Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Onward to 2014

2013 was a tough year for us, but we made it through. We are a little weary, have been a touch withdrawn and have been waiting for the days to tick off the calendar. But we made it through. I don't know why we think with a flip of the calendar the new year will be a fresh start, but you have to hope, right? I am definitely hitting the reset button.

Last year at this time, I was bursting at the seams with hope and proclaimed that it would be our year. I had no idea. For Marlon and I, it was probably the hardest year of our lives. I know plenty of people have had tougher times than us, so I am thankful for a few bright spots - the birth of my niece, Renee', extra time with my mom and grandma (who have been battling that dreaded "C" word), good jobs, a roof over our heads and friends and family that love us. I have gained more insight about adoption and the nature of people. I have learned that I can get knocked down and pick myself up again, again, again.

We are making changes, hitting milestones and turning this ship around in 2014. We're moving to Brooklyn in a few weeks. It will be nice to have some new scenery. I will celebrate entering a new decade in February. I say good riddance to my 30s. Marlon and I will be happily married for 20 YEARS in March! He's my everything. Twenty years of marriage deserves a prize, so we are taking a trip to Scotland and Iceland. This trip has given us something to look forward to and kept our minds occupied during those rough days in 2013. Our home study will be renewed as soon as we move and will continue to pursue this adoption journey. We'll actively look for a match instead of waiting for an agency to find a situation for us. If you hear of anything, call us! So, big things for us in 2014!

It's another year, a year full of possibilities. I am not going to say that this will be our year. I am just going to say I hope that it's a little better than last year. Thanks for hanging in there with us. Happy New Year to all of you.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Winners of the Red String Good Luck Charm Bracelet

Congratulations to Angela, Karen and Robin! 
You've won the Red String Good Luck 
Charm Bracelet Giveaway!

I hope it brings a little luck your way!
Thank you for entering and reading Two Cats and a Cradle!

If you'd like to buy a charm bracelet of your very own and support our adoption fund, click here. The bracelets are $10 each on Etsy. Quantities are limited.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

My America Adopts Guest-blogging Stint

Not too long ago Lawrence from America Adopts asked me if I wanted to do a guest blog post. Hmmm, YES! The post could be on anything as long as it was open adoption related. Great! Then he asked if I wanted to write about our failed adoption match. Okay...

It's been four months and we are in a better place. I thought it would be helpful to others going through the same thing to share our story. Life goes on and your heart heals a little everyday. Your heart is not the same, there is a scar, but it heals.

So sat down and started to write about how we have moved forward. It was tougher than I thought. We have moved forward, but you see, those emotions still bubble up and the tears appear out of nowhere sometimes. I get up in the morning, put on a happy face and try to keep what happened in the past. But then WHAM!, something little will remind me of the babies or that we should be to doing xyz with them or there is a billing mistake with our insurance company and we were charged for the twins entire hospital stay and you receive pages and pages that say son and daughter. I am just saying moving forward is a process. Tears will appear. We have good days and some days that ache won't go away. That's the way it's going to be for awhile.

We are definitely at the "have hope" stage of this process. We really believe the child that is meant to be a part of our family will find us. What happened is just part of our adoption journey and it's not our final stop. So, onward to 2014!

Thanks to Lawrence at America Adopts for helping me move forward another step. Click here to read my guest blog post on the America Adopts website. While you are at it, follow America Adopts on Twitter, @AmericaAdopts or "Like" their Facebook page, facebook.com/AmericaAdopts.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Just Love Fa-La-La-La-La Coffee Winners

Congratulations to
Karen, Julie and Christina
for winning a bag of 
Fa-La-La-La-La coffee from Just Love!

Your holiday just got a little more festive!  Thank you for entering and reading Two Cats and a Cradle.

Want to order some Just Love Coffee? Click here to shop in the Two Cats and a Cradle Just Love Coffee store. For every purchase made a percentage goes to our adoption fund. Thank you!

If you are interested in adoption fundraising with Just Love coffee click here for all the details.

There are lots of ways to show Just Love Coffee some LOVE.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Red String Good Luck Charm Bracelet Giveaway

It's the LAST giveaway! It's been fun giving away neat things over the past six weeks. I hope you've enjoyed it too!

Last, but not least, this week I am giving away 3 Red String Good Luck charm bracelets handmade by me! I have been selling these on Etsy to benefit our adoption fund. Then I thought, what's more lucky than to win one?

