Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Initial thoughts on "Born This Way"

You may have heard that there is a new series out on A&E called "Born This Way". This show features adults in their 20's and 30's who have Down syndrome. It's a reality show that is trying to highlight all that adults with Down syndrome can do, as well as the obstacles they face. It shows their relationships, work and how they live their lives.

Going into this show, I had mixed feelings. It can be hard and scary to see adults with Down syndrome, because sometimes when I see them, I actually see Down syndrome. I see the obstacles and limitations they face rather than seeing who they really are. In some ways I'm ashamed to admit this, but it seems as though a number of other parents who's children are Asher's age feel the same way, so I'm going to put it out there because it's real. This doesn't mean that I don't accept him for who he is, it just means that from time to time I may struggle with the realities of his diagnosis. It doesn't change my love for him and who he is or my acceptance of him exactly the way he is because without that extra chromosome he would lose some of what makes him Asher. It just means that as he grows and changes we will face new and different accomplishments and obstacles that we will have to jump over.

So from the first episode this is what I gathered and felt: joy and hope mixed with some sadness. The young adults featured were funny, witty and ambitious. They had much of the same hopes and dreams as any young adult. Yet, it was noticeable that while they all spoke quite well, they all had speech impediments (I'm not sure if that's still the politically correct word, so my apologies if I offend). I feel like when one doesn't have clear speech or speaks more slowly, an assumption about their intelligence is immediately made about them. If someone has poor grammar we are quick to label them as uneducated, if someone speaks clearly and eloquently, then the opposite is assumed. It saddens me that Asher might be judged on how his words sound vs what he is saying. Or maybe I am just looking in a mirror and facing my own judgements that I am quick to make...

That beings said, I LOVED watching them sit around at their center having a deep and intellectual conversation about the word and diagnosis of Down syndrome. What it means to them and the choices that their parents made when topics like abortion were brought up in the case of prenatal diagnosis. I actually loved that they knew their stories, both the good and tough.

I loved that Megan had started her own business, went to college and that she desired to live on her own, even though it hurt my heart for her mom who was trying to be brave and let her fly while knowing she may still be living several states away. If Asher ever wants to start his own business, I'll put in the endless hours it takes to help it succeed.

I loved that several of them stated that they love who they are Down syndrome and all. I love that they don't let it define them and I love that one even said she doesn't know if she would change that about herself if she had the chance. Oh how I want to foster that love and self acceptance in my little boy and I know that starts with me.

My heart hurt for Elena as her mom admitted that it took 20 years to fully accept Elena as she is because she was born in Japan where it is a disgrace to have a child with a disability. And now Elena struggles to even hear the words Down syndrome because she doesn't know why God "gave it to (her)". This is a huge lesson for me as a parent. I will from now on be so careful to never let Asher know if I am struggling with part of his diagnosis, whether that be fear or some other feeling. Down syndrome will not be an unspoken word in our household, but it will also not be the focus of our household. It will just be a part of who Asher is.

Lastly, I learned that I need to put away my own fears for the future. There have been times (more when he was really little and his delays weren't apparent yet) that I didn't feel ready to go to certain events where there would be individuals of all ages and all abilities because I didn't want to have to face the parts of the future that scared me or were harder for me to see. But, after watching this episode and learning how important it is for him to have peers like him, I need to put that aside because not going to events to spare my feelings and avoid my fears is selfish. I will make a great effort to become more involved (when time allows) in events that highlight all ages, not just children that are his age.

I'm sure as I watch the rest of the show each week that it airs, I will have new thoughts and feelings. I want to reiterate, when I look at Asher I don't see Down syndrome. I just see my son. Yes, when lined up next to Lucas I do see where he is delayed, but at the same time it just seems like where he is supposed to be. If he's on a timeline it's only because I put him there. I am so thankful to be his mama and I wouldn't change him for the world. This post is just about the fears that I face when thinking about his future because in watching this show, I had to stare it in the face. I think that if you can watch it, watch it. Get to know the people under the diagnosis and don't limit those in your own lives who have disabilities.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

You really need more wraps?

For Christmas this year I decided that Elias' gift to me (aka me choosing a something, buying it for myself and saying it's from him because it came out of our joint checking account), would be the wrap that I have been eyeing ever since I learned about the world of wrapping babies and "legacy wraps".

In case I'm speaking a foreign language to you right now, a wrap is basically a long piece of fabric that you use to carry your baby on your front or back, much like of the rest of the world does. It works like a traditional baby carrier once your baby is on, but it tends to be more versatile and, well, prettier than a traditional carrier, and by traditional I'm talking about what you typically picture when you picture a baby carrier.

Wraps come in various sizes and materials. There are stretchy wraps and woven wraps and then there are wraps that are a hybrid of the two. When I first learned about wrapping, I started hearing people refer to "legacy wraps". This is basically a wrap that has some sort of significance for you. It might be a wrap that came out on a baby's birth date or birth month or it might be something different. For me, it was an adoption wrap called "chosen". On this wrap there are two hearts batiked onto the fabric. One little heart coming into the big heart, just like the little hearts of my children have come into my heart. I loved everything about it, but I held off and didn't buy it for a number of reasons. But that wrap has never left my mind.

