Tag Archives: New Parents

Thoughts on Being a Newbie

In the last several months, I’ve had numerous hopeful and new adoptive parents reach out to me directly or through referral for some advice, guidance or new parenting wisdom.
Let me say this: I. Am. Not. A. Sage.
I am making this ish up as I go along.I also routinely reflect on my parenting and have resorted to a pass/fail grading system because too many choices always results in me self-grading at a C or below.
As I was reading something in my Twitter DMs recently, I thought, maybe I should write about this. So, here goes. It’s just a list, a random list of things–in no particular order–I did, wish I did or whatever. Keep in mind that these are all through the lens of older child adoption and may not be as applicable to other forms of adoption–though I imagine there may be numerous parallels in international situations.

  • Breathe. No seriously, thinking back to those first few weeks post placement, I swear I would find myself holding my breath sometimes. Your body needs oxygen, breathe, even if you have to do it intentionally because you aren’t naturally just breathing!
  • Make sure you have your favorite foods available to you. Yeah, yeah, for the emotional and physical health nuts who are like “don’t eat your feelings.” Eff, that; resolve to eat your feelings for a few weeks. I made a homemade cake with buttercream frosting every week for a while just so I could go to my happy place. Of course over time I packed on a good 40lbs, but I don’t regret the soothing process of cake baking and consumption.
  • Before the kid arrives, find a therapist and consider antidepressants, and for Holy Homeboy’s sake get a script for Ativan or some other situational anti-anxiety medication. There was a period where I was popping those things like Tic-Tacs. You think you won’t need a shrink; you maybe never have gone to a shrink; you may think shrinks are hokey. Whatever, get your fanny a shrink, and a good one who understands adoption and go, regularly. If for no other reason than to have a safe, private place to let all your emotions hang out because this journey will pull you, push you and make you reconsider/reframe everything you thought you knew about life. Get a shrink and possibly some drugs.
  • Learn about post-adoption depression before it happens to you. It’s a thing. It’s real. It’s hard.
  • Learn about secondary trauma. This is also a thing and it plays hella nasty with post-adoption depression. Take these last three bullets, do them, rinse and repeat.
  • Order a lock box for meds, valuables, important papers, anything you think is critical.
  • Keep an emergency bottle of wine or alcoholic beverage of your choice in said lockbox–I prefer a red that doesn’t need to be chilled and can be opened and consumed immediately. I like screw-tops because they are easy, but single-serve cans are next level too and constantly improving in quality. Wine—drink it.
  • Say no to welcoming social events–trust me you and your kiddo cannot, will not, be able to handle things for a while. They seem like a good idea and folks are eager to see your new “baby” but these events create expectations that likely are impossible for your kid to meet. You’ll go, the kid will have a meltdown; people won’t understand, graciousness will be in short supply, kid and you will be judged either in the moment or for days, weeks, months after. Protect you and your kid and just say no, not right now, maybe later.
  • Prep your family on what adoption is and what it isn’t. Try to educate them that while it might be a joyous occasion for welcoming a new family member, adopting an older child means that they’ve lost so much to be in a position to get to this place where adoption is even a necessity. It may not be a joyous occasion for your kid and folks need to respect that.
  • If you are friends or family of a newbie or hopeful adoptive parent of an older child–throw them a shower. Do it dammit. Newbies and HAPs ask for one. Don’t act like these parents and families of older child adoptees don’t need this kind of acknowledgment or prep for their “new arrival.” Do it before placement. Register. Do the stupid paper plate games. Party like you’re having or adopting a chronological baby since apparently everyone gets all excited about that life marker. You need that love and support too, even if you have to go MIA for a while after because the needs of your child/family are different than those with a newborn (see next bullet). I can’t say how many families I know of older child adoptees totally get shafted on this–it ain’t right. I’m super grateful to my childhood friends N & J for throwing me a shower. I created an Amazon wishlist, and family and friends gave us movie tickets, restaurant gift cards, spa gift cards (hello respite!) and more. This helped a lot with allowing me to provide Hope with some additional things she needed and take her on fun outings as we got to know each other better. I can never repay their kindness and support, but I have tried to pay it forward to families I’ve met online who did not get this kind of celebration before placement.
  • Prep your family and friends for the child’s arrival and that you might be MIA for months. This will likely be counter to everything they expect since they will be an older child. They will have expectations and misunderstandings that are just too high and flat out wrong. They may even guilt you for forgoing that arrival shindig. Disabuse them of these notions so that you can woo them into being the support system you need, not the one that they think you need or want.
  • After you’ve managed their expectations, be sure to have zero expectations of your own. None, or at least put them at floor level so you can claim achievement by opening your eyes every morning. That and actually getting up should count as a legit win in the beginning when the honeymoon is over.
  • Buy lots of Frebreeze or a knock-off; I’ve found that I and others with older kids experience funk at levels that rival what you might’ve imagined Vincent Price spoke of in Thriller (the funk of 40,000 years). It’s almost like the body emits noxious fumes in an effort to provide an added level of protection for the kiddo…keeping you away from them and from bonding. Add that many of our kids also have other challenges with maintaining hygiene and the funk gets beyond real. Spray some odor neutralizers, slather a little Vicks under your nose if necessary and get in there and SIT WITH THAT KID. They need to know the funk won’t keep you away. #realtalk
