Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stories by Anna

Anna told JohnAndrew a few stories...

One aponce* a time, there was a cat who went in the street. Then a car came and runned over the cat.
That's all.

One aponce a time, there was a princess in the castle. Then a monster came into the castle. He stealed the princess and put her in jail. And then he left. 
That's all.

*Anna says "one aponce" instead of "once upon."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thoughts on First Parents: A Confused Jumble

First Parents. Birth parents. Biological parents. Until you've been touched by adoption, these terms have probably not been a part of your vocabulary. But as an adoptive family, these are terms we use at our house.

I've always had the highest regard and deepest sympathy for Anna's birthmother. Meeting A was one of the defining moments of my life. And when Anna recently asked how long it would be until she could go back to Ethiopia and hug her birthmother, I promised that it would be soon. Because I want to hug that lady every day. I still cannot imagine how desperate she must have felt to make the decision to place her child for adoption, never knowing if she would see her sweet daughter ever again. And I cannot fathom how she found the strength to say goodbye to her daughter for what she believed the very last time in her life. But I respect her, and cherish her, and love her.

But the term "first" or "birth" or "biological" parent is not just used for my Ethiopian child.

My entire view of birth parents changed when I realized that my eldest child was going to be legally relinquished by her biological father. This wasn't just some guy- I mean, we were married. I took his name. We had plans for our future, for our family. For a time, when I thought the word "family," I pictured him and Abigail, and me.

And yet, he decided that he couldn't do it. He couldn't be married. And, after a few years, he decided he wasn't going to be an involved dad. And a few years after that, he decided not to be a dad at all.

The man who rocked all 6 pounds and 10 ounces of newborn baby Abigail in the hospital rocking chair, who got up with her when she was sick after getting her 6 month shots, who held her hands as she toddled her first tentative steps across the kitchen floor... decided not to be her dad anymore.

(Let me just say that I am not judging him or his decision, nor am I saying that I think it was not the right decision.)

I was shocked. I am still shocked. Because there is no way I could fathom simply deciding one day to no longer be my children's mother. Sure, I could fathom a situation where, out of desperation and fear, I made a plan for my children to be temporarily placed into another person's care.... but short of the most awful, unthinkable circumstances, I couldn't do it. And yet, it seemed to be almost easy for him.

What do you say, then, to your child about the man who decided not to be her father anymore?

She knows him. She remembers him. She remembers the times they spent together, the conversations they had. And she knows enough to know that he is legally no longer her father... even though she still has his dimple in her cheek and his gap between her front teeth. He is a part of her, not just through the chromosomes that he contributed to her DNA, but through her life experiences, her memories, and truly, through her dreams.

And then, what of Anna's biological father? While I see her mother in her, A told me Anna looks like her father. I know nothing of him, just a few sad things A said about him. And yet, he is still a part of Anna's story... of her life.

And what, then, of the first parents who were abusive or neglectful of their children? Those that sold their children as slaves, or worse?

There are a lot of voices out there in blogland, willing to tell you, an adoptive parent, how to address the firstparents in your life. I confess, at times, I may have fallen into that category. But I think the truth is, every child is unique and every story is unique. And every firstparent had thoughts and motivations that we can never truly know or understand.

When my first husband and I divorced, we agreed that we would never speak negatively of each other in front of Abigail. This has meant that as she has grown, she has asked questions to which I have responded with very vague generalizations, or the simple fact of "I don't know" or "I don't understand, either." Because I think I know a lot of his reasons and motivations... but the truth is, I don't.

My girls deserve the truth. Even though I would like to shelter them and keep them from all forms of hurt and rejection, the choices of their birthfathers are a part of their story. And no matter how you frame it, it comes down to the fact that there was choice involved. Not death or disease to which these men were a hopeless pawn, but choice.

But the is choice in other parts of their stories. The choice of Anna's birthmother to do what she believed was best for her daughter, not just what felt right or what she wanted. The choice of sweet A to love, to release. The choice of life instead of death- of hope instead of despair. Little Anna, what a choice.

And Abigail. Your momma, too, sweet girl. There was a choice there. And the simple choice to love, precious one, opened my heart. My eldest, my firstborn... without you, there would be no Anna or JohnAndrew. Without you, there would be so much less in my life.

