May 31, 2013

Open Adoption: Jett Meets His Other Family

I've been thinking about this post since last summer. There were many that I didn't write back then. Most would have been about trips to the beach, farmer's markets, friends or playing at the park....but not this one. As time passes and memory fades, I do not want it to lay on the shelf of forgotten memories. So, before our new summer adventures grab us up and fill our lives with new sights and sounds, this old story will be written.

I want my son Jett to remember the time he met the bubbly and gregarious woman who chose to give him life.

Adoption opens up a complicated set of family and emotional connections. Jett has two mothers. Two women who love him fiercely and want the  best for him. The first, he lived with for nine and a half months (in utero), he calls Michelle. The one he's lived with for almost seven years, he calls Mom. He needs us both.

When I was pregnant with Elliott, I wondered if I'd ever be able to love him as much as I loved Graeden. Those were the early days. Back before I knew anything about love. Or children.

I know different now. About how love grows.  How like an exercised muscle, the heart and soul enlarge. And they work together to overcome any challenge and come out of it for the better. About the opportunity to make hard choices and not knowing if you chose correctly. About how it seems like when each child enters the family, that they've been a part of it forever. There's always room for more. More love. More children. More family.

We've talked briefly about going to Disneyland a few times over the past several years. It takes a lot of energy to travel with children. We decided that the the trip, with its expense, would be better to take when they were a little older and would remember it. Then we added more children and the reason for not going changed. Now we needed more adults to supervise the fun. So when Jovana came the summer of 2012, our excuses disappeared and it was time to go.

Knowing that Michelle lived in southern California, I sent her a message saying that we'd be in town and asking her if she'd like to meet. Her oldest had expressed concern several months prior that he was sad because Jett was "lost".  Michelle explained to him that he wasn't lost. She knew exactly where he was. And she jumped at the opportunity to see us.

Jett met Michelle and his half-siblings last July. His brother is five years older than him. His sister is about 16 months younger. The brother has lived with his paternal grandparents since he was little. After the sister was born she lived with Michelle for a time. Then a couple of years ago, she too moved and now lives with her brother and his grandparents.

At first Jett was nervous and scared to meet them. That wore off quickly and they made fast friends. For me, seeing Michelle again and meeting her children and oldest son's father was like going to a family reunion and meeting cousins for the first time. Nobody knows how exactly they are related. Just that they are. And there's an instant connection.

Jett's always known he's adopted. We've shown him photos of Michelle holding him in the hospital and of meeting his brothers Graeden and Elliott. We've told him that Michelle wasn't ready to be a parent and so together we planned an adoption. Now he can live with a mother and a father.

Jett displayed his intellectual understanding of adoption when he was about three years old. My friend was watching him and her son, in a random kid coversation, mentioned to Jett that he used to be in his mother's tummy. To the surprise of my friend, Jett replied that he had never been in his mother's tummy. He'd been in Michelle's.

We didn't think visiting Michelle would be confusing to Jett. But it was. While in Disneyland the next day, a cast member asked Jett a basic question like "how old are you?" Jett, who must have been trying to process the previous day's experience,  misunderstood the question and replied by asking Tymon, "how long have I lived with you, Dad?"

We reassured him over the next few days that we met Michelle before he was born. Together we planned his adoption. We met him just after he was born. We took him home from the hospital. His home is with us. He's not going to live with Michelle. He is in our family.

Jett seems to get it. What I didn't realize during our many conversations with him or after meeting Michelle, is that he's not the only one who may be confused about his status in the family. One afternoon a few months ago I overheard Graeden, Elliott and Jett having a disagreement...or rather a typical bout of brotherly taunting and fighting. Only this time, words were directed at Jett to the effect that he's, "not really a part of this family".

What?! Now it was time for the real teaching to begin.  Just because our brothers were born from different women, that doesn't make them any less our brother.

Yes, Jett is a part of our family. We planned it with Michelle. That means we went to an an adoption lawyer. We signed papers. We went to see a judge. The adoption was finalized in family court. We went to the temple. Jett was sealed to our family. We love him. He is a part of us forever.

Jett has an important role in the lives of his siblings, both those by birth and those by adoption. We hope to give him more opportunities to bond with his siblings. And pray that his heart, mind and soul will come together as his intellectual understanding blends with his emotional and spiritual self. That's what being in a family is all about.

May 28, 2013

White or Albino?

So, unfortunately, I still can't tell whether Spyra or Gimpy is the mother of the newest litter. They both seem to nurse them. They both sit on them. They both carry them back to their nesting spot. We ended up having four but one disappeared. I guess some animals create their own protein energy. Yikes!

