Wednesday, July 28, 2010

BIG Changes in Ethiopian Adoption

No one is allowed to report this, but I'm tired of the secrecy. I received this information from a "friend." Here's what's going on:

Over the course of the last 5 years adoption from Ethiopia has become extremely popular and the number of immigrant visas issued for adoption has continued to rise each year. 731 visas were issued to children in 2006 rising to 2,277 visas in 2009. The Embassy expects the number of visas issued in 2010 to once again increase. This is a dramatic increase over a 4 year period and makes Ethiopia the second largest sending country for international adoptions to the United States. These numbers do not reflect the numbers of children immigrating to other countries.


The government of Ethiopia as well as the US Embassy in Ethiopia, are under great pressure to reduce the number of adoptions from Ethiopia by large international organizations such as UNICEF who do not have a favorable outlook on intercountry adoption. Allegations of misconduct surrounding adoptions from Ethiopia have added an increased level of scrutiny. Holt anticipates that additional changes to the adoption process will occur as the government of Ethiopia attempts to reduce the number of adoptions over all.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Adoptions Back On

This was in the Huffington Post this morning:

MOSCOW — Russia's parliament on Friday defeated a motion that would have prevented Americans from adopting Russian children.

The motion was put forward in reaction to the case of Artyom Savelyev, an 8-year-old Russian boy sent back to Moscow alone last month by his adoptive mother in Tennessee. The mother claimed the boy was violent and that the orphanage had lied about his condition. Russian physicians said they found no mental issues with the boy.

Savelyev' return led to calls for more control over foreign adoptions and a freeze on all adoptions to Americans until the United States signed a bilateral agreement allowing Russia to better monitor and control adoptions.

A motion to freeze all adoptions to the U.S. pending the signing of such an agreement fell 98 votes short Friday in the State Duma, the lower house.

After a month of conflicting signals, Education Minister Andrei Fursenko confirmed earlier this week that Russia had not suspended U.S. adoptions, which he said required legislation to be passed by parliament or a presidential act.

The dominant Kremlin-friendly party, United Russia, voted against Friday's motion, saying it did not make sense given Americans' willingness to discuss an agreement.

"If an agreement is not signed, we will be the first to submit a freeze bill to parliament," deputy Natalya Karpova said.

Some 1,800 Russian children were adopted in the United States last year, according to the Russian Education and Science Ministry.

U.S. citizens have adopted nearly 50,000 Russian children since the early 1990s, the ministry's Alina Levitskaya told the State Duma on Friday.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Russia halts all adoptions to United States

This story just broke in the Los Angeles Times:

Russia halts all adoptions to U.S.

By Megan K. Stack

Russia froze all adoptions to the United States on Thursday, satisfying simmering national outrage over a towheaded 7-year-old's rejection by his adoptive Tennessee mother who put him back on a plane to Moscow.

A U.S. delegation is due in Moscow in coming days to discuss the crisis with Russian officials. Russia is pressing the United States to sign an agreement that would lay out new conditions for the screening of would-be parents, and would also bind adoptive parents to a strict set of agreements on the treatment of the children.
Russia last week suspended the work of World Assn. for Children and Parents, the adoption agency that paired the child with the Tennessee family.
But ever since the child turned up waiflike in the Moscow airport with nothing to explain himself but a letter from his adoptive mother calling him "mentally unstable," anger has boiled steadily in Russia.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told ABC News that rejecting the child was "a monstrous deed . . . not only immoral but also against the law."
The boy is now in a Moscow hospital, where doctors have reportedly found nothing aberrant in his condition. Just six months after adopting him, Torry Hansen wrote that he was violent, unstable and "psychopathic," and that she felt misled by the Russian orphanage workers who vouched for his mental health.
Since his return, the boy known as Artyom has become something of a cause celebre in Moscow, with multiple Russian families stepping forward and offering to adopt him.
But many more children continue to languish. Russia is home to more than 1 million "orphans," many of whom have a surviving parent who has been deemed unfit.
Last year, 1,586 Russian children were adopted by American parents, topped only by adoptions in China and Ethiopia, according to State Department figures.
But the adoption of children by American parents is deeply sensitive in Russia, provoking a touchy mix of protectiveness, wounded nationalism and distrust of the West. To many Russians, the country's inability to care for its children is yet another mark of shameful post-Soviet decay.
Cases of adopted children being harmed, or even killed, in the United States are reported in the state media with grisly detail and an overtone of outrage.
More than a dozen adopted Russian children have been killed by their adopted U.S. parents since 1996. With each death, public outrage has swelled among Russians.
Earlier this week, the speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament called for a moratorium on all adoptions to foreigners.
"A special agreement should be signed guaranteeing that the state maintains proper control of adopted children," Sergei Mironov told reporters.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Night Sweats

For the last three months I have been having nightly episodes of waking up drenched in sweat. The night sweats don't follow nightmares or anxious dreams. I always try to listen to what my body is telling me. I visited the doctor yesterday, and he was perplexed. He ran a panel of tests, all which came back normal. It's always nice to hear from the doctor that there is no sign of a malignancy, or problem with kidneys or liver.

We think it has to do with my birth control pill. I'm not on the pill for the usual reason. Becoming pregnant for me is virtually impossible. I take the pill to slow down the growth of my endometriosis, and to keep from having the excruciatingly painful monthly cramps. Since I've gone back on the pill, I've gained a bunch of weight in my belly and breasts. And the night sweats started.

I feel like if you start ignoring your body, it speaks up even louder, until you have no choice but to listen. I know there is more involved here than just the pill. Just trying to figure out what it is.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ethopian Adoption Changes, Part Deux

I keep expecting to get an email from our adoption agency telling us that the "two trip" change was just a mistake, and it's back to one trip. But it seems this change is permanent. As soon as I got the confirmation email, I started looking up on Orbitz how much a round-trip ticket to Addis costs. It's between $1000-$2000 per person, with many layovers in places like Toronto and Frankfurt. If we take Delta (where we have oodles of miles saved up from living in Atlanta) then we stop in The Netherlands on the trip back. Alex and I are thinking of maybe sticking around Amsterdam a few days and seeing the sights. Make lemons out of lemonade and all that.

The tough part will be meeting our child, and then having to say goodbye for a few months. I can't imagine how that is going to feel. I know adoptive parents doing international adoption in other countries have to go through that process. I wonder how they manage. I guess I'll learn...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

NEW RULES FOR ETHIOPIAN ADOPTION

I wasn't sure I was allowed to write about this, but I looked online and several other blogs mention the change. My adoption agency contacted me today, and families who get their dossiers to Ethiopia after May 1 (and we fall into this category) will need to make TWO trips to Ethiopia. The Ethiopian courts have ruled that prospective adoptive parents must now attend in person the Federal Court Hearing.

There are so many ramifications from this change. I fear that many families who would have choosen Ethiopian adoption will now decide to adopt elsewhere because of the expense and hassle of two trips to Africa. There are SO many orphans in need in Ethiopia, and this could be tragic news. Because of this, I am even more steadfast in my decision to adopt our child from Ethiopia.

