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.

25 comments:

Calmil2 said...

Okay, I'm just going to try to gather myself, ugly cry and all, and tell you that I loved what you had to say and how you said it and Ava's Granddad and Ava's GrandKathy and pretty much everything! From day one you have to start letting go and I'm convinced it's the hardest path of all! You will have a great life with your little Ava...can't wait to read more. Harmony

Mike & Jo said...

Simply put, beautiful post. Your ability to write the real thoughts and then convey them with such love - truly beautiful. Cheers to your family.

phulmaya said...

Congrats! We went through the same thing - got a referral, fell in love, then got heaped with all this unexpected health news - I think the fact that as you listened to the doctor your gut was not to run, but to tell her to stop talking smack about your daughter, tells you that you are making the right decision.
And, as someome who has worked with a lot of HIV + people, you're right - a chronic and managable condition is what it is in the States now.
Whoopee! I look forward to following your travel!

courtney rose said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this experience with us... with the world at large. So many will take so much from your words, your thoughts, your story.

Keep on keepin' on, Mama Dog.

Oodles of pie,

Courtney

Christine said...

Very well put, Mama dog. I love the way you write. I have been wondering how things were going since the referral. It is good for me to see (read) this part of the process, I will be more prepared. My husband, how does he get along without a blogosphere? Congratulations on the bun bun!

Christine

filoli said...

Fabulous post! It is nice to see a post about these issues. Going through the medical record can be so very hard. While going through their second adoption, my aunt and uncle had a situation that resulted in not accepting an initial referral and it was a horrible painful experience. I am glad that you faced these issues head on and shared your fears and concerns. Ava's Grand Kathy sounds just perfect for you and the little one.

I love this:

"Ava is still Ava, and you are still her parents."

"Ava is Ava, and we are her parents."

As unprepared as you might feel, you are already a fantastic, caring, protective, creative and amazing mother. Now go get a court date!

coffeemom said...

You're ready. You're normal. You're a parent already... and this is how it goes..you get sucked in by the fears of what if sometimes and then you shake yourself awake and realize, so, what IF? And then you realize, IF, THEN you deal. WE all do. And you will, from little playground snafus to big scary things down teh pike. You're parents....and so it begins. And it's glorious the whole messy way through! Enjoy it all. Love M

Mama Dog said...

Coffee Mom--Will you be my Mommy? I'll be good on the playground, promise! Your kids are mad lucky.

Jen said...

I loved this post! If you were not so dead on, you would be funny. You will make amazing parents to little Ava. Can't wait for us both to get our court date!

The Albertsons said...

I love this post b/c you're so raw and honest! And, really, there's probably nothing wrong with your little girl. And if there is, you'll deal with it, like any parent would, because she's your daughter :). And two birth parents with a virus does not equal a little one with a virus (not all the time, anyway...)... this we know for sure. Go get that baby :).
becca

emily said...

beautiful post!

Adopting1Soon said...

5% chance is teeny. Tiny. I'd have a surgery with a 5% death rate with hardly batting an eye. Seriously. She's yours. I guess that means it's pointless to say "stop worrying" because isn't that what parents do? *wink*

April said...

I love this post! I wish I knew you.
You are going to be great parents.
April

Stacie said...

Beautiful, ugly-cry inducing post. But of course they were happy tears.

We had a scare with Micah too, but we came to the same conclusion - we're his parents and we'll figure it out.

Blog Shmog said...

You are such a good writer mama dog. I love reading your thoughts. You have a beautiful heart.

Meredith said...

I read this twice today. Once before my dance class and one just now aloud to Ryan. I thought about this post in my Zumba dance class and almost truffle shuffled my way over on top of some poor granny. True story. I love your posts. I love to think about little Ava and the amazing parents you two will be.

Jana said...

Okay, Meredith's comment made me happy.

Now that we're joining Gladney staff, I am officially paranoid to leave a comment anywhere. So you know I must feel strongly about your writing. :)

I'm thinking Ava is awfully blessed to have you two as parents, as I know you are/will be terribly blessed to be her mom and dad. Sounds like real, true Love to me.

bridget and luke said...

My God, could this post be any more amazing. Seriously. You are brilliant. I know you were just being honest, but your honesty is brilliant. Thank you. I can now go to sleep.... :)

msl said...

Beautiful post. Parenting is always filled with ups and downs - things that will fill you with worry to your very bones and things so joyful, so amazing you won't be able to breath. Looks like you're ready!!!

Christine said...

I have a feeling, MD, that you have always been a quick study, and I believe you just passed parenting 101. Please proceed to the next level, and bring a #2 pencil and plenty of kleenex.

When my sister and her husband traveled to China to pick up LiLi, one of their fellow travelers brought their new daughter to her (my sister) with concerns that their daughter couldn't hear. Catherine confirmed that she seemed to be suffering from hearing loss, and the parents were stricken. They took her home to Massachusetts, went through the battery of tests and determined that she was, in fact, profoundly deaf. Two years later, their daughter has completed cochlear implant surgery, is thriving, happy and dearly loved. Her deafness is a fact of her existence that they manage and do not regret.

The path you take to parenting can take many routes, but the goal for me once I got there myself was/is Be Where Your Feet Are. Problems arise, and the model one aspires to (for no other reason than teaching your children how to cope with life) is break it down into its smallest parts and make the best choices you can with the information you have. And each problem solved is a tool for handling future conundrums.

Can you believe how scary this all is? But when you have her in your arms, you will feel fear's opposite: deep, inspired, fierce, timeless love. Onward! Upward! Ava awaits! xoxo.

bridget and luke said...

Beautifully-named, huh? Might that be a clue??? Um, looks like I know who's moving in next door! :) Yup, the balloon photo was taken at a good friend's wedding in the Sand Dunes in Southern Colorado. Ever been? Wanna go? Good coffee down in those parts, I hear! :)

Julie said...

" almost truffle shuffled my way over on top of some poor granny" How can I leave a comment after that? That says it all. I, too, (if I had been the kind of person who took a dance class), would have truffle shuffled my way over on top of some poor granny after reading your beautiful post. Ava, Ava, Ava (I just like saying her name). Your a mom- just like that, your her mom.
Oh, and I would also like Coffee Mom to be my mom but I know she would make me go to mass on Sunday.

Fan said...

I can't tell you how many times I've freaked out about all the unknown tragedies that could befall my little guy. But I always come to the same conclusion: we'll manage because we have to. Funny thing is, that conclusion brings me both a lot of joy (yippee, we're parents! and that's what's so lovely about parenthood...the unconditional love) and a lot of fear (there's no escape, no breather). To me, parenthood feels like a very heavy happiness. BTW, have I told you lately how much I love reading your blog? And tell Papa that Tao's doing much better now! Love, me.

Jana said...

Thanks for your sweet comment recently. :)

Mamushsky World Headquarters said...

beautiful beautiful truths.
Thanks for your post!