Monday, February 24, 2014

America, the toddler

"I can deny you service based on my religious beliefs."

This is, essentially, what a law passed in Arizona last week states. It (and those on other state ballots' that are just like it) is intended to allow small business owners the right to refuse service to gay couples.

Get ready, ladies and gentlemen, because we are turning back the clocks.

First, we'll dial them back to around the mid 1900s, to an era during which there were laws in place that allowed white business owners to deny service to black patrons simply because they were black. We are returning to a time when we wouldn't allow white schools to educate black children. When blacks could not drink out of the same water fountain as whites or sit in certain seats on public transportation. When it was legally okay to judge a person by the color of his skin.

Next, we'll go back a bit further to the early 1900s, when we couldn't POSSIBLY grant women the right to vote because, well, they were women! What did they know about politics? What did they know about the needs of this country's citizens? We go back to a time when no man would dream of hiring a woman to work in his company. Where women belonged at home, in the kitchen and with the children. When it was legally acceptable to deny women equal rights because they weren't seen as equal beings.

We'll step back once more to when our ancestors first came to this country -- in many cases specifically seeking religious freedom. Not religious freedom as is portrayed by these current laws, but freedom FROM oppression. They sought opportunity. They sought freedom to be accepted for who they were and how they wanted to live their lives. They sought not to be bound by the constraints of others' ideals, but to live under the assumption that all men were created equally.

Enough reflecting? I think so.

Now, let's head back into the present day. Does anything look different to you? It shouldn't. Instead, it should look much like it has in the past: with a set of laws and regulations meant to make a certain group of people feel inferior to others. It looks like everything our ancestors fled by coming to this country. Under the guise of "allowing religious freedom," here we are with yet a new set of rules that actually remove far more freedoms than they intend to allow.

Let's face it, America: you are like my toddler. You don't learn from your mistakes. You slip, fall, and bump your head from running in the house. You cry about it. And then 10 minutes later, you do the same damn thing all over again -- without any recollection of what happened 10 minutes prior. The only difference is that I hope my toddler grows up and, within a reasonable time frame, learns the consequences of her actions. You, on the other hand, haven't learned much in the last 200+ years. You're still defying the face of reason and tripping over your own two feet.

This isn't the beginning. These aren't the only set of laws created in the last few years that chip away at basic human rights. But as these laws become more open, more blatant, it's time that we take a stand to avoid heading further down the rabbit hole that is inequality. Let's stop moving backward to move forward. Let's stop hitting rewind. No one wants to replay the bad movie scenes. No one wants to relive the dreaded past. And, frankly, I don't think any of us want to watch you trip and fall a million times in a row, either (all while saying, "I told you so").

It's sad, I know. We shouldn't have to be parents with our government leaders. But if they are all going to run around and act like children, I guess I don't have much of a choice.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

one quarter down

It's been a quarter of a year since we moved to Seattle, and I haven't done a fantastic job so far in keeping track of what all we've done and explored since we moved here. That ends now. Here are some of the things we've done in our first three months as PNWers:

-Enjoyed a couple of snow days:

-Purchased family memberships to the Seattle Aquarium and the Pacific Science Center. K loves both. They are perfect places to keep a toddler occupied during the cold, rainy days.

-Watched a Super Bowl parade:

-Explored several of Seattle's neighborhoods, including our own area (Queen Anne/Magnolia), Ballard, Fremont, the U district, downtown, and parts of the east side.

-Taken advantage of the city park system and their indoor pools:

-And eaten our way around the city, trying a different restaurant each week as well as cooking new recipes with some of the lovely fresh foods that come from this area of the country.

There is a lot still on our agenda. Stay tuned for updates on more Seattle adventures as our year rolls on.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

secret club

Seeing these tiny baby mittens makes me want another.

It's hard isn't it? Do you think you'll have more?

No... I think she's it.

Yeah, I understand that. Going through infertility treatments was...

Just like that, I know another person. Another person like me. Another person who struggled to build a family. Another person who knows the pain that comes with it. Another person with scars.

How many of us hide in plain sight? How many of us are afraid to stand up and talk about what we've been through? The things we've experienced? The things that haunt us in our dreams?

I look at others and wonder this sometimes. I wonder if they waited to announce their pregnancy at six months because they've experienced loss. I wonder if they post stories about adoption and infertility on social media because it interests them or because they are living through it. I wonder if that look on their faces when they see a baby or a pregnant belly is just my imagination or if it says everything about their stories. I wonder if they hesitate to speak up in the way that I did, the way that so many of us do, because they don't want people to see them differently. Because they don't want the stupid comments. Because they are scared of silence.

Being this. Living this. Breathing this, day in and day out. It doesn't stop when you become a parent. You forever become a part of this club... this mostly-secret club that you're proud to be a part of because you know how STRONG and how BRAVE your fellow club members are but that you also HATE being a part of because you cannot understand why the universe inflicts this much pain on such amazing people. You watch embryos fail to take. You watch babies die. You watch children struggle in the NICU, and beyond, with health and development. You watch adoptions fail. You watch foster children go back and forth. You watch divorce and heartbreak. You watch people never fulfill the dream that they started X number of years, sometimes decades, ago.