This bracelet is full of luck! I'll be wearing mine into 2014. A little extra luck is never a bad thing. The red string and six charms each have a special meaning. Oh and the red string + 6 charms = lucky number 7! See what I did there. ;)

Red string – It’s believed that a person who wears a red string will see their life change for the good. It wards off all evils and negative energy.

Star – Wishing on a star and your wish may come true. "Star light, Star bright, the first Star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the wish I wish tonight."

Evil Eye - Stares back at the world to ward off the evil spirits, envy and keep you safe from harm.

Angel Wing - Symbolic of the higher evolution of the soul, spiritual mobility, protection and love.

Four-leaf Clover - According to legend, each leaf represents something: the first is for faith, the second is for hope, the third is for love, and the fourth is for luck.

Amazonite - Enhances creative expression, aligns astral bodies, unity with life. It is called the "hope stone" because it inspires confidence and hope.

Wishbone - It is believed this symbol will "catch" your dreams, bring good luck, channel of "good” energy and make your wishes come true.

The bracelet fits a 7" wrist (measures 7.5" including closure). Enter via Rafflecopter below. Three lucky winners will be selected at midnight on December 24, 2013. Winners will be announced on December 26th.

Wishing you great happiness, all the luck in the world and wonderful new year!

If you'd like to buy one and support our adoption fund, click here. The bracelets are $10 each.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Kidecal Giveaway Winner Is...

Congratulations to Alvina for winning the Kidecals Giveaway!

Get your creativity flowing, your Kidecals prize package is on its way to you. Thank you to everyone for entering and reading Two Cats and a Cradle.

Want your very own Kidecals? Order these super cute, crazy durable, waterproof labels at kidecals.com and don't forget to use the 15% off discount code - kidecals15 at checkout! Did mention they do FREE SHIPPING? What are you waiting for?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Just Love Coffee Giveaway

Just Love Coffee is one of those organizations that makes you excited to share what they do. They are a roaster in Tennessee offering fair trade, organic coffees AND they help families raise the funds they need for adoption. By purchasing with them you are getting a great product and you are supporting a family during the adoption process.

I started our Just Love Coffee store soon after our home study was approved. Registering was simple and there were no cost associated with the starting a store. I just had to tell people. That's easy enough. Just Love Coffee sends us a percentage for our adoption fund for every item we sell through our unique web address. When you are raising funds for an adoption, every little bit helps. If you are interested in adoption fundraising with Just Love Coffee, click here for all the details.

Companies are always emailing me asking to give something away on my blog. Two Cats and a Cradle is not really a giveaway type of blog, but I figured the holidays are here and who doesn't like prizes? So I said yes to a few giveaways. I thought if I am going to give some stuff away, I would ask a company that has helped me along the way to participate. Hello Just Love Coffee! The "Keeper of the Bean Talk" over there said YES! He sent me a bag of their holiday Fa-La-La-La-La coffee to try AND three bags to give away! YAY for me and YAY for you!

We headed down south to visit the family for Thanksgiving and my bag was packed with Fa-La-La-La-La coffee and Keurig K-Cup reusable coffee filter. I was ready for the whirlwind trip! The family was all too excited to try the coffee and be famous on my blog!

The Fa-La-La-La-La blend is nice medium body coffee with a light citrus flavor and hints of spice. It's perfect for a holiday brunch or with pecan pie. It definitely made everyone a little more merry! Caffeine tends to have that effect.

Now here's your chance to win a bag just in time for Christmas festivities! Enter below using the Rafflecopter form. Just enter your email address, Like Just Love Coffee on Facebook and Follow Just Love Coffee on Twitter. Three lucky people will win a bag of the Fa-La-La-La-La blend of their very own! Giveaway ends on December 17, 2013. Good Luck!

If you can't wait to get your hands on Just Love Coffee, click here to shop in the Two Cats and a Cradle Just Love Coffee store. For every purchase made a percentage goes to our adoption fund. Thank you!

There are lots of ways to show Just Love Coffee some LOVE.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Outlander Giveaway Winner Is...

Congratulations to Marian for winning the signed copy of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

I hope you love the story as much as I do!  Your book will be on the way to you soon. Thank you to everyone that entered and for reading Two Cats and a Cradle.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Outlander from Amazon, click the link below. By using my Amazon affiliate link, a small percentage of the purchase goes to our adoption fund. Thank you.

