Tuesday 30 December 2014

What I didn't expect about becoming a Mom

Just wanting to keep it real over here in my neck of the woods in bloggy land.

I wanted to write out some of my thoughts of what my first two months of motherhood has been like, and the things I have learned:

  • The first two months have been a haze.  Babykins is 10 weeks old and I'm finally feeling like we stepping out of it  just a little bit.  We are getting to know him and his patterns, and have found a bit of a groove with him.  (Update: at the time of publishing this he is 12 weeks- and oh! What a difference it makes in the sleep department!)
  • Feeling tired in the first couple of months is an understatement.  As a age 20, I was never one to pull all nighters in university because I don't function well on little sleep.  If I was trying to write a paper, it would turn out as a bunch of gobbly-gook if I tried to write anything past 3 am.   As it turns out, at age 35, my brain does not function any better now on even less sleep, and for weeks on end.   
  • I am impressively grumpy on little sleep.  Cue guilty feelings about even thinking of complaining and not enjoying every possible second of parenthood,  or feeling guilt because you want to kill your hubby even though he's trying his hardest, is just as tired as you and has really done nothing wrong except breathe a little too loudly around the baby. 
  • Everything becomes harder on little sleep.   Hmm.  My first four points have been about sleep, lol!  I suppose that sounds really obvious, but I honestly didn't appreciate just how hard things would be.  And, I didn't have a sore vagina, uterus or boobies to contend with, as most mamas do, or multiple babies (how do you women do it?!?!) - just an adorable little baby who happened to think that day was night and night was day.  When you are deadly tired as we call it, tying your shoe feels like it takes brain power that you don't have.  Figuring out baby gear etc. is harder and more frustrating when all you want to do with your 5 minutes of freedom is lay your head on your pillow and fall into a deep sleep coma.  
  • The company - oh wow! We wanted to show off our precious boy.  It was one of the most fun things for us about having a baby.  After you have struggled with infertility and loss for so long, and people know about it, they are so over the top happy for you.   People you don't expect to give you gifts; my hairdresser, and D's Mom's friends who I hardly know, to name a few.   It's so nice!  We've had a huge amount of company several times a week for almost six weeks.  And then, people wanted to come back because they want to see how he's grown! Oh my! We didn't have a plan on how we would handle this.  I think that the general denial that we lived in surrounding Babykin's arrival led to us not thinking about a lot of things that would have been helpful to us, such as this.  People often said they would stop by for a short visit, but when someone gets a newborn baby in their arms, it is hard to get rid of them! As much as people would offer for us to go have a nap while they looked after the baby, it was hard to do so.  Feeling like our house  should be tidied before they came was a bit of a stress too.   Seeing a lot of people in one day at someone else's house would have been the best idea for us in hindsight. 
  • Thank you cards for all of the gifts you will get is a big job.  I felt it was easiest to keep a stack of cards on my kitchen counter, and stamps and write them as people gave us things.   This something I think we did really well. 
  • Speaking of gifts, one of the best gifts we received was a homemade scrap book calendar.  We fill in the pictures of Babykins month by month, and on the days of the calendar we can write in what he did that day, and little facts about his growth etc.  It's a very manageable way to record many of his firsts.  I like that it is in real time too.   I found many baby books weren't appropriate for an adopted child.  They have pages about the pregnancy etc, and of many other things that weren't easy for us to answer.  We didn't want him to have a book of half empty pages.   
  • If you have the means, hire a housekeeper for the first few months of baby at least.  We didn't, but I wish we had.  Keep in mind that D works from home, and can take some time off in the middle of the day - so we have it admittedly better than many other people, but it is still a lot to keep up with.   And having a dirty, disorganized house makes me stressed and grumpy.  Especially when there are lots of people stopping by. 
  • Babies produce massive amounts of laundry.  Babykins is a spitter-upper so we might have to do more than a normal family with a newborn, but we were doing at least two loads of laundry a day - of just his clothes/receiving blankets/sheets/and washcloths.  
  • Sex. What is that? Haha
  • Circumcision - Oh my.  This was traumatic for us.  We were on the fence about whether we wanted him to have this procedure.  Ultimately, we decided to do it because D is and so is the rest of our family.  We didn't want our boy, the only adopted one, to also have the only uncut penis.  Maybe a silly reason to do it, but it was our choice to make.   We were not prepared for how bloody and swollen his poor little penis was after the procedure.   It was terrible.  I am now glad that it was done, and he has healed up nicely, but it was a challenge to say the least.  
