Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Not Funny Stuff

It brings me so much joy to know I can make some of you smile with my motherhood disaster stories. I promise that I laugh every single day in spite of the craziness that is two kids one year apart.

But I've also been given a teeny tiny platform and an even smaller soapbox to climb on occasionally and speak my truth from. I'm grateful for that opportunity because as scary as honesty may be, I want to share the not funny stuff. From NBC and onward, I learned that living openly had the power to touch more lives than slapping a smile on my face and answering "I'm doing great!" whenever people ask how I'm surviving.  

The truth is, as every parenting/mothering/toddlering/newborning blog will tell you, this time is not easy. It is really hard and lonely. It's squats and lunges for your character. 

People say unsolicited things to mothers with complete abandon and total disregard for how they might make a very fragile person feel. I'm guilty of this, too, but I watch myself like a hawk now.

"You're finally going to get to be a REAL mom. You had it easy the first time." 

It hurts my feelings when people say this, but I do get what they mean. I cannot compare the beautiful pain of adoption to the pain of childbirth and recovery. But I will say this: count yourself blessed if you brought your baby home from the hospital and you didn't do it with the burden of guilt that you'd just put someone you love dearly through immense physical and emotional pain. That part isn't easier. It is real motherhood.

"Oh, I feel so tired for you! But they'll sleep again someday!" 

Sure, I will be tired, but I survived it once, didn't I? Two big bad newborns, 4 Month Sleep Regressions, and every other regression after that in the span of one year couldn't possibly break me. Amelia slept through the night at 6 months old, when I was 3 months pregnant, so I had the second half of the year to catch up, right? Someday came, and she slept!

Except pregnancy hit me hard, and restless leg syndrome couldn't be cured, even with taking 3x the recommended amount of magnesium. I spent my third trimester thrashing in a bathtub filled with epsom salts every night.  

And my newborn was a great sleeper from two weeks old. She slept ten hours almost every night! Up until three months ago, and I've been up every hour and a half since, minus a few days where I just couldn't move, so she screamed and I cried, both because I felt I was a bad mom, and because I really, truly could not will my arms to push me out of bed for the eighth time in an hour.

I've always been able to push through exhaustion. And I have been dutifully doing just that. My husband needs a breakfast casserole for a work event tomorrow, and someone specifically requested mine? I'm far too flattered to not stay up late making it and then wake up early to warm it. The dog needs a root canal in a couple weeks? That's me, brushing her teeth and forcefeeding her antibiotics at 2am when I'm already up to nurse the baby. 

But my brain is starting to perform what I can only describe as selective autopilot. It remembers how to do the laundry but forgets how to check pockets (hence how my phone ended up getting put through an entire wash cycle). It recalls the reflexes required to bake three loaves of my grandma's banana bread, but forgets baking soda and doesn't turn the oven on.

I need the other part of the autopilot. I need someone to read the manual to my brain over my shoulder. But I'm home alone whenever I'm not working, which is a lot. And my husband is getting his MBA and working full time. 

"Ask for help! Accept help when people offer!"

I don't like asking for help. And as it turns out, people rarely offer anyway. My friends have jobs and lives and families and struggles of their own. I'm trying to be my own support and still listen and care for my friends and family, and I can't keep up. I feel like I'm failing everyone.

I just don't see any scenario where me asking others for help doesn't end in them resenting me or feeling like I'm a burden. So I choose not to ask.

"You'll need a community of people for when it gets hard."

Then there's the friend I tried my hardest to keep happy. Getting sitters, planning girls nights, sitting and chatting for hours about boys and jobs and all the things I can't relate to anymore when it was all I could do not to glue my own eyelids open. Even this friend, once as close as a sister, walked away from me. Without a word, without telling me what was wrong, and in spite of my best efforts to NOT change and not become THAT mom. It broke my heart. It still breaks my heart. I am angry at her. I am disappointed in her. I miss her and I'm sad.

"It goes by so fast."

It does. But not fast enough, sometimes. I feel you, moms. You can post all the cute pictures and funny stories in the world and still feel so stinkin lonely. You can love the feeling of your babies sitting in your lap and still end the day so completely over-touched. Last night, I curled up in a ball on the floor because the dogs wouldn't stop jumping on the bed and I just couldn't take the jostling of constant activity a second longer. 

