Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Adoption Update -- Short but VERY very sweet

It's official: we have updated our files with immigration and our agency to allow us to bring home TWO young siblings instead of one infant. That's right....two. We are (ALL) very excited.


We will continue to wait for a referral (which is estimated to take between 5 and 7 months), and we are still waiting, in the meantime, to finish our fingerprinting at USCIS.

Our agency advised us to include the greatest number of children we could possibly be open to accepting when we first submitted our CIS forms (we put 1-3). What we didn't realize at that point (while we were still committed to adopting only one child) was that your homestudy has to match your CIS forms or the number you include on the form is irrelevant. Our homestudy agent sent the addendum at our request last week, and we are on our way! I give you this boring logistical part of our exciting news in case you are preparing to begin your adoption process: be sure to request that your homestudy and CIS forms both reflect the greatest number of children you would consider the first time, as changes are more difficult and are sometimes expensive. You can always work with your agency to designate a lower number (as we have.....our documentation certifies us for 3, but we are requesting 2).


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Another Blog to Visit

At the risk of appearing blog-eager, I'm going to post a second entry tonight because I really want to share a blog entry I ran across when I was surfing (web-surfing, not metaphorical, spiritual surfing) last night.

I'll link the whole blog to my sidebar (listen to me, sounding like a tech-savvy girl of the 21st century! Ahhhh, the power of a template), but this entry is a must-read.

Stay away from Animal Planet!

You may not even have to read this blog; the title really says it all. Yes, as you've doubtlessly surmised, this entry is about Motherhood. Would you like me to elaborate? You don't have to twist MY arm (you don't even have to grab it firmly.....not even an idle arm-mangling threat will be necessary)! I'm always up for elaboration. Where to begin? How about with the Naked Mole Rat (always a popular starting point).

Our favorite show to watch as a family is called Fooled by Nature (Animal Planet, 7:30 on weeknights where we live). One of the episodes contained a segment on the Naked Mole Rat and the bizarre phenomenon of its single queen fertility dynamic. Apparently, all mole rats are born physiologically fertile; females ovulate, males.....spermulate. It seems like a friendly and pleasurable colony structure. Enter the Mother. In each mole rat colony (and they do live in underground colonies, like ants or bees), one female asserts her dominance over all of the other little mole rats through physical abuse and emotional manipulation (seriously), making all of the other little mole rats, certainly all of the little female ones, too stressed out to procreate. Indeed, her oppressive behavior halts their reproductive capacities entirely; females cease to ovulate....etc.. Here's a little blurb I've cut and pasted from an informational site online devoted to the fertility of mole rats:

The naked mole-rat lives in colonies of between 100-300 animals, but only the 'queen' reproduces, suppressing fertility in both the females and the males around her by bullying them. Dr Faulkes said: "The queen exerts her dominance over the colony by, literally, pushing the other members of the colony around. She "shoves" them to show who's boss. We believe that the stress induced in the lower-ranking animals by this behaviour affects their fertility. There appears to be a total block to puberty in almost all the non-breeding mole-rats so that their hormones are kept down and their reproductive tracts are under-developed. "Currently, we think that the behavioural interactions between the queen and the non-breeders are translated into the suppression of certain fertility hormones (luteinizing and follicle stimulating hormones). In the non-breeding females this has the effect of suppressing the ovulatory cycle, while in the non-breeding males it causes lower testosterone concentrations, and lower numbers of sperm. In most non-breeding males, sperm that are present are non-motile. "The queen also seems to exert control over the breeding males, so that concentrations of their testosterone are suppressed except when she is ready to mate." However, this stress-related block to fertility is reversible. When the queen dies, the other non-breeding, highest ranking females battle it out for dominance, with the winner rapidly becoming reproductively active.

As you can well imagine, this segment catapulted me into the gnarly brier patch of mother-guilt. Could my maternal intensity really cripple my children? Are they, in a sick irony of post-Freudi*n human drama, actually stifled by my diligence and fanatical concern? My head begins to swim as the thorns begin to snag on bits of recollection and realization: there are the violin practices, and how about when I tried to "teach" Olivia to write the letter g (or was it the number 8.....oh my was both!), and Josiah, sweet little Josiah with his inverted pronouns yesterday! But animal planet wasn't through with me yet.