  • Get closed trash cans for bedrooms and bathrooms. No one, especially you, wants/needs to see that mess every day. And there will be mess. #blessit
  • Get a food delivery system. Yeah, kinda pricey, but one less thing do you have to do and older kids can follow the directions and help with dinner. Cooking=bonding.
  • Housekeeper as often as you can afford. One less thing for you to worry about, so you can focus on maintenance. It took a long time for Hope to do chores; she still struggles with them.
  • Breathe through the notion of putting Pandora back in the box. Hope had to learn how to be a kid again, which was hard for her, but necessary. It also meant that I had to have quite a few restrictions on what she watched and did. It was rough at first, but worth it in the long run.
  • Have planned respite. After the initial rough transition, I had someone come twice a week in the evening for months to just give me 2-3 hours to myself away. I wish I had done it sooner. By the time I did it, I was really lonely since most of my friends had kind of “moved” on since I wasn’t confident that Hope and I could be meltdown free during outings. I usually got take out and went to the park or sometimes even sat in my car, cried and napped. It was rough. If you’re in the DC area, I have used ASAP Sitters for years, and we’ve had several regular “minders” (<–phrasing from my very British educated ex) over the years who have made our world better. (Waves happily and most gratefully at P!)
  • Order a copy of your kids’ original birth certificate before the adoption is final. For so many states, getting the OBC is nearly impossible post-adoption. Ask the social worker to help you get it before finalization! Make it easier for your kid later, get it, put it in that lockbox and give it to them.
  • Any other legal docs pertaining to your kid–order them. I’ve ordered death certificates, military records, social security records and more for Hope. They have come in handy as she puts together the pieces of her life and constructs her own narrative. Knowing that I supported her having these documents and getting them for her have helped our trust bond.
  • Know that it’s ok to take moments to sit in your shower or on your toilet in your bathroom, fully clothed to cry, whisper a vent session to a listening ear, drink wine or whatever. I swear I spent a quite a bit of time hiding in my bathroom the first few weeks. I ate cake in my bathtub with no water on more than one occasion.
  • Figure out how you’re going to answer curious, yet overly intrusive questions about your child’s background. Folks you barely know and folks you grew up with, alike, will ask you *all* about your child’s business and their family’s business and truly think they are entitled to know this information. They aren’t, and it ain’t your business to share. Be careful about oversharing online and in person without your kid’s permission. I try to write from my lens and when folks ask questions of us, I follow Hope’s lead on what she chooses to share. This has been a progression in our relationship since when she was younger I fielded those questions more often alone. Sometimes I get my framing right; other times I realize maybe I should have framed things differently to protect my daughter’s privacy. I’m a work in progress.
  • Work on developing compassion for birth families. It’s very likely the child does NOT hate their first families; in fact, they likely love their parents immensely and even as older kids long to be with them. Whether that makes sense to you is inconsequential. It’s easy to have righteous indignation about their decisions, the effect of those decisions and choices on the kids. It takes a lot more personal work and stretching to understand sickness, addiction, how consuming poverty can be, and other surrounding sets of systemic circumstances that may have led to this child needing a home other than the one of their birth. Sure there are just a-holes who were a-holes to their kids, but for most families, I’ve learned to just embrace the “there but for God’s grace go I” belief. We are all really only one or two shitty decisions from a life collapse. Let the judgment and whatever possible sense of entitlement or deservedness you think you might have over their birth parents go–it ain’t healthy for you or your kid. Practice empathy and compassion for your child’s benefit; your relationships will be stronger because of it and you’ll model that for your kid.
  • Know that older pets may have a rough adjustment to newcomers. The Furry One experienced quite a bit of stress in his final year when Hope joined us. He was going on 15, deaf with eyesight failing. He was in the home stretch of life anyway, but the disruption was really hard for him and for Hope–he routinely chose her room to soil, when he had not previously had an issue with random incontinence. I wouldn’t have changed things; couldn’t have, but just know that it the humans in your home may not be the only ones struggling with change.
  • If you’re doing the transracial parenting thing–specifically white parents with kids of color; leave that colorblind parenting BS alone. It is a punt, a cop out and not even a good one. The goal should be to raise a healthy, well-adjusted kid who knows who they are, sees folks like them on the regular, has the vocabulary to talk about race and ethnicity personally and societally and to be raised in an anti-racist environment supported by behaviors that are anti-racist. Being colorblind is not a thing when raising kids of color. It’s not. Get your mind right about this. It’s not enough to be “not racist.” Your goal needs to be creating a loving environment that is “anti-racist” where your kids–kids of all colors–can talk about race, racism, how it shapes their life outside of the safeness of your home. Talking about race and racism is not racist behavior. The pretending that race isn’t a thing and that you are blind to skin color is inherently racist: full stop. It shuts down all conversation about the literal shell the kid walks around in day in and day out. It is oppressive: full stop. If you are doing the colorblind parenting thing, your home is not a safe place to have conversations about that experience. And in a world that is highly racialized, trust, it’s a thing. If your home isn’t safe to talk about skin color and how life is impacted by that color, then what else isn’t it safe to discuss in your home? I’m going to stop there, because like that pastor at Harry and Meghan’s wedding, I need to wrap this up. #abouttoreallygoin #separatepostoneofthesedays

