Friends & their Kids

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New York, New York!

I just got back from a two week work trip to Washington DC and New York, for a series of meetings and conferences. Although I was looking forward to some of the conferences and seeing colleagues and friends, this felt like a long trip and part of me was dreading it too. As much as I love travelling, lately I’ve been in nesting mode and find myself just wanting to hang out at home rather than hauling around luggage between hotels and cities. All that said, it wound up being a fun trip. Best of all, I had a bit of free time in between work events and so managed to squeeze in a few visits with old friends from grad school. While in DC, I visited with my friend Noelle and her kids Aidan and Keira again. It was a short trip, but we managed to play a rousing game of Monopoly. (As an aside, can you believe there’s a version of Monopoly now where Park Place, Marvin Gardens and the other properties have been replaced by online “properties” like Yahoo and Disney! And the silver show show and top hat that you move around the board is now an Angry Bird. Boy did I feel old fashioned!). Keira was very proud of her stuffed Bodhi, which I had given her after her visit in April, where she fell in love with my Bodhi (the real one!). After DC, I was in New York City for the weekend. I visited with my friend Jen her daughter, another Kira! Jen, Noelle and I were best buds in grad school. I was so struck by how much their Keira/Kira’s look and act like them — little Jen and Noelle “mini-me’s!” Check out the old photo below of the three of us on vacation in Spain while in grad school (circa 1998?) and the pictures of each of their girls. Guess which kid and Mom go together?

I also got to see my friends Zemer and Coleen and their “mini-me’s” Benjamin and Lena. We spent a nice Sunday exploring the Chelsea and lower east side. We had a nice walk on The High Line, visited the new Whitney Museum of  American Art and got to experience the all-plant “I can’t believe it’s not meat” Impossible Burger at Momofuku. Not to mention ice cream and cupcakes to round out the day.  It was a really fun Sunday.

There was something so lovely about seeing these friends who I first got to know when we were in our 20s, as parents with kids, families and accomplished careers. I  love seeing them with their little “mini-me’s” and getting to know their kids, though truthfully, these moments are also bittersweet. There’s a part of me , when seeing friends and their kids all together, that does get a bit sad and  wistful for a child of my own. I have friends who have told me that they worried  that it must be hard to spend time with them and their kids, that it might make me sad. And some who have worried about inviting me to events with lots of kids and parents, like birthday parties, wondering whether I might feel uncomfortable. I feel lucky to have friends who are so thoughtful and considerate about my feelings but what I tell them all is that  I really don’t want people worrying about me and certainly, don’t want friends to think they should avoid exposing me to their kids. Being with kids of course reminds of what I’m missing and longing for. I’d be lying if I said that sometimes it doesn’t hurt. But that’s not the overwhelming feeling. I don’t want to spend my life or this time waiting in a child-free bubble. More often when I’m having fun with your kids and seeing you being great parents, I’m reminded, in a positive way, of why all of this effort, angst and waiting is going to be worth it. Being with your kids is actually motivating and confirming of what I know in my heart to be true, that I want a child as the center of my world too. It reminds me of how much I love kids and what a great Mom I am going to strive to be.  I’ve found that one of the hardest things about this adoption waiting limbo is keeping it feeling real and tangible. After you get past the point of all the research, forms, interviews, putting together websites and letters and the like, it feels like there’s just time and waiting. You spend time updating websites and checking your phone and email accounts hoping for a call, but as the days and weeks and months go  by, its become harder and harder to feel that this is all real and that something is happening while I’m here in waiting.  For me, spending time with kids, my friends and their families has honestly been a lifeline in this waiting limbo. Being around your kids has kept me sane and feeling connected and has given me hope and inspiration.

I should say that I know from conversations with other waiting adoptive parents that not everyone feels this way about being around kids. Some parents-in-waiting do find it painful to be around kids and do avoid situations with kids or families.  While that’s not been true for me, I certainly respect those feelings and can see where they come from. What I would say as advice to folks who have friends who are waiting to adopt (or for that matter,  friends who are trying to conceive and grow their family in other ways) is that the best approach is just to ask your friend what they prefer. You can ask them how they are doing. Ask them whether being with your kids makes them uncomfortable. Ask them how you can help and support them. Don’t be afraid to bring up the issue. Trust me,  your asking and bringing up the issue won’t be anymore of a reminder or trigger than not asking, and more likely, they will appreciate your thinking of them.

 

 

Stork sighting

storksWow! It’s been awhile since I’ve had a stork sighting and this week suddenly storks are everywhere! There’s a new animated movie called Storks and the ads are everywhere I look.  I’m in NYC this week and I even rode in a yellow cab with a big Storks movie banner on its roof. I’m taking this as a good sign…

Puppy love

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Happy Birthday, my sweet boy!

