Wordless Wednesday: Retro Picture – Our first year together

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Of Age and Adoption

When Anthony was born, I was 17 years old and only months away from graduating high school. And Ethan, he was born when I was 18.

Now, I  might seem weird to some people if they didn’t know the whole story: my boys were adopted.

I get weird looks sometimes as I walk out with the boys or if I’m asked about the age of my kids at work. People are surprised to hear that I could have a 10-year-old at my age. My first response was initially to explain the situation, “oh, well you see, they’re adopted. We just finalized the adoption last Christmas.”

But that came out weird. That makes it sounds as if we haven’t  been raising them for years and haven’t been a part of their lives since they were born. Eventually, I began explaining the entire situation to anyone who would ask.

When I got pregnant with Keira, it added another complication to the age question. “Oh, is this your first baby?”

“Well, kinda.”

“Ha! How can it only ‘kinda’ be your first?” Again, I would have to explain the entire story.

Once, while I was out with all three of my kids, a complete stranger remarked on the boys and how well-mannered they were. “Are they all your children?” I nodded and along came the eye-brow raise as she surveyed my age and surveyed the boys’ ages. Instinctively, I began my speech on how they were actually adopted…. until, I looked over at Ethan.

While he was originally beaming at the woman for complimenting him, he started to look down and shuffle his feet, uncomfortable with the fact that I had called out that he was adopted. He was different. He didn’t belong. I could see these thoughts float across his face.

What was I thinking? Was trying to explain away the possibility that I was a “teen mom” worth the discomfort I was putting on my child? Why was it more important for me to be less uncomfortable than the security and belonging of my son? It wasn’t.

The following week, Ethan, Keira and I went on a trip to our favorite grocery store. I saw a woman baby wearing her baby and immediately struck up a conversation. Her baby was only 4 days older than Keira. She turned and looked at Ethan, “oh, is he your son as well?” I beamed and nodded. She turned to me and I could see that look starting to cross her face….

“I have a 10-year-old at home, too. It’s such a great help to have older siblings! They’re fantastic older brothers!!” She laughed and we talked on for a bit before parting ways. Ethan grabbed my hand, looked up at me and smiled.

Goodbye 2010

2010 was a magical year in the world of Domestic Deeds. It was the first year that the boys called us “Mom” and “Dad” for an entire year, knowing they were legally ours. It was the first year that we celebrated Mother’s and Father’s Day without any disclaimers. It was the first year that we experienced life with a baby. It was the first year where being awake at 2am was not because we were partying but rather because we were sleepily tending to a screaming baby.

Last year, as we prepared for the new year of 2010, Keira was only a tiny kicking presence in my belly and the four of us were still on a high from the completion of the adoption after years of waiting.

Christmas 2009

With the birth of Keira in 2010, our family was complete. A wonderful family of five with two crazy boys and an energetic baby girl to help balance us out. In this year, I’ve watched my little boys slowly turn into the young men of Anthony and Ethan, ready to claim their independence in opinions and fashion. And with each new day, I see Keira make strides to become her own little person.

Christmas 2010

Christmas 2010

It’s not just the kids that have grown through 2010. With a new baby and balancing the lives of three children, two grandparents and an aunt all under one roof, we’ve finally grown into our title as “parents”. It was easy to fake our way through the motions of trying to be good parents when you have two older children to help show you the road and teach you along the way. Darling Keira has given us a crash course in parenting and the boys a crash course in being good big brothers.

 

Spoiled Children 2010

2010, you’ve given me my perfect little family.

2011, may you continue to give us joy and love as we watch our little ones grow and our roles as parents blossom.

 

The Best Laid Plans…

I admit, I was pretty worked up over my business travel this past week. The boys were over 7 years old the very first time I traveled on business since the moment we started raising them. I’d never left a baby at home, especially knowing she was completely dependent on me as her food source.

So, I had created a plan. I took off work for a half day before my trip to get that extra bit of time to spend it with my family. Then I arranged for the entire family to meet me down at my conference in Washington D.C. for some family time! We had gone to D.C. last just before I had gotten pregnant with Keira. I envisioned us all standing in front of the capital building again for a family picture – this time with baby Keira. For me, it was the perfect idea to reconnect after being separated from the family.

Family D.C. Trip - 2009

But things never go as planned, do they?

The family ended up arriving in my hotel a day earlier than planned as I found myself with with two double beds instead of a lone queen. After Jason had woken up many times with the baby the first night I was gone, I figured he could appreciate handing over the night time duty a day earlier. Plus, the family would be well rested for us to get to the fun the next day instead of being tired from travel.

Thursday afternoon, my conference was over and we checked into the  family hotel just as they were allowing check ins. We unpacked into the drawers and decided to explore the hotel, especially the pool. What we found was the hotel wasn’t as big as we expected and the pool was actually outside… and closed for the season. Bummer. So, we headed back up to the room to start debating where to go for dinner and what attractions we could sneak in.

