assure you that she will not be living in that room much longer. There is another room available on Saturday and it's much bigger. It's much nicer. And we will take her to get some fresh linens and everything will be fine. I promise. But I don't want you to worry about the room. That's what you hired me for. You guys just need to be her friend. You are simply there to listen and support her, not to be manipulated in to spending more money or feeling guilty. She was sleeping on someone's couch for heaven's sake."

"Well...just because she was sleeping on a couch doesn't mean she doesn't deserve a nice place to sleep now. We don't care about being manipulated out of some towels and blankets, but we didn't think about how that was effecting the big picture. We don't want to step on any toes and we don't want to destroy the thing we're working toward."

"And please trust me...I know what you're going through. When I first started out, I was the same way. I wanted to personally fix every single bad situation I saw. I've ordered pizza on the living room floor with a birthmom who was living in a completely empty apartment. I wanted to take her back to our house and give her a room. I've seen it all. And I know you guys are new to this and Kelly didn't directly ask you for anything, but this is exactly what I said about being manipulated.  The minute we left, she started complaining about every single thing that was wrong. And I didn't think she would be one of those birthmoms who caused trouble, but it's possible she's just not going to be happy with anything. If you noticed during dinner, she didn't have a nice thing to say about anyone - even her friend (I will call her) Amanda - who she's been living with for the last 11 years. Amanda has been calling me non-stop since Kelly left Georgia and Kelly wants nothing to do with her.  Amanda's been taking care of Sophie and helping her out, and Kelly doesn't even want to talk to her - saying she doesn't really care about her, she just wants Sophie back."

"I honestly didn't listen to much of the conversation at dinner, I was pretty focused on Sophie to be totally honest."

"Well...she went on and on, complaining about the flight and about the airport and how they wouldn't let Sophie in the gate until she said the full name on her boarding pass - which is different from what they call her. She complained about Sophie and about how rotten she can be. She complained about ANLC and how they've treated her...she says the people in her apartment complex are creepy and strange, but when I drive past the apartment complex, she's sitting outside at 10:00 at night - Sophie is playing with another girl in the building and Kelly is laughing, having a great old time. I just want you guys to be careful about stepping in and getting too involved. Let me handle this stuff because I think she's just one of those people who is not going to be happy with anything."

"That just worries me. I don't want her to walk away from her experience just hating every minute of it. I want her to feel really good about it. "

"And that's what I'm trying to say. I don't think she's as miserable as she's letting on. I think we just need to move her in to the new room, take her to the store, let her pick out some pillows and towels, then see how things go. If she's still miserable, we can figure something else out.  But please know that I've seen this all before and it can go really, really bad.  I don't want that for you. I am simply working toward that moment when I can give her those papers and she has zero hesitation signing them."

"Alright, well please keep us updated about the room change thing and thank you for calling. We understand what you're saying and I don't think we looked at it that way. We thought it was just a simple solution, but we understand it effects the bigger picture. We don't want to destroy everything we've been working for."

"Well you guys have a good day and I'll talk to you soon."

"Okay...thanks Allan!"

"You're welcome."

I looked at Ryan and shrugged. It was all clearly out of our hands. Talking to Allan made us both feel so much better, and I was really glad we were both on that phonecall to hear everything at the same time. He was taking care of it.  That's all we needed to know. He's the expert. He's the one ANLC recommended. He's the one we kept hearing about in Topeka. He's the adoption attorney with 20 years of experience. And as hard as it was, and as angry as I was - it all made sense.  I was not about to go eff up the one thing that truly mattered in all of this.

I want to be a mommy - that's true.  But I'm not supposed to be Kelly's mom. I'm not supposed to be Sophie's mom.  I'm supposed to be this baby's mom. And in order for that to happen, I have to let go and trust that everyone is working toward the same goal.

We called and updated our families with Allan's great mantra: "Focus on the big picture" and I sent pictures from our dinner over e-mail (sorry bloggy friends - I'm keeping her identity a secret) and I called off the search for the new apartment (thank you Lindsay!). I felt good.

Until Saturday morning...

I checked my phone as Ryan made breakfast. I had a message from Allan.

"Hey guys. This is Allan Hazlett. I'm just calling to give you an update. Ummm...give me a call back when you get a chance."

I immediately jumped to a conversation we had in Allan's office when he said, "if I get a sense that anything is going wrong with your adoption, I will call you. The most I'll wait is a few minutes while I walk to my door and think about how I'm going to tell you."

Oh, crap. Something is wrong.

I told Ryan that I had a message from Allan and I pushed the button to replay the message for him.  I eagerly hovered as he listened to the message and set my phone down.  "He's just calling to give us an update. That could be anything. Don't freak out."


"I know...I can tell. But don't. We'll just call him back and find out what it is."

We called his home number. Peggy answered.

"Hi Peggy, this is Ryan. We had a message from Allan and we were just wondering what was going on."

"Oh...he's on his way to pick up Kelly. He'll call you when he gets to her apartment."

"Okay. Thanks."


Oh, crap. Something is wrong. Why is he picking up Kelly?  I thought she was moving today.  Where is Allan taking her? 

While we waited around for the phone to ring, I decided to bust open the cardboard box that arrived on our doorstep the day before - containing the huge chandelier we'd ordered for the kitchen. It was a good distraction. Get the pieces out. Look at the instructions. Gather up all of the little pieces of styrofoam that were flying everywhe - WHY HASN'T HE CALLED US BACK YET!!!!!  Are they going to the HOSPITAL?  Is he picking her up to take her to the EMERGENCY ROOM?  Is something wrong with SOPHIE?  Is something wrong with THE BABY?  I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!  Just then, I heard Ryan in the other room,

"Hi Allan. This is Ryan."

dude...he just called Allan. On his own.

