Monday, June 24, 2013

Adoption Book

A lot of blogger friends are writing about or asking about books to tell their children the story of their adoption.

I made a book on Shutterfly for Matthew. I have included the text here in case it's helpful to any of you still working on your books.

Title: The Story of You

[Wedding Picture]
A long time ago, our family was just Daddy and Mommy. We loved each other very much.

[Picture of DH and I]
One day, we decided we wanted our family to get bigger. We wanted to have a baby that we could love and take care of. But God did not let us make a baby. God had a different plan for us.

[Picture of Genetic Family]
Far away, there was another Mommy and Daddy named ________________. They wanted to have babies in their family too. God makes all babies and He helped their doctor make babies for them. Those babies were very tiny like seeds from a flower. The doctor planted them in ________'s tummy, and they grew and grew until they were born. __________ and ___________ named their babies ____________, _____________, and ___________, and they were all very happy together.

But then _______ and _____ were sad because they could not finish growing the rest of their tiny babies, even though they wanted to very much. They were searching for a mommy and daddy who could grow the babies and love them and take care of them. God told ______________ that He would help them find the mommy and daddy for the babies.

[Picture of embryos]
God knew how very much we wanted a baby to love and He told us He would help us. He helped us learn about adoption and we learned that adopting someone is just like how God adopted you and Daddy and Mommy to be His children. We also learned that there was a special kind of adoption named Snowflake Adoption. Snowflake Adoption is about adopting the babies that are very tiny like flower seeds--babies just like ____ and ______'s tiny babies.

The little tiny babies are called "Snowflakes" because the babies are unique and delicate, just like flakes of snow. Daddy and Mommy thought for a long time and talked to God about adoption. God told us that He had Snowflake babies waiting for us somewhere. We could not wait to find them.

While we waited, Mommy liked to talk to her friends on the computer about how much we wanted to find our Snowflakes. The mommy named _____ talked to Mommy and asked her if we would visit her and _____. Mommy and Daddy said yes. When we visited, _____ and _____ told us about their tiny Snowflake Babies. They said that they loved them very much, but they could not finish growing them all the way. They wanted to find a family who could help the babies finish growing and who would love them very much.

Mommy and Daddy drove home and talked to God some more. _____ and _____ talked to God, too. God told Mommy and Daddy and ____________ that we could take very good care of the Snowflake Babies. ____________ asked Mommy and Daddy to adopt their Snowflakes. Mommy and Daddy said yes, and we were very thankful that they chose us.  Matthew, you were one of the Snowflake Babies!

[Pictures of doing paperwork and Matthew with our adoption worker]
We had to wait a long time for our Snowflakes. We had to mail a lot of papers to a lady named ______ who helped us with our adoption. ______ and ______ had to mail a lot of papers too. Then, the Snowflakes had to fly on an airplane and ride in a truck to Arizona to our doctor. One day after a long time of waiting, we learned that you were finally here!

[Picture with our doctor]
We went to the doctor and he planted you in Mommy's tummy so that you could finish growing. God helped you grow very big. You got bigger and bigger, and so did Mommy!

[Maternity Picture]

[Birth Pictures]
You got so big, that one day there wasn't room in Mommy's tummy for you anymore, and it was time for you to be born. We had loved you for a very long time already, but now we were finally going to get to see you. We were very excited. You were born and it was the very best day.

[Birth Announcement]

[Leaving Hospital Pictures]
We were so glad that we finally got to take you home. We waited such a very long time for you and we love you so much.

[Picture of GPs with Matthew]
After you were born, you got to meet many more people who love you. ____ and _____ and their son came all the way to our house just to tell you how much they love you. [Their other kids] love you too but they were too little to visit that day. ____ and _____ talk to God and to Mommy and Daddy a lot about how much they love you. They are glad that God helped you finish growing in Mommy's tummy so that now you can be a big boy. We are glad that they chose us to be your Mommy and Daddy. You are very special!

[Family Picture]
We are very happy that God chose this special way to bring you to our family. We love you very much.

[Picture of Matthew]
Matthew, God loves you most of all and He has more special plans for you every day!

Now a ways down the line, I still like a lot of the language in the book. I like the language about seeds, and I always want Matthew to know he is and was loved.

