Tag Archives: birthparents

Adoption memories

We had Patrick’s g-tube study done. (Great results! Nothing wrong. Just a slightly upward angle that makes positioning the tube tricky.) As part of the history, they asked when the gastrostomy (g-tube hole) was created and I realized last night that I could have answered “exactly two years ago.”

Why do I remember that? Well, because exactly two years ago yesterday, the court officially named us as Patrick’s legal guardians. It was the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten.

A friend of mine has been doing something special this month on her blog. Because it’s national adoption awareness month, she’s been posting daily adoption related posts. She invited me to be a guest blogger and, by coincidence, will be running my post today… a very significant 2 year adoption anniversary for us.

So, I thought I’d share with you what I wrote for her. Here goes:

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Ours is not a typical adoption story, because Patrick is not a typical little boy. His life was meant to be something different, something miraculous, and so it required that it start in a very different and miraculous way.

But my part of the story starts the way a lot of others do. We wanted to have children. When that didn’t happen easily, we involved doctors. For years, we went through the ups and downs of charting and temperature taking, tests and medications. Finally, after several years and a minor surgery, our doctor sat us down for “the talk.” He explained that there were several causes of my infertility. The cards were, essentially, stacked against us. He still felt it very possible that we could have children, but only with major medical intervention. We had some big choices to make.

We talked about it and we prayed about it. And then, that Sunday, as we sat in church, we received a clear answer that it was time for us to stop medical treatments. Our child would come to us through adoption.

With a path finally before us, we moved forward quickly. I’ve never felt so driven to do anything before in my life. In under a month, we completed the application process, training classes, and were mostly done with our home study.

During our home visit, we had a conversation with our case worker that would play a major part in bringing Patrick into our family. She’d looked at our “preferences checklist” and noted that we seemed more open than most to adopting a child with special needs. We explained that we felt that adoption was a faith process. We believe that Heavenly Father puts families together. We knew we’d never turn away a child born to us with medical problems. So, if God was in charge of adoptions, too, then why would we limit His options? We knew Heavenly Father would help us find our child and that, if the child really belonged in our family, race and health wouldn’t stand in the way.

We decided to adopt in June. Our application was approved in September and we hunkered down for a nice long wait. We figured two years, at the least, was the average we’d heard. And still, by the end of October it felt like far too long. My heart ached for a child it knew was missing.

Then, on a very snowy morning the first week of November, my phone rang. It was my case worker. She started out by saying, “There was a little boy born on Halloween in Michigan.” My heart skipped a beat. I grabbed a pen and a piece of paper and started scribbling notes. She told me he was Korean. And then, she went on to tell me that he’d had a birth defect. His intestines had developed on the outside of his abdomen. The doctors were saying he had a life expectancy of 1 to 2 years. They needed to find an adoptive home quickly because doctors wanted to discharge him from the hospital. All she could tell me about his family that his birth mother wanted him to be able to go to the temple to be sealed to a family.

She said she’d send an e-mail with more information and a picture. She encouraged me to talk to Brian and decide if we’d like to be among those families considered to adopt this little boy, and then to call her and let her know.

As soon as I gathered myself, I called Brian. But he wasn’t at his desk. Meanwhile, two e-mails arrived. One was a short paragraph from the baby’s caseworker in Michigan explaining his medical needs and the unconventional and hurried search for parents. In the other were two photographs of a sweet little Korean boy with great big eyes and an IV in his head.

Since Brian wasn’t at his desk, I called the insurance company to find out if this we even had coverage to pay for this kind of medical problem.

That’s how Brian first found out about the offer. While I was on hold with the insurance company, he called back on my cell phone, so he heard me finish the conversation about “preexisting conditions” and “adoption”.

I gave Brian the information and, after a quick moment of thought, he said he’d come right home.

We had a prayer together, then went to the temple – the perfect setting to make decisions about life and death and eternity.

I knew that families are eternal. I knew that mortality is not the end of life. And yet, I was filled with grief. It was as if I’d just been told I was carrying a child with a terminal illness, but he wasn’t even mine yet. And I was scared. I didn’t know if I was ready to leave the life I knew then.. abandon it all, and become mom to a child who would need so much help, and who had such an uncertain future.