"Yeah...we were just wondering what was going on. We called Peggy and she said you — yeah — so...what now?"

 I picked up the other phone.

"— so now they're convinced that there are bugs in that other room."

"I'm sorry...what's going on?  I just jumped on."

"Hi Ashley. Well...I've been calling Kelly all morning to take her to the store and I've left her...what is it now...6 messages?  So I just went over to the apartment to knock on the door and there's a note up that says, 'my daughter was sick all night. please do not disturb. we are sleeping.' so I didn't disturb. But she is not interested in moving to that other room today because Stacy told her there are no-seeums all over the place."

"What are no-seeums?"

"They're just an annoying, flying bug that feels like a lit match when they sting you. Sort of like a mosquito."

"And they're in the bigger, cleaner, nicer room?"

"Well...she's convinced they are - but no-seeums don't exist in Kansas."


"So I tried to tell her that but she's scared to move over to the other room."

"Can you SPRAY for no-seeums?"

"Well...I don't think that's what they are.  Stacy had dogs in that apartment a few days ago and I think it's fleas."

"No...I mean...whatever they are, is there something that exists to spray them...can you just spray for fleas and no-seeums at the same time?"

"oh...I think I see what you mean - like if we tell her we sprayed 'such and such' and killed them all?"


"I think you're understand how to deal with these women now."

Then we talked about the posibility of moving her to a different apartment building altogether. If she did not want to go to that other room (which we hadn't seen so we had no way of knowing if it was any better) and Allan seemed open to looking around. We said, "Even if it's an empty apartment, we have plenty of furniture to fill it before she ever moves in. She doesn't have to know it came from us."

We ended the conversation and didn't hear anything back the rest of the day. Or Sunday. Or Monday. We just assumed Allan was taking care of things.

Then TUESDAY morning happened...


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

wherein my head explodes - part one

SO much has happened!

It's only been 1 week and I feel like I should have written all of this down somewhere ( a blog, for instance). I just kept thinking, "perspective will make me sound much less irritated and crazy" so I decided to wait for things to calm down. Rather than calming down, things went ahead and ramped themselves up to "1,000% bat-sh!t crazy" and I've been freaking out, crying, laughing, shaking my head and trying not to scream for the last 6 days.

It started on Thursday. We found out at noon that we were, in fact, having dinner with our attorney, his wife (Peggy), Kelly, and Sophie. At 6:00. In Topeka. So Ryan and I figured out a way to leave one car at his work and drive my car to Topeka (which is the reason it would have been nice to know that morning when we could have carpooled and left one car at home, but whatever...that's the least of our grievances). We figured it out. We left work early. We carpooled. We drove to Topeka. We took turns asking each other questions like, "what are you MOST nervous about" and "what do you think she looks like?"

Eventually, we were in Topeka where everyone looked unhappy and in need of a Jillian Michaels intervention. We went directly to the law office and sat down for an official meeting with Peggy and Allan. The law office was tiny and cluttered - not at all what I expected. It was also located behind a gas station and a taco place, so the parking lot was a dangerous combination of hungry patrons and gas-guzzling trucks (awww, Topeka!). We went over our contract, our questions, and our concerns. It took about 20 minutes. I told Allan I had gifts for Kelly and Sophie and he thought that was great. "The most common feedback we get from birthmoms is that the adopting couple doesn't seem to care enough about them...just the baby."  Little does he know...I've got cards and gifts already lined up for the next 3 months!

So Peggy rode with us and Allan went to the apartment to pick up Kelly and Sophie. We waited at the restaurant like two freaks on a first date. I adjusted my posture and straightened my silverware every time someone walked past the table - smiling like a fool. We finally admitted we were SO nervous, to which Peggy responded, "don't be"!!  Ummm...okay.

Finally, we saw Allan outside, holding a tiny little hand - followed by a (clearly) pregnant woman. "OH MY GOD! THEY'RE HERE!" whispered my freak-out brain to my freak-out heart, which responded by pounding even faster. I heard a "hello" from the hostess stand, followed by the voice I remembered from our phonecall. And the minute Kelly turned the corner, I thought, "am I supposed to hug her? shake her hand? smile politely? oh my god...why didn't I practice this?" but she didn't make any moves to hug or shake, so I just smiled. Then I saw darling little Sophie and about fell out of my chair. She was SUCH a doll!!  Cute little dress, pretty brown hair, lovely dark eyes, sweet little smile.

Allan and Ryan helped Sophie in to her high-chair (Kelly admitted she could no longer lift her) and I could not stop smiling at her. I wanted to make polite conversation with the rest of the table, but it was more fun to draw happy faces and letters of the alphabet with Sophie.

Once we ordered dinner, I asked if I could give Sophie her gift. Kelly seemed shocked and a little embarrassed. "You didn't have to get her a gift. We should be giving you guys something! Oh my gosh!  I could have baked you guys some cookies or something! Geez. This is too much."  And once Sophie started opening her gift, I pulled out my camera and started snapping pictures. I wanted to remember this moment forever. Then I handed Kelly her gift and she was clearly touched. I told her she didn't have to open it now, but it was just a fun little "pamper yourself" gift - just for her. She repeated how embarrassed she was that they didn't have anything for us. I thought to myself...she's giving us the gift of a family. The gift of a dream come true. The gift of a sweet little life. I'm giving her some tummy lotion and some foot scrub. Hardly a fair trade.