Check out our little white gerbil! Isn't he cute? Or she. I kind of hope it's a she. Then we can keep her. They should be opening their eyes soon. I wonder if they will be red or black. Is that how you tell if it's albino? What should we name it?
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May 27, 2013

Birth Story: Kira, The Sixth - A Hospital Birth

It's time. You keep asking. I get in the mood to write and do. Then I'm not in the mood to edit. So you wait some more. Baby Kira is almost 2 - so not even a baby anymore. I'm taking her birth story off my to-do list and publishing it tonight.

My dear sweet Kira. I'd probably think she was a perfect child if it weren't for the fact that she took her sweet little time making an appearance into this world. Now she's got a couple of molars coming in and has told Tymon and I every day for the past 4 days that she hates us, the sweetness factor has definitely diminished.

In July 2011, I described Kira's 28 hour labor as a living hell. And that I had many life lessons to contemplate before I could write about them. I don't recall what all of those lessons are now, but we'll see how many I remember as I write this post....

I had planned on delivering Kira at home with my trusted midwife, Heike, who has seen me through 4 pregnancies and attended both Elliott's and Jocelyn's births.

Due to Kira's heart anomalies (discovered in the 20 week ultrasound) and not knowing how her heart would behave after birth, it was heavily recommended that I deliver in a hospital. Not just any hospital, but one with a NICU and pediatric team that could handle her if she needed any life saving interventions.

When I mention "heavily recommended", what I really mean to say is that we were left with no choice but to do everything the doctor said. I want to make it clear that Tymon and I will do everything in our power to make the best medical (and other) decisions for our children that we can. It's just in this case, it didn't matter what we as parents thought was best. Or that we disagreed with the doctors. Our views were moot.

If I delivered at home or in a birth center (next to the hospital) and Kira had breathing issues, we would have taken her to the ER. And as soon as we took her there, hospital personnel would take emergency custody of her making it impossible for us to direct any of her medical care. This would happen if we chose to do something against a doctor's recommendation. Apparently, not agreeing with a medical professional means that you are not acting in the child's best interests. Bleh.

While my opinions about corrupted medical power and CPS evoke strong feelings, I'll leave that be for now and share this, I'd heard stories about CPS and didn't want them involved in my life. Ever. We chose one of the best hospitals in Seattle (the only one with midwives) and I transferred my care during the last month of pregnancy.
Laboring in the tub.
Getting to know a whole new set of midwives was exhausting and frustrating. They didn't act like most midwives I've met before. We didn't see eye to eye on the direction of my pre-natal care. Looking back at that time and after talking to Kira's cardiologist, I realize that I should have set up a phone conference between the cardiologist and the midwives. The cardiologist was surprised to hear that the midwives turned my pregnancy into something in the "high-risk" category. Because I wasn't. I'm a low-risk type of girl. Communication would have helped tremendously. The midwives and high-risk OB specialist didn't believe me when I said I was low-risk and Kira had no heart issues as long as she was in the womb.

Why oh why won't she just come out???
When I went into labor about 4 pm on Sunday afternoon, it wasn't like my previous labors. It was slow. I ate dinner with the family and didn't throw it up. We took our time dividing up and delivering our children to various friends and family. I didn't know how long we had, but we felt like we didn't need to rush around. I had no doubts about actually being in labor. It felt like it and I was 41 weeks along.

I called Heike to be my doula. Her answering service told me that she wasn't on call. Bummer. I should have called again the next day. Another lesson learned. But I thought I'd have Kira soon...not 28 hours later.

We got to the hospital by 8 pm. I didn't want to officially check in. We did go to the nurse's station though to tell them we were there. My plan was to wait in the waiting room and come in when it got serious. They checked on me a few times as I was walking the halls and around midnight a nurse checked to see that I was 4 cm dilated. We made a run to Dick's Drive for a "last meal" and checked in about 2 am, Monday morning.

Nothing was really happening that night or the next morning. My first nurse was nice but she went home at 7 am. As did the midwife who had been on call that night. I didn't feel very comfortable with the second nurse but she was nice enough and didn't do anything terrible, so I didn't feel like I should request a new one.

Tymon and I walked around the hospital grounds trying to get my contractions going regularly (they were sometimes strong and sometimes not, sometimes close together and sometimes not). The nurses had brought in a birthing stool and birthing ball and anything else that I thought I might want. They were very flexible with anything I wanted to try. The only rule was that I couldn't deliver in the tub. That was against the hospital rules. They were very nice and didn't make me wear a continuous fetal monitor. Phew!