These are just some of my reflections on being a new adoptive parent. Feel free to share other life lessons you’ve picked up along the way. Thanks to all my readers and followers for being with me and Hope on this journey. We still have miles and miles to go and we are learning more every day.

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Being Productive

For some reason I’ve been pondering my “things to do” lists excessively this week. It’s been busy at work and at home. Band camp is wrapping up, and Hope and I will be sliding into the last week of summer “vacation” this weekend. I’ve got some R&R sans Hope overnight on Saturday and have really tried to keep the rest of the weekend unplanned.

With each week of my life with Hope, I develop a greater appreciation for how hard parenting is and especially how hard single parenting is. In exchange for being the sole decision maker, I am the sole decision maker and sometimes, when big ish is happening, that sucks. Sometimes it’s not even about being a decision maker…sometimes I really just wish someone else was here to listen to Hope drone on about something I find coma-inducing. It’s hard.

I’m blessed, but this blessing has a rough side of the mountain.

Sometimes I feel like I accomplish nothing all day, every day, but I know that’s not true. Just look what I’ve managed this week:

Google Searches

  • Why does my dog eat poop?
  • How prevalent are heartworms in my area?
  • Should I take my poop eating dog to the vet?
  • Is clutter a reflection of emotional state (It can be)?
  • Can you still buy Calgon Bath Beads (you can, for a ridiculous $12!)?
  • Was the Louis Lester Band real? (Currently watching Dancing on the Edge on Netflix.)
  • Hope’s new high school’s colors

Pinterest Searches

  • Oreo balls (you need these in your life.)
  • Punctuation cheat sheets
  • Corn chowder recipes
  • Crockpot recipes
  • Cocktail recipes
  • Grammar worksheets
  • Natural hair tips
  • Other miscellaneous, random stuff.

Scheduling

  • Renewed Hope’s library book (failed to pay existing $9 for other late books)
  • Called Absurdly Hot Therapist a day early to reschedule appointment due to band related conflict only to find we missed the appointment which was really scheduled for yesterday. #fail
  • Volunteered to participate in several band parent related functions in hopes of logging my hours early so I don’t feel guilty for ditching them later in the semester.
  • Studied the fall calendar to see of Elihu and I could jet off to the Bahamas for a few days.
  • I called ahead to Costco for this week’s pizza order and got there right in time to get a chicken fresh off the rotisserie.
  • Made my iced coffee the night before three days this week.

Fitness & Self Care

  • Hit my fitbit fitness goal every day and generously exceeded it on most days.
  • Used my new faux Pilates toning bar thingy with the stretchy bands.
  • I fantasized about spiking my slurpees but didn’t.
  • Had a slurpee everyday
  • Only 3 glasses of wine this week, and they weren’t even tumbler sized.
  • I cooked every day.
  • I took walks at work every day.
  • I took Yappy to the dog park 3 days this week (he’s so fun to watch that I count this as fitness and self-care).