Still, when Brian turned to me and said, “I think we should pursue this,” my heart leapt with joy.

So, we called our caseworker and gave her a list of questions we had. And then we went to visit our parents. We felt we should tell them about the offer, because we knew that whatever happened, we were never going to be the same. And we both wanted father’s blessings. We showed them the little boy with the angel eyes and explained that we didn’t know if he was ours.. But from that moment, all of our families were praying for a little boy whom the e-mail called “Patrick.”

That was Wednesday. Thursday, I sent a copy of our profile. Friday afternoon, as I on my lunch break with Brian, our case worker called my cell phone. The birth family had seen our profile and had chosen us to adopt their baby.

Now, we had a choice to make. Because we’d been selected, we could finally start filling in the gaps in the medical information we were getting. And boy, where there gaps! We called the baby’s caseworker, who referred us to the hospital social worker. Finally, we decided we needed to talk to doctors, and we needed to do it face to face.

I called my mom and told her to take my credit card and buy airplane tickets. Then, I went back to work, explained what had happened, and asked for a leave of absence. After that, we went to the adoption agency where we signed pre-placement paperwork required for us see the baby in the hospital.

Friday night, we tried to get ready. We booked a long-term stay hotel room. We faxed legal documents to Michigan. We make a shopping list of nursery items. And we tried to pack.

I packed my bags that night not knowing what exactly I was packing for. We still didn’t know enough to say if we could take care of this baby. We didn’t know if or when he’d be discharged. We didn’t know how long it would take before we’d be given permission to leave the state again.

And yet, Saturday morning as I sat on a plane to Detroit, 10 rows ahead of my husband, I felt a quiet, happy calm. If nothing else, I knew it would be ok.

We met Patrick, his family, and his doctor Saturday night. It wasn’t what we expected. Due to unforeseen problems, things were tense at the hospital when we arrived. We felt like we knew nothing at all about his condition when we heard the doctor’s account. His case was much more severe than we’d understood, but the immediate prognosis was better.

At last, they led us to his room. My first impression was of how small he was. He was SO tiny! Just a little ball with wires and tubes attached. Without them, you’d have never guessed there was anything wrong.

They let me hold him while we talked. He felt so small and fragile.

I thought that the moment I met my baby, or the moment I held him, that I’d know he was mine. But that isn’t what happened for me. There were too many questions, still and I’d have to wait for that confirmation.

Sunday, we arranged to spend the day with Patrick. The nurses were so kind to let us change his diapers and help with other aspects of his care. I sat for hours singing him lullabies and watching monitors and letting him sleep.

When we arrived, the nurses warned us that he had a reputation as a very irritable little boy. There was even a sign on his door warning not to wake him. He was famous for screaming hysterically if his sleep was interrupted. But that’s not the baby I met. He was just a sweet, tiny little boy who wanted to be held.

I remember singing to him: “I am a child of God, and he has sent me here. Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear.” And my voice choked on the words because I knew that right at that moment, Patrick didn’t have that. I couldn’t imagine how any little boy could go through all he’d need to go through alone.

That night, as we looked at pictures from the day, I came across one that showed just his face with a white background. I knew, when I saw that picture, that I loved him.. and I wanted to keep him.

Monday morning, we held a “family conference.” It was a business day so we finally had been able to confirm that there were doctors to take care of him at our hospital at home. Our insurance confirmed that he’d be covered. Brian needed to hop on a plane to go back to work. (He was running a conference that week.) So, knowing we had the resources to provide for his physical needs, we asked Patrick if he’d like to be a part of our family. I swear, he looked up at Brian and smiled.

The case worker rushed to the hospital and by 1, we’d signed paperwork, and I was on my way to the airport with my husband. I was staying behind to start a whole new life.

The next few weeks in Michigan are among the sweetest of my life. With nothing else to do but hold my new baby and learn to care for him, I virtually lived in the NICU. My mom came for a week and shared with me in Patrick’s first feeding, first bath, and first time wearing real clothes. This time was also some of the hardest I’d experienced as I received a trial by fire as a mom of a child with major health problems. Patrick had his second surgery the day Brian flew back to be with us.

