Monday, September 23, 2013

Babies are people, too.

Many of us are familiar with the all-encompassing urges that our hormones put us through during our reproductive years.  That desire, that urgency to "have a baby".  Come on, you know what I'm talking about.  Grinning stupidly at any baby in your vicinity, glancing fondly at those big beautiful pregnant bellies that just seem to be everywhere during these hormonal times, feeling jealousy when friends or family announce new additions.

I've noticed though, that the urge to have a baby is not always connected to the desire to raise a child.  Sometimes it's just our bodies wanting to do what they're built to do.  Bring new blood to your family, continue the next generation, propagate mankind.  Sometimes we desperately want to get pregnant/have a baby, but aren't really interested in raising any more kids.  That's okay; it's completely normal.

Another observation I've made is that most of the time, parents who do want babies and who do want kids forget that children become adults.  Not logically - logically we all understand that as our bodies and minds age, we become adults and we leave our families of origin and we create a family of our own.  But emotionally, we think only of that baby growing in our womb, of what that newborn will look like, of what color his eyes will be, and maybe about what we'll do for her first birthday party.  At the beginning of childbearing, most people rarely consider further than that, other than to occasionally fantasize about vacations or holidays.  We don't think about what'll happen when our babies turn eighteen or twenty five or forty.

Our babies are real people.  With real, separate, individual personalities.  And if we are fortunate, we will get to raise them and watch them grow.  But we have to realize that some of the choices we made for them when they were small are choices that they will have to live with.  We make choices that affect the rest of their lives, and some choices follow them even past their own lifetimes - the choices we make about our conceptions and pregnancies and babies today can live on for generations and affect our children's children and their kids after that and after that.  It's so important to educate ourselves, and to choose carefully.

Specifically, the biggest decision I feel we made for our E was regarding her biological father; her sperm donor.  The color of his eyes or his hair don't matter to me in the long run - but his openness to a relationship with her meant everything.  We knew from the very earliest stages of preparing for conception that we wanted a donor who was willing to be known to our children, no matter in what capacity.  This was not a decision we took lightly; indeed, we feel like choosing such a donor was the best gift we could give to our daughter, since we couldn't give her both sides of her biology from the two of us.

We felt that this was the only possible decision to make for E.  Yes, we created her life, and yes it was done in an atypical fashion, but it's her life.  I wouldn't want to cut her off at the knees before she's even born - I want her to have every possible option when she's grown.  If she is interested in knowing her donor, then I'll be at her side.  If she doesn't feel the need to find him just yet, I will help her to truly understand what that choice will mean for her but ultimately, I respect whatever decision she makes.

I strive, as E's parent, to consider her as a separate entity from myself or T.  Her feelings are her own, her opinions are her own.  She is an individual and she deserves every ounce of consideration that I can muster.  My biggest hope in this regard is that one day, she will see the lengths we've gone to in order to give her as many choices as we were able to.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I can't wait... or can I?

Yesterday (well, two days ago, since its taken me so long to write this) I was writing in E's journal and was struck by a seemingly innocent idiom that I almost used. I wrote to her about growing up too fast. I remember being told as a child that I was growing up too fast, and I always hated it. I was getting older at exactly the same rate as everyone else, so it really didn't make sense that I was growing up too fast. Now I get it. As a child, or even young adult, everything seemed to be a count down to the next holiday or event. 113 days until Christmas!  Until your birthday! Until the last day of school! As the days get closer, the excitement builds. Months and years just seem too big to worry about, too abstract. I'm not sure when the transition happened, but now days are just too short to count. I count in weeks, or months. Sometimes even years. In 12 years, I will be the parent of a teenager. That's a scary thought... However, nothing seems to show the passage of time like a baby growing into a toddler, into a child, into a... well you get the point. The changes in our daughter over the last 12 months have been monumental.

As I finished writing about time slipping through our fingers, I started to close the journal entry. I told her how great the last year has been and then stopped myself before writing what I have seen written so many times before (and we even wrote on the slideshow!): "I can't wait to see what the next year brings." Yes, I am looking forward to getting to know my daughter as a toddler, but that doesn't mean I'm ready to be done with her babyhood. If I feel like she's growing up "too fast," then I need to stop focusing on what's next and enjoy what is RIGHT NOW!

For E's birthday party we chose a luau theme. In Hawai'i it is customary to throw luau for a child's first birthday, as much for the parent's survival and the kids! I have a co-worker from Hawai'i who said it is the biggest birthday party you every have, and you don't even remember it. We thought this was a great idea, but decided not to embrace the HUGE party idea, it would just be too much work and too overwhelming for a one year old. We stuck to just family and that was quite enough excitement!
Sharing her cupcake!


A and her mom

What luau is complete without a grass skirt!?

E with her Poppa

Sitting on her new reading chair playing with her favorite toy- the bow!

I have spent a lot of time over the last few days remembering what we were doing exactly a year ago.  It was interesting to be able to put actual times to things.  As time has gone by, my body has forgotten just how miserable I was the last few weeks of being pregnant. It has forgotten how hard labor was.  I find myself thinking about our next child in terms of ME being pregnant, even though that's not the plan.  For some reason, this weekend I had a much easier time remembering what it felt like and why I was glad it is A's turn next. 

