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 :

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,
Yirgacheffe (in Sidamo),
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


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


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 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


     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 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."