Sunday, February 21, 2016

When It Nearly Fell Apart

After our third visit to NYC to see Gavin's birth mother, and toward the end of March we had settled into somewhat of a routine.  We both had a lot of work to do in preparation of taking some time off in the near future; we were both running and working out a lot; I spent a great deal of time texting Gavin's birth mother each day, helping her sort things out; we had a house to get ready for a baby...but I wondered if she'd ever have this baby and assuming she did, she couldn't sign anything until the baby was born and we were there. 

About a week and a half before what became Gavin's birth day, and just a few days after our third visit, Gavin's birth mother texted, saying that we needed to come back to NYC very soon so we could discuss the adoption and new developments.  We replied that we didn't understand, we thought that we would be there when the baby was born and there wasn't a whole lot else to discuss until then.  She refused to give details so we began to get worried and called attorneys/social workers the next morning.  After she met with her social worker, we learned that she had signed something promising to give the baby up to her mother.  She wasn't pleased with this and she felt coerced, but this is where things were.  (I'm leaving more out of this section than of any other but if anyone wants details via phone or email I'll be happy to give them).  Her family wanted this baby to stay close to them.  We knew this was important and were willing to visit at least once a year so she and her family could see our child.  This was not enough for them. 

We offered to have a phone conversation with her family, which they agreed to.  After discussing the situation we found that we were at completely opposite ends of a taut rope at this point, and none of us were willing to move.  That phone call was one of the lowest points of my life.  Swears were said. Tears were shed.  it was bad.  But there was also nothing we could do until this baby was born.  We weren't willing to take her promises anymore until then. 

So we were in the uncomfortable position of needing to tell people that we might not actually be having a baby soon, but we might well still be.  It was a terrible limbo.  We kept it to ourselves pretty well, mainly because we didn't relish the idea of going over and over the situation with everyone.  I told only two close friends and I only told them because they asked how the waiting game was going.  They were heartbroken for us and I'm glad I had them to vent to.  Four days or so after the phone call with her family I was at work on a Saturday and while working with a woman I had met just the month before, she mentioned how I'd be soon taking time off with a new baby.  I was pretty numbed at this point to the idea of not getting the baby after all, but when I told her of the recent developments, Sandy just bent over in her chair and cried for me.  Sandy is, to this day and most likely forever, one of my dearest friends because of her good heart and what she did for me through this time.  In hindsight it was odd to comfort Sandy when we were the ones heartbroken. 

Thankfully, Sandy explained the situation to my boss so I didn't have to.  When I met with him the following Monday about work stuff I brought up the subject that I might not be taking some extended time off of work after all.  Like Sandy's reaction I will always remember and be grateful for Bill's sadness and understanding when I explained that we still hoped to bring this baby home.  Our plan now was to travel to NYC when this baby was born and either we'd come home with him or we'd catch a flight to somewhere we'd never been.  I started researching Iceland and Prague as my top choices.  I have never so much wanted to not go on vacation. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Third Visit

Again, two weeks after our second visit together, Stewart and I made plans to visit our birth mother in NYC.  This time we road tripped with one of my co-workers and her husband, and their puppy.  We left super early Saturday morning in their van.  Their reason for driving to NYC was to drop the puppy at the airport to travel to his new home in eastern Europe.  They breed puppies (Swiss Mountain Dogs) and they sold one to someone in some country that I can't think of right now. 

We got a bit lost but once we were in the city, we had them drop us off and we navigated our way to the hotel we booked down town.  Miracle of miracles, the room I booked online for $150 which is a steal for the neighborhood we were in, even for a tiny room, was upgraded to a two bedroom suite for the same price.  It was pretty sweet and probably the biggest room I've ever had in NYC for the least cost.

Hotel room aside, the trip was really good too.  One of the main reasons for us to make this third visit was so that we could meet her family who had some concerns about the adoption and while she was of age to place her baby without their permission, we were willing to stay in contact with her family so they could see updates on Gavin as he grows up.  But due to circumstances this visit didn't happen and in hindsight I'm glad to have avoided the awkwardness that would have been present.

So instead we took her shopping and just spent more time with our birth mother.  She was very pregnant and uncomfortable and it was weird to see the baby inside her move.  She asked us what we wanted to name the baby because she wanted that to be the name she would give him in the hospital so that he wouldn't have two names.  I think she also asked us to have him baptized in the Catholic Church.

