Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Not So Crazy... 1 Year Later

I have something to say, I'm just not sure how to say it. I've been thinking about how I wanted to write a 1 year “Gotcha-day-anniversary” blog post for a couple weeks. Every time I think I know what I want to say, it comes out wrong. Basically, nothing about this past year has been crazy. It's been completely normal. Easy. Just life. Rayla is just a kid. Just like every kid. Actually, probably easier than most kids. Over the past 365 days (366, it was a leap year), she has done exactly the same things that every other kid has done. She ate and played and slept (love what a great sleeper she is!). She tried new foods, she's learning to walk, and she mastered English comprehension. She expanded her vocabulary, and she learned how to express her desires (yogurt... all the time, she always desires yogurt). She developed a fantastic sense of humor, she is quite the little ham. She is also very polite and remembers please and thank you most of the time. On the down side, she also has acquired her father's horrible taste in hip-hop music. We compromise with Taylor Swift, but I'm slightly disturbed by how much she loves “Bad Blood”.
When we walked out of the orphanage in Vratsa, Bulgaria 1 year ago today, we knew all our lives would be completely changed. The same way that any new parent's life is changed. I've been pleasantly surprised to discover though, that your life only changes in the ways you want it to. The things you enjoyed doing before having kids are still possible to do with a kid (gasp!) Trivia night, movie night, sushi night, sleep in Sunday mornings, random car rides, hikes in the woods... turns out that kids can do all those things too! So.... to answer everyone's favorite question.. No, my life didn't completely change! My life is pretty much exactly the same, with the addition of a cute little side-kick.
To answer a few other popular questions...Is the medical stuff scary?... No, her medical stuff is not scary, I'm a Vet, medical stuff is cool to me. Besides, her medical stuff is rather boring. She is basically a very healthy kid with an undiagnosable abdominal distention issue. Some parents get up early to take their kids to hockey practice, we get up early to drive to Boston Children's and play “Let's Stump the Smart Doctors!” It's almost as boring as hockey practice.
Does she feel like your “real kid”?... Well, unless I've been having a year long hallucination, she is my real kid. Oh, biological kid!? Yes, she does feel like my real kid. Not that I have anything to compare to, but I'm fairly certain I like her more than I would a bio kid, because she didn't make me gain a ton of weight or lose a years worth of sleep. In all seriousness, I was concerned about this too. I was worried that there was something about squeezing a slimy newborn out of you, that made you more attached to them, than if you just picked them off the internet. I was wrong. She is my real kid, I couldn't possibly love her more! Want to know something else strange... I would have never believed that postpartum depression could happen when you adopt, but IT DOES! Crazy, huh? I was lucky, mine wasn't bad and only lasted about 2 weeks, and I only cried a few times.
Aren't you worried about her future and having her live with you forever? Yes, I believe this sets me apart for all other parents. I'm certain that parents of typical children NEVER worry about their kids futures or what happens if they become liberal arts majors and spend most of their 20's and 30's “finding themselves” while playing Xbox on their parent's couch. Do I worry about her more than other parents... nope, I'm not that big of a worrier. She'll be fine.
Speaking of being fine, I guess that was the point I wanted to make. In a world full of deadlines and goals and pressure and anxiety and the need to excel at everything, everywhere, all the time …. ahhhh.... it is so relaxing and unburdening to know that my child is happy and that's all that matters. She's fine. We will all be fine. Other parents may want their children to be the best baseball player, or the smartest doctor, or the President of the United States..... (Rayla will never become President, as she wasn't born on US soil... sorry kid). The secret to life isn't about reaching the top, its about being happy to go through the journey. Have fun, eat yogurt all day long, rock out to a little “Bad Blood.” It doesn't matter if your journey sounds a little crazy. It's not a competition.
I guess that's all I really wanted to say. Happy 1 year Gotcha-day munchkin! Mamma and Dadda love you so much! 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Seems simple to me!

Clearly blogging is not my thing, but here's an update for the blog!