But, honestly, we haven't read this book in a very long time, because it's quite painful for me since so much of it has changed or turned out to be untrue. We don't have any plans to hide Matthew's origin from him or the special way he joined our family, and the people who allowed us to adopt him will always be a piece of his story but it's hard to tell him a story about how much they love him when they have hurt our family so very deeply because the two just don't match in my head and heart. To me, if they loved him as much as they say they do and had his best interests in mind, they never would have done what they did.

I don't know how I'll ever explain to him that they say they love him, but they took his brothers and sisters away from him.  (Edited to add: I don't doubt that they do love him, but I just don't understand their choices). I hope he never knows how awful all of this was, and we don't intend to tell him, but the fact that his siblings are gone is sort of unavoidable. 

One day when the pain is not so deep, we'll read this to him again. And right now, he doesn't understand it anyway, so I don't feel like we've lost any ground or time as far as him learning his story is concerned. We talk about him being a snowflake, but especially in Arizona, that's a little above his pay-grade. I don't know when kids start understanding adoption. I don't know. I know God will give me the words and wisdom to teach him about his story in a way that protects him and shows as much honor to everyone involved as possible, including them. I have no idea how we're ever going to sort this all out, but God does.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

God is Good

It's no secret to anyone that I'm in a valley right now. I spend a lot of time thinking about my pain, praying about my paint, and talking about my pain. It's helpful to process through it all because I feel like when I do, I leave that much more of it behind me.

But while those things can be helpful to dealing with heartache, they can also be detrimental to the rest of your soul. It's easy to be so consumed by your pain that you start defining the world, and God, through it, and that picture is never ever accurate.

So I've been trying to discipline myself to focus on Who God is, and praise Him accordingly. He Is Who He Is, independent of me and my circumstances. 

God is good
God is just
God is kind
God is merciful
God is faithful
God is trustworthy
God is creative
God is beautiful
God is intelligent
God is logical
God is compassionate
God is sovereign
God is omnipotent
God is omniscient
God is forgiving
God is gracious
God is Redeemer
God is friend
God is loving
God is jealous
God is creator
God is righteous
God is healer
God is patient
God is shepherd
God is life
God is mighty
God is strong
God is powerful
God is provider
God is generous
God is most high
God is everlasting
God is peace
God defends
God disciplines
God protects
God saves
God sanctifies
God is not wasteful
He knows the beginning from the end
He knows every hair on my head
God is worthy of my praise
God is Father
God is Spirit
God is Son
God is I Am
God is Lord


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Secondary" "Infertility"

Technically, our family struggles from secondary infertility, meaning, we are unable to conceive a child after successfully birthing a first child. But technically "secondary" doesn't really apply to us since there isn't a time when we ever weren't infertile and WE didn't conceive our first child. It's a weird place to be. Like this whole rest of our journey. Breaking the mold, y'all!

I remember before I had Matthew and I would hear people share their hurt over secondary infertility and my knee-jerk reaction was "So what? At least you have one child. Just be grateful." If you struggled with secondary IF during that time in my life, I probably thought those thoughts toward you. Please forgive me.

Now, that exact same sentiment is often sent our way as an effort to encourage--"At least you have Matthew!" And we do. Not one single day goes by when I don't realize what an amazing, precious, incredible little boy he is, and how immensely blessed we are to have him. But, you wouldn't tell a widow(er) to stop grieving the deceased spouse because at least they had X amount of years together. No amount of past or current blessing can replace what has been lost. Can make you stop missing it. I love Matthew completely and wholly. And my life is better now with him than it was before him. That is the only sense in which this second time around is "better." But Matthew's presence in my life will never ever make me stop missing his siblings. As each one is a unique person, each one had a different place in my heart and on this planet and in God's design. They're not interchangeable. To imply such invalidates their very nature as being created uniquely by God in His image. If you lost one of your born children, would you be comforted by "Well, at least you still have little Susie?" I don't know why people treat this situation any differently.

When you're grieving WITH a child, it's totally different than when you're grieving without one. It's not better or worse or harder or easier. It's just different. Now I carry grief for him, too. I miss what he will miss out on. I miss the relationships and memories and and experiences and family he won't have. I see him interacting with other children and I'm wistful of what could have been. I feel like in all of this, HE got the short end of the stick.

