Friday, June 3, 2011
For 10 years, I have been telling squirrel stories. They started as a way to put Trent and Michela to bed and were inspired by the squirrels that once scampered about in our attic at night. The stories always began the same way: "Once upon a time, there were two baby squirrels -- Trent and Michela. They lived in an attic. . . . "
Well, recently, a new baby squirrel name Maya appeared on the scene. This was the first story in which Maya appeared:
Once upon a time, there were three baby squirrels -- Trent, Michela, and Maya. They lived in an attic of a house on Main Street where an old lady lived. During the day, while the squirrels’ mother gathered acorns for the winter, the baby squirrels slept. At night, after their mother and the old lady went to sleep, they got up and played in the attic.
They were naughty squirrels. They got into everything. They knocked over boxes of Christmas ornaments and chased the glass balls around on the floor. They chewed into a box of the old lady’s love letters and made a mess of the envelopes that the old lady had neatly tied with ribbon.
The squirrels’ mother had scolded the naughty squirrels many times. She told them not to make so much noise. She was worried that if the old lady found out they lived in the attic, the lady might patch up the soft wood that their mother had gnawed through to make the door to their home. Their mother also told them that if they ever heard footsteps on the squeaky wooden stairs, they should immediately run and hide in their secret place in the corner under the eaves.
Still, night after night, the baby squirrels played and made noise.
One morning, after a long night of playing, the squirrels heard the old lady climbing the stairs to the attic. They were alone. Their mother had gone out to get acorns. They were frightened. But they remembered what their mother had told them and quickly scampered to the corner of the attic. They held their breath and waited.
The old lady opened the attic door, entered and looked around. She poked around in the cardboard boxes which held her letters and stacked them neatly against the wall. She picked up the Christmas balls and boxes from the floor, placed each ornament in its own compartment, and set the boxes on a wooden chair near the top of the stairs. Then she left.
The squirrels let out a breath of air filled with relief.
They had begun to play some more when the smallest squirrel, Maya, noticed that the old lady had left the attic door ajar. She was curious about what the rest of the house looked like and, swiftly, she scampered down to take a peek. Michela whispered loudly, telling Maya to come back up. Trent warned that the old lady might see her. Maya didn’t listen. She slipped out the opened door.
In an instant, Maya’s brother and sister knew what they had to do. They chased after Maya.
It took them a while to find her. They found her in the old lady’s bedroom curled up next to a soft velvet pillow on the big bed. Just as they shoved her to get moving, the three of them heard the attic door being closed. Michela whimpered. Now they might never get back to their home. Or their mother.
Trent told them not to worry. He had a plan. They would hide until they heard the front door open and then they would run out the front door to escape.
On the first floor, the old lady stirred oatmeal over the stove and listened to the news on the radio. The three squirrels tip-toed down the carpeted stairs and hid behind the long winter coats hanging on the coat rack. Hours passed until the old lady walked right to where they hid. She took down a coat to wear outside to check the mail. The three baby squirrels were so relieved that she didn’t see them that they almost forgot their plan.
And then they saw it! The old lady had left the door opened a crack. The squirrels escaped and hid under the holly bush outside the front door.
After the old lady went back inside, the three baby squirrels ran to the gutter at the corner of the house and scampered up to the hole that was the entrance to their home. They squeezed through the hole and found their mother waiting for them. Their mother was angry. The baby squirrels didn’t know whether to tell their mother what they did or not. They only knew that they were happy to be home. They snuggled up next to her and felt her sigh with relief.
That night, as the squirrels played in the attic, the old lady lay in her bed and listened. She heard sounds above her and wondered what those three naughty baby squirrels would get into next.
Monday, November 8, 2010
I’m a lawyer and should be drafting an appellate brief. But blogging about diabetes and my two wonderful children who have it is so much more fun.