We all went to church again together on Sunday before Stewart and I took the train home to Buffalo again.  At this point I started to worry that she would be the first woman to be forever pregnant.  Would she ever have this baby?  Would something go wrong to keep us from bringing this baby home?

At this point, and SPOILER, it's weird to think that there was a time when Gavin was anything but 100% ours.  He now will reply to my "Love you, Gavin" with an "I love you too, Mama" and that's pretty much the best thing ever.

Next up, he almost wasn't ours.  I still get worked up when I think about the two weeks that followed our third and final visit with Gavin's pregnant birth mother.   

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Second Meeting--this time with Stewart

When I returned from my first NYC trip with Gavin's birth mother I had to first explain to everyone how while we thought we'd be having a baby that weekend, it would actually most probably still be several weeks.  On one hand it gave us more time to prepare and to get things in order.  On the other hand it gave us more time for things to derail this adoption and for us to go stir crazy waiting.  But our lives took on a form or normalcy that seems like a dream when I think of those days now.  Work for me was crazy busy, especially with the understanding that I'd soon be taking some serious time off.  We had lots of friends who wanted to throw us baby showers there were several people (i.e. our mothers) who were almost as excited as we were, just without the concerns we had that things wouldn't work out. 

I received so much advice from co workers, as well as so much baby stuff.  I think people took it as an opportunity to clean out their old baby stuff and we were the recipients.  I still smile when Gavin pulls out a toy from one of my Synacor family members.  One of my coworkers adopted both of his kids from Korea so he and I had many conversations about what may lie ahead for our little family.  Neither he nor his wife look at all like their Korean kids, but Andy said he still is awed when he looks at his son and sees himself, or when others mention how much his son looks like him.  He means in facial expressions and how he holds himself.  But we had discussions about identity and how he and his wife have handled some of the issues that have come us.  When people find out you're in the process of adopting, they are also more likely to talk about the experiences with adoption.  This is how we found out that some of our friends were adopted, and so many of them were gracious enough to answer and bear any questions we (mostly I) threw at them.  I will forever be grateful that we live in a time when adoption is an open topic and something that most people are not afraid to embrace.

Two weeks after my initial visit with Gavin's birth mother, Stewart and I went back together.  We have a good friend from college days who works for Jetblue and she was kind enough to let us use some of her buddy passes to fly to NYC for a weekend.  We took the train home again on Sunday afternoon.

I'm so glad that Stewart got to meet her and that we got to have a really good weekend together.  I honestly think that it's because of our visits that things worked out.  We took Gavin's birth mother shopping for food and some other necessities and we took her out to eat.  On Saturday we took her to the Natural History Museum which happens to be Stewart's favorite place in NYC.  It was really fun to do touristy things in a great city.  At her request we took Gavin's birth mother on a horse driven carriage ride around Central Park.  This is something I never would have done otherwise.  It's kind of expensive and I like a good walk around the park anyway, but for her it was a pleasure.  And now I'm so glad to have done it.  All this time we're communicating with her using our very limited sign language and by writing notes.  But we made it work. 

We attended church with her again on Sunday, her request being that we pick her up in a cab and all go together as a family.  Attending a deaf congregation is interesting in so many ways.  No one closes their eyes for the prayer because they can't know what is being said if their eyes are closed.  Hymns are signed except by any one in the congregation who is hearing and chooses to sing.  After church, Stewart and I headed off to Penn Station to catch our train home. 

**side note from today: We still use a video monitor to see into Gavin's room at night.  The camera is currently stationed on a shelf above the shelf that holds his humidifier.  Every now and again a puff of humidifier air will float in the camera's view and when I see it out of the corner of my eye it looks like a ghost.  It totally freaked me out the first time I saw it.  But here's one of my favorite shots from the end of the summer.  This kid.  He's it. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Her name is Kylie

Kylie is not Gavin's birth mother.  But she knew our birth mother and without her Gavin wouldn't be our little boy.  Kylie is wonderful and faithful and kind and so many other things.  Please forgive me if I get any of the details wrong but this is how I remember it from the version Kylie shared with me last year.  Kylie lived in NYC and attended the deaf branch of the LDS church there.  Kylie is not deaf but is married to a deaf man.  They are two of the most faithful people I have ever known.  So here is how I remember Kylie's tale. 