You may wonder what the big deal is. It's just a wrap and our wrapping days are limited. But this is why it held importance to me. You may remember me writing about trying to induce lactation to breastfeed my babies and how it didn't work out the way I had hoped and planned. Because nursing didn't work out, baby wearing became my "nursing". It bonded me to my babies by keeping them close against my body. It soothed them when nothing else would and has made parenting in general so much easier. Now that they are bigger, Lucas will bring my a wrap or carrier for me to put him on my back for some "uppies" and mommy snuggles. Most days this is how Asher goes down for a nap. It is so special to be able to wear my babies and to have a wrap that has as much emotional significance as wrapping itself means so much to me.

So you to, it maybe just another wrap or piece of fabric, but to me it represents so much of our relationship and if it never carriers another baby beyond the two we have right now, then it will eventually find a place in our home where it will represent the sweet memories of the first years of parenthood where I carried my babies.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

As we exit October and enter November we also leave behind Down syndrome Awareness Month and enter into National Adoption Month. If you have been following my blog long, you know what adoption means to us and our family. You know that it has brought us more joy than imaginable and you also know that has been the greatest gift we have ever received. But something you may not know is that it also brings grief.

First and foremost it brings grief to the strong women/couples that choose to voluntarily place their child(ren) for adoption to give them more. Placing a child for adoption is a choice, but just because it's a choice does not mean that it doesn't come with pain. Open adoption can alleviate some of that pain by allowing birth parents to be part of their child's life through pictures and visits, allowing them to watch their child grow and thrive and to see that their child is indeed loved and feels loved. I know Asher and Lucas' Mama Kate hurts from time to time all while being at peace with her decision. It's complicated and beautiful and painful.

Adoptive parents grieve. I'm not talking about the grief that we face of the dream we originally had of growing our family through the process of pregnancy and biology and looking into a child's face to figure out who they look like, even though that grief is very real. Whenever you have to let one dream die to allow another to begin it brings grief. But the grief that I am referencing here is the grief we feel for both our child's birthparents and our children themselves. We grieve for their birthparents knowing that we have the opportunity to be mommy and daddy and raise the child that they love just as much as we do. We grieve for the process that they have gone through, the pain of coming to the decision to place, the signing of the papers, going home without their child, and then not being with their child each and every day, watching them grow. We grieve for our children and the complex emotions they will face as they grow. As they begin to process their story, when they struggle with the why's, when they miss their birthparents and when people unknowingly make insensitive comments. For those that have been adopted out of foster care or from an orphanage setting, we also grieve for their past. What they experienced at such a young age, the years they spent not having a family of their own, and the years that we as their parents missed out on.

Lastly, children who have been adopted grieve. They grieve the loss of their first families. Some get to know their first families through open adoption, other's don't have any information on their first families and feel that hole in their story. Regardless of the reasons they were placed for adoption, these children grieve because adoption comes with loss. This is something we will learn more about as our children grow and get older.

Adoption is beautiful and messy, it comes with joy and it comes with grief. I focus mostly on the joy, but it's important to recognize that there is another side.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

To my newly married self

After watching a video today, I started thinking about what I would say to myself  if I could write a letter to myself when I was newly married. So here it goes.

Dear newly married me,

You have such an amazing adventure ahead of you! Enjoy every moment. Everyone is right when they say it goes fast. I know that you are so excited about the possibility of starting a family and how you begrudge it when someone tells you how young you are. I also know that you know that starting that family might not be so easy and it won't be, but maybe a few of these words will make it easier. You have an amazing husband and God is going to give you some incredible years to share with just him before He gives you the gift of children. I know that right now you don't think you need those years and you even think that you don't want all of those years, but believe me when I say you will look back and be thankful for that time. God is going to call you to some amazing places, you will meet some amazing people and He will do awesome things in your marriage, if you let Him. Know that you WILL become a mom, and it will be the most rewarding thing you have ever done in your life, but until then you CAN be happy and fulfilled and you CAN make the most of every opportunity placed before you. Don't go into that dark place of depression that steals your hope and joy, instead know and trust that your day is coming and it will be beautiful. God is planning something great and great things need time.

I know you see others starting families. Some of them got married at the same time or after you, some of them weren't planned and it's hard to watch and wait and wonder why it's their time and not yours. Just know, that age that you thought was "old" for starting a family, really isn't that old and your children will change your relationship with your husband and friends forever in ways you may not expect right now. Take this time, build a strong foundation and set the best example that you possibly can for your children or you might find that you wish you would have focused on this a bit more.

If you could see your future kids, you would know without a shadow of a doubt that they are so worth the wait! I think you would also know why God is taking so long to prepare you. They really are special.

Even though you hate hearing it, you ARE young and you have the world ahead of you. You will someday look back and wish you could go see the world and how others live at the drop of a hat without thinking about how it will impact those little people that you trying to raise into exceptional adults. Now don't get me wrong, you won't feel as though your children are keeping you from doing these things, you just might wish you had gone and done and seen more because one day it won't be quite as easy. Not impossible, but just not as easy.

You will enter into a new phase of life that holds different treasures, but don't wish this time away. This time is part of your life and your story. This time is beautiful and embrace it in all of it's beauty. Go ahead and cry tears of frustration that you have to wait longer than others, but then move forward and choose happiness because one day it won't matter that your children took a little longer to come to you. It will just matter that God chose you to be their mom.

Your future self

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Being Asher's mom

Being Asher's mom has and will continue to change me. In case you are new to our story, Asher has Down syndrome. I never envisioned myself as a "special needs parent". In fact, that was something I feared. When you have a child with special needs you stand out, which is something that I enjoy less and less the older I get. Advocating for my child doesn't come naturally to me, yet it's part of my role now and I do it for him.

