Sunday, May 31, 2009

“You really needed to bruise”

A few days ago my physical therapist uttered these words while marveling at the bruises he had left two days before. It was such an odd thing to hear as a patient “You really needed to bruise”, but I totally got it. Sometimes you need to breakdown or destroy something to make it stronger.

As a nurse I have worked under the notion that pain is bad—we medicate it, we distract it, we use every tool we have to avoid feeling pain. As a human I work very much the same—I avoid pain at all costs. I especially avoid anything that is going to leave a bruise.

My PT’s comment stuck with me as I thought of all the bruises that have battered my soul over the last five years. Bruises that I tried to avoid…desperately tried to avoid. It has only been the last year that I am beginning to understand those bruises and appreciate the fact that I really needed to bruise. Those bruises made me the person I am…the mother that I am becoming. I have been blessed with so much joy. My son is part of the reason, but not the only reason. He is only the icing on the cake—the culmination of a long journey, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—whatever you want to call it.

Five years ago I was in love with a man who wanted to marry me. He was my closest friend and when it ended suddenly I was forced to create a new vision of what my life and future would be. At the same time my best girlfriend became involved with an emotionally abusive man. At my weakest she turned on me and spewed all the ugliness he had filled her with. God felt so far away. My prayers went unanswered, my tears fell unheeded and I felt nothing but hurt. I did all the things I was supposed to do to change my circumstances—I began going on a lot of different dates, but each was worse and scarier than the last. I finally decided that God had done everything He needed to do to stop me going down that path. I joined a lot of different groups, volunteered with a number of various community volunteer groups in the hopes of making new friends. Each “friend” I met was more draining than the last and I felt like I was emotionally supporting some very damaged individuals. So, I stopped trying to find friends. I bought my three bedroom house knowing the other other two rooms might never be more than hobby or junk rooms. I accepted and painfully embraced a future of solitude. I also began praying that God find a way to use me. I was ready to follow. That was the summer of 2006.

The rest of the story feels kind of like old news—this part of the story I have told many times. A few weeks later I had a moment that really changed my life. I knew that I was on the cusp of something—the path finally began to look clear again. I was sharing a garden dinner with a friend of the eve of my thirtieth birthday. I asked if there was anything she regretted in her life. She was fifty-something, divorced with no children. She wished she would meet a man that would love her and be her companion, but she never regretted not having children. I was relieved that the sun had dropped below the horizon because I felt myself choke up when I realized I could live a lifetime without another man to love and not regret it, but I would always regret not having my own child to love.

Only a few days later my adoption journey began. I remember the moment when it finally clicked together and I knew what I had to do. I remember the fear, the paralyzing fear, that I was making a terrible mistake. The fear that God wouldn’t be there. That I was exposing myself to more pain. That fear stayed with me until December 18, 2008 when I finally held my son for the first time. I have come to understand why those bruises and breaks had to occur. I understand why I did not marry the man that loved me dearly, why I could no longer be friends with the girl that drained me to the point I had no energy left for myself. I understand why God was silent all those years. He broke me down and smoothed out the rough places in my life. It didn’t feel good and I hope I never have to go through that again, but I would do it all over again to be where I am now. And to be Duc’s mama.This picture breaks my heart in a good way, you know?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Birthday Week (in review)

Last week The Duc had his first haircut.  It was close to the hospital where my sister and newest niece and it seemed crazy to pass up a stop at Cookie Cutters since we don’t have anything like that near home.


           ~After~ 034_edited-1

Let’s just say it was traumatic for both of us.  He cried hysterically and grabbed for me.  My only complaint is that she whacked off his sideburns at the ear, but she didn’t realize the boy actually has sideburns so she needed to get the clippers out on him.  That time I did have to hold him.  He does look cute, no?Duc's 1st Birthday 029_edited-1Sharing his birthday with Uncle Mike.  

