Thursday, November 29, 2012

"what is she?"

Since K's birth, we've gotten a fair amount of questions about her race. I don't post too many pictures of her on this blog for privacy purposes, but you may or may not have noticed her slight tan in previous photos. By contrast, I am very fair-skinned, so I think people tend to notice that she looks different more with me than with Joey, who has dark hair, dark eyes, and darker skin like K.

It doesn't bother me when people we know ask about her ethnic background, but in most cases, it hasn't been people we know who ask. It's been strangers. And it's almost always a question that isn't quite phrased right. (Such as, "what is she?")

I've noticed plenty of children over the years who do not look like their parents. In fact, I was one of those children. My brother and I were both born with red hair and fair skin. Our parents, on the other hand, had dark hair and darker skin. I'm sure they got plenty sideways glances when we were younger.

But I don't recall ever going up to families and asking them why their children look different from them, or having others approach me about why I look different from my parents. It seems completely inappropriate, right? Or am I alone in thinking this? I mean, I knew that this was something we would likely encounter adopting a biracial child. I guess I just didn't realize how often we would get comments – or the ways in which they would be worded.

Up until recently, I've been answering these questions with a straightforward, honest answer: she's half white, and half Hispanic. However, the more I answered this question with the truth, the more irritated I grew. WHY did they need to know? And, by giving these people an answer, am I letting them know that this type of behavior is okay? Because it's not okay! I don't go up to strangers and ask them about the color of their skin.

So, I started getting snarky. I've said things like "she's a baby" or "she's a princess!" when people ask what she is. I've thought about asking them a deeply personal question in response. ("Did you have sex with your husband last night? Oh, is that too much? If you don't want to answer a personal question, don't ask one!")

Yet, this is just as ineffective as answering the question. It's not serving anyone except for my anger. It's not teaching them anything except for "wow, that lady is a bitch." As K gets older, she'll begin to notice how I'm answering this question. I don't want her to grow up and resort to anger or sarcasm when people ask her questions that she isn't comfortable answering.

The truth is, it's a far more loaded question for K than people think. It isn't just about the color of her skin. It's about part of her background that we will never be able to share with her because we just don't have the information. It will always be this blank page in her story that we can't fill in for her, and that hurts my heart. I would love nothing more than for her to be able to celebrate who she is – her culture – but it's a piece of information we simply don't know.

Therefore, from this point forward, I've decided to be honest with strangers – truly honest. I will tell them that it's not appropriate to ask such a personal question. Because it's not. As K grows up, we will of course share her story with her, but we will also emphasize that this is her story. She can choose to share, or not share, with others based on her comfort level. This should be her decision, and not anyone else's. It's her personal journey.

And we'll teach her to always be respectful of other's personal stories - to understand that while she may choose to share her story, others may not.

Honestly, I wish I didn't have to teach her about respect and personal privacy. I wish I didn't have to help her navigate issues having to do with race. Instead, I wish people could just see the beautiful person that she is without focusing on the color of her skin.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

scars

I used to think that infertility made me a hard ass. I put up with less shit. I was indestructable. A bitch, in many situations, doing what I needed to do to protect myself. But I'm slowly realizing that infertility has - in many ways - made me MORE sensitive than I used to be.

Infertility has made me overly emotional, particularly when it comes to situations that have to do with children or lack thereof. Listening to people's stories about their infertility journeys still makes me tear up, even though I've heard the same stories from so many women over the last four years. It still gets me fired up to hear about doctors mistreating (or misdiagnosing) patients. I get happy and sad when people announce their pregnancies, despite the fact that I don't want to be pregnant.

I often wonder if it will ever fade, this emotion. If I will ever stop shedding tears over everything that's happened in the last four years. What infertility has both taken away from and given to me, and what it has both taken away from and given to others in this community.

The hole my heart nearly closed with K's arrival. But I fear that a tiny sliver of it will never heal. Not just for my lost dreams, but for the lost dreams of others. For the pain that this community experiences on a daily basis. For those women who never get to shed happy tears over their child's first visit with Santa.

I fear we will never truly be able to "cure" infertility, or the people who've experienced it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

giving thanks

It would be an understatement to say that I have much be thankful for this year. After four years of infertility, I feel so blessed to be a mother.

I am grateful for my husband. It hasn't been easy. We've had our ups and downs. But I love you with all of my heart, and it makes me so happy to see you with K. You are the best dad.