Two weeks after we signed papers, on my birthday, the birth parents appeared in court, and we were named as Patrick’s legal guardians. A week later, we had permission to bring him home. At 4 a.m. Thanksgiving day, Patrick and I arrived at Primary Children’s Hospital by air ambulance. He’d spend the next few weeks there as the doctors here got to know him and made arrangements for us to take care of him at home.

Because of his medical needs, the courts granted an early finalization of his adoption and we were able to take Patrick to the temple to be sealed as a forever family in February when he was just 4 months old.

Patrick just turned 2. He is an active, happy toddler who loves cars and music and Elmo. He is a living miracle! Patrick’s birth defect came with a rare complication. As a result, at birth he was missing over 95% of his small intestine. Without intestine, he doesn’t get nutrition by eating. In fact, eating large amounts puts him at risk for dehydration and bowel obstruction. Instead, he is entirely dependent on a form of IV nutrition called TPN. He has a permanent IV tunneled through his chest, into a vein in his chest or neck that runs to his heart.

The TPN leads to complications like infection and liver disease. In his short 2 years of life he has already struggled with both. Patrick’s doctors warned us before we adopted him that we’d become such regulars in the E.R. that we’d be on a first name basis with the staff. We soon found that to be true not just for the E.R. staff, but also the IV team, the infectious disease team, the PICU team, most of the residents, several of the medical students, and the entire gastroenterology department.

At 9 months old, as a result of infection, Patrick’s heart stopped. The fact that he is alive now is nothing short of a miracle. No doctor who hears his story and then meets him can help but confess that he has beaten the odds in countless ways.

Patrick will eventually need an intestinal transplant. He is already running out of places to put new IV’s and each new infection makes him a little more fragile.

Since they don’t do intestinal transplants where we live, we have chosen to have Patrick listed at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Patrick has been on the waiting list since April of 2009. He is status 1A and will have his transplant is soon as a donor match is found.

People try to tell us sometimes what a tremendous thing we did in adopting Patrick. We don’t really feel it’s something we can take credit for. As we told our caseworker when this all started, Heavenly Father puts families together. He knew Patrick needed us. And what’s more, He knew we needed Patrick.

Raising Patrick has taught us more about life than any other experience. We have learned to rely entirely on the Lord. We have learned to live each moment to it’s fullest. We have learned to lean on one another when things are hard and we to trust in hands of friends and strangers when we felt too weak to stand on our own. And we have learned to love like we didn’t know it was possible to love.

Mother’s Day

Patrick is feeling much, much better now. The infection has been well treated with the medicines he’s getting. He’s stable, happy, and playing. Doesn’t need monitors. Doesn’t need much attention at all, except giving his medications on time. There’s only one thing keeping us here. . .

Because this is the 2nd time in a very short time that Patrick’s had a yeast infection, they wanted to make good and sure that the bug is dead before they put a new line back in. Right now, Patrick has a good “deep line” in his leg. This means that it is in deep enough that they can draw labwork out of it and give better nutrition through it. However, it doesn’t go all the way to his heart, which means that it’s not as likely to get infected – but it’s also not really the safest for taking him home with. He’ll get a new central line on Tuesday and go home as soon as possible afterwards.

So, we spent Mother’s day in the hospital. It was a good day, though very quiet. We got to visit with both Brian’s mother and mine today. Patrick got to get all dressed up and go to church. (Best dressed patient in the hospital today, I’d bet.)

Being here has been a good opportunity for me to reflect on how grateful I am for the many different types of mothers who play a part in our lives. Mothering Patrick is not the kind of job I could do all by myself.

I’m grateful for a mother and mother-in-law who’ve been willing to step up and step in to learn how to provide Patrick’s medical care so that Brian and I can get the occasional night out or so that when I’m exhausted and at my wits end I have somewhere to turn. You may not know what a rare priviledge that is that you have given to us.

We are grateful for our mothers. You prepared us to be Patrick’s parents and you help us each day to do it. I don’t think it’s possible to count the number of prayers, meals, phone calls, visits, crazy projects, and more that you have offered for our little family.

