Adoption, Fate, Faith, SingleMoms

Thoughts on Being an Adoptive Mom This Mother’s Day:

Thoughts on Being an Adoptive Mom…

People who are interested in adopting sometimes approach me with questions. I love that. I help as much as I can, although any adoptive parent would agree that each case is very unique. I’ve shared my story here about my long road to becoming a mother. Now I can tell you what life is like on the other side, a few years later.

Highlights over the past three and a half years include countless days at the park, weekly outings with Nana and Papa, and snuggling together every night.

She went from being a terrified girl who knew just basic English words on her first day of pre-school to a confident, excellent reader and well socialized, soon-to-be second grader. We’ve had soccer games and Christmas plays and many play dates with friends who’ve become near and dear to both of us.

We’ve had two trips to Disney World and the same amount of trips to the emergency room. Suffice to say, I’ve aged a lot. My smile lines are more pronounced (that’s a good thing) and while I never felt like a grinch before, I’m sure my heart has grown a few sizes.

Being a mother changes a person in many ways. The obvious being, my whole world went from revolving around my needs and wants to revolving around what’s best for my daughter. She is in my thoughts 24/7 and every decision… from the smallest to the largest… is automatically weighed by how it will affect her.

As for the not always obvious changes….

I have never before experienced a confluence of joy, excitement, anxiety and dread, coupled with overwhelming responsibility. The joy and excitement come from watching her grow into the beautiful person she is. No matter what goes wrong during my day, I have her to come home to and that brings me a sense of peace and contentment that I have never experienced. She has filled my heart beyond imagination.

While she is the center of my universe, the same is true for her with me and that can be a heavy load. As a parent, your child is constantly learning from you, even when you’re not paying attention.

I picked her up from school the other day and before I could get a word out, she asks me, “How was your day, Sweetheart?” I melt.
I hate to admit this, but she’s also repeated some other words she’s heard me say that I wished she didn’t!

Being a parent means your little ones are going to duplicate your expressions and mannerisms, as well as your words. My signature dance moves, as embarrassing as they are, are now hers.

Don’t let anyone tell you that biology is responsible for the apple not falling far from the tree. I’d like to think she is my mini me. Only better.

Almost every parent would agree that all they want is for their children to be happy and healthy. This is where the anxiety and dread can come in. When she’s sick or hurting, there’s absolutely nothing worse.

We were driving the other day when I hear her start to cry because she saw a dead raccoon in the road that had been hit by a car. Not a pleasant sight, for sure, but she has real tears streaming down her cheeks and offers a prayer out loud, “Awwww, that poor guy….Jesus, please help him.”

Two days later, we drove on the same street and passed him again and she looked at me with profound confusion.

“Mommy, why didn’t Jesus take him to heaven yet?”

Ummmm… just another question I wasn’t quite prepared for. The challenges… and the chuckles… are endless.

I want her to stay innocent and untarnished forever, to always believe in happily ever after and that every raccoon has a family to go home to, but of course that won’t happen. As a parent, you dread whatever inevitable heart breaks and disappointments are to come in the future that no one escapes in this life.

Like never before, I’m learning the lesson of trying to live in the moment. For now, I’m savoring this magical time.

I definitely look at life differently. Even the stories I cover, I see through the lens of a mother.

My recurrent and automatic thoughts go to things like:
-A teachers’ strike means those poor parents have to find childcare…
-That fire fighter has a mom, I bet she’s worried about him right now….

Yes, I am a mom. And I love it.

Is it different being an adoptive parent versus a biological parent? I can’t speak about the latter, but my daughter and I are connected through our hearts and I can’t imagine any bond stronger. I know God brought us together for a reason.

To anyone thinking about adoption, these are just a few of the wonderful, endearing and even raw feelings and moments you have to look forward to.

