All I Wanted for Christmas

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There are certain things that really make me reflect on the blessing of Rosemarie.  Things that make me stop, think, and remember how much we wished for her and how amazing it was to find her.  Christmas is one of those things.

I suppose it’s because the season itself is all about counting your blessings and embracing your family.  Maybe it’s the fact that Christmas is so much about children:  buying their presents, planning their outfits, watching their eyes light up at the sight of Santa Claus with his snow white beard and shiny, velvet suit.  Whatever it is, this Christmas I thought a lot about the Christmases before Rosemarie.  Anthony and I were lucky to have found Rosemarie fairly quickly in adoption terms, but regardless of that, it wasn’t easy waiting for her.  And Christmas was always particularly difficult.

In 2009, there was a Kay Jewelers Christmas commercial that really got my attention.  I know.  Kay commercials are the worst.  Between the super cheesy lines and the extreme overacting, I usually laugh through them as I’m sure most of you do as well.  But this commercial was different.

A young mother sits in what I think is a rocking chair, her newborn baby in her cradle of arms. Her husband soon enters and bends down to light the Christmas tree.  When she chuckles at him commenting that it’s only two o’clock in the morning, he smiles and whispers “It’s our first Christmas as a family.”

Okay, so it’s definitely cheesy.  I’m sure many people would make fun of it as I do many of the others, but in December of 2009, Anthony and I were still working on starting our family; we were attempting to have a baby via surrogacy.  I remember watching the happy family of three and wishing and praying that would be us the following year.  Unfortunately, on Christmas Eve we received the negative results of our embryo transfer; our surrogate was not pregnant.  Since we had no frozen embryos and my next open heart surgery was looming a few months ahead, the future of our family was unknown.

So the commercial just grabbed me.  I would watch it quietly and wish that somehow, some way we would still have our family by Christmas of 2010.

In the spring of 2010, we began our adoption journey.  As I’ve discussed in other posts, we had several ups and downs, maybes and almosts, just as any couple hoping to adopt does.  By Christmas, my two best friends had welcomed baby girls, my sister was seven months pregnant, and Anthony and I were still waiting.  And there was that commercial again.  That happy couple with their brand new bundle, their twinkly Christmas lights, and their happy hearts. I cried every time I saw it.  We made the best of the holidays, of course, because we were still lucky people; we had each other, wonderful families, and a beautiful home.  But secretly my heart sank every time I saw that commercial or a Baby’s First Christmas ornament, or a rocking horse under a tree.

And, of course, there was that song, “All I Want for Christmas.” No, not Mariah Carey’s (although those lyrics fit as well), but the much less popular song by Vince Vance and the Valients released five years before Carey’s:

You are the angel atop my tree
You are my dream come true
Santa can’t bring me what I need
Cause all I want for Christmas is you

That’s the chorus of the song and it became my Christmas anthem.  I would find the video on YouTube, press play, and sing it like a prayer, my eyes shut in concentration, envisioning the baby I would finally call my own.

I’m writing this post because I know there are many other couples who spent this Christmas wishing for their families of three (or more) as well. I know there are so many women who struggle with getting pregnant, women who hold their breath while they wait for the positive or negative sign to appear, women whose bellies are bruised from the daily pricks of needles, whose backs ache as they try to lay perfectly still for 36 hours so as not to disrupt the pregnancy they hope is blooming inside them.

There are couples who have spoken to and gotten to know several women, trying to choose the best one to carry all their hopes and dreams in her womb.  There are those who have plastered their ads and pictures all over the internet and in newspapers throughout the country waiting for the call that will change their lives.  And there are hopeful parents who have sent their dossiers, which took months to complete, to a foreign country, a country in which they know their future child awaits them.

I also know that some of those people will probably not want to read this post.  I know while I waited, I didn’t care much for others’ success stories; for me, they were discouraging rather than encouraging.  But I also know there are others who are comforted by the happy stories of people like them.  So to those readers, I say that your wish will come true.  However it will happen, your baby is coming.

Last year, Anthony and I did have our first Christmas as a family. First, we celebrated in Disney with our extended family.  On Christmas morning, we sat around our tree opening Rosie’s gifts. In her card, we wrote “You are the angel atop our tree.  You are our dream come true.  Santa doesn’t need to bring a thing.  ‘Cause all we need for Christmas is you.”  We have about five First Christmas ornaments hanging on our tree and this year, Rosemarie received a rocking horse as well.