The midwife who came on duty that morning was the only midwife in the practice that I'd never met before. During our first meeting, the anesthesiologist came in to offer his services. I thought that since my birth plan indicates that I would have a natural birth then I wouldn't have to sit through an infomercial about epidurals.

I knew my hospital midwife was different than Heike when she took one look at the birthing stool and said I could use it as long as we put it on top of the end of the bed. Her knees are bad and she doesn't kneel down. Just picture that in your head. A birthing stool on the wobbly end of a bed. Not so stable. Fairly dangerous. I tried it. It wasn't going to work.

Who's ever heard of a midwife who doesn't kneel down? That's like a mechanic saying they don't get under a car to fix it. I'm pretty sure kneeling is a core requirement in any midwife's job description.

I believe the final straw to my discomfort with my midwife came in a conversation about her daughter and grandson's birth. She acted as doula for it and mentioned that she wouldn't feel comfortable delivering a baby outside of a hospital. She'd be too afraid that something would go wrong. When she showed no confidence in her own abilities and neonatal resuscitation skills, my anxiety increased. I felt ill-at-ease with her and my body decided to hold Kira in...perhaps until the next mid-wife came on duty the next morning. Yikes!

Hours passed. I vomited my lunch, which is a positive sign. I thought I was progressing. But I wasn't. I'd been dilated to a 7 pretty much all day. The midwife mentioned to me that she may send me home to labor there. What?! I'm 41 weeks and dilated to a 7 and you want to send me home? A couple of hours passed. She mentioned a few ways to get things moving...they involved drugs. Another couple of hours passed and she mentioned that it'd be best to deliver before 5pm so that the very best neo-natal team would be on duty. I wonder how the B team (night shift) doctors and nurses would feel if they knew she'd expressed her lack of confidence in them.

About 5pm a new nurse came. Hallelujah! I really liked this one. I labored in the tub. My contractions seemed strong to me. Kira still wasn't coming. And another hour passed. The midwife started talking options. I think she was tired of me. I was certainly tired of her. I felt a lot of pressure.

My mom was with us the entire time. She's diabetic and didn't bring her insulin since she was expecting a faster birth (my previous labor was just over 3 hours). She was encouraging me to do whatever option the midwife talked about to speed things along. She needed food. And sleep. And she kept talking on her cell phone to everyone and giving a play by play. That combined with us updating a status or two on Facebook created an unseen but powerfully strong social pressure to get that baby out already. And get her out now! It was intense.

My mom left about 7:30 pm and we discussed our options. Doing nothing wasn't an option. We could either do pitocin or break my water. Though at this point, I was considering very strongly the possibility of a c-section. The "safer" options each carried their own risks. And it seemed so easy just to plan a c-section.

A 28 hour labor messes with your head some. I found myself (the natural childbirth queen) welcoming an unnecesarean. And while I'm pretty sure we would have crossed a real c-section conversation if the two lesser interventions hadn't worked, I was surprised at how far my levels of acceptance had come.

After the midwife left us mulling over whether to choose pitocin or breaking my water, we let the nurse in on our conversation. She told me that Kira's head had descended enough that the chance of a prolapsed cord was small. And the only benefit to pitocin was longer and stronger contractions. My nurse then asked me the magic question...the one that resolved any concerns we had with our options.

"How strong are your contractions?"

Meaning, are they strong enough to birth a baby? Yes. They are. I've never had any pain meds for the 4 babies I've delivered previously. These contractions felt much the same. We decided to break the water.

Soon the midwife came back with a plastic hook that looks an awful lot like something used for knitting. She couldn't break the water. But she really upset me while trying. I may or may not have yelled something about her getting that thing out of me. It seriously hurt worse than giving birth. Maybe she was nervous and shaky. Maybe she didn't like me as much as I didn't like her. Regardless, she got another hook. This time metal. I heard it referenced that my bag of waters seemed to be made out of leather. A few more shouts and a bit more pain and the water broke. The midwife left.

I should probably mention that with each one of my births, after my water breaks, I deliver a baby within a few pushes. I hoped that this labor would be the same...even though nothing else had been. And as I lay there feeling uncomfortable, I asked to labor in the tub.

The nurse unhooked me and helped me to the bathroom. Tymon sat on the ledge of the tub. I got in. The water was warm. I felt like I needed to poo. If I could just poo then I could relax and end my misery until Kira decided to come. A few minutes later the nurse came in. I told her I was going to poo. Tymon reached in the water and found that he could feel Kira's head. The nurse told me not to push. I disobeyed.

We asked her if she could just deliver the baby since I liked her a lot more than the midwife. She couldn't. I didn't realize that labor and delivery nurses have never actually delivered babies. Their contracts won't let them. Crazy.

