Tag Archives: adoption

BABIES OR BULLDOGS?

sleeping dogs and baby

When I turned 40, I stood before my husband, a large box under each arm.
“Pampers or Depends, sweetie, you pick. But one way or another we are heading towards diapers.”

A few years earlier, I had lobbied for French bulldogs.  So cute!  But we already had a dog, not to mention my father’s 23-year-old incontinent cat (we get a lot of incontinent animals), and my husband’s response was…not really printable.

So, I moved onto kids.  That day in Wal-Mart when I showed him our diaper options, I think he was leaning toward Depends. We’ll never know; I started gathering information about adoption the next day.
I had always wanted to adopt. I’m not sure why, but for decades the desire played like background music in my brain. I knew my child was coming to me via adoption. Child. Singular.  Tim agreed to ONE CHILD AND ONE CHILD ONLY, either homegrown or adopted.  And then he wheeled and dealt:  “I will say yes to two French bulldogs instead of one child.”  (He was a little nervous about the parenting gig at that point.)  I don’t blame him.

When we were in our twenties, he wanted two children. We were living in apartments (not very nice ones) at the time, eeking out bad livings as actors/couriers/waitstaff/reception/whatever we could get. When he said he wanted two kids by the time he was thirty, I thought, Suuuurrrrre. As if I’d become a mother under these circumstances. There’s plenty of time for that. Career was still far more important to me than motherhood. I was still far more important to me than motherhood.

And then my own parents died. And my uncle. And my aunt. That left me and my brother. Today is, in fact, the 18th anniversary of my beloved mother’s passing, Z”L (may her memory be a blessing).  At that point, Tim had lived through years of cancer and hospitals and my grieving.  He’d been gentle and strong and present for me, but he was tired.  We both were.  We needed a break and to get our happier lives back.  But when my parents were gone, I was thirty-five, and I realized that being a daughter was one of my favorite things ever. No career could come close to that feeling of unconditional love. I wanted it again, this time on the giving end.

We waited and we talked and we wrestled with the idea of a baby (if you read Carolyn’s last post, you know I do not make decisions easily…although not about clothes, Carolyn.  Please.  Look at my wardrobe.)  Nonetheless, at the ripe old age of 42 and 4o, respectively, Tim and I started the adoption journey.  And magic happened.  The kind of magic I think only God can orchestrate.  Carolyn and I got both got babies, and our lives truly began to intertwine.

–to be continued…

–Wendy

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Filed under Adoption, friendship, parenthood

Rosemary’s baby

Linda BlairOkay, kids, where was I? Oh yes. We were the first people to birth the perfect child. Clearly, she was so wonderful because we were the perfect parents. Waiting 16 years to have her had obviously mellowed us into a sweet and creamy perfection and our child could sense our superior harmonic waves and was thriving accordingly. And because she slept through the night right away, hardly ever cried, was endlessly amusing, we decided to give her a sister.

Whoa.

I sensed the difference months before she was born. Where my husband would talk lovingly to my belly with the first kid and she would gently stroke his nose through my uterine wall, the second kid would haul off and slug him.

She came out swinging and screaming and no amount of prayer or exorcism seemed to help. We’d failed. We’d lost our mojo.

The moment she was old enough for a toddler bed, we held a garage sale and sold everything ‘baby’. We were done. No more gambling with our precious sleep. Besides, I was 40. Having a baby after 40 was just plain crazy. I mean, that’s what you call a ‘change-of-life’ baby. A big fat accident.

So…what do you call it when you adopt an infant at age 45?

Kids, we’ll tackle that insanity next time. Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, Older writers, romance novels

Before We Were “Too Hot” Mamas

Dad, Libbi and MomCarolyn suggested we tell you all the story of how we met (standing in line for lasagna at a publishing party in Florida), how we discovered we had a lot in common (high anxiety…we are oodles of fun on a plane together), and how, after that first meeting on the opposite side of the country from where we both lived, our lives as writers and mothers began to intertwine in the most wonderful of ways.

