Ruby’s “Gotcha Day”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Today, Ruby’s adoption was legally finalized!! I’m not sure where the term “gotcha day” came from, but it seems to be pretty popular within the adoption community, so there ya go!
As both kids lay in bed tonight, I sit reflecting on what a blur the day really was.

Eli woke up with a full blown cold and our little area of South-East Texas was preparing for the “ice storm of 2014” (which means we *might* get some sleet in the wee hours of the morning…).
Our lawyer called at 9am to let us know our arrival time had been rescheduled to 1:30, so we should expect to be in court at 1:15. Eli and Ruby napped most of the day away, which meant I fell asleep too. Barry woke me at 12 and the rush set in. We ran around like crazy people trying to get everything we needed together. Packing a bag for a short trip still entails a lot. Plus we didn’t want to look like hobo’s when we arrived before the judge. Makeup was in order.
When we pulled up at the courthouse, it had begun to rain and temps had started to drop in the low 30’s. Barry’s plan was to drop me and the kids off at the front, but we *thought* we had gotten a close parking space instead. We loaded the kids up in the double stroller and made a mad dash in the rain. On the way, Eli lost his shoe, pulled Ruby’s headband off, my umbrella blew away, and we all got drenched in freezing cold rain.
We ran up to the doors only to find we had actually parked on the back side of the courthouse, the back doors were locked and there was no covered walk way or ramp for our stroller.
So we carried the stroller around the outside of the courthouse until we got to the front, where we all stood at the foot of another set of stairs and cried. Thankfully we had some super nice locals stop to direct us, lift the stroller for me and help us get where we needed to go. 🙂 So it wasn’t terrible, but definitely memorable.

I posted this on Facebook for a good visual:
Imagine the scene from home alone where they are frantically running through the airport, except we are outside in freezing sideways rain, with a double stroller and pregnant lady RUNNING to the court house that has NO ramps. Ruby fell over in the stroller and screamed all the way to the courthouse, Eli lost a shoe and pulled Ruby’s headband off, Eli is covered in boogers because surprise he’s sick and I did my hair for no reason because my umbrella blew away. But we are here and this is our crazy family and we are crazy blessed because today Ruby’s adoption is finalized!!!!!

Once we got there, we were told they were running behind by 30 minutes, so we set up camp in the hallway and let the anxiety of getting there settle into excitement. Goldfish crackers, baby books, blankets and iphone apps playing annoying songs. 😉 We were a site to be seen for sure.

We weren’t sure what to expect, but honestly it was very simple.
The judge called us in, our lawyer read a few statements to us that set the scene for the situation (yes we understand we will be Ruby’s parents, yes we agree to the terms of the termination, yes we are who we say we are, etc…). As she read the statements I teared up. I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with happiness as she stated over and over again that Barry and I were her parents, that we were a family, and that this placement was in the best interest of our child. It really had come full circle. And even though that part of the ceremony took only 2-3 minutes, it was powerful and touching.
Ruby smiled and sucked her thumb through the whole thing, which lasted a total of 10 minutes or less. Eli, of course, charmed the pants off everyone in the courtroom- so much so that the court reporter asked for a statement to be repeated because she was too busy smiling at him. 😉 He’s a flirt.
The judge smiled, said she loved cases like these and announced that the adoption was final. The people present clapped and then we had a picture taken.
It seemed so huge and yet so fast all at the same time. We have been waiting for this day for so long, and all the love and work that has gone into it built up to this point. As she spoke, my heart swelled with love and pride. This is the family God gave us. This is the family we are creating and growing together. It was beautiful and simple. I feel closer to my husband and I feel more bonded as a family.

For dinner (yes, we braved the “ice storm of 2014”), we got together to celebrate. My mom wrote a letter to put in Ruby’s baby book, and I think she summed it up perfectly: Ruby was part of our family before she even got here. And while this was just a formality, it’s still her special day and we are so excited to get to celebrate it.