As a judgment on infertility or as an "encouragement" to grieving parents, that whole notion of "at least you have one," is just hard. It's true. It absolutely is. But to say that to someone hurting is not useful. Pain and joy are not mutually exclusive. Joy for the one does not satisfy the longing for the lost. Even Christ the Shepherd would leave the 99 sheep to rescue the 1 lost. Our family has a huge, gigantic, gaping hole in it and neither Matthew, or DH, nor I, nor any children in the future if some miracle were ever granted us, can fill the void they left.

The reality about secondary infertility is that no matter if you have one child or 20, it's hard to have your family choices made due to circumstances beyond your control. I'm not talking about a cosmic, none of us are really in control sort of way, but in the practical way.  We did not make any active decisions that resulted in the stunting of our family growth. To have that taken away from you is hard, regardless of how many children you do or don't have.

To all you IF sisters out there, primary OR secondary, this road just hurts, and I'm sorry for all of us.

It's long been a soapbox of mine that love is a choice. But I'm learning on this journey that trust is a choice, too. (You say, "DUH Jen.") I have to choose trust. Choose to trust that this hurt is not for naught. Choose to believe that this pain will not last one second longer than it needs to. Choose to believe that God is good and faithful and that He loves me. I hope you'll make that choice, too.

On Grief and Healing

It's been almost a month since we received the phone call that our transfer had failed and the babies had died. The following week brought the most excruciating physical pain I've experienced outside of labor as my body fought to cycle itself. I physically felt this loss in a frightening, overwhelming, exhausting way. It was actually harder than my only loss that is "technically" considered a miscarriage.

I cry. A lot. At least 3 or 4 times a week, even now. Every loss has been hard, and I've cried after every one. But I don't remember ever grieving like this. The tears just come without warning.

I think it's because I'm unraveling so much that has been smashed into this last month.

I still ache to my core for the babies that were ripped away from our family a year ago.
A woman who was trying to adopt them emailed me (good naturedly and well-intendedly). It really was surreal and forced me to come to terms with the fact that even if not her, someone out there is trying or will be trying to be my babies' mommy. That breaks my heart wide open every time I think about it.

I ache for all of the babies I have in Heaven. 7 now.

I ache for my son, who has lost 13 siblings already, and who will probably have no more.

I ache for the fact that I will probably never have any more children. I think about pregnancy and breastfeeding and snuggling a little tiny baby and first milestones and I realize that I'll never get to do any of it ever again. I look at the tubs of baby clothing in the garage, lovingly packed up for the brother that will never come. The next time I open them will probably be to give their contents away.

I ache that seemingly everyone else can have as many children as they do or don't want and we've had to fight tooth and nail every step of the way. I have really let go of that in recent years but it's all come back to me to smack me in the face again. It's so hard-all around us, people make a plan, and it happens. And our story is full of waiting and losing. Over and over again. It's so hard not to feel entitled for this to go our way. We waited for marriage to be intimate. We waited to get married until we were out of school. We waited to start trying to grow our family until we were financially stable and until our relationship was established. We did everything in the "right" order (whatever that is)--in the way we thought best honored God, and our marriage, and our children. And yet, babies are born to parents who don't want them or to people who can't provide for them all the time. And I try SO hard not to ask the "why" question or to tell myself that for those people, having a child is perhaps as much of an ache for them as not having a child is for me, but still, that question nags me in the back of my head. It taunts me.

And I am just broken. The tears and the grief consume me.

I saw a friend last week after I'd been crying and she asked me what was wrong. I told her that I was missing my babies. She replied that I was just tired and that our emotions are often tied to that. I snapped back at her that my fatigue has nothing to do with it. I hated that my grief was dismissed as an irrational response to a physical need. As if the fact that I have 7 dead children and 6 stolen ones isn't a legitimate reason to be broken. That same friend said a few weeks earlier that after thinking like it, she understood that this really was like a loss, even though she never thought of it that way before.

Which takes me to another source of heartache. People (in general) don't behave as if we've really lost children. We'll stand outside of abortion clinics and protest embryonic stem cell research and say life begins at conception (as well we should), but very few people behave as though my children have just died. And I know I'm more blessed than most because I did receive some flowers and a few condolence cards (thank you to those who sent things), where others in similar situation have received no acknowledgment. But for the most part, this is such a silent, lonely grief. No one offers to make you a meal. After a few days, most people stop asking how you are. You don't take time off of work. You're expected to keep up your regular responsibilities as if nothing has happened. You have nothing to show for your loss. No memories. No photos. No baby blanket. No funeral or headstone. Nothing. Nothing.

