Friday, January 31, 2014

Don't be overprotective: A How to Say to a Grieving Parent




We took Autumn to her first movie in a movie theater this month. She hated the noise and scary moments, much like Grumpy Cat. The movie. I hated it. That would be her meme. But she loves this song. When Autumn has the time to sit and watch the video, she'll watch it multiple times in one sitting. I rather thought she'd love Olaf, and she does, but this is the song she goes back to and asks questions about and is fascinated by. I am sure I'm reading into it but I wonder a little if Autumn, in her 6 year old way, sees what many others see in the movie: "Let It Go has become an anthem for anyone who has ever felt dissed, disenfranchised, or devalued." Not that Autumn has been disenfranchised or devalued, except by certain distant family members who think girls are second class, but she has stuff she's trying to let go.

We're still open with Autumn in the aftermath of yet another loss in her life. I think some people get upset that we don't protect her more from the pain but, seriously, how are we going to do that? And to what end? In 15 years maybe I'll look back and find I was horribly wrong, but aren't we giving her tools to deal with real life? I prefer to let her process and cry and talk and wonder and ask rather than for all of us to bottle it all up and pretend nothing is wrong. "I wish baby Garrett didn't die. If he didn't die I wouldn't be sad because Jaden and Ja--what is his name?--aren't here." I can't simply let thoughts like that roll around in her sweet head without some outlet!

Autumn's Favorite Part. Source.

Happily, that isn't every day. Around 98% of the time she's totally fine but something will trigger a thought and we have an interesting conversation. And that's okay. Frankly, I'm not interested in protecting her. I am the same way with myself.

I think there's a difference between sensitivity and being overly protective. I understand that after a terrible event, many people struggle with celebrations and good news related to their (our) loss. For some time, I had a hard time with baby showers, first birthday parties, and events like that. And that's okay. Time and effort have eased that ache. It is still there but it isn't overwhelming most of the time. Baby dedications are the last Very Hard Thing because all of my Garrett verses are about hope after death while baby dedication verses are about hope and raising a good child. I don't get to raise mine and it's tough. Tough enough that as of right now, I don't plan on having a dedication for any future children we might have. But that's my problem, not the problem of the people on stage.

The same goes for pregnancy and adoption announcements. I've found this strange, persistent belief among a few that if they tell me they are pregnant or have had a placement, I'm going to fall out and weep existential tears until I am dehydrated. I haven't the foggiest idea why anyone would think this considering how incredibly candid I am online and in person. But the idea is out there and I don't love it.

Here's being insensitive: "Hai, I hate to tell you this because of your dysfunctional womb and you can't have babies and your repeated attempts to adopt are lame but I'm pregnant nana nana booboo."

Over protective: "Heyyyyy, I know this might be haaaard, and I'm so sorryyyy, but we just found out we're pregnant and we're so sorry and are you okay??? We just wanted to tell you before you found out on facebook and were taken by surprise and spent the night wailing at the Lord."

Normal, sensitive human being: "Hey, I wanted to share some news. We just found out we're having a baby. We're going to announce it on Facebook and wanted you to know first!"

Of course, one and two are exaggerations. I also know everyone is different and some people might be more fragile or simply in a different stage of grief so I only speak for myself. I don't want my friends to walk on eggshells around me. I have made an effort to be open and honest about the triumphs and the valleys. I do my best to create an atmosphere of comfort at home, in social media, and here on the blog. Meet me halfway and don't protect me from the things I don't need protection from...with the caveat that the general rule here is, like we say in self defense, don't be a jerk. That one rule of thumb saves a lot of trouble across a LOT of spectrums!

And, by the way, this post isn't directed at any one person. I've been meaning to write this one for a long, long time. Years, in fact. My hope is that this is an encouragement to any friends who've ever been afraid to tell me anything. I also hope this encourages those who are still in the "fake it 'til you make it" stage of being happy for people. There's still a twinge of envy and a smidge of bitterness that varies from situation to situation but, eventually, the ability to celebrate with those we love does come back. My prayers are with you as you navigate this part of the journey.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

In Which I Work in a Hey, Girl Meme

My older students knew we were trying to adopt. When one of the boys found out that the adoption fell through, he asked me if we were going to try again. I told him I didn't know but that we'd see.