So where does that leave us? First parents, birth parents, biological parents? How do we talk about those who were before us?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pregnancy Journal, take 2

This is the journal I kept during the first 11.5 weeks of this pregnancy, while it was still not common knowledge that we were expecting. An insight into my mind, if you will:) Read at your own risk!

So, I'm pregnant. Again.


We saw the doctor today, and I am left with more questions than answers. But let me start at the beginning.

My monthly cycle returned when the baby was only 10 weeks old. That whole bit about breastfeeding suppressing fertility? Yeah, not so much. So, my cycle had come again February 12 (typical 4ish week/28 day cycle.) By March 19, I was concerned that it had not come yet, and took a pregnancy test. It was negative. I figured that maybe all the stress of the accident or the impending moving or whatnot was making me irregular, so I didn't worry too much. But another 8 days went by, and still nothing. So on Sunday, March 27, I took another test. It was positive. No matter how many times I looked at it (and I kept finding myself going into my bedroom to re-check, like maybe I had imagined it) it was still positive. I told John when he got home from work, and he was pretty shocked, too. He kept turning the test upside-down, as if that might give him some insight into how this happened... (not that he didn't know how this happened.)

I called to make an appointment with my doctor; I have no clue what my cycle was doing. Was I really 6 weeks along, as would be expected by the timing of my last cycle? It would be strange to be that far along and not have my infamous morning sickness or the exhaustion of early pregnancy that was common with JohnAndrew, not to mention have that negative test on the 19th. But if not 6 weeks along, how far was I? No. Clue.

After the shock wore off, John and I started getting excited. We had a girl name in reserve, and we started talking about a boy name (pretty sure we have one picked out already.) We thought about how great it would be for JohnAndrew to have a sibling close in age to him. We decided that 2 in diapers would not be fun;)

Thursday, March 31, 2011: I saw my doctor. My progesterone was 22.5, and my hCG was 596. With my last pregnancy hormone levels, that would be consistent with about 4 weeks, 4 days. We didn't see anything on ultrasound, either, so that was consistent with very early stage. We did basically rule out ectopic pregnancy (not that there was high concern for that, but give the date of my last cycle, there was some question if I could possibly be farther along but ectopic.) Everything looked good, and we decided to re-check the progesterone when I come back in a week for another staging ultrasound (generally, your hcg has to be greater than 1500 to see anything on ultrasound. Since hcg double about every 48 hours in early pregnancy, that would be by Monday.  But honestly, going straight to once a week monitoring is fine with me- I don't really have the energy to be dragging 2-3 kids off to a transvaginal ultrasound several times a week at 8 am. (And boy, oh boy, you should have heard Anna with the "what are they doing with that thing? Where is it going?" questions.) My doctor did ask "well, how did this happen?" and I responded, "you know, we are still newlyweds. We've only been married 15 months!" She replied "I'm not sure how much longer we can accept that explanation." And she has a point. Even though we are newlyweds, we do have 3 children!

Interestingly, at this time last year, I was about 9 weeks along, and the cat was out of the bag at work. Morning sickness was in full swing.

Well, you know, interesting, or something.

Saturday, April 2, 2011: I have come to the realization that if God has chosen to knit a baby together in my womb, who am I to do anything other than wonder and rejoice at His creative power? What a gift. What an honor. What a responsibility. What a way to take the whole "should we, shouldn't we?" question away and make it clear that God has chosen this for us. I think the reason we were so on the fence about choosing a form of contraception (and probably why, for the life of me, I couldn't figure out my cycle with charting/OPKs) was that God had another plan. And what a precious plan this little one already is. I am realizing that while having 2 children so close in age was not at all what I would have planned, I think it will be great for my kids. I think JohnAndrew will be happy to have a sibling so close in age, especially since his 2 older sisters are A) much older and B) little mommies. I do worry that I will miss out on the babyhood/toddlerhood of JohnAndrew because I will be busy caring for the new little one (and really, age 12 months to 2 years is one of my most favorite stages so far!) But I have to believe that God knows what He is doing.

I hope it's a boy. And I am pretty sure I have a name picked out:) I think John and I are pretty much in agreement, too. Just going back and forth a bit on the middle name. Fun, fun, fun!