Dinner went great. Conversation was easy. Kelly was clearly nervous (and flustered) but our attorney reminded us that we didn't need an agenda or a list of topics, this was just to get to know each other. At one point, Kelly asked if we wanted to see a picture of "the father" which sort of threw us none of us wanted to mention the huge elephant in the room in front of Sophie (who still has no idea why she's in Topeka or who any of these strange people are.  She just thinks they're on a "big adventure" and she can't wait to see what happens next.) It was obvious by the photo that Sophie takes after her dad. And since our baby shares the same biological parents as Sophie, we looked at the photo with some scrutiny and relief. (sorry, but it's true.)  Sophie was a gorgeous baby. 

As dinner ended, Allan explained that he wanted us to take Kelly back to her apartment. And if we wanted to go for ice cream, there were a couple of places along the way.  We looked at each other and the huge cup of GRAVY we ordered for our fries and we all agreed we were too full for ice cream. But maybe another time. We walked out to the car and that's when everything started getting weird.

We asked Kelly how she felt so far and she started describing how stressed she's been for the last 3 days - that she broke down when she saw her apartment - how she doesn't feel totally comfortable around Allan and Peggy. They picked her up at the airport with a broken child's seat..."just look at this's like half a seat. If I'd known, I would have just brought my own. And do you know, they didn't even buckle her in? We were halfway down the highway and I realized they didn't buckle her seatbelt or anything. Y'all, I don't mean to complain but I've been crying for 3 days. Just wait until you see this apartment they've got me in. And that building...the whole building just needs to be condemned. It's a pit.  I don't have clean towels, clean sheets, nice pillows. The pillows are all flat and stained and the blankets have cigarette burns in em.  It's disgusting. My eyes are all puffy - look at my eyes!  I've been a wreck. The first night, Sophie scratched herself on the only chair in the apartment - some rusty nail sticking out of it, I thought we were gonna have to go to the emergency room!"  and the whole time I listened, my heart just sank.  Here I thought everything was going so great and she was in a nice place, sleeping in a great furnished apartment with cable and phone and central air conditioning. And Allan and Peggy were doing such an amazing job, getting her situated and treating her with the same respect and admiration we have for her. We couldn't believe what we were hearing.

We got to the apartment and decided to see it for ourselves. She pointed out the broken-down car in the parking lot, the dirty couch sitting out by the dumpster, and the broken glass all over the ground.  "This is no place for children, y'all."  And I have to say, I totally agreed. We walked up to the entrance where Kelly explained "they lock the doors at night so I don't know if we can get in".  (Ummm...)  So we walked around to the other side and pulled on the handle. It opened. "Oh...I guess it's unlocked."  We got in the elevator which smelled like smoke and Sophie hit the button to the 3rd floor.

The hallway was depressing. The room was depressing. The gross queen (or maybe full sized) bed in the corner was depressing. The carpet was horrifying - stained and dirty. The kitchen was tiny but I didn't inspect it very thoroughly. Kelly told us that she hasn't been able to get anybody to bring her a full-sized towel. And she's been sleeping with a t-shirt over her pillow because she's so grossed out by it.  Then she said, "I am not scared of this process. I really like you guys and I am not worried about where this baby is going, but I just want a clean pillow to sleep on."

And you deserve a clean pillow, Kelly.

Everyone deserves a clean pillow!

Ryan and I left that apartment and immediately called Allan. He was in bed. So we talked to Peggy. We told her how gross and horrible it was and how disappointed we were in this living situation. "We want to bring her some clean sheets and pillows and towels from our house. We have so much. We don't want her to be sad or depressed for the next 3 months."  And Peggy said, "we prefer you not."  We asked if there was any way to move her out of that room and in to a nicer one, and Peggy said, "yes. On Saturday. She's moving in to Stacy's old room...the birthmom who went in to labor on Monday night." least that's something. She only has to wait 2 more days.  Peggy assured us that the other room is bigger and cleaner and they're going to take her shopping tomorrow for towels and sheets. Also, they don't usually rent this room out because it's so bad. Peggy admitted "we know it's bad, but she's been sleeping on her friend's couch for the last 2 weeks so this has to be a step up."  (well...I think that's unfair to assume. There are some really nice couches out there. Have you BEEN to Nebraska Furniture Mart? Peggy?)

Ryan and I talked for a while, but the more I said it all out loud, the angrier I got. I felt horrible. I felt responsible. And now I felt helpless. This woman brought her 3 year-old daughter to live in this dump for 3 months and we couldn't bring her a clean pillow? I didn't understand. She's giving us her baby. I can't give her a towel?  Worse than that, she has to use money out of her trust (money we put in there) to buy the things we have in abundance. It didn't make any sense. Why were we paying for her to stay in a crack den with a rusty chair?  How was this the only apartment in Topeka?

We called both of our moms (I think we called Bev first) and we told them all about the dinner and how great it went - then we quickly moved on to the topic of the apartment and how horrible it was - and about how we thought we'd found a solution but Peggy told us not to get involved. Bev suggested we call Mary in the morning (our agent in California) and see if she could offer a solution. My mom offered to bring her carpet steamer over and clean the carpets herself. Bev said she would do all of the worrying for us, we should just calm down and get some rest. My mom said she had tons of sheets and towels and blankets that she could donate to the apartment complex - maybe Kelly would never know it was from us? Bev said, "Nothing is permanent. Nothing is broken. Nothing is un-fixable." My mom said, "She can come live in our basement!"  And that right there is why we love, love, LOVE our families. A brilliant mixture of compassion, wisdom, comfort and love.

45 minutes later, we were home and I immediately grabbed my phone and my laptop. I started google searching apartments in Topeka and I called my brilliant friend Lindsay for some real estate advice. She has connections to management companies in Lawrence and Topeka so I explained our situation. "We have to get her out of there. She doesn't deserve to live in that place. I don't care where she was sleeping before. She's still a human being and she's carrying our child. I don't want her stressed or freaked out or breathing in second-hand smoke for 3 months!" Lindsay agreed and promised to tap every resource she could. "A lot of my realtors get up early, so I'll draft an email tonight and get back to you first thing in the morning."  Perfect. Awesome. Thank you.