I am grateful for T, for giving us the gift of parenthood. While we don't keep in touch as often as I'd like, I think about her every single day, as well as her other children.

I am grateful for my family members and close friends. Those who've been there through all of the waiting and who've welcomed K into their lives with open arms and so much love.

And, of course, I am forever grateful for K. She has taught me so much in her short, four-and-a-half month life. She's filled the hole in my heart. She's taught me how to be a better person. She's taught me how to love again. Truly.

I also incredibly grateful for all of you. This would not have been possible without your love and support. If it weren't for this community, I would have thrown in the towel a long time ago. But you pushed me. You encouraged me. You told me that I could be a mom if that's what I wanted, if I put my mind to it.

I know that, for many of you, this holiday is the beginning of a very difficult time of year. You're still in the trenches. You're still waiting for that miracle. I get it. Believe me. I spent four holiday seasons in your shoes. Take care of yourselves. Don't push your emotions. Protect your heart in whatever way you need to. And know that while I'm celebrating with my family, part of my heart is with you. Because I haven't forgotten the pain or the struggle. I will never forget.

Love you all. Thank you. And to those still fighting? Fierce hugs. I would give anything I could for your fight to end in peace, happiness, and parenthood. That is my wish for this holiday season.

Monday, November 19, 2012

a forever kind of love

November is National Adoption Month. It began as a means to promote the need for adoptive families for children in foster care. However, it's become a time to celebrate all of the families who've come together through adoption.

Now (and always), I've thought a lot about K's birth mother and given thanks for her gift to us. I would love if - in addition to celebrating families made through adoption this month - we could also take a moment to think about the birth families of these children. Especially T. She is going through a difficult time right now. If you could send positive thoughts her way, I would be incredibly grateful.

Congratulations to all of the families who became "official" this month.

And I have news. We will be joining the ranks of "official" very soon. Our hearing is November 30. On the last day of National Adoption Month, we will become K's parents. We will become a forever family.

We loved you before we knew you
Even when there was just the hope of you -
We loved you

Thursday, November 15, 2012

firsts and lasts

I thought that the arrival of K would cure my holiday blues, but it hasn't. Instead, I'm facing a different sort of holiday depression this year.

Time is going by too fast.

We have teeth coming in. She's almost sitting up unassisted. She's rolling both ways. We set up the high chair last night, and we're starting solid foods this weekend.

We are quickly coming into her first holiday season, which will fade away just as fast.

Don't get me wrong. I'm HAPPY she's growing and thriving. The doctor can't believe how well she's doing. She's not only passed all of her four-month development marks, she's doing some things that shouldn't even start until six months. And she's a premie. It's truly unbelievable - a miracle considering the circumstances into which she was born.

Yet, it's hard for me to not want her to stay small forever. All of her firsts are our lasts. Every time I witness her doing something for the first time - whether it's as small as putting her pacifier back in her mouth or as big as her sitting up unassisted - I know that I will never witness that moment again.

So with Thanksgiving coming up next week, and Christmas right around the corner from that, I'm already feeling nostalgic. I can't wait to experience all of the exciting moments I know are ahead in the next month and a half.

But I'm also incredibly sad that I will never get them again.

Monday, November 12, 2012

poopocalypse 2012

This is a baby-related post. Please feel free to skip if you are not comfortable reading.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have survived Poopocalypse 2012.

This event began last Saturday. We look K out with us to run errands, and she went - uh - number 2 several times while we were out of the house. This is highly unusual for her, as she normally only goes once a day. As the frequency increased, I noticed that the consistency was, for lack of a better word, decreasing.

By Sunday, we were in full-blown shit hell.

Raw butt. Screaming. Blowout after blowout. It was like K ate at Taco Hell for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Friday, and was paying the price.

By Monday, we added fever to the list of ailments. Then Tuesday, a cough and runny nose. At first, we thought it was teething. Then her soft spot on her head bulged in the middle of the night on Monday, and we went back and forth over whether to take her to the hospital.

Ultimately, we decided to wait it out until morning (her fever was hovering around 101.5 with Tylenol) and call the doc. I took her in, and the verdict?

The flu.

After Joey and I got flu shots to make sure we wouldn't get the flu and give it to K, SHE ended up getting the flu (likely from daycare, aka the germ factory) and we needed the shots to protect her from infecting us.

I won't go into details, but lets just say that "it" lasted until this weekend, and I could go a lifetime without seeing another poopy diaper and not be disappointed.

