Sunday, November 30, 2008

The gift of choice

Tonight, Brothers and Sisters, one of my favorite TV shows, revisited the topic of adoption. In the series, Kitty, (Calista Flockhart) and her husband Robert, (Rob Lowe) are given a second chance by a birth mother with whom they would like to write an adoption plan. Kitty and Robert are unable to conceive on their own and were selected by this woman, a very ambitious and hard-working woman of color to parent her child.

Brothers and Sisters always does a good job of invoking common human experiences with a full, rich smorgasbord of feelings. The show gives you the meat as well as the potatoes, the gravy, the cranberry sauce and the pecan pie.

Tonight's show got me choked up for a variety of reasons: the most obvious being that
Chaz and I thought that Lauren would be adopted by another family after she was born. This is such a complex, painful, and yet, somehow happy thing for me to talk about it. Complex because the decision of adoption was not entered into lightly, nor did its conversation ever come without anxiety, tears, fears, relief and amazement. Complex because there is a lot to learn and do before a baby can be adopted, either into or away from your family. Happy, because we exercised our choice on so many levels. How many times, in ones life, do you get to really choose something that has already been given to you?

That is what we did with Lauren. When I found out at 15 weeks gestation that Lauren had that extra 21st chromosome, aka, Down syndrome, I could not believe my fortune. How could this be? I
already had a daughter with special needs, I already had suffered through the loss of a son, I already had a very demanding & spirited young son, I already had made room in my home/life for a child against my wishes (my step son who is now a very welcome part of the family).

Part of the adoption process is reviewing the profiles of adoptive families. There is a woman in
Cincinnati who helps facilitate the adoption of babies with Down syndrome and the families eager to raise them. I contacted her once we had decided to pursue adoption. She sent us the names and pertinent information of about 5 families.

One of these families described was a man and woman who embodied so much of what I hoped for: the mother was trained in the "Montessori Method" i.e. she had taught in a Montessori school, something I really like and have since enrolled our 5 year old son in for Kindy and 1st grade, and the dad was a very logical, reasonable person who brought a true sweetness to the relationship. I was immediately attracted to this couple as I saw in them, part of what I saw in my self and wanted for this baby.

"Susan" and "Aiden" were everything I wanted in an adoptive couple: close, kind, caring, open-minded, professional, intelligent, informed and willing. They did not have any children of their own but demonstrated a real love for the children in their family as well as a deep appreciation for people with Down syndrome.

This was both a very open and very complicated relationship for us all. I wanted them to know everything about me: how i loved my kids, loved being a mom, never thought that I'd be in this situation and wanted what was best for everyone involved. Not that I know what is best for everyone - I really don't. I wish I did.

And, "Susan" and "Aiden", were very open with me: we had many, many long and loving email exchanges. They got to know me, I got to know them. At one point, Mother's Day 2007, we packed up the van and drove to their home town, about 3 hours away. We stayed at a hotel and made arrangements to share a meal and have some time together.

It was an interesting visit and not without its share of questions. In this situation of
adoptive mother:birth mother, there is this almost tangible emotional dialogue of proving oneself and seeking proof. Not only did I want to feel completely liked by them, I also wanted to feel, without a doubt that I had chosen the right family for my baby.

It's an almost impossible situation. I wasn't 16 years old, I wasn't naive about the pain this would cause, I wasn't new to the concept of loss and I wasn't really sure how one goes about picking a family for a baby that is growing rapidly within one's own belly.

What was I afraid of? That is one of the questions I can now
ask and answer. So, what is it? What made me think that 1. I couldn't handle having a baby with Down syndrome, 2. That I could survive the experience of handing over my child to another couple and 3. How would this fit in with the rest of my difficult and challenging life?

I thought that having a baby with Down syndrome was going to be horrible. I envisioned a cute-ish baby with her tongue hanging out of her month, a lifetime of doctor visits; being 89 and still being the parent responsible for taking my daughter to the dentist. I thought of the long days of therapies, the endless need for patience, acceptance and some brand of deception that told me that it would be "okay" when, really, what I really thought way "God, no".

And, you know what? It is a lot of work and a lot of appointments for therapy and evaluations. I now pray that I will make it to 89 so that I can accompany Lauren to her dentist appointment, if she needs me to be there.