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For all those women and men who are still waiting, whose smiles and laughs were just a little bit forced this Christmas, your dream is going to come true as well.  I know I sound as cheesy as a Kay commercial right now, but it’s true.  Hold on and keep faith, your Christmas angel is on her way.

 

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The Little Things

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The massacre that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday morning was so unbelievably horrifying, so overwhelmingly terrible, that part of me feels I should not write about it, that it is just not my place to speak about this tragedy.  A stronger part of me, though, feels that it would be wrong to write about anything else.

When I think about the women and small, so very small, children who were murdered and the families who were left behind to bear such an insurmountable loss, the same thought keeps entering my mind:  the little things.

My father was killed on 9/11 and while I will not minimize the enormity of the loss of my father and the pain caused by the way he died, I also do not want to imply that I think I understand the grief of parents who are burying their babies a week before Christmas.  When my father died, though, I remember how much the little things that reminded me of him hurt.  I remember how the bottles of Yoo-hoo in a deli refrigerator made my heart ache.  How the theme song to Jeopardy brought me to tears.  How the sight of a man with salt-and-pepper hair turned my stomach to knots.

And since I heard the news on Friday, I keep thinking about the victims’ families and all the little things that must be breaking their hearts.

In a photo of Madeleine F. Hsu, 6, I noticed the sweet crookedness of her smile.  I imagine her parents seeing that smile when they close their eyes, remembering the way her lip dipped down just a bit on the right.

I read about James Mattioli, 6,  and how he loved to spike his hair with gel.  I picture his father opening the medicine cabinet, catching a glimpse of the bottle of gel and breaking down.

Olivia Engel’s, 6, favorite stuffed animal was a lamb.  I wonder if her mother is sleeping with it at night, pressing it to her cheek as her tears wet its wool.

Oh, the pain these poor people are enduring.

It is the little things that make us happy, but it can also be the little things that devastate us.

I revel in the little things each day I spend with my daughter.  I look at her tiny feet crossed at the ankles while she naps; I watch her while she plays, noticing every detail of her concentrated expression: her eyebrows pressed together, the plumpness of her bottom lip.  I video every favorite little thing she does, the soft “aah” sound she used to make after sneezing, the way she says “Hi” while rotating her chubby hand at the wrist, even the way she chews her food.

How do you go on when these little things are taken away?

I have no answer.  I honestly cannot fathom the anguish of these families.  I only know what I’ve learned so far through my experiences:  no matter how much pain you feel, no matter how much you don’t want life to go on, it does just that.  My heart breaks for these people who must endure as days turn to weeks, then months and years.

As a mother at a time like this, I find myself questioning the purpose of this life.  How can we go on enjoying ourselves and feeling happy when at any moment a monster, flesh and blood or otherwise, can enter our lives and destroy them?

Again, I have no answer.  I can only say, no matter how cliche it sounds, that life isn’t about the future.  It isn’t about what lies ahead.  Because we only know what we have right now, right here, in this moment.  And all we can do is live for that moment and enjoy it while it’s here.  All we can do is relish the little things while we have them, hug our children tight because we can and tell we love them every time we have the chance.

 

 

Details on the victims were found here.


Just the Three of Us?

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Although it may seem hard to believe, I actually have a friend who has congenital heart disease and is also an adoptive mother. We met online in the adoption circuit while we were still waiting to find our babies. Once we met in person, we saw each others’ sternotomy scars (a long vertical line down the front of our chests) and realized we had more in common than our yearning to be adoptive parents.

Over lunch the other day, we spoke about her daughter and Rosemarie. We talked about the food they eat and their napping schedules and soon the conversation turned to the big question that has been taking a stroll in my brain for a while:  Do I want more children?

Before I actually had Rosie, I always thought I’d adopt at least two children.  My plan was to wait a year or so after the arrival of the first baby and then contact my lawyer, start the certification process, and so on and so forth.  Now that I have her, however, my thoughts on the matter have changed. And yet they’ve stayed the same.  In other words, I no longer know the answer to that question.  And there are several factors I need to consider when making this decision.

Family of Four…or More 

Sister, Sister 

I have three sisters. I always considered myself lucky in this regard. Sibling relationships are like no other. My sisters and I have the same foundation. We came from the same place and share the same memories. We woke up in the same house each day; we played Barbies together and the Sweet Valley High board game. Soon, we borrowed each others’ make up and clothes. We cleaned the kitchen together each night singing “Leader of the Pack” and
“Reproduction” from Grease 2.  Eventually, we stood next to each other on the altar as we each got married and then baptized each others’ children.  Today, we are best friends.