I know the deep pain of longing to be a parent and hitting roadblocks. It hurts. You have my prayers. God has a plan. Hang in there. I often think about the many paths my life could’ve taken….how many times I thought a roadblock was the answer I didn’t want and it was simply a reroute to bring me to my daughter.

My REAL daughter.

The road getting there is often difficult but life on the other side is rewarding beyond your wildest imagination.

####

Advertisements
Standard
Adoption, Fate, Faith, SingleMoms

A Very Long “Pregnancy”

You would think after getting matched with my daughter, the story of my adoption journey would soon be over. Far from it. There were many tense moments that followed, right up until the day when we arrived home at O’Hare airport…about a year later.

Even in the immediate days after receiving medical and background information about “Angel,” I was warned it might not be a done deal. My adoption counselor informed me of technical problems on the placement web site which could’ve meant that she was already promised to another family. The second I laid eyes on her, I fell in love with her and wanted to bring her home. My counselor advised me not to share my potential news until all was settled. (Too late)

A white-knuckled weekend followed.

Thank God, that confusion was cleared up within a few days and her status on the placement web site was then officially updated from “available” to “adoption pending” … by me.

From the moment we were matched, something inside me changed. The adoption was far from official, but in my heart, that’s when I became a mom. I automatically and immediately started to look at life with a new set of eyes. I’ve always been a heart-centered person, with emotion and instinct guiding my course… however, as a mom-to-be I went from being a “softy” to absolute “mush.” No kidding. I don’t think I’ve ever cried as much in my entire life as I have in the past two years. And I’m not just talking about sad tears. Happy tears, too… Especially happy tears, now.

For those who don’t have experience with adoption, I equate getting matched with being pregnant. You know you have a child on the way, but there’s a wait time before you can meet. You’re hopeful, excited, scared and nervous.

I thought about her constantly. I set my phone to include the time and weather in Mumbai, where she lived. Often, I would marvel that the temperature there was well over 100 degrees while it was below freezing here in Chicago. Not a day went by that I didn’t wonder exactly what she was doing at any given moment. When I was getting up in the middle of the night for work it was already mid-afternoon at her orphanage. Was she playing with other kids? Was she napping? What was she eating? Was she scared? I felt so helpless to be so far away, but all I could do was pray for her to be happy and healthy.

I was filled with anxiety whenever severe weather struck India. Interestingly enough, I have since come to learn that my daughter hates storms and even now, she talks about her memories of being scared and alone at her orphanage during thunder and lightning. She tells me with a confused look in her eyes, “You weren’t there, Mommy.” No, I wasn’t. But I really, really wanted to be.

My new “mom mindset” also translated into a newfound concern about my own health and well being. It’s not like I ever lived recklessly, but suddenly I had a new sense of purpose and responsibility. This translated into little changes in my behavior, like suddenly wearing sunscreen, to bigger things. For instance, in the past when I boarded a plane and the inevitable thought of “what if…” would cross my mind, my immediate reaction was: I’ve had a good life. If it’s my time to go, so be it. Not anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t stop flying, but not without just a little bit of anxiety because I suddenly felt I was needed here in a bigger way than ever before. It’s amazing how your entire perspective can change in an instant.

The orphanage where Angel was staying would send occasional updates, which meant the world to me. It would just fill my heart to see her picture. The updates came infrequently, every few months or so.

The wait time before I could hold her in my arms, at times, felt excruciating. Even worse, during these months no one could tell me with certainty when I would be able to travel to India to pick her up. Her case had to move through the court system before she was cleared to leave the orphanage and with India’s recent changes to allow international adoption, no one really knew how long it would take.

We were matched in February, 2014, and my adoption counselor initially estimated I would travel to get her in August. It’s really hard to have your heart set on an expected “due date” only to find out your wait time is being delayed. And delayed again. And again.

