Archive for June, 2007

You like me! You really like me!


How cool is this?  My hilarious friend Helen from the fab blog I Forgot Where I Was Going With This…  has nominated me. She’s on my blogroll and she writes about her kids, being married to a techno-geek and she’s into cooking and gardening and so she and I have a lot in common.  I met Helen on iVillage in 1999 and we’ve emailed and talked on the phone ever since then and even met once.  Anyway, enough shameless promotion.


June 29, 2007 at 10:56 pm 1 comment

When Co-Sleeping Goes Wrong…


I don’t think I need to say anything else.

June 29, 2007 at 1:50 pm 9 comments

“Take the orphanage out of her”


A quilt I brought to another little boy at Isabel’s orphanage and his bed in a sea of beds. 

So with less than one week home, I took Isabel to our most local physician who practices Adoption Medicine.  For those of you new to the idea, adoption medicine is mainly for children who have come to families via international adoption and need different assesments and examinations and these doctors know what to look for.  We consulted with the amazing doctors at the University of Washington while we were in Kyrgyzstan both times.  They looked at her weight gain, how quickly and where she was gaining, asked questions about milestones, muscle strength and many other things.  Now that we are home, it was time to see an adoption doc in person.  What I needed to know about Isabel could certainly be missed by a doctor who wasn’t up to date on how children are affected by living in institutions. 

So, to Oakland Children’s Hospital we drove.  We were there for four hours.  The first portion on the exam was a neuro-psychological test to determine what delays Isabel has.  How is her hearing?  How are her motor skills?  How does she approach solving a problem like picking up a toy that’s on the ground?  Then, the medical exam came next and the doctor screens for fetal alcohol syndrome, looks for any kind of infection, scabies, lice and other creepy crawlies.  She looked at every square inch of her tiny body.  She charted her growth.  She went over with me long term health concerns.  Isabel and I were both exhausted at the end.  In the end, it was determined that Isabel has the predictable delays from living her first eight months in a hospital and an orphanage.  She isn’t sitting up, she still has a tongue thrust to any food with texture, she has low muscle tone, she doesn’t know that a toy is still there if it has dropped.  She had a double ear infection and some bites or infectious sores on her back that were healing but still needed prescription antibiotic cream.  I left with an order for a battery of bloodwork to do for her and completely overwhelmed with information.  I got in the car and called home and tearfully summed up the day.  I surprised myself.  I thought I was completely prepared for the information they were going to give me.  Nothing they said was really a surprise.  It was just so hard to hear about what Isabel has already had to endure.  I am in awe of my 8 month old girl.  She has endured extremely low birth weight, the loss of her mother at birth, living the first four months of her life in the hospital where it is likely that she received little to no physical affection, not to mention the bare minimum of nutrition.  She gained almost no weight in the hospital.  She was then taken to the orphanage where they did their very best with her.  She started to gain weight.  She was being held and kissed sometimes and she was in a room where the caretaking was a very good one to three babies. 

While she was being examined, the doctor said that Isabel needed to learn that I was her mommy.  Isabel wasn’t showing any stranger anxiety.  The doctor said, “You’ve taken her out of the orphanage, now you need to take the orphanage out of her.”  My heart sank as I remembered how much Isabel has missed.  How brave she has had to be.  I even thought about myself as a baby and what confusion it must be to go through not being fed and held by your mother, going to an institution to live until you are adopted.

She doesn’t yet know I’m her mama.  She’s really into me, and she smiles every time I repond to her and it’s clear she is into all the attention, cuddles, frequent feedings and all the excellent outfits.  (Ok, maybe she doesn’t care about how they look, but they are definitely softer and they smell really good)  I try to anticipate her needs, I practice attachment parenting, I wear her in a sling or front carrier, I try to do everything in my power to let her know she is safe and loved and that we are here for her.  And I think she knows that.  But, what she doesn’t know is that I’m not going away.  She doesn’t know that all the other people who are holding her aren’t going to be her mama. 

I certainly can’t expect it of her.  I just want her to know that I love her with a fierce, mother’s love.  I want her to know that when the rest of the world has let her down, that I won’t.  I want her to know that she can let that part of her who smiles to everyone that it’s ok if she doesn’t want to smile.  Even with losing her family and her homeland, she has us.  And while we can never replace what she has lost because one person never replaces another, we can provide her the biggest acceptance, emotional security, love and nurturing for her nature that we possibly can. 

So, while my back is sore from carrying her and running up and down the stairs tending to her needs, I am firmly aware that it is what I must be doing for her.  I have to let her know, no matter how long it takes, that she doesn’t have to be in survival mode anymore.  It’s my job to take the orphanage out of her.