I will write more when I receive more information.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Impact of Education on Children's Lives in Ethiopia

This blog post by Getinet Leweyehu - Education Advisor, Concern Worldwide in Ethiopia - appeared today in The Huffington Post:

Constructing schools closer to children's homes in rural Ethiopia

Nine-year-old Aster Arba lives in the remote village of Duguna Fango, about 450 kilometers southwest of Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa. Before Concern Worldwide intervened, Aster and her friends had to walk eight kilometers every day back and forth to school.
In fact, they walked barefoot in extreme heat and risked being raped, abducted or attacked by wild animals. When I first saw the area, I was humbled by how difficult it was for a young child to travel to school in this extremely hot climate over such long distances.
In response to these difficulties, Concern and our partner organization WRDA began constructing basic education schools in villages that didn't have any. Today, Aster and her friends attend school within a short walking distance from their homes.
During our regular monitoring visits to these schools, I met with the children who are now learning better and are far happier with their new situation. When I spoke with one of their teachers, Zinash, she explained that the closer proximity of the school gives children a sense of freedom and allows them to attend classes regularly, which in turn has contributed to a marked improvement in their performance at school.

Vulnerable children benefit from basic education in Addis Ababa

 
Often in Ethiopia, children, especially girls, migrate to urban areas in search of better lives and educational opportunities. In most cases, these children are either entirely uneducated or drop out of school after one or two years. Children who aren't in school are forced to work as housemaids and can be easily fall prone to child labor and sexual exploitation.
Others have to support their families by running small businesses and wind up on the streets as petty traders. In these cases, there is no money or time for them to attend formal schools. Others are orphaned by HIV and AIDS, and do not have the opportunity to go to school. When I meet and speak to these children, I see that Concern's support has given them hope. They have purpose and clearly feel accepted. Without help, I know that many of the girls would face a future of prostitution and the boys would become delinquents.
Concern has responded to their needs by collaborating with three local organizations in Addis Ababa to run schools with a flexible schedule, which allows very poor children, who have to work, to attend classes at times appropriate for them. The lessons are designed to streamline children back into formal education within three years, which enables them to complete the first education cycle of Ethiopia's formal education system. To meet that goal, Concern provides free education materials, books and school uniforms and pays the teachers' salaries. As a teacher myself, I am happy to work with Concern to reach these children and their teachers.
Experience has shown that the children thrive, not just because they are receiving an education, but because they feel a sense of acceptance and receive recognition from their teachers and peers. In the last nine years (2002-2010), Concern and six partner organizations in three different regions of Ethiopia have established 22 schools where more than 15,000 vulnerable children (50 percent of them girls), who were not able to go to formal schools, have attended the first education cycle, the basis for continuing in Ethiopia's formal schooling system.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

FOUNDER OF ETHIOPIAN ORPHANAGE CHARGED WITH ABUSE

This is just sickening:

SALT LAKE CITY, March 24 (UPI) -- The co-founder of a Utah center to aid and adopt Ethiopian children has been charged with multiple counts of sex abuse and child pornography, authorities said.Lon Harvey Kennard, Sr., 68, of Heber, Utah, is charged with sexually abusing two of his adopted daughters who are now adults, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Wednesday.

He also faces 24 counts of first-degree aggravated sex abuse of a child, 21 counts of sexual exploitation of a child and a charge of witness tampering, the newspaper said.

Kennard and his wife, DeAnna, adopted six Ethiopian children in the early 1990s. The couple also has six biological children. All are now adults.

Court documents allege the sexual abuse occurred from 1995 to 2002.

The Kennards, with a partner, established the Village of Hope orphanage in Kersa Illala, 200 miles south of the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, in 1994.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Adoption Tax Credit Increase

Love it or hate it, the health care reform bill is now the law of the land. President Obama signed it today. So, what does it mean for adopting families? According to CNN, the adoption tax credit and assistance exclusion will increase by $1,000. The bill makes the credit refundable and extends it through 2011. That's a good chunk of change.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ethiopian Government Involved in Censorship?

I've done freelance work for Voice of America, and VOA is a legit news service. I found this troubling, and hope it isn't a sign of more friction to come:

The U.S. State Department has strongly criticized efforts by Ethiopia's prime minister to jam VOA broadcasts in Amharic, the country's main official language.
State Department Spokesman Gordon Duguid said in a release Friday that the decision by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi contradicts his country's commitments to a free press, even if he disagrees with the broadcasts.
The prime minister said Thursday he would authorize blocking the broadcasts, saying VOA's Amharic service practiced a disregard for the ethics of journalism.
Duguid condemned Mr. Meles' comparison of VOA material to the hate media that incited the 1994 Rwandan genocide, including Radio Mille Collines.
The State Department spokesman also called the accusation baseless and inflammatory, and asked the Ethiopian government to protect the fundamental right of freedom and expression.
VOA listeners of Amharic language programming have been hearing interference to the programs since February 22. Mr. Meles says listeners may have been experiencing the testing of jamming equipment.
Voice of America Director Danforth Austin issued a statement Thursday saying, "any comparison of VOA programming to the genocidal broadcasts of Rwanda's Radio Mille Collines is incorrect and unfortunate."
He added, "the VOA deplores jamming as a form of media censorship wherever it may occur."
His statement also said VOA's Amharic Service is required by law to provide accurate, objective and comprehensive news and abide by the highest journalistic standards.
Austin noted that "while VOA is always ready to address responsible complaints about programming, the government of Ethiopia has not initiated any official communication in more than two years."
VOA language service broadcasts to Ethiopia have been jammed in the past around election times. The next election for parliament is just over two months away. But in past cases, the government denied being responsible for the jamming.
Monitors say the recent jamming has only been aimed at Amharic broadcasts, and has not affected VOA's Afan Oromo and Tigrinya language service programs to Ethiopia.
The Voice of America is a multi-media international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Government. VOA broadcasts more than 1,500 hours of news and other programming every week in 45 languages to an audience of more than 125 million people.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Adapting to Foreign Adoptions

This is an interesting op-ed piece that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor:

The plight of orphans after a tragedy in a poor nation can evoke an ardent desire in people from rich countries to give them a home. Yet the arrest in Haiti of a group of Americans trying to whisk 33 orphans out of that country just days after the Jan. 12 earthquake shows how that desire to adopt requires safe and legal channels. (See related Monitor story by clicking here.)

A need for safeguards became obvious soon after intercountry adoption became popular six decades ago, when Henry and Bertha Holt started a flow of orphans from war-torn Korea to the United States. Steadily over the years, rules have been put in place, most notably with the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. Simply confirming that a child is orphaned or abandoned, for example, can’t be left to those with a stake in an adoption. And the process needs to be free of profitmaking influence.

Still, that 1993 treaty is accepted by fewer than half of the world’s countries. Fortunately the US – which is by far the largest recipient of foreign adoptees – joined the pact in 2008. This dominant role forces it to accept extra responsibility to enforce the rules – as it recently did after eyeing shady adoptions in Vietnam.

That’s why the State Department needs to have its adoption-watchdog abilities beefed up. A bill in Congress would do just that.