I'll give you the very permission I finally gave myself twelve hours ago, after eighteen months of this. The ONE thing no one told me to do: Freak out.

Feel angry at everyone that is currently not capable of showing you the kindness and grace you need. 

Let yourself mourn the cost of going out being double what it used to and therefore extremely difficult to enjoy. 

Feel sorry for yourself, because no one else is going to and that kind of sucks, right? 

I feel you, moms that want so badly to be cool and casual and determined to not join the mommyblogging culture and just live your life with your babies while still remembering how to adult. That takes more effort than I'm capable of, and it took me a year and a half to realize that. 

I am not a cool mom. It is too hard to come across as effortless and breezy. I don't care if I look like a spaz anymore. I am a spaz and I always have been. 

I don't have post partum depression, but I do have regular depression. Who wouldn't on such little sleep and so little real human interaction? And that's okay. I will be okay. Please don't start worrying. I'm proud to share this part of it, because to quote Demi Lovato in Camp Rock, this is real. This is me. I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. I'm going to kiss Joe Jonas on the mouth.

This is the not funny stuff. I hope a mom or a human is reading this and knowing they are not alone. You deserve a hug.

Now if you'll excuse me, nap time is over and my oldest daughter learned how to spit into her hand yesterday so I have to run in there before her sheets become a mucusy mess.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Birthday, Thanksgiving Girl!

One year ago, I was clinging to the hope that I would become the mother I so desperately knew I already was. I didn't know what it felt like to have my arms ache so badly after a mere trip around the grocery store. I had never gone without sleep for longer than a few all-nighters during finals.  I still held onto the notion that I could never love anyone the way I loved my dog. I was praying for strength for myself and my family. And at this time last year, I was also praying fervently for the first mother my daughter had. Then and now, I believed wholeheartedly in her ability to parent and raise this daughter of ours. I would step in and do my best if she called me, but I had hope for her, too. If she changed her mind, it wouldn't be a tragedy for that little girl.

48 hours after her birth, Amelia's first mother, who wrote OUR last name on the birth certificate, signed a paper saying we were her parents. Forever. She made the bravest choice and a loving decision for her child. Not a day goes by that I don't think of this and her great big heart.

I have only blogged on this open adoption twice, because my daughter's birth mother is, to me, a lot like another child. Her privacy should be protected. She has absolutely remained a part of our family this last year. I know that can change sometimes in open adoption, but it hasn't for us. She was the one who I trusted with the gender reveal of our second daughter- the first and only person to know if we were having a boy or girl before we knew. We get asked how this works quite often, and we both always answer that it just does. We are compatible. We love each other. We trust each other. We do both with abandon, and we haven't had to look back.

I have, of course, struggled with what I have heard is commonly called adoptive parent's guilt. I allowed myself to feel guilty for not having as much time to spend with Amelia's birth mother as I did in my pre-mommy days. Guilty for making parenting decisions in the moment and wondering if she would agree with my choice. For calling myself "mommy" without second thought. Even guilty for getting pregnant when my baby girl was only 3 months old and having to share her first year with morning sickness and general hormonal upheaval. Millie's birth mother and I have spoken about all of this. And because she is that good at listening, and then disarming everything I just said, she laughs at how very silly she finds me for not realizing I AM guilty. Guilty for doing the only thing she's asked me of me: to be a good, albeit slightly neurotic, parent to this child. As she said to me the other day, "Adoption is a big deal. But it doesn't have to be a big deal every day." Are there any words more freeing than those to an (adoptive) mother's heart?

And as if the words of my daughter's birth mother, the support of our friends and family, and the love of my husband who has not once been weirded out that our baby came to us in a non-traditional manner weren't enough, there's Charlotte Claire, the little cage fighter growing in my belly. At first, I thought that this pregnancy was just one of those things you hear about happening; my mind had simply been playing a trick on my body. But as she grew and Amelia grew, something else beautiful happened. My role as a mother became solidified, and I began to see that to adopted or biological children, Eric and I alone were going to have to be those really great parents everyone always said we would be.  The whole parenting plan I'd come up with had to go out the window, because now I would need to parent sisters only a year apart in age. The metaphorical looking over my shoulder and whispering, "is it okay if I raise her like this?" to her birth family would have to stop. I can't thank Charlotte enough for showing up in the 3rd month of her big sister's first year. She's a constant reminder that I am a mom, not because my body made a baby when science told me it couldn't happen, but because moms have to deal with this kind of wrench in the plans all the time. And they have to do it all while being awesomely involved with their kids.