As August was approaching and there was still no movement, my counselor estimated it would happen in October. My family planned an August shower for me. After the shower date was set, I was told it would be November – at the earliest. The shower went on regardless. My closest friends and relatives came to celebrate my impending daughter-to-be in one of the most touching days of my life. While opening presents, I got choked up while thanking loved ones for their support and as I looked around the room, I was struck by a powerful and moving sight. I was literally surrounded by people from all parts of my life, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. It was a vision I will never forget because I truly felt their heartfelt empathy. It reminded me of how blessed I am to have these people to help carry me through the challenging times. I also knew my daughter so had much love waiting for her – whenever she finally would be cleared to come home.

I wasn’t able to reach out to Angel until her court date, which ended up happening October 8th. It was a momentous occasion that I previously detailed in my first blog post.*** At this point, I was told her caretakers would tell her that she was adopted and that I would soon be coming to get her. I sent her a photo album with pictures of my whole family and included a little letter that read, “You don’t know me yet, but I’m your Mommy. I have loved you from far away for a very long time.” I hoped that her caretakers would go through each page of the photo album and translate my words into her native language of Marathi.

Angel’s birthday is also in October. She turned four years old that year and I felt every mile of her distance from me, halfway around the world. The day came and went with no word from her orphanage. When my counselor inquired on my behalf, I was told they had a cake for her but the camera they tried to take her picture with didn’t work. About a month later, I got an email with pictures of my smiling daughter holding up a cake. The director of the orphanage staged a “reenactment” for my benefit and this time, the camera worked!

I assumed I would be able to travel to Mumbai within weeks of her court date, but Angel still needed her travel visa and there were more loose ends to be tied up there, before I was cleared to book my flight. I pictured our first Christmas home together with great anticipation, but the weeks passed by with no word. In the meantime, I had long ago obtained my travel visa to go to India and it was set to expire in mid January.

Then as December approached, I envisioned being in India during the holidays. I was afraid to make any plans, expecting at any moment I would get the call that I was cleared to come get my daughter. My bosses at work were extremely understanding of my situation during this time and thankfully, agreed to be flexible with my impending family leave.

My friends at work hosted a second shower for me, in yet another touching show of support and encouragement. This little girl, in an orphanage far away, was about to get a whole boatload of “aunties and uncles” just waiting to welcome her home.

Finally, I got the news. The director of the orphanage relayed to me, through my adoption counselor, that I should plan to come pick her up right after New Years. I was a little disappointed I wouldn’t be able to bring her home in time for Christmas, but now this Christmas, in 2015, is that much more special.

My sister kindly offered to travel with me. She had been through this before, having adopted my teenage niece and nephew when they were babies from Russia and Romania, respectively. I naively envisioned a simple trip and contemplated going alone.

Thank God, I reconsidered.

Finally, after two years of struggles and multiple delays, we were now set to travel to India to pick up my daughter right after the holidays!!

***To see previous blog posts, click here: SuddenlySingleMomBlog.com

Standard
Adoption, Fate, Faith, SingleMoms, Uncategorized

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

2013 will not go down in my personal history book as my favorite year. As I detailed in my previous blog, I went through a string of unfortunate events, all while struggling through the adoption process with no prospects surfacing.

 

By July, I had landed two new jobs — which no doubt were a blessing from above– but they kept me extremely busy as I tried to prove financial stability as a prospective adoptive parent. In hindsight, maybe it was the perfect distraction I needed.

 

By Christmas time, I was exhausted after working seven days a week for several months straight. It was in December that I got a call from the adoption counselor I was working with at the international placement agency. No, she didn’t find me a “match,” which was the news I was hoping to hear. Just the opposite. She expressed newfound concern about me finding a child.

 

As it was explained to me, the adoption counselors have access to a secured database which has profiles of all the children in India who are eligible for adoption. It refreshes with new faces every two weeks. She had been searching to find me a match since spring — with no luck.

 

The only criteria I had was that I wanted a toddler or little girl, as healthy as possible. Unlike many other potential parents, I was not setting my sights on landing a newborn, as I knew this would greatly limit my match potential. On the other hand, I capped the age limit at five, because I was also warned about the lengthy waiting process after a match was made. It could take up to a year or more before you are cleared to travel to India to assume physical custody.