Little Miss Rayla is an amazing ray of sunshine! I couldn't have asked for an easier little kid. Actually, she's convinced me that I should never have another child, because she's the most perfect child in the world and I couldn't possibly be this lucky twice.

That's not true. I really don't feel that anything about our family is “special”. Dan and I are just normal people with normal jobs. Our house is a mess, our cars always are late for their oil changes and we stress about our mortgage payments, just like everyone else. Rayla is just a typical 3 year old from an Eastern European orphanage. She has significant delays in her development, which she would not have had she been born here.

Back to my point. I look at my baby girl and see perfection! I love everything about her. I see all the things she can do and all the potential she has. I actually have to think really hard to come up with a list of negatives, because I just don't see them. What's my point... my point is that she's my kid and everyone feels this way about their own kids. We are not unique.

Most people I know, outside of the international adoption family, think we did something “special.” Nope, nothing special here. I'm uncomfortable with the “wow, you have big hearts,” or “you are doing gods work,” or “that's amazing, I could never do that” comments. I think most people in this “family” are, and that's why we tend to stick together, because we don't have to endure living on the pedestal.
Quite frankly, inside the IA family, we are down right boring. We are a married couple with 1 child, who only has DS, no other major health issues, who came out of a “baby house” with only minimal malnutrition and neglect. On the spectrum of adoptions, we are the least impressive!

So let me sum this up... we are normal boring people, who did nothing special, and as a result, we are the proudest parents ever of the most perfect baby girl in the world!
My question is... why doesn't everybody do this??? If every normal boring family just adopted 1 kid, there wouldn't be any more amazing babies dying in orphanages. Every family would then have the most perfect child in the world in their very own home! Seems simple to me! :)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Official Travel Dates!

Official Travel Dates!!  19 days before we leave!!  Eeekkkk!

The official email came this morning.  It said to buy plane tickets for April 25th to May 5th!

That means that 1 month from this very morning, we will be waking up in our home, for this 1st day of the rest of our lives, as a family!

Here are the answers to the most commonly asked questions:

Yes, it has taken a long time - we started last January 2014 - about 15 months ago.
Yes, you would think that it would happen faster..... but it doesn't!
Yes, we have to be over there for 10 days to complete her physical exam, TB test, and embassy interview.  That's just how it works.
No, we were not over there on March 24th, when the judge granted the adoption.  That was just the team of lawyers from the agency.
Yes, I think we have everything we need, for now.
No, I don't know what size clothes she's going to wear.
No, she doesn't walk yet.
No, she doesn't speak English, but she doesn't speak Bulgarian either, so I think we'll be ok!
Yes, you will all get to meet the munchkin at some point soon!  We are thinking about having a "welcome home" party around the end of June.

Aside from the chaos of being a mom for the first time, I am also in the midst of my busy season with work.  All the horses need their spring vaccines between mid-April and mid-June.  If you don't hear from me, please assume that I appreciate your call, and I will try to call you back before July! :)

Thank you for all being as excited as we are!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Exactly 1 year ago today (1/15/14), I sent this email to the director of Reece's Rainbow:

"OK, I had a big heart-to-heart with my husband again, and he said "let's go for it". So.... Deep breath, this is scary....What is the next step towards committing to Eden?
We live in Massachusetts. I have no idea where to begin!
-  Kerri

What a year it's been!  :)

Status Update:

Tomorrow is the Article 5 hearing (on our behalf) at the Embassy in Sofia. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Long Awaited Blog Update

Clearly I am not good at blogging frequently!
I would have, but I didn't feel like I had anything deep and meaningful to share publicly.
Quick time line update = 1st round dossier submitted and accepted -> Amazing Trip #1 (Metcha Trip) in November ->  2nd round dossier almost complete - > LOTS of waiting..... Hopefully Trip #2 (Gotcha Trip) by April 2015.