Joey took her back in to the doctor today, and although she lost a few ounces on her Taco Hell diet, she otherwise received a clean bill of health. She got her four-month shots, was weighed and measured (10 lbs. 14 oz. and 23.25 inches), and got the green light to start trying solid foods.

Oh, and remember when we suspected teething instead of sickness?

Yeah. That's happening, too. :)

Time to break out the high chair and invest in Red Bull!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

red, white, blue, and respect

Dear Family and Friends,

I made no secret about who I voted for during this election cycle. I've written about it (diplomatically, I might add) on this blog and on social media. I've discussed it openly with all of you, and engaged in healthy debates regarding everything from the economy to women's healthcare.

As expected, I was happy that the American public chose to reelect President Obama. However, I was unhappy to read the dialogue that occurred in the aftermath of this decision. I read so many hurtful, negative responses from members of both political parties. It made me feel embarrassed to be an American. To be honest, it made me feel embarrassed to associate with some of you - particularly those who brought up issues of race and who painted those of us who support our president as anti-American.

There was a time, before social media, when we voiced our political opinions yet maintained respect for our country's leader and for each other. What happened to those ideals? What happened to the concept of a "civil" debate? I'm not quite sure, but I do know that it's gone. Our country has become polarized, and with it, so have individual relationships.

Eight years ago, I voted for President Bush in my first presidential election. I'm not ashamed of this; I considered myself a "moderate conservative" on most issues, and I believed in the idea of small government. I still do in some ways. I firmly believe in hard work and responsibility.

But part of the responsibility I believe in is social responsibility. I believe that we have a duty to look out for one another. I believe there are times when some of us may need extra help. We used to be those "somebodies" when Joey lost his job back in 2008. After six months of unemployment, we were forced to move to a completely different state in order for him to find work. We lived with my mom for 10 months in order to rebuild our finances. It was a humbling time, and it pains me that others who are enduring similar circumstances are painted as villains.

I believe that we have a duty to respect who others love. My love for my husband is not affected by gay marriage. It doesn't make my relationship any more or less valid. I admire the strength and courage of so many gay couples whose relationships have lasted not only the tests of time, but also the persecution and ridicule from those who do not respect their love. I believe that families whose parents are made up of two men or two women are, aside from appearance, no different than mine and therefore should not be treated differently under the laws by which we are governed.

I believe in the separation of church and state. While I believe in God, my neighbors may not. They may believe in another higher being or they may believe in nothing at all. And that's okay. Just as I have the freedom to practice my religion of choice, so do they. I believe that, as a result, those individuals shouldn't be subject to laws based upon my religion or anyone else's.

And I believe that we have a duty to honor a woman's right to choose what happens to her body, whether that be in regard to abortion or birth control or any other issue related to reproductive rights. I wish, more than anything, for my daughter to grow up in a country that values her as a woman and allows her to make decisions about her body that are best for her. I also wish for her to receive equal healthcare, equal pay, and equal respect to her male peers.

I did not vote for President Obama because I receive government "handouts." I have a job, and I work very hard to provide for my family, as does Joey. While I am pro-choice, I am not pro-abortion; I am not a "baby killer." I support the millions of troops who protect our freedoms abroad as well as those who protect us domestically (such as the National Guard, Coast Guard, police, and firefighters). Being a Democrat and voting for President Obama isn't a racial issue. It's not an issue of wanting or needing more from government. It's not an issue of being patriotic. I'm the granddaughter of a World War II veteran, the daughter of a former member of the National Guard, and I'm as patriotic as they come.

And I believe President Obama is as patriotic as they come. Those of you who wanted Christian values in the White House? They were already there. Those of you who wanted an all-American family to represent our country? They've been living in the White House for four years.

I feel blessed to live in this country, where we have the freedom of choice and the freedom of speech. We are allowed to choose who we feel will best represent us and our interests in government. We are allowed to talk freely about our political views. But we've stopped doing this peacefully. We've stopped respecting others in the process, including our President.

Toward the end of President Bush's second term, I began to disagree with many of his decisions as Commander in Chief. But I respected him as our leader, and I respected others who continued to support him. Today, I ask for the same from all of you. Please respect our leader, and please respect me for supporting him. Being a Democrat doesn't make me ignorant. It simply makes me American.

Love,
Katie

Monday, November 5, 2012

4 months

This is a baby-related post. Please feel free to skip if you are not comfortable reading.