My 14 year old son Trent was diagnosed a few days after his fourth birthday. Due to my husband’s vigilance, Trent was well cared for at home. We were lucky to find a no-nonsense babysitter who, after being told Trent had diabetes, said, “OK, so I prick his finger to get blood and then what?” She took on the challenges of diabetes with aplomb. Trent was asked to leave the daycare he was attending when he was diagnosed in June 2000. As a lawyer, I learned about Section 504 and the IDEA Statute and convinced the daycare (on the campus of a community college) that they had to take him back. I didn’t really want him to return, but I wanted to prove my point. I was subsequently able to use Section 504 to get him enrolled in a public pre-k program. With Trent on the pump in August of 2000, we faced another legal situation with the public school. However, with some ingenuity, and help from Crystal Jackson at the American Diabetes Association, we worked through that as well.
Now, ten years later, Trent is a freshman at a selective public high school. Here’s what I have learned in the ensuing 10 years since diagnosis:
1. ChildrenWithDiabetes.com is the best place for support and information on the internet or anywhere else. (See the parents’ list and message boards and chat rooms and conferences.) Someone at CWD has certainly experienced what you are going through with regard to your child’s diabetes and can point you in the right direction for help (including referring you to the right people as I was referred to Crystal Jackson).
2. You do not have to wait to have your child placed on a pump. 10 years ago, it was very rare to have a newly diagnosed 4 year-old on a pump. We were told by the endo that we had to wait until we learned how to use insulin. We told then endo we would find another endo who would prescribe a pump if she didn’t. She prescribed it. It is now routine to prescribe pumps for newly diagnosed children. This is a good thing. Contrary to the “old school,” it is just as easy to administer insulin through an insulin pump as through needles. It is just a different delivery mechanism. A mechanism which, by the way, makes it possible to administer the tiny doses of insulin that toddlers and babies require, and that allows for basal rate patterns to more closely match your child’s needs.
3. I had been very hesitant about pumping. I didn’t like the idea of seeing my beautiful baby hooked to machinery; it made diabetes so much more visible 24/7. My husband was insistent and I am glad he was. It means you don’t have to force a fussy toddler to eat when he doesn’t want to and allows him to eat whenever he wants. This has to be good in terms of avoiding “issues” with food. Moreover, when your toddler arrives at school with medical equipment that is more expensive than your car, the school takes notice and believes diabetes is as serious as it is.
4. You are lucky if a parent or a babysitter is able to help with diabetes care. My family was always uneasy with helping. I was lucky to find a babysitter. If you can’t find such a person on your own, go to ChildrenWithDiabetes.com and find someone in your area with a child with diabetes and give each other a break. You will need it. Don’t turn down help.
5. Learn your rights in school and learn about Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Amended Americans with Disabilities Act. You may need to become a legal expert to advocate for your child. I used Section 504 in a very unique way. Section 504 requires a public school to make reasonable accommodations for a disabled child. There is no description in the law that says what those accommodations are, except that they be reasonable. So, when Trent was diagnosed in the summer before pre-k and I had not had him tested the prior year for the gifted school, I asked that they test him for the school late as an accommodation. I wasn’t asking them to admit him if he didn’t meet the academic requirements; only that they test him out of sequence. They did. He was accepted to our gifted school and I didn’t have to send him back to where he was not wanted.
6. After diagnosis, take some time to grieve. Your child will be OK, but you will need to grieve the realization that you can’t protect your child from everything. Believe that with time, while it won’t get easier, it will become a new “normal.” Don’t forget to take time to care for your children without diabetes; the diagnoses will require sacrifices and grief on their part as well. They also need special attention.
You may find that diabetes actually brings good into your life. Don’t be surprised. For our family, we have learned to eat better and become experts on nutrition. We have made friends that are as close as family. We even adopted a baby daughter with diabetes.
WHICH BRINGS ME TO MY NEXT STORY:
My husband and I had two children by birth, Trent and Michela, but were never able to conceive more children. We loved our two, but always hoped perhaps to get pregnant again or adopt. When we heard about a baby through a contact at CWD who had diabetes and was in foster care in a neighboring state, we immediately called the social worker. Considering the state of the foster care system in this country, everything went relatively smoothly. We learned about Maya in August 2007, had supervised visitation with her, and were lucky to have her placed in our home within two months. Thus, she came to us when she was only 9 months old. (Being a lawyer helped again; I pushed through the legal requirements and even stretched a few to meet our needs.) My husband and I became foster parents. With our children, then ages 10 and 8, we were all thrilled to have Maya in our lives. In December 2008, we adopted her and officially became a family. We continue to have good relationships with her biological family through an “open adoption.” It is appropriate that November is both the official month for raising awareness of diabetes and adoption!