His face absolutely fell and he exclaimed with great feeling, "if you don't ever have a boy you'll lose your family name!"

I tried so hard not to laugh hysterically because, well, I am me and you know how worried I am about that kind of thing. But he's a sweet kid and meant well. I told him that Mike is one of 5 children. Three of them are boys. And there are already two boy grandchildren. The name is safe. But if all else fails, should Autumn choose to marry, her husband can take her name.

"You can do that?" "Sure, why not."

I'm hoping I don't get any irritated parent phone calls. I feel like this calls for Feminist Ryan Gosling:
There wasn't a "Hey, girl, I can't wait to take *your* last name."

Anyway, we're here! And we're actually doing pretty well. I've been somewhat unmotivated to do much of anything this week. It's probably a combination of disappointment, the cold, and taking on extra classes. But altogether it's a little disturbing how easily our life slipped back into "no baby any time soon" mode. I had to return a few things (diapers, formula, sister shirt supplies, winter car seat cover) but that's it.

We still haven't quite decided what to do next. I have a phone call to return from one of the options and I think next week I am going to make another contact. We haven't spoken to our agency yet although one of the social workers accidentally called us Monday. You'd think she'd pass it off as checking on us seeing we were still in the denial stage of grief and thinking something might change and maybe getting a phone call from our social worker would cause, you know, feelings. But instead she was all "oh, like, sorry, wrong number, kthxbai." Small thing. But irritating when coupled with everything else. Yes, I'm in the grumpy stage of grief!

I think I'm getting back to it, though. That might have more to do with the fact that it is above 29 degrees today but we'll see how the week pans out. I am a huge baby about winter. I cannot wait until spring when I no longer shock myself every time I touch anyone or anything.

Friday, January 17, 2014

In which the name Grant and all G names are officially retired

I believe this one is due for resurrection.

Yesterday, the birth mother signed the papers and took the baby home. I believe his name is now Jakarian or something to that effect.

Mike said last night that at least this was over like ripping off a bandaid. Fast. Painful. Over with.

Tamara and I discussed Wednesday how the ultimate passive voice statement is "mistakes were made." Mistakes were, indeed, made. And they weren't ours.

I really don't want to write this post. Not because I'm sad--I mean, I am, but I'm more, um, "not surprised." I spent all my time the last week telling people not to be happy until the baby came home. I went back and read my posts and they are all so very hesitant to be excited. Blah.

We have a choice to make. Like Wednesday, I just wrote a few paragraphs about how this went down and how unbelievably incompetent our agency has been...again.  But, that particular decision remains unmade so I better not write anything I am going to regret.

The choices:
1. Keep trying with this agency. Mike says he is willing to continue if they make certain agreements about price and actually listening to the fact that we don't want an at risk mother placement. I am a significantly more vengeful person and I'm not there at the moment. He might be able to convince me though.

2. Keep trying with another agency or with the state. I'm actively researching this angle. If you have an agency recommendation, send it on! Post it in the comments. Email it to me. Straight up honest, though, if your agency cost like $40,000, that's just not happening. We don't qualify for grants and we'd prefer not to go too in debt.

3. Stop trying. What's the definition of insanity? This is our third go-round with not bringing a baby home. All different situations. All different levels of heartbreak. It might be time to ask ourselves if we've only gone through this to have a peace about knowing we did everything we could.

For the first time, I'm willing to consider number 3. Mike and I have always felt like we were meant to have kids. Plural. Well. Kids plural who are with us here on earth. But I'm not so sure anymore.

There's a lot of thinking, researching and praying to do.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Aaaaaand a delay. Of course.

If you follow us on Facebook or Twitter then you have heard the latest news: our placement has been delayed by a week. I wrote about three paragraphs and then deleted them because it really just comes down to part of the process and someday I'll write about it in more detail. I probably wouldn't even blog about it if it weren't for the fact that a lot of people were expecting us to bring home a baby today. We thought we were, too, until about noon today. The goodish news is that this particular episode has an expiration date of Tuesday. If we can make it to Tuesday without the baby being taken out of interim care, the adoption is still on. If it isn't...then, as I have mentioned before, Mike and I have some serious talking to do.


