Thursday, November 29, 2012


Tomorrow at 1:30pm we will file into a court room in San Antonio. We will wait for our names to be called, and then we will tromp in our official finery to the judge's bench. We will listen, and answer when asked questions. We will do our best not to fidget or scratch ourselves or otherwise behave inappropriately.

We will leave that room legally and permanently bound to one another as a family.
*Everything* will change in the court room and *nothing* will change in that court room.

YH will enter the room as a Korean citizen; he will leave as an American citizen.
YH will enter with the names chosen by his firstmother (including her family name); he will leave with those names still intact, plus two others.
YH will enter as a ward of our adoption agency; he will leave as our dependent.
YH will enter as an only child; he will leave as the brother of two incredibly proud older siblings.

I will enter the room as the mother of two, and leave it as the mother of three.
Of course I have been a mother of three for close to two years now--it was in early December 2010 that YH's tiny face first etched itself on my heart.

 Over the last six months my feelings for this child have grown in depth and complexity. Loving him is work--the most meaningful, incredible work I have ever done. This is not to say that he is hard to love; anyone who has seen him smile falls a little bit in love with YH. Rather, providing the love that he deserves has challenged me to work harder at parenting than I ever have before.

Prior to taking custody the "work" was a largely solitary, academic pursuit. I bathed in the theoretical. I read parenting books, books on prenatal alcohol exposure, books on toddler adoption. I joined every forum and yahoo group I could find. It was my intention to stuff my brain with so much information it couldn't help but trickle down to my heart.

And then.
Then a real live little boy was placed in my lap.
A beautiful little boy, with a crooked grin and a lumpy head.
A beautiful little boy with myopia and enormous feet.
A beautiful little boy whose laughter is nothing like the rage-filled tantrums I had prepared for.
A beautiful little boy who resembles none of the worst case scenarios in my books.

And I was lost.

What do I do with this perfectly imperfect boy?
How do I meet his needs?
Why does he run to me and hug me tightly? Why does he pinch my cheeks and honk my nose? Why does he say "Mama I love you"? 
When will the grief and rage come?

The marvel of YH's character is that *despite* the incredibly crappy hand that he has been dealt, he approaches each new situation with unbridled enthusiasm. He finds a friend wherever he goes. Every new food is an opportunity to discover something delicious.

"Mmmmm! MOM! Mmmmm!"
(and then he offers me a bite, so I can experience his joy too)

He does not hold a grudge. He shares toys willingly. He appreciates the beauty of a tiny baby and a friendly dog. Every flower petal is a thing of wonder and a large cactus will make him stop in his tracks and shout "WHOA!"

YH makes me want to be a better person.

So tomorrow afternoon in court I am going to recommit to being the best I can be for my family--my whole family. In truth this proceeding will simply change YH's legal status--but I choose instead to view it as my opportunity to make a promise to my husband, my big kids, and my littlest love.

 I am going to appreciate how each one of my children brings something different to our whole: Miss A's athleticism, leadership and sharp intellect; Sweet Bubs gift for comedy, his sensitive heart and his gentle nature; and now YH with his joy for the tiny details in life, with his belly laugh that makes us all giggle, with his unbridled hugs for those he loves.

I am humbled to parent these children, to do right by them.

Monday, November 26, 2012

No thank you.

We're on the other side.
We're past the endless weeping, and the pain with each step YH takes.

The seemingly endless course of antibiotics is done.
The bottle of pain killer sits undisturbed for most of the day.

YH is back to running and playing with his brother and sister.
He is sleeping through the night again.
He is eating lots and lots of food again.

And it is SO GOOD to see my baby feeling better.
There is nothing like a health crisis to cement the notion that this child is of my heart, if not my blood.
The degree to which his whimpering cut into my soul--unimaginable.

This baby is wholeheartedly his firstmother's child--I will never deny this fact, or prevent their relationship--but my lands, he is in my heart. I love him fiercely and seeing him suffer was awful.

 This morning we had our second-to-last post-operative appointment.

YH has quickly figured out that the children's hospital is not his favorite place; he drags his feet and kicks at the ground as we approach the building. We park illegally in a neighboring strip mall parking lot so as to avoid the garage fees. He tries to redirect me to the Starbucks.

"Mom! Mom, cookie. Mom, coffee. Coffee mom?"

We plod on, undeterred.

In the office waiting room he is warily optimistic. Maybe today we'll just play with the toys and then leave! Maybe if I look extra cute "reading" 'Mujer' magazine she'll let us leave.
(Nope, sorry bubs.)

He protests mightily at the weigh in. I *always* have to hold him as we stand on the scale together. Then I hold him (sobbing) at arm's reach as the nurse weighs me separately.

In the exam room he whines for a few minutes and then begins to zoom his toy car all over the spinning chairs. He opens every cabinet and presses every visible button. He is still YH, after all.

When the nurse practitioner walks in he tries to hide behind me.
She preps the exam table and sets out her tools for his scheduled catheter removal.
He becomes ever more still, trying to disappear.
She invites YH to climb up on the table but he is no fool.

"No thank you" he says and he burrows deeper into my shoulder.

I lift him up and lay him down on the table. There is a white towel spread beneath his abdomen.

"No THANK you" he says again, slightly louder this time.
The nurse practitioner begins to remove his diaper. 

"No thank you. No thank you" again and again, delivered in a voice clouded by tears.

My poor boy--so polite even in his distress.

The catheter comes out with no problems and we skip on our way out of the building.