Maya was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of one month old. Her mother brought her to the emergency room in a state much like Type 1 ketoacidosis. She was life-flighted to a university hospital. When we brought Maya into our family, we believed she had Type 1 diabetes. She came to us wearing an insulin pump strapped to her back as she crawled. Being a part of the online diabetes community, we had learned that infants who were diagnosed with diabetes under six months of age might have a rare form called Monogenic Diabetes. It is a form of diabetes caused by a mutation in a single gene; an inherited gene or a gene that mutated in utero. Because none of Maya’s biological parents has diabetes, we know that her gene mutation (a mutation to the Kir6.2 subunit of the KCNJ11 gene) must have occurred in utero. (Thanks to Professor Hattersly in England for discovering monogenic diabetes.) We had her tested (a simple cheek swab) for the genetic form of diabetes and discovered that she had it. Over the course of a week in the hospital, we witnessed a miracle in the making. As the doctors decreased her insulin and increased doses of glyburide (an inexpensive type 2 medication), Maya became independent of exogenous insulin. (Thanks to Professor Philipson at the University of Chicago for guiding us through the transition.) Today, we only give pills to Maya to control her diabetes.
We feel as though we are the luckiest people on the planet to have adopted the daughter we always wanted and to find she has a form of diabetes that is easier to treat.
So, if you are newly diagnosed, be prepared for the unexpected. You may find joys you never imagined.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I have been thinking about open adoption and what it is at its most basic element. It has been suggested that open adoption is about sharing of information at its core. I tend to agree that sharing of information is a significant part of open adoption. For instance, I love calling Maya’s mother (biological /first) and sharing information: telling her about all of the new events in Maya’s life -- that her teacher is crazy impressed with her ability to speak in front of the class and that the music teacher is floored with her singing abilities. I love sharing these events with Nikki because I know that she is as proud of her Maya as I am. I also love when Nikki’s grandmother shares with me the names of the Native Americans in the family going back many generations. I have gathered much ancestral information on Nikki and Maya’s genealogical tree from the information I have received. I don’t want Maya to lose that part of her history as a result of being adopted. I want her to be a proud Native, Japanese, Cuban, African, German American raised by her Catholic Italian mother and her Mayflower descended/Swiss Mennonite father. I know how crucial my ethnic and religious upbringing has been towards the making of my identity. I want Maya to have an understanding of her ethnic and racial background in order to develop a fully formed view of who she is.
Still, information sharing is, for me, not the most essential aspect of our open relationship. It’s nice to have access to all of Maya’s medical information and familial history. And to share her accomplishments. But more importantly, our open relationship has thrived as a result of us all – my family and Maya’s first family – opening our hearts to each other. We have used this wonderful tool of adoption to expand our family and to bring more people into our family that we might not previously have had. We have used the tool of open adoption so that Maya can have more people in her life that love her to the bone. Our belief has been that having more people love a child cannot possibly be bad. So, we open our hearts and homes to one another. My heart and home is open to Nikki and her family. They have opened their heart and homes to us.
It takes a certain capacity to love new family members unconditionally, merely because the circumstances dictate that such unconditional love is best for all. But, somehow, so far, we have managed this. If Nikki’s family wanted to look closely and find something we have done with Maya that they disapprove of, it wouldn’t be hard. Surely our methods of raising a child are different from their methods. Nikki’s family has not done this. They have been nothing but supportive of the way in which Maya is being raised. Likewise, when we go visit there, we are confronted with ways of handling children that we might consider less than ideal. Still, we respect the rights of Maya’s family to interact with her as they interact with others in their extended family.