Autumn for a few minutes.

I thought telling Autumn about the delay would be horribly awful but it wasn't. She took it well at first and then cycled pretty quickly from sad and existential to mad and grouchy which was more funny than it should have been. Mike said that she might get that from her mama. We planned to have hot chocolate at Starbucks today with some gift cards and we stuck with that plan. Tamara joined us and I am so glad she did because it wasn't just the two of us being pitiful together. Autumn told Tamara how she can add three numbers even though sometimes she has to use her fingers. And then she drew hilarious and bizarre comics starring kiwis, some ducks, and a school of fish on the back of the pastry bags. After we left Tamara, Autumn did her first scrapbook page using supplies my mom gave her for Christmas.

This look is still part of the Grumpy Autumn Spectrum of Faces.

I feel like a broken record of need. But please keep praying with us. I don't know what to ask you to pray about or for so I'm going to go with Romans 8:26: And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Links and thoughts about blogging

I keep using the word weird lately. But life kind of is right now. I bought some baby things which is infinitely scary. I am tired of returning baby things when life doesn't work out but such is life, as my old kung fu instructor used to say, right? Provided he comes home, Grant is going to need diapers that fit (he's a size 1 already!!) and formula. We have just about everything else or can borrow it from Lindsay, which is sort of nice although the former is a little bit sad.

Several people have said that we're really calm but it's more like we're vaguely disbelieving. For example, Autumn has asked for a big sister shirt. I meant to get her one, I did. But I didn't. So, I'm off to Hobby Lobby after kickboxing tomorrow to get a shirt and an iron on.

She totally needs this one, though.

Even the blog feels weird. I'm not entirely certain what I'm writing about anymore. Evolution is to be expected and is a good thing. I'm not sure where this will end up but we'll see. I've had more than one crisis of belief over maintaining the blog and I'm sure this one will pass.

Although my subheading is Life after Loss and my life is, in fact, one existing after many losses (biological baby, adopted baby, health, future biological children, heck, Autumn's life-is-hard-innocence), I think the blog might be more about getting life back. I've written a lot about coping and hard days and the things I have done to survive mentally and emotionally and the things I have done to get physically healthy again.

I feel like the transition is that these aren't just things I'm doing to survive. They are simply my life now and have been since before the adoption. So, what does that mean for Passing Pinwheels? I don't know. I think this is part of the grief journey, my life journey. I guess we'll all see where it goes from here. In the meantime, here are some articles I have come across in the last month or so. I hope they are as encouraging to you as they were to me.

It's interesting because an artist and writer I have been repeatedly blessed by is going through similar thoughts and feelings. She wrote an intense piece about her recent pregnancy and how she isn't sure where she fits in the grief world, if anywhere. I'm not even remotely in the same atmosphere as Francesca so I can imagine that if I've thought and prayed about how much joy to share here and how to branch out from "coping" to "living" then she must have truly agonized. For a while, I was afraid of not being known as a baby loss mom, but I never wanted the death of my first daughter to define me. I just didn’t want to lose her anymore than I already had, if that makes any sense at all.

I totally bought this from her shop.

Some time ago I came across an article from NPR about Allie Brosh. I have linked the posts about depression from Hyperbole and a Half and I'd like to get her book (Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened) but haven't done it yet. There is a developing candor about depression, addiction, and ordinary day-to-day struggles that can feel uncomfortably intimate to people who either are very private themselves or prefer other people to be very private.

An article has been making the rounds on some of the grief pages and blogs I keep up with: The Myth of Parenting after Losing a Child. We haven't parented perfectly since Garrett died. And Autumn seems to be a super awesome kid which has way too little to do with us, I think. While I kind of see some of the issues here, I haven't dealt with them much and it might be because we got to talk to people, read other people's stories, and basically have way more openness than most people have the luxury of experiencing. Not to mention the luxury of a solid support network. That being said, it's still an excellent article. Living a life without a child is hard. It’s an unnatural order of things. Since very few people want to talk about death, and even less want to know anything about what this is like, we’re all thrust into this giant tunnel of darkness with no idea what to do or where to turn.