I see this year and the four months before it as a walk of faith that Eric and I took without knowing that we'd be walking for so ding dang long. We hear well wishes from people, that our babies are miracles, both of them, and answered prayers, and God's promises to us. But really? My babies are not answered prayers. They are God's way of saying to me, "see? I told you I would bless you, in spite of what you asked for." If God had answered MY prayers, I would've been pregnant three years ago with the baby I miscarried at 9 weeks. Another prayer unanswered was the call to adopt from an agency, only to be turned away. We were heartbroken. And we were insulted. Eric and I have always wanted to be parents. We are the couple spoiling our friends' kids and helping to pass out cake at birthday parties. The ones smiling at the crying kids at restaurants and trying to distract them. The people at the kids' table. We heard over and over that we are JUST SO GOOD with kids, that we deserve them, that we will be amazing parents. We trusted these words. We felt entitled to being parents. Instead, we were set upon a journey that called us to earn every single shred of parenthood.

That fight to be parents is so worth it. The joy of being the mother and father of this one year old girl is indescribable. 
There has not been a single moment with our Amelia Louise this year that hasn't been my most favorite. I could write about the first few weeks when we were tired and confused and emotional and crazy in love with her. Or about the morning six months later when we woke up after a wedding in Austin, crying because she slept through the night. There would be paragraphs on all the hilarious quirks she has- her monster voice, the way she slaps her belly, her ceaseless obsession with Asian people, her lack of volume control at all times, and the way those teeth and dimples are all you can see when she's dangling upside down in your arms. Her smiles, her wet kisses she learned from her dogs, her big hugs and cheers when we enter her room in the morning- they are all moments of rejoicing. She made me whole in a way I did not know I could be whole. Toni Morrison writes in Beloved, "The pieces I am, she gathered them and gave them back to me in all the right order." That is what my daughter did for me.

So now, we close this first chapter and begin a second one with another brand new baby and her big, strong, smart, silly sister by her side to guide her. Adoption gave us the kick in the pants we needed to start a family. Now we take the reins and focus on teaching these sisters how to love each other fiercely. Thank you to all who read along with us and our journey. You'll still see my #openadoption hashtags from time to time,  but the one you're looking for now is #thebirnbaumgirls. The two sisters that don't look all that much alike, but who share a heart.

As with my other two adoption blogs, I'll close with thanking C.C. one more time. For your love, bravery, and friendship. You are a piece of my soul and my sister. Your initials matching my second daughter's initials means you have left your mark on both my girls. Follow your path and I will always be there to cheer you on. I believe in you. I love you.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Food Fighters Recipes

As most of you already know (because I posted a lot and because I am loud), I was featured on the episode of Food Fighters on NBC last night. It was an incredible experience, and I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to the wonderful crew, casting, and production teams at NBC. Below are the recipes I cooked on the show. For info on how to take a cooking class on these recipes, send me an email at mama@mamasgottaeat.com!

Thanks for watching!

check out my Food Fighters recipes here!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Six Months

When I think about the fact that, as of today, I've been a mother for six months, I feel surprised. Such a short period of time, and yet it contains a lengthy list of changes. I was a mom long before I ever had a child that shared my last name. So is every other woman who longs for a child but cannot or has not been able to have one. It seems as if there is no way someone that was so recently a teeny tiny bundle of cells could change my life so completely in only half a year. But she did. 

And now, here we are, preparing for another baby to arrive by Christmas. I know the general opinion on a pregnancy after adoption is that we should be overjoyed at such a miracle. Don't get me wrong- WE ARE. But, I made peace with my infertility diagnosis. When Millie was born, my need to conceive a child of my own evaporated. I saw her as my own daughter, no different than if I had given birth to her myself, and it didn't matter that she didn't share mine or Eric's physical features. She knew me instantly, and I knew her. 