 Duc's 1st Birthday 050  

The ugliest cake ever, ever.  But we had so much fun with it.  Duc's 1st Birthday 095_edited-1

It’s not a good party unless your guests get naked and soak in the tub, right?  Yeah, he definitely got soaked…and bathed.  And believe it or not, the dye actually came out of his clothes and bib.  And showed up in his poop.  Yep, bright green poop.Duc's 1st Birthday 116_edited-1What a cute, big boy he is in his new jammies!

I’ll try to post more photos and write more in the next few days—it’s been crazy busy around here and we have been having so much fun with all our friends and family!  We’ll have a really good weekend and I’ll think they don’t get any better than that and then they do!  This weekend rocked!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Busy boy

Did mama mention that I am a little rascal?IMG_3420

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


364 days ago a woman walked up the steps of an orphanage under a moonlit sky. I don’t know what words were exchanged, what assurances were made, if any. 364 days ago the moon was still shining brightly in the early morning sky over Indiana. I remember that moon. I stepped out to pick up my newspaper, but I was mesmerized by the moon shining brightly still as the sun threatened to break. And in that moment, with newspaper in hand, I knew. You were here. I felt you as clearly as the air I breathe. I was so overcome with emotion in that moment—a feeling of awe and wonder as I marveled at the new life that had arrived. A sense of excitement to know, to finally know, that you existed beyond the wild imaginings of my mind. But that elation was tempered by what I also knew was occurring—relinquishment, abandonment, whatever you want to call it to make it more palatable. You were losing your family. I thought of you. I thought of your mother and the difficult choices she was making for her family. I prayed that God comfort her and bring her peace and I prayed that you would not lay out in the cold too long. I prayed for arms that would hold you and for lips that would kiss you. I prayed for food in your belly and love. Lots of love.


I could have never guessed all the twists and turns our paths would take. A year ago, you were born into loss. A few days later your Oma was diagnosed with cancer and for the briefest of time I got to experience a sense of the loss you were feeling. That time, so blessed, is still very bittersweet and often times difficult for me to verbalize. I don't think I will ever be able to think of your first days without some pain in my heart. Somehow, out of all the ugliness of that time, we became a family. Words are inadequate to describe what I feel for you and how my heart leaps every time you come up behind me and give me a leg hug and say "mama".

Happy Birthday, my little Moon Man.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A letter to the other

I think of you often although we have never met.  You have been on my mind more the last few days and I admit, thoughts of you sometimes bring me to tears.  A year ago you gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.  I have struggled with what brought him to the orphanage—not your decision to relinquish, but the circumstances that brought you there.  I always imagined it was a difficult decision, but the depth of it was really beyond my comprehension.

Yesterday my sister gave birth to a spirited baby girl.  She is so fragile and tiny and is totally dependent on us for every little thing—to feed her, keep her warm, and to comfort her when she cries.  At birth she weighed the exact same weight as when your son entered the orphanage.  And it hit me—at one point he was not the strong little man that I love.  He was a helpless, teeny tiny baby that you walked away from.  I look at my niece and her fragility is so apparent and I wonder how hard it was for you to walk away from him.  Tears are streaming down my cheeks as I write this—not because of any anger—I can not and will not ever think of you with malice in my heart.  I cry because I can appreciate better than I did how difficult that decision must have been for you.  I wonder—did you take him in yourself or send a friend or sister in your stead?  Did you kiss his little cheeks the way I do or wonder what would become of him?

If I could I would assure you that he is happy—deliriously so.  He laughs over such small things and smiles, even at the person inflicting the pain (just ask the doctors and the nurses that provided treatments and immunizations).  I have you to thank for that.  His nickname at the orphanage was “Bubbly” and he is definitely that.  He is also ornery and spirited, determined and impish.  He has a way of drawing people in—with his eyes, with his smile.  He is incredibly bright and it sometimes scares me to think of how quickly he will outsmart me. 