I liked reminiscing about it all. Then she said, “Begin with your marriage. That’s how motherhood started.” Yeah, that’s a little harder, because now I have to be honest, and, well…eew.

Being honest about my husband is easy; he’s one of the most transparent people I’ve ever known. But we met when I was twenty-three, and I cannot say that transparency was one of my salient qualities back then.

I grew up hiding—or trying to hide–big chunks of myself. I was a people pleaser, a classic human chameleon. I stumbled into the real me, turning holes in my character into a whole human bit by fumbling bit. And for nearly thirty years now, my beautiful, honest-until-it-hurts husband has ridden shotgun.

When we met, I knew what I wanted in a boyfriend—a sense of humor, intelligence, a creative spark, strength and mystery. (I have no idea what I meant by mystery, and note to my daughters: That is a really asinine trait to look for in a life partner.)  He and I had crossed paths a couple of times. We were both acting in theatre and had been cast in the same plays twice, but either I took the role offered while he turned his down, or vice versa. And then we both auditioned for Of Mice And Men.

He remembers watching me at the audition as I was playing with a little girl in the lobby of the theatre. In that moment, he knew I’d make a great mom someday. Ooookay, here’s where the icky, eewie truth comes in. That little girl was the director’s daughter. I was playing with her because I thought it would score me some points if I was nice to his kid. I DIDN’T WANT KIDS. Well…someday. About ten or twelve years from that night. Maybe fifteen years. Possibly twenty.   It took a lot of time, a lot of tears and a very, very cool plot twist that involved Carolyn to get to the point where we squished that adorable baby in the photo between us.

To be continued on Thursday, because I promised Carolyn I wouldn’t get diarrhea of the keyboard.

Wendy

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Filed under Adoption, friendship, Marriage

Letting Go

Today is yard sale day at our place.  Mostly we’re getting rid of the children’s clothes, toys and uber-cool loft bed with slide attachment–wheee!–that we have been hanging onto for our next child.  Our home study to adopt from U.S. Foster Care is one year old on July 11th.

We’ve been in the process much longer than that, however,

I wanted to adopt a second time six months after our daughter came home.  Hubby wasn’t ready. For eight years, I agonized over raising an only child.  I agonized over my unfulfilled longing to give an older child a home; I’ve wanted to do that since I was ten.  Weird, but true. Then he was ready and we started our home study.  

I’m still agonizing.

In one year, we’ve come close a couple of times, but ultimately no kiddo.  Lately, we haven’t heard anything in response to sending out our home study.  And so I wonder:  Are we too old?  Don’t make enough money?  Is it not God’s will? Two of my friends brought home their children mere minutes, it seemed, after completing their home studies.  And so I scan the photo sites (so did they, after all), looking for kids who need families.  Last week I found myself scanning them while my daughter was wondering why we don’t do dance parties at night like we used to.  Because I’m busy trying to get you a sibling, that’s why. 

Uh oh.  Wrong answer, even if I only said it in my mind. 

And so, I am releasing the clothes and the toys and uber-cool bed today.  I am releasing the intense need and the fear of it never happening and the resentment I feel building, because it hasn’t happened yet (and this is a blog about menopausal mothers, not about twenty-somethings; time’s marchin’ on).

I will hang onto the dream; I’d be lying if I said anything else.  But I will also hang onto my gratitude for the family I have.  For the friends and cousins my daughter loves and who love her back.  I’ll hang onto God and to seeking God’s will for me, because when I seek to be more serving than served, really good things happen–for others as well as for meImage.

And tonight, my darling daughter, we will dance. 

Wendy

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PREGNANT AT FIFTY

Too Hot Mamas has an announcement:  One of us is pregnant.