A rush to adopt orphans after a tragedy like the Haitian earthquake or the 2004 Asian tsunami requires the US to respond quickly. (The first rule should always be to find a home for orphans in their own country.)

Vigilance and transparency are also needed as the sources for adoptees change. Places that were once popular, such as China, Russia, and Guatemala, have curbed foreign adoptions for various reasons. Ethiopia and Ukraine are now popular.

Adoption should be made easier – and less costly. But most of all, it needs to put a child’s interests first.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

One Year of The Phantom Line and Other Stuff

I haven't posted in a while because life has been getting in the way. My sister-in-law, her husband, and their two munchkins stayed with us for five days. My niece is six and quite the tomboy. She skis mogels, has held a snake, and LOVES our dog Bodhi, even though he is bigger than she is. My nephew is almost three, and has the largest blue eyes I've ever seen.

A few days ago we moved back to our townhouse. It's wonderful to be home. So calm and peaceful here. We've set aside the old office to be the baby's room.

That's another thing. There seems to be quite a few hurdles thrown in our path to adopting from Ethiopia. First, there's the new US State Department rules, which I wrote about in my previous blog post. There are also some changes going on with the Ethiopian government, but I'm forbidden by Holt to talk about them. As soon as someone else leaks this to the media I'll post it.

I realized the one-year anniversary of the start of The Phantom Line came and went without me noticing. Ah, so much has changed in a year.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

CBS Report on Ethiopian Adoption Change

(CBS)  Citing "concerns about recent media reports," the U.S. Department of State has made a key change to the process of adopting Ethiopian orphans to the U.S.

The Embassy in Addis Ababa now requires an I-604 or so-called "orphan investigation" into the background and status of every child in the process of getting a visa to come to the US with an adoptive family.

Until now that investigation was at the discretion of consular officers on the ground. The new rule change will likely add several weeks and in some cases months to the adoption process in Ethiopia which takes US families on average about nine months to complete.

Dated March 5, the memo said, “The Department of State shares families’ concerns about recent media reports alleging direct recruitment of children from birth parents by adoption service providers or their employees.”

CBS News reported on February 15th the complaints of several families against Christian World Adoption, a South-Carolina based agency involved in adoptions in Ethiopia. The Bradshaw family, among them, claimed local employees of the agency had been involved in recruiting their children even paying their biological father.

ABC Australia produced an in depth piece on Christian World Adoption and the Bradshaw family that aired March 2. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bridges of Hope in Ethiopia

This is an article that appeared in Parade magazine on Sunday. It gives a good background on how diligent the people of Ethiopia are, and the lengths they are willing to go to better their lives. Here's the link:

Link to Building Bridges of Hope

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Walk Through

     Last night Alex and I had a move-out walk-through with our former tenants and our property managers to look for damage. It was so strange to go back to the townhouse. We moved out almost exactly two years ago to head to Atlanta, and it almost felt like going back in time when we stepped inside.
     Things were not great when we moved out. Alex was still in the ever-shrinking newspaper industry, and I was unemployed and feeling crappy about it. We also had been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant, and had no idea why things were taking so long (considering my mother and sisters got pregnant very easily, sometimes without even trying).
     Anyhoo, our life together has improved in so many ways. Alex has a job he loves in an industry that's growing, not disappearing. I've found a good amount of freelance writing work that keeps me busy, and which I really enjoy. And finally, we are in the home stretch to becoming parents.
     There is one glaring absence. My mother is gone. But I felt her presence in the townhouse as we visited last night. She loved that house, and visited whenever she could. She would even come down to stay and take care of our dog and cats if we'd go away for the weekend. Mom would go to the 7-11, buy a Starbucks frappacino (sic) in a bottle (even thought there was an actual Starbucks selling real coffee just a block away) and sit on a bench on the boardwalk at the beach. She'd sit there for hours, just people watching and enjoying the smell of the sea. It's why my sisters and I chose to scatter her ashes near that very spot.
     I worried that moving back to the house would bring up painful memories of my mother. But every time she was there, she was happy, and vibrant, and that's how I like to remember her. Moving back will make me feel closer to her, I just know it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

My First Ethiopian Meal


     I had Ethiopian food for the first time Saturday night.  Alex and I went to an Ethiopian restaurant called Harar.  We were joined by some good friends and their adorable almost three-year-old son.  We started off with injera, which is the bread with which all the food is eaten.  The injera was filled with spicy butter and vegetables.  Very spicy, so much so that one of our friends asked the restaurant owner to call the fire department.  She laughed, and suggested we drink hot water to cool our mouths.  It worked.
     Our main meal was brought on a large platter.  Different types of stews and vegetables were placed on the platter, and we all dug in, using the injera to scoop up the food.  Each stew tasted different, some a little spicier than others, but each was very flavorful and savory and filling.  It was a very social way of eating, with everyone sharing the same platter, as opposed to each diner have her own plate.  When someone discovered a particularly tasty stew, the rest of the table could then try it.  
     Our friends shared stories of living in Africa.  They were in Malawi for two years, and stressed to us how preferable Ethiopian food is to the American palate than Malawian food.  One particular delicacy in Malawi got our attention.  Apparently, then catch mice, roast them underground until the meat is smoked (the whole thing, fur included) and then serve them on a stick.  Our friends stressed to us that this is not something we would find in Ethiopia.  Phew.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Joannie Rochette: A Testament to the Love Between a Mother and Child


I am in awe of Joannie Rochette.  Her mother died suddenly of a heart attack on Sunday, and she was able to complete in the Olympics just days later.  I remember when something similar happened a few years ago, when Brett Favre played in a football game the same day his father died.  Back then, I was at a loss as to how someone could have the presence to focus on a sport when he or she had just suffered a loss.  But I understand now that what Joannie (and Brett) did is a testament to how much they loved their parents.  How much they appreciate the sacrifices their parents made that allowed them to reach such an elite level of a sport.  And also, you never, ever stop wanting to make your mom or dad proud of you.  I think Joannie did a wonderful job of keeping her emotions together, to honor the sacrifices her mother made by competing.  She won a bronze medal for her efforts.  Here's an interview with Joannie Rochette, in which she explains how she was able to do what she did:

Link to Joannie Rochette interview

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Another Step Forward...