We were meant to be each other's family. Adoption taught us that you don't need to be blood related to belong together. Giving birth to the next member of Birnbaums doesn't make us any more of a family than we already are. It grows our family in a way we never thought possible, and it gives our Millie a new sibling that she gets to guide and torture. I must admit that after seeing how friendly she is towards everyone, including other babies, and her level of awareness of others, a tiny part of me had been hoping for another baby sooner rather than later so Millie could enjoy a playmate. 

I keep telling Chloe this was so much easier when she did it (meaning I hate barfing and I do not have the long, lean frame that C has to pull off any extra middle area weight). The truth is, there are parts of being pregnant that are easier and parts that are more difficult. It's definitely less stressful this time around because we consider ourselves seasoned baby pros. The look of wonder on my husband's face when he asked the doctor at what point after delivery do we get permission to see the baby and she told him he wouldn't need permission was hilarious. We are such adoptive parents. We're like, "and when is relinquishment signed?" and the nurses look at us like we are crazy. Our version of taking a baby home from the hospital is a little bit different. I don't have to cringe and hold my breath as Chloe gets blood drawn or suffers from sleepless nights and anxiety. Then there's the tiny sigh of selfish relief that, this time around, no one has to hurt for us to be parents. There is no birth family trying their very best to be supportive and understanding while processing their own grief and disappointment. I don't have to worry about breaking the heart of this precious friend of mine.

But there's also disappointment on my end. There will be no long lunches with Chloe after doctor's appointments, no finding excuses to come over to her apartment so I could love on her, her boyfriend, and their dog. She will not grab my hand to show me where the baby is kicking and I will not hold back tears in my car when she does it. Moments where I glance at her across my dinner table with wonder and awe over how incredibly beautiful, bright, and strong she is will still occur, but they won't be twinged with longing for this time together to never end. She won't be the ghost that haunts our house, lit by the glow of her iPhone, keeping me company during the day. I will not spend four months talking through every aspect of how we want the next 18+ years to go with her. In a lot of ways, Eric and I will be alone in this. Sharing Millie's existence with another family makes me feel more accountable and responsible for her. Who do I answer to with a child entrusted to me by God alone? God? That's even more pressure!

There IS freedom in this pregnancy. We have a good track record with keeping children safe right now. Millie hasn't fallen off of anything, and she's never waited longer than it takes to flush the toilet for us to return to her side. She is a contented baby, and that part is influenced by Eric and I, not genetics (although we were given pretty great DNA to work with). We have confidence that we can raise another one and continue to do a good job with Millie. We won't be perfect, and the TV absolutely tunes to BabyFirst when we need it in or house, but we will survive. We'll cherish the next six months, and every month after that. 

Before Amelia Louise came into my life, I was still the same me that I am today. The two biggest differences, both of which are manageable, are the dark circles under my eyes and my priorities. The cure for those are Nerium and self reflection, respectively. Mind over matter has been my mantra since day one of those sleepless nights. The little girl in her bassinet/pack n play/crib has needed me more than I've needed sleep, sustenance, or sanity. She is so worth it. She has prepared me for every change a new baby brings and opened my eyes to the true beauty of sacrificing yourself for another person. It's such a thrill and a blessing to watch her grow. Whether it be grabbing her feet, sitting up, eating exotic Hawaiian solid foods, sleeping through every airplane flight, smiling, cutting her first tooth, or rolling over both ways, Millie continues to amaze me. She is our miracle. I can't wait for the next one. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Only One

Millie's birth mother and I have recently been commiserating over how much Kanye West's song "Only One" makes us both cry. I suspect she cries because it's written from the perspective of Kanye's mother, who won't be there for every  moment with his daughter, so he's picturing her telling him to tell his daughter about her. We tell Millie about her every day, and the part about God sending him two angels instead of one? That's how I feel about her birth mother and Millie.

For me, I cry because this little baby is my whole world, she's my only child, and I waited and prayed for her for so long. And I cry because, open adoption or not, there is a big "what if" in our lives. What if she's our only one? What if God has given us just this one opportunity to be parents?