On the other hand, this might impact some of the plans we had made. For instance, we are supposed to go to India in August. We go to the international travel clinic on Monday; if I can't get all the vaccines because I am pregnant, then I simply can't go. Some trips in September (for a wedding and later a conference, both in Chicago) are up in the air, although we do have the option of a train if I am not supposed to be flying. So, I am eager to see what the future holds. I can't wait until Thursday! (This time last year, I was 9w 6d. We had already told our parents, and were looking forward to telling John's sister and grandparents.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011: Another early morning doctor's visit. We saw the gestational sac and a bit of a yolk sac, but no fetal pole. This is conducive with 5 to 5.5 weeks gestation. We will go back in 2 weeks (April 20) for another ultrasound, at which we should be able to see the heartbeat and measure a crown-rump length for accurate dating (and get an "official" due date! Although, by my calculations, the baby would be due towards the end of November or early December... if I go at 38 weeks like I did with JAWS, the babies could be almost exactly 13 months apart!)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011: Today, Anna and Abigail were at before-school care/pre-school, so it was just John, JohnAndrew, and I at our early morning appointment. I figured, based on the return of the all-day morning sickness and the exhaustion, oh, the exhaustion! that things would be looking good. And good they were! We saw our little baby, just a collection of pixels on the screen, with a few blinking at the top. Baby's heart rate was a healthy 152 bpm. And those pixels were measuring 12mm (about half an inch) long. According to the doctor, that was consistent with 7 weeks 5 days... meaning that I would be 8 weeks on Friday. And we finally got a due date! Friday, December 2, 2011!

Of course, I don't expect to go that long. Abigail was induced at 37 weeks for complications, and JohnAndrew busted his way out at 38 weeks, 1 day. If this baby comes at 38 weeks, my babies will be 13 months and 1 day apart. Much later than that and we run the risk of baby arriving on Abigail's birthday (November 23) or Thanksgiving (November 24th this year.) The nice thing is, if Baby arrives before Thanksgiving, family that might not normally have a chance to see him right away will probably get to come down to Mississippi over Thanksgiving to see him while he is still "new." (I guess I am really hoping for a boy, considering I just wrote this whole paragraph referring to a boy baby without even thinking about it!:)

I've been enjoying JohnAndrew so much recently. Not to say that the cuddly first weeks are not wonderful, because they are. But there is something about being at a point where I am getting enough sleep (even though sometimes, because of the new baby, it doesn't feel that way) and he is on a great schedule, and I can really just enjoy him. He is so fun- really starting to explore his world. Not a sound can be made without him trying to identify it. Everything goes into the mouth. He sits. He rolls over. He plays by himself and is surprised by what he can do. And when we play Peek-a-Boo he just laughs!

This time next year I will have a 9.5 year old, a 5 year old, an 18 month old, and a 5 month old. And I will be gearing up for a trip to Disney World.

This is why Grandma's exist, I think.

Although, there have been moments that have been really hard. The hormones from this new baby have totally messed with my milk supply. I did everything- gallons of fluids every day, pumping every 2-3 hours around the clock, supplements.... and still not getting near enough to fill poor JohnAndrew's belly. Once we started supplementing him, he lost interest in nursing, and my milk supply plummeted even more. So we decided to wean. My OB reminded me that it's possible that the very reason I don't need progesterone supplementation this time around is the same reason that my milk supply diminished. We don't know. But we do know that my body was saying it was time to let it focus on the new baby, rather than the Little Dude. So we quietly weaned. And I still feel, in a way, like a failure. Partially because I set what I thought was a very realistic goal of nursing for 12 months and I was unable to do that. And partially because many other women have been able to nurse through subsequent pregnancies. But obviously, my body couldn't do that. And as my sweet friend Moriah reminded me... even before the days of formula, there were these magical people called wet nurses who helped out women who couldn't nurse for whatever reason. This problem is not new. And I am not the only woman to have this problem. And it doesn't mean I am a bad mother. It just means, apparently, that my body is not good at multi-tasking. Still, it has been a process of grieving.