I have been working on this post since Sunday evening. It is not done: I have not yet explained what happened with me, the adoptive parents, our plans, our relationship (it's good!) or anything else brought up in this post. but, I feel like if I don't get this online, this will be a forever post and I really wanted to share this.
so, thanks for reading this.. Bless you all for being in my life - in one way or another.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Do people with Down syndrome suffer?

this was written by someone else -- Kristy Colvin, but I really like it. Please read it and leave your comments:

Yesterday I received an email alert that brought up a discussion of Down
syndrome. poses the question, "Would you keep a baby with Down syndrome? Does a person with Down syndrome really suffer in today's society? Should a test for this disorder even be an option for pregnant women?"

The responders of this debate come from all sides. The one question that
struck me hard was "Does a person with Down syndrome really suffer in
today's society?"

My answer is 'yes', but not the way most people who do not have a child with
Down syndrome or mosaic Down syndrome think.

A person with Down syndrome or mosaic Down syndrome does suffer.

They suffer from ignorance.
Not their own-But the world's.

They suffer from discrimination.
Not because they can not discriminate the differences between others-But
because the world discriminates against them.

They suffer from communication problems.
Not because they can not communicate- But because the world will not listen
and communicate with them.

They suffer from misunderstanding.
Not because they don't understand-But because the world refuses to
understand them.

They suffer from learning problems.
Not because they can not learn-But because the world believes they are not

They suffer from the inability to make friendships.
Not because they are unable to be a friend-But because the world teaches
their children to not associate with them.

Do people with Down syndrome suffer? Yes, unfortunately they do. But only
because the world sees them as so incredibly different from themselves.

If the world would stop and get to know-really know-someone with Down
syndrome, they they would realize that they are no different than anyone

Some may talk a little different, but that doesn't mean they don't know what
they are saying! It just means they have trouble forming the words.

Some may learn a little different, but that doesn't mean they can not learn!
It means that like every single other person in the world, they learn at
their own pace.

Some may look a little different, but that doesn't mean something is "wrong"
with them. Even identical twins look a little different from one another.

My son has mosaic Down syndrome.

He is 22 years old.

He likes RPG video games.

He likes YouTube.

He likes horror movies.

He LOVES girls.

He plans to have a family.

He plans to have a career in computer graphics.

He is a great writer and hopes to be published one day.

He wants to travel.

He would love to go to Japan.

He likes hanging out with his friends.

How different is he really to any other 22 year old?

This goes back to my statement years ago that became my Trademark:

The Only Handicap A Person Has Are The People Around Them!

The only thing people with Down syndrome or mosaic Down syndrome suffer from
are the people in the world who do not believe they should be here in the
first place.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My trip to the "C" lab

Okay, I just need to get some stuff off of my chest, out of my head and away from my nose. I'm not sure how this is going to come across or sound and I may need to edit it later...but for now, here goes.

Today I accompanied 30 Monroe high students to a cadaver lab at a teaching hospital in Toledo, Ohio. As a counseling intern, I made myself available to the career counselor at the school. The group was made up of young women interested in a career in the health/medical field.
Oh man, was that a mistake or what?
To say it was horrifying doesn't quite cover it. I'm not weak-stomached and I didn't get queesy. And yet, I can't quite explain how heart-wrenching and unsettling it was to see this room full of bodies.

All of these bodies breathed in oxygen, ate, drank, pooped, loved, made love, ran, climbed, worked, sang, read, wrote, hurt, caused pain, gave birth, comforted, learned, forgot, prayed, ignored and experienced a hundred million other things.

But, in death, in physical death at least, you are nothing more than a set of organs-- sometimes prized by med students eager to disect your guts and find your orbital lobe and ductus differens. Granted, most bodies do not get 'donated to science' but instead are either buried immediately or cremated.

In no way, shape or form was I inspired by this experience. Did seeing a badly deteriorated lung want me to take up running again or did the sagging stomach make me glad I make sit-ups a regular part of my life? No, not really.

What it did say to me is that we spend so much time taking care of our bodies, our exteriors that sometimes we think that that is all that matters or all that people see. But in the end, we aren't any different than any other 'body'. We have the same parts; some bigger some smaller than others. We aren't going to be prized for having a perfect spleen at the time of death.

All of these 'bodies' left behind a memory, a story, a family, friends, traditions, beliefs and hopes. That is so much more than a 2nd year med student could ever uncover. What they do is valuable and meaningful, for sure, but it isn't what gives life meaning or value.

It felt good to get some of this off of my formaldahyde-infused clothes and into the cyber world. I hope that I have good dreams.
I hope that you do, too.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

we have no bananas today; but can we talk about teen pregnancy?