Winner was selected via Random.org via Rafflecopter.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Kidecals Giveaway

Happy Thanksgiving from Two Cats and Cradle. I hope everyone is having nice holiday with people they love. The holidays have officially begun and now I start to think about all the things I need to do to make the season merry and bright!  I can't forget all those who have given me a hand throughout the year and what better way to thank someone? Make them something special! This year I'll be making white chocolate peppermint pretzels and of course lots and lots of cookies.

Kidecals sent me some of their cool labels and now my holiday gifts look extra special.  It's those little touches that make a BIG impression. I got the super cute chalkboard labels. I LOVE these! The chalkboard labels have endless uses. I put the label on a plaid cookie tin and labeled it in red chalk. The label is really durable and waterproof. I can just wipe it and write something else on it. I ordered some custom labels too. These are really fun and I could customize the wording and font size. The website was really easy to use and there are a lot of label styles. They have labels and decals for everything. Sending your kid to camp? They have labels for that! I especially liked their selection of  labels devoted to food allergies.   Kidecals even have decals to make your computer keyboard snazzy. Kidecals is offering a 15% off discount with free shipping to Two Cats and a Cradle readers! Go to http://kidecals.com/ and enter the code kidecals15 at checkout.

One lucky person will win chalkboard labels, "From My To Yours" labels, chalk, and cellophane bags to create your own special gifts!! Enter to win this giveaway below.

For more information about Kidecals, check out their website, Kidecals.com, follow on Facebook, facebook.com/Kidecals, Twitter, @kidecals, and Pinterest, Pinterest.com/Kidecals. For great use ideas for all the Kidecals products watch their YouTube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3Y09z-sqQ0

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Good Night, Mama! Good Night, Coqui! Book Winner Is...

Congratulations to Krista for winning the Good Night, Mama! Good Night, Coqui! signed picture book. Your book will be on its way to you soon!

Thank you to everyone that entered and for reading Two Cats and a Cradle.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Good Night, Mama! Good Night, Coqui! by Ana Saborido and illustrated by Kersly Minoza from Amazon, click the link below.

*Winner selected by Random.org via Rafflecopter.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Signed Outlander Book Giveaway

OK, people it's week THREE of giveaways here at Two Cats and a Cradle. This giveaway is something that I LOVE! Something for the grown-ups this time! I am giving away a signed copy of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. This book is not only signed by Diana, but also by executive producer Ron Moore. Outlander is becoming a TV series on Starz next year!

I'm a big fan of the book series, I've read them all. It's funny, I actually received my first copy of Outlander as a giveaway in the goodie bag from Shecky's Girls Night many moons ago. The book is an overwhelming 850 pages, so I stuck it on the shelf for probably two years. Then one day I decided to start reading books that I actually have rather than buying new ones. That's when I cracked the spine on the Outlander book. I was hooked - time travel, Scotland, men in kilts, history and romance. I mean, come on! Marlon calls it a bodice ripper. It's not, but there might have been a few bodices that were ripped. Anyway, I promise you'll love it.

ComicCon weekend was a few weeks ago here in NYC; Diana and Ron were here promoting the Starz  TV series. On the Diana Gabaldon Facebook page, an invitation popped up to enter to win a fan discussion/lunch in NYC during ComicCon. I immediately entered and got back to work. When I came home from work, Marlon said, I entered to win that fan lunch too so you have an extra chance to win. I was like how did you know about it, he said I saw that you entered on Facebook. Awww, that's so sweet. He's such a good hubby. Thanks Facebook for telling on me. (Mental note, Facebook tells on me.) So the next day I got an email invitation to the lunch and Marlon did too! I was so excited.

One catch though, the lunch was right smack in the middle of the big day at ComicCon. The hubby said he'd go with me, but I know how much he looks forward to ComicCon weekend so I told him I'd find someone else to go with or go by myself. I ended up going by myself. It was fantastic!

We got to see a trailer for the show, had a Q&A with Diana and Ron and then we were treated to a fancy rooftop lunch with them! As we entered the rooftop, we were greeted by a bagpiper and glasses of wine. Everyone was giddy with excitement! It didn't matter that I went by myself, I was surrounded by people who loves the book as much as I do (maybe more)! Diana and Ron took pictures with all of us. They were really so friendly and happy to chat. When we left, we each received a t-shirt and signed copy of Outlander. I am keeping the awesome t-shirt, but I already have a signed copy of Outlander. So, I am giving the signed copy to YOU! Enter to win below! The contest ends at midnight EST on December 2nd. The winner will be announced on December 4, 2013!