It's interesting switching gears to being the non-gestational parent, even in this early planning stage.  There's a certain invisibility that I'm simultaneously sad and excited about.  On one hand, there was a certain level of camaraderie with other pregnant women, and it made small talk a little easier.  But there was a point where I got tired of correcting people when they asked about my husband. And awkward moments that followed. Although with further thought, people will probably be more likely to ask questions when they find out I'm on maternity leave but wasn't pregnant. I guess you never really finish coming out; it's not a singular event.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

One Year

I believed that nothing showed the passage of time more acutely than a pregnancy.  Then our daughter was born, and I learned the truth - NOTHING shows the passage of time more acutely than a baby's first year.

It's been said before, and it'll be said again, but I am in a constant state of disbelief that E is a year old, but also that she's ONLY a year old.  I feel like she has been a part of us for as long as I can remember.  And in many ways, she has.

In 2005, I met and fell madly in love with T.
In 2008, we set ourselves a five-year timeframe for having our first child.  A few months later, we got married.
In 2009, we bought our home.  Though we didn't know it at the time, this would be our last year as a childless couple (though our "accident" baby, a colt named Remi, was born this year!).
In 2010, we became a licensed foster home, and over the span of 2 years cared for three children.
In 2011, during our final foster care placement, we decided that having our own children couldn't possibly be as difficult and heartwrenching as having foster children.  We started trying to get T pregnant that summer, and E was conceived in December, days before our foster children went home to their birthmother.
In 2012, our charming daughter was born.  We had a year to spare before our pre-determined five year timeframe elapsed!

Before I even met T, I'd dreamed about having children.  I'd known that I wanted kids since I was a kid, myself.  I wondered who they would be, what they would look like, how many I would have.  I envisioned all the things I would teach them, and wondered what they would teach me.  I daydreamed about taking them on vacations and letting them wake me on Christmas morning.

I didn't always know that my first daughter wouldn't be born of my genes, or of my body.  Once it was obvious this was to be the case, I allowed myself a period of acknowledging a sense of loss, of sadness that I wasn't going to experience pregnancy the way I'd originally wanted.  I had baby fever for years prior to E's conception, so convincing my hormones to wait for my own pregnancy has been a difficult road at times.  However, I wouldn't change anything, even if I could.

I loved every moment (okay, MOST moments) of T's pregnancy.  I experienced it in a secondhand way, a way that I believe has made me more appreciative of my relationship and of our child.  I felt privileged to be able to care for T and ease any amount of her anxiety or discomfort that I could.  I felt intensely protective in a way I had never before - I still feel that way.

And now here we are, a year of E's presence on Earth!  365 rotations.  1 revolution around the sun.  T's pregnancy already feels far away, and our baby is a bonafide kid.

In the last year, I've learned a little something about the depth of love - and how it doesn't have a measurable depth, after all.  I've learned a lot about mothering, but also about being mothered.  I've learned more about my own parents in the last year than ever - my biggest realization is that there was so much about them that I didn't already know.  I wonder how much more they have to teach me.  I wonder how much more I don't know.

And so, here's to you EJ:
You came into this world on your own terms, in your own time.  You blew all our expectations out of the water from the first moment we set eyes on your tiny face.
You have taught us about love and patience.  You've taught us about the magical value of seeing the world through eyes that are experiencing everything for the first time.
You are opinionated, kind, gentle, sweet, sensitive, and hilarious.  You're so clever, it's amazing.
You love food!  Especially risotto with peas. Actually, anything with peas.  You enjoy enchiladas, steak, baked sweet potatoes, blackberries, bananas, blueberries, oranges and lemons, and (admittedly) chocolate ice cream.  You're pretty game to try anything, but if you don't like it you don't hesitate to make that known.
You are a chatty little thing.  Dancing is one of your very favorite activities - I hope it's not terribly embarrassing to you as you get older that neither of your moms can dance at all.  You are a masterful crawler, and you enjoy pulling yourself up to stand and then letting go.  Sometimes, you're a bit of a daredevil, and sometimes you have a flair for the dramatic.
Your once-tiny body used to curl into the crook of my arm, now your lanky limbs spill out of my arms as I carry your sleeping form to bed.
Being your Mama is an incredible honor and I fall in love with you all over again every day.  Watching you grow and learn and change has been so much fun - and I look forward to all the future brings us.
This year has been the most amazing year I've ever lived.

Happy Birthday, wonderful child.

And I want to wish my amazing wife a happy birthing day, as well.  One year ago exactly, she was in labor in our living room.  I had woken my parents in the middle of the night and they'd driven the two hours to us - all of us thinking that the baby would be arriving soon.  Little did we all know that we'd have quite the wait in front of us, and T would have a lot of hard work to get through before E could make her grand entrance at 7:37pm.  You were a warrior; you were nothing short of phenomenal.  I am thankful for you.  Thankful for being able to watch your body do one of the most awesome things a body can do.  Thankful to know this child, who is of your genes, and is of your body.  Without you, there would be no E.  I love you.