I've just returned from the post office, where I mailed all those home study forms to the Holt California branch office.  Included in the envelope were:

  • The Live Scan fingerprint forms
  • The criminal background statement
  • Financial statement
  • 19-page personal data information form
  • Copies of our marriage certificate and birth certificates
  • Medical forms (proof that Alex and I are HIV and TB free)
  • Verification of Alex's employment
Next up, the home study itself.  I've been in contact with the social worker, and it sounds like she's out on medical leave until April.  I think that's OK, because it will probably take that long for the branch office to process our forms.  The social worker sounds very kind and understanding.  She even gave me the email addresses of a few families who have already successfully adopted from Ethiopia.  Yea!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ethiopian Coffee

     I know I'm probably going to sound like one of those "Cadillac liberals" as my Republican father used to say (I'm a Democrat), someone who takes a holier-than-thou attitude because she brings reusable bags to the grocery store, or uses public transportation, or doesn't watch television, and makes sure everyone else knows about it.  I don't want to come across like that.
     But planning to adopt a child from another part of the globe has made me more aware of, well, another part of the globe.  What happens in Ethiopia matters to me because my child lives there.  His/her birth parents are trying to survive there.
     I started buying Ethiopian coffee because it made me feel closer to my child.  Goofy, I know, but I take what I can get in these early days of the process.  While doing a little research, I learned how very important coffee is to the Ethiopian economy.  Here are some stats from a great website called www.ethiopianrestaurant.com :

Coffee Ethiopia's Number 1 Export
Ethiopia's economy is based on agriculture, which accounts for half of GDP, 60% of exports, and 80% of total employment. Coffee is critical to the Ethiopian economy with exports of some $156 million in 2002. (adapted from CIA - Fact book).
At present Japan stands second in purchasing Ethiopia's coffee after Germany.
Today, there are over 100 Ethiopian coffee exporters, compared to just 17 during the Derg. The largest is Nejat International PLC, with 11% of total exports, followed by government-owned Ethiopian Coffee Export Enterprise (8% of the total) and Moplace Trading Co. Ltd. (5%).
Coffee Farms:331,130 peasant farms
19,000 state farm coffee areas
Coffee Workers:about 12 million
Shade-Grown:55% light shade
33% medium
17% heavy
Major Coffee Growing Regions:Harrar,
Sidamo,
Yirgacheffe (in Sidamo),
Limmu,
Djimmah,
Lekempti,
Bebeka
Botanical Cultivars:Native arabica (arabica coffee is indigenous to Ethiopia)
Harvest Times:Washed: August-December
Dry: October to March
Exports all year
Certified Organic:None certified: all coffee grown organic by tradition
Rank in Production::1st in Africa
7th in World

 

Friday, February 19, 2010

Say You'll Be There

     Last night I had an extremely vivid dream about my mother.  It wasn't really about her, actually.  But there was a whole portion devoted just to her.  It was now, the present, and she knew she was dead.  We were in a temple, and there was a small box containing her ashes, and she just looked at it mystified.  She kept saying, "How did this happen so fast?"  I asked her if she was pleased with the arrangements we made after her death, and she said she was.  She was just so surprised to be dead.  Not sad, not scared - just surprised.
     I realized the opportunity I had, to talk to my mother again.  I held her hands tightly and I said, "Will you be there, when we meet our child?"  She said with certainty, "Yes, I'll be there." And I knew then without any doubt that she would be there, in the form she's in now.  I knew that she's always with me.  I still can have a relationship with her.  I cried, and told her how much I missed her.  She seemed touched, and said, "Thank you."
     Before she died, my mom told me she would be in the delivery room with me (in spirit) when I had my baby.  I guess this is my way of making sure that even though our plans changed, she still will be with us when we meet our child for the first time.  I feel completely at peace.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Home Study Stuff


It might seem like I'm mentioning the home study a lot, but it's pretty much all I think about these days.  Luckily, the brilliant ladies on the Inspire bulletin board had a post about the home study that eased my mind quite a bit.  Namely, what does it take to fail a home study?  The dozen or so women who responded to that question spelled it out this way - there are four reasons you fail a home study:

  1. Your health.  You have a terminal disease or an illness that would seriously impact your ability to parent a child.
  2. You have a violent criminal background.
  3. You don't have the financial resources to raise a child.
  4. You are dishonest with the social worker about your background.
There is a history of abuse in my family (my sisters and I were the victims) and as tough as it is to talk about, I know I have to be completely honest with the social worker.  It might feel like I'm being judged, and that the assumption is I can't be as good of a parent as a woman who wasn't abused.  But I've been told that the social workers are generally an open-minded group.  One helpful woman described the home study as a job interview where the person interviewing you really wants you to get the job.

More on this later...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Yuck

Two steps forward, one step back.  I guess this isn't a huge deal, but a bump in the road I wasn't anticipating.  Our tenants won't be moving out at the end of this month.  They need some wiggle room as they move into their new place.  I was looking forward to moving back to our house, taking all of our furniture and clothes and books out of storage (where they've been for six months) and starting to prepare our home for the social worker's visit, and eventually, our child's arrival.  It's going to be about a month before that can happen.  My mother-in-law has graciously allowed us to live in her condo, but I'm ready to move home. I want to start creating a wonderful space for our child. I want to be able to walk in his room and imagine the crib, the changing table, the baby clothes. I'm displeased with anything that could postpone the social worker's visit and, therefore, the home study. And the referral.  Yuck.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Moving Target

     It sneaks up on me when I least expect it.  It usually takes me a little while to figure out what it is.  I had a series of anxiety-filled dreams last night, and woke up often, drenched in sweat and with a racing heart.  The dreams weren't exactly nightmares, but just images and feelings that made me anxious.  As I cleared my head, I tried to figure out what I was so nervous about.  I don't have any looming appointments, or meetings that would make me jumpy.  I tried to think of different things that could be bothering me, to see if one of them triggered that same anxious feeling.
     When I thought about our house, the one we will be moving back into next month - boom.  That was it. But why?  I thought of each room.  When I got to the room that was our office - the room that will be the baby's room - the anxiety hit.  That was the room my mother would sleep in when she would visit.  Even though we had a spare bedroom with a very comfortable bed, she preferred to sleep on the couch in the office.  She was a tiny person, barely five feet tall, and she felt "safer" as she put it, sleeping on the couch.
     That house is filled with memories of my mom.  I haven't dealt with any of those memories yet, because I haven't had to.  It scares me.
     Grief is a moving target.  People write about grief like it's a tunnel of muck you have to struggle through, but once you get to the other side, you're done.  But for me (and my older sister, it turns out) I never know what I'm going to feel one day to the next.  Just when I think I've crawled out of the tunnel, I am faced with a memory, or the realization of all I won't experience in the future with my mom, and it knocks me down for the day.  I consider myself to be pretty healthy emotionally, but I think the five stages of grief are pure crap.  How can I ever truly "accept" (the final stage) that I will never see my mother again?
    

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Flow

     I've always believed that when you're going in the right direction in life, things flow.  Doors open without effort.  There is positive energy surrounding your every move. Conversely, if you're going in the wrong direction, it's stifling.  You keep hitting your head against the wall and wonder why everything is so difficult.  I've found this principle to be true throughout my life.  With relationships, with career fields, with places I've lived.  And now, with having a child.  Trying to get pregnant was an absolute exercise in futility.  The signs were always there: go in a different direction.  So we did, and now things are flowing.
     We will be able to send in our home study paperwork this week.  Alex printed out his 19-page Personal Data Form, and I'm almost finished with mine.  We filled out the financial stuff.  Our references have all filled out their forms and sent them in. Alex's appointment with his doctor is this week.  I was very anxious about the home study, because we've been living in my mother-in-law's condo since September due to the fact our home has renters living in it.  The renters were supposed to be there until June. However, they've decided to move out early.  We'll be moving back in a few weeks, and so the social worker will be able to visit in the actual home where we will raise our child.  Flow!
    