My friend Mimi sent me a great article called 5 Lies You Were Told about Grief. If you or someone you know needs permission to feel whatever they are feeling, this is a great one to send to them. I'd also send this to anyone who'd like to learn how to talk to someone who has had a loss. Any kind of loss, really. Because grief, as most of you know, encompasses so much more than death. You are a character in a story that is over, and since this never happens in the fairy tales you were fed in your most formative years, you are lost. You no longer fit in the world, and there is no star that can grant your truest wish.

Sweet painting.

I love how I keep finding fabulous writers. Since joining Twitter, which I resisted for a long time, I've discovered some of the best, most open and honest writers I have ever read. I hear often that men don't have a voice when it comes to child loss or infertility. I think that could be changing though. Or maybe they were always out there and I wasn't looking. I don't know. But Nate Pyle, whose blog I have linked before, recently wrote a lovely and raw post about the Disgrace of Infertility. I have some wonderful friends who have endured and are enduring the sting of infertility. My situation is different but even I had to come to terms with the fact that I can't have any more biological children. I don't know why it's so hard. I don't know why it hurt so much that my body wouldn't function in the way I was always told God intended. But it did. Does. As I held my crying wife, I didn’t cry, but quietly grieved and pulling back from hope. The grieving brought on by infertility is different than other grief I have experienced because you do not grieve what was lost, but what never was. At some point you start grieving for what never will be.

Tomorrow or Wednesday I think I'll wrap up our Disney trip before we, hopefully, change gears a little here at home! Please continue to pray. The placement ceremony is Wednesday afternoon.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Almost Happily Ever After? Maybe?

I like this smile.

It's been a crazy, topsy turvy, emotional ride but we have a placement date to bring home, dare we say it, Grant. The placement ceremony is set for 5pm on Wednesday. I am both relieved and disbelieving. This will be an at risk placement because the birth father has not signed his papers. However, we have prayed hard about bringing the baby home and the general idea from people who do this regularly is that things should progress normally and that this isn't remotely the same kind of situation we faced last year. But, at the same time, please continue to pray that the birth father either signs the papers or chooses not to fight the termination proceedings which will begin at the end of the month. This might sound weird, but please pray for him, too. There's a lot going on in his life right now and I'll leave it there for now. (update: blocked from an unseen direction, back to square one)

I haven't been posting about every movement in the adoption process (you're welcome) and it wasn't so much that I didn't want to constantly report. It's just that things seem to change super fast. A friend who has worked with adoptions says this is the nature of newborn adoptions and I totally understand.

Possibly the most dramatic roller coaster happened in two hours on our last day at Disney. I texted with a friend that day and I remember writing something really overwrought like, "it's weird to be having so much fun while being so sad." We were in line for this thing called the Belle 3-d experience. By then we hadn't found Belle, the only princess Autumn specifically wanted to meet, so we thought we'd give this a try since we had a little while before meeting up with the rest of the family. We figured seeing her in a ride or story or something would be better than not at all. While waiting, I got a call from our birth mother counselor who told us that the birth mother, after praying Friday night, decided she wanted to parent the baby.

Seriously. I hung up, turned to a wall, and burst into tears. And then Mike and I got all existential about whether or not we were meant to have more children...which is fine but some clear direction would be nice and maybe three failures was God's version of horrible, painful direction...and, frankly, if this adoption doesn't go through, those are still perfectly valid things to discuss and pray about but maybe not in a 50 minute wait line at Disney World.

We debated getting out of line to lick our wounds but decided to stay and I am so glad we did. For many reasons. One, the Belle line was really cool. There was a pretty meadow area outside. The inside was like the cottage from the movie. There were stacks of books, markings on the wall of how tall Belle was through the years--Autumn was happy to be taller than Belle was at 6--and even a portrait of Belle and her mom.

Once we got inside the workshop part of the cottage there was a magic mirror that was a gift from the Beast to Maurice after Belle's wedding. It totally opened up so that we could all walk through to a place where the Wardrobe from the movie told us the kids were going to act out how Belle met the Beast as a gift for Belle. I can't remember why--just as a surprise or for her birthday or something. My stomach was so sick from that call but seeing Autumn "audition" for her part soothed my heart so much. She got to be the feather duster and showed off her sweepy hip motions! Everyone laughed and clapped for her.