I looked that word up, and the dictionary definition is:  Heavy with child, significant, expectant.  I, Wendy, am all those things.  At fifty-two and fifty, respectively, my husband and I are in the process of adopting from U.S. Foster Care.  Our daughter is delighted and very ready to share her life with a sibling.  My husband is as scared as he was the first time around, I am cleaning out the basement (nesting), and our friends are, variously–supportive, excited, confused and aghast.

I understand the aghast part; I really do.  Our daughter is pretty darn easy, a delightful child with whom we share a terrific relationship.  Our careers are in flux—not easy, not secure, not gifting us with financial resources to spare.  And, WE ARE IN OUR FIFTIES.  So what are we thinking’?

I have many responses, but it all boils down to this:  It’s important to have parents acknowledge your birthday with joy.  To know you can go “home” for Thanksgiving and every other holiday.  To know that unconditionally loving parents accompany your walk through this beautiful, complex, wonderful, treacherous world.  And, far more selfishly:  Becoming adoptive parents is the best thing that ever happened to my husband and me or ever will.

It boils down to the article below.  I invite you to read  about Steven K. Walker.  Whether you’ve ever considered adoption or not, or are a parent or not, his story is a wonderful reminder that the greatest “success” in life is loving someone.

Wendy

From Summer 2011 Adoptalk

by Steven K. Walker

Steven was adopted from foster care at ten. Below he tells of the events that transformed him from an abused child to a national adoption advocate. Follow Steven on Facebook at the official page of Steven K. Walker, Adoption Advocate.

“He’ll never amount to anything.”

Would those words destroy or motivate you? For me, the words simply seemed true; I should be a failure. Statistics would predict that I’m in prison, but that wasn’t my destiny, was it? Who can know for certain if I will amount to anything, and why would they say that?

My story started in August 1987 when Alice, a mentally challenged alcoholic, gave birth to an undersized baby boy (me) in Niagara Falls, New York. There was no father listed on my birth certificate; it could have been any of the men she brought home from the bar most nights.

From the hospital, my mother brought me to a filthy four-room apartment that had only one outside window. There was no crib or baby formula, so Alice fed me whatever she ate. I often slept on a makeshift bed on the kitchen floor while strange men came over to abuse and take advantage of my poor drunk mother.

In November 1988, Alice gave birth to another boy, David. He and I shared everything and it was great because David gave me the attention my mother gave to strangers. Soon, however, life turned into a nightmare.

Alice kept bringing home men and some of them abused David and me physically, sexually, and emotionally. I tried to protect David by hiding us under the kitchen table, me covering him, and a blanket over us both.

If we refused to get out from under the table, the men would swear, rip me off of David, and beat him. When I tried to defend David and fight back, they beat me even more severely. Though I don’t remember specific men, all the abuse is like a vivid Van Gogh painting in my memory that can’t be forgotten or erased. Inevitably it defines, in part, who I am.

Memories ate at me and made me second-guess everything. Was the abuse my fault? What about my mother-why didn’t she defend me against abuse that left me with a dent in the back of my head and hand tremors? Alice never abused us, but she did not keep us out of harm’s way. Later, I came to realize that it wasn’t her fault, and believe now that she tried the hardest she could to keep David and me safe.

Through all the abuse, I cared for David as best I could. I always made sure he was fed before I was. I made certain he had a coat to keep him warm during the cold winters. Soon I became malnourished.

David and I moved into foster care when I was four years old. With our things in black trash bags, we were shoved into the back of county cars, and said goodbye to our mother. It was confusing. I felt like a prisoner, but prisoners know where they’re going and we didn’t. What if we obeyed instead of fighting and hiding?

David and I ended up at a farm, with a mother and father who seemed nice. It was a hardworking Christian family who prayed with us before bed and got us up early to work in the barn. David and I did as they asked.

One morning, the foster mom assigned us to milk the goats. We didn’t understand why this needed to be done and were struggling to comply. The foster mom tried to make it fun by squirting us with milk from the goat’s udder. Unfortunately, the raw milk hit me in the eye. Six years and several surgeries later, I became legally blind in that eye.