This week Bodhi and I celebrated his birthday. Bodhi got a birthday dog cookie and a new chew toy which he promptly chewed to bits and we took a sunset walk at Point Isabel, one of our favorite local dog parks. It’s actually more accurate to say that this is our anniversary, since I don’t know Bodhi’s real birthday and I count back to the day we found each other at the local animal rescue. That was three years ago and I always wonder who rescued who. The day I met Bodhi, I was just coming off of a few difficult and stressful weeks culminating in one day that just felt shattering. I had been dealing with some very  disappointing news and was feeling very sad, alone and regretful. I remember crying a lot that night. But after that dark night, when I woke that morning, something in me said “today’s the day you find your dog.” I had been thinking about getting a dog for sometime, starting around the time my Mom died, a few years back. But somehow the timing and situation never seemed right. But that morning was fate. I woke up drove over to the rescue to get there when they opened and there he was, this little guy curled up in his bed, looking up at me with his big brown eyes. I knew he was “the one” instantly.  Bodhi is named after the Bodhi tree, the tree under which the Buddha found enlightenment. I often joke that Bodhi was meant to be my little enlightened zen dog. Well, I’m not sure if “zen” is a word that anyone who’s met this little dynamo would use to describe him, but he has, in many ways, brought some touch of enlightenment to my life. Through Bodhi, I’ve learned to let go, slow down  and be more present and in the moment. I used to rush when I walked and bolt out the door for work every morning. Bodhi is a sniffer and every blade of grass and every dog he encounters is worthy of a sniff. With him, the world just slows down and I pay attention more to the little things. With Bodhi, I never come home in a bad mood. Any stress or worry I’m carrying around melts away when I open the front door and there is this little guy wagging his tail madly, bouncing up and down, so happy to see me. I’ve learned that dog people are great people. I’ve met so many interesting, kind and generous people at dog parks and on walks. People who love their little furballs are generally good people. Bodhi’s taught me about being a kinder and more open person, to look on the bright side.  To trust more and judge less. Or as the bumper sticker on my car says “Wag more, bark less.”  Bodhi holds no grudges or regrets. For Bodhi, every day is a new day and every walk is a new adventure. Most of all, I’ve learned about the expansiveness of love. Bodhi loves everyone. Well, everyone except postmen, UPS truck drivers and squirrels. I love Bodhi with all my heart. He makes me smile and laugh every day and has brought more joy to my life than I could have ever anticipated. I can’t imagine my life without this fifteen pound fuzz ball and am so glad he came into my life when he did. Bodhi has been my constant companion throughout this adoption process. Going through the adoption process really tests your personal resilience and your willingness to believe. Whether you’re in a couple or single, it’s a tough process, but going through this alone, as a single person, is just particularly hard and can feel terribly lonely, even with my many lovely friends and supporters rooting me on. But having this little guy to cuddle and love and seeing how much he loves me has helped me not feel so alone.  Stepping into the adoption process is a giant leap of faith. You place all your bets on hope and luck and the faith that somewhere out there, there is a child waiting for you. It’s a lot to believe in and hope for but knowing that Bodhi and I found one another just when our time was right, helps me believe that this, too, will work out and that someday Bodhi and I will both have a new baby at home to love.

Check out some of my favorite photos of Bodhi. I’m totally biased, of course, but I think he’s just the cutest dog ever!

 

 

Openness and vulnerability

IMG_3322It’s funny how sometimes the universe speaks to you in mysterious ways. Yesterday, I had two unexpected experiences where I feel like I really learned something about the value of openness and vulnerability.

For the first incident, it was the end of my day and I was chatting on the phone with a work colleague who I know fairly well and consider a friendly acquaintance. I hadn’t seen her in quite a while and we were catching up, mostly about work related things, with a bit of professional gossip thrown in. We were checking in a bit on how we were doing work-wise and personally, but I hadn’t intended to tell her about my adoption plans. My adoption journey is something that I haven’t shared with many people in my professional life. I’ve kept this part of my life private, sharing it selectively. It’s not at all about shame or fear or worry about potential repercussions for my career, but more just because I am naturally a very private person.  Key people at work are in the know about my adoption plans and they are very supportive, but I try hard to keep my private life separate from my professional. It’s a level of balance that works for me. So back to the conversation with this work friend, from catching up about professional stuff and changes in her work life, we drifted into the realm of more personal and then there came a moment where it just seemed right to open up about my adoption plans. She herself adopted her son and is a single Mom, so I think that had something to do with it. I’ve also been recently feeling more and more stressed and anxious about being in this “waiting limbo” and somehow, I think I just needed to unload with someone who would understand, where I could be vulnerable and open up. We ended up talking for ages. The office cleared out, lights went dark  and there we were still talking and soon I was crying on the phone—and somehow this was a much needed catharsis for the stress that I had been carrying around. It was a really good conversation, uplifting and reassuring when I needed it.We talked about adoption and being a single Mom, about the parts that are hard and the parts that open your heart. And remarkably this letting go, opening up and being vulnerable when I didn’t expect it or plan it, managed to put me more at ease than I’ve felt in a long while.