Next came this bit on the Ladybird Spider, who apparently lays a mess of eggs and then nourishes them with hundreds of nutrient-rich blobs secreted throughout her masterpiece web, which she NEVER leaves, in spite of its absolute seclusion from light and interaction with all other spider-amiable species. Finally, since her creepy, translucent brood is still just one meal shy of the strength they will require to make it in the outside world (a world, you recall, that she hasn't seen since she entered the breeding phase of her brief life-cycle), she nestles all zillion of them together beneath her spider body, wraps them in a final, fatal embrace, and they proceed to eat her until she dies. They feed off of her blood and sinews (I'm not actually sure if spiders have sinews, but if they did...). They brutally (and it WAS brutal; I saw it!) consume their still living mother. Here's a little bit that I found online about it:

Once inside her burrow the female never leaves. The male only comes out for a couple of weeks in May, during breeding time. Female ladybird spiders are dedicated to their young, laying up to 80 eggs in a cocoon and nursing them until they hatch in July or August. The mothers feed the young on regurgitated food and then they themselves become a meal for the hungry spiderlings. It takes 3 to 4 years for the spider to reach maturity.

Now for a whirlwind of self-conscious regret and grotesquely overblown isolation. Am I a Ladybird Spider? I have written or read nearly nothing that wasn't assigned to me since I started....breeding. My musical tastes in the last five years have covered the Raffi-Wiggles-Veggietales spectrum (with a little obligatory Mozart thrown in from time to know, for their intellect). Rare, now, are the hours I used to share daily with Amy and Emily, Bob, Van, and Ani. I've managed to retain Rich Mullins and Patty Griffin and have picked up Sara Groves and Mindy Smith, but even so. I begin to feel my lifeblood ebbing and my sinews snapping. Exercise, HA! Showers, surreptitious. Make-up...well, I was never really a big make up wearer, but now I may never have the opportunity to give it a legitimate chance! The "honeymoon" months after Olivia's birth were especially lonesome, with Bob Barker and whatever unsuspecting Mormons that I could hijack as my only adult conversation (and hijack them I did! I had cups of water ready, the door flung wide, and two chairs cleaned off and strategically arranged whenever I spied a pair of well-dressed men toting backpacks and Bibles working our block. My mother used to call time and temperature 83 times a day just to hear a grown-up voice.....I had Price is Right and the Mormons.) They rarely had a chance to stumble through their concern for my spiritual well-being before I began my own copiously-rehearsed Welcome Mormons spiel. And after I was blacklisted by their congregation (having commandeered the afternoons of 4 "elders" over the course of several weeks), I started to keep an eye always peeled for the less recognizable Jehovah's witnesses. I bear no ill will against the Mormon religion as a whole for abandoning me during my darkest days. My husband and I still use the phrase Mormon-nice regularly (as in, she's not just nice, she's Aretha-cool, or Beck-weird, or Mother-Theresa-Good.....see, we're inter-denominational in our hyperbole). They had to do what they had to do. But I was clearly in solipsistic despair.....suffering from what one magazine freelancer called "isolation without solitude," a perfect description.......of the LADYBIRD SPIDER. Would I end up like her, a mere shell of a formerly magnificent, vibrant creature, cannibalized by her beloved?

Perhaps I was just taking this all too personally....(hmmmmmmmm)....

I found comfort.....nay, enlightenment....where we all find it eventually, in the arm-waving admonitions of a flight attendant. As I mulled over the mole rat ladybird spider predicament, I was struck by the memory of the sharp-gesturing, impeccably-groomed stewardess on my recent flight home from visiting my brother and his family. She said, sagaciously,

Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the bag over your own mouth and nose before assisting children.