Today was interesting. I started my internship at Monroe High school on Monday. Talk about going from the frying pan into the fryer. Kids are unpredictable, difficult and completely and utterly perplexing.

Who would predict, as a new mother, that in, say, 15 years, your daughter would be expecting a baby of her own? And acting like it was totally natural?

For each day I live, I learn that people are unique, oblivious and unstoppable!!

Good thing, sometimes. Other times, not so much. Today, for instance, my supervisor was visited by one her students for a schedule change. This young woman was hoping to change her schedule because she is pregnant. Six months pregnant and isn't sure she can handle a PE class first hour. She thought it would be easier to have math first hour.

What does it mean to be a new mom at 7:30 in the morning? For me, that was halfway through the night. In a decadent, and never duplicated manner, I would sleep in every morning (that I could) after having babies. They would be up alot between the hours of 12 and 4 but after 5 we would settle in for a good sleep, even if it was broken by the need to nurse - baby's and mine.

But, this 15 year old girl at the High school is thinking that getting to school at 7:30 is doable, reasonable and practical and that the thing to worry about is what class she is taking first hour.

If only I were 15 and didn't have a lifetime of doubt, uncertainty and fatigue in front of me.

Part of me wanted to shake this young woman and part of me wanted to follow her home and bask in the glow of her naivete.

Alas, i could do neither. Instead, I picked up LoLo from daycare, shopped for dinner groceries, came home, fed a child, made some phone calls, started cookies for Boy scouts, therapied with Lauren, packed up cookies, went to Boy scouts, attempted to help Gabe make Dream Catcher, cleaned school, came home, helped layout design for cub scout boat, make Lauren giggle, got snack, bottle, put kids to bed.\\\

that's it. It doesn't matter how much i did, today. What matters is how much it all mattered to me.

alot, a real, whole lot.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bananas and medical bills..

today, in the mail, my 15 month old daughter, Lauren, received a survey to fill out. Since she was recently in the ER at our local hospital and clearly proved to them how very capable she is, they are following up on the services they provided to her and, because I just happened to be there, me.

Was the receptionist courteous, was the wait time reasonable, how comfortable was the waiting area???

Lauren seemed very irritated by these questions and decided to take the 5th. In response she stuffed a veggie stick in her mouth and feign indifference.

But, what is it with hospitals and doctor's offices and the billing departments?

How many people do you know who have been hit with extraordinary costs associated with a hospital 'visit'? Thank God for insurance right? Not always.

For reasons I cannot explain, I have held onto a statement we received from Toledo Hospital. This is where our son, Gaven, was taken after he stopped breathing at daycare. Months and months and months after I bathed and dressed his little body one last time and we had buried him, a bill came to us in the amount of $161,000. We thought we had moved past this part of things because Thank God, we were able to qualify him for insurance due to not working for the 2 weeks Gaven was on life-support.

But, there it was. I returned home from work, full of that heaviness that came with grief. The mail had long since ceased delivering the sympathy cards that somehow, in some small way, reminded me that people remembered our dear son and were thinking about us, and the many hours and days it had been since he had passed.

Even seeing his name on something stopped my heart just a little bit (it still does) and I eagerly opened the envelope. It listed the various services he had received while in the PICU and the cost of each. The cost was staggering (though very little compared to some).

The next day I called the billing department about the bill. As soon as they had entered the account number, the woman said something like, "oh, yeah, you can disregard that - computer error". Well, bust my buttons Dorothy, but that is a really crappy error.

On to the BANANAS!!!!!!

This is my son Gabe:

he is 5 and a 1st grader at Meadow Montessori school. Today and for the next 4 days he is responsible for snacks for his classroom. There are 16 kids total and last night we picked out bananas and vanilla wafers. Tonight, being Gabe, he thought we better write the name of each classmate on a banana. Sixteen bananas, 16 names. That is just so funny to me.
Much funnier than the hospital bill. Fo Sho.

Friday, November 14, 2008

i'm done, i'm done, i'm done, i'm done

I can hardly believe it but after 19 months of Tuesday night classes and Wednesday-Monday homework, I am DONE!! I just finished my last paper for a long time!

What a great feeling it is to know that challenges can be met. I know that God blessed me with the patience, vision and perserverance to get through this time.

I will never forget going through the interview process for school. I sat before a tablefull of professors, deans, etc.. they asked question after question about my intentions, my faith, my ambitions, etc.

I was accepted into the graduate program in counseling.