I've mentioned before that I am an only child. I remember being asked if I had siblings as a child, and when I said no, the response was always, always, ALWAYS a resounding "lucky you!" I don't know if I necessarily saw myself as lucky. True, I was lonely at times. I even recall asking my parents (please don't judge me for how uncouth I was at age 8) "can't we just adopt a black boy named David or something?" I didn't care if we adopted a baby or my mom had a baby or we adopted an 18 year old. I just really wanted someone to listen to all my stories for the first time instead of the 50th time like my parents had to do. I also really felt like my driveway businesses of selling Save The Earth bookmarks (which my mother once ran over in her Subaru) and Webb's Rock Polishing would really take off if I had a family business partner. It was probably around this time that my dad told me if I brought him a sound business plan, he'd invest in it. I would've given me $5 too to stop talking about The Hair Store- a place you can go to chop your hair off, store it, and then get it glued back on when you felt bad about your haircut. But I digress.

I know certain things about who I am as an adult stem from my lack of siblings as a kid. I don't like to share food. If people take things that are mine or tread into my territory, I get defensive.  I prefer to tackle challenging tasks alone, not in groups. I need extra time to spend alone after a long weekend of socializing. But I also love being around big families. My tons-o-sibling jealousy is at an all time high whenever I watch Parenthood or see friends with their adult brothers and sisters. I'm close with my sister-in-law and we like to pretend that we grew up together and Eric came along later because we don't like him as much as we like each other. She certainly falls into the category of people who would classify me as "lucky" for being an only child.

I didn't invent imaginary siblings. I did tell someone at school that I had a twin cousin, which was extraordinarily sad and a really difficult lie to believe, given that 2/3 of my cousins were asian and I was only half. The half makes a BIG difference.

No, I didn't need a pretend playmate. My mom was my sibling, friend, playmate, and partner in crime. She let me skip school the day the Woodlands Mall opened- a day I'll never forget. When I went through a rough patch in seventh grade, she'd take me to get La Madeleine after a doctor's appointment and wouldn't force me to go back to school. These days were dubbed "all day doctor's appointments" by my friend Daniel, who was intrigued by where I was going once a month. She encouraged me to do whatever sports I felt like doing (none). I got to spend my afternoons singing and taking voice lessons, my true passion. She let me write down every single feeling in my journal after school; she'd let me write and read for hours. And the most magical words she ever spoke to me were at a Barnes and Noble the day she bought me the first Harry Potter book (I swear this was before they were big): "I'll always buy you as many books as you want." That, to me, was spoiled. I was spoiled with affection, and time, and knowledge, and respect. She respected my opinion and my beliefs, and she let my word be my word. This backfired on me a lot, but now, I have a high regard for those who keep their word. Integrity means everything to me.

This relationship with my mom makes me excited at the prospect of Millie being our only child. I would hope we could have a similar time together. I already have the pleasure of sneaking a kid or two away from our friends when they're overwhelmed and taking them to Target or to get ice cream. I think I'd really enjoy that with just one child. I know how to be with just one child. That relationship comes naturally to me.

It's actually scarier to think there might be more than one baby in my life one day. How intimidating it is to think I'm going to have to find a way to love multiple children. I know my heart will stretch. It always does. But my brain? It's already half gone with just this one. I showed up late to my own baby shower because I thought it was at 2pm and it was at 11:30. Life is harder with only one baby. How will we manage it all? But if we DID handle it all, how amazing would it be to have this all over again with another one? And another one after that? Because the naps, the cuddles, the tears, the night feedings, the dirty diapers have all been absolutely amazing for me. Challenging, but so much fun. I do love a challenge.

If she IS my only one, I'm going to do this parenting thing how I feel like doing it. I'll let her take her naps in bed on my chest instead of in her crib. Bedtime doesn't have to be at 6:30 on the dot if it means she can still smile up at me with her big, tired eyes. I'll rub her baby belly while I change her diaper and stare at her in the sunlight. I'm going to show up late to lunches with friends and meetings with clients because I needed just one more second to memorize her face that day. I'll laugh at every coo and let my heart lurch with every pitiful cry. I'll keep her milky drool in my hair and her spit up on my shirt. She'll sleep in our bed when she's sick. I'll love every single second of this time when she's little, just in case I don't have another one to cherish like this.