How can I deny my daughter of such a relationship? How can I simply decide that she will not experience this in her lifetime?

I know there are plenty of only children who have perfectly happy and wonderful lives, but I also know how great it is to have a sibling. I wouldn’t choose to not have siblings, so how can I choose that for Rosemarie?

Is One a Lonelier Number for Adoptees?

Rosemarie is not biologically linked to anyone in my family. While I hope with all my heart that it doesn’t, I do not know if this will be an emotional issue for her. And I wonder for adopted children, if having an adopted sibling makes this fact easier to accept? Is it helpful for adoptees to have a sibling who is also not biologically linked to their parents? To have someone else with whom they can share this? Does it make a difference?

Will it bother Rosemarie that her cousins (her peers) each share a blood line with her mother or father while she does not?

Please understand, it makes zero difference to me and I can say that without a shred of doubt. But current adoption research asserts that being a successful adoptive parents means recognizing that your children were adopted and paying attention to the thoughts, doubts, and worries they may have related to their adoption. Thus, I need to consider the fact that she was adopted in this decision as well.

 

Family of Three…Forever

If I were being entirely selfish, I would not need to adopt another child. Rosemarie has made us happier than we ever imagined and I can absolutely envision living the rest of my life with a little and lovely family of three. But there are more important reasons why I think it may be wise to keep our family as is.

I Do Not Keep Going and Going

As I’ve discussed in a previous post, my condition affects my stamina. Taking care of a baby is tiring for anyone.  There is a lot of lifting, walking, chasing, and pushing (strollers, not children). For me, it is not entirely overwhelming to do these activities with one child.  But I imagine myself lifting two babies into their car seats inside my truck, changing double the amount of diapers per day, cleaning up after two little mess-makers instead of one, and to be perfectly honest, it seems like a daunting task.  I really don’t know if I will have the energy to take care of two, at least not as well as I’d like to. I certainly don’t want to adopt another child and then realize my children are not getting the care and attention they deserve because of my low stamina.

Of course, I could wait until Rosie is out of diapers and can climb into her car seat herself, but I still want to have energy for her.  I don’t want to be too tired to play catch with her or push her on a swing.  I want to have the energy to do silly dances to her favorite songs and teach her how to bake cookies. I want to watch her in the school play without having my eyes close in the darkness.

I know I am not the only woman who needs to consider her stamina when deciding how many children she will have.  I know it is the same for my friend as well as other moms with heart disease, congenital or not. I imagine it is a concern for women with other health conditions that are not cardiac in nature.  I imagine these women ask themselves the same questions as I.

They say it’s quality not quantity and doesn’t that sort of apply here? Isn’t it better to be an energetic, attentive mother to one child than a tired and drained mother to two?

A Dozen Cousins

Even if Rosie does not have a sister or brother, she has plenty of cousins with whom she will grow up. In addition to my nieces and nephews who are all over nine years old, she has five cousins around her age. My sister’s girls are 3 and 1; the younger one and Rosemarie will be in the same grade in school. My brother-in-law has three-year-old twin girls and a son who will turn one this January.

   

So, it is not as if Rosemarie is the only child in the family. Her holidays, birthdays, and even some vacations are spent with her cousins. Since my sister and I are together at least two or three times a week, she also does every-day activities with her cousins.  Together, they eat meals, take baths, play games, and even go grocery shopping.  Sometimes, they even wear matching outfits as sisters do.

 

If I do not have more children, I will always make a conscious effort to ensure that she continues to spend a good amount of time with her cousins in the future.

 

Clearly, I haven’t made a final decision yet in this matter.  Anthony and I have discussed it many times and we are still pondering the answer.  There are moments when Rosemarie walks over to me smiling, her two tiny white teething peeking up from her bottom lip, and I know I could never need anything to be more content than I am right now.  At other times, I will catch her playing by herself, concentrating deeply on the slinky we won her at the boardwalk, and I suddenly feel guilty at the thought of not giving her a daily playmate with whom she can share her childhood.

Someday, I know this decision will be made.  Perhaps we will make it on our own or maybe life will make it for us.  I suppose I am lucky that I am able to contemplate the decision and that my daughter has made us so happy that we’re just not sure if we want anything to change.

What about you? Are you a young mother with a health condition? How did you decide?

Are you an adoptee? Do you have siblings? Do you think you’d be any happier/less happy if you did?