House Stuff

  • The AC in the living room is finally being repaired.
  • I painted the door to Hope’s room; still needs another coat.
  • I have picked up and tidied Hope’s room a little each morning because I realize that she simply can’t manage it this week.
  • After 2 weeks I tackled Yappy’s lair under my bed; the things I found under there are unspeakable.
  • I found Hope’s latest food hoarding stash.
  • We have nearly finished school shopping.
  • I wrote the band director a nasty gram about his comments about Hope’s hair not fitting under the band cap.
  • I only deleted 3 of the mazillion band parent emails.
  • I vacuumed and mopped.
  • I made desserts for the band camp finale dinner.
  • I put a fresh bottle of pinot gris in the fridge for Friday night.

I’m tired, a wee bit grumpy and looking forward to a lazy weekend. We are all way more productive than we probably think we are.

Life is hard. Parenting is hard. We all probably should give ourselves a bit of a break, right?


Grammy for the Win

Amazing how a week and a half makes a difference in this life.  Honestly, it is a testament to how much emotional upheaval is involved in this life change; the emotional swings are ridiculous.  I may not be hormonal from pregnancy, but I figure I’m just as emotional as any pregnant lady.

So, as I wait for the ICPC, prep for Hope’s upcoming 16 day visit, and plan for my adoption shower, new information is emerging about my daughter.  It is tough reading about what she’s been through.  During our visit a few weeks ago, Hope shared things that I hadn’t been told at that point.  I kept my negative reactions to a minimum because I didn’t want to do or say anything that would be perceived as rejection by Hope.  But I’ve stewed inside.

I’ve been angry that someone could treat a child the way Hope was treated.  I have vigilante fantasies about slowly hurting the people who have hurt her. Hey, just being honest, here.   I’m heartbroken that she’s struggled so much to cope and learn skills to deal with her trauma, loss and grief.  I feel guilty because I’m peeved that some of these details weren’t shared with me before hand or were just characterized quite differently; I hate that somewhere in the emotional swirl that I feel like I was duped.  It wouldn’t have made any difference in knowing that Hope and I were a match; I’ve known she was the one nearly from the first time I saw her picture.  I just wish that agency folks could be more transparent sometimes.

I have a lot of self-doubt about whether I can be the type of parent that I aspire to be.  I have confidence that I can draw on being a little older, a little wiser and a decent skill-tool box to be a good parent.  I’m relieved that even though much of this path seems so lonely—like echo in the darkness at Luray Caverns lonely—that I do have a loving family and friends who are eager to support me.  Even and especially the same Grammy last week that I wanted to banish to a remote island somewhere.

About a month ago I wrote a little bit about practicing grace during this transition.  It’s hard; it’s really hard because everything feels so important, so dramatic, so difficult, so deeply personal and so very emotional, and this is true for the very high, happy times and the heartbreaking, low times.  It takes a lot of deep reaching to consistently practice grace, and some days I simply fall short because I’ve just run out of capacity.

And this is where Grammy swoops in with her super cape this morning.  We’ve been trading emails for the last day or so about Hope, her visit, the registry and just stuff.  We’ve been pretty tender with each other since our fallout last week—we know that new, much needed barriers were created, but it’s almost like we still aren’t sure where those barriers are yet.  That’s probably because they are still in flux and the lines will move again over time.  This is the way of mothers and daughters sometimes, and the irony that Hope and I will likely soon be like this is not lost on me.  Anyhoo, I told her that I was just so angry and hurt reading about Hope’s history in these new documents and trying to think of strategies that will help Hope and me get through the transition.

Grammy writes back:

Hope will be a journey of the heart for all of us… I’m already praying mightily for the breaking of the familial curses in her family.  My uncle always prayed for a blessing over our family for the generations to come, not just those in his time, but those to come and that applies even to the adopted.  And how do I know that?  I’m adopted into God’s family.

I’m a believer, though sometimes the tenor of conversations about faith in the adoption community feel odd to me, maybe because they are often wrapped in a conservatism that I reject.  You can best believe I’ve spent a lot of knee time with God this year, and I know that my favorite associate pastor at my church probably thinks I should book an appointment at altar call on Sundays, given how many times I’ve sought her out to pray me through this dissertation and adoption.  But it was something about Grammy’s relating Hope’s adoption to our adoption into the kingdom that resonated with me and brought me great comfort today.