So picture Tymon, who has also been up the past two days, whispering in my ear, "push" and "just do it". So I did. I trust he could deliver a baby if needed. And apparently, I needed it now.

The nurse rang the alarm. The same one you've seen on House or any other medical drama. A red light flashes outside the door and the whoop whoop of the alarm calls everyone and their dog to your room. The midwife came rushing in. She asked me to hold onto her arm and she'd help me get to the bed.

I told her no. I was squatting and had a head between my legs. I wasn't going anywhere. She got down on her knees and frantically moved her hands from one side of my leg to the other. She didn't know what to do. I was in the wrong position. I quickly realized that in all her decades of practice, she'd never been involved with a tub birth. But I have. I know what to do. I calmly turned my back to her. She could see Kira's head and calmed down.

The pediatric team was in the room rushing to get everything ready. The doctor was at the door ready to rush Kira to the warming table to provide resuscitation, if she needed it.

The cord was around Kira's neck. The midwife untangled it. Kira's rear shoulder was birthed first instead of second. Then the rest of her slid out. The midwife reached for the clamp for the cord. Tymon thought it was to cut the cord and reached for it. High stress moment while they got that figured out. She was barely 30 seconds old before they had her out the door.

Phew! She's finally here!
I consented to going to the bed to deliver the placenta. We banked her cord blood on the off chance she would need it for a heart surgery. We got enough. Everything looked good. She was breathing normally (the tell-tale sign that her heart is pumping enough oxygen for her to live).

Our favorite nurse...
We got settled into a new room and Kira's breathing was monitored for a couple of hours to make sure it was okay. In the morning she had an echo and we entered the "wait and see as she grows" holding pattern. Almost two years later, I'm happy that her heart anomalies have more or less resolved themselves.

So what are the great lessons of this birth? Even if I think that I'm okay with delivering in a hospital, the bottom line is that I'm not. And my body will not behave normally when I don't trust my caregivers.

Facebook and cell phones are nice after a birth. Not during.

Bigger than those....If I can't get what I want then I'm going to struggle to control whatever I can. So if that means getting my midwife onto her bad knees to attend a tub birth, then so be it.

Oh, and one more lesson. Even if you make decisions based solely on not getting involved with CPS, if God wants a CPS experience to be a part of your life, you will still get one.

Kira's 1st Birthday Party
Last week my two barfy babies skipping school.

May 26, 2013

Weekend Round Up

Brother Harris approached me in the hall at church today after the morning service. He wanted to let me know that right before church started he saw Jett outside playing around and he opened the door to let him know that we were starting soon. Brother Harris was impressed that Jett came in right away, so he told him he had something for him. 

As he was digging through his bag Jett was excited and asked, "What is it? What is it?"

"You need to be patient," Brother Harris explained as he continued searching. He found a little package of smarties candy and gave it to him. Jett was so happy, he thanked Brother Harris and gave him a big hug.

Brother Harris was feeling so good with Jett's display of gratitude that he wasn't quite prepared for Jett's next question. "Is this from Halloween?" Ha ha ha. Kids are awesome like that.

The Family May 2013
My sister and her son flew in for the weekend. She's done a bit of work for us remotely at the driving school and now she'll be doing more. We just did some training with her. It's exciting to have all four of us working together...even if she goes back home tomorrow.
Sisters Squared: Me and mine. My mom and hers. 

Kira is developing speech at an alarming rate. Not that we don't enjoy her little voice. Or that it's too quick. It's just the content can be a bit disturbing/funny. Her new phrase, "I hate you, Daddy" comes out when she doesn't get what she wants. What?! She's not even two yet!

Last night we had the annual talent show at church. I participated with the choir in a terrible rendition of Little Liza Jane. This isn't modesty talking. Even though we had a lot of fun, it was an assault to all listening and a cry for help. If you'd like to join the choir, please do. We'd love it and can obviously use the help.

Jocelyn sang her first public solo in the show. My favorite part, aside from her courage to sing in front of a crowd, was her outfit. The top is a butterfly costume she's found in her closet from when she was two. The shorts and rain boots only add to the ensemble. So cute. I'm pretty sure there's no way an adult could get away with this. Click the link below to hear her singing Popcorn Popping On The Apricot Tree.

Tonight we were able to go to a missionary fireside put on by Jon Schmidt of The Piano Guys. They played two sold out shows this past weekend in Seattle. Jon's son is a missionary in the Everett, WA Mission and so he stayed a couple of extra days to do the fireside. He's so talented..