You know all of these things, and it makes you look at others differently. It makes you see them and wonder if they are a part of this club. If they feel what you feel. If they have seen what you've seen. And when they tell you they are members, too, it makes you feel bittersweet. Bitter that you already know how painful their stories are. Bitter that you know their scars. But sweet because you know they are amazingly WONDERFUL and RESILIENT human beings.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

if i could turn back time

There are some days when I wish that I could turn back time.

Not forever, but just for a moment.

I wish that I could dial back to that phone call from our paralegal, telling us that we were officially matched – that we were to become parents to a baby girl in just a few short weeks.

I wish that I could relive our times spent with T. Those precious days we connected both before and after K's birth.

I wish that I could go back to that first time holding K in my arms. I wish I could screenshot the expression on her face, and mine, the moment we met. I wish I could capture that feeling, knowing my life had changed forever.

I wish that I could rock her to sleep once more in her swaddle. Feed her one last bottle during the middle of the night. Give her one more bath in the infant tub. Smell her baby scent.

I wish that I could see her first smile again. Watch her crawl for the first time. Take those first steps. All of those baby milestones that went by far too quickly.

I love this age she's in now. The exploring. The creativity. The words. Yet, I would be lying if I said I didn't miss the tiny baby I spent so many wonderful, sleepless nights with. I would be lying if I said that thinking about those moments didn't make me, if only for a second, want to do this all over again.

But I can't do this all over again. Not without a miracle. And I certainly can't turn back time. All I can do is look ahead – cherishing the moments we've already had together and pressing forward to the amazing ones still yet to come.

Monday, February 3, 2014

you have it wrong, Kay

I saw some back and forth last night on Twitter about an ad for Kay Jewelers that focused on adoption. Of course, this immediately piqued my interest, and I headed to YouTube to check it out.

One could say that it's nice for a mainstream company to finally recognize alternative family-building choices. Except that Kay did absolutely nothing to portray adoption accurately.

The ad features this polished, picture-perfect couple who are waiting in an "adoption center" to meet their daughter. After the husband surprises his wife with a piece of jewelry (from Kay, obviously), they turn to greet their social worker – who delivers them a perfectly healthy, happy baby girl. And then everyone lives happily ever after. The end.

Maybe that happens to some people. But here's an alternate and perhaps more realistic look of the day a couple becomes parents through adoption:

After getting no sleep the night before, Joey and I wake up and shower quickly to prepare for our 90-minute drive back to the hospital. I tie my hair back in a knot and do my best to cover the dark circles under my eyes. My mom makes us breakfast before we hit the road. I text T (our daughter's birth mother) to let her know we are on our way. We arrive at the hospital and head up to T's room. We spend some time just hanging out with her while she eats and gets her pain medicine before all of us head up to the NICU to see K. Today is better than yesterday, as T and I actually get to hold her – each just for a moment. T holds her first, and when she passes K over to me, she whispers, "Thank you."

While down in the NICU, we encounter some issues with the nursing staff and their attitudes toward T. We head back up to T's room shortly after – T to meet with the social worker from the state and J and I to talk to hospital administration about the lack of empathy toward our daughter's mother. I can hear T crying to the social worker behind her hospital room door as I rage on her behalf to one of the clinical managers.

J and I head down to the lobby and wait for T's dad and our attorney to arrive, as T's social worker tells us we can't return to her room. I am sick to my stomach with nerves and emotions. I can't eat. I can't cry. I just sit and stare at the clock. T calls. She wants to know why we haven't come back up to sit with her. I relay the message from the social worker, and she says, "Forget her. Come back." We do, and we stay there – T's dad, our attorney, and his wife joining us until it's time.

T heads up to the NICU with her oldest daughter, who has just arrived, to see K one last time before the paperwork is complete. The rest of us head to the cafeteria for dinner. T's dad graciously pays for our food, and I try my best to eat. Then, before I know it, it's just J and I. Our attorney heads upstairs to begin the TPR process with T, along with T's dad and our attorney's wife who both serve as witnesses.

It was the longest wait of my life. I can't even begin to estimate how long it lasted, because it felt like eternity. When our attorney's wife came around the corner again and I saw her face, I burst into tears. Tears I'd held in for days. Tears of joy that we were, at long last, parents. And tears of complete and utter anguish over what had just happened in that room.

I don't think I stopped crying at all that night. I cried as I wrapped my arms around T and said good-bye. I knew we would see each other again, but this was different. This was the end of one chapter. I cried as I walked into that NICU room and learned for the first time the hurdles K would need to overcome in order for us to bring her home. And I cried the whole way home, helpless that I couldn't stay that night and be by my daughter's side.

There were no picture-perfect moments the day I became a mom. My hair and makeup weren't polished. There weren't freshly-pressed clothes and sparkly jewels in black boxes. There was not a healthy, smiling baby resting comfortably in a social worker's arms.

There was just emotion. Pure and raw, those feelings that I felt that day will live within me for the rest of my life. Joy. Heartbreak. Anger. Sadness. Fear. Relief. All balled into one. THAT is what an "adoption day" is like.

But I guess that doesn't make a nice jewelry ad, does it?