Friday, May 6, 2011: I am 10 weeks today. And on Sunday, we are telling our mothers:) I can't wait! We told Abigail earlier this week, and she is excited, but cautious... I think she remembers all too well how difficult those first weeks are. Also, she remembers the birth;)

Last week I had the unique experience of holding my 6 month old while being sick. The morning sickness came on so suddenly that I didn't even have time to put the baby down before running to the bathroom. Turns out, babies aren't bothered by their momma being sick. Actually, it can be kind of fun, especially if Momma's reaction times are slowed, and you can get your hands into some of that stuff. (I know. Yuck.)

I am generally feeling a bit better, though. The exhaustion is manageable, although I still never want to get out of bed. The morning sickness is basically under control. And I am mostly keeping up with the kids. John has been gone, travelling for work, since Wednesday morning, so this week has been tough. In addition, we have 3 showings on the house coming up this weekend, so I've been working hard on that. I even mowed the front lawn. I keep telling myself that no matter how tired I am, women all over the world work much harder than I do while pregnant. I can do it.

At my OB visit last week, the doctor did mention that one of my biggest risk factors during this pregnancy will be low iron levels (which can lead to low blood counts/anemia.) 1/3rd of women in the US are iron deficient, and since I was so recently pregnant, my iron stores are depleted. In fact, my blood counts were on the low range of normal, so I am starting an iron supplement. Yay! More pills! Thankfully, this is one risk factor that I can control. So I will, thankyouverymuch:)

We have our first trimester screening in 2 weeks, and once we have some good photos, I think we will be ready to tell the world! I am excited to see our little dude or dudette... and explain to people why I am wearing my maternity clothes again (honestly, I don't need the maternity component yet, but I don't have any summer clothes that fit my in-between body, so I am just using the maternity stuff. Get my money's worth and all!)

Sunday, May 15, 2011 (11 weeks, 2 days): It was really fun to tell our families on Mother's Day (we gave them an "electronic card" and we were able to watch as they opened it. You can view it here.) John's mom was pretty shocked, but once the shock wore off (after a few days) she was excited. My family was very excited. My sister had some suspicions, so she was not totally surprised, but I think my mom was pretty surprised. Either way, they were happy. And the "hmm, can we get off work to come down there?" started:)

For some reason, my morning sickness has been worse this week. I'm so ready for the first trimester to be over. At this point in my pregnancy with JohnAndrew, the nausea seemed to be letting up a bit, so maybe this is the last final blow before things calm down? I'm going with that. John says that the nausea is worse because the baby is a girl, and my nausea will probably be as bad this time as it was with Abigail (wherein I vomited 6-7 times a day, 6-7 days a week, until my 34th week of pregnancy. Then it cut back to a few times a day, a few days a week.)

I told John to can it.

Have I mentioned I love olives? Because I love olives. A lot.

My belly is currently comparable to my belly between 16 and 21 weeks. In all fairness, before I got pregnant, my belly was still something like my 16 week belly (man, the deflation process is much easier when you are 20!). Not sure if I will be doing belly pictures this time around. Although, it might be funny (and by funny, I mean kind of embarrassing) to have side-by-side comparisons. So maybe I will start at 16 weeks like I did last time.

Looking forward to our first trimester screening on Tuesday and some good ultrasound pictures to share with you!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 (11 weeks, 4 days): JohnAndrew is 7 months old today- where is the time going? The ultrasound looked great this afternoon:) The baby was very active and the heart rate was 182 bpm. The lil' bit was moving non-stop, and not cooperating with the pictures... just like someone else I know (ahem, AnnaandJohn, ahem.) I'm sharing the photos with family today, and then will probably post the "Big Reveal" tomorrow, or on Thursday, my birthday. I will be completely honest: I did not expect to be having a baby at 29. I thought I was done at 28. Wonders never cease.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

50 Ways to Say It

My birthday is tomorrow, so today I am giving you my birthday surprise! It's a day early to make it an extra-surprising surprise:)