Not everyone notices at this point that Asher has Down syndrome. They see that he is cute, if they ask his age they might be able to see that he is delayed, but I am rarely asked if he has Down syndrome and people don't stare yet because if it. Right now they stare because I have two children under 2 and they are trying to figure out if they are twins or not or because I look frazzled like many moms of young children do.

Asher really is a light in our family. He brings joy with his smiles and giggles. He brings celebration with every milestone he works so hard to meet. His normally relaxed personality is in stark contrast to Lucas' higher strung, busier personality. He loves to give hugs and kisses, be held and loved on. He is really perfect in so many ways.

He makes me see the world differently. He makes me more aware of other parents and children with special needs. Creating a special bond between us immediately upon meeting. He makes me slow down and not rush milestones and development, knowing that he will get there in his time, not according to a table or chart. He brings out a passion in me to fight for him and his rights even when it's uncomfortable and may lead to making tough choices. He also makes me fear for his future, how will he be treated and what happens when one of us isn't there to "protect" him. He opens my mind to how someone can be so valuable to those around them that other's might not see as being able to contribute to society and how God can truly use anyone, regardless of their ability or disability. He shows me how blessed I am to have him as my tour guide on a journey that I feared and wasn't sure I wanted to take.

When we were deciding whether or not we wanted to be considered as potential parents to adopt Asher and Lucas, I was so afraid of the far off future. God kept telling me that I couldn't focus just on that, but it was hard. I was afraid that Asher being a member of our family might mean that we would have to alter travel and vacation plans, that we might not be able to serve in international missions again if that was part of God's plan, and that Elias and I might not get to enjoy our retirement years as a couple because he would always be dependent on us.

Now I have learned that Asher has an amazingly bright future. We will travel and vacation to the same places that we would have if he was typical. If God calls us back to international missions, he will come and be a light and probably reach people in a way that we would be unable to without him. I now know that he can go to college (if he wants) and live semi independently with other adults with developmental disabilities and possibly even get married (if he wants). But now I want that for HIM not so that Elias and I can enjoy the freedom of retirement. He has changed my heart and I want so much for him and his future! Each night that I am home, I sign him my favorite song for him as he falls asleep in my arms and I know that I am blessed to be Asher's mom.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The process of making pickles with twin toddlers

Today I attempted to make pickles while my twin toddlers were awake, it went like this:

1. Get the cucumbers out.

2. Lucas decides he wants to wash dishes.

3. Get clean dish water drawn with clean dishes for Lucas to "wash". 

4. Get Lucas set up on chair to "wash" dishes at the sink.

5. Wash cucumbers and beginning slicing. 

6. Asher decides that he too wants to "wash" dishes. 

7. Get another dishpan with soap, water and clean dishes to put on a towel on the floor. 

8. Continue slicing.

9. Lucas no longer wants to wash his dishes, he wants to wash Asher's dishes. Help Lucas off of the chair to play in the water on the floor. 

10. Baby gate the children into the kitchen to keep soggy toddlers contained to hard surfaces. 

11. Lucas dumps water all over the floor, grab 3 more towels to dry the pond that has now formed on the kitchen floor. 

12. Finish slicing cucumbers only to find out that they need to be salted and sit for 90 minutes. 

13. Clean up all the dishwashing activities, get towels in the wash, return baby gates to their proper stations.

14. Realize 30 minutes later that salted cucumbers should be covered and chilled. 

15. Write this post while I wait for cucumbers to be ready to be pickled. 

16. Finish the project tomorrow.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Becoming a doula after infertility

As many of you know, in March of this year I made the decision to pursue continuing education in prenatal and postpartum massage as well as a massage doula. Some of you may be wondering how I came to this decision after our long struggle with infertility. Others of you are wondering what the heck a doula is and what one has to do with infertility at all. A doula is a non-medical, labor support person who provides education, emotional and physical support to women and couples during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and shortly after birth. As a massage doula I can provide regular prenatal massage throughout pregnancy, massage during labor along with typical birth doula support, postpartum massage and newborn massage instruction. I’m hoping to add fertility massage on to all of that in the future to provide all encompassing care from prior to conception all the way through learning how to massage one’s new baby. 

Now that you have a description of the work I am trained to do, you probably understand a bit better how infertility and becoming a doula impact each other. Ever since I was in massage school, I was drawn to prenatal massage. I even created a business plan in school based around my dream for my future practice that offered various types of massage with specialized training in all aspects of prenatal massage, from fertility massage all the way through to newborn massage instruction. However, that was also the time that we were just beginning fertility treatments.

As our failures with IVF began to take a heavier toll and adoption seemed financially impossible, I put all of this on hold. I was not in a healthy place to focus on helping women conceive, massaging them throughout their pregnancies and then teaching them to massage their sweet new babies. I was struggling with bitterness, depression and anger with God. No one wants a bitter infertile woman as her massage therapist during pregnancy, and frankly, at that point I probably didn’t want to be her therapist throughout her pregnancy because it just hurt too much. In retrospect, regardless of our infertility, providing general massage therapy without a specialization when just starting out in the field, provided much needed experience that will benefit me for years to come.