  • Getting support - take advantage of anyone who wants to help and you feel comfortable with helping you.  We were shy to accept help, but every time we did it was so amazing.  A meal, someone to clean up, someone to hold the baby while you nap or shower.  Babykins even spent the night at my trusted aunt's house at one month old.  It's all good.  Sleep feels absolutely magical after you've been missing it for a month, and makes all your other daily challenges seem that much more manageable. 
  • The best two pieces of advice we got: 1)  never try to make a happy baby happier.  2) Start out the way you want to end up.  If you want baby to sleep on his back, don't get him used to sleeping only on your chest! (a big problem around here)
  • What we didn't expect, is that we would have our own ideas of how we would parent, but this baby would have his own personality, likes and dislikes.  Many of the things we thought we would do, or looked critically at other parents for doing, became things that we did.   The desire for sleep will make you do many things you didn't think you would do.  
  • You will get almost nothing done.  We were under the impression that at least one of us would be able to get stuff done with the newborn.  Yes, while one person is technically free, when not working, we underestimated what sleep deprivation would do to this equation.  One person cares for baby, and the other slept or tried to keep the house from falling apart or keep us from starving.  For two months.  
  • That dressing my baby would remind me of childhood.  Especially dressing a two month old.  I'm pretty sure that Babykins is the size of most of my dolls growing up.  It's like being a kid again in a way.  I love dressing my baby.  And shhh.. don't tell but I don't like putting him in a lot of the outfits that people gave him... I put him in them when he is going to see those people but I don't want my boy in *that* onesie over and over again in his pictures.  It's okay not to use every little thing you are given. 
  • Sleepers with zippers are the best. Don't buy much newborn stuff, they will outgrow it in five seconds.  All sizes are not created equal at different stores.  Wash everything so you can see what size it shrinks too.   One store (Carter's), shrinks almost a full size. 
  • That I would feel like adopting a baby was better than having it myself.  Yes, you heard it right.  From the woman who chased a positive pregnancy test, and hoped for to give birth to a baby for seven long years.   I feel like this baby is more perfect than any baby I could have ever made or hoped for.  I am so deeply in love with him.  I love that I don't have to lose the 50 pounds of pregnancy weight that I'm sure I would have gained.  That I can drink wine and eat unpasturized cheese when I feel like it.  I wanted to breast feed, but formula feeding is actually kind of great too - Daddy or other people can feed the baby and I can sleep sometimes.  There are definite advantages to adoption (and surrogacy I suppose is similar!). 
  • I thought I would feel like keeping up with the birth family was a job. Finding the time to write the emails is tricky, but I do like writing them and updating them.   Yes, it is only 2 months in, but I love sharing his progress with them.  I'm going to keep all of the emails that I send to them, and their responses in a binder for him to read when he's older.   
  • Feeling surprised by some jealousy still of other preggos.  I've written about my sister in the past.  The one who was with her partner for a number of years.  She's turning 30 this year, and I have tried to nudge her into thinking about a family if it was something she wanted, because there was a 1 in 3 chance that she would have problems like me.   I wanted her to have a baby.  And guess what friends... she recently announced she is expecting!  I am truly joyful about this.    I couldn't sleep the night she told me because I was so excited (and you know from my whining about sleep on here that it is not something I am fond of giving up!).  I am excited that I will get to be a first time parent around the same time as my sister, and an auntie again.  But if I'm being totally honest, I was surprised though to feel a tinge of jealousy shortly after this announcement.  Not a big stab in my heart like it would have been if I did not have Babykins in my life - but it was something.  
  • That babies are all emotions amplified.   Happiness.  Joy.  Empathy.  When you feel sad for them, it's deeper than a lot of regular sadness.  Frustration (trying to fix a problem for a baby that only communicates by crying - which you think you should have some intuition as to what type of problem it is, and to be able to solve it for them. - is very frustrating.  And oh, the love.  It's like your heart is going to explode.   
  • The feeling that somehow the past 7 years of grief were worth it.  I thought I would harbour more bad feelings, but instead, it's like I've entered a new world.  One where I realize how much people actually were protecting us from all things children, baby and pregnancy.  I could feel sad about this, but instead I'm choosing to see it as an act of love for us.  We are grateful. 
I hope it's not another month before I write again.  Sending much love you you all.  