I hope you'll love the book as much as I do. I am just about to re-read my copy of Outlander in preparation for our trip to Scotland in March 2014 for our 20th wedding anniversary. You guys know it's been a difficult year for us. We needed something to look forward to, so we decided let's go to Scotland. Let's not put life on hold anymore. My Dad let us use his timeshare, so there really isn't a reason why we shouldn't go. We're going to Scotland! As an anniversary gift, Marlon booked us on the Diana Gabaldon tour in Inverness! OMG!! The tour has open seats, so if you want to join our tour - click here! Yes, I am doing a happy dance!

If you can't wait to read Outlander. You can buy a copy from Amazon using the link below.

This contest is not affiliated with the author Diana Gabaldon, Starz or Dell Publishing.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Language Bear Book Giveaway Winners Are...

Congratulations to Siu for winning the Language Bear Book Giveaway. Your book will be on its way to you soon!

Congratulations to the five runner-ups. You've won a 50% off discount code to purchase your very own Bosley Builds a Tree House book in the language of your choice!

Amanda, Krista, Sue, Kelly and Rodney

Thank you to everyone that entered and for reading Two Cats and a Cradle.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Bosley Builds a Tree House from Amazon, click the link below. 

For more information on the dual language series and author Timothy Johnson, click through to The Language Bear website, thelanguagebear.com. Or like or follow them on Facebook, Facebook.com/LanguageBear, Twitter @Language Bear, or Pinterest, pinterest.com/chienfu.

*Winners were selected by Random.org via Rafflecopter.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Good Night, Mama! Good Night, Coqui! Book Giveaway

It's week TWO of my giveaway bonanza! This week I am giving away a signed copy of the picture book Good Night, Mama! Good Night, Coqui! by Ana Saborido and illustrated by Kersly Minoza.

Good Night, Mama! Good Night, Coqui! is a sweet bedtime story about a family of coquís. Your little ones are going to want to read this story over and over again.

I had to google what exactly is a coquí, I gathered it was a frog of some sort but I wanted to know more! I'll save you the google search, the Wikipedia says that coquí is the common name for several species of small frogs native to the island of Puerto Rico. They are known for a very loud mating call that the male will make at night. You can listen to the sound of a coquí  serenade by clicking here. See, you do learn something new every day!

Ana has been a cheerleader for us throughout the adoption process. I am so thrilled to be able to cheer for her and share her book.

Enter below for a chance to win your very own signed copy! Contest ends at midnight EST on 11/25. The winner will be announced on 11/27. Good luck!

If you can't wait to read Good Night, Mama! Good Night, Coqui!, please purchase the book from Amazon.com by using the link below. 

Also, there's still time to enter the The Language Bear Book giveaway! Click here to enter!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Language Bear Book Giveaway!

Today kicks off SIX weeks of giveaways!! Check the blog every Thursday for a new prize! Winners will be announced on Wednesdays.

Up first is an awesome dual language book by Timothy Johnson for kids (and hey adults might learn something too!). Bosley bear is always having an adventure with his friends or amigos. Tim sent me a copy of BOSLEY BUILDS A TREE HOUSE, A Dual-Language Book in Spanish and English. I picked this version because I wanted (OK needed) a refresher. I took 4 years of Spanish in high school and I can basically get myself to a bathroom and count to 10. I was interested to see how a dual language book would help kids (me) pick up words easily in another language. Another thought is how this book would help children adopted from another country to learn English. The series encourages parents and children to share each other's language. It's a great learning tool!

The book features bright, fun characters and the text is written in both languages side by side. Key illustrations are also labeled in both languages. I think seeing the image really helps with word association. The layout allows your kids to learn at their own pace and enjoy the story!

Now I can go to the bathroom, count to 10 AND build a tree house in Spanish! Seriously though, this is a great way for kids to learn another language. This is such an important skill to have.