I realize her direction was lofted toward all hundred or so people riding on Northwest flight whatever that afternoon, but I couldn't help but think that she, my guru, my sensei, meant those words especially for me. I don't have to suffer as a Ladybird Spider or nag and destroy like a Naked Mole Rat; I just have to mother with the very best of all I have to offer, and I cannot mother if I cannot also (occasionally) breathe.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Best Adoption Site Ever

Okay, I have found it. They mythical adoption site that unfolds, with impartiality, intimacy, and wit, the hundred laborious, life-altering steps that mark every international adoption journey and the zillion un-namable transformations that take place in the hearts and minds of a single family touched again and again (and again and again and again) by the complicated blessing of international adoption. Her whole site is informative, but this page of Melissa Fay Greene's sometimes blog stands as the most thorough and readable description of the international adoption process that can be digested in a single serving. Read it!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Weeks without a blog, and all you can come up with is this?

Hello, big, empty blogosphere! So here's what I shared this morning at church. Josh and I are mulling over a decision related to our adoption. I have always determined to live according to a kind of surfer principle of the Spirit of God (I didn't mention the surfer thing in church, actually....I've never surfed before...we live in Southern Indiana....the wave action here is limited.....I do listen to Jack Johnson occasionally, though, and not just the Curious George soundtrack either! I'm intense in my vicarious surfer life...dude [do they still say that?]), believing that God's vision for humanity rolls on steadily and rhythmically, and if I pay attention to tides and gravity and reefs (and so forth, you know, surfer stuff), I can participate in the ongoing motion of God's intention by riding the waves offered to me. If I miss loss, but my choice to duck under the waves rather than to shoot the curls (nice) does not impede their steady progress toward the shore. Because of my tendency toward the surfer model, I have (sometimes disproportionately) relied on my sense of the Spirit's direction, my ambiguous emotional discernment of the waves and their trajectory, for my own vision of right and truth. You might say I lead with my heart (you might say that.....or you might elucidate it with a clumsy, drawn own metaphor relying on the experience of a sport and a subculture from which you are utterly alienated....making your metaphor awkward and confusing....either way...pot(ae)to, pot(ah)to.). When I approached Josh to discuss our decision over this aspect of our adoption, I talked to him about the fact that my feelings seem to land firmly on one side of the choice, while my reason stands on the other. Which side shall be my guide? Do I surf or sidle through this question? Josh is a sidler...he pauses, considers, weighs, and balances before cautiously stepping into circumstances that seem to best reflect God's Love and his ability to effectively Love other people. I am a surfer (well, not really, but...). Together, we generally arrive at a sense of balance....sometimes it looks like one of those uncomfortable yoga positions that is disturbing to see but secretly compels you to try it when you are utterly alone.....but it is a kind of balance that makes our marriage make sense. In this case, we are fumbling around trying to find that position (very much like my efforts to strike a yoga pose), so I asked my father during a conversation yesterday to pray for wisdom and clarity (balance) as Josh and I approach this question of what is right and best. I told Dad about my feeling/reason dichotomy (left out the part about the surfing.....I just thought it best), and he made sense of my yoga problem. I told him that I had been thinking that perhaps reason wasn't marching around in opposition to the Spirit, who floats, but maybe reason is a tool of the Spirit itself. Dad said that he had always interpreted the injunction that pervades scripture to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength" as a kind of call to balance....that worship (which, in a pragmatic context, includes all of the decisions that comprise our lives) involves a careful combination of feeling, discernment, reason, and action....and that omitting any element of this balanced combination can distort the worship....leaving the choices unbalanced and the worshiper.....confused (at best). I told him his insight would make for a good sermon. He said he preached it once. I thought how much better my life would be if I could hear his sermons every week.....I'm just so glad that he's my Dad! If he wasn't, here I'd be, in board shorts and a swimming top toting my surfboard through the cornfields of Southern Indiana with Josh sidling along beside me in his golf shirt, glasses, and remarkably cool shoes.

Monday, August 6, 2007

So much to little....structure

I jumped into blog world with both feet (guns ablazin! whole hog!...I wish I were from Southeast Missouri right now. People from Southeast Missouri have the best cliches. My cliches are so......cliche) a couple of weeks ago with nary a thought toward continuity or structure. And while I have every intention of preserving that pattern, I have a few salient issues that I would like to cover. In order to force myself into some accountability, I am noting here a few of the topics I'd address as this record evolves.