While we brushed our teeth and got ready for bed, I begged Ryan to call Allan first thing in the morning and tell him we didn't care if we were being manipulated (as he'd previously warned). We didn't care if we were out some sheets and blankets and towels. We didn't care if we had to go over there ourselves and clean that apartment. We weren't just going to sit around and do nothing. It wasn't right.

Ryan's silence told me that he either disagreed with me or he was so stressed that he was no longer forming words. Turns out, it was the second thing. Rather than BOTH of us freaking out at the same time, he tends to wait until I'm "good" so he can thoroughly lose it. He was being quiet, cautious and rational, which meant he probably had a stomach ulcer. He wanted to talk to Allan, but he also thought we should wait to see what this other apartment looked like.  Then I asked if I could call Allan tomorrow, because "I know exactly what I want to say to him."

"Sure...I mean...I see both sides. Allan told us not to let her manipulate us and that's exactly what's happening. We're going to him on her behalf and that's exactly what he warned us about. He's been doing this for 20 years. I feel like we need to trust him. He came highly recommended and he's been great so far."  And I agreed. He's been great. And we didn't know what the other apartment looked like. Maybe it's fine. But we also didn't know anything about Kelly. She left out quite a few important details on her fact sheet (like she's placed a child for adoption before) and for all we knew, she was expecting an all-expense paid vacation for 3 months in a luxury apartment. She never directly asked us for anything (which is what the agency said to watch out for) but everything she said totally worked on me!  She mentioned how Sophie had to walk around in socks and shoes on that carpet or her feet would get all black. She talked about the ripped towels in her bathroom that didn't even fit around her daughter. I was ready to respond to her every need!

So Ryan and I fell asleep weighing facts, feelings and serious questions of morality. What could we do?  Who could we trust?  And what ever happened to Topeka to make it SUCK so bad?

At this point, I have to call it a night. So much more to share, I will pick it up tomorrow. Meanwhile, ask yourself the same questions...what would you do?

Monday, July 26, 2010

positive adoption language

A few weeks ago, I decided to stay home and work on my kitchen (because the sooner we get the kitchen done, the sooner we can start on the baby's room!). I turned the TV to TLC and ran a series of "baby day" stories in the background as I prepped and painted cabinets. The narration was plenty loud and it never failed to overstate the obvious, so it was sort of like a book on tape. I listened to three simultaneous "Special Delivery" stories about high risk pregnancies in Florida (they all turned out fine) trying to imagine what "Terry and Phil" really looked like. I powered through an episode of "Bringing Home Baby" where Bethany and Sean gave us a peak in to the first 48 hours of life at home with baby Madison (named after the mermaid in Splash). Bethany was stressed because Madison wasn't breastfeeding and Sean was stressed because Madison was jaundiced, but if you ask me, the most stressful part about their entire scenario was the PET BIRD that Sean's mother (logically) decided to bring with her while she slept on an air mattress in their living room for TWO WEEKS!!  Because nothing says "I'm here to help" like the squawk of nana's parakeet!

Then I listened to (what I thought would be) an inspirational "Adoption Story" about a couple in Michigan adopting a little boy from India. I love adoption stories and I've recently been to India, so...bonus! I listened as the couple explained the adoption process - the paperwork, the home study, the classes, the background checks, the stress, and the waiting. Then I stopped dead in my tracks when the voiceover explained that the couple was adopting a child instead of trying for "a baby of their own".  (record scratch) Excuse me?  "A baby of their own"?  Just because Jackie didn't grow that little boy inside her belly did not make him any less "her own".  I wanted to pick up the phone and call TLC to explain exactly why "a baby of their own" was negative adoption language.

Then it got me thinking. If not for the class Ryan and I took (where our instructor broke down the absolute worst case scenario of every single adoption she's ever conducted), there's no way I would have tuned in to the nuances of adoption language. It's not like I'm "super-PC-girl" and I want everyone around me to use generic, non-offensive language all the time, but certain words evoke negative feelings. "Giving up a baby" or "putting it up for adoption" has the potential to make my child feel abandoned and unwanted. And obviously, we want our child to feel like he or she belongs in our family. So I decided to create a blog-entry to share the differences between Positive Adoption Language (words and phrases that evoke the joy of growing a family through adoption) and Negative Adoption Language (words and phrases that have the potential to make me or my child sit in a corner and cry).

This is not a "lesson", it's just a tool. Possibly the only helpful information we got out of the "fear-tactic" adoption class Ryan and I sat through on a cold night in February:

Positive Adoption Language:
  • Birthparent                                 
  • Biological parent                         
  • Biological child                           
  • My child                                      
  • Born to unmarried parents       
  • Terminate parental rights         
  • Decided not to parent                
  • Waiting child                              
  • Making contact with                  
  • Parents                                        
  • International adoption               
  • Search                                         
  • Placed a child for adoption         
  • Court termination                     

Negative Adoption Language:
  • Real Parent
  • Natural Parent
  • Your own child
  • My adopted child or My own child
  • Illegitimate
  • Gave up
  • Gave away
  • Adoptable child or Available child
  • Reunited
  • Adopted parents
  • Foreign adoption
  • Track down your real parents 
  • Put up a baby or Gave up a baby
  • Child taken away

    Wednesday, July 21, 2010

    take a deep breath and count to 85

    Kelly and Sophie made it to town on Monday night. We didn't know that until Tuesday afternoon (which lead to a full-on panic attack wherein my work neighbor offered me a "little blue pill" to calm my nerves..."is she here? is she NOT here? is everything okay? why hasn't anyone called? what is going on? what am I paying this lawyer for if not to return phonecalls?  what if she missed the plane again? what if she slept in the airport all night?  what if she changed her mind and she's not coming? is the baby okay? when will she get to see the doctor? what if she's stressed and now the baby is stressed?"  it went on like this ALL MORNING until I finally called Ryan and said something along the lines of, "OH MY GOD PLEASE CALL THAT LAWYER RIGHT NOW AND TELL HIM I CAN'T STAND THIS WAITING AROUND NOT KNOWING WHAT IS GOING ON WITH MY BABY!!!!!!!"