With time however, God began to heal my heart, the bitterness began to fade and depression was slowly replaced with joy. Then came Asher and Lucas. Every day that I got to wake up and be their mom, my heart sang, and that joy and healing continued to increase exponentially. Just shy of their first birthday, I decided that it was time to begin focusing on my massage practice again after putting on the back burner for a year. I began looking into continuing education and remembered a program for training as a massage doula that I had seen around the time I graduated from massage school. God had been working on healing my heart and I knew that emotionally, I was ready to take this step and continue on the path that He had called me to nearly 4 years earlier.

I began my courses with excitement and even though I have had to face some of the emotions that I haven’t had to deal with for awhile pertaining to experiences that I may never get to have, I continue to be excited about this new path that my career will take. I will still offer the same massage services as before, but with the added specialization in prenatal and postpartum massage as well as massage doula services. I am now in a healthy place to support women and couples on their journey to growing their families, in fact I think that God will use our journey to allow me to even better support women and couples, and it is an honor to do so.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

10 things I have learned about motherhood.

Since becoming a mom, here are some things I have learned:

1. I never knew how much a mom truly loves her child and how much my mom truly loves me. I could not have imagined the depth of the love that I feel for my boys.

2. That that intense love is only a fraction of how much God in turn loves me. If I had truly understood this while going through infertility, I still would have hurt, but maybe my perspective would have been different.

3. Love is not dependent on genetics. For every person who has said "I couldn't do that" when referring to adoption, let me reassure you, the love I feel for my children is no different than what you feel for yours.

4. Even despite this incredible love, there are still hard days and hard moments. Every child has moments that make their parents want to pull there hair out, yet our love for them doesn't change.

5. Just like more than one mom can love a child, a child can love more than one mom. Open adoption has it's complexities, but loving more than one mom doesn't have to be as complicated as we as adults make it.

6. There are days that I have thought how "easy" it would be to have only one child, but that's not really true. If Asher was my only child, I would probably think that parenthood was easier than people make it sound. If Lucas was my only child, I would still think that it's as hard as people make it out to be. Each child is unique with their own personalities. Asher is laid back and fairly easy going most of the time, Lucas is strong willed a bit more needy. They are both adorable and happy most of the time, both have unique, sweet personalities and they both have traits that can try my patience. What I find difficult in one child, might turn out to be their greatest strength.

7. I feel as though God created me to a mother. In many ways, I feel as though it completes me. That being said, I need to learn how to be completely content in God, outside of that role as I really don't need anything other than Him to be complete.

8. I would love to have more children, but I don't HAVE to have more children. I can be happy and our family can be complete as it is. Infertility is still a part of me, but it no longer consumes and controls me, it no longer defines me.

9. Being a parent is an honor and a privilege, and I will never take that for granted.

10. I am blessed.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Where we are today

So much has changed over the past year and I feel like it is time to update all of you on where our lives have taken us.

In the past year I finished working as an office assistant and began working as a personal care aide for an elderly woman in addition to my massage practice. The hours are a much better fit for our family and allow me to be home during the day to take the boys to checkups, Asher's extra appointments with specialists as well as be home for all of Asher's therapies which we now do 4 times a week in our home. I am also now a trained massage doula (pregnancy, birth and labor support person), which is something I'm very excited about.

Elias graduated in the spring with his degree as a Computer Network Technician and began working for the NY Air Break in Watertown as a paid intern for 6 months. He is really enjoying his work and we are hoping and praying that it turns into a full time position at the end of the year!

Asher and Lucas are super busy and super cute! We are no longer parents to two babies, but now we have two toddlers on our hands!

Lucas never stops moving. He walks and runs like he's been doing it forever. He has become a little more snuggly again which is nice since he wanted nothing to do with sitting and snuggling for awhile. He is signing and starting to say more and more words, claps for himself if he does something he is proud of and is very smart. He is still dramatic yet very charming and loves to give me kisses and bring toys to Asher when he is not pushing him over.

Asher still has his same sweet demeanor, but he is beginning to learn that he can be assertive and demanding when he wants to to communicate his needs. He crawls all over the house, really enjoying playing in the dog water and trying to eat the dog food. Sometimes he chases Lucas around and other times he just does his own thing. He eats everything (including sand and coupons) and is trying so hard to pull himself up. If an object, or person, is just he right height he can do it, which makes him very proud. He loves to smile and giggle as well as steal Lucas' wubbanub and pull his hair.

Both of the boys love pushing cars around and they are starting to actually play together more and more which is really fun to see. Lucas loves pools and water, no matter how deep or much he is shivering whereas Asher loves bath tubs and kiddy pools that are warm and that he can crawl around in. Right now we are taking parent and tot swimming lessons and having a blast doing it!

Scrumpy has done surprisingly well and has mellowed out over the past year when it comes to tolerating the boys. He didn't love it when Lucas started crawling, but now the boys crawl on him and pet him and he just gets up and leaves if he doesn't like it. We are really proud and really thankful for how well he has done since he traditionally has not liked children.