I would also tell you that he is loved—oh so loved.  It’s not just the love that I give him or his grandparents or his aunt, uncle and cousins.  He draws love to him.  He impacts nearly everyone he meets in an amazing way that I have never seen before.  My friends have become aunties and uncles to him and the community around us has claimed him as “their child”.  When he waves to people it isn’t with his palm against the people in front oh him, it is with his palm up in the air as if to welcome people to him.

I wish you could see what I see.  Duc and me

Friday, May 15, 2009

The littlest little of them all

Sienna Lou 058

Sienna Lou arrived at 7:57 AM, May 15th.  6 lbs 6 oz with lots of attitude.

I’ve taken a blogger break this week to try to heal and recover (and yes, it is working slowly….I think).

Mom came over last night and when my cell phone rang at 5:40 am we both thought it was my radio alarm.  A few minutes later the regular phone rang and we both just knew.

I didn’t get to the hospital in time and the baby was born.  My sister was the talk of the OB because she delivered less than 60 minutes after entering the front door.  And, no, that isn’t unusual for our family.  It’s a miracle my sister and I were not born in toilets.

Here are a few more pictures of the day.  My sister is absolutely beautiful—full make-up and never broke a sweat.  She makes it look easy.Sienna Lou 001 Sienna Lou 015 Sienna Lou 016 Duc just sat there taking it all in.  I wonder what his little mind was thinking of all this?

Saige is always loving on Duc.  It is so sweet!Sienna Lou 024

Sienna Lou 057

Me, Sienna and Saige in the background.  I admit—I fought my mom for who got to hold her.  Every chance I got I would bump one of them out of the way.  Something about holding a new baby…I swear, it just gets my hormones flooding!Sienna Lou 075

Saige enjoying a donut.

Sienna Lou 088

Since his first referral photo I have commented on Duc’s “piano hands”.  He has the longest, meatiest little hands and today he got to play with a piano.  He may actually have some natural ability.  For banging around on a piano he still sounded really good!Sienna Lou 115_edited-1 Look at how he curves his fingers like a real pianist!Sienna Lou 128_edited-1 Sienna Lou 109_edited-1 Sienna Lou 132_edited-1   Any my favorite, favorite photo of him today!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The first one…

Yes, I enjoyed my first mother’s day, but not because my family took me out to eat (‘cause they didn’t) or got a flower from church (also a negatory).

Firstly, I am so thankful to have my son.  I look back to a year ago this time and it was a completely different situation.  What a wonderful difference a year makes!

Secondly, Duc let me sleep in, I got to eat breakfast by myself (yummy sunny side up eggs and toast!), I showered by myself, and I took a nap.  And, yes, Duc was with me all day.  That was his gift to me—thank God—I am exhausted. 

Mother's Day 2009 001_edited-1 My first gift from Duc (with some help from daycare). Mother's Day 2009 003_edited-1 Mother's Day 2009 004_edited-1 Mother's Day 2009 005_edited-1

Yeah, I think I’ll keep this one.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Sick (and a little TMI)

The good news is that Duc is perfectly healthy right now.  Over the first part of the week he seemed to come out of the residual sick-funk he was in and he is sweetest, happiest little boy that I haven’t seen in nearly a month.

To answer the question that many of you are probably asking.  Yes, probably. 

I did not go to the doctor to get tested for the H1N1 flu for a couple of reasons:

  1. I work for a healthcare corp. who would have quarantined me for seven days.  They weren’t able to tell me if it was seven days post dx or post symptoms so needless to say, I didn’t get tested.
  2. I live in a county that has a strict (as in, we will come arrest your patootie if we have to and place you on lockdown) H1N1 policy.  If you look symptomatic and test positive, you will be placed in quarantine and they will monitor you to make sure you are on lockdown.  To be honest, I have no idea if that means I would have been sporting a shiny new anklet or what, but I decided it was in my best interest to not call and find out.

My problem with this is this:

  1. I have no PTO.  I used every hour of it in the early days of January and since returning to the workforce have only accumulated two days which I used last week.
  2. I have missed five out of the last ten days of work.  My paycheck will be pretty small next week.
  3. I am the sole provider for me and my son.  I have no family in the area.  If I am on lockdown I will be unable to shop or get the food and other things that we need (oh, and Duc is not a big fan of lock down.  He NEEDS to get out).