1. Sunday thoughts -- Every Sunday in church I expose myself (not in the way you're thinking....what kind of church do you think I attend!?) by sharing the challenges/insights from my week (more challenges than insights as you might well imagine). I frequently talk about the journey of this adoption, my kids, and the process of life in a way that pertains to threads covered in this blog. I'd like to share those as I go along.

2. Getting Started -- The "how we started thinking about adoption in the first place" stories that I have read online have thickened my own perspective and have informed so much of my introspection regarding family that I feel compelled to share my story somewhere along the way as well (incedentally...always avoid anyone who authors a clause like "I feel compelled to share." -- apart from this blog of course.).

3. Questions for the table -- I would, at some point, like to offer a number of the questions that have made this adoption far more than a gruelling exercise in paperwork competency....questions that have called me into question on foundational issues. I think I'll blog a list one day, hope for responses in the comment section, and enter the discussion a few days later...keeping the conversation openended.
Perhaps we can generate more questions together (whirling me into another tailspin of anguish and husband wouldn't know WHAT to think if I weren't in a tailspin of anguish and self-deprecation.)

That's all. So I'll take time to hit these issues over the next couple of weeks and will interrupt with adoption news as it becomes available.
Tonight, all I've done to that end is call the passport office, which has been monumentally overrun throughout the last few weeks, to request corrections in the spelling of our names on the passports we ordered a while ago. Shockingly, I didn't have to wait the projected hour to talk to a very helpful person. The corrections have been made, and everything is moving forward in the right direction. Incidentally, the that Mondays are traditionally very busy in the passport office, but tonight was very quiet. So if you have a passport tonight!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Ethiopian Adoption Update (finally!)

Well, I reread my last blog entry...aren't I annoying?! I thought I'd keep this entry focused, so that at least I can be irritating AND informative. We actually have some news! Last Thursday, we received word that our dossier was approved by our agency, which means that our names will officially be added to the agency's waiting list. (Apparently, I was too busy blogging about my feelings and ideas to take the time to write about the actual progress of our adoption! Annoying.) My blog-friend Jennifer calls this stage being "pregnant on paper." (I'll add a link to her blog in the sidebar....she's hip and interesting.) Our dossier will be forwarded to the US State Dept. and the Ethiopian Embassy for another round of identifications while we continue to wait for our fingerprinting appointment with CIS (remember them? not especially nice, not very helpful at first, but ultimately very necessary). I have faith that everything is going to come together perfectly. Here's what I'm hoping. While the Ethiopian courts are closed, from tomorrow until the end of September (the courts close at the end/beginning of their calendar year in observance of the New Year, which, in Ethiopia falls on our September fact, this year is their turn of the millenium. They operate on a 13 month calendar that has rolled approximately seven years behind the calendar used in America...if this confuses/bothers you then you should see what it does to my mom! She gets completely freaked out -- almost angry -- about the fact that time is a pliable's a little bit funny to watch. Try this experiment for yourself. When you talk to her, just say, "Did you know that the Ethiopian calendar is seven years behind the calendar employed in America, making this their millenial new year?," then stand back and enjoy the show! She won't disappoint you.) our dossier will be making its way through the American authorization circuit. About the time the courts reopen, we should be heading their direction. Who knows what can happen when things time out just perfectly in all the hubbubb? (I don't think I spelled hubbubb right, but can you really fault me for that one?) I'm very hopeful. And thank you for your patience. You are the best blog readers in the world for sticking with me....all 17 of you!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