Friday, February 12, 2010

Western Mental Health Problems in Ethiopia?

You know how when you learn a new word, you seem to hear the word used EVERYWHERE?  That's how it is now with me and stories about Ethiopia.  I'm sure they've always been there, but I feel a chill down my spine whenever the country makes the news.  Today on the great public radio program "Here and Now" the focus is on mental illness in Ethiopia.  The program's website describes the feature this way:

Mental Health Providers In Ethiopia Looks West

Listen

This week we spoke with author Ethan Watters who claims that Americans are exporting mental health problems- like anorexia and depression- around the world. Dr. Suzan Song explains what she has seen in Ethiopia; she says mental health professionals there are focused on western textbooks and methods when it come to mental health. We speak with Dr. Song, a fellow in child and adolescent psychiatry at Stanford’s Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Experience

"Experience is not what happens to you; it's what you do with what happens to you."
-Aldous Huxley

I've never been the kind of person who wanted to go back in time.  Each year of my life seems to improve over the last, so that I never want to go backward.  The only time I came close to this was right after my mother died.  I wanted to be able to relive the last year of her life, to intervene, to make sure she visited the doctor when she was supposed to. 

As of late, I've been dealing with some guilt.  I am not as sad as I used to be over my mother's death.  I still miss her terribly, but I've found a way of dealing with her loss that keeps me from crying every day.  I feel bad about that, as if she's somewhere watching me, hurt that I don't cry for her as much.  I spoke with a woman who lost her mother almost twenty years ago, when she was still in her twenties.  She said, "If I really let myself think about my mother, I wouldn't be able to stop crying.  I couldn't get out of bed.  So I don't think about her."  It's the tactic I've taken. 

I hope this is a phase I'm going through.  The first six months after she died, all I did was think about her, replaying our last weeks together, how she smelled like Ensure, the way her cheek felt when I kissed it, the way her eyebrows got smushed when she slept, and she woke up looking perplexed.  I don't let myself think about those things anymore.  I hope at some point, I am able to think of her again without it being painful.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Deadline

     My husband and I were both journalists for a good chunk of our lives (and I guess I still am) and so we respond well to deadlines.  There really is no firm deadline for when we need to return our paperwork to the adoption agency.  We have plodded through most of it, getting our fingerprints, visiting the doctor.  We've both finished most of our respective Personal Data Forms.  The last part we need to tackle is giving a detailed outline of our finances.  That requires both of us to sit down together, and do some serious calculations.
     We had tentatively planned on going out-of-town this weekend.  Not to celebrate Valentine's Day, because we really don't do that.  Every Valentine's Day, we get chili-cheese dogs for dinner.  It's a nice tradition that I patterned after (very ironically) John and Elizabeth Edwards' tradition of celebrating their anniversary at Wendy's.  I realize now how silly this sounds.  Hopefully our marriage won't follow the path of the Edwards'.
     Anyhoo, instead of heading out-of-town, we're going to stick around and finish our financial forms.  We've set a hard deadline to finish by Monday.  Chili-cheese dogs and all.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Baby Clothes

     Finding out one of my best girlfriends is pregnant has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  I have not allowed myself to get truly excited about the little things surrounding adoption: buying a crib, baby clothes, decorating the room.  Until now.
     I talked on the phone today with my pregnant friend, and we started chatting about baby clothes.  We should be bringing our baby home from Addis around the same time she delivers her baby.  I remembered that I had a cache of baby clothes I had put away, one of those things I couldn't bare to look at after my miscarriage.  I took them out and started sorting through them while talking to my friend.  I have three never-used onesies my sister-in-law gave me a few years ago when her son outgrew them.  There also is an adorable little preppie outfit - khaki pants and a polo shirt.  I thought the clothes would be too small for my child, and thought I might send them to my friend.  But the adoption agency warned us our child might be smaller than average because of malnutrition, so he might fit into the clothes after all.
     The last time I went though the bag of baby clothes was with my mother.  I was debating whether or not to do IVF, and I pulled out the clothes so she could look at them.  It was a few weeks before she died, but it was a lovely moment between us.  It feels good knowing she touched the clothes my baby could one day wear.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Life is the School, Love is the Lesson

I saw this beautiful phrase on a bumper sticker today as I was driving to pick up my adoption health forms from the doctor's office.  It was so lovely that I decided to share it with everyone who reads my blog.  For those battling infertility, it may feel like we are being constantly tested.  Perhaps we are.  But if we pass this test, and our families are stronger for it, then maybe it is worth it.  Thoughts?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pregnant in a Different Way

     One of my oldest and dearest friends announced yesterday that she is pregnant.  I know hearing about a close friend or relative's pregnancy can be difficult for IFers.  Perhaps if my husband and I were still trying, I would feel like I was failing at something (getting pregnant) that is so very easy for so many women, my friend included.
     But the ladies at the message boards on RESOLVE.org have reminded me that I am pregnant, too.  Just in a different way.  There is a pregnancy taking place right now somewhere on this planet, and the child born will be ours.  I won't have the growing belly, but I feel terribly excited knowing each day is a day closer to becoming a mother.
     When I was pregnant in August, I bought a book on Amazon called Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy.  By the time it arrived, I had already miscarried.  I couldn't even open the package, knowing what was inside.  I never returned it.  But last night, after learning of my friend's wonderful news, I knew what I had to do.  I contacted her and offered her the book.  It feels good giving the book a purpose, and yet another way of growing and moving on from this summer's tragedies.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Doctor, Doctor

          Among the various and sundry forms we must fill out are the medical forms.  I need my doctor to verify that I am physically and mentally capable of parenting a child.  There are two forms: one for the home study, and one for the dossier.
          I went to visit my doctor yesterday morning.  I made the appointment as a follow-up for when I was hospitalized at the end of December for swine flu and pneumonia.  After making sure I didn't have any lingering problems from the flu, he ordered a HIV/AIDS test and a test for tuberculosis.
          Who would've thought trying to become a parent would involve so many needles without even being pregnant?  First IVF, and then the medical tests for the adoption.  I'm not really complaining, though, especially with just two needles to deal with yesterday.  I got a bit desensitized from my needle phobia during IVF.  But it turns out IVF did a number on the blood vessels in my arms, because the nurses and paramedics had a heck of a time finding good veins for the IVs and blood draws when I was in the hospital.  My arms got so bruised I looked like a junkie.  So yesterday I felt a bit panicky around all those needles again.
          Still, it feels good to take action, to have a list of things to cross off that allow us to get closer and closer to becoming parents.

Monday, February 1, 2010

"Those" Parents

     My husband and I watched the Grammys last night, something we've never done before.  I realized I don't know who most of the performers nominated were.  It makes me feel old.  When I was growing up, my parents despised our music.  They listened to Barry Manilow (no joke) and Neil Diamond.  We liked Wham! and Duran Duran.  I felt that my parents were hopelessly dorky and had terrible taste in tunes.
      So, I told Alex as we were watching Lady Gaga (?????) and Pink that I wanted to stay current on music, so our kid views us as a bit cooler than I viewed my parents.  He groaned.   
      "We don't want to be those parents," he said.  
      "What do you mean?" I asked.
      "The parents that try to be cool and fail miserably and their kids make fun of them."
      That gave me nerd chills.  He was right.  I don't want to be the mom who tries to be best friends with her kid.  I fought constantly with my mom when I was a teenager, but I respected her.  As the French writer Andre Gide said: "It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not."