June 13, 2007 at 8:45 pm 14 comments

Totally Cute Things About Isabel


(In no particular order)

1. When she smiles, it’s a whole body thing.  Her eyes become upside-down crescent moons, she clasps her hands together and she moves from side to side.

2. When I’m feeding her, she grabs my thumb and squeezes it over and over just like you might do while milking a cow.  It’s a bit uncanny.

3. She prefers if you kiss her while her mouth is open and slobbery.

4. You should have seen her face when she first tasted peaches.

5. She absolutely LOVES that baby she sees in the mirror and plays peek-a-boo with her.  She tries to trick her by ‘sneaking’ up on the mirror quickly. 

6. Her tummy which is getting rounder every day.

7. She startles herself when I burp her.

8. She squeals during her bath and looks disappointed when it’s over.

9. When she drinks a bottle, she gets so focused and drinks it with such vigor, she gets beads of sweat on her scalp.

10. She idolizes her sister.  She is transfixed on Zannie if she’s in the room. 

There are many other things, but those are the ones that stand out.  She is beautiful, delicious and a treasure.  You’re all going to have to put up with my gushing for awhile.  For a long while. 

June 11, 2007 at 8:05 pm 5 comments

Second Trip

Day Two Together 

Ok so I’m still getting used to this whole having two kids gig.  It’s GOOD – but it’s a lot to get used to.  I find getting Zannie to school on time with both girls fed and wearing presentable clothes a challnege.  But, last week we managed to do just that and for the most part, things have gone quite smoothly.  We get to school and we are the new rock stars.  Isabel is mobbed and smothered in adoration.  She needs a bodyguard and maybe even an agent.  I think my role is merely sherpa/PR agent.  I just talk to everyone about how amazing and beautiful she is. 

Trip two.  Wow, where to begin?  I bypassed Aeroflot this time for the incredibly superior Lufthansa.  It went San Francisco to Frankfurt to Almaty.  I didn’t fly into Bishkek this time for logistical reasons.  On the two-trip adoption system in Kyrgyzstan, you end your adoption paperwork at the U.S. embassy in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  This is where the closest adoption unit is.  So, I got a roundtrip ticket in and out of Almaty.  This meant that when I flew in, I had to be driven to Bishkek for the first part of the trip.  When I booked it, it was written up as Lufthansa’s official bus from the Almaty airport going directly to where you were staying in Bishkek.  I imagined a nice minibus, one that might even have bench seats where I could lie down and sleep on the way to my hotel as I was landing at midnight local time.  It was not to be.  I got out of customs and saw my driver guy holding a sign with my name on it.  We walked out to a tiny, ancient Nissan or Toyota and it was us and a Swiss guy heading out to Kyrgyzstan to climb the Tien Shen mountains.  It was absolutely pitch black and I couldn’t see much of anything that wasn’t lit up but already it seemed quite different to me than Kyrgyzstan.  We jammed our luggage in somehow and went on our way.  We were all talking and chatting a mile a minute and then we all zonked out.  Awhile later we were awakened by a bracing cold wind since the driver had opened our doors and was pointing to the border patrol.  I felt like I was in an episode of the Twilight Zone as it seemed as if time had stood still here in what felt like the middle of nowhere.  There were a few people coming from Kazakhstan going into Kyrgyzstan and most of them were on foot.  Some had cattle or sheep with them.  I think that this border and its guards with their military uniforms and huge-brimmed hats looked exactly the same even 40 years ago.  The only thing that I think has changed since then are the computers they use to check your entry visas.  Anyway, we were I’m sure a sight to behold with our weary faces crossing the border at 4ish am.  Everyone was openly staring at us.  So, with that done we drove about 50 yards to repeat the same thing so as to gain entry into Kyrgyzstan.  More livestock, more stares, more military guards.  It was eerie.  We sped away and were in Bishkek in less than an hour. 

We crashed at the nice, cushy Hyatt.  The coordinator was to meet us in the morning and go over the rest of our stay and to finish up more paperwork. 

The next morning was IT.  We were being picked up and taken to Tokmok to see Isabel for the first time in two months.  It seemed like the longest drive there.  In the time since the first trip, Bishkek had turned lush and green.  Trees lined the long road to Tokmok and had been bare and cold grey against the wintery landscape on our first trip.  This time, they were full and welcoming.  It was a bit like Dorothy opening the door from her world of black and white to a new, colorful place.  I couldn’t get over the beauty of the countryside and the massive mountainside in the distance.  My excitement was hard to contain. 