    Ryan calmly assured me that everything was probably fine and he would call me back after he talked to someone. Which he did. And it was. Allan didn't call us back last night because 1. another birthmom went in to labor on Monday night, requiring 100% of Allan and Peggy's attention, 2. Allan and Peggy didn't get my message until Tuesday morning, 3. Allan was delivering paperwork to the courthouse on Tuesday morning and Peggy was going to let him return the calls when he returned to the office.

    Everything was fine (and by "fine" I mean that nothing went exactly as planned but everyone is going to keep telling me it's "fine" to avoid a 3-month addiction to those "little blue pills" that make it possible for me to breathe normally.) Kelly and Sophie missed their flight by 5 minutes. Their baggage made it but they did not. They sat in the airport all day. Their 3:00 flight was delayed for 2 hours. They got in to KC around 6:30pm (13 hours after they hopped out of bed and headed to the airport - bless their hearts). By the time they got their baggage and got out of the airport, it was about 7:30. Kelly needed to make a rest-stop on the way to Topeka, so they stopped the car somewhere along I-70. On her way back to the car, Kelly saw her daughter sitting in the backseat of a car with two total strangers and she had a total melt-down (questioning whether she had made the right decision, uprooting their lives and moving to Topeka). Upon hearing this news, I had a total melt-down. I felt incredibly guilty and responsible. When Kelly and Sophie got to the new apartment, it was the only unit available, meaning it was the smaller, not as awesome unit next to a very noisy family which prevented them from getting a good night's sleep (again...more guilt) but we've been assured that they will move to the larger unit as soon as this other birthmom (the one who just delivered her baby) moves out. In 3-4 weeks.  Ryan also managed to get a phone number for Kelly so we could call her after work. THANK GOD!

    All I wanted to do all day was drive to Topeka, find Kelly and give her a big hug.  I knew she was terrified of flying. I knew it was a big deal that she was moving to Topeka. I knew she had just entertained an active 3-year old in an airport for 8 hours. Flying sucks even when your plane is on time, so I can't imagine what waiting around on stand-by, combined with pregnancy hormones and a lack of sleep did to that poor girl. My little blue pill got me through the day. I'm not sure how she got through hers.

    Ryan and I sat down and called the number we'd been given. It was the number to the apartment complex, but we followed the instructions to get to her voicemail. I left a message telling her to call us if she needs ANYTHING and I gave her our home phone number. I'm sure I rambled something about how glad we are to have her here and we can't wait to meet her and how I want to just give her a big hug. I have no idea if she got the message (I'm hoping somebody explained how she's supposed to pick up voicemail) but we still haven't heard anything. I called the lawyer tonight too - Ryan mentioned something about how Allan was going to pencil in dinner for Thursday night since Monday didn't happen, but we still don't know.  We never heard back from anyone. We're just going to get up tomorrow morning and assume we're finally going to meet the woman capable of making our dreams come true.

    Meanwhile, I think it is safe to say that I am 100% bonded to the baby that just flew from Georgia to Kansas City. I already feel like that's my baby. I already feel like I want to protect him (or her) and I want more than anything to know that he (or she) is okay. I want to do whatever I can to get Kelly on Medicaid so she can get in to see a doctor and have an updated sonogram. I want to see the ultrasound of my little Georgia peach. I want to see all 10 fingers and all 10 toes and some sort of sex organ that tells me pink or blue. Waiting around to know if my baby was on the ground, sitting in an airport, or back in Georgia - I compared myself to a mama bear, ferociously trying to protect her cub. I was a mess. I have to trust a woman I've never met to do everything I would do if I were carrying that baby myself. Then I have to trust that she's going to place that baby in my arms on October 15th. Have I mentioned the little blue pills yet?

    We figured out that Kelly is about 27 weeks along. I am going to follow along in my "pregnancy day-by-day" journal and pretend that I have something to do with the development of my magnificent child, or at least be able to answer the question "how far along is she?" when people ask. And throughout my day, while I am designing cards, I will be able to think about how, right now - as I sit here eating a tuna sandwich, my baby is growing eyelashes.

    Monday, July 19, 2010

    learning to be flexible

    I spent the entire weekend thinking about Kelly and Sophie. They were scheduled to fly in to Kansas City at 10:00 this morning.  Ryan and I were supposed to have dinner with them tonight in Topeka. I talked about it all weekend. I picked out my outfit this morning thinking, "This is what I want to wear when I meet Kelly for the first time."  I called Ryan on my way to work, "Would you pull up the itinerary that the attorney sent us so we can track the flight as she comes in?" We were so excited!

    I got to work and opened my email. There was a message from our attorney. Kelly missed her flight. She will arrive at 5pm tonight.


    I know it's not a big deal - it's a difference of 7 hours - it doesn't mean she's not coming at all or that anything has changed - it just means that we probably won't be having dinner with them tonight. By the time they drive to Topeka from the KC airport and get all settled in, it will be after 8:00. Time for Sophie to go to bed. And if they ran around this morning, trying to catch the first flight, they're probably tired. 

    I was just so excited to meet them!!  I was excited about giving Sophie my little "welcome" gift and giving Kelly the card I wrote, but I understand. Things happen. I have to be flexible. I can't control everything. (these are lessons I'm still working on at 33.)