In December 2013 she went to a church activity and ran into our birth mother.  It was at this meeting that our birth mother told Kylie that she was pregnant and didn't want the baby.  Kylie told her that she could have the baby adopted by a good Mormon couple that she could choose.  Our birth mother was excited by that idea and soon set up her first appointment with LDS Services in Manhattan.  At some point she put together a list of what she wanted in an adoptive couple and the social worker gave her a couple profiles to view, ours being one of them.  We skyped with her and the next day she picked us!!

Now Kylie's version of the story is incredibly faith filled and she believes that all of this happened because it was meant to happen and that we were destined to be Gavin's parents.  I often tell people who ask for the story of Gavin's adoption that if they believe in miracles they will see them all along our path.

Kylie has since left NYC.  She and her husband now live on the west coast and I hope that this means we get to see her more often, but as it stands we Facetime occasionally.  She and her husband had a baby nearly a year after Gavin was born.  If we ever have a daughter her name will be in the running because I feel like we owe her so much for helping our birth mother find and choose us.  But according to Kylie, who is humble beyond words, she deserves none of the credit.  She is just happy to have been a part of our miracle.   

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The First Meeting

We felt pretty good at this point, though still a little unsure because so much could derail our adoption.  We had some contact with our birth mother and we tried to prepare for this next step in our lives.

Our birth mother has had a rough life.  Like, very rough.  She's deaf and lives off of her social security disability.  She grew up in a foster home in Queens and from what I have pieced together, she was kicked out around the time she turned 18.  She had three kids, one born each winter/spring in the three years before Gavin was born.  I often think of all the things I take for granted and I appreciate all that I had to give me a head start on my own life.  She had  none of that.  And since we made ourselves (mostly myself) available to her, we started hearing from her a lot.  All day, into the evenings and sometimes in the night.

When she first came to LDS social services she told them that she was due February 22 and we had every reason to believe her because she had already had three babies, and recently too.  So when she texted on February 13 that she was in labor I knew I needed to get to NYC pronto.  I had a co worker drive me to the airport where Stewart met me with some luggage of what he thought I'd need for a few days until the baby was born and he could join me.  I bought a plane ticket at the counter and it was all very dramatic.  By the time I landed at JFK there was still no baby.  Our birth mother was not really in labor, but since I was there, I offered to meet up with her so we could get to know one another.

At this point my sign language skills consisted basically of the alphabet, and I was very slow at that.  We wrote a lot that weekend.  I admit that part of me was worried before I met her that she wasn't really pregnant but that she was scamming us and and LDS social services.  But she was in fact pregnant and quite so from what I could tell, with my no experience with a pregnancy beyond 8 weeks.

That Friday was Valentine's day and Stewart was home alone.  Poor guy.  That evening, after I had returned to my friends' apartment where I was staying until the baby was born and Stewart joined me, I got a series of texts from our birth mother that she was in labor and headed to the hospital.  I packed a few things and grabbed a cab to her hospital where I met her in an exam room.  I wasn't there long before I realized that she was not in fact due on February 22.  Not in February at all.  And most likely not in March either.  Probably April.  But I was ready to have a baby now!  But the doctor did confirm that the baby was in fact a boy.  I have no idea how she figured her due date or that it was a boy because this was the first pre natal visit she had.  With this pregnancy or her other three.  I don't know if she thought she didn't need it or if she thought she'd have to pay for it.  The doctor explained that with her medicaid she could get all the pre natal care she needs for the remainder of this pregnancy for free, and that the hospital would provide an interpreter.

I learned so much about this hospital and medicaid and the welfare system in general, as well as a lot about our birth mother over the next several weeks as I helped our birth mother make and keep appointments.  She usually gave her phone to a nurse or doctor to call me at these appointments so they could explain to me how she was doing.  Screw you, HIPAA.  But at each appointment, both birth mother and baby seemed healthy.  I started reading about survival rates of babies at various stages of a pregnancy.  I can only imagine how OCD and obsessed I would have been if I had to go through a full pregnancy.

On the Sunday following Valentine's day I attended church with our birth mother in the sign language congregation where she attended.  They "sing" hymns and my eyes were not the only ones open during prayers.  I met her branch president and the missionaries there and I'm so glad I did.  But I couldn't stay in NYC for two months so after church I took the train (I LOVE trains) home to Buffalo with a promise to return soon, and with Stewart.