The second experience happened right after, on my way home. I was waiting for my train and was scrolling through Facebook and my eye caught on a post from a friend that mentioned adoption. I’m not sure why this friend posted about adoption. I don’t know whether there’s a personal connection but she’s a pretty prolific poster about all sorts of things.  The post was titled “Shame is sticky“and was from a blog written by a woman named Marci Glass. In it Marci tells her her adoption story–having been placed for adoption as child 48 years ago, finding and trying to reconnect with her birthmother but being rebuffed, and now trying to come to terms with the situation that her birthmother does not want to reconnect.

I found myself just so struck and moved by Marci’s blog post, this random post that popped up on Facebook page on a night I was feeling vulnerable and open. She writes so honestly about her longing and sadness, and hers is a moving and heart-breaking story. She makes very clear that the heartbreak she feels is not because of the adoption which she respects and expresses gratitude for, but rather the heartbreak comes from the loss and shame that she feels in her mother’s decision not to be open to meeting her. She writes:

I completely support her decision in 1968 to place me for adoption. I am, quite literally, the woman I am today because of that decision, and I am so grateful she gave me life and gave me up…I am quite certain that shame is at the root of why she won’t meet me now…for my birthmother, shame appears to have silenced her and is keeping her from speaking to me and speaking to her family about me. As I am navigating the discovery of my own story, I’m learning how “sticky” shame is in my life. I do not feel shame about being adopted. It’s been a gift in my life. I do not feel shame for having been born. Yet as I navigate the places her shame requests my silence, I feel her shame trying to cloud over my life too, making me feel that I can’t claim my story, trying to keep me from asking questions, meeting my family, etc.

In what she writes, you could really feel the hurt child, even now, so many decades on. And It really reinforced for me what it feels like not only for the child who is adopted but for the adult that child becomes.  It made me think again about what I would want for my own child, what I would want them to be able to know about where they came from and how I would want them to feel good about themselves and their story, the history I would want them to have access to and the family they are always going to be part of in some way. Her story became even more poignant when I learned, scrolling through her blog to an earlier post (a post about her conflicted views on Mothers Day) that not only was she adopted, but she also placed a son for adoption when she was a college student. She talks about her relationship with her first born son (whom she placed in an open adoption and has remained in contact with) and writes about him with such obvious pride and love. She tells us that she later married and had two more sons, who also have been able to get to know first born son. She talks about how placing her first son for adoption — a decision she does not regret— has made her a better, more devoted mother to her other sons. And so, she really lives both sides—as a child who was adopted and a mother who placed her child for adoption.

After reading Marci’s story and her experiences, from both sides, it made me even more committed to wanting to insure that my child  will have the opportunity and the gift of knowing his/her family history and birthparents. I know you can’t always control what happens but it made me even more committed to doing my part to approach our mutual adoption story with openness. Reading Marci’s story and  feeling vicariously, through her, her birthmother’s shame also made me even more sympathetic to how hard all this is for the mothers who give birth and place their children for adoption. I’m really grateful to have stumbled on her blog (thanks, Universe and Facebook!) and Marci’s story. I hope you too have a chance to read her blog. Her openness and her willingness to be so honest, vulnerable and open in putting this all out there has been a real gift of insight for me—here from a stranger who whose post randomly wound up in my Facebook feed.

 

Books, wisdom and friends

H is for HawkI love reading and books. My house is full of books and I love having them around me. I love the physical and tactile aspects of books, the look and feel of the cover, flipping pages, underlining and dog-earing sections that I want to return to. I’ve tried but am just not a Kindle gal, despite all the ease and convenience. My bliss is an afternoon in a bookstore and I have more books in my “to read”pile by my bedside than seems safe here in earthquake country. But if someone finds me buried beneath a big pile of books, at least they will know that  I went down entertained and content. One of the the gems of every month is my third Tuesday dinner with my book group. I feel so lucky to have landed in this great group of women book lovers and look forward to our dinners each month. We hit our three year anniversary for the group this month and have shared so many amazing books. Books aside, this group, these women, have been such a treasure in my life. We usually start each dinner with wine and cheese and chatter, about whatever is going on in our lives, sharing in the ups and downs of life, from kids and spouses, work and travel, to the inevitable losses and grieving that comes with lives lived and loved. They’ve been a big support for me during this adoption journey and I’m so, so appreciative of all of them. Thank you, ladies!