    For now, I'm just going to wait* to hear from our attorney that everything is fine and they arrived safely and we will meet them some other time.

    *(...I suck at waiting too!)

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    planes, trains and automobiles

    I answered two phonecalls yesterday (well...five, if you count the times that Ryan called). I took the day off to work on my kitchen (I am determined to finish the kitchen before we start on the baby's room!) so the house phone rang more times that afternoon than in the 6 months we've had it.

    The first call was at noon. It was our adoption attorney in Topeka. He wanted us to know that Kelly has been sleeping on a couch at a friend's house and she's ready to come to Topeka ASAP. "'s that going?"

    He said, "Well...she wants to take a train."

    "A train?"

    "Yes. Mary and I have both been talking to her about it and she's just terrified of flying."

    "Poor girl."

    "Well...we want her to do whatever is most comfortable for her, but that train ride is brutal. It's 53 hours."

    "good grief!"

    "I, we're still working on it."

    The next call was at 3:00. Kelly had changed her mind. She and her daughter were going to fly afterall. As my friend Sherri pointed out, it's too bad you can't give a pregnant lady drugs to calm her nerves!

    Of course we appreciate that she's coming to Topeka and of course we're incredibly grateful that she's chosen us to adopt her baby, but now she's facing her biggest fear and getting on an airplane for us!!

    Still no word today on when she's arriving, but I can't wait. It's the same thing (I'm guessing) parents feel when they know their children are flying/traveling. My child isn't even born yet and I'm already that freaked out mom waiting for the phonecall that "I've landed and everything is okay."

    Friday, July 9, 2010

    welcome to kansas!


    Our agent (Mary) called today to say that Kelly and Sophie are moving to Topeka! Like...Monday! Kelly wants to do whatever is best for us. She doesn't want us to have to travel to Georgia or pay a Georgia attorney, so she is packing her things and moving to Kansas!! :) We are so thrilled (and even more grateful than we were before. Is that even possible??)

    The adoption lawyer in Topeka (Allan Hazlett) called me shortly after I got off the phone with Mary and he went through every single one of my questions so I knew what to expect. He was wonderfully patient and kind. He even called out to Peggy in the next room if he wasn't positive about the answer. Peggy is his wife. They run this business together. They've been doing adoption law for 15 years. It's just the two of them. No big staff. And they take care of everything. They will book Kelly's flight, pick her up from the airport and get her all settled in. They will take her to the grocery store once a week and to all of her doctor's appointments. They will set her up with a nurse/midwife through the doctor's office and make sure she's getting any counseling/support she needs. Alan and Peggy spend A LOT of time with the birthmoms and they make sure these women don't feel lonesome or displaced. And they intentionally surround the birthmoms with people who support and understand their adoption plan (in fact, the manager of the grocery store is one of their former birthmoms).

    I asked what we can do - how can we make Kelly feel welcome and comfortable. Allan encouraged us to develop a relationship with her. He said, "the very best situations happen when you two become friends. You can start driving her to doctor's appointments and call to see how she's doing. Of course you don't want to overwhelm her, but follow your instincts. Put yourself in her shoes." She's going to be there for 3 months. Maybe we could take her to a Royals game?? (she mentioned she likes sports!) And maybe we'll set her up with NetFlix or bring her dinner once a month?? Something that tells her, "we appreciate what you are doing and we know it's not easy."

    I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. I have no idea how the rest of this journey is going to go, but right now - I FEEL INCREDIBLY LUCKY! Not only is Kelly giving us an amazing gift, but she is now sacrificing the only life she's ever known. She lost both of her parents when she was young. The only people around her right now are smug and unsupportive. I almost want to be there when she steps off the airplane so I can give her a ginormous hug. WELCOME TO KANSAS!!!! WE LOVE YOU!!

    Thursday, July 8, 2010

    it was a 5.4!

    We had our match phone call last night between our birthmother in Georgia and our adoption agent in California. We scheduled this call last week so we spent the entire weekend anticipating the chance to hear our birthmother's voice and find out more about her.

    Moments before the phone rang, Ryan looked at me and said, "Are you getting nervous, because I feel really nervous." I looked down at my list of birthmom questions and the pen I found to write down all of her answers.  I realized 2 things. Not only was I not nervous, but I was being completely analytical for the first time ever. In my life. EVER. Ryan was being emotional and I was getting ready to go on some sort of speed-date.

    The call was supposed to happen at 5:30, but the phone didn't ring until close to 6:45. And for the purpose of this story, I am now going to refer to our birthmom as Kelly and her daughter as Sophie. I need to protect their identity a little bit and "she" and "birthmom" are just too vague and confusing for what I'm about to tell you - not to mention, impersonal. Also, our agent's name is Mary (for real) so now you know that case I mention somebody named Mary and you're all, "who is this Mary person? and why do your stories take so long?" but just hang on...because I've got even more information for you:

    Kelly and Sophie are in need of a new living situation - like, immediately. We know this because we are responsible for all of Kelly's living expenses until she has the baby and Mary needed July's payment ASAP. We were getting constant updates about where Kelly would be staying tonight and tomorrow, but there was still no permanent answer as to where she would live for the duration of her pregnancy. Then, at 3:00, a very real possibility presented itself. We are responsible for retaining lawyers in both Kansas City and Georgia (they are responsible for the child as he/she moves from state-to-state) and it turns out, the Kansas City lawyer has connections in Topeka where he and his wife have been helping birthmoms find safe/affordable housing for the last 15 years. It's part of their practice. The husband deals with the adoption lawyer-ey stuff and the wife helps the birthmoms get to the grocery store and doctor's appointments. So, if we wanted, we could pay for Kelly and Sophie to move to Topeka for part (or all) of her pregnancy. Interesting.