We went to the next room and the parents sat on benches while the actors took their places. To everyone's delight, the real ("real"), live Belle swept in!! I thought Autumn's face was going to fall off she grinned so hard. Lumiere told Belle what they were doing, she watched everyone put on the show, and then she led them all in a dancing parade around the room!

Afterwards, everyone who wanted to took a picture with Belle. It was so awesome. Autumn went into total fangirl mode when it was her turn. Belle talked to her but Autumn was completely frozen with joy and just kind of stuttered her answers with a crazy, ear to ear smile.

It was the best thing ever for some sad folks who just got bad news.

We decided to take a rest and snack break in the Beauty and the Beast courtyard area. While we were there, we got some more phone calls. After talking to her family, J decided that adoption really was the best thing for her and for her baby. We haven't felt entirely secure since that day but I kind of think that after all the heartache we experienced even before that call, we are just going to feel a little wounded and cautious anyway. However, J hasn't wavered at all since that day. We even got to see her last Friday when we met the baby for the first time. He's adorable, by the way. And already grown out of newborn diapers!

Now, while Mike fielded those calls and discussed what all of this meant, Gaston showed up right behind the spot where we were sitting. You guys, he was the best thing ever. I watched him preen for like 20 minutes. Mike even tried to get me into the line to take a photo but we were too late and they closed it. SO SAD. But he was so great I took pictures of him just to post them here because I am weird like that. Since the poor people posing with him had no idea they were going to wind up on the internet, I covered their faces.

Sadly, we didn't get to see if he's especially good at expectorating.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Colleys at Disney, Part 1

My first visit to Disney World was amazing and I would love to go again! Although Mike's dad originally told us about the trip over a year ago to give us time to save for our passes and make sure we had vacation time, Mike and I debated about the trip for the last few weeks. Things looked shaky for a little while because of Mike's work. We weren't sure he'd get to go at all because the company Mike works for is, to put it simply, splitting. This month the part of the company he is going with is moving onto a new (still under renovation!!) campus as well as severing various systems from the part that they sold. Mike's boss was great, though, and managed to finagle enough time for us to do a 3-day pass. The adoption was another potential issue because we didn't really want to be out of town for the baby's birth. But, we talked to Bethany and birth mom J and they all encouraged us to go. I'm glad we did--this was potentially our last trip with just the three of us.

I didn't say anything about it before we left mainly because I don't like to be all "HEY INTERNET I'M LEAVING TOWN" but also the less I talked about it the better. Tyler has been to Disney before but since it was Autumn's first time, we decided to make it a surprise that we'd present to them at Christmas. It worked out great. Because Christmas Eve is a work holiday for Mike's company, we went on down after my kickboxing class. A few family members were already there, including Brad who moved to Doha for work on January 2! More on that later. Christmas afternoon, the rest of the family arrived and after opening presents, the family started the kids on a scavenger hunt which led to Mickey hats and then the news that we were going!

The funny thing is that Christmas morning, before Autumn knew where we were headed, we watched the Disney parades on TV. Autumn turned to me and said, "I never want to go there." I asked her why and she emphatically stated, "because there are too many people." I had to laugh. Interestingly enough, the very first thing we saw when we got to Magic Kingdom?? The same parade we saw on the Disney Channel!! Hahaha.

I brought ear muffs to help Autumn deal with the noise. She only needed them the first day and part of the second and then either she got used to it or she was having so much fun she didn't care about the noise anymore! That first day really was overwhelming. There were so many people and so many things to see. Mike's dad asked me what I thought, if it was what I expected. I didn't really know what to say except that it was more sprawling and less tall than I thought it would be. I guess I expected skyscrapers?? I have no idea. But Magic Kingdom is kind of kid sized.

Because Mike had to be back at work on Monday the 30th, Pd, Mike, Autumn and I left the condo at 5am and drove on down to Orlando the day after Christmas. The rest of the family--and I mean everyone from little Ellie to Nanny and Boppa--arrived late that night and they stayed until the following Tuesday. The 4 of us checked out the house Pd had rented, dropped our stuff and went on to Magic kingdom. Mike and I had no plan about what we were going to do or anything because we just had no idea. The place is so huge! The parade was going on when we came in so we watch that and then explored a little. We decided to start by meeting Ariel in her grotto. That was a good choice. We were standing in line and a Disney cast member started asking about Pd's Alabama shirt. Turned out she was a fan and she took us out of the line to go through the fast pass entrance to see Ariel! It was great! The grotto was adorable and Ariel was sweet and fabulous at her job.