Almost immediately after returning to the room, Anthony rushes into the bathroom, getting sick all over (oh yes, all over) the bathroom. Uh oh. Was it something he ate? We felt his head – no fever – and pulled out the sleeper sofa for him to rest. After repeated runs to the bathroom, we determined that there would be no trips out to D.C. tonight. Jason went off to get soup for Anthony and dinner for the rest of the family and we spent the evening watching bad family movies. We considered just going home but Anthony would have never made it home without “kissing” the sickie bags.

The next morning, Anthony said he felt much better. Whew! Poor boy must have just ate something that didn’t agree with him. We got everyone ready and breakfast was eaten. We determined that Jason had forgotten Keira’s jacket (It’s not his fault that he doesn’t know where her clothes is when I’m the one in charge of the laundry!!). So, we headed off to BabiesRUs to purchase a baby coat. After only walking around for five minutes, Anthony doubles over, clutching his stomach. Jason looks at me, “We can’t do this to Anthony.” And we resign ourselves to the realization that this D.C. trip just isn’t going to turn out.

As we pack up the hotel room, Anthony laid on the hotel couch, apologizing over and over again between tears, “I’m so sorry, guys! I’m so sorry.” Poor kid.

Poor Sick Anthony

Wouldn’t you know it… an hour into our ride back home and Anthony is feeling totally fine. Even after bringing in all the luggage into the house. “Sorry that we had to cancel the trip,” he said. Just before he ran outside to play with the neighbors.

Being a “New Mom”

On our last day of being in the hospital following Keira’s birth, my daytime nurse came in to start the check out process by putting together all our forms and performing Keira’s last little tests. She found Jason sitting on the laptop sending out announcement pictures and emails. Meanwhile, I was enjoying the peaceful moment while Keira slept in her bassinet by reading up on her baby development out loud to Jason. After a bit, the nurse turned to us and said “You guys are one of my favorite patients! You’re definitely one of the most relaxed first time parents I’ve had!!”

I smiled at her as she walked away, proud of myself for staying calm as a new mom.

But wait….

I’m not a new mom!!

“New Mom”. The most frustrating phrase to hear in the last couple of months. Doctors asking, “Do you plan to have a second child?” Friends giving advice on how to raise and parent children. Or coworkers saying “Oh, just wait until she’s older – you’re in for a surprise!” So many people just tend to overlook the fact that I already have two children.

“Well, you know what I mean….”

I try not to feel that my role as a mother has been invalidated with these statements. In reality, we’ve been a part of raising these boys since they were 5 & 6, piggy-backing off of the parenting already instilled into them by my parents. Before we moved in with them, we were still a part of watching them grow and getting daily updates from 3,000 miles away. And while the transition to being an aunt to a mom was difficult, it was much easier to begin parenthood at that age than the learning curve of being a new mom to a newborn.

I realize that there’s plenty to learn as a mom to a new infant. I’ve never had to deal with breastfeeding or needing to find fulltime year-round childcare. But there’s a sense of confidence we now experience as parents to our third child. There’s the knowledge and understanding that we won’t break our child and damage them forever if we’re giving them the love they need. The basics of how to balance our time and the parenting philosophies have already been figured out.

I’m not a new mom. I’m the mother to a new baby. I’m the mother to an artistic, sensitive jock. I’m the mother to an independent, sarcastic tween.

The Regrets of an Adoptive Mom

Everyone lives with a couple of regrets in their lives – those key moments in life when you really wish you would have done something different.

Anthony is born

When Anthony was born, I was in my final years of high school. I was a proud Auntie of my first nephew and cooed over him constantly. I treasure the picture of me holding him for the first time. I had all summer to spend with him before going off to college. Then again for Thanksgiving and Christmas. There were TONS of pictures of him!!

The following summer, I came home from college. I made it home just in time for Ethan’s birth and was in charge of chasing Anthony around the waiting room. As Ethan was so tiny, I spent most of my summer with fun, energetic, toddler Anthony. Together, Anthony and I created many memories and stories during that summer.

Unfortunately for Ethan, that was the last year I came back home for the summer. As an upcoming college grad, I was eager to begin my post-college life and spent summers abroad and doing internships. I didn’t realize how much I was missing back home with the boys and the rest of my family.

Last year we were going through the adoption of these boys while I was also pregnant with Keira. I didn’t want the boys to feel left out of the baby process and decided to make a baby book for the both of them. I found TONS of pictures of Anthony. So much so that I had a hard time picking which ones to use. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with Ethan.

Ethan's beautiful painting

As Ethan was going through his cute fun baby and toddler years, his biological parents were moving around and eventually going through a divorce. I wasn’t around. And the boys had points where they just weren’t around for my parents to take pictures. In the time-line of family pictures, there’s a huge gap during the Baby Ethan & Toddler Ethan years.

I can tell that this hurts Ethan at times. As he’s watching Keira grow and learn, he asks questions about his own baby years. “What was my first word? When did I learn to walk? When did I get my first tooth?” I can only say “I don’t know”. The only stories I have are that he was a very needy baby,  needing to be held constantly. It’s not exactly the most happy story to tell.

I regret not being there for Ethan as a baby. I wish I had been able to provide him with support and be there for all those little moments. I wish I had witnessed him becoming a young little man. I wish I had the pictures and the stories for him to smile over sweetly about what a great baby he was. The only thing I can do now is to be there for all the rest of the important times in his life.