Now for the good part, I am giving away ONE copy of a Bosley book in the language of your choice - Spanish, French, Italian, German, Chinese, Russian or Japanese! Also, five lucky runner-ups will win a discount code for 50% off a book of your choice. This makes a great holiday gift! The contest ended. The winner will be announced on the 20th! You can still purchase a book using the link at the bottom of the page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more information on the dual language series and author Timothy Johnson, click through to The Language Bear website, thelanguagebear.com. Or like or follow them on Facebook, Facebook.com/LanguageBear, Twitter @Language Bear, or Pinterest, pinterest.com/chienfu.

If you don't want to wait for the contest, you can buy your book today by clicking below.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Furry Friends Baby Prep

I was concerned about how Edie and Twiggy would react to the babies when we brought them home. However, I wasn't worried about the cats stealing the baby's breath. You can read about that by clicking here. Our cats haven't been around children except one time with my nephew. With my nephew, they were more curious about a cat-sized person than anything else. I still wanted to make sure the kitties were prepared for the life-change. I read a bunch of tips online and I thought I would share what worked for us.

There are some things you can do before a new baby or child arrives, especially if you are going to change your furry friend's routine. You don't want your pet to associate the change with the child. This will give you an opportunity to ease into a new routine. These tips can be easily modified if you were welcoming an older child into your home.

  • If your pet isn't going to sleep in your bed or room after the baby has arrived, move them out now. Set up a special space where your animal will feel comfortable. This designated place will be also be helpful to your pet after the baby has arrived as some place to go if they need a kid-free zone.
  • If a specific room will now be off limits, like the nursery. Start deterring now.
  • If you think you'll change the time that you will feed or walk them, start to slowly adjust the routine now. If you are going to relocate the litter box, do it sooner rather than later to give your cat time to adapt.
  • Acclimate your pet to the sights and sounds of a baby. Maybe wrap up a baby doll or play crying sounds. Use positive reinforcement, pair the crying noise with a tasty treat. That way your pet makes a good association.
  • After the baby has been born, send a blanket or clothes home for your pet to smell. Our babies were in the NICU for two months, so when we came home with a bag of their dirty clothes we let the cats sniff it before we washed it to get used to their scent.
  • Greet your pet as soon as you walk in the door and introduce the baby. Let them sniff and meet the baby/child -- (If you have more than one pet, making introductions one at a time is probably better.) Use positive reinforcement when your pet acts appropriately around the child. If you see any behavior problems, address it quickly. However, don't punish your pet, but maybe move them to another room. Give your furry friend time to adjust.



Our cats were fine. Twiggy hid in the couch for like two days. Edie didn't let a baby interfere with her lap time. She was happy to share my lap. I think the cats enjoyed us being up in the middle of the night. Give your pets some credit, they understand more than we think. Their instincts kicks in and they know that a baby is different. I can't say that the cats were as bummed as we were when we had to give the babies back. Edie and Twiggy enjoy having our full attention.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Meet My Lil' Niece!

Yay for little girls. We have new niece, Renee' Leina'ala, born on September 23rd. I now get to say I have a favorite nephew and a favorite niece!

So how did my niece get such a fancy name with not just one, but TWO accent marks? Renee' is my sister's middle name. Leina'ala is her grandma's middle name and great grandma's name and it honors her Hawaiian heritage. It means wreath of flowers.

I headed down to VA for a combo trip - to see my new niece and celebrate Landon's 2nd birthday. I decided to surprise everyone. Landon was so happy to see his MeeMee. (That's me!) I took him to City Park so mom and dad could run some errands for the party. Aunt Mai looked after Renee'. Auntie power! Anyway, the park was fun, but it has had quite a few upgrades since I was a little kid. We went down the slides together and swung on the swings. Landon was grinning from ear to ear. MeeMee was pooped!

Renee' is so cute, you just want to eat those chubby little cheeks! There was actual study done recently about why babies are so irresistible. My nephew smells pretty good too. I told him he was delicious and then he went around saying "I'm delicious". I got some snuggle time with Renee' and even showed off my new and improved baby skills.

I am so happy I went, it was so good seeing my family. I look forward to being the best MeeMee in the land!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What Does That Mean? The ABCs of Adoption Forum Acronyms

When I am diving into something new, I like to get all the information that I can about the subject. So when we decided to adopt, I quickly started reading adoption forums and blogs. I had never really read forums before and I was surprised at how many times I needed to google an acronym in a discussion to figure out what the heck they were talking about. So for all of you just starting out, I put together a list of commonly used acronyms in adoption and infertility forums. Now you can read with ease and chat like a pro!