Maybe that’s what is at the core of open adoption. It is not merely sharing information. It is not merely opening your heart and home. Open adoption requires people to open their minds and expand their understanding of what constitutes a family. It requires being open to a new kind of family and being open to seeing that family as valid as the traditional family. Open adoption requires people to slice open the entire concept of family, redefining it to include both a child’s birth family and a child’s adoptive family. Blasting open the concept of family mandates that people involved in open adoptions remain open to experiencing the uncharted adventures that lie ahead of them. Indeed, families in open adoptions need not only remain open to the adventures, they need to embrace them. And they need to shine their lights outward so as to open the minds of others who are not so lucky.
For other views on open adoption, see
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I don’t know how it happened. I mean, I know. But I can’t believe I let it happen. It just happened so slowly. Over time. It wasn’t one thing I did or didn’t do. Rather, it was like the tide eroding at the dune’s edge. Little by little, stealing away form and shape. Who would have ever thought it would come to this?
My husband has been encouraging me to exercise for years. For years I have had any number of excuses. I had to work. I wanted to join a gym to work out. I was healthy enough.
A few weeks ago was my 48th birthday. I had to face the truth. I have a three year old and I want to live a long healthy life so I can be there to watch her into her forties. To do that, I would need to be in good physical shape. I don’t need to win races anymore. It’s not like in the old days. I just need to be out there. So, for two weeks my husband and I have been going to the Roosevelt Highschool track to work out in the evenings. (Who am I kidding? What I have been doing looks nothing like a work out.)
It has been unbelievably hot this summer. I can’t remember summer heat that has affected me like the heat this summer. I haven’t been able to accomplish very much, including cleaning the house. It has been too damn hot. That’s my excuse anyway. So, instead of running during daylight hours, we have been going to the track after dark – when we hoped it would be cooler.
If I hadn’t been there and seen it for myself, I would never have believed it. We weren’t the only crazy ones running by the light of the moon. There is a veritable cadre of people who clandestinely appear at the track after dark at 9:00 p.m. The young black sprinter with his long tight sinewy legs, practicing his sprints and stretching. The dark-skinned hurdler, gliding over hurdles like a gazelle. The thin white woman with her long blonde hair and skinny legs, ipod connected to her ear, running up and down the stadium stairs. And the father, maybe a decade younger than Tim and me, yelling to his boys interchangeably in English and Arabic. Or was it Hebrew? It was hard to tell. The actual words just disintegrated in the air before they reached me across the field. (Seeing his children play in the dark at the edge of the track brought to mind children I had once read about who had some condition where their skin couldn’t be in sunlight; their mother took them behind their house to play at night. Under the moon.) The father had good form and was covering his miles at a fast clip, checking in on his children with each quarter mile.
Then there were Tim and I. Tim had been running one mile three times a week for years. Last year, he stepped it up to three miles and began to swim on the off days. Many a night he could be seen running around our block which makes a circle – six laps to a mile. With Trent and Michela, when they were young, and lately with Maya, we often waited for him to round the bend and yelled “Go Daddy Go!” from the front lawn.
I hated running around the block. The street banked from the high center of the street to the lower side by the curb. It always hurt my knees to try to run there – on the few other occasions that I tried to exercise. So it was I who told Tim that if he would run with me at the track, I would exercise with him. He agreed and has come to enjoy the track as much as I once did. His form is not the best; he lopes and his arms swing from side to side somewhat, instead of efficiently going back and forth. But he makes pretty good time around the track. Three laps for every two that I run. And two laps for each one that I walk.
The very first day I approached the track I was excited. I had run many a race in high school on various tracks. I had made good friends and learned many life’s lessons from my coach on the track. Just walking on, I thought about striding around and feeling good, like I always had. (Some dust-covered trophies in the attic and newspaper clippings would testify to my former ability to run a 2:18 half mile and a 5:15 mile at my best. I had been our high school’s scholar athlete the year I graduated. Previously this had been awarded to the best football player who could maintain a C average. I was the first girl to receive it and the only graduate to attend Harvard.)