We are looking forward to baths, to playgrounds, to preschool--to all of life.
We are not taking it for granted any more.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The post I wanted to write

The post I wanted to write went something like this:

"Thank you all for your loving wishes on my last post. On the big day YH cheerfully put on his hospital gown, held the anesthesiologist's hand and waved good-bye to us happily as he walked down the hall to the operating room. His surgery went without a hitch, and he is now up and running as if nothing happened!"

Sounds great right???

Sadly, the reality is not so great.

YH did not put on his hospital gown willingly. He screamed and cried out for me as the anesthesiologist took him away, and I wanted to die on the spot.

YH's surgery *did* go well--and for that I am SO thankful.

 But his recovery is very, very painful. And he is crying most of the time that he is awake, despite being on multiple pain control medications. There is a reason that most kids who undergo similar procedures do so at 6 mos of age; with YH's heightened awareness of his body, and of his bodily functions, the pain is more present for him than it might be for a younger child.

When he moves he is reminded of the pain, and all that he wants to do is sit in my lap and cry on my shoulder. He leans his full weight against me, tries to meld into me, and sobs. I rub his back and make "wuss wuss" noises to him. Tell him he is brave, tell him he is strong. Try to convince him to eat something, anything.

I try to enjoy the sweetness of his body pressed against mine. Try not to be overwhelmed by his sadness. Try not to let him see how much his pain is hurting me too.

In addition to the near-constant crying, YH has had a resurgence of anxiety behaviors. Things like bouncing in his seat or while standing. Rocking back and forth while sitting alone on the sofa. Talking and/or humming constantly, and using repetitive phrases.

These are all behaviors that had faded over the last few months as his need to self-soothe lessened.

Now they are back.
Now they are, once again, the only means for him to control his environment. To try and outrun, outsmart, and outdistance the pain.

It sucks.

We have been in contact with our pediatric urologist and all is progressing normally. We are all doing our best to manage YH's pain and make him more comfortable. As his swelling decreases over the next 48 hours we anticipate big improvements for him. And while his pain is still near-constant, the intensity seems to be waning.

I am hopeful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Courting Karma

There is a lot going on with us these days.
A lot of hard stuff.
A lot of hard stuff that is unbloggable.

I hope that some day I can write about the unbloggable stuff, and the ways in which it has impacted each member of our family, but the person/s at the center of the unbloggable-ness do not wish to be a part of this internet record.

And so I let the keyboard rest.

***                   ***
One thing I can blog about, however, is that tomorrow YH has surgery.

That long off date we set with the pediatric urologist months ago is suddenly upon us.

Two weeks ago a nurse from the pediatric surgery center called me to go over the particulars of the surgery schedule. She talked me through each point.

She told me we should dress him in something he will feel comfortable in--does he have some pajamas? She told me he could bring a comfort object with him if we thought it would help.
She said I could hold his hand right up until they put him under and then I would have to leave him.
Leave him on a big bed, surrounded by tubes and wires.
Go wait in the special room for parents and family members of the tiny bodies being worked on by skilled hands.

At the end of our conversation the nurse asked if there were any particular religious or cultural practices that we wanted observed.

And I started to reply, "Well, he's only been a part of our family for six months and we've worked so hard to build a secure attachment...."

And that's when I lost it and began sobbing over the phone to the nice lady.
Because it seems so wrong to have carefully knit trust and attachment and the beginnings of love with this little boy, only to have it undone by a potentially traumatic medical procedure.

I am nervous.
Not so much about the procedures itself.
Nervous about the aftermath, about the look in YH's eyes when they put him on the bed.
When he wakes up from surgery and begins to feel pain.

I'm sorry baby.
I'm really, really sorry.

****           ****

So in preparation for this unraveling I've been courting good karma.
I have joined a million committees.
I have signed up for multiple care calendars for new parents.
I have funded kickstarter projects, bought from bake sales, donated to worthy causes.
I hold doors open for older persons and/or parents carrying babies.

I am hustling to put positive energy out into the universe in the hopes that the universe might pay me, my family, back in kind.

Ten days ago my facebookery news feed was inundated with messages about our city animal shelter being overcapacity. All fees were waived--the shelter was so desperate for space.

I took YH there "just to look". So that I could advocate for a specific critter, lobby my friends and family to take home a new best friend.
Not for us.
Oh no.

We looked at the small dogs, and the kittens. We watched their paws skitter across the plexiglass walls of their enclosures. Pick me! Pick me!
We went outside to the big dog kennels, where dogs with impossibly large heads leaned against the metal bars hoping for ear rubs.

In the third outdoor building, at the end of the row, a small dog curled into herself at the back of her kennel. We peered in at her and made kissy noises at her. All around us dogs barked.
The little dog thumped her tail, ears flattened against her skull. Slowly she put her paws forward and belly crawled across the concrete to the front of the kennel. She barely lifted her head from the ground and I could only get one finger through the bars to stroke her chin. When I touched her she flopped into a relaxed pile of fur.

All of this to say: we brought her home the next day.

I could not leave this shy, sweet creature in the overburdened shelter.

And so now we have Petunia. And she no longer belly crawls. Now she walks with her tail held up. Now she curls up next to Ruthie on the dog bed. Now she licks the cat's ears and piles into the car with the kids when we head to soccer games.

She's my good luck charm.
And today while I wait for the surgery center to call and tell us what time we need to be there tomorrow morning, I will rub her velvety ears. I will listen to her snore.
I will take comfort in my living, breathing bit of karma.