For a printable list, click here.

Forum Acronyms:
  • AA - Adult Adoptee or African American 
  • ABC - Amended Birth Certificate
  • ACR or AOCR - Age of Child Requested
  • AD - Adoptee or Adoptive Dad
  • AF - Adoptive Father
  • AF - Aunt Flow, your period
  • AM - Adoptive Mother
  • AP - Adoptive Parents
  • BC - Birth Certificate
  • BD - Birth (Biological) Dad
  • BF- Birth Father or Boyfriend
  • BM or Bmom - Birth (Biological) Mother (Bmom is preferred)
  • CC or CA - Caucasian
  • COC - Certificate of Citizenship
  • CPS - Child Protective Services
  • CW - Case Worker
  • DD - Dear Daughter
  • DH - Dear Husband
  • DI - Donor Insemination
  • DOA - Date of Adoption
  • DOB - Date of Birth
  • DOR - Date of Referral
  • DOT - Date of Travel
  • DP - Dear Partner
  • DS - Dear Son
  • DSS - Department of Social Services
  • DTC - Dossier to China
  • DW - Dear Wife
  • EM or Emom - Expectant Mother
  • FAS - Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • FC - Family Court or Foster Child
  • FD - Foster Daughter
  • FET - Frozen Embryo Transfer
  • FP - Fingerprinting
  • FS - Foster Son
  • HS - Homestudy
  • IA - International Adoption
  • IF - Infertility
  • ISO - In Search Of
  • IUI - Intrauterine Insemination
  • IVF - In Vitro Fertilization
  • MIL - Mother in Law
  • NICU - Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
  • OBC - Original Birth Certificate
  • OT - Off Topic
  • PACA - Post Adoption Contact Agreement
  • PAP - Prospective Adoptive Parent
  • PG - Pregnant
  • POA - Power of Attorney
  • POB - Place of Birth
  • PPR - Post Placement Report
  • RAD - Reactive Attachment Disorder
  • SN - Special Needs
  • SO - Significant Other
  • STBAD - Soon to be Adopted Daughter
  • STBAS - Soon to be Adopted Son
  • SW - Social Worker
  • TPR - Termination of Parental Rights
  • TTC - Trying to Conceive
  • VS or DVS - Vital Statistics or Department of Vital Statistics
  • WC - Waiting Child

Thursday, September 26, 2013

NICU Survival Guide - Adoption Edition

I might not be a mom yet, but I experienced two months of being a mom to preemie twins in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Having your baby in the NICU is stressful enough, but adding in adoption brings its own set of challenges. Here are my top 10 tips to get you through the highs and lows.

1.  Find a friend that has been through the NICU experience and listen to everything that they tell you. I had two, let's call them the Bettys*. I work with one Betty and went to high school with the other. I wasn't that close with either, but they embraced me with open arms and prepared me for the fight ahead. They were a wealth of knowledge, knew exactly how I felt and let me lean on them whenever I needed. I would not have made it through without them. There isn't a big enough thank you out there for them. So go find yourself a Betty -- whether it is a Facebook friend, co-worker or another mom at the hospital. You need to have a support system. Hey, I am available!

2.  Make a plan with the hospital staff and birth parents about expectations.  If you have an open adoption, will the birth parents and family be allowed to visit the baby during the hospital stay? Do you want to be there while the birth parents are visiting? Who will make medical decisions? Who will be called in case of an emergency? Who is paying for the hospital stay? The adoption laws in your state may determine what you are legally allowed to do. Are you comfortable with the birth parents holding, caring or doing kangaroo care with the baby? What about breastfeeding or pumping? How do you want everyone to be addressed? Our nurses called both the birth parents and us, Mom and Dad. It made me uncomfortable in the beginning, but I got over it. Discuss whether the birth parents will be at the hospital on discharge day. The staff treated us as their parents, but be prepared for it not exactly going the way you wish. Be flexible and understanding.

3.  Get to know your nurses and doctors, you may be there for awhile. Aside from taking care of your baby everyday, they will ease your fears and tell you what's beeping and why. Our nurses gave us hugs when we needed it and sat and listened when we wanted to talk. When we needed some reassurance about what to expect in the long term, the doctors met with us and answer all of our questions. These are a special group of people that love what they do and it really shows. They rock!