That first day is when I realized what had happened to me. I may have felt like I could just hop on the track and run a mile. But my 48 year old body would protest otherwise. With each slow small step that I took, portions of my body began to hurt. My upper thighs. My calves. And my knees. Oh, my knees! All the extra weight I have carried for 30 years have taken a toll on my knees. I was reminded of Coach, who used to faithfully run, if a bit wobbly, around the track and on the streets with ace bandages or braces around his knees. I had reached *that* age.
The first night, after jogging/walking a mile and a half, my aching legs wouldn’t let me sleep. I had to take Ibuprofen to ease the pain. A couple of nights I jogged/walked two miles. So far, that is the farthest I have made it. All the while, I am reminded of the days in high school that we ran twice a day to train. Early in the morning, my friend Eileen would come knock on my bedroom window to wake me so that we could go run around a field 20 times or the equivalent of five miles. In the evening, we would have practice around a track at a neighboring school, where we had to jump the fence, because our school was too poor to have a track. Or during cross country, we would run out in small packs, grouped according to how fast we could run, and run for 7 miles or more.
I still need someone like Eileen and am grateful to have Tim, who nudges me each evening to come with him to the track, even when I have excuses: “I have to cook. I want to go to Shanikqua’s house and watch my new favorite TV show.” Tim is gently persistent.
So many memories flood back into my mind and keep me going on the track. My coach would say that every mile is like putting money in the bank. Each one makes you stronger, no matter how slow you go. So I push on. In two weeks, I think I have saved about 12 dollars! Me, with my wobbly knees and ace bandage.
And I am reminded of a wonderfully inspirational speech I recently heard by Jay Hewitt about his iron man competitions. In his speech, he describes pain and depletion of a magnitude that I can only imagine. He describes thinking that he can’t make it any further. And then asking himself, “How bad do you want it?” He concludes by advising children with diabetes (he, himself, has Type 1 diabetes), “You may not win, but you will do better than those who never tried.”
As I run around the track, I think of my children, and my coach, and Jay Hewitt. And I hear the melody of my earrings. “Clink clink, clink clink!" The harmony with each step I take. “Shuffle, shuffle." And my breaths keeping time. “Huufff, huufff, huufff.” The sprinter runs by. “Pitter patter pitter patter!” The hurdler glides. “Whoosh!” The young girl runs up and down the steps. "Tap tap tap tap.” The father passes me on the outer lane and my husband laps me again. My knees go “clickety clack.” Under the dark sky, as I chase my moon shadow around the track, I am determined. I may never win anything again, but I will do better than if I had never tried.
Wish me luck.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
1. I’m not baking my own birthday cake. Instead, I am doing what our foster child, Livie (wonder how she is), suggested last year: I took one of those shrunken half gallons of ice cream (mint chocolate chip because you can’t get peppermint in the summer) and let it melt a little. (Not difficult in today’s heat and humidity.) Then I spooned it into a store-bought oreo cookie crust and placed the plastic cover of the crust on top upside down. Put the whole thing in the freezer to re-freeze for dinner. Better than Carvel at a fraction of the price.
2. I am also not cooking my birthday dinner. Trent has promised to cook. I know he makes a mean tilapia, so that will be good. I only hope he cleans up after himself because I’m not cleaning either.
3. Last year at this time, we had a foster daughter Livie because her biological mother wouldn’t let her travel to Canada with her foster family for vacation. She had type 1 diabetes. Each night I got up and went from her bedroom to Trent’s to test blood sugars in the middle of the night. It was tiring for eight days. I can’t imagine how people with two kids with Type 1 do it. (Maya doesn’t need testing in the middle of the night. She has a rare kind of diabetes and is very unlikely to go low – and never seriously low.) I wonder how Livie is doing. Last time I heard, her foster parents decided it was too much work and wanted to give her back to the state. (Pisses me off. Don’t we all want to do that with our kids? But we don’t!) Mental note to check up on her.
I think I’ll keep my three kids this week. Trent is starting to be very useful at 14. He’s strong and can carry heavy loads. And he’s interested in cooking. Michela is always funny. Just as her friend Angela once commented, “This family is no fun without Michela.” And Maya is funny and endearing. Besides, she has actually slept in her own bed for three nights in a row. That’s almost a pattern.