The pictures were a mess too. Perfect to go with our day. 🙂 People are cut off, making strange faces or hidden awkwardly behind others. Not my most proud photog moments, but this is our family and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thank you to everyone who has prayed for our adoption, supported our family and loved on us during this time. We can’t believe it’s all official and we are glad to share it with everyone! 🙂

Adoption Trauma

Untitled-1What does a baby know anyway?
It’s a question that I have been asking myself as I navigate our OA journey. We like to believe we are doing the best we can and that we are doing the right thing. That God led us to this place with our family and that we are doing what we are supposed to be doing.
But when I look at Ruby and I think about the person she is becoming, I wonder what she thinks about all of this. Will I be ready for the day when she has hard questions? And more importantly, does she really have a primal understanding of the loss she has experienced as an infant or am I making a moutain out of a molehill?

In the early days and weeks of bringing Ruby home, there was a feeling of chaos. An adjustment period and a learning curve (we had two small kiddos under 1 for goodness sakes!). But it was so unlike giving birth to Eli, who I felt I already knew before his arrival. Ruby was this new human being I had no idea how to care for. Of course we knew what a baby would need, and we loved her and had prepared for her arrival as any parent would…but was that love enough? I didn’t have a sense of who she was or what made her tick. What does she need from us?

When Eli was born, he knew Barry and I instantly. He was calmed by our touch, and there was an instant connection. I loved his smell, I loved his cry, I loved everything about this new little person. It was familiar. It felt natural. I remember my mother commenting that I looked so comfortable with him.
When Ruby was born, we were instantly smitten. We had a different birth experience than with Eli and we had anticipated her arrival with as much excitement. But I didn’t know her. As soon as I held her, I was beginning to learn about her. Her smell was foreign, her needs were different.
Initially, she was not calmed by being held, she would cry when I would give her a kiss on the face or head, she did not hold my hand and stare adoringly into my eyes as my son had done. She cried a lot (despite tummy troubles, which was a very big part of her pain). It was all different than it had been with Eli. (Of course we know every child is different, but adoption adds a whole new level to that).
Perhaps it’s just her personaility mixed in with all her stomach problems, but I would veture to say there was more to it. I think she was mourning. She was sad. She had lost someone.

Can that be true, though? Could an infant really understand what had happened? Or even remember? Isn’t a loving home enough to make a difference?

We had decided that all our struggles were because of her tummy and we worked hard to make sure our little girl was comfortable.
But looking back, I’m not sure that was an acurate picture of what was happening. After reflection, it has occured to me that much of our adjustment period was due to the fact that Ruby was (and may still be) experiencing the loss of someone important to her.
I had been working with our pedi for a long time, and I remember our nurse telling me that her daughter was the same way. She said it was awful, but at 3 months old, her daughter woke up and was just a different baby. She was happy and only cried when there was a real reason to cry. I kept waiting for that magical 3 month mark to bring out our happy girl, but it didn’t come. 5 months…5 months was our “magic” number. I think primarily because she needed to build trust in Barry and I, but she also needed to experience her pain too. We had to build a relationship with her, learn about her and let her know that through the love and care we provided that she was taken care of.

Some may still disagree- babies can’t remember anything. But we know from our personal experience that Ruby has transformed into a different child. She loves to snuggle, she spends a lot of time locking eyes with us, she wakes up happy in the morning, she giggles and smiles when we shower her in kisses…she’s loved and loves in return.
Because I am the research nerd, I did go hunting for adoption trauma information and resources. From what I gather, this is something that will likely affect our daughter her whole life. And knowing that she is adopted, and having a connection to her past will help her as she grows in her understanding of what adoption means.
A lot of these studies are based on testimonies from adoptees, and their birth parents. Some even branch out into covering babies who have been in the NICU- separated from their parents. Other’s for children adopted later.

This is what I know. Ruby has been with us from the moment of her first breath on this earth. We are her blood and family. We fiercely love her. She was hand picked by God to be a part of our family. And we love and respect her and the unique journey she will walk with our family.
Perhaps she was grieving. Perhaps she was sad. Or maybe she just has a flare for the dramatic with a side of tummy problems. I think acknowledging some or all of adoption trauma, whether one believes it or not, will be a big step in providing Ruby with the emotional support she needs as she grows and further understands the nature of how she joined our family.