50 Ways to Say It
  1. So, you have any big plans around Thanksgiving? We do.
  2.  I guess a minivan was rather Providential.
  3. Remember how my husband has a shirt that says “The Impregnator”?
  4. I really needed a reason to be done with that dieting thing. 
  5. You know that song “Get Me to the Church on Time!” from My Fair Lady? Yeah, I thought I could sing that to my sister, but change the word “Church” to “Birth.” Because, you know, maybe the third time’s the charm for her?
  6. I didn’t really want to spend that Gap gift card on “normal” clothes!
  7. We wanted to pick a Britney Spears song for our life theme song. John wanted "Oops, I Did It Again."
  8. Sometimes, God blesses us more than we could ever imagine. Because let me tell you, I could never have imagined this one up.
  9. Y’all, I may never fit into my skinny jeans again.
  10.  Admittedly, we could be more creative with our Mother’s Day gifts.
  11. The good news is, I hear I’ll get a two-for-one deal on potty training!
  12. Remember when the doctors all said I would have trouble conceiving? Hahahaha!
  13. Did I mention that John’s new philosophy is to never trust a doctor other than himself?
  14. Turns out, Percocet is an aphrodisiac. And, in my case, and amnesic.
  15. I think I will spend a good portion of the next few years saying “No, we are not Catholic.”
  16. You always knew John and I were “special.”
  17. For quite some time, my circle of friends did refer to my womb area as “The Fertile Crescent.” Guess they were right.
  18. I guess that money I spent on a maternity wardrobe wasn’t a waste after all.
  19. NFP. That’s all I’ve got to say.
  20. Did I mention that for me, exclusive breastfeeding doesn’t suppress a return to fertility?
  21. I think I read somewhere that near-death experiences increase fertility. Or, maybe I am just making that up to make myself feel better.
  22. I guess “The Six Showalters” has a better ring to it than “The Five Showalters.”
  23.  You know how we spoil our kids by giving them everything they ever wanted? (<--Sarcasm) Well, JohnAndrew said he wanted to be a big brother.
  24. Dudes, I’ve got heartburn. You know what that means.
  25. Does anyone have any Spaghetti-Os?
  26. Showalter world domination has to start somewhere. And by "some"where, apparently, we mean in my belly.
  27. Someone(s) made their mothers really happy on Mother’s Day!
  28. Does it say something about us that our 4 year old can identify an ultrasound picture of a yolk sac as being a baby?
  29. Y’all know I love me some sleepless nights! (<--- Sarcasm)
  30. You know, we ARE still newlyweds.
  31. I guess that doctor who did my lady-parts surgery really fixed me good.
  32. After this, I really don’t think Abigail will ever give birth to children.
  33. Did I ever tell you that my mom was jokingly referred to as “Fertile Myrtle”, and my bio dad as “Ready Freddy”? Not that we were looking to pick up those particular nicknames…
  34. I took a long, hard look at my life and decided what was missing was nausea. Lots and lots of nausea. (<--Sarcasm)
  35. Despite what you may think, I’m really not interested in beating Missy’s record.
  36. 11/11/11 would kind of be a fun birthday, right?
  37. We all have to be good at something, don’t we?
  38. I need to put my feet up.
  39. There may be better ways to teach Anna to count, but this is so “convenient.”
  40. Yeah, that wasn't bad takeout last week. That might have been a white lie.
  41. Turns out, no matter how many times you flip the thing over or hold it upside down, once it turns positive, you can't shake it back to “normal”, unlike a thermometer (believe me, John tried).
  42. I’m having a strange feeling of déjà vu...
  43. What can you think of that falls into the category of “The last thing John and Grace need right now is…”?
  44. The Bible does tell us to “be fruitful.” But I kind of thought that meant, you know, spiritually.
  45. Did I ever tell you about the time I nearly gave my husband a heart attack?
  46. Contrary to what you may think, I actually have just proven that I do have a hobby. Of sorts.
  47. Um, can we borrow your double stroller for JohnAndrew and “Anna”?
  48. John says to me, “you know what we need to make JohnAndrew a better wrestler?”
  49. Maybe my life calling is to start a one-woman natural childbirth revolution. You know... one child at a time.
  50. Sometimes, a picture is worth 1000 words:

Baby Showalter: due late November.

Surprise! Unless it wasn't, of course;)


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The S Word: on being pro-adoption and pro-adoption reform

I have noticed a small-mindedness among some that I call used to call friends. It is a characteristic born out in the conviction that they are right and everyone else is wrong. A seeming inability to acknowledge that there may be more than one right or wrong in any situation... or even that a given situation may not have a clear right or wrong. It's the strong, willful determination of the S word... should.