A Movie and a Minute

Last night, we (mostly me....Josh has completely lost the ability to stay awake through even the best movies) watched the movie Yesterday. Among other things, it brought to mind the distinction between American conceptions of prosperity and wealth and those in third world communities. I use the word community because kindness...the genuine kind that erupts from the eyes without tripping over "ought tos" on its way...and community defined the frustrated agrarian lifestyle depicted in this film. I can't help but grimace (grimacing right now, in you are too) when I think of the notion of the "better life" that capitalist prosperity myths promise. (Don't misunderstand me, here. I think that economic capitalism is the most supportable system available in contemporary culture.....since legislated kindness only ever produces widespread deceit and ...eventually ugly pandemonium.....I think it's best to offer ample opportunities for personal gain that don't prohibit kindness. All of this reeks of my faith-in-humanity paradigm, I realize, because I am convinced that people in this scenario will be most apt to realize their responsibility to other people and will have the means to act accordingly......I'm digging my nails in on this one and not letting go. White knuckles....edge of cliff, etc., etc. I guess I'm a Political Capitalist for Ethical Communism....and you can be one too! We meet every 5th Tuesday at the St*rbucks....we pay you to show up but expect that you'll give the money back because you believe in our worth as human beings). People still behaved badly in the movie, which was set in a South African Zulu village (tribalism, reactionary meanspiritedness and such), BUT there was a rhythm of peace that pervaded so much of the life, a cadence of laughter in their speech. Once basic needs are met, perhaps we are better off stopping. Maybe we could rechannel our acquisition addiction and pine for....I don't know....trees. (How bout that....pine for trees.....Let's all pine for trees.....get it, pining for trees....because, you know, pine trees). I realize that I have completely misrepresented the movie here. My post is like chewing on sawdust, and the movie was tender and poignant. See it, in spite of this post!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

She's my baby's mama

Ahhhh, yes. The title of this blog smacks of a phrase tossed about with glib irreverence on daytime television and saturated, sometimes, with disarming sincerity in conversations with men for whom the phrase holds special tenderness. I am neither a Spr*nger guest (or patron, for that matter), nor am I a man (sincere or otherwise), so how is it that I have settled on this title for a post? I am writing this post as a letter to the woman so often overlooked by those of us pursuing international adoption, a woman whose life, whose face, has impressed itself on my soul and my imagination for the past several weeks as the certainty of our indellible connection has become increasingly more tangible, my baby's mama.

You are a person. I am ashamed to admit that in the initial stages of this push toward adopting a baby I was callous to that truth.
I was blind.
I have been a pregnant woman, have caressed my swelling middle, humming private lullabies to a private baby growing quiet and secret inside of me. I have cherished the fluttery kicks that no one else could feel, and I have scrambled to share the forceful elbow rolls of a baby grown so cramped inside of me that every motion protrudes from my belly in tiny, visible waves.
It is your face that I see, now, when I dream of my child, your pregnant laughing face.
I feel like we are mothers together right now.
And I wonder.
Do you imagine his future? Do you picture her face? Do you picture mine?
I wonder if you pray for me like I pray for you?
My heart belongs to you.

My husband told me when I admitted, "I do sometimes wonder if I will love this baby from far away the way that I love the two who came from my body...." smiling, he told me, "you are finally getting to experience the uncertainty that I experienced during both of your pregnancies. You are finally getting to experience the uncertainty of a father. Let me assure you, then, from EXPERIENCE, that the moment your baby is placed into your arms, you know. You don't wonder anymore."

You never wonder.

Do you know?

This question haunts me in my prayers. Do you know ?

Your face beams out from table of tangled statistics....statistics that explode in my heart....
Will you die? Are you the one woman in fourteen whose body will break in the final, heroic push to offer new hope to your world? Are you one of the millions whose hunger and pain have set your jaw with the hard hope that your baby (our baby?) must have more? Are you one of the uncountable many whose body will be wracked by malaria or HIV or diphtheria or typhoid or mumps (or any of the diseases that I dreaded being vaccinated for in gradeschool)?
Are you going to die?

How can I dream of you, with your pregnant, laughing face, and pray for my baby to come home soon?

What kind of person am I ?
What kind of person are you? I wish I knew......I know.....that I may not ever know.

We are mothers, now, together. I wish I knew if you know that? Do you dream of me? Do you dream of the hope laid out before all of us? Or do you dream of nights watching your baby (our baby?) breathe...and dream.

You are
my baby's mama.
Love hovers just above all of my feelings about you and your pregnant, laughing face.
My feelings ride lower.....closer to the earth. We are mothers together, here on this complicated ground.
You pay the price; I get the blessing. Is that what adoption is?
I know that story.
I learned it in Sunday school.
But I have failed to honor the covenant of my faith, again and again I have failed to honor God.
I will not fail our baby.
This is my covenant with you before Him...before him or her.
I will mother with all of my heart.
I will honor you, and I will love our child, forever.