Insert Name Here

December 21st marked the one year anniversary of the arrival home of our baby Wee. The picture above was taken on the drive home from NYC. If this wasn’t special enough, we also learned that he will celebrate his adoption day January 3rd. We are so thrilled to finally have this day scheduled for many reasons. Officially he will be ours forever and when the judge signs his adoption decree, he will become a U.S. citizen. This is a monumental day in his life and our life as his parents.

Wee’s adoption day also marks the end of our six year journey through adoption. There have been so many wonderful and beautiful moments since we decided to adopt. However, the process of adoption is exhausting and stressful. It will be nice to put the paperwork, form-filing, and extensive waiting behind us. Even though Wee was ours the second we saw his photo (on Valentine’s Day 2010), it will be a relief to have all official documents signed, sealed and delivered.

So much has happened since Spring 2006 when we made the decision to pursue adoption. There have been a lot of ups and downs. Many moments of pure joy and sadness. Waiting months upon months for your child to come home is extremely difficult. Knowing he is thousands of miles away growing, learning and experiencing so many firsts without you can truly test your heart’s ability to cope. It was also difficult to decide how and when to adopt a second time. Having to round up another $25,000 to make it happen was a challenge. We knew we would find a way, but nevertheless the price tag of adoption is daunting. Thank goodness we were able to make it happen a second time.

For as long as I live I will never forget what it was like to see and hold my babies for the first time- not in a hospital but an airport. After so many months of viewing pictures and dreaming of what they smelled like, sounded like, and felt like in my arms my breath never felt deeper or more at ease than the moment I embraced my two boys. We are lucky because both of our sons were completely at ease with us the moment we met. They were not scared or unhappy. It was as if we had always known each other and simply waited for our day to be together. Destiny.

As I anticipate the birth of our third child, I understand that the day we meet will be similar but different and special in its own way. It has taken me a long time to grasp that I am pregnant. Dreams don’t always become reality. I dreamed so long of pregnancy my mind simply could not accept that it was really happening. Each day that passes, my due date approaching, new realizations come to light. Some are simple and some are profound.

While wrapping our presents and adhering the labels, it occurred to me that next year I will be writing five names under “from.” Wow. Who will this person be and what will they be called? As I placed our stockings on the mantel, I thought, next year we will need to move them down and make room for one more. The stockings embroidered with “AJ” and “Erica” that once stood alone are now crowded out by those of three beautiful children. It is things like this that leave me awe-struck.

Each one of my children has made a dream come true. They have been my saviors from a deep and debilitating grief. My oldest, Min allowed me to become a mommy. His arrival relieved a pain that at one point seemed insurmountable. Baby Wee allowed me the chance to raise another baby and to see Min’s own dream of big brotherhood come true. He completed our family in a way only he could with his funny personality and kind little heart. And my unborn baby has allowed me to experience pregnancy and understand all that it entails. I no longer have to wonder if it will ever happen for us. I no longer feel that sense of longing. And while I will not feel completely at ease until baby is born, no matter what happens, this little being has given me so many gifts already.

My children have all fulfilled dreams- long, hard-fought dreams. But what is most profound is that all of them fulfilled dreams I didn’t know I had 9 years ago when we thought that parenthood was just a nine month jaunt away.

As we stand before the judge on January third another milestone is taking place. That very day I will have entered my third trimester; the day we meet our newborn baby grows ever closer. More fulfilled visions to come as we get to introduce oUr boys to their brother or sister. Three little faces, all ours. All of them miracles in their own right.

Hap-Hap-Happiest Christmas

The holidays just aren’t the holidays without my favorite movie, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Clark W. Griswold and his endearing, often mind-boggling antics have been making people laugh for nearly 30 years.

Christmas Vacation came out in 1989. I saw it in the theater. And since then my brother and I have prattled off it’s quotes while giggling and reminiscing of the dozens of ridiculous scenes in the movie.

The movie starts out with the Griswold’s heading out to cut down their tree in the “front-wheel drive sleigh.” Clark moves on to putting up his outdoor Christmas lights. Then the parents arrive and other family members.  Who could forget Uncle Lewis.