Saturday, January 30, 2010

To Work or Not to Work???

          I'm still so torn about the whole working mother thing.  I am a finalist for a full-time job that would include an hour commute each way.  When I applied for the job, I thought our adoption timeline was about 18 months.  But when I learned adoption was possible within eight months, possible in as little as six months, everything changed.  Although it's illegal (I think) for an employer to take my impending adoption into account in deciding whether or not to hire me, I told one of the women I would be working with anyway.  I didn't want to blind side her by taking a major maternity leave just a few months after I started the job.  Also, I've waited SO long to become a mother, that I want the option of permanently extending my maternity leave if that's what's working best for our family.  The thought of dropping off my child at daycare at seven in the morning and not seeing him until seven at night just kills me.
          However, my husband feels it's unconscionable to turn down a full-time job with benefits in this economy.  With so many people looking for work, how could I possibly reject this offer (if it happens)?  He's even talked of postponing the adoption for a year for this job.  That breaks my heart.
          I have a part-time job now blogging for social networking site.  The pay is not much, but it's something.  I also get a few hundred dollars a month from the rental of my late mother's condo.  I'm constantly searching for other freelance writing jobs, with the hopes of creating a family-friendly working schedule for myself.
          So now I'm just waiting to hear from my possible future employer, to see if they still want me to come in to the final interview, knowing my family situation.
          What to do?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chris Matthews on Obama: "I forgot he was black."

          As the future parent of a black child, I must view things differently than I did before.  Would something like this statement hurt my son or daughter's feelings?  How would I explain a statement like this?  How was it meant, versus how it was taken?  I am a fan of Chris Matthews, and find him to be a very bright and witty man.  I believe he was trying to say that President Obama's speech was so powerful, that we might finally view him as our president, instead of "The Black President."  We tend to view people as "that Chinese guy" or "that Mexican girl" or "the Jewish lady," describing someone first and foremost by their ethnicity.  We don't call George W. Bush "that white president," although I could think of a few other names for him.
          But is that how my child would view things?  If Chris Matthews had said about a Jewish president, "I forgot he was Jewish tonight" or an Irish president "I forgot he was Irish tonight," it would sting, because it somehow assumes those qualities are negative.  I would be offended.  I supposed that's hypocritical of me.
          I'm torn.  Here's the video...what do you think?

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_v_IOCSsQM

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Little Ethiopia


          One of the many questions in the Personal Data Form I must fill out is:
"How do you plan to include the culture and traditions of the country you have chosen in your family life?"
          I know there is an Ethiopian restaurant in San Diego, because I used to drive by it all the time.  But a visit to a restaurant isn't exactly a thorough way to make sure our child has a sense of his own heritage.  So I was delighted to discover that just two hours north of us is a Los Angeles neighborhood called "Little Ethiopia."  Every year there is a street fair, with all sorts of coffees, spices, and foods available, with locals performing traditional music and lots of dancing.
          My mother was Russian-Jewish, and my father is Irish-Catholic, and my sisters and I were raised without a sense of either culture.  One of my dearest friends is Indian, and I envy how much comfort she gets from the food, music, religion, and traditions of her culture.  I want that for my child.
          What's interesting is Little Ethiopia is located in the Fairfax district of L.A., which is a Jewish neighborhood.  How very fitting for our Jewish-Ethiopian child, as we hopefully will give him a strong sense of both cultures.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

OK, maybe not so much...

     I'd like to thank all the women who responded on the Resolve.org message boards about yesterday's blog post.  Many of you set me straight--that adoption does not necessarily even out the workload between the genders.  Some women even experienced the inequality before the adoption, with the push to get the paperwork completed mainly the woman's responsibility.
     I'd love to hear from women about their experiences with the division of labor in the household.  I'd love to hear from stay-at-home moms, women with full-time jobs outside the home, and anything in between.  Does their workload differ from what their mothers experienced?  Do they believe their daughters will have more equality with chores, or less?  

Monday, January 25, 2010

Adoption as Feminism

          The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines feminism as "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes."  As mothers or mothers-to-be, don't we want our daughters to have as many economic and political opportunities as our sons?  
          And yet the University of Wisconsin's National Survey of Families and Households finds that among dual-earning couples, women do about two-thirds of the housework.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women make roughly 75 cents for every dollar earned by a man.
          So many of my friends with children complain that their husbands simply do not do their fair share of the work.  I would imagine it all begins when the woman becomes pregnant.  Nature dictates that she alone must deal with all the physical changes and discomforts a pregnancy brings.  She alone must give birth to the baby.  And in many cases, she alone must nurse the baby.  From the very beginning, the woman takes on the lion's share of responsibility in bringing a child into the world.
          I felt this burden during my one round of IVF.  I had to put up with injections three times a day, the weight-gain, the mood swings, the nausea.  My husband could empathize.  And he surely had to deal with my mood swings.  But I had to carry a much bigger burden of bringing our child into the world than he did.
          But it is so different with our adoption journey.  We both have an equal number of forms to fill out, an equal number of personal questions to answer.  We both had to get fingerprinted last week.  We both have to go to the doctor and get him to sign a form saying we are healthy enough (physically and mentally) to adopt a child.  There is just as much stress on him as there is on me.  We both have to participate in the home study.  We will both fly to Ethiopia to meet our child, and we both will fly home with our new baby, caring for him or her on extremely long plane flights.
          I wonder if this gender equality in the adoption process will translate to a better sharing of chores as we raise our child.  It seems we're already starting out on the right foot.



Friday, January 22, 2010

Crazy Heart

     I've only been to the movies a handful of times since my mother died.  It's a whole new experience without her.
     I'd learned to watch a movie with my mother's tastes in mind.  Is this something she'd like?  Is it too violent?  Is the humor too risque?  Too much full-frontal nudity? (More on that later.)
     One of the questions my mom would always ask when she called would be, "Have you seen a good movie lately?"  I saw one tonight she would've really liked.  It's called Crazy Heart, and it's just the kind of story she would have loved.  She would have said, "My heart feels sad" when it was over, but she would have loved it.  I had to remind myself several times during the movie that I wouldn't be calling her after to tell her to see it.
     OK, so a funny story about my mom and the full frontal nudity.  We saw The Piano together when I was in college.  I had seen a man naked by that time in my life, and she knew it.  However, at the point in the movie when Harvey Keitel's naked bottom is facing the screen, my mother began to whisper loudly, "Don't turn around!  Don't turn around!"  When he did, showing us his manly glory, my mother put her hand over my eyes.  Tightly.  I was unable to remove her hand until the love scene was over.  Miss you, Mom.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mom Application

A short post today, as I'm knee-deep in a 16-page "personal data form" I must fill out and send to the adoption agency.  Right now I'm working on this question:

What do you think is important in raising children and what do you think being a good parent means?