But back to the book, this month we read “H is for Hawk” by Helen MacDonald. “H” is memoir, about how the author, when confronted with the sudden death of her father, decides, in her grief, to take on the training of a goshawk. Although she’s an expert falconer, the goshawk, is one of the most difficult and fierce hawks to train. She pitches herself into the challenge, and taming the hawk became a metaphor for taming her grief about losing her father. In between, she delves into the history of falconry and side-winds  into the literature and life of TH White, the author of “The Once and Future King,” imagineeer of Merlin and the stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Its a beautiful and multilayered book. I liked the book OK after reading it but loved it after our discussion. Having been through grief and loss and in some ways, still feeling raw from the experience, there is an aspect of the wildness and isolation that the author went through that I can so relate to…even if I can’t imagine training a hawk. Yet what I find so magical about our group is that I appreciated the book so much more after our discussion, especially from the perspective of the writing and narrative style. In fact, I came home and re-read parts to take it in again. There is a particular paragraph in “H is for Hawk” that so resonated with my own experiences about loss and moving on:

There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes  a day when you realise that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing of many holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are.

So well said. I think of my own life and moving forward from loss and lines like this offer some comfort and understanding of loss and grief as a universal experience that we all go through. Even this adoption process has that tinge of loss attached to it. There is, of course, the bright possibility of this new life, this new person and all that they will become. Of a new family and a new life together. But this all exists too in the shadow of a very real loss, for the birthmother of course but also for those of us hoping to adopt. We feel this too. How can you not, as a parent-to-be of an adoptive child not feel this loss too. It’s a loss they and I will live with and move on from for the rest of our lives.  I think so much about what making this decision must be like for a birthmother. I can’t truly imagine it let alone truly understand what this experience is like. It is not my life after all. But I do so appreciate that what will be my happiest day, will be a day of tremendous loss for another woman, another woman who will love my child as much as I do. I think about this often, in fact, and am so awed by the courage and grace that it takes to make this kind of decision.

 

 

 

 

Happy new year!

redwoods muir woodsHappy new year everyone! It seems that planning for New Year’s Eve always loom so large —-what to do, who to do it with. Staying in seems boring but going out on the town is such an effort. I can count on one hand the number of truly exciting New Year’s eves in my life and yet, somehow many of us hold ourselves to this impossible standard of “having plans” for the big night. I took this past week off from work and had lots of fun things on my list but since I’ve been recovering from a Christmas cold (thanks, Otto!), I ended up mostly laying low this week, catching up on sleep, reading and TV (Homeland! Was that a great season or what!). This turns out to be exactly what I needed. So, New Year’s this year was also purposefully (and perfectly) low key. I started New Year’s eve day with a walk in the redwoods at Muir Woods with my friend Sophia. Somehow, I have never been and it’s been on my “Bay Area must see” list. Such a majestic and beautiful place. It’s awe inspiring and humbling to think about these trees having  been here for thousands of years. And somehow equally amazing to think that this beautiful ancient forest is just minutes from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco. I feel such luck and gratitude to be able to live in such a special part of the world. New Year’s eve I spent with my friends Victoria and Luis and two of my favorite tots, Eleanor and Sebastian for an early new year’s eve dinner and toast “Falkland Island’s style”— I’ll bet you didn’t know that the Falkland Islands celebrate their NY’s Eve at 7pm our time! New Year’s day I went to a New Year’s meditation retreat Spirit Rock Meditation Center. It was a perfect way to start the year, with clarity of mind and intention. I’ve been thinking a lot about new year’s resolutions. Front and center of my mind is becoming a Mom. Above all. I want so much for 2016 to be the year that I become a Mom, but I also know (and largely accept) that I have very little control over this and it’s not ideal to frame a resolution around something I can only partially control. Might as well resolve for world peace, in that case. So, my best alternative resolution this year is to commit to living life openly and fully. I will ‘say yes’ where before I might have waffled or declined. I will look for ways to open myself up to new experiences, and I will look forward to this adoption journey, wherever it takes me. Happy New Year’s everyone! I hope this is a great year for you.