In writing this, I've found the answer to how I'll be able to manage, regardless of how many children we'll have. Millie will always be our first baby. She'll be our only one only once. So I'll allow myself this time to be selfish with her and Eric. I won't feel guilty for wanting to soak up every minute of this as a family. I want so badly to balance this open adoption with time spent as a nuclear family of three, and time spent with her extended family. I hope everyone, including Millie's birth family, knows how much they're loved and how often their names are spoken of in our home, regardless of how often we're able to spend time with them. She is all of ours, our only Millie.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

7 Things I'm So Glad I Ignored About Parenting Lists

For two years before our daughter Amelia was born and we adopted her, I scoured Pinterest and the internet for articles about parenthood. I wanted the cold hard truth, the whole story, as told by other women who were just as excited and terrified of becoming mothers as I was.

I gravitated towards the buzzfeed generation's style of writing; seeing things written out as a concise list gives me an inexplicable sense of organized excitement. "20 Things No One Tells You About Motherhood" "35 Dads Who Have Totally Nailed This Parenting Thing" "42 People Who Might Be Parents or Might Be Stock Photos" "19 Reasons to Have a Kid for the Tax Deduction" "How Infertility Changed Me- a Story By a Slice of Pizza". Most of those article names are things I made up but in my two year stretch of trying to conceive obsession, I honestly would've clicked on every single link. But out of all those articles and lists that I actually read, I don't remember a single one.

After Millie was born, I realized the only list that mattered was my own. I've been encouraged throughout this process to write more (and not just by my mother)(mostly by my mother), so here I am, baring this little part of my soul in the hopes that any woman or man considering open adoption or any mammal considering becoming a parent will feel simultaneously comforted, empowered, and humbled by this mom's experience.

1. Genetics and DNA play such a small role in how we bond with our children.

I am a fearful person by nature. My therapist, my mother, and my zodiac sign (capricorn) will tell you that stems from my need for control and order in my life. So like all the worries and anxieties in the world, I feared the unknown aspect of raising a child who did not share my DNA. I worried I wouldn't have that moment like other mothers have described to me, where they heard their child cry and they just KNEW it was their baby.

And then, the moment right after she was born, our birth mom sent me a text telling me to go to the nurse's station and wait. Her (birth mother's) mother, her aunt, my husband, and I waited at the nurse's station impatiently while Millie's godmother stood by with a camera, just in case. We were unsure of what we were waiting for. Two nurses came out with a fresh, pink baby. I didn't dare say it aloud. But I knew it was her. There were a lot of babies being wheeled around on the floor of labor and delivery, but this one was ours. They approached us and confirmed what I knew before I even saw her face- she was THE baby we had waited for. At that very moment, she cried out. This was our reaction:
I'll never forget the feeling I had in that moment. The only way I can describe it is that the hand of God gripped my heart. It was beautiful. Her DNA did not matter in that second; she was my daughter and her tiny voice and heart already owned me. Every fiber of her being was created by another woman, and for that, I love them both even more.

2. Open adoption is like a parenting cheat sheet.

One of the reasons I was so drawn to our birth mother is that her personality is like mine in so many ways. We often said that together, we were one complete mother, and we were each picking up where the other had left off.

Despite how similar we are, the best part about having our birth mother in our lives is that we get to hear about what she was like as a child and all the things we can already anticipate and plan for. Like any other parents, we have absolutely no insight into what our daughter's personality, interests, and life will be like. But we can anticipate a lot more of what her triumphs and struggles will be based on her birth mother's family's stories of her as a kid.

3. I didn't have to try to love my husband more.

I was warned over and over by my treasured articles and lists as well as by friends and family that I needed to remember to work on my marriage and my relationship with my husband. My little worrywart brain immediately began angsting over my mental pie charts of how much time I should allocate for myself, for the baby, for my marriage, and for my work. Guess what I mentally put in my mental paper shredder the moment my daughter was born? The stupid pie charts.

Unfortunately, our daughter spent the first ten days of her life in the NICU. It was hard on everyone. For her birth mother, we rewrote the rules of adoption and instead of the customary (and far too short to be so emotionally charged) 48 hours. She stayed at the hospital for four days so she, her boyfriend, and her family and friends could visit the baby as often as they liked. We stayed out of their hair and spent the days putting the finishing touches on her nursery, washing clothes, and taking our parents up to the hospital to hold her in between feedings. Then she got pneumonia, and the only people allowed to visit her were Eric and I. I was at the hospital from 8am-6pm every day, and my husband was home late every night because he would go to the NICU after work to hold her and feed her. Did this affect my marriage? Yes. I loved him more.