Uncle Lewis: Hey Grizz, Bethany and I figured out the perfect gift for you.
Clark
: Aw, you didn’t have to get me anything.
Uncle Lewis
: Dammit, Bethany, he guessed it.

Everyone knows a quote from this movie. One of my favorite is Clarke’s rant about his fun, old fashioned family Christmas. Of course the highlight of the movie is the arrival of Cousin Eddie played by Randy Quaid. There are so many memorable quotes and scenes pertaining to Eddie including the scene in the Griswold living room where Clark and Eddie are drinking out of the moose mugs. Eddie is sporting his dickey. Don’t know what that is? You can read about it here. 

While Clark is a good natured family man, it is hilarious to see his feisty side. This is portrayed several times through correspondence with his snooty neighbors, Todd and Margo.

Todd: Hey Griswold. Where do you think you’re gonna put a tree that big?
Clark : Bend over and I’ll show you.
Todd : You’ve got a lot of nerve talking to me like that Griswold.
Clark : I wasn’t talking to you.

 And as you enjoy all the comes with the holiday season such as music, food, and decor be glad that you don’t live next door to a man who puts so many lights on his house that the power company had to turn on their auxiliary nuclear generator.

What is your favorite quote or scene from this movie?

If this isn’t your favorite holiday movie, what is?

BTW- the moose mugs are available for sale on-line– for only $19.95 a piece.

Our New Baby

The world I envisioned when pregnant has revealed itself. I have been let in on the conversations of body changes and breast feeding. I have answered the question,”How are you feeling?” several dozen times. I have purchased and read pregnancy publications, and not as a preemptive or positive thinking method, but because I am actually pregnant. My attention has maneuvered to the 0-3 sizes, the tiny clothes no longer a painful reminder that I would never hold my child the day they were born.

But somehow I just don’t feel like I belong. I’m here. I’m bulging and sporting the belly band, but when I feel my hand approaching the small of my back in the traditional pregnancy pose, I smack it down. The voice creeps up and hisses, remember! Remember how the site of a pregnant woman turned your stomach in knots. Remember the buckets of tears you cried over the past eight years. Stand up straight and whatever you do, don’t rub your belly.

We are our own worst critics, as they say. I understand that I am needlessly chastising myself for behaving ‘pregnant.’ But old habits die hard.  I have reached the haven of pregnancy but with one foot out the door as if I am ready to run if the situation turns sour. My guard is continually up.

I’m on the platform but I cannot get on the train; and even though the whistle is blowing, I just cannot seem to make the leap to the comforting countryside passage.

I don’t necessarily have these feelings because I am overly afraid of losing my baby. This is another thing that has caught me completely by surprise. While I have trepidation about my baby going to term and delivering okay, anxiety has not taken over my life as I always suspected. Every now and then a nervous thought creeps into my head about my baby dying in utero or being born with a disease or disorder. But my vision of being overly anxious because of our circumstances has not proven to be true. And I am extremely thankful for this sense of peace. It is as unexpected as the pregnancy itself.

My feelings of pregnancy-ostracism are completely self-inflicted.  I am signaling reminders all the time that I am different. When I notice that a certain moment or instance would normally have ripped my heart to shreds, I cannot help but divert back to pre-pregnancy me. Recently I was enveloped in a conversation with a few women regarding pregnancy symptoms and birthing plans. I was sort of half listening well aware that for the first time  I was actually participating in such a conversation instead of avoiding the circle at all costs.

It has been strange to discover that while I am allowing myself to be involved in pregnancy and newborn conversations, and others are now including me because they are no longer trying to protect me, I simply am not able to succumb to the feeling that I am finally a part of this ever-coveted genre of females. I don’t feel this huge sense of relief that my place as a woman is finally secure because I’m in the circle. It is an acceptance that I cannot fully grasp; maybe it’s that I don’t want to.

I thought that when I became visibly pregnant which I am as of late, that my ability to see that this pregnancy is real would blossom. However, I still have to keep looking down at my belly as a reminder that this is true. But the reminders come often and my connection to the little one growing inside my body and not just inside my heart, becomes stronger every day.