And then you feel like you have to scream at the top of your lungs, "EVERYONE JUST STOP FOR A SECOND! MY CHILDREN WERE HERE AND THEY MATTERED!"

I feel like a mom with an *. A mom who has to explain her kids. Defend them. Justify the right to grieve for them. And I'm so tired. I just want to be mom, period. I want people to automatically behave as though they're children, without me having to explain it or them having to realize it. It's not even that I really "campaign" for embryo adoption anymore, but even in my grief, I find myself on the defensive against a general attitude of, "Aren't you over this yet?" No one would say or think such a thing if I had lost a parent, or a spouse, or a born child. On a fundamental, subconscious level, people think of early life differently. I know this is a cultural phenomenon borne out of people's lack of exposure to life on such a technical, tiny level, and that it's not a conscious endorsement of the sentiment that early life is less-than. But it still hurts. And it hurts for every person in my shoes. I guess that's why I bring it up. If you know someone who has lost a baby, even in very early pregnancy, please acknowledge their child's life to them. It will mean the world to them.

Gosh, this post is depressing. Lest I give you the wrong impression, know I do not grieve as one who has no hope and I don't want any of you to (for I know too many in similar shoes), either. I believe that Jesus died and rose again, and I believe with all of my heart that I will be reunited one day in Heaven with my children (though in Heaven, they won't actually be my children anymore). I think part of the reason that this time around is so much harder is that I maybe did not grieve enough before (though I thought I did). But the finality of this time brings things to the surface that I've been carrying for years. But I believe the tears are healing. I believe God's Word where it is written that He collects all of my tears in a bottle. I know this grief and this pain is not wasted. I know that He will work all things together for good according to those who love Him. I know that He will bring ministry from pain. I know God will heal my heart. I know that now we see through a glass dimly, but then we shall see face to face. I know that now, faith, hope, and love remain. I know that God loves me. I know God loves my babies. I know that He will redeem this pain and I know that He holds me in His hand. I don't know much beyond all of that, but those things are enough.

I recently went and painted this. It was a tangible exercise to say, yes I really believe this. I painted and cried and painted and cried, all the while crying out, yes, I believe You.

I'm hanging on to that hope. This HAS to have a purpose. God wouldn't be God if it didn't because it would mean His character is cruel and chaotic, and it's not. So I hold onto hope that this has to mean something, even though I have no idea what that is and I find myself weary of waiting.

I had another breakdown at church and so I took my Bible and my tears to a quiet place to read. I came to Psalm 63 and I caught my breath in my chest as I read this:

You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory. 
Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings. 
I cling to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

I forced myself to read it out loud as I sobbed, and added this editorialization to verse 3: 

Because your love is better than life, even the lives of my babies,
    my lips will glorify you.

I can't really explain the pain I felt to confess that out loud. To choose to subordinate this pain, and my babies and my love for them, to God and His Will. To confess that He is enough. It was a spiritual pain and sacrifice that I'm not quite sure I've experienced before. But I cling to these words because I know they are true. God is good. God is true. God is faithful. God is trustworthy. God is loving. God is just. Amen.

Friday, June 7, 2013


Matthew has been exposed to PlayDo a couple of times and has always hated it. It sticks to his fingers, it's hard to manipulate, and I think he just really didn't see the point of all that trouble.

We love love LOVE the Children's Museum of Phoenix, which deserves, and will receive, a post entirely unto its own. They have this awesome art studio where children can come and play with all kinds of mediums. One day while Matthew was coloring, I noticed their dough. It was malleable and it was cohesive enough that it stuck to itself without crumbling, but it didn't stick to you. They're kind enough to give out their recipe for the dough. I hadn't made play dough in over 15 years so with no standing favorite, we gave theirs a try today.

First, it used all of my salt. I don't think I've ever run out of salt. Ever. I had to get creative to get enough, so I put some kosher salt in the Vitamix.

First, did you know that salt does this when its being ground? I didn't, either.

I eventually had enough salt and I got to making the dough. It requires some stovetop "cooking" but  it took only about 10 minutes, so I hardly think that counts.

I turned it out onto a cutting board to cool. In another 10 (maybe 15) minutes, it was cool enough for me to handle and knead.