The following is an exerpt from an essay that I wrote the other day for a grant application.  Since I put some time into typing it up, I figured that I would share it here too! :)

My name is Kerri, and my husband, Dan, and I adopting the most amazing little girl I have ever met. Let me tell you about the journey I have been on this past year. Actually, the story begins long before this year, long before I met Dan, and long before I was ready to have a child of my own. The story begins at least 10 years ago, when I used to watch "The Adoption Story" show on TLC, and would find myself sobbing happy tears for the families landing back in the USA with their babies. I knew all those years ago that I would be one of those families one day. I knew that someday, no matter who else was in my life, I would find my baby somewhere on the other side of the world. Fast forward to 2009 when I met and fell in love with not only Dan, but his 2 children, "R" and "E". I will admit that one of the aspects of Dan that made me agree to that first date, was that he had the most beautiful daughter who happened to have Down Syndrome. While these beautiful step-children are an amazing bonus to my life, they are also a source of much sadness, as their mother has done everything in her power to isolate me from them. It has been made abundantly clear that "I am not their mother." This feels like a knife to my soul, as I would give anything to have my own babies to hold and I'm not even permitted to freely love my own step-children.
Dan and I were married in 2011 and then it was my time to have a baby of my own. After many months of not getting pregnant, I started looking at adoption web sites. I have been hesitant to pursue fertility testing, because I would so much rather put my time and energy into looking for babies that are already born and need mammas, then trying to make one that wasn't naturally meant to be. I honestly have no idea if I have medical fertility issues, or not? Maybe it's Dan? Either way, I knew that not getting pregnant easily meant that maybe my baby from the other side of the world was already waiting for me. Imagine my surprise when one day back in January, I was scanning through pictures of waiting children with Down Syndrome, and I saw my baby! I knew she was my baby, and I knew that it didn't matter where she was, I had to go get her!
The past 12 month have been much like everyone else's journey with international adoption. Lots of paperwork and lots of waiting. The highlight has obviously been the trip we took in November to meet our little girl, at her orphanage. This is the part of the story that even I find the most amazing. I walked to an orphanage in a small city, in a country far away, expecting to find a sad scared child, who had spent her entire almost 3 years living without a family. To my surprise, I was handed this tiny little bundle if happy sassy charisma. My baby girl has moxie! She has a smile that lights up not only her whole face, but the whole room. She is smart and resilient.
She has very low muscle tone, but despite not being able to even crawl yet, she has no problem, rolling and scooting herself towards whatever it is that she wants... usually my husband's cell phone! She doesn't speak actual words yet, but even with a language barrier, she had no problem getting her opinions heard, loud and clear. My baby girl is phenomenal, because this is who she is with no help at all. Can you imagine who she will become with some help? Once she has a mom and dad to help her build muscle tone and learn how to express herself with actual words, the sky will be the limit. My baby girl will go places!   

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Shooting Stars

               My nephew passed away yesterday.  Connor was 14 and the eldest of my brother’s 6 kiddos.  He was also the first/oldest grandchild of both my parents and my sister-in-laws parents.   Connor was a shooting star.  Born with septo-optic dysplasia, Connor had more than his fair share challenges.  The hardest part about his passing, was that it was sudden, unexpected, and seemingly unrelated to his medical conditions.  In the midst of coming to terms with this new reality without Connor, I find myself thinking about “why” we are so looking forward to the addition of our new munchkin.  I doubt that I really need to explain it to most of the people reading this blog, but I think I may need to explain it to myself? If that makes sense?

                When I first went public with our adoption, I had a number of “why would you do this?” questions posed by both friends and family.  Why would you put so much time and effort into bringing a child into your family, who you already know has so many challenges?   I didn’t have a perfectly choreographed answer in place at that time, but as I became less defensive, I was more able to explain why.  At this point in time, this is my answer:  In a purely selfish way, I want my world to be a better place.  Special people make the world a better place, and I want that in my life.   
               Clearly that’s not the only reason we are adopting.  Obviously, there’s the biological need to be maternal.  There’s also the fact that a beautiful little girl is sitting in a crib in an orphanage, desperately needing a family.   In addition, there’s the logic that my step-daughter with Down Syndrome will have a little sister who shares some of her challenges, and with whom she can face the world together.   But, the selfish part is that I want what other parents of special needs kids have.  I want to value the little things more.  I want to be forced to slow down and just breathe.  I want to know that my child makes a difference in the world, not because she will become a brain surgeon, but because she will inspire other people’s children to become brain surgeons. 