It's been such a busy weekend but now I've got to get serious about my preparations for the upcoming week. New adventures await!
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May 13, 2013

Mmmm, Placenta and Spice and Everything Nice

It seems like just yesterday
I was posting about giving away gerbils
And only having two left.
Ha ha ha.
This morning we got 3, I mean 4 more.

I assume these babies are Spyra's...
Because she's eating the placenta.
Except she just gave birth a month ago.
She can't really be delivering again, can she?
It's possible these are Gimpy's
She sits on them...perhaps nursing.
Maybe Spyra is acting as midwife...

Speaking of midwives,
Have you seen the BBC drama
Call the Midwife?
It's my new obsession.
The stories are real.
Based on the memoir of Jennifer Worth.
I'm pretty sure I won't be able to wait
For each season
To be filmed.
I'm going to have to read the book.

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May 11, 2013

What To Expect When You're Expecting

My computer's been acting up so you haven't heard from me recently...actually the last two posts I did on my phone, which means I finally got a smart phone. Yay! But actually, I like writing on a full sized keyboard best.

So Tymon got my computer fixed for Mother's Day! My hero! AND he also went to the pet store with the boys today to donate some gerbils.

We decided we wanted to keep Gimpy...and whichever other one(s) were the same sex. The clerk sexed all 9 (one disappeared a couple of weeks ago....eaten no doubt) rather quickly. I'm not sure how she did that.

Turns out both Blackie (no surprise) and Bash are male. Fantastic. And both Spyra and Gimpy are pregnant. Whoa. What?! Yeah. Crazy. I noticed Gimpy getting bigger...but I thought she was just catching up from her slow growth after her arm got chewed off. I was thinking that maybe she was sterile. Ha ha. No such luck.

The boys donated Bash, Blackie and the babies back to the pet store. We still have Spyra and Gimpy and figure we'll go back to the pet store one more time with the new litters. Then we'll still be left with just two and hopefully one of the babies won't impregnate their mothers.

It occurs to me that I should have taken a photo of the cage this past week. It was so packed with all of them running around. I think it's a little bit funny when one is on the wheel and another gets on and the other flips off. But alas, maybe next time...

If you want to know what to expect when you have gerbils, let me tell you. They'll always be expecting. Whoever first said rabbits reproduce quickly didn't know about gerbils.

May 2, 2013

Learning The Ropes

Experiential learning.
Potent stuff.
Intense experiences.
Deep thinking.
New connections.
Literal and figurative.
Meaning hidden everywhere.
Empowering change.

I'm taking the leader training for a ropes course. While many of you may have participated in this type of activity before, it was my first time as a participant. If you don't know what it is ... think trust falls and team building. Accomplishing impossible tasks with strangers. And delving into your innermost thoughts. I loved it.

My brother asked me about my arm bruises today. They came from trying to scale a wall with a bit of help from below and a lot of help from above. Whether the bruises came from thrusting my entire body weight onto my arm at the top or whether the marks are from my teammates grabbing and pulling me up (preventing a 20ish foot fall), I don't know. It was a small price to pay for the privilege of participation.

I'm so pumped about the course that I read the entire training manual. In it, I found a simple activity I could lead at home. I tried it out for family night.

I've got some more to learn, though. I'm certain my teaching technique could use some refinement. That's not modesty talking. Pretty much my entire family walked out on my activity.

Except Jett. He missed the excitement while he was using the toilet. He came back to an empty room...and we had a one-on-one experiential learning moment. I toned down my methods to prevent complete abandonment. And in true experiential fashion found deeper meaning in the great exodus. Jett gets it.

I wonder about the lasting impact. I think it'll stay with me longest. That's okay. I've got plenty more to learn.

May 1, 2013

Heart Growth

Sometimes the answers to prayers come fast. While other times they don't seem to come at all...maybe that's when the answer is "no". But still other times, like this one, a "yes" answer comes as growth.
When we found out that Kira had a congenital heart defect, we feared that one day (possibly soon after birth) she would need an open heart surgery. I had images of a sickly child in my mind.
I didn't pray that all would be well. I don't think most people get the miraculous healing they pray for. Some do. I love hearing those stories. But most of the time it isn't like that.
I prayed that Kira would be able to run and play with her siblings. I was open to whatever that meant in terms of medical long as she could play in the backyard.
She does that. And so much more. She can take her diaper off faster than any other kid I've seen and run away from me while I'm trying to get her put back together.
Kira had an echo today. In the last year, since her last cardiology appointment, her pulmonary arteries have grown so much that they are now both within the normal range. We don't go back for another check up for a couple of years.
Thank you for your prayers. I know many of you have kept our family in your thoughts over the past few years. We are happy to have our little girl in our life and that she is growing.
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