    For us, moving Kelly to Topeka meant:
    1. we wouldn't have to pay a Georgia lawyer (the baby would be born in Kansas)
    2. we wouldn't have to book any last minute flights to Georgia
    3. we wouldn't have to spend 7-10 days in Georgia, waiting for ICPC to clear
    4. our family and friends could potentially be there for the birth of the baby

    Of course, that also meant uprooting Kelly's life, uprooting Sophie's life, and taking Sophie away from her daddy for 3-4 months. It was good on paper, but if Kelly wasn't up for it, we weren't either.

    The phone rang at 6:45 and Mary warned us that Kelly was very nervous and she may not say much (plus, she'd just been told she might be moving to Topeka so I'm sure that was still sinking in). Mary told us to be ourselves and follow her lead - she would guide most of the conversation.

    Kelly answered the phone and from the moment she said "hello" we (honestly, truly) felt connected to her. Her daughter was running around screaming in the background - just like our niece Delaney does on every single phonecall I've ever had with my sister. She admitted right away that she was nervous - like waiting for a boy to call her for the first time, or hearing back about a job interview. She also said she was pacing around her house and sweating, which made me love her even more.

    Mary asked us to talk about how we met and we're pretty sure we endeared ourselves immediately upon mention of The Ranch and our need to go country-dancing every Saturday night (because The Ranch is nothing if not endearing)! She said, "I'm from the south, y'all."  We described our first date and how we talked for over an hour, never once running out of things to say. She told us she was looking at our pictures as we talked and already felt really good about her decision. 

    At one point, she talked openly about why she is placing this child for adoption and how guilty she feels that Sophie doesn't have more. She knew 6 weeks in to her pregnancy that she was placing this child for adoption because "this baby deserves more than I can provide."  I told her she didn't owe us any explanation. "We think you are incredibly brave. And we promise, we have so much love to give this baby. You are giving us an incredible gift and we cannot thank you enough for that." She said, "well...that's really nice to hear." 

    I asked about her support system and she said there aren't many people in her life who even know she's pregnant - including her daughter. She broke my heart when she said nobody around her really supports her adoption plan. Her parents both died when she was young, so she has a grandma she could live with, but "She has an opinion and it's different from my opinion so I just don't need to be around people who don't support me right now. I know I'm doing the right thing." 

    Just then, Mary (in California) interrupted and said, "I'm sorry you guys, but I have to put you on hold. We're having an earthquake right now!" Ummm...what?  We could hear the phone click and then Kelly on the other end said, "Oh my gosh! That's crazy!" Ryan said, "No kidding. I would be freaking out!" Kelly heard him and said, "Are you guys still there?" We said, "Yes!" and then we all agreed that Mary was being *really* calm - we would not have been so calm. Mary came back on and apologized for being so scared, but she hates earthquakes. We applauded her for handling it so well, then we talked about earthquakes and all of the things we don't like. Spiders, snakes, tornadoes and earthquakes topped the list.  We found out today, that earthquake in California was a 5.4!

    We talked a little while longer about Sophie and how tall she is for her age (which is perfect...because my family makes some TALL babies!) If this baby is anything like Sophie, he/she will fit right in. Also, Kelly mentioned that Sophie was born c-section, which made me think it's possible this birth could be c-section too (which means we could schedule it...which, for a planner is AWESOME!) I asked if she knew the sex of the baby, or when she might find out.  She said she'd already had her free sonogram and she considered faking some cramps so they'd have to do another one, but then we got to talking about how she would be moving soon and didn't really know where she would be or who her doctor would be, so it might be a little while until she found out. I don't know how Medicare works, but if I have to write the doctor a personal check to get a sonogram, I will.

    (p.s. have I mentioned that we want to find out the sex of the baby? because we do!  Our little trip to IKEA over the holiday was enough to get us salivating over baby clothes and obsessing over "do we buy pink or blue?" It's the one variable that probably won't change tomorrow, so we want to be able to make some plans. Some.)

    We could tell that Mary was getting nervous about rush-hour traffic and earthquake damage and trying to leave her office, so we decided to call it a night.  We mentioned how great we thought the phonecall went and how nervous we all were (except me...I'm a robot, apparently) and we'd be in touch regarding the Topeka situation. (Mary was going to sort that out with the lawyer tomorrow and call us). So we said our goodbyes and hung up the phone.

    I looked at Ryan and we smiled. Then I ran to the bathroom with explosive diarrhea.  I'd been nervous after all!


    Sunday, July 4, 2010

    the day that changed everything

    July 1st was a Thursday. There was nothing particularly special about this day until 4:45 when my cell phone rang. I was on my way home from work, sitting in rush hour traffic, planning to spend the rest of my evening decorating a birthday cake I was hired to design for a 1-year old.

    "Hi Ashley, this is Mary from Adoption Network Law Center."

    "Hello. How are you?"

    "Good! Are you and Ryan together right now?"

    "No. I'm in my car. Ryan is on his way to the groomer to pick up our dogs."

    "Well, I'm calling to let you know that you have been selected by a birthmother."

    (ginormous grin) "Are you SERIOUS!?"

    "I don't want to tell you too much without Ryan, but I can tell you that she is due on October 15th. She met all of your criteria except for one and she is very anxious to hear back with your answer."

    (trembling and trying not to crash) "Okay...well...oh my gosh. I can't believe this."

    "She is a non-smoker, non-drinker, non-drug-user. The birthfather is in the picture and he is totally on board."

    "Can I ask you where she lives?"

    "She is currently in Georgia, but I can't tell you where, exactly. She has a living situation that she needs to get out of, so her living expenses are slightly higher than what you said on your preference form."