Hope and I will be ok; we’ll muddle through.  My family is blessed, and my own little family will be blessed. I imagine that the blessing will come with all the skills I need (I’ll still need to learn to use them) with a heaping side of grace.  God adopted me; I’ll be just fine.


Born for This

So, today is better than yesterday and tomorrow will be better than today.  At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it right now.  Such a week of epic melt downs.  Sigh.   But I’m dragging myself through, dusting myself off and attempting to right myself.

Picture1I cannot continue walking around looking like this.  Mess.  Under-eye circles and bags.  My nose is red and my hair doesn’t even have its usual sassiness.

No bueno!

After my sad post from yesterday, I took yesterday afternoon off to go pick up some items for Hope’s room.  I enjoyed a fun happy hour with a classmate.  I allowed myself to sleep in.  Heck I even turned on the heat this morning.   I finally scheduled my mammogram and will spring extra for the snazzy 3-D scan (It’s October ladies, get yourselves checked out.).  I scheduled a meeting for Monday with my dissertation director to talk about survey question reliability coefficients.  I launched two major studies at work and finished the study protocol for a third.  I also finally submitted my request to telecommute two days a week until my dissertation is done.  I also added several items to Hope’s gift list after some momentary inspiration on a long commute into the office.

I managed to get a nice walk in at dusk, finally give The Furry One a bath and I made brussel sprouts and bacon for dinner.

I will watch tween (Vampire Diaries) and grown folks (Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal) TV; then I will talk to my Hope and I will sleep and I will rise and I will stay on my grind.

My good friend Dr. Beach redirected my dismay over Drake’s No New Friends and pointed me to All Me.  It a good hype song; I was made for this.

Despite feeling so very low this week, I have some great people in my life.  I’m blessed, even when I feel rotten.  I’m so happy that I get to surround Hope with so many amazing, loving, kind people.

I’m still feeling pretty crappy and I’m so glad tomorrow is Friday, but I was born to be Hope’s mom.


An Unexpected Gift!

So two amazing things happened today.

  1. My dissertation quantitative study response rate tipped past 50%!  This high response rate wasn’t really necessary, but it is a really awesome development for my study.
  2. Way, way, way more important:  Hope sent me a letter.

Did you catch that???

 HOPE SENT ME A LETTER!!!

 So, I up until this point, I thought the rainbow, unicorned sparklies of seeing her profile could not be topped.  They were easily surpassed by Match Day.  Then today, out of the blue I get an email from my agency that included her letter, dictated to her therapist yesterday.

So, of course that makes today the new Best. Day. Ever!

My bio was given to Hope yesterday as a way of introducing to the idea of me adopting.  She was told that it was a letter, so she was insistent on responding back.   How awesome is that???

She likes me!  She really likes me!

She asked about The Furry One and what it was like in Virginia.  She told me about her hair and asked me if I would help her with it.  She asked about the schools , if she would have to buy a uniform and if we could go bike riding.  She mentioned that she’s a chocoholic too.  She said she looked forward to our first phone call.   It was, without question, the best letter ever written.  Ever!

I was in a staff meeting doodling on my tablet when this email came in, and I began to tear up as I read this sweet, precious letter from my new daughter.  What a thoughtful thing for this child to do, expressing curiosity and responsiveness.  I’d like to think that this might be a great beginning for our future communications even long after she moves here.  I’d like to think that maybe we will leave each other sweet notes in lunch bags and on the mirror and that we’ll talk about important things on park benches with some ice cream a year from now.

I also know that I’ll have a laminated copy of this letter for those nights I’ll clutch it while I cry myself to sleep when I’m wondering what the hell kind of parent I am and if I just totally bombed that moment of discipline, bonding, or conversation.  I’ll look at this letter and remember when she was curious about me, eager to know me and how I almost had to hold myself back for fear of giving too much too soon.

I know that some moms have told me that me that loving a child nearly breaks your heart because it is like your heart can’t even hold all the love for this kid in one place.  That love just grows and grows.  I know that the affection I feel for Hope will change and grow, but I already feel my heart stretching in ways I didn’t know were even possible.  I’m starting to get it, but I’m not sure I have the words to describe this kind of consuming desire to protect and love Hope.  It’s actually startling; two months ago, I didn’t even know she was out there.

I’m so excited that I’ve cried most of the day.  Seriously, I’m going to have to get better waterproof mascara if this keeps up.   On days with breaking adoption news, I’m crying my make up off by noon.   These days its happy tears.  I  hope I get to cry happy tears tomorrow!


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