A few months passed and I realized that my body was 'changing'. I attributed everything to early menopause. After all, both of my sisters Juliette and Caroline began menopause early so why not me? I gained weight, I overate, I was incredibly tired.

Upon the advice of one of Ada's doctors I took a pregnancy test: to rule out pregnancy.

No Way! It was positive and I was shocked!

Needless to say, when one is almost 12 weeks along in a pregnancy, one doesn't have to wait the full 3-5 minutes to see that 2nd line appear - the one that says ; YOU'RE PREGNANT.

So, I began graduate school the same day I had my first OB/GYN appt. How surreal it was.

That was 20 months ago.... Alot has happened. A real whole lot.

Lauren, my little ray of sunshine is here. That is such a long story in and of itself.

She is probably the most key ingredient in my finishing school and getting through the past few months; she proved to me that all things are worth fighting for and all things are worth waiting for.

So, tomorrow I give one last presentation. Something about counseling in the elementary school. On Monday I start my internship at Monroe High.

It is a good feeling...a very good feeling!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

People are hurting.

Today in class we listened as our professor read a cool essay written by a Anne Lamont who discovered the presence of God during a very trying time. The name of the book is Traveling Mercies. One of her main points is that sometimes we are given adverse situations and trials to divert our attentions so that something new can be born elsewhere.

We had a chance to discuss the passage and what it 'said' to us. It's a lovely thought to think that while this crap is happening over here, something really wonderful is happening over there - and that we will get to enjoy it someday. I think that it's true. I also think it's true that sometimes we get so caught up in the muck of life that we forget to look for the good stuff. I know that I do. This past week was really challenging - my oldest wouldn't get out of bed and I thought she might need to be hospitalized, I had way too much homework to do, and just the general - too much time, too little energy mode that I spend alot of my time slogging around in.

but, here we are. It's a Saturday night. The kids (and hubby) are asleep. I got my work turned in today (not that I don't have a ton more to do). Had a pleasant day with my fellow classmates and managed to find the silver lining in our rather dismal financial state ...after all, I am one of " Kroger's Best Customers".

Anyway, what I'm getting at, very slowly, is that people are hurting. You, Me, your neighbors, friends, classmates, co-workers, the cashier at Kroger. What are they/we hurting about? Lots of things: broken hearts, bad news, kids in trouble, financial worry, lack of friends, addictions, health problems, marital problems etc....

We could all use some support, sometime. Even though we are all connected via email, MySpace, facebook, bulletin boards, our phones, blackberries etc. we still need human contact. It's amazing how all of the new technology can actually cut us off from the world. Let people know that you care and take some time to listen to their troubles and concerns.

Monday, November 3, 2008

now I can write about anything I want...

I (barely) made it through October a.k.a 21 for 31, a.k.a. Down syndrome awareness month. that was a toughie for me. I had a couple of weeks there were life took from me a tad bit more than it gave and I felt depleted. Too depleted to blog...oh the shame of it.

But, it's another month and I'm no longer 'restricted' to the confines of commenting about Down syndrome.

So, what should I talk about?

I could talk about how bad of an idea it is to hold off on homework till the end of the day. Gabe is 5 and has homework. He has to read "literature' and then comment about it, write True/False questions, look up words he doesn't understand and other tasks. If he is 'on' he gets right to work and it's fun and fascinating. When it's 7: 20 on day two of Daylight Saving time, it's all he can do to hold a pencil without me grabbing it from him and poking out my own eyes. These are long days, sister - they start early and don't level off till much later.

Or I could talk about my daughter, Ada, and how interesting she has made my life. From day one till today she has been unpredictable. That is 23 years of unpredictability. She's had some good days and some bad ones. This last 6 months has been a bad one.

Let's see...what else? Tomorrow is election day - I'm very excited. My son, Nolan, is coming down from Central Michigan university to cast his vote and i'm planning on taking Gabe with me to the polls at some point. We're also going up to Ann Arbor tomorrow so that Lauren can be videotaped while walking on her baby treadmill. A Dr. at U of M did a study on babies with Down syndrome using one of these specially made treadmills. Lauren has used her's off and on since March.
I tried to get out of this since she isn't really walking and I tend to do alot of the work when she is on it, but the kind dr. said it would be fine. After that, we'll hit Trader Joe's, stop on the way home to visit my bud, Monica and her lovely family, and then head home for a nap.

that's as far as I can plan at this point.... Let's hope that everyone who can vote, will get out there and do so!

Gabe, Curtis and Dav

Future Drummer?

Future Drummer?