______________________________________________________________________________

A great interview from: http://www.healingresources.info/article_axness2.htm that details responses in a newborn adoption situation.

M.A.: What should adoptive parents know when they bring home their baby?
W.M. All adopted babies, I think you can pretty much say, are in shock, which is the most severe level of trauma. They need to be held a lot, they need to be given true empathy, and what they do needs to be interpreted in terms of their loss. And parents who are in denial of this add another trauma to what the baby’s already suffered.

M.A.: It sounds so hopeless, so irreversible. Is there something they can do? W.M. Absolutely. If they can come to their child with this understanding, then they can begin to empathize with the baby’s experience. So if an infant comes to them with colic, or with tremendous startle responses, or fear, or is unable to attach or unable to be held or comforted, instead of feeling like the child doesn’t like them, they can begin to say to this baby, “You must feel really sad, you must feel really lost. You miss your mother. You miss your connection. You’ve lost something very important, and I understand.”

“I’m not the mom you expected, I don’t smell like her, I don’t sound like her. I’m a different mom, and I love you, and I’m not going to leave you.”

And you have to say it, out loud. These are tremedously healing things for this infant to hear, and it will allow the baby to cry, it will allow the baby to mourn.

M.A.: How can I expect a newborn baby to respond to the words I say? He doesn’t understand language.
W.M. Babies are much more conscious than they’re given credit for. Medical science is beginning to understand more and more about what babies are capable of. They’re actually realizing that babies understand math, that they understand concepts, that they identify people, that they are much, much smarter than we have understood. But babies are also psychologically brilliant, and probably more in touch with their feelings and more in touch with what’s going on, than we ever realized.

M.A.: I’m afraid that by saying those things to him, that I’ll be putting awful ideas into his head.
W.M. I think one of the most ludicrous ideas is that you’re hiding anything from a baby. Years ago people wouldn’t tell children that they were adopted, and so they would grow up-and many such adoptees will tell you this-knowing that something was terribly wrong. And when they were told the truth, although it may have been interpreted as a painful or terrible secret, it made sense, and it made their life make sense, and it gave them an understanding of this burden they were carrying, like not feeling right about themselves.

So the idea that telling the truth to an infant is going to put an idea in their mind is absurd-they were there, they know. They know on a very primal, instinctual level. All you’re doing is telling them that the hurt they feel is real, which is what makes us sane. It’s what truly loving is-affirming that person’s honest experience. So it’s exactly the opposite of putting awful ideas into his head.

M.A:. How do I know if it’s helping?
W.M. You’ll know immediately. The baby will know, and you will know. They just… hear you, I don’t know how to say it-they hear you and they feel understood. It’s miraculous to see it. They just relax. It’s totally healing.

Babies who’ve been separated from their mothers do have to mourn. And they do have to be sick. And they need somebody just to understand why, and to allow it. And then they can heal.

Sources: http://christinemmoran.blogspot.com/2012/04/trauma-of-newborn-separations-and.html
http://adoptionvoicesmagazine.com/adoptee-view/adoptee-view-what-can-a-tiny-baby-know/#.UsmJ7PRDv5M
http://www.healingresources.info/article_axness2.htm

What is your OA experience like? What is your adoption experience like? Do you think a baby can grieve- even from their first moments of life?

Open Adoption

I have recently been trying to grapple with my feelings on open adoption. I feel like I am a bit late in the game considering that adoption month was in November, but it’s just where I am at now.

You see, when I first announced that we would be adopting, I was not clear on who or how that actually happened.
The truth is that it happened so fast and we were trying hard to be sensitive to the situation, so we didn’t want to put too much information out there. I’ve struggled with talking about the details of our adoption from day one.

Adoption has changed our family in many of the same ways having any child will. But it has also changed it in ways that only people who have been through this experience before can understand. Our whole family has been changed.

Ruby joined our family through a kinship adoption. Those that are close to us and family members know the intimate specifics.
Because my blog is so open, I will try to navigate this chapter of our lives as gracefully as possible (and we all know how much grace I have on my own…lol) and as respectfully as I can in regards to all parties involved.