    "Okay. Well...what do we need to do next? Are you in your office for a while? I need to call Ryan and tell him. He's going to FREAK OUT!"

    "How soon do you think you can get home?"

    (looking at the cars stopped on the highway in front of me) "About half an hour?"

    "That's perfect. I'll just call you back from my cell phone and we can conference call. My office phone is set to an automatic out-of-office message so it's easier if I call you."

    "Oh my gosh. Okay...thank you! This is so exciting. Oh my gosh. We will talk to you soon!"

    "I'm looking forward to it. And I know she is anxious to hear back. She just picked you guys a few hours ago and she has been texting me ever since, asking, 'Have you heard back from Ashley and Ryan yet? What did they say?' She is very excited."

    "Oh, that's awesome. Okay, we'll talk to you soon. Bye! Thank you!"

    "You are welcome!"




    I immediately called Ryan and realized I was still shouting:


    "I just talked to a woman named Mary from Adoption Network Law Center and we have been selected by a birthmother!!!!! Like...she just picked us 2 hours ago!!!!"

    (trying not to crash) "Are you SERIOUS!"

    "I KNOW!!! She lives in Georgia and she is due on October 15th."

    "I guess we're not going to Mexico."

    "I know! WE ARE GETTING A BABY!!!"


    The conversation continued for a while. We were doing everything we could not to crash our cars and truly believe what was going on. We couldn't say it out loud enough. We couldn't stop shouting or smiling. It was entirely surreal.

    At one point, we were pretty much done sharing all of the information we could think to share and Ryan said, "We have to keep talking because if we hang up, I'm just going to start calling people and we don't have enough information yet."

    So Ryan and I made small talk for the next 25 minutes. We repeated everything back to each other so we could stall. We laughed about the fact that we *just* booked our trip to Mexico (an all-inclusive resort with our friends from October 16th-23rd) but if the last 5 years taught us anything, it was to keep making plans and simply HOPE that they might include a baby. We didn't want to look back and resent the things we "could have done" while we were waiting. So we booked the trip, but also bought trip insurance. (always holding out hope)

    And while a baby is a life-long dream, and of COURSE it's more important than Mexico, I still asked the question, "which is closer? Georgia to Kansas or Georgia to Mexico? Is there any way to wait for our baby while sitting on a beach in Mexico?" :)

    I pulled in to our neighborhood and up the hill to our house where there was a mini-van sitting in our driveway. I flipped on my turn-signal and looked at the clock. We had 3 minutes to get in to the house and answer the call from Mary. I looked at the mini-van again trying to figure out who it could be. Who pulls in to somebody else's driveway and blocks both sides? Sometimes people pull in to get their mail, (the bane of hosting the neighborhood mailbox 3 inches from our house) but there was a person sitting in the driver's seat. Then I thought, "Okay...maybe she got her mail and she is looking through it." so I pushed the buttons to open my garage to get her attention. The mini-van didn't move. "OH MY GOD! I HAVE TO GET IN THERE AND ANSWER MY PHONE!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" I debated driving over our lawn to get in to the garage when I saw our neighbor run across her lawn to the waiting mini-van. She held her finger up like, "Hold on one second" and I sort of laughed. "Seriously? I know you don't know this, but the most important news of my life is about to happen. I need you to get out of my driveway!!" Soon, the mini-van backed up and waved at me as she passed by. "Yes. You're welcome. Good-bye." as I gunned it and nearly crashed my car in to the back of the garage. I'm pretty sure my tires screeched as I came to a stop.

    I jumped out of the car (zero time left) and ran in to the house. There were two messages. "DANG IT!" I pushed play. One was the groomer. The dogs were ready. One was Mary. It was 4:44. It was before she called my cell phone. It was an old message. Thank God.

    Just then, Ryan walked in to the house. We ran to each other and hugged like a scene from a movie. "WE ARE GETTING A BABY!!!!!" Ryan hugged me even tighter and lifted me off the ground. "OWW! You're squeezing and hurting my boobs!" "Sorry. I'm just SO happy!" Just then, the phone rang. I felt a happy little flip in my heart as I frantically searched for paper and a pen. I looked at Ryan as he picked up the phone and our lives changed forever.

    She was born in December, 1972. She is 5'9" tall; 145 lbs. She has blue/green eyes with blond-ish/brown-ish/red-ish hair (dyed so much that she forgot her natural color). She has pale skin, fine hair, 100% caucasian, and she completed the 12th grade. Her favorite subjects in school were science and math (Ryan's too!) and she enjoyed sports in school. She has been a live-in nanny for 10 years but dreams of attending culinary school some day. She describes herself as an easy-going person who likes to laugh. She likes cooking, movies and sports. She does not drink, smoke or do any drugs. She found our profile on Adoption Spacebook and she is a Christian. She has a 3-year old daughter (with the same birthfather) who is 3' tall with green eyes and brown hair. She is perfectly healthy.

    The birthfather was born in 1966. He is 6'1" tall; 180 lbs. He has green eyes, black hair, olive skin and he is 100% caucasian. He describes himself as an outgoing people-person who likes music, art and playing guitar (me too!), and he is completely on-board with the adoption.

    I still don't know what it will take to feel real. We don't know the sex of the baby yet, but we will find out in a few weeks. We've had several moments when we've looked at each other like, "CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?" and the answer is always "no". We've waited 5 years for a moment like this. We've come close before (6 weeks of a pregnancy that terminated on its own) but that entire process taught us to be careful - not to get our hopes up too high. We knew it would feel amazing to get that phone call, but we've both replayed it over and over in our minds and it still has not sunk in.

    We have 3 months to prepare our hearts and our home for this new little miracle, and it will be here before we know it. I'm not sure anyone is ever totally prepared for such life-changing news, but man...we sure are READY!