While I realize that this makes me look like an irresponsible citizen, I am not alone.  See the following AP article for more information:

If this actually were a life threatening flu I may have re-considered my actions, but with the economy tanked and every job subject to cuts, many workers are forced to make the same decisions I made.

So, back to the life threatening thing.  Evidently this flu is only dangerous to those with underlying conditions.  Like respiratory problems.  Which I have.  Which is why I believe I now have pneumonia.

And, no, I still haven’t gone to the doctor and I haven’t had an x-ray, I am diagnosing based on symptomology and past experience.  I am taking a broad spectrum antibiotic commonly used with pneumonia and if I don’t see some improvement soon I will go to the doctor.  At this point I doubt I am still shedding the virus and can’t be forced into lock down. 

It gets worse.  Well, at least it felt worse.  I came down with some sort of stomach bug on Thursday afternoon and all I could was retch.  And vomit.  And retch some more.  It was to the point that I was actually having trouble catching my breath in between all the retching.  Talk about adding insult to injury.  Now the retching has stopped, but crapping out my empty intestines has begun.  How wrong is that???

And the worst part about this?  I can’t take care of my son.  I can’t be the parent I need to be.  Last week my mom took care of him all week, and on Thursday when I was so sick my dear friend Laura (who has no kids and has never had to figure out how to put a car seat in) came over and picked up Duc, his toys, his bottles and his car seat and took him to her house for the evening.  She was happy to do it, but it was so unfair to him and to her.  Duc is so used to being around me and only a few other people (Laura on occasion, but not very frequently and he has never been to someone’s house w/o me).  And Laura?  Oh my goodness, I would have been totally freaked out pre-Duc if someone had said come over and take my child (w/o any instruction) and figure out how to put this car seat in. 

I was so thankful for my friends.  You have no idea…or maybe you do if you’ve been in the same situation.  I hate that my family doesn’t live closer and can’t help during these times.  I am so glad I have Laura, Auntie J, Uncle Mike, Aunties Deb and Ricci that are able to assist when I can’t help myself. 

I just feel like hell.  I smell like hell.  My sniffer is shot because of sinusitis, but every once in a while I catch a whiff of something.  Last night I smelled something most foul so, like any of you, I picked up my son and sniffed his butt.  It wasn’t him.  Lovely.  I am coughing hard enough that I am surprised I haven’t crapped my pants.  Evidently something else slipped out instead.

The only good side of all this that I can see is that if the H1N1 does come back more virulent this fall then Duc and I should have some level of immunity.  If it knocked me back this hard has a mild virus, can you imagine what would have happened to me if it had mutated to a more deadly form? 

007_edited-1 Glad I kept all those old VHS tapes.  I loves to play with them.015_edited-1 My house is trashed.  This is so mild compared to the disaster in the kitchen.  Even the cat  decided to puke in there.

016_edited-1 So serious and contemplative.018_edited-1 My sweet, sweet baby.  I was coughing so hard and he looked so confused.  He just started patting my thigh.  God has given me the best gift that I could have ever hoped for.

020_edited-1 I just kept staring at me while I coughed.  He would keep turning his head…I thought it was going to fall off his shoulders!

PS—still no new niece.  I am the family photographer so maybe she knows that auntie em is still a little too sick to see her.  It’s crazy though, because my sister is SO ready to go.  She is dilated, effaced, and –2 station (for those of you that know OB talk).  How this child hasn’t dropped out of her is beyond me.  I think I am ready now, baby girl, and if you do between now and Monday I will be on the same “occurrence” at work. 

Friday, May 8, 2009

Still sick

praying hands

Still sick.  Send prayers.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Mother’s Day—II

Thank you for your comments.  It is a process—maybe more for me than him on some days. 