Going out to eat is a new challenge that we don't tackle very ofter as Lucas is very picky and very active and Asher isn't a fan of missing out on the action either. Traveling in the car for long distances is also tough for the same reasons as above. We are always tired and always busy, but we are so in love and wouldn't have it any other way. Twins are definitely a lot of work, but they are so much fun. I love that they always have a playmate and another child around. I also love when I get home and they squeal and come over to me, then I sit down on the floor and they climb all over me, fighting for attention (Scrumpy included). Our life is chaotic, but it's a perfect kind of chaos.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Please don't tell my children they are "lucky"

All too often, I am told how "lucky" my children are to have us. While this is often well intentioned and comes from a place of not understanding all of the reasons that women place children for adoption, it can be so detrimental to children. Adoption is beautiful, but it can also be confusing and messy. At some point, my boys will have to begin processing adoption, why they were placed for adoption, how they feel about that and likely grieve over not living with their birth family. Any time a child has to process complex emotions, they shouldn't be considered "lucky". We wouldn't say that to a child that has to process a parent's divorce or death would we?

To tell a child that they are "lucky" to have been adopted implies that they wouldn't have been "lucky" to live with their birth family and that they would have somehow had a terrible life or at least a worse life than they are currently living. Some adoptive parents even cringe when their children are told that they were "meant to be" in their adoptive family, especially when it is accompanied by "God meant for you to be in that family". That for some reason, God chose to bring them into this world in one family, just to place them in another family and then deal with the emotions surrounding that. That's about as comforting as "everything happens for a reason" when you are in the midst of suffering. My thoughts on that are: I do feel that our boys are meant to be in our family, but that only happened AFTER an adoption plan was already made. Once Katy chose to place them for adoption, then God chose us to parent them and make them a part of our family. If she has chosen to parent, they would have been meant to stay in that family.

I have even had one person ask me, "what would have happened to those boys if it weren't for you". To me this implies that we were saving them from something (which I think she believed we were), but we weren't. Instead I replied back that Katy would have parented them and she would have been an amazing mother to them because she is an amazing mother to their siblings.

No matter what reason a child was placed for adoption, they shouldn't be considered "lucky". Adoption comes with grief, heartache and confusion even in the best of situations. In the more difficult situations, children have experienced things that no child should have experience that placed them in the situation to be adopted. I am blessed to have my boys and some would say they are blessed to have us. But just because we might be blessed to have each other, doesn't necessarily mean that they would have been less blessed without us.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Getting personal

Today I am going to write about something very personal, but very close to my heart. Last night while caring for the elderly lady I sit with, I watched a new show called "The Briefcase". The show is based on giving two families $101K that they can either keep, give part of away or give all away to a family in as much or more need than them. When making this decision, neither family knows that the other family also has a briefcase, so they are making this decision with the assumption that they will not receive any money in return. One of the families had a husband with health needs and no health insurance. The wife of the other family worked as a nurse, and said several times that she felt for people who didn't have health insurance, but as I heard her say these words, I felt like she just didn't get it. I'm not belittling this woman or her family who also had financial and medical needs, but more or less acknowledging that she is like so many in this country who don't really understand what it's like to be uninsured or underinsured and have regular medical bills.

Healthcare has been a hot topic in our country the past few years. Many have been up in arms over Obamacare, the cost and the fact that they are being required to have health insurance. I am not going to pretend like Obamacare is perfect and I have had plenty of frustrations with the marketplace, but I am so thankful that it exists. Let me let you in on a little secret, for most of our marriage, Elias and I have been underinsured.

What does this mean? It means that we would receive employer based health insurance that was not comprehensive, so it covered very little. We would go to the pharmacy each month for his meds and be told that we didn't have coverage because there was no generic brand for his medications and the bill would total anywhere from half of our monthly income, to twice or more than our monthly income. These costs came every month. In our first year of marriage, we had times where we had to decide whether or not to get his meds that month. No one, should EVER have to decide whether or not their loved one could receive their daily medications. Some of his pharmaceutical companies had assistance programs, but you didn't qualify if you were underinsured. There were times I prayed that we would qualify for medicaid and if our medical expenses were counted, we would have, but we didn't qualify and couldn't afford private insurance.

There came a time in our marriage where we were out of options. Neither one of us had comprehensive employer based health insurance, we couldn't afford private insurance and our last lifeline, the NY state reimbursement plan that reimbursed us up to 7% of our income (which helped, but wasn't ideal when you don't have the initial funds to pay and they take 3-12+ months to reimburse you) was giving us 30 days to obtain comprehensive health insurance with no prescription drug coverage cap. I was in tears.

Then Obamacare began. The healthy NY program was in place which offered private health insurance at a slightly more affordable rate, it was still a lot of for us, but so much better than anything else we could ever afford. And, because of Obamacare the previously held $3000 prescription drug coverage cap that prevented us from using this option before, that we would have maxed out in one month, was removed. We then could afford appointments, prescriptions and we qualified for various co-pay cards to further remove the financial burden.

This is why we had to fundraise for adoption and were unable to put money away over our 5 years of marriage. I know not everyone agreed with that decision, but it was our only option other than wait an underdetermined amount of time where we could eventually save enough money to become parents.

Now as a family of 4, two of whom have additional medical expenses, we qualify for quality, affordable health insurance because we live off of a limited income. We have no employer based health insurance, but we now have options that we didn't have before. I know that Obamacare has not been great for everyone or even affordable for everyone. It is far from perfect and I truly hope that it improves throughout the years instead of declining, and we may someday face that challenge as well. However, I want to help those who have been frustrated by health insurance costs and issues for the first time in their lives, to understand what those of us who have lived this way for years have gone through. We are not the only family that has benefited from these changes and the past 2 years have been the only 2 years out of our nearly 7 year marriage that we haven't faced constant health insurance related stress. Okay, I'll step off my soapbox now, but if I opened one set of eyes, I have done my job :). Also, this post is not to invoke pity, just to educate.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

An Ode To Birthmother's Day

We all know that Mother's Day is this weekend (and if you didn't, you do now!), but did you know that there is also a Birthmother's Day? Don't feel bad if you didn't because up until a couple of years ago, I didn't know either. Really, you wouldn't know unless you have some sort of connection to the adoption community. Birthmother's Day is this Saturday, the day before Mother's Day, so I thought I would take the time to brag a little bit on our birthmother, Katy.