All of the princesses were impressive. And even their signatures were in character. Ariel's had bubbles, Merida's was blocky, and Aurora's very proper. Aurora was so wide-eyed and earnest that I got tired simply watching and decided right there that I could *never* work at Disney. Not that I look remotely like any of the characters. Except for Boo. After Monsters, Inc. came out, all these people were all, "you look like Boo!" I was 21. >.>

We took our rest break on the last day waiting in line for Merida. She was fun. Autumn couldn't understand her because of the accent which was hilarious. We also made friends in line and they told us about a great hotel they found that we'd seriously consider using if we ever have to do this totally on our own dime.

After meeting Merida, the kids each got to shoot an arrow. Autumn loved it. Penny gave us a Disney gift card for Christmas and I used part of it to get Autumn Merida's bow and arrow set. She's been shooting suction cup arrows at our playroom windows every day since we got home!

Kind of along the same princess lines, months and months ago, Lainey made Autumn an appointment at the Bippity Boppity Boutique where she got the princess treatment. The only disappointment was that there wasn't a Belle costume. Apparently they have been out since before Halloween which is a little weird. But Autumn chose the Ariel human dress and it was genuinely pretty. After costume and hair, they did her nails and makeup. Nothing over the top makeup-wise. I was pleasantly surprised

The package included a photo session. How fun is that? I have one of the photo passes with the photos they took during her styling session in addition to all of these so I need to look and see if I want to order any. We did get 3 of the pictures while we were in the studio. This isn't one of them...this is just me snapping photos behind the photographer. Seriously, the package was way deluxe: dress, crown, fake hair, wand, shoes and a backpack with her photos, two nail polishes, her makeup and stickers!

I think that's enough for today so I'll wrap up with this funny photo. Friday morning, when Autumn and Tyler were joyfully reunited, they sat at the desk and examined the map, plotting their paths and deciding what they wanted to ride, taking frequent breaks to cheer and dance around!

Next time: my favorite character actor, Autumn's fangirl moment, and more! Plus, I might have a potential baby placement date next time I post!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Where we've been, what's next, and a call for prayer

I hope everyone has had a fantastic holiday!! I'm trying to squeeze as much rest as I can out of these last days of winter break while dealing with the remnants of the flu and too much fun. While we were gone, we did this for three days:

We had so much fun at Disney World!! We went with all of Mike's family and stayed in a house not too far from the parks. Everyone else stayed longer but we had to come back early because Mike's work needed him in on Monday. I'm going to post more about the trip but to get back in the swing of things, I thought it might be good to post an adoption update since a lot of friends have been asking.

The baby was born on December 23 and there were some mixups and he went home with his birth mother. She brought him to interim care on Thursday, though, and he's with a fantastic family who has fostered for 32 years and he is their 80th baby. They are calling him Grant although it's a little hard for us to do so for obvious reasons.

We got to meet him Friday. We decided that his birth mother would join us when we met him so the birth mother counselor needed to be there, too. Although we made it home Sunday night, with some other births and all the schedules involved, Friday was our first chance to meet. He's adorable and chill and makes the craziest sleepy faces. And his hair is amazing and hilarious, not unlike Miss Autumn's was!

Autumn, May 2007

Right now we're in a waiting pattern. There are some legal things we need to take care of before we can bring him home. Please, please, please pray with and for us through this. You know we want this to end with the sweet baby coming home with us. We are praying that, whatever the resolution, it comes sooner than later. Other than a quick resolution, I don't even really know what specific prayers to ask for except for maybe wisdom and patience and love for everyone involved--the birth mother and father, our agency Bethany, and for our families. It's so hard to wait and wonder although I know that, regardless of the outcome, this is part of our journey and God's refining fire.

Here's more from our profile book. This time it's my family. Which also ended up being about Mike's family.