The day she came home, my heart exploded when I saw the pride in his eyes as he carried her inside for the first time. Their naps on the couch together, his willingness to change dirty diapers, his songs for her, the books they read- it all just increases my love for him. When you have your first child, for the first few months, every night is still date night...punctuated by tears and poop. As tired as we were/are, we still have time to cuddle on the couch and watch TV, and every dinner is still a dinner for two. If you thought all your activities with your husband were fun before, add a baby, and EVERYTHING becomes a family event or a new tradition.

Marriage is work. It will always be work. But my husband said it best the other day when I mentioned how sad it is that we know so many young couples who have divorced so early in life, all of whom seemed great together. He simply replied "sometimes you don't know you don't have what it takes to be a forever person until you find your forever person." Eric is my forever person, and I am his, by nature and by choice.

4. Your heart will expand. I can't tell you how, it just will.

I have always had a heart for children. From volunteering at church teaching sunday school to babysitting and nannying, few things make me happier than getting to spend time with kids and hear all the amazing and hilarious things they have to say. One of my absolute biggest fears was that I wouldn't have time or energy to love on all my friends and family's kids that I have come to adore so very much. My friend's stepdaughter told me the other night "I was afraid that when you had kids, you wouldn't pay attention to us anymore. But you're doing a good job." High praise, coming from the girl who invited me to her Special Friends day at her school via a beautiful handmade POP UP greeting card. She sets the bar high, that one. That was all I needed to hear to confirm what my heart already knew was true.

She has a really big fan club.

5. Priorities shift and you won't be aware of them shifting.

I can't put this any simpler: you will now have time for whatever you feel like having time for. As my best friend, Ms. John B. Watkins told me, "you are far too vain to not do your hair every day" and she is probably right. I have time to shower and fix my hair because I make time for it. I could be doing laundry, or eating, or tidying the house in that time, but I choose to have that time for myself. Also because my husband once got into bed and asked "what is that smell?" and I knew it was me and that I needed to shower more when the baby was napping.

The energy and love you have for others is like spanx. Stretchy enough to fit everything important into a tighter package, but not so loose that it gets sloppy. The people and things I avoided spending time on in the past are no longer even on my radar. I don't have to pretend to be interested in doing stuff I don't want to do. My energy and time is devoted purely to what helps me grow as a person and furthers my ability to succeed as a mother, wife, daughter, and friend. And guess what? I didn't notice this happening AT ALL. No one else seems to have noticed either. Manage your priorities all you want...or just let it happen and see who sticks around.

6. Love is immediate; attachment takes time.

The second time I heard my daughter cry was in the NICU. She had been with me for 22 minutes, and they took her away to fix her IV. She cried out, and it was like lightning struck my body. Out of all the screaming babies in all the NICUs, she had to walk into mine. Her cry pulled love out of me.

Our family was fortunate enough to feel extremely attached to Millie from the moment each of us met her. The point of this somewhat controversial statement in the list is that when you are adopting, your whole life becomes about reprogramming your brain to think that this will NOT work out. You are trained to expect the worst and therefore getting attached is a dangerous thing to do.

Our birth mother was there every step of the way to assure me that she didn't want me to feel that way, but the truth is I was already out of danger the moment I became attached to our birth mother. She is one of my best friends, and loving her made me a mother. In the end, we all got what was best for each of us. Had it not gone that way, it was important for me to acknowledge to myself and to her that I loved her enough to support her if she chose to parent this baby. Her biggest fear was that we would take this baby and never speak to her again. Speaking those fears to each other made this open adoption work and our love has only grown as a result of our honesty. Don't be afraid of the attachment that follows the love, and if it takes time, trust that you may have to be more vulnerable than the lawyers and social workers are telling you to be.

It pays off. Just look at our faces.

7. My daughter is already my best friend

Growing up, my family was extremely close-knit. As an only child, I had the experience of being the three musketeers with my parents. Because I got so much of their one-on-one time, I was able to communicate with them on a more mature level at a younger age...but my mom always reminded me that she couldn't be my best friend until I was grown.