 

After months of searching the database, not a single child matched my criteria. This seemed to make zero sense, as I had heard orphanages in India were packed with children who needed homes. At this point, India had just opened its doors to allow foreigners to adopt earlier in the year and I’m guessing a lot of children got caught up in red tape as the process was changing.

 

I was heartsick yet again.

 

She went on to explain that she would continue to search every two weeks and in the meantime, she suggested I try another avenue. Ethiopia was also open to single parent adoptions. If I went on a waiting list to adopt from there, I could potentially get matched with a child in about a year. That was the average wait time for a match from Ethiopia and the length of time before you were allowed to assume physical custody after the match was much shorter than India’s.

 

While I was pleased to hear I might have an option somewhere else, this also meant starting all over to a certain extent, fulfilling paperwork requirements to adopt from Ethiopia, if and when I got an acceptable match.

 

It was a lot to digest. Most notably, something felt off. I had envisioned a little girl from India as my daughter for so long, it was hard to shake. My heart was set on this imaginary little person who already had taken on an identity. I don’t know where this vision came from, but it felt so real. It was crushing to hear the counselor say she didn’t know if my vision would come true. I felt like I was losing someone whom I never even met.

 

“I don’t want a whole year to go by with no match for you from India and THEN you decide to try Ethiopia,” she cautioned. “This way, you can already be on the waiting list for Ethiopia, so if a match comes up from there, you can say yes or no.”

 

Not exactly true. I knew darn well how hard it would be to say, “no” to any prospective match after years of longing for a child of my own. My prayer at this time was that God present me with the right match —  the first time around. I was very worried I’d be presented with a potential match I wasn’t sure was right for me, whether from India, Ethiopia or wherever, and that I’d have to make a tough decision.

 

The counselor was being very practical and looking out for my best interests. This was a good backup plan. I knew I would have a child some day…perhaps my instincts about the specifics of where she was born were wrong?

 

But even as I signed the papers to go on a waiting list to adopt from Ethiopia, something told me it was never going to happen. I would love my child no matter where he or she was born, but I knew in my heart I wouldn’t get a match from Ethiopia, even if it sounded more plausible to the adoption counselor. This was yet another case when I simply did not believe what I was being told. For whatever reason, I could not shake the idea of my imagined daughter in India.

 

The holidays were especially rough for me that year. I heard nothing more about any prospects. I replayed the counselor’s stinging words in my head over and over, “I don’t want a whole year to go by without a match for you from India,” but it wouldn’t sink it. I still believed it would happen. There are some moments in life that are totally out of your control and you just have to trust whatever happens is meant to be.  This was one of those moments.

 

Then the miracle started to unfold.

 

Less than two months after I was advised to seek a “Plan B,” I got my very first glimpse at my daughter’s picture… and she was exactly as I imagined. In early February of 2014, my counselor contacted me with the most exciting (and to her, surprising) news. She had located a potential match for me in the India database. The little girl I’ll call “Angel” in this blog was three years old and appeared relatively healthy.  The counselor wanted me to take a look at her picture and medical history and to report back if I was interested.

 

I couldn’t open my email fast enough. All of these thoughts were rushing through my head about what I would find in that attachment. I was excited, yet terrified something would feel off, or cause concern, and I’d have to think about it and make a decision. What if I said “yes” to the first potential match I received and it caused me to always wonder about what other matches I missed out on later? What if I said “no” and there were no other matches? My mind was racing.

 

As my index finger nervously tapped on the attachment, her face appeared and my heart just about burst.  It was HER.  I just knew it. The little girl I had in my heart… now  her face was finally, fully revealed. No decision making necessary. Angel was mine and I knew that in an instant. This, despite her baby picture with a runny nose, pout and crumpled brows that seemed to say, “Where are you, Mommy?! What’s taking you so long?!”