Waiting is the hardest part

WaitingBeing  in waiting limbo is just hard. The first parts of the adoption process involve this huge amount of activity and time. There are a crazy numbers of forms, classes, meetings with counselors, organizing of photos, writing of profiles, writing the Adoption Letter, preparing for the home study, books to read, putting together of websites and online profiles. And this is just after you’ve decided on an adoption strategy. Its a big decision and takes a lot of time to settle on the right adoption path–Foster adoption vs agency. Domestic vs international. Lawyer or no lawyer. For me, these practical decisions came to after years of personal soul searching and thinking and research, so it was a surprise to me how much time and effort the application process took. After all this activity, its kind of shocking to the system to suddenly be done with all the preparations, to have your profile be “live” as they say and to be faced by the silence of waiting. It’s like walking out of a bustling party into a silent room. At first there’s a breath of relief, to be alone and quiet, but then soon the thoughts turn to “where is everybody?” “Why am I not getting any emails or phone calls.” Even tougher is that its a weird kind of waiting. It’s not an anticipatory waiting where you can count down the days on the calendar and there aren’t any signs of anything happening, no pregnancy belly to show that something is happening. Its not clear when the call will come, or even whether it will ever come. It could be today, or tomorrow or next week or next year or the year after. It’s a particularly hard limbo to be in. Of course, everyone warns you about this when you embark on the adoption process. Yet, somehow, despite all the warnings and discussions about the waiting process during the adoption classes, I didn’t anticipate that waiting would be so hard for me. I’m actually a pretty patient person, and my life is very full. It’s not that I had an absence of activities to keep me busy. And truth be told, I was glad to be getting beyond all the forms and applications and find some time to get back to other parts of my life, like seeing friends, taking a vacation, getting back to hobbies that had been relegated to the sidelines during the adoption application process. But even still, for a person with a busy life, the waiting is hard, really hard.

“You take it on faith, you take it to the heart. The waiting is the hardest part”  –Tom Petty

There are moments of intense doubt and regret, about whether this will work out for me, whether I waited too long, whether anyone would choose me. Weirdly enough even in the waiting space and despite the endless preparations, thoughts of “am I ready” creep in. Early on in the waiting process, I was worried about ever being away from the phone or my email, because I didn’t want to miss a call from the agency. Any unknown number that popped up on the phone causes a skip in my heartbeat—“maybe this is the call.” I put off planning vacations for fear of being away or having to cancel. Looking forward and making plans or commitments for the future, for anything beyond a few weeks, feels harder than it should. Friends kindly ask about how the adoption process is going and whether there’s any news and all you can say is “just waiting.” Even with friends there to cheer you on, its a really lonely kind of waiting. And then, as with so many things, you get used to it, and the waiting limbo somehow becomes the new normal. This settling in phase, too, has an ominous edge. “I’m kind of getting used to this.” I worry that slipping into “getting used to it” might slip further into “maybe this won’t ever happen” and then “maybe I’ll be OK if this never happens.” I’m most scared of that. Your mind is meant to adapt to life as it flows and to be resilient and move on from disappointment when it happens but when does resilience mean giving up? These are the thoughts that spiral through your head while you’re in waiting limbo. My agency has been good about preparing us for this. There are support groups to connect with and lists of things to do (and not to do) while waiting. The strategy that I’ve settled into is some combination of busyness and mindfulness. Having lots to do keeps my mind focused on activities other than waiting helps. Starting this blog and updating my adoption site feels like I’m doing all I can do help the stars align. My work keeps me busy of course. I’ve been working on some house renovations and “nesting” fix-ups. This coming year, I’ve decided to plan a bigger “bucket list” vacation. I’ll buy trip insurance and if I have to cancel, I will. A  number of years ago I started meditating and took up a mindfulness practice. It’s no understatement to say that this has in so many ways changed the way I approach life. I’ve found the principles of mindfulness really helpful for not only tolerating but even embracing this waiting period. Mindfulness is about being with each moment for what it is, about learning to accept things for what they are , not for what they once were or what they might become. It’s about letting go of one’s own control of the future. For a lifelong type A,-very independent and productivity oriented person, learning to be able to say “however this works out is OK” and mean it has been a big, big deal.  I emphasis the “learning to” because I am still learning and practicing this mindset. They don’t call it “mindfulness practice” for nothing. I am learning to sit with the feelings of impatience, anxiety and worry of not knowing, and let go of the desire to be in control.  I’m even learning to enjoy the spaciousness of the now and the liberation of not needing to control or even know how things will turn out. Accepting the unknown is a big part of mindfulness and its certainly been helpful for me in living the adoption process. I’m trying to be more open to letting life unfold as it will, knowing that I do have the strength within me to deal with whatever curve balls do come my way. I do have faith that there is a child out there for me, and I know that however things happen, whenever things happen, it will all be OK.