Yesterday was my first day in a week where my temp wasn’t over 100*.  Whoo hoo!  So we celebrated by going to church and sharing lunch with friends.

Since the Spud is so active it is a challenge to get him to sleep during the service so I sometimes put him in daycare for about 15-20 minutes.  Knowing how the last week has been I really should have known better.  He was fine when I left him.  I think he was pretending I wasn’t even there.  I thought I heard him a couple of times (the nursery is right off the the main room), but I thought he was…I don’t know.  Anyway, as soon as communion was over I went to the nursery and I saw a woman holding my red-faced, tear-stained son.  It took two adults to explain it, but I should have guessed.  He was clingy even before getting sick and after being with me nearly non-stop for the last 9 days I am sure he wasn’t thrilled with my departure.  The gentleman in the nursery said he noticed Duc relaxing as soon as he saw me walk through the door.   My poor baby!  Breaks my heart to see him like that.  I could feel his big heavy sobs against my chest and I felt his body relax and with a sigh he relaxed against my body.  Ahhhh, perfection.

Given how traumatic the previous twenty minutes were for him I was a little less than thrilled when some strange woman tried to pry him out of my arms.  He will go to strangers when I am right there, but today was not the day!  I know he is cute, but darn it people, he is a person and he can decide who he wants to hold him.  028_edited-1 My happy boy is back!  He has been feeling so much better since yesterday.  I love seeing his beautiful smiling face.

018_edited-1 Bottle time for babe and ma.



We both had our afternoon bottles.  It is funny…during the dossier prep and wait I wouldn’t couldn’t drink alcohol.  Now, when Auntie J calls and asks what she can pick up for me I tell her alcohol or ice cream.  Funny thing is that I don’t really like ice cream and I was never much of a fruity drink kind of girl.  Now?  Bring on the wine coolers.021 I love these little hands.  They actually aren’t so little.  A few years and our hands will be the same size.  Probably by the time he’s four.024 Seriously, how cute are those chubby little hands?026 This little outfit was a hand-me-down from a friend/co-worker.  This was her grandson’s and how appropriate that my son now wear it.  Actually, he wore the heck out of it in Vietnam, but now it really fits nicely.  Putting the whole Vietnam/dragonfly thing aside, I can’t help but think of my grandmother when I see a dragonfly and I absolutely LOVE this outfit on him.  It will be a sad day when he no longer fits in it, but it will definitely be one outfit that I keep long after he outgrows it.Duc in DaNang7 (this is Duc in the same outfit as above, sans sweater)

025 Ah, I love the way the sun lights up his face.  He is by far the most beautiful face I have ever seen.  He is my handsome little devil.  A little heart breaker.  When he flirts and flashes a dimple I turn in to putty.  It is going to be hard to say no.  Most times I just dissolve into laughter.  036_edited-1 Have I mentioned his foot fetish?  Yeah, it’s bad.  You can’t go barefoot in this house.  He’s not licking—he’s biting.  045_edited-1 Yeah, ya think? 

Mother’s Day

I’ve been trying to think of how to write this post and the words aren’t coming out right.  Just for the record, I KNOW I am my son’s mother.  But I think I sometimes view myself as the pinch hitter, and as such, replaceable.  I am always surprised when I find out that he does certain things only for me—not for anyone else in the family, friends or strangers.  I think I often downplay the role that I play in my son’s life.  I don’t think it is something I am consciously aware of, but certain things, like being struck down by the flu this week, bring things back into focus.  I assumed it would be ok to let someone else play mom to my son.  After all, it’s not like I haven’t stepped in for someone else, right?  As his second mother I was able to step in and take over care duties for the one that couldn’t perform, so why wouldn’t I think I was replaceable?

I was more than happy to allow my mom to play mom to my son this week.  Honestly, I was just too weak.  I wasn’t awake much and when I was, I was horizontal most of the time.  I didn’t think it would matter to Duc, I really didn’t. 