There are so many stereotypes surrounding adoption and birthmoms. Everything from every birth mom must have used drugs, to the children were unwanted, to these women need to be more reproductively "responsible". Unfortunately in some cases this is true, but many times it is not and in our case, it certainly is not! 

Katy is none of these things. She is an amazing, responsible woman who loves and cares for her family. She loves deeply and the decision to place our boys did not did not come lightly or easily. She is raising two other great children as a single mom and she has said goodbye this side of heaven to two others before Asher and Lucas. She loves the Lord and is raising her children to do the same. She runs her own daycare to provide for her family and she has never used drugs. 

When she found out Asher had Down syndrome I think that there was a part of her that somehow, despite the deep love she already felt, grew to love him even more than she already did. That love came with fear because adoption was already in the back of her mind and she didn't know what that would mean when it came to finding a family for both of her boys. After Asher was diagnosed with Down syndrome, cysts were found on Lucas' brain which could have been indicative of another chromosomal condition. She was strongly encouraged to terminate her pregnancy, but her love was so strong for these babies that she knew that that was not an option and that resulted in two beautiful and healthy boys. 

She sought the Lord when making her decision and He led her to us. She prayed for us and for our boys. She cried tears of joy and tears of sorrow when handing two sweet babies over to us to raise and love. She is joyful that she has given us the gift of parenthood, but she misses and thinks about Asher and Lucas every day. She rejoices in each milestone they meet and tells us how much she loves not only the children we share, but how much she loves us as well. 

She is strong, as all birthmother's are who choose to make this incredibly selfless decision. She knows I am their mom, but she will always be too. I am so honored to share motherhood with this amazing woman. 

This Birthmother's Day, don't judge before you know the story (one that Katy will share at a later time). Most birthmother's are just like you and me who have found themselves in a place where parenting at that time was not the best option for their family. They love their children and they want to be part of their lives, to know that they are safe, healthy and happy. To share with them their story and love on them. I am so thankful for open adoption and for Katy and their is never a day that I take that for granted. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

I recently finished reading the book "Kisses From Katie". Wow. This is the kind of book that lights a fire inside of me and inspires to me to hand my life over to God in a completely new and radical way, allowing Him to use me in ways that are far bigger than myself. It's also the kind of book that drives me to better love the people of this world, especially the least of these. It makes me want to find homes for every child without family so that they don't have to go to sleep another night without having a mom or dad tuck them and kiss them goodnight. It's the kind of book that reminds me that I don't want to live complacently and comfortably. I want to be stretched to live more like Jesus, even when it's scary and hard.

Katie went to Uganda at the age of 18 on a short term missions trip. She decided to follow what she felt God was calling her to do, and return to Uganda long term. By the time she was 22 she was a single mother to 14 daughters whom she was in the process of adopting and serving far more children and families through sponsorship programs that provided money for children to attend school, basic healthcare, hot meals, hot showers and Bible studies. I find her to be truly amazing and inspiring.

I also have to be careful when I read books like this because it gives Satan space to leave my feeling as though what I am doing right now is inadequate. It makes me want to pack up my whole family and return to a developing country even if that is not our calling right now because surely what we are doing here isn't "enough". Even Katie admits that she doesn't feel as though she is doing something extraordinary, but it looks that way for those on the outside looking in.

 I have felt for so long that there was a hole in my heart. Since becoming a mom, I truly feel as though this is what God has been calling me to be my whole life. I may not have 14 daughters, but I have two amazing sons that I have been entrusted with raising. What an honor! I also have been given the opportunity by God to become a massage therapist where I am able to pray that God will use me as His hands when I am working and literally laying hands on my clients. Now I am working at becoming a doula where I have to opportunity to be present for the birth of new life into the world and love and serve women in that important time in their lives. God is using me and I have to remember that what I am doing right now isn't inadequate. In fact, being a mom is the most important job I have ever held and will ever hold and the other jobs can have a profound impact when led by God.

Katie and I in many ways found ourselves at the same crossroads, which is maybe why this book strikes such a cord in my heart. I had the choice to go back to Bolivia or stay in the States and get married. She had the choice to go back to Uganda or return to the States and get married. I chose marriage, she chose Uganda. It's easy to wonder what would have been if I had chose Bolivia, not that I feel that I chose wrong, just to wonder what would have been if I had chose different. The great thing though, is that God can use all of us in any circumstance and any place. Because I chose marriage, God called Elias and I to West Africa, a place that will forever hold a piece of our hearts. And of course, more recently he called us to adopt, not one, but two babies and he opened our hearts to special needs.