You know what I mean? Because I am sure we all know people like this... People who will sit there, and tell you to your face (or in a lengthy email), exactly what you should do... and not just that, if you don't do (or believe, or espouse) what they think you should, then you are an evil, worthless human being who is destined to fail at everything in life and bring only misery to all who have the unfortunate experience of knowing you. (What, you don't have people write that to you in emails?)

I think there have only been one or two other times in my life where I have felt this as acutely as I felt it over the past 2 months, in particular, in response to some things I wrote in March. The accusations hurled at me by the should-sters amongst my circle of "friends" really shocked me. I won't get into what was said, primarily because repeating garbage is a waste of my time and yours, but truly, it shocked me. It hurt me... not because people thought poorly of me, not because they didn't agree with my opinions, but because all their should-ing made me feel like things were hopeless... like the force of the should-sters in this world would prevent what I believe to be necessary changes that desperately need to be made in the realm of international adoption.

But should-ing is complicated.

Because there is a time and place for the S word. I think it is perfectly reasonable to use what we know of Scripture, God's nature, human nature, and the world around us to say things such as "no child should be orphaned due to poverty. No parent should ever have to chose between ensuring their child has food and keeping their child." I think wisely, honestly, and earnestly seeking God's will and God's plan is a good thing, and can lead to us making should statements. But these statements are not made about individuals or individual circumstances- they are made about the world or situations as a whole.

Which is why I can honestly stand by everything I ever wrote about adoption ethics and reform. I honestly believe that, like the Hague states, children should remain in birth families whenever possible, and in their birth countries whenever possible, leaving international adoption as a last resort for children. I believe that all nations should protect their children and provide services to families, or empower NGOs to provide these services, so that family preservation is a realistic option. I believe that nations should provide domestic options for temporary and permanent homes for children in need of them, or empower NGOs to provide these services. I believe that when we have proof of wrongdoing within the adoption community, the whole adoption community should support efforts to weed-out the perpetrators... that we should demand an ethical adoption process that treats children, birth parents, and adoptive parents with respect, rather than a fast, easy, and/or inexpensive process, or one that takes advantage of any members of the adoption triad.

But never once did I point to any child or family and say "your adoption should not have taken place." Never once did I judge any individual or family, or even pretend that I could have the capacity to judge an individual's circumstances. Not only because that is not my place, but because that is not what adoption reform is about, at least, not to me.

And that is why I can be in favor of adoption reform while still being in favor of adoption. Because I think the process should be reformed, but I don't judge the individual adoptions. I think adoptive parents should strongly weigh their options, and strongly question if they are truly desiring to be a home to a child that needs it, or simply bring home the child they want. But I'm not judging any individual's motivations. I think children should remain in birth families and birth countries whenever possible, but I am not judging for whom that is or isn't possible. We can look at statistics and know that things should be different... and work towards that... without looking at individual children and judging their worthiness to have been available for adoption and/or placed into international homes.

And maybe not everyone can do that. Maybe the should-sters of the world are not able to differentiate between the environment of adoption and the individuals in adoption. I don't know why they are the way they are- why they feel so comfortable dictating to others what they should or should not do or say or believe about entire systems based on one small element of that system.

But I'm not going to let them get to me anymore. The S word is hereby banned.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Birthmother's Day 2011

As I wrote in my last post, Birthmother's Day was created in 1990 by a group of Seattle-area birthmoms who wished to acknowledge the incredible effects of birthmotherhood on their lives, to honor themselves and the choices they made. It is celebrated the Saturday before Mother's Day, to recognize that birthmothers are first mothers. Today, it has grown to be a time to honor birthmothers by all those who have been affected by adoption.
Anna and her birthmother, sweet A.

I had the privilege of meeting Anna's birthmother during my time in Ethiopia. Last year, for Birthmother's Day, Anna was just starting to understand the idea that she grew inside the belly of someone other than me. Since that time, her understanding of her birthmother had grown tremendously. She understands that she has a birthmother in Ethiopia, that her birthmother gave birth to her, and that she lived with her birthmother "while she was a baby." She knows her birthmother is brown, and they look similar. She knows Abigail, Gaga, and I all met her birthmother when we went to "Eepeeohpeeah" to meet her. She knows that I am Abigail and JohnAndrew's birthmother, but I am her adoptive mother. 