4.  Take pictures of your baby the entire time. It may be hard to see them hooked to machines or look so small and fragile, but you need the pictures to see the progression. This is especially helpful when the baby has a set-back and you feel like it is the end of the world. You can look back to see where they were just days or weeks ago and how far they have come. It was amazing to me 
how resilient and how much a baby can overcome. Set-backs happen and it is OK.

5. Ask! If you don't understand a beep, a number, a term, just ask.  If you are having trouble feeding, diapering, etc. ask the nurses for tips. If you have concerns about something, speak up. If you researched some special formula or procedure online at 3 am, it is okay to ask them about it. Ask if you can decorate the isolette. Ask if you can bring in linens and clothes for the baby to wear (and wash them). Asking questions will help you feel like you have more control of the situation.

6.  Take advantage of learning baby care basics from the staff. When they asked us if we wanted to learn something, we said yes. We fondly called it baby bootcamp. We learned everything - swaddling, temperature taking, bathing, diapering, feeding, burping, soothing techniques. They showed us how to look to the baby for signs of what they needed and let the baby be our guide. Since we were the adoptive parents, we didn't spend the night with the babies. They did offer us to do 24 hours of care before we went home. Boy those 24 hours were an eye opener, but an invaluable experience. I feel 100% confident in my baby care skills.

7.  If someone offers help, take it. I felt like there was no time to do anything. Forget about grocery shopping, laundry, getting ready for baby, etc. In the beginning we were eating out every night or not eating. Life was still happening, but I didn't have any time to address it. My parents got us a hotel room for a long weekend near the hospital. Our distant aunt offered us to stay at her home that was close to the hospital. She fed us a home-cooked meal and packed our lunches for the day. Thank you. I took advantage of convenience services like getting our groceries delivered by Fresh Direct and having the laundromat wash and fold our clothes. These things really made our life a little easier. Your friends and family want to help, so let them.

8.  Take a break.  We wanted to be with the babies as much as we could. You will feel tremendously guilty when you are not there, but you have to take care of yourself so that you can take care of the baby. The nurse reassured us that they don't expect parents to be there all the time. It's easy to get burned out from the stress and long days. An adoption situation is different because you normally don't get maternity leave. I had vacation time saved, but I wanted to use those days for when the babies came home. We could not afford to take unpaid time, so we worked. When we could not be there, we called to check-in. I admit that I called several times a day. We took the first week off to get the rhythm of everything and then after that we hopped in the car every night drove 2 hours to sit with the babies for a few hours. We stayed in the area on the weekends to spend more time with them. After several weeks of 18 hour days, we knew we would not be able to sustain the routine. We started alternating. Once or twice a week, I would stay home and Marlon would go to the hospital by himself and vice-versa. It made a huge difference.

9.  Step aside and give some space to the birth parents. If you have an open adoption, the NICU may prolong that final goodbye between birth parents and baby. If the birth parents are visiting, give them some privacy to say goodbye before the baby goes home. If they want it, let them have some alone time with their baby during the hospital stay. You will have a lifetime with the child. I surprised myself at how relaxed I was with their birth mom. I thought I would be jealous, but I wasn't. I felt secure that she wasn't changing her mind, but just wanted to show her love to the babies. Try honor and include them as much as they need, it will only promote a good relationship later.

10. Celebrate! Celebrate every little milestone, every ounce gained, and every machine taken away. With each day, you are one step closer to taking your baby home.

Ultimately, this adoption did not work out for us. Along with the hospital staff, we gave them the best start possible. They needed us to be their parents and I feel good about the time we spent with them. On the bright side, I no longer have any nerves about caring for an infant. After two months in the NICU, I think I can handle just about anything.

Irish blessing                                                                      Image by Jim Muth

*I changed my NICU friends' names. They have the same name and they know who they are. xo

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Letting Go

It's been about six weeks since we had to return Ian and Ada to their parents. I have to say that I am feeling better. People continue to check in on us and everyone says the same thing - that they have been thinking about us and praying for us, but don't want to bring up what happened. We thank you for that. We are really trying to move forward. That doesn't mean I still don't hold back tears when I see a double stroller or anything else that might set me off, but it is getting easier.