I’m grateful for sisters and a sister-in-law who are also there to help lighten my load when I need it, to fill the fun aunt roles. They are helping to raise some spectacular children, Patrick’s cousins, and him as well.

I’m grateful this week for nurses and CNA’s who have taught me how to do this job, who’ve sat rocking Patrick in the dark so I can catch a few hours’ sleep, who listen when I need to cry or share in small, although sometimes icky, triumphs and who make my day every time we see them because of how much they love my child.

I’m grateful for Patrick’s birthmother. I have no doubt that she loves and is proud of Patrick. I am impressed by her strength. I’m grateful to his birth grandmothers who trusted in their children and loved Patrick. It’s not easy to support a son or daughter considering adoption when you know it means a grandchild will be far away. We are grateful for the love and trust and support they’ve shown in us. We also owe thanks to Patrick’s aunts who helped offer comfort when needed and still are lovingly watching over him. What a blessing it is that he was born into a family who loved him so much.

This mother’s day, thank you to all of you mothers who are there for us. You come in all shapes and sizes.. friends, neighbors, family, and more. I couldn’t do this without you.

Adoption Reflections: The best gift

Today is my birthday. Brian’s been asking me for weeks what I want for my birthday. The problem is, last year I got one of the best birthday gifts that I could have ever wished for. And this year… well, I can’t think of much more I’d wish for.

Last year my birthday was a pretty quiet event. My mom had flown home to Utah after a great week together. (She was good enough to blog about this.) I’d picked Brian up at the airport the day before. Patrick was recovering from surgery and was pretty out of it.

My mom had told a few of our favorite nurses that it was going to be my birthday.. so I was greeted with birthday wishes when we arrived at the hospital in the morning. Patrick was just waking up. For a kid who’d just had surgery, he looked great!

But that wasn’t the biggest event of the day. See, in Michigan, the birth parents have to go to court to relinquish custody. We’d been told that this process could take weeks, if not months. Until then, although we had rights, so did the birthparents – and in a hospital situation, with privacy laws and medical consent to worry about, the result was some awkward situations for us as adoptive parents.

The lawyer at the adoption agency had made some heroic efforts and gotten a court date just over a week from the time we signed our adoption paperwork. That morning, Patrick’s birth mom and dad went to court.

We met them for lunch shortly afterwards. I’ll never forget the image of Patrick’s birthfather comforting his birthmother as we walked into the restaurant. We had a nice lunch and got to know each other a bit better. This was the first chance we’d had to meet Patrick’s birth father. I tried to remember it all so I could tell Patrick about them someday.

Then we went back to the hospital. One of the best parts of time in the NICU with Patrick was naptime. He was in a very nice room with a comfy recliner. We could sit for hours in that chair with him snuggled up. With this sweet little ball of baby on my chest, the lights dimmed, and music playing in the background, it was impossible not to fall asleep sometimes. We called them “Patrick naps”. They were the highlight of my day. So after lunch, Brian and I each took a turn with a Patrick nap.

That night, we splurged a bit and went out to Benihana for dinner. My birthday cake was this funny little ice cream roll with a pink paper umbrella stuck in it.

This birthday didn’t have wrapping paper or candles. No one sang “Happy Birthday”. I didn’t have a party until weeks later. I didn’t get any cards. I didn’t even see most of my friends or family.

I didn’t open any gifts on my birthday. But I did get the best gift of all. Patrick was officially ours. I was officially a mom.. and best of all, it happened on the day I’d set as my arbitrary deadline. I didn’t want to turn 29 without being a mom.

Patrick’s life has been one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. He has healed sorrows I didn’t think could be healed. He has taught me patience and courage and love.

So please forgive me if this year I’m not very worried about present or parties or cakes. This morning Patrick grabbed my hair and pulled my face down to his and give me a big wet sloppy kiss right on the mouth. That is gift enough.

Adoption Reflections: Getting to know you

I left off my story the night before Brian & I flew to Michigan.

Saturday morning, Brian and I got up before the sun. We went shopping for a few more baby things and for some presents for Patrick’s birth family. Then we went to the airport.