Next up, the one woman who, more than anyone besides our birth mother herself, made our adoption possible. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Initial Phone Call

They way that the system works (or at least worked in our case) was that when an expectant mother decides to give her baby up and meets with an agency or attorney, she tells them what she has in mind as far as an adoptive couple/person.  The agency or attorney then helps her find people who meet these criteria.  When we fit our agency or attorney would share our profile and the link to the blog we created just for this purpose.  She looks through several and decides who she wants to meet.  We made it this far once in December 2013 but ultimately weren't chosen.  During the first week of February 2014 we got a call from LDS Social Services that we met the criteria for an expectant mother.  After a brief description of her we, without hesitation, allowed them to share our profile with her.  The following day she said that she wanted to skype with us. 

**side note here...For anyone who believes in miracles there are so many of them in the story of how Gavin became a Forbes.  For anyone who doesn't, there are some amazing coincidences.  Many of them begin about here. 

This expectant mother is deaf so our call was delayed a day while the social worker lined up an interpreter.  The week before we learned of her, a deaf man I worked with started offering a sign language class over lunch once a week.  I attended so I had a bit of a head start (not really but I did remember most of the alphabet) and it showed her that I had an interest in learning sign language.  It was a nerve wracking but really good call but we had no way to gauge how she felt about it.  The following morning while I was at work I got an email from the expectant mother that intimated that she had picked us after our call the previous night.  I showed a co worker and forwarded it to the social worker.  And yes, she had picked us!  Wow.  So many emotions and a fair amount of disbelief.

We made phone calls and told our families and tried unsuccessfully to keep from getting our hopes up.  And we put up the crib we'd had shoved in a corner of our third bedroom nursery.  Part of me had a hard time believing that we'd ever really become parents but here we were.  There was still a lot that could go wrong and some of it almost did but we made it this far and we were cautiously optimistic overjoyed at the prospect. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Not just any baby will do

One of the forms we had to fill out to help match us with a birthmother related to what we wanted and were willing to accept as far as the child goes.  Some questions were easy.  We said we'd accept either gender and any racial make up.  Beyond that it required a bit more soul searching. 

We had a list of diseases/possible birth defects/other things that we had to consider.  We talked to doctor friends and looked stuff up on the internet and talked about a lot of things we never thought we'd have to consider when having a child.  Ultimately we crossed several things off our list of what we would accept but we still left quite a bit that we'd consider.  At times this felt pretty crappy because it's hard to want a baby desperately but to have to admit that we don't want just ANY baby.  But, whether it's a rationalization or legitimate reasoning, we were ok with our choices because we gave up a whole lot of control by choosing this route and this was one way that we could reassert some control over the situation.  All of the information we got from birth mothers was self reported so we knew we'd never be 100% sure that the information we had would be accurate anyway. 

At one point we were given the chance to be considered by a pregnant woman who had an STD.  I got the information about the birthmother while I was at work and I remember looking up the disease and saying rather loudly in my very open work environment, "well, if you're going to have an STD, that's the one you want."  Fortunately my co workers all knew what we were going through and they assumed my comment was related to an adoption rather than marital problems at home. 

After all this was done and our wait officially began we tried to distract ourselves as best as we could.  One of my favorite distractions was a trip we made to NYC just after Thanksgiving in 2013.  We met up with some old friends and had a great time playing for a few days.  One of our friends is very tall and this is me wearing his coat and hat before we headed out for the day.   
 And a more serious picture of the two of us. We saw a couple of plays and  went to some museums and went to mass at St. Patrick's and walked all the way back to our hotel one night while Stewart and Dan sang loudly in the street and ate great steaks and pizza and laughed and just had a great time. 
Little did we know on that trip to NYC that our birth mother was there too, pregnant with our Gavin and trying to decide what to do. 

*side story...last night after we put Gavin to bed he didn't fall asleep.  He wasn't fussy but he wasn't falling asleep so I went up to cuddle him a bit.  Usually when I have to do this he pushes away from me after a minute and asks to be put down and then he falls asleep.  But this time he put his head on my shoulder and we just snuggled.  Then he asked for his beanbag so we laid down there.  He asked for a blanket and had brought his stuffed lynx.  Then we smiled at each other and had kisses and talked for a few minutes and then he fell asleep blowing me kisses.  It was maybe the greatest thing ever.  I think I promised him a pony but fortunately he forgot about it this morning.