PS) I've been trying to keep up reading your blogs on my cell phone while feeding baby on the couch. I haven't found a good way to do it that doesn't require me to log in every time I want to write a comment.  It's annoying.  Do any of you have a suggestion on how I could easily access your blogs on my phone?  Thank you. 

Saturday 20 December 2014

Part 2: Our Adoption Story

Babykins was born at 3:13am.  The next day was a busy and important one.  It was our first day as parents!  We were running on zero sleep from the day before.  We wanted to savour every moment with our precious newborn, with Carla, and her family.

We didn't know how much contact they would all want in the future, so we felt like we should absorb as much as we possibly could, to pass along to Babykins when the time was right.

We weren't sure if it was appropriate if our family visited at the hospital, especially because I have a large family.  We wanted to allow time for Carla and her family to spend time with Babykins on their own, without a crowd.  We talked with the hospital social worker about it and she encouraged us to invite a few people to come, and so that Carla and her family could also see the support network that we had, and the excitement for our family that surrounds him becoming a part of our family.

My Dad, his fiancé, and D's parents and his 90 year old Grandma came to visit.  It was the day we had waited for for seven years.   We beamed with pride.  I swear our pride could have burned holes through the concrete hospital walls.  Everyone was in awe of how sweet every little part of him was.   "He is just perfect", everyone said, and we couldn't have agreed more.  We couldn't believe that such an amazing little boy was in our arms.

We invited Carla to meet our family.  We told her there was no pressure to do so.  That we would completely understand if she wasn't feeling up to it.   And my goodness did we mean that - walking into a room of strangers only a few hours after you have given birth, and have placed a child for adoption is a huge thing.  We didn't have any expectations of her to come, but hoped she would.

She bravely accepted the invitation, and joined us.  She walked into our room and said hello to everyone.  She was smiley and laughed and joked with everyone.  She is so personable.   Everyone told her how amazing Babykins was, and she beamed with pride.   I love that our families got to meet this amazing woman, the one who has changed our lives forever.   It is hard to describe just how awesome she is.  We loved that they could all meet her for themselves.  It was such a special time and an amazing privilege.

During the meeting of our families, D's mother said some really beautiful words to Carla.   I didn't know she was planning to do this, but I am so glad she did.  She quietly told her about how D was their only child, and that this boy is their only grandchild.  She told her that they would treasure him so much.  She told him that she was not only changing our lives, but theirs too.  It was beautiful to hear, and I am so grateful that someone was able to verbalize our family's feelings to her.   She spot on with every thing she said.  We love this baby AND Carla so much.

We also spent part of the day visiting with Carla and Mark's family.  We met with Mark's sister and her friend.  His sister brought a nice gift of clothing and a stuffy.  We took some pictures.  Carla's Mom also came with her husband.  Her husband shared how he thought this adoption was a beautiful thing, and that he was so happy for us.   Carla and her mother gave us a gift of clothing for the baby and the book Love You Forever by Robert Munch.  Carla's Mom said that she read this book to her girls all the time when they were growing up.