I could turn this into a ten-page essay, but I'm pretty sure the folks at Holt want me to keep it to a paragraph.  Here's another good one:

What are your expectations of parenting?

Again, that answer could go in book form, but I must keep it short, sweet, and good.  Another question asks what I like about my spouse.  I asked Alex and he answered, "Your juicy booty."  Just a little levity amongst the adoption stress.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Working Mother

What mother doesn't work?  Even a woman who isn't employed outside the home basically provides unpaid labor to society by taking care of her children.  If she didn't, someone else would be making a salary doing it.  Now, I realize that the job of caring for children is viewed so lowly that we pay people (usually women) a wage barely above minimum to do it.  That doesn't mean the work isn't important.  The phrase "the most important job in the world" is bandied about when discussing motherhood, but it's not important enough to view with respect when a woman gives up paid employment to devote herself to raising her children.
Since my days babysitting in college, I have NEVER wanted to be one of those mothers who must work full-time outside the home.  In fact, I put off the idea of even having children, because unless I could be the one to raise them, I didn't want to do it at all.  It may sound spoiled to some.  But I spent too many hours with other people's children, watching them say and do amazing things, things that their parents missed out on.
I also treasure the memories of my very early childhood, on the days when my mom wasn't at work as a substitute teacher, taking walks together and looking at the pansies, eating cream of wheat with brown sugar for breakfast, and watching Sesame Street together.
I read The Feminine Mystique in college.  I strongly believe that women who find their happiness and sense of self-worth working outside the home should do so, with pride.  It is in the best interest of their children to have a mother who feels fulfilled and is happy.
But I have too many friends who are overwhelmed by being a full-time worker and a full-time mom.  The extra stuff: when the kid is sick, or has a dentist appointment, or soccer practice, always falls on the mom to do.  And so many of my friends are plagued with guilt because they feel they don't have enough time to do both jobs to the best of their abilities.
I've been trying to establish a freelance writing/reporter career for myself since moving back to San Diego in September.  Granted, I spent several months out-of-the-loop and dealing with grief.  But I'm moving forward, and applying for freelance reporting jobs right and left.  I want the option of being able to work from home, and make my own hours, if and when I become a mother.
My goal also is to be able to stay "employable" and keep myself relevant in the world of outside employment.  My husband is terrified if he is the sole provider when we have a child and loses his job, that we'll go to the poorhouse because no one will hire me if I'm "just" a stay-at-home mom.
Anyone else dealing with this conundrum?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Eight Months!

On Friday we spoke via conference call with the California Branch Director of Holt. She told us the time line for adopting a child in Ethiopia was about eight months. Eight months! The webinar I attended last month gave the timeline as something between twelve and eighteen months.
I have been having so many dreams lately where I become mother, and feel that in-love, blissed-out feeling of being a mom, only to wake up and realize I am still childless. Finding out that Alex and I may become parents in less than a year (more akin to an actual pregnancy) is kind of a dream come true.
For now, we have a boat-load of forms to fill out. There is a 16-page questionnaire that asks VERY personal questions. We need to get notes from our doctors assuring everyone we are physically and mentally fit to adopt a child. We need to get fingerprinted. We need to fill out a form for a criminal background check.
This may seem like a lot of paperwork, but for gosh sakes, it is a step forward for us. For each form we fill out, we are one step closer to meeting our child.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What to Ask?

Tomorrow morning Alex and I have a conference call set up with the California Branch Director of Holt International. The call is supposed to take about twenty minutes, and it's supposed to give us the opportunity to ask all sorts of questions.
This kind of feels like the part of a job interview where the interviewer asks if you have any questions for them. Of course you do, but you just can't think of any that don't sound stupid, and you don't want to sound stupid to someone who will be making a very big decision that affects you.
Alex is very good at asking questions. It's what he did for a living for twenty years. Because I was in radio, I just turned on the recorder and let people talk, only nudging them if necessary. My worry over sounding like an idiot overrides my natural curiosity.
But this is too important a call to let my insecurities take over. I'm pretty sure a social worker has never gotten off the phone with a prospective adoptive couple and said, "They're just too dumb to adopt."
I want to know about the political climate in Ethiopia, and if there's a reasonable chance the adoption program there could run into trouble, like those in many other countries have. I want to know about the care the children receive before they are adopted. I want to know how Holt matches children to parents.
Any other suggestions?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti

http://news.yahoo.com/s/huffpost/20100113/cm_huffpost/421014

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I Want to Believe

I was holding my mother's hands as she died, and could feel the energy leave her body and fill the room. It was such a profound experience that it forever altered the way I view death. I now believe that our energy survives. I'm not sure how. I am not a religious person, and it seems religious people have concrete ways to view the afterlife. I don't have those skills.
In my quest to figure out what I witnessed at my mother's death, and to open myself to any possible relationship I could still have with my mom, I visited a spiritualist today. She is not a fortune teller or psychic, as she will be the first to tell you.
So, what I experienced today with the spiritualist was similar to what I experienced with my mother during her final moments alive. Something. I don't know how to describe it, because I don't know which words fit. And I either believe in it, or I don't. I want to. It flies in the face of what I'd held to be true for most of my life. But I want to believe. And we'll see what happens from there.

Monday, January 11, 2010

He Has Your Eyes

Alex and I visited his sister and her family in Vancouver this weekend. We got the chance to spend some time with our adorable and rambunctious niece and nephew. Our niece looks just like Alex's sister. Our nephew is a clone of his father. It's times like these that remind me Alex and I will never have a child that looks like us. I'm still a little bitter about that. For the most part, I've accepted that we will never have biological children of our own. I try to look at the positives: no labor pains, no episiotomies, no deflated breasts. Remember, I'm wracking my brain for the positives. It helps when I feel that strong pang of envy every time I see a woman my age with a swollen belly and pregnancy glow.
I've heard of adopted children taking on the appearance of their adoptive parents. One of my best friends often remarks how much Angelina Jolie's Ethiopian daughter resembles her. I have to agree. My step-mother-in-law has also reminded me that our child will pick up our mannerisms, idiosyncrasies, and the general vibe of our family. Bottom line: my giddiness about becoming a mother, even if it's not to a child I give birth to, overshadows any petty regrets I have about not having a kid who looks like me or Alex.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Notable Notary

I was in Target yesterday and was able to walk by the baby clothes without feeling sorry for myself. Here's why:
I mailed off the first round of required papers to the adoption agency. We had to get a form notarized first, and so Alex and I hit a notary in Hillcrest on Alex's lunch break. The office was the size of a coat closet. The man had a terrorist watch list posted in his bulletin board. Rush Limbaugh was blaring from the radio. Alex and I signed the form, then allowed him to look it over and apply his much-needed signature. Alex said "I like your storefront" and the man ignored him. Or maybe Rush was saying something particularly poignant at that very second and Mr. Notary didn't hear.
When he had stamped the form with his seal, he handed it to me and said, suspiciously, "What country are you adopting from?"
"Ethiopia," I answered.
His cheeks flushed red, and he said, without a trace of sincerity in his voice, "Good luck with that."
Alex and I left, laughing, as Alex said, "Two Jews adopting a child from Ethiopia. He probably burst a blood vessel."
Ah, the first encounter of many we will have with questionable people who disapprove of our family. It emboldens us in our decision all the more. In the words of a former (thank God) president, "Bring it on!"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Congratulations from H & R Block