What I will say up front is this: We are incredibly blessed to have our family going through this with us. Often, I find it difficult to disclose 100% of what we are going through because we are walking this path without a road map. No one else in our families has a child with Down syndrome or any other intillectual disability. No one in our family has adopted the child of another family member.
It’s complicated. It’s isolating some times.
But we feel so lucky to have everyone’s support, advice and their earnest attempts to walk with us on this road.

Because Ruby’s adoption is a kinship adoption, it’s so much more complicated. Like an onion, there are many layers. Ruby is 5 months old now, and while we have known since she was 20 weeks gestationally that she would become our daughter, I don’t know that we truly understood what adoption would mean for our family.
Even once she came home, there was a dream-like state that we lived in as we navgiated life with two children and tried to learn all we could about our daughter.

Now that we have come up for air, we are having to be bold and face our insecurities and feelings about what adoption actually means.
We began to seek out advice and counseling services. I (attempted) to join an online support group (with terribly unspportive members! Come on people!!), and now I feel we are left standing at a fork in the road with no clear directions.
Open adoption (OA) is a relationship far different than traditional views on adoption. In fact, once I began to research adoption, I realized that I had already decided in my mind that adoption meant the birth parents would disappear and never be heard from again once their child is placed.
Harsh but true. And a view that is commonly accepted in most circles.
But we are related to Ruby’s birth mom…so she’s not going anywhere!

What will OA mean for our lives?
Right now, I’m honestly not sure. We want to do the very best we can for Ruby. I try hard to imagine if I were Ruby- what would I want? How would all of this make me feel?
If I don’t, then I begin to selfishly think about how I feel as her mother. It’s a scary thing to confront your true feelings.
I thought I was good at it after we had Eli. I thought I was honest with myself, but not when it came to adoption. If I’m being real, I worry about not being viewed at Ruby’s parents by others. I worry about being pitted against her birth mom later. I worry about Ruby resenting me for having an OA or for being adopted at all. I worry about her not seeing me at mommy. I worry about how others view the situation. I worry about boundaries. I worry about making the “right” parenting choices. I worry about being able to answer Ruby’s hard questions later. I worry about hurting our child.
Hard truths.
Makes this mama scared to her core.

I started to research and read books. Overwhelmingly, the evidence points to OA being the healthiest for the adopted child if it’s possible. Closed adoptions (CA), and adoptions in general, can create feelings of not being good enough, sadness, fearfulness that people you love will leave you, and trouble connecting with others. If the relationship is healthy, OA can benefit the adopted child by giving them a direct link to their biology. It can offer the adoptee the chance to ask direct questions and a better understanding of where they come from.
But it also opens the door wide for potential hurt. Which puts me right back at feeling insecure and worried.

Take a deep breath, Ashley! Let’s put this into perspective.
And here is where I’m at now: OA is new, raw and fresh. I don’t know where we will all land when this is all said and done, but I’m working on getting my heart in the right place.
I was reminded recently that my children are not mine! They are HIS.
God called us to adoption. God has built our family in so many amazing ways. He set Eli, Ruby and Wyatt aside- marked them for our family. We have leaned on him, his timing and his understanding through this whole “becoming a parent” process. Why wouldn’t we see our adoption the same way?
God set this entire situation up. He had these exact plans for our family and I praise him for that!

As our family grows and changes, we will continue to be challenged. There will be a natural ebb and flow- whether it’s OA, Ds or generally raising our children. To deny my feelings, especially early in this process, is silly. I can’t deal with them and manage how I will handle them if I ignore them.

Our kids have just been entrusted to us for a season by our all-knowing God, a God who is and does immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. Eph 3:20

We have a long way to go. Lots of growing yet to do. Lots of roles to sort out and boundaries to be put in place. But my heart feels at ease now that I have confronted myself. My prayer is that God will take center stage in our family and that my own opinions and insecurities and preconceived notions will be replaced with Gods will for all relationships in our lives.

Thank you to everyone who helps us navigate this road! Our family is better for it. 🙂