 

She seemed sweet, yet spunky. Adorable, yet unpolished. Curious. Expressive. Smart and a little sassy. It’s amazing how much you can gleam from a single photograph. It all fit with what I had felt in my heart from day one of this journey, as the vision of my daughter was slowly coming to fruition.

 

I called my family and the consensus was unanimous, “Yep, she’s a Carlson!” Everyone had the exact same reaction. We chuckled at her crinkled little eyebrows and were just ecstatic with the latest turn of events — to finally be able to see this beautiful little girl who we all knew was meant to be in our family.

 

The medical records revealed she had suffered from multiple ear infections and there was concern about minor hearing loss in one ear. She was also anemic, which is common in all the orphanages. For these very small reasons, she was labeled “special needs” and released for international adoption. For the record, my daughter has no significant hearing problems and doctors here have deemed her perfectly healthy.

 

I knew, without hesitation, this sudden match that seemed to fall into my lap out of nowhere, was my God-given daughter.  And just as I had prayed for, I was presented with the right match — on the first time around.

 

#Gratitude.

 

But even though it already felt like she was mine in every way, I wouldn’t be able to hold her in my arms for a very long time…

 

To see past blogs, click here: www.suddenlysinglemomblog.com

Standard
SingleMoms

A Day I’ll Never Forget…

We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of one of the most important days of my life. On October 8th, 2014, at 10:something in the morning, I got the news. After nearly two years of paper work, aggravation and lots of disappointment along the way, there had finally been movement in the courts in India. That was the day I legally became a mom!

I was out on a news story at the time. I was reporting on the aftermath of a hostage situation that unfolded earlier that morning. Serious stuff. It was about 15 minutes before my hit and while waiting to go on air, I glanced at my personal phone and checked my email.

It said: “Good news, Susan. The courts have approved your adoption.” It was from the head of an orphanage in Mumbai where my daughter was housed. His brief, profound words were followed by some legal jargon that my now swirling brain could not comprehend. All I could think about was letting it sink in – – I was finally a mom!!! No, I was finally HER mom; the little girl I had fallen in love with eight months earlier through pictures and occasional brief updates.

This was the news I had been waiting to hear for so long.  I couldn’t contain myself. I called my parents, my sister and sent a quick group email update to my close, supportive friends and relatives who had been keeping me sane through all the unexpected twists and turns of my adoption journey.

Within minutes, all the news crews around us, who were also preparing for midday live shots, were buzzing with excitement, as well. Colleagues were coming up to congratulate me with tears in their eyes.  One photographer I barely knew at a competing station approached and said, “I don’t know you, but I just heard the news and I’m so happy for you.”

It was a moment I want to preserve in my memory forever.

I didn’t know this at the time, but it would still be another long, three months before I was finally allowed to book travel to India to pick her up and take her home.  The details still had to be ironed out, but MY ADOPTION WAS APPROVED!

I couldn’t keep the giant smile off my face through mic and video checks. Two minutes to air. My coworkers in the control room and transmission were in my earpiece, congratulating me as well. Word travels fast. My eyes were welling with happy tears.

You probably don’t think about reporters’ personal lives when they stoically deliver the news. Sometimes, it’s the biggest challenge to push everything aside and put on an appropriate face. Maybe the person you see on camera is quietly dealing with a loss, sickness or personal demons. Or, maybe they’ve just received the best news possible.

OK, time to get serious. Focus on the story here. Gotta go on the air…and then, I could return to my ecstatic state and continue celebrating this life-changing day.

This anniversary has prompted me to start a blog in the hopes of helping others, particularly other single career gals who may fear they missed the boat on having a family.  I’m finally ready to share the journey of finding my daughter and my 180 degree life transition, as I’m still adapting to balancing a demanding job and motherhood in suburbia after long-time, single life in the city.

More to come….

Standard