Now I have two best friends- my mother and my daughter. I spend so much time with my daughter and I see so much of her birth mother's face and personality in her that I know we already understand each other. I haven't decided yet if I'll tell her what my mom told me, but I do know in my heart of hearts that she will be my closest friend for the rest of my life. I would do anything for her- including letting her pee on me so her butt can air out her diaper rash.

I frequently have to fight the dog for her.

We have discussed having more children, however they come to us. We're open to expanding our family in whatever way it's supposed to grow. Millie will always be our first baby and the one that changed our lives in such a massive way. I'm excited for her relationship with all of her extended family. She is so loved and cherished. Thanks for following along in our journey.

Monday, July 28, 2014


The title of this blog post is, not accidentally, the same title as the drinks board of my personal Pinterest page. It's not intended to be cutesy or to get more Pinterest followers...no, this word is special to me because I think it is the sound I make when I am absolutely enamored with a drink and cannot get enough of it into my body. We're all suffering through this summer heat together, so you may as well text your friends to come over and make some of these awesome, customize-able drink recipes and have a party!

Blackberry Arnold Palmer

- 8 Bags Black Tea
(My favorite kind ever is this one, but guess what? Lipton stopped making it and now they've replaced it with a red-dye-ridden vanilla version. Blech!)
- 8 Whole Lemons
- 1/2 Cup Blackberries
- 4 Tbsp Maple Syrup (to taste)
- 8 Cups Purified Water

Take a moment to bitterly stare at the expired Amazon listing for the Lipton Blackberry Tea. Cry for your unhappiness over this. Then begin by adding the lesser tea bags into a pitcher with the filtered/purified water. The water doesn't need to be hot- nothing seems worse than brewing hot tea and waiting for it to cool and then inevitably being unable to wait and adding ice cubes to it, resulting in diluted tea. Let the tea steep while you're squeezing the lemons. Stir it all around and then begin adding the maple syrup, one tbsp at a time. I use the ratio from the Master Cleanse (which I will never, ever do again because it made me cry and throw up and after 3 days I laid in bed barely able to slurp down chicken tortilla soup because I was so weak and my head hurt so badly...but that is a story for another time) which is 1 tbsp of maple syrup for every 1 whole lemon. When you're ready to serve the lemonade, add the blackberries to the mixture. They'll begin to blanch after 6 hours or so. You're in a safe window that they won't blanch (and let's be honest, they're still delicious when they're all lemony waterlogged) if you drink this over the course of an afternoon or evening. Impress your friends further by adding a sprig of thyme to each glass, and enjoy!

Cucumber Lime Soda

- 1 Whole Cucumber, sliced thin
- 4 Whole Limes, juiced
- 1 Liter Seltzer Water
- 1 Can Lemon Lime Soda (optional. Also I am obviously talking about 7up, not Sprite, because it is infinitely superior.)

This is an easy one. Slice everything. Squeeze everything. Pour it in a pitcher and serve. I love this recipe because it looks beautiful in a glass over ice with a cute paper straw that you perhaps bought on Etsy for a ridiculous $8 per pack of 12 because they were just THE CUTEST STRAWS YOU'VE EVER SEEN and you were positive because they were gold with stars that Beyonce owned them, too. Keep in mind that this recipe does have a short lifespan, and I'm all about knowing how long I have before my food/drink is over, so drink up while you can because it will be flat the next day.

Lavender Mint Lemonade

- 1 Tsp Dried Lavender (if you can get fresh, use 4-5 sprigs)
- 8 Whole Lemons
- 1 Cup Sugar. Let's not play around with Maple for this one.
- 4 Cups Water
- 10 Fresh Mint Leaves

Make sure you have a comfortable chair outdoors (or indoors, if you have an aversion to bugs and anxiety about potential accidental interaction with neighbors, like I do) to sit and luxuriate in this tasty beverage. Then, begin juicing the lemons. Simmer 1 cup water with 1 cup sugar in a saucepan over medium heat to make simple syrup. When the sugar is dissolved entirely, let the mixture cool. When it has cooled to room temperature, mix together lavender, lemon juice, simple syrup, water, and mint leaves. If you'd like to muddle the mint, you can, but since I'm not entirely sure what muddling even does and I only like the mint for the very light flavor it adds, it's not necessary. Salud!