K turned four months old on Friday!

Weight & Length: She's just over 11 lbs. with her clothes on, but she doesn't have her four-month appointment until next Monday. So we won't know her official length and weight until then.

Sleeping: She is still getting up once a night to eat, almost the same time each night - between 12 and 1. But she's MUCH better at falling asleep. She goes to bed consistently at 8 pm and wakes up around 7 am - though she usually has her morning bottle about an hour or two before that.

Eating: She's eating between 3 and 4 ounces each feeding, and anywhere from 20 to 26 ounces a day.

Diapers: We are still using bumGenius 4.0s at home, but daycare will only do disposable. So we are using Huggies Natural Care there, and she's still in a size 1.

Clothing: Clothes that are 0-3 months are packed away, and some of the 3 month clothes are starting to get tight. I've taken out the 3-6 month clothes and even some of the 6 month stuff in preparation for the transition. Ah!

Hair: Her hair is getting a little thicker, but she still has the bald spot from birth on the back of her head. I'm wondering when it's going to start filling in.

Eyes: Dark brown and incredibly expressive. Her eyes always tell me how she's feeling.

Personality: She is still as happy and chatty as ever. We actually went through a period this month where she was waking up in the middle of the night just to talk. It was as if she didn't have enough time during the day to say all that she needed to say. The ladies at daycare rave about how sweet she is there, too, so it's not just at home. She recognizes the people she normally interacts with, and smiles/"talks" to them when she sees them (including Joey and I, of course). It's all fun, all the time with this girl. I joke that she's going to be a comedian, but she is so active, that I have a feeling she'll be into athletics. Her little legs are always going. Can we say the next Mia Hamm?

Milestones & Firsts: This month, she started holding her bottle for the first time (though she's not strong enough to do it herself yet), sleeping in her crib (for most of the night), and taking her pacifier out of her mouth and putting it back in. She's desperately trying to sit up, but hasn't quite mastered it. She had her first trip to a pumpkin patch, "walked" in her first 5k race, visited Epcot for the first time (she's already been to Animal Kingdom), and celebrated her first Halloween. We also had an important "last" for this month: we had our last post-placement visit with our social worker, which means we are ready to finalize the adoption! It will either be later this month or early next month.

It's hard to believe that her first year of life is already a third of the way complete. I remember being in the NICU with her so many nights and wondering if she would ever get better - if we would ever have a healthy little girl to bring home. And now? That time seems like a blur. Because there are so many more days of her life that have been filled with laughter and smiles. It's a wonderful feeling.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

tick, tock

Giuliana Rancic has always been a fabulous advocate for the infertility community. In this month's issue of Health magazine, she opens up about a subject that, in my opinion, isn't spoken about enough when it comes to infertility: delaying motherhood.

We started trying to grow our family when I was young - just 23 years old. I was career driven, but I also married someone eight years my senior who didn't want to delay parenthood any further. I've met so many women who were at the opposite age spectrum on this journey. Some delayed trying because they were waiting for the right partner. But many waited because they wanted to make sure it was the "right" time financially and for their career.

Before going through infertility, I probably would have placed the "blame" on those women who waited for the fact that they couldn't get pregnant. Instead, having this disease has made me aware of all the factors that go into making the decision to wait to have a child and battling infertility as a result.

For one, we (society) place far too much importance on this idea of waiting until the perfect time, when on fact there is no perfect time. No one is ever truly ready to be a parent, because no one can predict what you'll face when it happens. You could have your dream job, the ideal home to raise a child, and it could disappear the second you bring a child home. You can't rely on what you imagine your life will be like.

We also - and this is the bigger issue - see far too many stories about women getting pregnant later in life with no mention of infertility treatments. Specifically celebrities. I understand that people want to keep certain details about their lives private. I'm not suggesting that the public has a right to know such sensitive and personal details. But I am saying that people who don't speak out about how they struggled to conceive in their 30s and 40s are perpetuating the myth that women are still extremely fertile at that age (when, in most cases, we aren't). I mean, hell. I have three more years until I hit 30, and my uterus is like a coffin nailed shut.

Infertility is only taboo if we keep it that way. I commend Giuliana Rancic for opening up about this topic, but what we need is for other women like her to talk candidly about it, too. She is already the face of infertility to so many, but she isn't alone. What we need is for more women in the spotlight to speak out against this idea that we can beat the clock.