                We live in an era when science has become so advanced that early detection of many disabilities prevents them from presenting in the way that they did, even 50 years ago.  We also live in a time when “no child left behind” assures that ALL children are allowed and encourage to excel to the best of their ability.  It’s a strange intersection that results in less people being born with disabilities into a world that encourages those with disabilities to be able to reach goals never before considered attainable.  It’s a weird contradiction?  As a society, we are far more excepting of the people that we are far more likely to prevent from existing?   Why do we do this?  Why?  No seriously, I’m asking, why?

                There are a couple things I do know:  Connor made all the people around him better human beings.  Connor loved juice.  Connor loved pop songs, but HATED the “Happy Birthday” song.  Connor will be truly and honestly missed by more people than he even knew.  I love you Buddy!  I’m sorry that your newest cousin won’t get to know you, but you will always be remembered!  You did a great job living your life.  Like a shooting star, you stood out from the rest and we will love you forever!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Blog Number Two ...

Humm…… Not sure where to start.  I know that I need to write another blog entry, and I know what I need to write about, but I’m not sure I want to.  There was a very real reason that I haven’t made a second blog entry in the past month and a half.  I was very excited to “blog” on a regular basis, not because I felt that I really had anything enlightened to say, but rather that maybe other people on this same journey could identify with me, and visa versa.  The reason that I haven’t made a second entry, was that I was scared that I had messed up, and that maybe this journey had come to a screeching halt before it really ever started.  I was scared that if I talked about the “hiccup” in the process that maybe it would not be able to be fixed.  Not only was I going to lose my little girl, but because I had “over-shared” our plans, I was going to have to tell a million people that I messed up, and wasn’t adopting her after all.  I was scared to say that it was my fault, because I try so hard to do everything right, and messing up is simply not tolerated. 
So what did I do so wrong....?  I completely bombed our 3rd (and supposedly final) home study meeting.  I won’t get into the details, but let’s just say that as I watched the conversation spiral out of control, I burst into tears, and the social worker said that we couldn’t proceed with the home study until my husband and I met with a marriage counselor a few times.   The floor fell out beneath me.  I bawled for about 6 hours and then finally went to bed.  The next day I called 6 marriage counselors, and the first to call me back was actually my initial first choice.  She had an opening 3 days later….. longest 3 days ever!  I needed to get this fixed.  I needed to fix this before anyone found out.  I needed to keep on my time line, because time is critical when your child is stuck on the other side of the world, without you.  I wasn’t going to fail her before I even had the chance to hold her.  I couldn’t let her suffer because I messed up.  I would fix this!

Fast forward six weeks.  It has been fixed.  I think.  Our social worked just left, after what was now the final home study meeting.  She seemed happy.  She said that we were good.  She said that because we so eagerly agreed to meet with a marriage counselor and work through what she saw our issues to be, that she was comfortable with us again.  I hope.  I still won’t breathe easy until the home study is actually written up. 

So now I blog.  I hope no one else has to identify with this.  I do have to sincerely thank whomever it was on Facebook that pointed out marriage counselors are not a bad thing.  It those first days between “the incident” and the first marriage counselor meeting, I simply asked on the RR Facebook page if anyone’s social workers had suggested marriage counseling.  Thankfully, all the comments were positive and helpful, even if no one really knew the reason I was asking.  You were right, marriage counselors are great!  She was wonderful.  In hind sight, this “hiccup” was probably one of the better things to happen in our marriage.  Well, maybe that’s a stretch, but it wasn’t nearly the worst thing.  We are back on track.  I don’t think it effected our time line.  My munchkin will still be mine!  I hope…