It was so strange waiting in line with a carseat, but no baby. In fact, the sight of us juggling so much luggage and an empty carseat drew some attention. A very kind man ended up helping me in line while Brian was off getting some money at the ATM. We were talking about our reasons for flying. He was taking equipment to Africa where he was going to teach people in 3rd world areas to build and maintain wells. When I explained why we were flying, he was in awe. It was very strange to meet this great humanitarian and have him be impressed with what I was doing.

We were flying standby, so Brian ended up about 10 rows behind me. I remember hearing him telling other passengers why we were flying and thinking “This is all so surreal.”

The amazing thing was, for all I was nervous, it was also all so peaceful. I’ll always remember how beautiful the fall leaves were on the trees as we landed.. and how right everything felt.

It was evening before we got to our hotel room, and then to the hospital.

We arrived and explained why we were there and were shown to a family waiting room. Where we waited, and waited, and waited. Finally, we met Patrick’s birth family… his mother, grandmother and aunt. Our timing couldn’t have been worse. We ended up arriving in the middle of a family crisis. But they amazed us with the grace and kindness they showed us.

We talked to the head of the NICU and to Patrick’s family for a while…learned more about his medical needs, and then finally got to meet Patrick.

I remember thinking that he was SO tiny! Just this fragile little ball of baby, with a head full of black hair. I got to hold him that night and was just amazed by him. We also got to know his birthmother and her family a little bit.

Soothed by my paci

We went back to our hotel a bit overwhelmed and not sure what to do. We were overwhelmed by how much of his medical status we hadn’t known… and by the whole situation in general.

But, we’d made a committment to give Patrick a day, and so the next day we went back to the hospital. We explained to the nurse that we’d like to learn all we could about caring for Patrick, and she was wonderful about giving us that chance. She taught us to change his diapers (around tubes). And she let us hold him.

Brian and I each got some time alone with him that day. I remember holding and rocking him and singing to him the words of a children’s song:

“I am a child of God,
and He has sent me here,
has given me an earthly home
with parents kind and dear.”

And my heart broke at the idea that Patrick didn’t yet know where his earthly home and parents were. And I didn’t know if I was able to provide that for him or not.

As the evening wore on, the head of the adoption agency finally came. She’d gotten word that no one from the agency had really acknowledged our arrival. She explained to us Michigan’s adoption laws, and what she knew of Patrick, his medical needs, and his birth family.

While she was there, two elders from our church arrived… courtesy Patrick’s grandma. (I’ll forever be indebted to her for sending them). They came to bring us the sacrament, and while they were there gave us priesthood blessings of comfort.

We visited with the adoption supervisor for hours, and then went back and spent a bit more time with Patrick. Then we went back to our hotel.

That night, as we were sorting through the dozens of pictures we’d taken that day, one jumped out at me. I looked at it and just KNEW that I loved this baby! And that I wanted him to be my son.

First days

Monday morning, we went back to the hospital. Finally people were there! We met more doctors, the hospital social worker, and the care manager who’d help us to get Patrick home. Calls were made to Primary Children’s to see if the doctors in Utah could take care of Patrick. His surgeons came and talked to us about Short Gut and transplantation. Finally we felt like we were getting a grasp on this situation, and amazingly, we felt like it might be something we could do.

Then we had the big decision to make. The night before, the woman from the adoption agency had explained that the papers we’d signed in Utah would expire if they weren’t filed on Monday. Besides, Brian had to fly back to Utah that afternoon for a conference at work. We had to make a decision before he left for the airport about whether or not we were adopting Patrick.

We held a “family conference” that morning… Just Brian, Patrick and I. We talked about the decision we were facing… and the fact that we felt ready to move forward. Then Brian turned to Patrick and asked him if he’d like to join our family.

He had been sleeping, but he opened his eyes and kind of looked at Brian, as if sizing him up. Then settled back down to sleep in his arms, as if totally content. We took that as a yes.

We asked our nurse to take our first family picture.

At 1, Patrick’s social worker from the adoption agency and the hospital social worker met with us. We didn’t have much time, so we signed papers in a hurry. Then we left to take Brian to the airport.

And that was it… Brian kissed me goodbye at the curb and said “Take care of our son.” We had a son! One with far more troubles ahead that we could imagine… but one who also just filled every room he was in with the feeling of peace and joy.