I think I’ll keep Tim too. He’s good for a lot of things. But that’s fodder for another time.
4. It's been a good day. A man in the supermarket gave me a coupon for paper towels on sale because I helped him locate the right size. Don’t you hate when you get to the counter and the check out lady says, “That’s not the size that’s on sale!.” Almost as bad as when she yells out, “I need a key. Food stamps!.” That’s never happened to me, but I’ve seen it. My pharmacist did yell out once, “Ms. Rago? Ms. Rago? I’m sorry we don’t have any more of your ______ medicine in stock.” Um, what? Why don’t you tell all of CVS what meds I am taking?
5. Another reason why it's been a good day is that it started with a telephone conversation with one of my dearest friends. (Even if the conversation was about bacteria she picked up from eating chicken in Paris last week.) I also received a phone call from an old flame. Not bad after more than 25 years, I figure. And no client has called to yell at me and demand that I be more accountable. That, in itself, makes for a good day.
6. I’m 48. Almost half way through with my life. I hope I can make the second half better than the first. And I hope I can get in better shape. The supermarket tabloid declared that Zack Ephron, at age 50, has an amazing body. Well, no one’s gonna declare my body good enough for The Star. But I hope it’s good enough to pass a stress test by the time I turn 50. Mental note to start exercising.
After the ice cream cake tonight. . . .
(P.S. The cake above is the one I baked for Trent last week.)
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Maya always says things that make us take a deep breath and look at each other in shock. Sometimes we laugh. Sometimes we are amazed. Like when she hid under the dining room table and announced, "Oh, no! Daddy is coming. He's going to recognize me." She is three years old. Going on forty. "Recognize?" Really? And then there was the time she told me, "I absolutely do want to go to Starbucks, once I finish what I am doing." You "absolutely do want to go?"
Of course, those times were better than when she turned to me and told me she was going to "kick my ass." I pretended I didn't hear her because I didn't want her to think I was as shocked as I was! She has never said that again.
Well, this week, we have had a few more amazing statements by Maya:
As she was putting on her sandals, to wear under her princess costume, she announced, "I have to put my sandals on so that I can look FABULOUS." Fabulous? Um, OK.
Then, today, she saw my brother Tony, her Uncle Tony, for the first time in a long time. He picked her up and kissed and hugged her. She said, "I remember you. You weren't nice the last time I saw you. But now you are nice." My brother Tony can be gruff, so we all laughed.
Lastly, our house is under a bit of construction. With a new roof and gutters being put on. And walls ripped out to put in french doors to the deck and to build new closets. So, when we went to my sister Marissa's house today, and Maya saw Marissa's kitchen ceiling ripped out, she looked at it carefully. (Marissa's air conditioner had leaked so she was none too happy about the gash in the ceiling.) Maya turned to Marissa and said, "Oh! I didn't know your house was banged up like ours is!" Banged up? That's actually very close to how I feel about how the house looks.
We continue to be amazed by Maya's skilled grasp of the English language and her use of intonation to get across her meaning. When she starts counting spoons in Spanish, we are blown away. But that's a whole 'nuther story. . . .
Monday, May 31, 2010
In the shower today alone (without Maya) for the first time in a long time, I enjoyed having the entire showerhead to myself. I imagined a day when I would be able to take a shower without Maya asking to get in with me. Then I thought, “Don’t hurry up these years by wishing them away. Savor the moments. Most people don’t get to do babyhood and toddler-hood a second time with the benefit of hindsight and having experienced it once before. You know how fast the years go.” And I thought about all the things I will miss when Maya gets older. I will miss how she plays at my feet and chatters to herself, singing songs she has recently heard and, sometimes, even practicing curse words she has heard. (Ooops!) I will miss how I hear her feet paddling along the wooden floors coming to my bed in the middle of the night and how, when she arrives eye level at my bedside she quietly, and in her best voice, asks if she can sleep next to me, “for just a little while.” I may even miss how she wears my Tupperware on her feet and skates around the kitchen floor or spreads every block and toy on the living room carpet.