When Min touches my belly and talks to the baby, I soften. I embrace all of these tiny moments, each one a miracle for us as a family. And then I am able to revel in this dream come true. I guess I should not be surprised that it is my two boys that extend my happiness, serving as a reminder that they will both be big brothers soon. As my five year old chirps that he can’t wait for our new baby to come, my heart leaps.

This morning my mother-in-law lent us a book she read to my husband in anticipation of his brother arriving. It is entitled, “The New Baby.” Thumbing through the pages I saw the illustration of a mommy with a big pregnant belly. Later I wondered if my MIL hoped to one day share this book with us, feeling her own sense of hurt for herself and us.

It made me realize again that the hurt of infertility is felt by those who love us as well. This pregnancy is a dream come true for our loved ones.This is the reason why I let my mother take a picture of me this afternoon. She has waited a long time to see her only daughter pregnant.

Before bed Min and I read the book about bringing a new sibling home. My sense of peace that this nearly nine year journey is finally boasting a clear understanding left a warm sensation around my heart.

Maybe next time I will forget my inhibitions for a moment and reveal my baby name list and park in the ‘Expectant Moms’ space at the grocery store.

Huff Po, Woah

 *image from The Grieving Dads Project 

So this post should have gone out roughly six days ago. Alas, here it is.

Last Friday I was lucky enough to be invited to partake in a segment entitled, “The Pain of Miscarriage” on Huff Post Live.

 I was joined by 3 other panelists, Abby Lagunoff, a miscarriage healer in Los Angeles, Marybeth Lowell, mother of one in Seattle,and Kelly Farley, a bereaved father, recovery coach and the author of ‘Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back.’

Notably the highlight of the segment was Kelly Farley author and creator of the Grieving Dads Project.

It was refreshing to hear the opinion of a man regarding the topic of miscarriage and still birth. While the segment was not on infertility specifically, he did mention that he and his wife struggled through infertility as well.

Farley stated, “I went into a pretty heavy tailspin, into despair and grief. A lot of it had to do with the fact that I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t seek help. Eventually I gave in and sought some help.”

Farley recommended that men dealing with pregnancy loss must give themselves space to cope.

“It’s not weak to cry,” he said. “And it’s okay to show emotion. It’s okay to talk about it.”

There were many tweets that came in during the 20 minute segment from men.  I am happy to pass along the Grieving Dads Project information to share with the men in your life. Kelly has created an excellent and much needed resource.

In the near future look forward to a guest post from Kelly Farley.

Here is a past post from giving the male perspective of infertility- Factor In

My Crescent Moon

 I am linking up with Keiko from the Infertility Voice and Pamela from Silent Sorority to participate in their Open Salon, “To Mom or Not to Mom.” They created this to discuss both sides of the motherhood debate from their unique perspectives. Why? To parse out the concerns and vulnerabilities of transition within the ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) community without tripping over political correctness and delicate sensibilities.

Head over to each of their blogs to read some very interesting points of view. 

Below is my contribution to the project.

 —————————————————————————————————-

I sit here staring at my computer screen because I don’t know exactly what to write. I have on pajamas and a thick pair of socks I took from my dad the last time we were at our cottage. It’s just after 9PM and I am exhausted. Each day is so full. Raising two young boys sucks the life out of me. I really don’t feel like I can ever fit it all in. And there are days when I look around at my house and feel like it oozes filth.

But tonight the vacuuming will have to wait. The clothes will remain in the laundry basket. I need to formulate this post; I have been waiting a long time.

I look down at my belly and it is protruding all of a sudden. I am 17 weeks pregnant and still cannot believe that this is really happening to me- to us. I have known about the pregnancy for 13 weeks, and it is just beginning to seem real. I can finally say the words and not feel like I am speaking of someone else. But often it still feels like an outer-body experience. I have accepted that this is my truth, but my fragile heart and mind teeter on the edge of disbelief.

After 8 1/2 years of battling infertility, I finally got a positive pregnancy test. I will never forget that morning. I called AJ right away and through massive sobs told him the news. I was in my office at work; no one else was there. I called my RE’s office and basically shouted in the phone, I’m pregnant!
The secretary put my doctor on the phone. When I heard his kind voice with an accent proclaim, “Oh, Erica, this is such wonderful news,” I realized that was just one of some many things I waited over 8 years to experience. Even though I love my second RE (who was my doctor for the majority of my TTC journey), I was never able to experience anything good at their practice. It was all sad and complicated and extremely difficult.