I kneaded it and divided it in half. I let Matthew choose which colors he wanted. I tried to get him to help me knead it but at first, he didn't want to touch it. He got one little piece on his finger and did his "abassabassaba" noise that means "get it off me." So, he just watched.

He chose "red" and "blue and green."

I don't know if it was the addition of color or the fact that he watched me for a few minutes but pretty soon he wanted in on the fun. We took it to his little table with some cookie cutters and went to town. He really got into it and enjoyed stamping and punching different shapes. The dough was a little thick to roll out by hand without a rolling pin, but otherwise, it was perfect. Soft and not sticky, and cleanup was a breeze off of our hands, the table, and the bowls I made it in. I think the smile on his face shows that we have a winner.

Here is the recipe if you want to try it. Today is just the first day so I don't know how long it will last but so far, I've been pleased. Plus, it's totally non-toxic so it's safe in case anyone eats any of it (Matthew wouldn't, but I had to shoo Fiona out of the way several times!).

Children's Museum of Phoenix Play Dough Recipe

4 cups flour
2 cups salt
4 cups water
8 tsp cream of tartar
6 TBSP oil
food coloring

Mix together all ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook until it holds together and pulls away from the pan. Cool and knead. Separate dough and add food coloring as desired. You can add peppermint or almond extract for scent if you'd like an extra sensory aspect.

National Doughnut Day

Today is National Doughnut Day, which means you can get a free doughnut (or is it donut?) at Krispy Kreme or Dunkin Donuts locations. At Krispy Kreme, it's totally free-show up and get your doughnut (any variety). At Dunkin, you need to buy a beverage.

Matthew is a fan of this "holiday." This is his 'take the picture so I can get back to my doughnut' CHEESE expression.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Summer Boredom Buster - (aka that time I was glad I trusted my gut)

I am trying to expose Matthew to different textures. He's very particular about what he touches and if it's not on his terms, he won't do it. He particularly doesn't like it if something sticks to him. Like, he wouldn't play with stickers for months after I first introduced them to him. Like, he'll stick his hands in a puddle, but if any leaves or dirt from the puddle remain on his hands when he pulls them out, he's mad.

And like today. A friend and I both posted pictures on instagram of our 2 year olds playing in the mud. Her little girl, decked out in a darling little dress, was covered head to toe in mud and looked to be loving it. My little boy was standing NEXT to the mud, pouring water to make MORE mud, but not actually touching it.

And, we're still working to find creative things to fill the extra inside time. So, we tromped off to Walmart today for some supplies.

I bought a plastic tub with a lid, a shovel and a rake from the dollar bins, and a bag of rice, thinking I'd let him pour and shovel and rake through the rice to his heart's content, exposing him to a different (but not sticky!) texture, and letting him work on his coordination and motor skills at the same time. If you wanted to replicate this at home, you may have most of these things already.

The baby pool was a last-minute idea.

Best $10 I have spent in a long time

I'm glad I listened to my gut when it said "Self, this HE is going to make a gigantic mess. He won't play like those cute little kids on Pinterest who keep their activity in their neat little boxes (Who are those children!?) He'll dump and pour and fling and scoop all over the place." Mommy was right.

He still missed a few times, and he received a couple of stern "NO THANK YOUS" when he pitched some over the side on purpose, but overall, this was a breeze to clean up. He stayed in the pool, he played for nearly an hour with pouring and scooping and sifting, and then when we were done, I dumped the pool contents back into the tub and only had to run the little stick sweeper around the living room to get the stray pieces. My plan is to swap the rice for other textures like sand and corn and beans and fish tank pebbles throughout the summer. I rescued a couple of boxes full of packing peanuts from a package DH received too, intending to put them in the box sometimes. I intend to use the pool to contain all sorts of messes, throughout the summer.

Tip: I used a 10lb bag of rice and I opted for a wide shallow box so that he'd have some room to move the rice around. It was deep enough for him to scoop into but no so deep that he could make a gigantic mess. It was also *ALMOST* heavy enough to prevent him from moving the clear box the rice started in, (he tried to dump it over). As he pitched rice out, he could move it and would have dumped it if I had not stopped him, so I may make it a tiny bit heavier next time.

Reader Question: Do you make sensory boxes? What do you put in them? What have been hits and misses with your kids?

Here's one last picture just because they make me laugh. She was concerned about what he was doing, but she also REALLY wanted to eat the raw rice. Weird dog.