But it did.  My mother left us yesterday afternoon.  She needed to go back to work and I needed to suck it up.  I was more mobile yesterday and actually spent time in the living room with the two of them and I was able to actively participate.  My mom commented that Duc was much more manageable (ie, not whining constantly) and played much better when I was in the room.  I don’t know why, but even when I am told things like that I still don’t think it is specific to me.

Today, however, it finally sunk in. 

I am his mother.  I will always be his mother no matter what joys and challenges come into our lives.  I will always be there for him for whatever he needs.  My love is unconditional and is not restricted by rules of biology. 

He was cranky all morning and I was trying to get us out the door for the AsianFest at the Farmer’s Market.  He just kept crying.  He would just stand there and cry big, fat, wet tears.  It was heart breaking, but I assumed it was related to being ill since he has been doing this all week.

I fixed a bottle (since becoming sick he has refused 90% of his bottles and has stuck to water only) pulled him close in the rocker and gave him his bottle.  He held my hand in his while maintaining continuous eye contact.  Generally upon finishing a bottle he either goes to bed, falls asleep in my lap or (more likely) pops up with a big grin ready to play.  But not today.  After finishing the bottle he laid in my arms holding my hand while burying his face in my chest.  We rocked like that for 15-20 minutes and I savored every minute.  In the nearly 5 months we have been a family he has never done that before.  Afterwards he was in a much better mood—happy, no more tears, and ready to play or do whatever I asked him to do. 

It struck me then that although I know I am his mother, I need to stop thinking that I am replaceable.  He missed me and wanted to spend time with me.  It was such an awesome feeling to know that he differentiated between his mama and his oma.  It didn’t matter how many times my mom sat and rocked him and tried to feed him a bottle it just wasn’t the same for him. 

He took 3 or 4 bottles today which is more than he has had all week.  And after every bottle he just lay against me with his hand against my face or my chest.  It was heaven, but I couldn’t help noticing that his little legs and feet now hang over my lap when I rock him. 


On Wednesday evening Duc and I dragged our sorry, tired butts to the grocery store with my mom.  It was the only day all week I worked (although to be fair it was a conference which meant I slept in the car on the 1’40” drive up, sat through 4 hours of lectures and slept part of the way home again) and while we were in the grocery store the flu kicked my ass.  Hard.  I suddenly felt like I was going to pass out or be sick or both.  I was trying so hard just to keep it together until I got out to the car.

Duc is cute and what you don’t see in photos is that he has this crazy-awesome personality.  I joke that he is my little politician or future actor.  It’s amazing to watch.  However, my little man was NOT feeling good either and was NOT sharing the love.  But, he is still cute.

So this is the conversation I had with the cashier with my sick baby, while I am just trying to hold it together and not pass out.

Cashier:  Wow, he is really cute!

Me:  (nodding) Yeah, he is.

Cashier: Is he yours?

Honestly?  I thought she was asking if I was babysitting or if he was a nephew or something.  Although my town isn’t the biggest it is very diverse and we have a lot of bi-racial families and a number of adoptive families. 

Me: Yes, he is my son.

Cashier:  Oh, I wasn’t sure.  So many go to China for kids.  They are so cute!  One of my teachers got two from China….yadda, yadda, yadda.

Had I not felt like dog do-do I might have tried to engage her in a conversation about adoption, but alas, I was too busy trying to maintain a blood pressure so I didn’t have to get cleaned off the floor.   It was just so interesting how she brought it up.  Was she expecting me to say, “no, he isn’t mine.  He’s adopted”?

This is an ongoing conversation I have with members of my family.  They see no problem in differentiating between “real” and adopted children.  I can’t seem to get them to understand that I don’t want Duc growing up hearing that he is not my “real” child.  The argument that “that’s the way it used to be” doesn’t fly with me, nor does it make it more right. 


About This Blog

This started as my story, but has evolved to OUR story. This is the story of life as a single parent to a wonderful little boy while we wait for baby sister. China LID 2.12.07.

But these things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, be patient! For it will surely take place. It will not be late by a single day.
Habakkuk 2:3

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