Mostly, though, she knows that her birthmother loves her. Loves her as much as I love her. And that I love her birthmother. And that she can love her birthmother and me at the same time. She knows I think about her birthmother every day, and we pray for her often. And one day, we will go back to Ethiopia and she will get to see her birthmother and give her hugs and kisses. She is very proud to be Ethiopian, proud to be brown, and proud that she has a birthmother that loves her. 

I get a lot of this parenting stuff wrong- heck, I get a lot of this life stuff wrong, but once in a while, I think I get it right. This is one of those times.

Today, on Birthmother's Day, we make a special, public declaration of our love and admiration for our children's birthmother's. We honor the difficult choices they made that resulted in their children being placed into our homes and families. We take time to pause and gratefully acknowledge these first mothers for the amazing role they have and will play in our children's lives.

But the true sign of our respect for these ladies does not come in the grandness of our tributes today. It comes in the daily, quiet ways that we acknowledge them in our children's lives. It comes through sharing our child's story with them over and over, allowing them to own it, and encouraging them to love these women. It comes in bravely acknowledging that their birthmother experienced pain and loss in some form. It comes by allowing these birthmothers, these first mothers, to be just that- first. In our home, respecting Anna's birth mother comes through photos, stories, and prayers. Daily. As often as Anna wants. And even sometimes, when she doesn't want. So that she will learn her story, remember her story, and know that her story not only makes her unique, but allows her to be strong. Because her birthmother was a strong enough woman to make the most difficult choice of her life- to deny her own wants, her own desires, her own will, and think only of her child.

May I also learn that lesson... to die to my will, and serve my children in love. Completely. 

Friday, May 06, 2011

Birthmother's Day & World AIDS Orphans Day

Tomorrow is Birthmother's Day. And World AIDS Orphans Day. While these two events are not explicitly linked in our family, for many, many families, they are.

Birthmother's Day was created in 1990 by a group of Seattle-area birthmoms who wished to acknowledge the incredible effects of birthmotherhood on their lives, to honor themselves and the choices they made. It is celebrated the Saturday before Mother's Day, to recognize that birthmothers are first mothers. Today, it has grown to be a time to honor birthmothers by all those who have been affected by adoption.

World AIDS Orphans Day was founded in 2002 by the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights (FXB). It is recognized on May 7 each year, in an effort to draw attention to and advocate for the more than 15+ million children orphaned by AIDS (estimates are that the number reached 25 million in 2010, with millions more unaccounted for in India, Russia, and China). The majority of these children reside in Sub-Saharan Africa, where access to medications preventing maternal-fetal transmission of HIV are minimal, and where ARV therapy- especially for children- is hard to access.

There is no denying the fact that HIV/AIDS has contributed immensely, and will continue to contribute to the growing number of orphans worldwide. Sadly, children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, even if uninfected, often face stigmas within their communities that prevent them from finding loving, permanent homes. And children who are infected, in addition to stigmas within their community and country, are often more difficult to place into international adoptive families, due to stigmas in receiving nations.

I firmly believe that the best way to prevent children becoming orphans is by keeping birthfamilies intact. For many in Sub-Saharan Africa and around the world, this would be possible with access to ARV therapy  for mothers and children, and through support for those living with HIV/AIDS.

I encourage you to become involved in the fight for access to care for mothers and children. Do something to honor the birthmothers who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS. For each person, this act will be different, but here are some ideas:

  • Become educated about HIV/AIDS. Know the facts. Don't contribute to the stigma of HIV.
  • Once you know the fact, share the facts with others. The only way to fight stigma and misinformation is through truth.
  • Join the movement to increase access to HIV/AIDS care for mothers and children. Help prevent the number of HIV/AIDS orphans from growing. Go to the FXB website and find an event, donate, petition world leaders, share your ideas, and get involved.
  • Support family preservation efforts that provide access to health care, including HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment care.
  • Sponsor an HIV+ child- in Ethiopia, you can do that through AHOPE
  • Consider adopting an HIV+ child. Learn more about that at Project Hopeful or From HIV to Home.
  • Share what you are doing. Here. On your blog. On Facebook or Twitter. In an email. With friends. At church. At your child's school. Tell people about the difference you can make in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and the battle to keep families intact.
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