Have you read this book?  OMG.  It is a tear-jerker.  If you haven't read it, it's a story about a Mom who tells her baby "I'll love you for always, I like you forever, as long as I'm living my baby you'll be".  As he grows, she sneaks into his room when he's a toddler, a young boy, and a teenager to whisper the same thing.  Later, when he's an adult, she drives over to his house in the middle of the night to cuddle him like she did when he was a baby - he was a sound sleeper! At the end of the story, she calls to tell him that she's very ill, and he goes to be by her side.  She starts to say the same words to him that she always did, but she cannot finish.  He instead finishes for her, and tells her that "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living my Mommy you'll be".  She passes, and he goes home to his new baby and says the same words to her, that his Mom always said to him.  *Tears*

It's such a beautiful story.  Oh my goodness though, I don't know if I'll be able to read often it to our Babykins because every time I do, tears pour down my face just thinking of the message of this story, who gave it to him, what it meant for her to do so, and how much my heart explodes for this precious little boy who I will love for always and like forever, until my last day.

Later that day, Carla's Dad came back to meet the baby.  He gave a beautiful card (the one I wrote about here) and a gift card for the baby.  He just loved looking at the baby, as we all did.   He talked about how happy he was for us.  Hearing that was so amazing.

Carla popped in to visit and snuggle the baby throughout the day.  It was so nice to see her with the baby, but also very difficult as well.  It was difficult because we had strong feelings of guilt, and sadness for her loss.   D felt like she had her life together maybe better than she gave herself credit for.   No, she hadn't gone to college, didn't have a job or a car or a lot of material things... but she had what we felt was most important for being a parent -  she put her son's needs above her own.  She proved that by making one of the hardest decisions that anyone could make.  She showed so much grit, and selflessness.  She cared for his wellbeing and future as a good mother would.

And you know what - as I write this now,  I've had an lightbulb moment.  I realize that it's not that she isn't his mother anymore - she will always be his mother.  His B. Mama as we think we will call her,  IS his mother.  And I'm his Mama too.  This lucky boy has two women who love him so much, that they would do anything for his health, happiness and well being.

When we tried to thank her for the gift of being chosen to be his parents.  We struggled to find the words to adequately express our feelings.  How do you thank someone for such a huge sacrifice? How do you thank someone for a human life being entrusted to you?  Even though our thank-yous seemed inadequate to us, she beamed and was genuinely happy to hear about how she was changing our lives so much.  She also thanked us for being his parents.  She said she was getting a second chance at her life.  She said she was going to enrol in school, and we learned that the very next day, she did.

We texted about her starting college in January.  We told her that we were so proud of her.  And we knew Babykins would be so proud of her too.  She wrote back that that is all she ever wanted, was for him to be proud of her.  It melted our hearts.

After a day of visiting, Carla was ready to be discharged and to go home.  After all of the hospital time leading up to the birth, she was especially ready to go home.  She had recovered very well from the birth.  Mark came to get her.  He came into visit with the baby. He was still very shy, and it was hard to get a read on how he was feeling about everything.

The social workers told us they wanted to do an entrustment ceremony before Carla went home.

So, in our little crowed hospital room, the social workers set up ceremonial candles (that we didn't light for obvious reasons).  They read through some poems and said some words about open adoption, about Carla and Mark and D and I.   The ceremony was to represent the unofficial entrustment of Babykins care to us, from Carla and Mark.   Carla's Dad was there too.  There wasn't a dry eye during the ceremony.   There was so much sacrifice, pain, beauty, hope and, so much love in the room.  All for this precious little boy.

After the ceremony, Carla and Mark went home, and D and I were left alone with our Babykins.  We were running on fumes after 40 of the most emotional hours of our lives.   We marvelled at the baby, and felt a honestly little bit intimidated about being responsible for his care.  We tried to get some sleep, but babykins had other plans.

As it turns out, he's a noisy little baby.  While he doesn't cry often, He loves to make goat noises as we affectionately call them, even in his sleep.  As new parents do, we were constantly checking him in his isolette making sure he was comfortable, and yes, a thousand times to see if he was still breathing. :)

Carla and Babykins  <3

Less than 24 hours old

First afternoon at home 

My best friend's kids made us this to welcome us home - how cute is that!?!?