Sometimes I am saddened for the mother who gave her life, her Mommy Nikki, because she misses a lot of these little milestones: Being able to open the refrigerator all by herself. Being able to identify all the vegetables on her plate – and liking them! Being able to pour a cup of juice. Being able to climb up onto the toilet to reach the sink and brush her teeth. Being able to take off her own clothes or put on her own seatbelt. Every day, Maya learns something new. I try to keep Nikki apprised and to let her enjoy in the small miracles of our life when she is here or when we go visit her. I have her brush Maya’s hair (Nikki is much better at that than I am). Or test her blood sugar or choose her clothes or read Maya’s favorite books or snuggle in bed with Maya during the night.
People ask if this isn’t confusing to Maya. I don’t think it is. It’s her normal. She will happily announce to people, “I have two mommies!” Most of the people we are with understand what she means. Sometimes people look at me wondering if I am a lesbian. I laugh and let them wonder. Lately Maya has been re-telling the story of her birth and that of her siblings, Trent and Michela., checking with me in a questioning tone to see if she has it right ‘”Mommy, Trent and Michela were taken from your stomach by the doctors and then brought to you to take care of them?” I answer, “Yes, Maya.” “I was taken by the doctors from my Mommy Nikki’s stomach and then brought to you?” Even though this is a pretty shorthand version of the truth, I agree with her because this is how she seems happy envisioning things at the moment. Little by little she will understand the full details.
How will she come to view the circumstances of her life when she is older? I don’t think we can really know. Open adoption is still very much an “experiment” in some sense. (Although in another sense, it is a very tried and true tradition for family to raise another family member’s child, when the biological mother is unable. In our case, the only difference is that we became family with Nikki through Maya; we weren’t family prior to Maya’s birth.) Indeed, raising children in and of itself is as much an experiment. Before becoming a parent, no one has had experience in raising their children. And no one knows what the outcome of his or her efforts will be. That is the definition of what an experiment is, in my book. Trying something you’ve never done before and having faith that it will work out for the best.
Towards the middle or end of this "experiment" we call our lives, when Maya looks back, I hope that she sees that her mother and I worked at making the best choices for her life that we could. I hope she remembers the fondness that Nikki and I share for one another. I hope that Maya does not view my role as a person who has taken away another person's baby, but rather loved her enough to want to bring her and her family into my life. I hope that she sees that Nikki had little choice once the state got involved, but made the best choice for her under the circumstances. I hope that she sees how both her families worked hard to become one family for her sake -- because we all love her. And that both families compromised in order to make the situation work.
I hope that Maya will look back fondly on the times we took her to visit her brother and cousin and aunts and uncles and grandparents and mother and sisters -- on holidays, on their birthdays. I hope she sees how I always thoughtfully pick presents for her family and make sure that I don't forget them. And that I share the best photographs, pieces of artwork, and life stories with them, so they can be as proud of her as I am. I hope she will look fondly on the times her mother and other family members came to see her in her home, with her adopted family. That she enjoyed showing them her latest milestone: riding her tricycle; moving into a big girl bed; painting pictures and hanging them on "her" door in the kitchen.
I hope that she is proud of her birth family as much as her adoptive family. I hope she gains a skill for dealing with people from all walks of life, having walked between the two worlds of her two families. I hope she views the situation as lucky: to have two families even before she marries, when she will have three. (Unless by crazy coincidence, she marries a man from an open adoption who will also have two families! In which case she will have four families in her life!) Not to mention the family that she may one day create. I pray in my heart that she will not find any of us a burden. And that she will know that I did not find the openness of her adoption a burden. I hope she knows I enjoyed it -- I get to brag about her to the only other people in the world who love her as much as I do. I hope she knows that the openness was as much for me, as for her and her mother. I couldn't live with her adoption any other way. Maybe under some other circumstances, I would not have chosen this. But in this instance, for our entire extended family, the openness of the adoption is ideal.
***For other thoughts on how parents hope their children will view their open adoption, see here: