Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Now That's Just Nutty

Just yesterday my darling dear Julia sent us a video of Miss Ava Lende staring mystified up into the camera from her crib in Addis Ababa. Ava gripped Julia's finger and at one point was so amused by her charming interviewer that she gave what appeared to be a half giggle and then attempted a half roll-over. I like to think she waved at me at one point. Also, she stuck her right foot in her mouth which both Papa and I attempted to do later. (Too hard!) Good stuff really. Of course then some serious pining kicked in. The crib was little, and she'd baby drooled on her shirt, and what if she's lonely? She rightly looked a little dumbstruck by the current circumstances of her constantly shifting life. Getting pictures is easier. They're static stills of a personality: Ooh, look at her smiling! Look at her sitting up, looking like she's about to topple over like an egg! Look at her eating! (Eat, eat, little child!) The video, while my greatest treasure (Julia, I believe I shall buy you a gelato factory as thanks), left us both feeling awful blue. This child was so far away.

Our case worker has just now called. We have a court date. It's May 25. Memorial Day of course. We didn't expect to get word of this sacred day for at least another month. I'm mentally preparing for a scenario in which we do not pass the first time, or even the second. Best to stay on guard. (But oh my, oh my, this does feel like a lucky day. Luck we'd stopped imagining would blow in our direction. Hold on, flexible, drooling, pink-tongued baby girl. Mama's coming!)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Baby, It's You

After two days of spinning in dreamy-eyed circles, grinning at eachother like a couple of drunk high schoolers, Papa and I decided to behave responsibly. So I looked at the list of international adoption specialists in Texas and started leaving long-winded, circular messages on doctors' answering machines. We wanted to do our $500 worth of due diligence. Let's marvel over the kid's bravery and poise, coo over her cheeks and lashes, yadayada about her development and test results, and officially accept this referral already. We're usually more of an emotional, gut instinct, fingers-crossed type of couple so this routine felt a little strange to the both of us. But we were keenly feeling the need to act like grown-ups. We figured we owed it to the kid not to skip steps. So finally, after badgering a very gracious receptionist at a very fancy School of Medicine, we got the last appointment on Friday afternoon to go over the bun bun's medical records. We huddled up to the speaker phone, gave eachother a smug high-five, and got ready to hear only good news.

What a couple of dopes. The doctor, who was very nice to speak with us on such short notice, did her job. She, in a maddeningly bright, la la la! tone of voice, started pointing out red flags left and right. The manner in which Ava's parents died could be an indication that she was HIV positive. The fact that she had a dot or two of molluscum on her face was another HIV red flag. She'd tested negative once, but until we got her home and retested her, the risk was still there. It was a small risk. Five percent, the doctor guessed. But a risk. Why were we so surprised by this? Hadn't we read enough to know this could be her and thus our reality? The doctor went on, noting that Ava's development was average to high. Though she made a mistake at one point, marveling over one developmental hurdle, before I had to point out that she was reading the chart wrong. Grrrr. There came a point when I started gripping Papa's arm with a snarl on my face. If this woman used the word "normal" as a comparison measure one more time I would have to be restrained from reaching through the phone for her throat. Finally, exhausted by her officiousness, exhausted by the weight of red flags, I cut the poor woman off. "So what you're saying is that there are real risks we need to feel prepared and equipped for, but in general this child is extraordinary in every way?" Well, uh, um, the woman continued. "And what I think we would love to hear before this conversation ends is that, while we need to take all of these concerns seriously, and we need to seriously discuss them with eachother as adults, that this conversation is somewhat a typical one for people in our position." Well, um, yes, of course it is.

Darn it, we felt so sad when we got off the phone. Okay, get it together. If we fall into that 5% chance, and with our luck over the last two years, why wouldn't we? But if we did, the child would live a long, healthy life while together we managed her chronic condition. Right??? Cry, cry, cry. Here we'd been worrying over the possibility of a child for all this time. She arrived, as if in a dream of smiling sweetness. Two quick days we basked in that glow. Now we were scared again, with the possibility of staying that way until we could get this little child safely home and to a doctor's office for a second test. During a screening of I Love You, Man I would lean over and whisper in the Papa's ear. "This will all work out in the end, don't you think?"

The next morning, I called my Dad and Kathy. Kathy has a nurse's degree and she also works part-time as a college basketball referee. This is a woman you want in your lifeboat, shouting clear-headed instructions. So I cried out the whole story of the conversation, crying for little Ava and the possiblity of her life being harder than it deserved to be. Well, my Dad, who as my only parent has been my everything, kind of sing-songed in the background, preening over the news of Ava's excellent developmental progress. And Kathy, who is a soft-hearted rock in a crisis, told me to get it together in her inimitable take-no-guff tone. "Ava is still Ava, and you are still her parents. I think you need to stop worrying so much about this test and start worrying about the basics of parenting." Yes! I don't know how to change a diaper! Papa holds a baby like it was a bundle of his Mom's bras and undies that he's just pulled out of the dryer! Ava's Grandpa and her Grand Kathy came to the rescue, as I imagine they'll do again and again and again in the future.

Please be merciful when judging my weekend of whimpering. We woke up last Sunday morning and admitted to eachother that we had gone to bed liking Ava, but had been silently, shamefully worrying over our ability to be all she might need. We woke up, and realized that we no longer liked her. We kind of loved her, and needed her, and wanted to protect her. Overnight, she had stopped being the luck of a referral, or the possible bad luck of an abstract test result. I know some of you good people can see into the soul of your referral picture and deem it destiny. I was smitten with our referral, and felt deeply for this little girl's back story, and the losses that preceded her arrival in our lives. But it was the conversation with a doctor, and the threat of a manageable but loaded condition, and the realization that we could and would hack it, that cemented the deal with me. Ava is Ava, and we her parents.

Last Monday, we very gratefully accepted our referral for this 8-month-old baby girl. On Wednesday, we were surprised to hear from our case worker. It turned out that the Gladney on-site doctor had administered a second test screening for HIV. The kid is clear, definitively and conclusively. Oh baby Ava, I do think your life just got a lot easier. Good for you, child. But, just as importantly, I think your nincompoop parents got something real and valuable out of this experience. The truth is, we are going to do this life thing with you. And our hearts will inevitably grow equally more tender and sturdy with you in our lives. But here's what we decided that Monday morning. Whatever it is, we are on your side. So here's the deal, kid. You're stuck with us. Whatever path this world leads you down, we're going to walk it with you, as long as you'll have us.* Tulip will be there too, with the floppy-eared stuffed bunny that Mama bought for you in her mouth. Tuuuuuu-LIPPPPPPPPPP!!!!

*Or until a tender-voiced therapist insists to Mama Dog that it is time to learn to let go.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Here Comes the Sun

Yesterday afternoon the phone rang, with news of our child. She is 8 months old. She has lashes upon lashes and deep, wide, moon-shaped eyes. She is heart attack cute. The only word I can think to describe her is sunny. She beams. I thought seeing pictures of a child would be devastating as I figured she would look scared and alone and unwell. This is a little girl whose parents have both died, and whose older siblings are all staying in the care of an uncle. None of that is fair or right. All of it will keep me up nights. And yet in the five photos we were given I swear it's as if she were lit from within, saying "I got this. I'm fine. Now you two get your shit together." I look at her and feel knocked in the gut by our outrageous luck to get to know her.

We're underwater with stunned, swollen hearts.

We've decided to name her Ava.

Waiting friends, your time is now. I used to hate it when people would tell me the call will come when we least expected it. How could that be, when all I do is wait expectantly? In the end, the call comes when you least expect it. Time will go goofy on you, and the floor will open up and the phone will feel on fire. I can't wait to compare notes. Ring, phones, ring!

Thank God. She's almost here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

And I Give You a Rose, and You a Rose, and You and You...*

We really started picking up steam with our adoption when folks gathered for the big yellow-shirted Blog Union last year in California. We of course did not attend because we had no blog, and no waiting list stamp to yet wave proudly in the air. But, because I am a CREEP, and had become very familiar with various families' steps towards their children, I grinned over all the photos and wept at the big group picture. Look at all these adults who speak the same language, and don't have to spend time translating! Look at all these pudgy, perfect babies and children being clung to and adored! Look at all these happy beginnings!

I finally did get up the nerve to start a blog. Scary! Self-indulgent! Silly! I did it anyways. And if there's some odd bird out there who has somehow stumbled her way onto this page at the start of her own adoption process, I hope she heeds this advice: START A BLOG. CONNECT. ALL TYPES OF WOMEN ADOPT, ALL TYPES OF ADOPTION BLOGS EXIST. DON'T DO THIS ALONE.

I had a good old-fashioned purge there on my last post, and that was a Scary! thing to commit to the Internet. Oh, but then the comments were so loving and thoughtful and warm and, well, it makes me flap my hands in the air and tear up just thinking about the Henri Nouwen quote or Abe reading his Sunday funnies or Julie who is always the first person to leave a kind, sisterly word on anybody's page.

People come in all emotional shapes to the adoption process, but mine happened to be pea-sized and whimpery. I felt lost and broken and like we had failed ourselves and the people in our world. (<---What a jerk.) I wanted to stop all the self-loathing so I took up Yoga. Productive, right? But then I always seemed to find myself in the class that started right as the pre-natal class let out and all those bellies took their turns slapping me in the face. (<---Sorry bellies! I'm better now, promise.) I do that annoying thing with strangers who ask me from where we're adopting. I say "Ethiopia!," although sometimes I fear it comes out like "Ethiopia?" as I brace myself for some huffiness about domestic kids in need or an eyeball-gouging joke about Angelina Jolie. If I accomplish nothing else as a mother, I want my daughter to answer questions without unnecessary question marks. "Where are you from, dear?" "Ethiopia!! And Rosedale Avenue!!" Damn right, you are.

All this to say, there are times when you can feel terribly alone in the adoption process, which by nature is abstract and uncontrollable. And then you start a little blog, and then all the sudden your blog idols start cheering you on, and they understand the process so you'll never have to repeat yourself, and they get why the wait is worth it times a billion, and they kind of swoop you up into this hammock of good will. It's stunning to all the sudden find yourself part of something bigger than your own individual pursuit of a child.

So I've arrived to the very staggering conclusion that one day I might find myself creeping into a blog union. Which is so weird because I hate it out there in the real world. I like it better here on my keyboard, see. I'm terribly shy, though no one in my life, especially my husband, who knows from shy, will accept this. (I'm one of those shy types who has an unfortunate tendency to try too hard, and thus talk too much, and have been known on occasion to skip dinner before the drinks and then find myself forcing the board game Taboo on everybody and saying "In Your Face!" when I get the high score and I think you get the picture.)

Yeah, so big groups of people? Blurgh. Can't we all have a reunion at the movies under the cover of darkness? Must we chat? But know that no matter what lameness I spout off here about social gatherings, that one day I too will be there wearing a homemade t-shirt and playing the wash, wash, wash, tumble dry! tumble dry! game with all the itty bitties. Ha ha suckers— You're stuck with me now!

Who would have thought that before this little person has the chance to emerge into our lives that I'd be back whole again, patched together by women who know of what I speak. Which is not to take away from the discomfort of this wait for a referral. Last week Papa Dog and I were struck low by the anticipation. We're both working out of the house right now, which is not at all conducive to two already reserved personalities living in a still fresh city. So we took our beloved mutt Tulip on a walk, trudging sadly around the park. All the sudden there was this clacking sound from down below and there was Tulip sucking on a found rainbow-colored pacifier. She looked so desperate to please ("Aren't I enough for you?"), and so earnest in her pacifying endeavors, that we both burst out laughing and dropped to our knees to have a very awkward family hug.

GET A DOG (but make sure the cats still know who's boss)

*How 'bout that Bachelor? What a worm!