With my belongings in another trash bag, I went to the next foster home. My third foster home was supposed to be therapeutic. The mother had a Ph.D. in psychology and was a special education teacher. She claimed she knew how to care for David and me, but also told us that she really wanted a baby girl, not boys.

Just when I started to get close to the father, they pulled the rug out from under me. They claimed that I was a bad influence on David and sent me away. David stayed behind.

From this home I moved to a Pennsylvania group home. At age six, I was the youngest kid there. We had to complete chores to earn rewards but no one taught me how so I often had to do chores over when I messed up the first time. The head of the facility told me I should never have been placed in the group setting.

Imagine my mindset. I was separated from my brother, lied to, and kept in the dark about my future. When I asked where I was going, the response was often, “Do you like ice cream?” People were saying they loved me, but then giving up on me in less than six months.

Next, I moved in with an older couple in Buffalo, New York. They made it clear they didn’t intend to adopt me; they were only fostering to get money for the husband’s heart surgery. I was eight, but was treated worse than the couple’s five-year-old granddaughter because I was “not blood.” This saying irks me. When humans get cut, don’t we all bleed the same color?

On weekends, I visited potential adoptive families-too many to count. They all gave up on me, even the three families who signed the adoption papers. My feelings of hurt and distrust grew.

Just before my ninth birthday, I moved in with a family in North Tonawanda, New York. I knew them a little from having been in respite care with them a few times, including a time when David was there because his family went to Florida. Before I moved in, the family sent me a letter with pictures of the family, house, and school. The letter ended with a question: Did I want to adopt them as parents?

I was hesitant to fall in love, but this family reached out to me. They wore patches to see what it is like to be blind in one eye. They put ice on their hands to simulate tremors. Still, I could not give in. I hit, kicked, spit, bit, and swore. I told the mother that I didn’t have to follow her rules because she was not my real mother.

Her response was always, “I love you no matter what.” She got to know me and saw my broken heart. She learned that I loved sports and invested in hockey goalie equipment so I could take shots at her whenever I was angry. Afterward, she would rock me in her arms, give me a freezer pop, and tell me she loved me.

The mother was always open and honest with me. She and the father tried to answer my questions as best they could without lying. Around the time of Halloween, after I turned ten, they told me that they would only answer my questions if I called them Mom and Dad.

On New Year’s Eve, Mom and Dad took me to Niagara Falls to see the ball drop. At the time, they said, “How great it is to be celebrating both our anniversary and our son.” The words caught me. I chose to be adopted. I got to pick a court date and even change my name. To honor my dad, I took Kevin as my middle name.

On Tuesday, April 1, 1997, I went into the Niagara County Court House as a foster child and came out as Steven Kevin Walker, son of Kevin and Jody Walker. It was a relief, though I still wish I could have been adopted with my brother.

Since my adoption, my family has grown to include another boy and six girls. I graduated from high school at the top of my class, was Student Council president, captain of the football team, and a three-sport athlete. At community college, I was in more than 20 clubs, served as an officer in the student government, and earned my associates degree.

Today I am an adoption advocate. I share my story in the U.S. and Canada, have been published widely, and have appeared on television and in videos. A man in Florida who heard my story donated more than 400,000 suitcases for youth in care so they can move with some dignity instead of having their things stuffed in garbage bags. In 2001, I helped write legislation to keep siblings together in foster care in New York State. In 2006, I got to share my story with then-Senator Hillary Clinton and leave copies of my speech with all 100 senators (including Barack Obama).

The message I hope to convey is: Don’t give up on us. You never know who we can become. Accept each of us as your child; I am simply your son, not your adopted son, or foster son. All of the adoptive families who stick with the children they adopted from foster care are my heroes! Walk in our shoes and you will understand; our love is deep and the best place we have ever lived is the place with the family who keeps us forever.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Motherhood, parenthood