I have no idea what the future holds, it may include returning to the international mission field or it may included serving God right here in our little hometown. It may include international or foster care adoption of an older child or it may not. All I know is that I want to be ready and willing to serve God however and whenever He calls and to love others with reckless abandon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My sweet boys turn one

Today I celebrate the bittersweet day that my sweet baby boys turn one.  I can hardly believe that a year has already come and gone. I look at my little boys and I notice that they are starting to look just like that, more like little boys than babies. Lucas is everywhere and into everything, this is little baby-toddler hybrid that is soaking up everything like a sponge. Even though I would never want to see my child struggle, I am in some ways thankful that I get to keep Asher like a baby a little while longer as developmentally he's more like an 8-9 month old. I love watching my boys grown and develop, I celebrate and rejoice in every new milestone. I am so honored to be their mama.

This year hasn't been easy, but unlike most challenging years, the challenges aren't what stick out in my mind. Rather, the joys are what I remember most vividly. If you would have told me that I would feel this way in the first three months of their lives, I would have laughed or maybe even cried. Those days felt so hard! I was more tired than I could have ever imagined being, but I was also so in love with these two helpless little beings that wanted and needed all of my time and energy. But each month got at little easier and presented itself with new unique challenges. And each month I fell more and more hopelessly in love with my sons.

On this day, I am so excited that they are turning one and all they are doing, but I am also sad to know that this may have been my one and only year of being mommy to a baby. Being a mom to a baby is such a sweet time. At the same time, I am so thankful that I got do to it two times over and if I never do it again, the time I had is more than enough and more than some far more deserving than I get to experience. What did I do to deserve such blessings? It's almost mind boggling how fast one year of pure joy can pass when one year of pain and grief can feel like an eternity.

Today I praise the Lord with my whole heart to have been given this gift. I praise Him that he brought Elias and I to Katy and her family. That He changed and softened our hearts to accept the children that He chose us to parent and that He has entrusted us to raise them.

Oh, sweet boys. I cannot put into words my love for you. I am so unworthy of the gifts that you are to my life. I pray that God will lead me to be the best mom that I can be and everything that you deserve. It is truly a privilege and and honor to be called your mom.

"I'll like you forever, I'll love you for always. As long as you're living, my babies you'll be."

Monday, March 9, 2015

Do they notice?

As a parent of twinfants (infant twins) one attracts about the same amount of attention as a circus show. Ever since the boys were newborns, when we went out, we got the regular slew of questions: are they twins, are they identical, are they both boys (or more often: one boy, one girl?), etc. But there is another factor that I have been acutely aware of since they were born. I have a child with special needs that has common identifying physical features.

Now don't get me wrong, I am never and have never been ashamed of Asher or the fact that he has Down syndrome, but when I first started venturing out with my new sweet babies, I wondered if people could tell. I had heard that most people can't tell that a baby has Down syndrome, but I couldn't help but wonder anyway. There were a number of times that I blurted it out in case people could tell something was different but didn't want to ask. I guess I was attempting to put everyone at ease in the most awkward of ways (hence why I write). I now regret doing that. I truly believe that most people just saw Asher for the adorable baby that he is and was. I didn't need to explain anything and if people really did notice, I should have let them ask.

But that spurs the question, when will the first person make it known that they noticed and how will it happen? I have heard beautiful stories of strangers approaching moms in the grocery store and making a kind comment about their "beautiful" or "special" child and then I have heard sad stories of mom's being asked why their baby looks "funny". My moment happened a few weeks ago and it was surprisingly uneventful. I was checking in Asher for blood work at the hospital and one of the staff that happened to notice my beautiful children decided to come over and talk to them and ogle them. We were talking about the boys' different temperaments and she started saying things like "they usually are happy" and the such about Asher. I usually don't like Asher being classified as a "they" because he is an individual who happens to be part of a population that shares a commonality, in this case, an extra chromosome. But this time, I wasn't bothered, I was just relieved that our first experience of someone making it known that they noticed, was someone who was intending to be kind and supportive of the fact that my child is rocking a little something extra.

As the boys have gotten older, I am less and less aware that Asher does possess traits that are common among individuals with Down syndrome. I don't even wonder if people notice when we go out and I rarely blurt out that he has Down syndrome to complete strangers unless there is a reason for it to come up in conversation. I just let him be Asher with his beautiful, blue, almond shaped eyes,  adorably tiny little ears, cute little button nose with it's slightly flattened bridge, the tiniest little hands that grab my hair like handle bars so that he can try and eat my face, itty bitty feet that he can bend over and chew on from a seated position, and adorable pot belly, chunky thighs and rolly polly arms.

March 21st is World Down syndrome Awareness Day and I can honestly say that I have never been more proud to be the mom of a child with Down syndrome and to really participate in this day for the first time. On March 21st, we will celebrate Asher for all that he is, including his extra chromosome.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Adoption doesn't cure infertility

"Adoption doesn't cure infertility". I read this words often when we were waiting to adopt. I felt like I understood them and oftentimes my thought was "but it sure makes it more bearable." Adoption professionals feel like this is an important concept to understand before moving on to adoption so that adoptive parents fully understand that adopting a child is not a cure for their infertility. Infertility will still be a part of them, but the hope is that they have come to a place where they have grieved and moved forward so that they can give an adopted child all that they need.

When the boys were first born, our infertility did indeed feel cured in many ways. Everything was new and exciting. We were finally parents to not one, but TWO babies! I didn't grieve that I didn't carry them,  and I still don't. We were exhausted and content and I had no desire in that moment to be pregnant. As the boys have gotten older though, those familiar feelings have started to creep back in and I am reminded that while they are amazing and ours in every way, they did not and can not take away our infertility and that is NOT their role in our lives.