We arrived at Tokmok baby house bearing supplies, gifts and many cakes and chocolates from a bakery.  We met with the director for a bit and she told me that Isabel was a little bit sick with a slight fever and a runny nose.  Then, she asked me if she wanted them to keep her for “a few more days while she gets better?” I said a firm but polite, “No, thank you!”  There was nothing that could keep me from her!  So, they led me to her room and I looked into where they were pointing and I saw her, but almost didn’t recognize her.  There she was in a pink sweat suit, a hat and lots of hair poking out from under it.  She was being held by her special caretaker, Sonya.  I smiled and walked toward her letting her take me in.  Sonya grabbed the little book I had made with our pictures in it and she showed Isabel the picture and then pointed to me.  “Mama…Isabel….MA-MA!”  There was a long pause and then suddenly, a smile, a flash on her face.  I’d love to think that she really remembered me and knew I was her mama.  But, I think it was just a spark.  Nonetheless, there we were and we were together again and we spent some quiet time in her room with Sonya.  I had a special gift for Sonya and postcards from our town.  I thanked her over and over for the individual time she had spent with Isabel for the two months I was gone had been invaluable to her development.  She was stronger, more engaged and lively.  She had gained four pounds. 

We finished up all of our good-byes and gave the children fresh fruiut and the cakes to all the caregivers there.  Sonya kept coming out and hugging us.  Then, we were being scooted back to our car.  We were gone.  I was happy, worried, sad, anxious and exhausted all at once.  Isabel seemed to be taking everything in.  She was quiet.  She stopped looking at me.  By the time we got to the hotel, she was clearly confused and worn out.  Her cry wasn’t hunger or pain or tired.  It was grief.  It sounded so, so sad.  Comforting her by holding her didn’t help.  All I could do was stay close by,but not in her face and feed her and keep her dry and in soft clothes.  She finally slept that night and didn’t wake up until morning.  She awoke happy and she seemed curious about the room we were in, her new crib, her clothes with bright and happy colors.  She was loving the baby food I brought.  She LOVED her bath and having lotion put on her.  Over the next few days, we were basically in lockdown.  We showed her stuff, read to her, sung to her, bathed her, changed her into different cute outfits and held her while she napped.  When she cried we responded and tried to figure out what she needed.  After a few days, I had cracked her code and knew all her different cries.  That girl found her voice too!  She figured out that if she cried, that new girl always comes and helps!  She was staying awake for longer periods and giving big belly laughs.  I was pulling out all of my baby flirting techniques and they began to pay off.  It was pure falling in love. 

Then, just when we were really feeling settled, it was time to head for Almaty and wind up the trip.  It was incredible to me that we would be leaving Bishkek.  But, away we went again, to cross over the borders and to see the countryside by day.  It’s pretty much a four hour trip and we made it in good time.  The next few days were an absolute blurr.  We were tired and M. was getting sick.  On Tuesday we visited an International clinic to have Isabel go through a few blood tests and a general examination.  She was pronounced healthy that night.  The next day we went to the adoption unit at the American Embassy where we had our exit interview.  A brown envelope containing all of our immigration documents and some adoption papers were sealed and were given to me to give to customs upon arrival in San Francisco.  It was quick and friendly.  We were set and all clear to come home.  It was so hard to believe. 

We boarded our plane that night and the journey home began.  20 hours later, we landed in San Francisco.  We were messy with spit up and probably didn’t smell very good but once we got through immigration and customs, even with all the luggage on the cart and carrying Isabel, I galloped through the exit knowing the next thing I would see would be the rest of my family.  I saw them and Zannie ran to me and hugged me and Isabel tight.  I kept saying, “I missed you so much!”  After hugging me, she just wanted to see Isabel and hug her.  Then, the four of us were all together and I felt the most enormous relief to be home and with the people I loved the most. 

So, that is the second trip condensed.  It was long and parts of it were hard.  But, as with so much in life, anything that is worth doing – is hard. 

I realized the other day that we have been trying to create a family since early 1999.  While adoption absolutely never solves or erases any of the difficult feelings that come with infertility, it does squarely put it where I want it to be – in the past. 

I will be posting more pictures soon.  I know I said that before but you have to forgive me.  I’m artsy/crafty – NOT techie. 

June 11, 2007 at 3:49 pm 4 comments

Long Journey Home


Forgive me all for the longest of pauses here.  I will post later the details of the second trip but I wanted to quickly write that we are home and now a family of four.  Isabel has been with me since the 22nd and has already gone through great changes since then.  We are all getting to know her and she is nothing short of delightful and sweet.  

At the right on my blogroll, you can see “My dossier Pictures” and if you click on it, there are new pictures of Isabel.  I will have more pictures posted soon.  Forgive the quick post but I am still catching up to west coast time and I am sleepy from 2 am feedings .  More soon…I promise.

June 4, 2007 at 9:17 am 10 comments

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