We’ve never looked back. Patrick is our little boy and we love him with all our hearts!

Happy Birthday Patrick!

A year ago, I was a basketcase. Against all reason, I’d convinced myself that I should have gotten a call from my adoption caseworker about a child.. even though we’d only been approved to adopt for a little under 2 months.

Little did I know that two time zones away, a beautiful little boy had just been born. At birth, the doctors doubted he’d survive. Labor had been induced three weeks early because when his birthmom went in for an ultrasound, the doctors discovered that Patrick was in trouble (beyond the already known problems gastroschesis and suddenly missing intestines).

After he was born, Patrick was swept immediately away to surgery where they discovered that his Short Gut was substantial. His birthparents were told maybe had 24 hours to live.

Now here we are, a year later. Patrick is thriving, in spite of all he’s been through and the many, many times that doctors have questioned how long he’d live.

Patrick’s life in every way is a miracle. What a blessing it is to have him in our lives.

Happy birthday, Patrick!

For all your party-goers, the party’s still on at our house this afternoon.

Fathers Day Reflections

Chicken and I had the opportunity to go to church at the hospital today (for those who haven’t heard, Patrick is in the hospital, but those details will come later). While we were sitting there a lot of emotions regarding fathers day came to mind. I thought that I would try to write some of those down.

First my very own fathers day… It seems like a long time ago. A year ago, Chicken and I were just starting into the approval process for adoption. Oh how things can change in a year. It is hard to believe that we now have a little guy that is growing and progressing. So this is my first official fathers day, the gray hairs show that I’m a dad.
It is also amazing to think about all the stuff that we have learned. It is a humbling experience to arrive at the hospital and have the doctors take orders from you. We (mainly Chicken) have come up with a routine that has Patrick growing and staying relatively healthy, the doctors don’t want to mess with that situation, so they listen carefully to how we do things. I appreciate all the wonderful nurses that will sit and listen to all the little things that we do for Patrick, and attempt to follow it.
This fathers day also makes me think about my father, who is out of the country, so I won’t see him today. I sure hope he is enjoying his time in Mexico, in some ways I wish Chicken and I were there to show him some of the joys of visiting Mexico. I can see a lot of me in my dad. Thanks for helping to make me the person I am today. (I hope that doesn’t sound conceded).

I have also spent some time thinking about birth fathers. They kinda get left out of the adoption picture, or get blamed for the adoption situation. I think that it is very rare that birth fathers forget about their children. Some may make choices that don’t reflect the love that they that have for that child. But they do make the sacrifice to give their child a good home with another father who cares about their child. In our case the relationship with the birth father has slowly grown, it shows very much that he cares for Patrick. Thanks, Nick.
Well I think is enough out of me for one post. I probably won’t tell anyone else that this is here, if you stumble across it, thanks for reading.
– This post was written by Brian, a.k.a. Howie

Gotcha Day

In the adoption community, the day an adoption is finalized is known as your “gotcha day.” Well, miraculous as it is, Patrick’s adoption was finalized on January 7th.

It took a couple of days for the news to get to us, and a week before the papers arrived and it really seemed real. But, late as the news is in arriving on this blog, it is true.

LDS Family Services’ lawyers were amazing and petitioned the court for early finalization so that there would be no legal hurdles to our taking Patrick out of state to be evaluated for transplant. And, well, the court agreed.

In following his holiday tradition, we submitted our part of the petition on Christmas Eve. But Patrick managed to finally have his own day in his gotcha day. January 7th is the day after we celebrate the Italian tradition of Befana in our house and wrap up our Christmas season.

We’ve made arrangements to go to the LDS temple with him on February 13th so that we can be sealed for time and eternity as a family. This is a special ceremony in our faith. We believe that marriage and families are intended by God to be eternal, not till death do us part. Marriages performed in LDS temples are performed for time and for eternity and children born into an “eternal” marriage are likewise a part of that family for eternity. A sealing ceremony provides that same promise for adopted children. Patrick will be tied to our family as though he had been born to us. This is something that his birth family wanted for him and a day that we have been looking forward to for a long time.