Yesterday at a routine doctor visit, I heard the baby’s heart beat for the first time in a month. Immediately after the Doppler touched my abdomen, there it was- strong and loud. Such a pure sound. I haven’t cried much since the first week of finding out. But when I hear that sound or see baby on the ultrasound screen, I tear up. S/he’s in there growing and thriving. The heart beat is strong. I can already tell s/he is a fighter. Almost like he knows what mommy and daddy have been through.

My OB (having an OB is a triumph in and of itself) said to me,” That must be such a great sound after all you have been through.”

He has no idea.

We waited until the end of the first trimester to tell people besides our immediate family. And I have waited until this point to write about my pregnancy for several different reasons. I understand completely that my news may be painful for others. I know all too well the bitter sweet tug at the heart upon hearing pregnancy announcements. And the ironic part for me over the past few years is that the pregnancies of women who didn’t ever think they would get pregnant were harder for me to deal with. I just kept thinking if a miracle happened for them, why not me? I just could not let go my vision of a pregnancy. For some reason even after Wee came home and we were all so happy, I did not feel like I was done yet. I knew I wouldn’t adopt again, but I strongly felt that I would have another child. I just didn’t know how.

I haven’t been able to write about my pregnancy because I didn’t know what to say. We are extremely grateful for this opportunity, but I never imagined I would feel such a vast array of emotions. I spent so much time thinking about getting pregnant, I never had the chance to learn about or understand the actual pregnancy.

One of my first mental challenges was a looming question. Where do I fit in now? I won’t be just an adoptive mom because I will have a biological child. I have the awesome opportunity to be an adoptive mother which sets me apart from those who are not adoptive parents. And no matter what the circumstances I will never have the innocence of most during their first pregnancy.  I am pregnant and will get to experience everything that goes with it, but that is where the similarities end. 

I felt somewhat lost and hoped that my place in this community was still in tact. I realize my story may end up differently than I ever imagined, but there will always be one thing that links me to everyone who has experienced infertility. I know and appreciate the toll that infertility can take on a human being. Despite my end result, I will always be infertile. I will never forget having to ask myself what I will do with my life if motherhood isn’t part of it. Infertility does not define me, but it is part me forever like my green eyes and silly sense of humor.

 I feel the weight of my 8 1/2 years of IF. But I am trying very hard to live in the moment. No matter what this is my only pregnancy to cherish.Slowly I have come to understand that my realization of a dream can offer hope to others. I have so much perspective to share. And those of you who have been reading my blog for a long time know that I am honest about my feelings. The realities of infertility are too hard to ignore. Over the past few months I have thought of several different posts to write- lessons I am learning now that I am on the “other side.” I am working toward gaining even more compassion and will take this chance I have been given to continue working to help others become parents.
In the past few days my stomach has “popped” as they say. Walking by a mirror or window and catching a glimpse of my protruding belly will never occur without a double take. I have to show my brain that my eyes are not playing tricks on me.

Not too long ago I wrote a post about my slim chance of conceiving. I had a Crescent Moon Size Chance of getting pregnant naturally. And I as I wrote then, I guess that was all I needed. Maybe it is all you need as well.

Our First IVF Baby

In the spring I went to the PFM PO Box as I routinely do. I wasn’t expecting much to be there as we had just finished up the 2012 gala. I spotted a blue envelope and eagerly opened the card.

As I read the words tears spilled down my cheeks. One of our medical grantees from 2011 had recently given birth to a baby boy. This was the first success (as far as I know) that we celebrated from a grantee who had undergone an ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) procedure.

We have helped a total of 7 couples with ART medical expenses so far (since 2010). With the difficult odds that IF sufferers face when doing IUI or IVF, I know that our grant money helps give people a chance at conception. But it is never a sure thing. These are the people that we have tried to touch base with after receiving the grant. But until now we had never heard back from anyone. This doesn’t mean that no one has been successful; but we are left to wonder if they found their way out of IF or are still hoping for their own miracle.

I have been given permission to share with you the testimonial written by Dan and Marybeth about the pregnancy, birth, and young life of their son, Faolan.

Seeing his little face reinforces within me why I chose to devote such a large part of my life to helping those suffering through infertility. It helps me to understand my own difficult journey to parenthood.

—————————————————————————————————-


“On the day I was waiting for the results of my last pregnancy test, I started singing “You Are My Sunshine,” but by the time I got to, “You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you,” I was choking back tears. I could barely complete, “Please don’t take my sunshine away,” and didn’t even attempt the part about dreaming and waking up mistaken. To date, my husband, Daniel, and I had been trying to conceive for five years. For the past two, we had completed eleven failed intrauterine inseminations, accompanied by surgeries, monitoring, fertility drugs, Chinese herbs, special diets, acupuncture, Reiki, yoga, Maya abdominal massage, and more. With the costs of in vitro fertilization (IVF) seeming so far beyond our budget, we tried any and every alternative approach that had ever worked for anyone else. But our options were running out. The doctors had suggested that we move on to IVF, which would improve our chances of conceiving, give us more information regarding why our previous attempts had failed, and perhaps help us address any issues discovered along the way.
As many struggling with infertility know, however, IVF procedures and medications can easily cost anywhere between $10- and $20,000, none of it covered by insurance. We couldn’t fathom any way for us to afford such expenses, yet we also couldn’t picture the devastating possibility of remaining childless forever. Then I learned of Parenthood For Me, which I read like this: Parenthood? For me? Am I really going to get the chance? The name gave us hope that it could happen, and the organization gave us much more. After we shared our story, they granted Daniel and me a significant sum to help us pay for our costs. Amazingly, I received the news only days before we had to make a decision to go ahead with the IVF or not. A couple weeks later, we were completing the procedures. And a couple weeks after that, a little while after I broke down to “You Are My Sunshine,” I learned that I was pregnant.
After a blissful pregnancy, our son, Faolán, finally arrived on March 2, 2012, a healthy 7 lbs, 1 oz. Our very own miracle. Tonight, when I put him to bed, I sang “You Are My Sunshine” once again, as I do every night. But I have since changed the lyrics to, “And when I woke, dear, there you were. So I raised my head and I cried.” Every day, every moment we spend with him, we feel gratitude to all the wonderful and caring people who helped him find his way to us. The members and contributors of Parenthood For Me are at that top of that list.     
Thank you Parenthood For Me!”
– Daniel and Marybeth C.
“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”
– Joseph Campbell

Faces of ALI- A Must Read

This is a beautifully written series by Jessica at Too Many Fish to Fry.

All four segments offer insight into different stages of infertility. They are all extremely touching. This is a wonderful way to try and help people understand the vast devastation and loss felt by those in the ALI community.

Part 1: The Devastation of Pregnancy Loss: A Profile of Courtney Cheng

Part 2: Sarah in Three Acts

Part 3: The Memory Keeper: Childless/Childfree After Loss and Infertility

Part 4: The Den Mother: Parenting After Infertility

For the Love of Korean Culture: Integrating different cultures in adoptive families

By Kelly Weishaar
 
My little daughter, age 3, climbs into my lap and points to my iPad.
“Drama, Mommy?”
In my house, it well known that Mommy is addicted to Korean drama shows. The shows are melodramatic romances or action stories that give me a brief look at modern Korean culture.
My two children were born in South Korea. My husband and I are Caucasian. As a transracial family, we have made it a priority to learn about Korean culture.  As we prepared to become parents through adoption, we researched how to bring our children’s culture into our everyday life. Much of the literature we have read supports the idea that children who are adopted benefit from being exposed to the culture of their birth. Learning about Korea has been an exciting journey for all of us.
As I was thinking of all the ways we try to celebrate our different cultures at our house, I came across an article in Adoptive Families magazine called “Bringing Heritage Home” by Lisa Milbrand
Milbrand makes a few suggestions on how family’s can celebrate family heritage:
1.   Make connections with other adoptees.
2.      Make cultural activities a normal part of life.
3.      Explore the current [modern] culture.
4.      Blend a family culture.
In my own family, our first love of Korean culture was the food. Anyone who is familiar with Korea knows that food plays an important role in social gatherings and family relationships. We love to go to Korean restaurants, and are lucky to have a number of them in our community. We also like to frequent the Asian markets, to search for ingredients for cooking Korean food at home. Although I am not much of a cook, we try to share Korean meals with our friends and family.
We are also lucky to have access to an active parent adoption support group and a Korean culture camp. Both my husband and I are on the board of the groups, and make an effort to be actively involved. The groups provide us with opportunities to socialize with other families who look just like us. They also give us access to Korean cultural events, holiday celebrations, and educational opportunities.
The adoption groups and camp have also connected us with members of the Korean American community in our area. We are particularly lucky to have found a special “Korean Grandmother.” She is dear to us, and loves to invite our family to Korean events in the community. She also likes to cook with the children. They especially love her “mandu” (dumplings)!
Other ways we try to “absorb” Korean culture are through children’s picture books, DVD’s about Korea, and short videos of Korean children’s songs on YouTube. Although we don’t understand Korean language, we also find K-Pop lots of fun to dance to! All around the world there has been a growing interest in Korean pop culture and entertainment. This is lucky for us, since Korean entertainment is readily available via the Internet.
As the kids grow older, there will be other opportunities for us to learn about Korean culture, if they are interested. We have access to Korean ethnic schools, language lessons, and Korean churches. One day we hope to travel together to Korea, to visit the cities where they were born. Although, as parents, we find such learning exciting and fulfilling, we will need to take our cues from our children. Not every child, adopted or biological, has a burning desire to learn about his or her heritage. We need to be sensitive to that, and understand that their interest will wax and wane as they grow.
Although this may happen, I am pretty sure that Mommy’s addiction to Korean drama will continue…

2012 Grants

Our board of directors convened last week and chose the six applicants who will receive a grant this year. As always the selection process was very difficult. There were nearly 100 applications, and everyone has a difficult and sad story to tell. We wish that every applicant could receive some financial relief.

The 6 grantees have been notified by phone. All others will be receiving a letter in the mail shortly. We thank everyone who applied for their very thorough application. We understand that it takes a lot of time to put together the application.

We are proud to announce that we are giving away a total of $24,000. This is double the amount we were able to give away just two short years ago. We also increased the number of grants from 4 to 6. There are 3 adoption grants and 3 medical grants.

We have already been informed that one of our adoption grantees has brought their baby girl home. And we wait for other great news and updates from previous applicants and this year’s grantees.

PFM is dedicated to helping people achieve their goals of family and parenthood. It is extremely difficult to turn people away especially when the number of applicants grows every year. Those of us on the board and our supporters continue to work hard to gain awareness and plan events to raise funds. We are an all-volunteer organization made up of people who greatly believe in the mission statement.

There is so much more we hope to accomplish. We have many things planned for the future such as educational and support seminars and gaining new partnerships with those in the fields of adoption and fertility. Little by little we are making things happen.

I went to the post office Saturday to buy some stamps and happened to check our mailbox. I could not believe it when I opened a blue envelope revealing a birth announcement. One of our medical grantees gave birth to a baby boy this past March. I cried right then in there in the middle of the post office.

The thank-you note was so sweet. “…you helped make his life possible…”

I am humbled. I am grateful. I am renewed.

Thank you to all of our supporters.

Our next grant cycle opens in January 2013. If you are interested in learning more about our grants visit our website:
www.parenthoodforme.org

If you are interested in learning how you can help Parenthood for Me, email us :
info@parenthoodforme.org

2012 Grant Update

We will be contacting this year’s granteees by phone. This will happen towards the end of July. Thank you for your patience. Everyone who applied will be getting a letter in the mail.

There was a large increase in the number of applications this year, therefore the process has taken a little longer.

For those of you with questions about the next grant cycle, here are some responses.

1. The next grant cycle begins in January of 2013.

2. Applications will become available on our website in January.

3. The grant amounts vary and have increased every year. Once our board of directors determines this year’s grant amount, we will let everyone know.

We continue to make strides as an organization. There is another fundraiser scheduled for this fall.

If you or someone you know is interested in holding a fundraiser in your town, email me:

info@parenthoodforme.org