We had a good relationship with Ian and Ada's mom and she invited us to be a part of their lives. After that terrible day in court and handing them over, we felt like we wanted to continue to have a relationship. We were not ready to let go of the babies, but as days and weeks passed, it became increasing difficult for me. For our open adoption, we set-up a private Facebook page so that their birth family and friends could see pictures of the twins regularly. But now the tables were turned and instead of us posting new pictures of the babies, she was. We were just bystanders looking in -- always an "aunt", never a mom*. I would see how much the babies changed each day, how she was turning into their mom, and how they were now called by their middle names, the names she chose. Our time with them was fading away. It was too much for me to bear. I couldn't sleep at night; I couldn't move on. Marlon and I both knew what we needed to do - let go.

I wrote an email telling her goodbye. I could not call her, I would not have been able to get it out. A letter allowed us to say the things we needed to say. Maybe I am wuss, but these past few weeks have been painful enough. We didn't hear back. I hope she understands. We packed up the rest of the little things that we kept from our time with the babies and sealed the box. We left the private Facebook page and unfriended her. That was that. I felt like I could breathe again. That chapter is over and now we can start another. I have slept every night since. I know it was the right thing for us to do.

Ian and Ada will always hold a special place in our hearts. They needed us to be their parents for the first two months of their lives. I hope I do see them again one day, maybe all grown up in the grocery store. Even if I don't, I know that they are loved and will be okay. I know that we are loved as well and you should know that we are going to be okay.

*Don't get me wrong, I do love being an aunt and I think I am really good at it. I have a sweet little nephew and a niece on the way. I also have three incredible godkids. I love them all to pieces, but I do want to be a mom one day. It's just truth. xo

Monday, September 9, 2013

Birth Fathers

So, we've had one failed match and one failed adoption, both because of the birth fathers. Hmmm, I am sensing a trend. Maybe the same care and concern shown to birth mothers hasn't really been applied to birth fathers, but I am thinking maybe adoption professionals should start considering both birth parents equally from the start. Don't get me started talking about the Baby Veronica case.  I feel for both sides, but most of all I feel for little Veronica. We never met Ian and Ada's father until after they were born. We only had the information given to us about him to go on when deciding if this was a good match for us. In the beginning, we did not believe this adoption was what they call an "at risk" placement. I have played what went wrong in my mind a million times. Why were we so naive? The bottom line is that their father did not want his children placed for adoption and he stopped it. Everything else is irrelevant.

This post is all my opinion and I am sure you'll correct me if you feel I am wrong.  Also, I am only referring to birth fathers who did not commit a crime that resulted in pregnancy.  

I feel like more birth fathers are stepping up. In general, men are now taking a more active role in parenting. Sure there are some birth fathers that couldn't give a rats ass, but I bet I could find plenty that do. Our agency says birth fathers wanting to parent are rare, but we have had it happen TWICE. It seems to me that in the past the birth mothers pretty much held all the cards and the birth fathers were either left in the dark or steamrolled into signing surrender papers. That doesn't work anymore. Birth fathers know their rights and don't necessarily want to be forced into placing their child for adoption because that's what the birth mother wants.

Birth fathers experience loss too, but I don't think it is recognized in the same way. If the adoption agency offers counseling, are the fathers given the same attention as the mothers? In my opinion, the answer is no. I know some guys are probably not as eager or receptive to the counseling offered, perhaps it's time for an update to adoption procedures. Where are the male social workers? Maybe another man might be able to relate to what the birth father is going through and the birth father might feel more comfortable talking to a guy. The face of adoption is changing rapidly and maybe the old way of doing things don't quite work anymore. The approach needs to balanced and both birth parents should feel it is an equal decision. OK, I am stepping down from the pulpit.

Lessons that I learned are: if the birth father isn't on board, then we are not on board. If he doesn't sign a surrender, tread cautiously. If the birth father has an attorney, walk away. It's hard to separate your emotional connection to the child from what realistically is going to happen. We weren't able to do it but in the long run it's going to hurt either way. You should know what your state laws are for birth fathers, but that doesn't necessarily mean a judge is going to follow those laws. If the birth father is interested in parenting, there is a good chance he will be allowed to do so. It's important that time is spent in the beginning with the birth father to really gauge how he is feeling instead of trying to just get him to sign. No more at risk placements for us. If you are the expectant father, we want to talk to you, get to know you, find out what you want. Our relationship should be the same as the birth (expectant) mother.

It has never been our intention to take someone's child, no adoptive parent wants that. We want to have a family and we want both birth parents to be secure in their decision to place a child with us for adoption. All that matters is what is best for the child. I think that is pretty straight forward.