Alex and I filled out an application on New Year's Day with Holt International to adopt a baby from Ethiopia. The application was online, and I found it easier answering very personal questions by having to type them rather than write in longhand. We emailed it in on January 2. I wanted no part of 2009 attached to this adoption. 2009 was such a dreadful year: my mother died, I miscarried, found out I have such severe endometriosis that I can't get pregnant. The year ended with me hospitalized for pneumonia and possible Swine Flu.
Yesterday I went to H & R Block to get our tax returns from the last three years printed out. We need to send those in, along with a photo of Alex and me, a picture of our house, and a notarized adoption agreement. As I sat down at a tax preparer's desk and waited for the printer to spit out what I needed, I told him we needed the documents because we were adopting. The tax preparer's face lit up, and he shook my hand. "Congratulations!"
It was the first time since the miscarriage that another person congratulated me on upcoming parenthood. It felt wonderful, and appropriate. I haven't felt this kind of motherhood-related bliss since I was pregnant.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Good riddance, 2009


"Grief turns out to be a place none of know until we reach it."



-Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Friday, November 13, 2009

Where things stand today...


After two years of trying to conceive a baby, I visited a Reproductive Endocrinologist in Atlanta, where I was living at the time. She believed I was suffering from endometriosis and scheduled a laparoscopy and hysteroscopy to make sure. Within a week of my diagnosis, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I flew out to California to bring my mother back to Atlanta with me so I could take care of her. At her urging, I underwent the laparoscopy, and was diagnosed with Stage 4 endometriosis. My RE told my husband Alex and me we had less than a 5% of conceiving without in vitro fertilization. Because my mother hoped to live long enough to see me become pregnant, my husband and I decided to start the fertility treatment. My mom died before we could begin with IVF, but we decided to forge ahead in her memory. I became pregnant after my first round of IVF, only to miscarry weeks later. Alex and I then moved to San Diego. We still have one embryo left in the freezer in Atlanta, but we are filling out adoption applications now.

Friday, October 23, 2009

This Will Be an Everlasting Love, Blah Blah Blah

I recently tried to convince a friend of mine, whom I'll call "Alisa," to find a mate using the Internet. Everyone does it, I told her. (Even though secretly those eHarmony commercials make me want to vomit when ever I see them.) There's no shame in it, I said. But still, she begged off, and seemed a bit hurt by the suggestion.
Cut to a few weeks later. My husband and I have started the process of adopting a baby. The law firm we're probably going to go through posts the profiles of adopting couples on its website to attract birthmothers. I thought it was a great idea, until I checked out said website. Most of the couples were adorable. Possibly cuter than my husband and me. A lot of them were more athletic than we are. Virtually all of them were super-duper Christian. I felt insecure and frustrated looking at these profiles.
But most of all, I felt angry. Why did I have to pimp myself as a parent, when all it seems everyone else just has to do is just think about getting pregnant and they become a parent? Why do I have to beg to become a mother?
So now I get it: Why "Alisa" is hurt at the suggestion of looking for a guy on the Internet. Because why should she have to advertise herself like a car for sale to find a date?
But the brutal truth is, I do have to use the Internet to become a mother. Fair or not, endometriosis has turned my reproductive organs to mush. And Alisa hasn't been able to meet a man worthy of her beauty and charm. Maybe the Internet is God's way of evening things out. If you believe in God. The jury's still out for me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sorting through the past

My sister Tara and her husband Mike drove up to my mother's house this past weekend to sort through my mom's personal stuff. It's been four months since my mom died, but it felt like it happened just last week knowing my sister was in my mother's house. Some small part of my brain still believed my mom was there, in that house, and Tara arriving there to report the house was empty was just further proof that my mom is really, truly gone. As weird as that may sound, my sister Sheila was going through the exact same thing. Like, there had been some huge mistake and my mother was still alive, still in her beloved little condo watching Perry Mason re-runs with her giant cat on her lap.

My mom kept everything. Well, everything that pertained to my sisters and me. Every drawing we made in school. Every story I wrote as a child. Our baby clothes. Tara sorted things into boxes to take back to Sheila and me, and some things went into a group box that the three of us will sort through together later.

I always knew my mother loved me. I never once doubted that. But it's only now that she's gone that I realize no one will ever love me like that again.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Newest Mermaid

When I was a toddler I wanted to be a mermaid so badly that I slept with a can of Chicken of the Sea tuna. My mother never made me feel weird for doing so. I had seen Charo dressed up as a mermaid on some 1970's variety show, thought she was beautiful, and wanted to look just like her.

I believe my obsession with mermaids ended after my mom read "The Little Mermaid" to me. Now, this was not the sanitized 1990's Disney version of the story. In the original, the mermaid must kill the prince or she will die and turn into sea foam. She cannot kill him, and so sea foam she becomes.

The other day I was at Dog Beach in Del Mar, just a few miles down the road from Carlsbad beach, where my sisters and I scattered our mother's ashes. It was the first time I saw the Pacific Ocean since we scattered her ashes in June. I felt so close to her, watching the sea foam lap at my feet.

I looked up the original passage of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" about the sea foam, and I felt as if the relationship I had with my mother had come full circle:

"The sun rose up from the waters. Its beams fell, warm and kindly, upon the chill sea foam, and the little mermaid did not feel the hand of death. In the bright sunlight overhead, she saw hundreds of fair ethereal beings. They were so transparent that through them she could see the ship's white sails and the red clouds in the sky. Their voices were sheer music, but so spirit-like that no human ear could detect the sound, just as no eye on earth could see their forms. Without wings, they floated as light as the air itself. The little mermaid discovered that she was shaped like them, and that she was gradually rising up out of the foam."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

La Quinta, Super 8, and Holiday Inn


My husband and I are driving home to San Diego to start our new life there. I guess it's not that new, considering my sisters, nieces, nephews, and friends all live there. It's quite bittersweet because my mother won't be there to welcome me back. It stings every time I think of it. Sometimes, before I go to sleep, I ask her to visit me in my dreams. It's strange, even though I don't dream of her, I feel like I've spent time with her, and it makes the pain ease up a little bit.


Driving to Abilene, Texas today. I'm looking forward to the scenery changing from lush and green to dry and brown. It's the native Southern Californian in me that craves parched landscapes.


We've got my two twelve-year-old cats and a rambunctious dog along for the ride. Our dog is pretty mellow in the car, but one of the cats meows her complaints about being stuck in the car for hours on end. The other cat waits until we hit the motel, then meows her dissatisfaction throughout the night.


I'm anxious about arriving in San Diego on Wednesday, though. It's my birthday, and it will be the first one without my mother. More on that later.