When you adopt after infertility, there is oftentimes this big question mark that hangs over your head. Everyone likes to share the stories of "so and so" who got pregnant after adopting and even though it's frustrating to hear, there is always that smidgen of hope and that internal question of "will that happen to us?". We also have 3 embryos left. If they fail, will we feel compelled to try again or can we walk away and accept that pregnancy and biological children aren't in our future? These are big questions to have to ask yourself when you are at an age that some others haven't even started having children yet and most are at least not done.

Or will we choose to adopt again? Maybe an older child through international adoption or the foster care system. Maybe we will become foster parents and open or hearts and home to children in need of a safe place to stay, even if it's temporary.

Some have assumed that since we were blessed with twins, that we are done. Maybe we are and if we are, I have decided that I have to be happy with what I have because it is far more than I could have ever asked for. But I don't feel "done" when my heart breaks every time I pack up baby things that the boys have outgrown or don't use anymore. I don't feel "done" when I have just discovered the amazing world of wrapping my babies in a woven wrap and I long for the months when I could have worn both of them at the same time as teeny tiny babies and maybe the chance to have the opportunity all over again with another baby.

No, adoption does not cure infertility and yes, it does make it so much more bearable, but it is beautiful and unique in it's own way and it can never entirely fill the void that infertility leaves in one's life, nor should it be expected to. Infertility will always be there, just under the surface, waiting to rear it's ugly head. But this time, I will not let it control me, instead I will choose to be happy. I will grieve when I need to grieve and then I will turn back to my boys and rejoice in the gift we have been given.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Goodbye 2014

As we say goodbye to 2014, I can't help but reflect on this past year as well as previous years. Last year at this times we were attempting to become foster parents and after 4 rescheduled home visits I was frustrated to say the least. I could not for the life of me understand what God was up to. I had no idea that only days later, my world would be changing forever and I would fully understand what He was up to.

In previous years I always wondered, "will this finally be the year we become parents?". This year, I don't feel that way. This year coming to an end is bittersweet for entirely different reasons. I can't wait to see my boys grow, develop and change, but I'm sad because in only a few short months I will be saying goodbye to my "babies" and those little babies will be turning into rambunctious toddlers that will bring all sorts of new fun and challenges. This year is only bittersweet because I now realize how fast children really do grow, not because I continue to wait for "someday".

In the spring of 2013 we felt like God was calling us back to Lewis county. Elias was working in Lowville with his dad while attending school in Herkimer and I was at a place with work where I needed to decide if I was going to find another part time job near Utica or take a leap of faith and branch out and start my own massage therapy business in Lewis county. We decided that it was better to begin looking at moving. Things fell into place quickly and by September we were living in Croghan. Around that same time we began working on paperwork to become foster parents. The process was long and slow and we didn't start trying to get someone in our home to do the home inspection until late November, early December.

After our home visit was rescheduled 4 times due to weather, on January 2nd I sent in an application to Catholic Charities adoption program thinking, "why not?". January 3rd, I got an email from our original adoption agency asking if we would consider a situation with twins due in April, where one would have Down syndrome. After a lot of prayer and soul searching, we decided to to say yes to being presented.

Around that same time, we were becoming increasingly aware that our current rental situation was not working out and it was not healthy for us to stay there. We began preparing a new house to move into in April and the boys were due in mid April, we prayed that if we were chosen, they would wait until we were moved in before making their arrival.

In February we were officially asked if we would become the parents to our sweet baby boys, We agreed and were more excited and more terrified than we had ever been in our lives. The boys "obediently" ;) waited to make their arrival until after we were settled into our new home and on April 14th at 6:04 and 6:08 am Asher and Lucas made their way into the world. I remember thinking as I was dressing into my scrubs to go to the OR, that this was it. Life as we knew it was going to change forever. Then they were here and those feelings of fear just disappeared.

The following 8 months have been a whirlwind and have been filled with more joy and love than I could have ever imagined. It has been amazing to watch our babies grow and develop and learn new things. Lucas has started to crawl and Asher is almost sitting on his own and getting up on his knees and rocking. They LOVE table food and are full of smiles and giggles. Asher loves people and isn't shy unless he's tired. Lucas is a bit more of a mama's boy and is unsure around large groups. They both love to study and take everything in. They love going for walks and, for the most part, enjoy riding in the car. They jabber and babble and can be quite loud if they want to be. They are so sweet and full of love and life. They also love their dog, Scrumpy. They have truly been the greatest blessing that we could have asked for.

We have also been blessed to gain an amazing birth family in 2014. They love our boys and they love us, as we do them. We have seen them a number of times over this past year and when we get together it's like getting together with family. Our birthmother has made the greatest sacrifice to give more to our boys through adoption and we cannot possibly express how grateful we are to her. At the end of the day, she didn't do this to make us parents (even though she loves that she was able to give us that gift), she made this choice for the two baby boys that are at the center of our relationship and us becoming parents was the amazing, yet secondary, result. She chose to give them life and she chose to give them more. We are so honored that we were the ones chosen to be their parents.

This year has been one of the greatest years of my life. Each new year brings ups and downs, joys and challenges. This year was no different. The difference this year was that instead of dwelling on what we didn't yet have, I rejoiced in what we did. I wish I could have done this better in previous years, but those years are gone and I can only learn from them. Thank you for walking and rejoicing with us this past year as our dream of becoming parents finally came true. We look forward to sharing this new year with all of you!