Thursday, June 20, 2013


I would do anything for this boy, I thought as I felt his warmth pressed against me.

It was naptime and Matthew had been showing signs of being ready for a while—needing to be held more than normal, sucking his thumb an extra measure, fussing at the smallest little thing.

So I carried him upstairs to our impromptu “nap room,” the attic guest room, and settled him in, snuggled against my chest, a blanket wrapping us both into a warm cocoon. I started to sing, the songs I normally sing to put him to sleep. “Simple Gifts.” John Denver’s song “Matthew.” “Morningtown.” The whole line up.

Somewhere during the last verse of Morningtown, I felt his body relax. His breathing took on an easy rhythm. And I realized my boy had fallen asleep.

And that’s when I felt it, deep inside.

I would do anything for this boy.

I’ve heard other adopted parents say there’s a point where you cross through the thick mud and mire that is adoption into the regular journey of parenthood. And in my own heart, these past few weeks, as I’ve waded deep into my own fears and worries, realized epiphanies about the kind of parent I’m called to be, and settled into this new normal that isn’t so new anymore, I feel a kind of passage into a parenthood that is authentic and familiar.

And when I stop focusing on the losses and instead embrace all that is good in our lives, I find there is so much along the way that I get to see, because I'm paying attention.

Like that moment with a little boy snuggled into my chest, his weight and his significance fully upon me. I cannot say what I will feel tomorrow, for honestly I have no idea what is ahead.

But on this rainy Thursday afternoon, I feel a deep sense of gratitude that Matthew is my boy. I know with certainty that this is where he belongs—and that no matter what comes in the future, we can rest knowing that this little boy will always belong here with us, his family—and in the warmth and safety of his mama’s arms.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


I had an epiphany this afternoon while hiking on a trail with Matthew asleep in the baby carrier on my back.

I was thinking through the past few weeks, trying to unravel some pretty intense reactions I’ve been having to some of Matthew’s delays, and it dawned on me that on some level, as Matthew’s mama, I feel guilty for his delays and wonder if I’m doing enough for him.

Maybe that sounds silly—because Matthew needs so many things in this season and from all angles it looks like we are doing everything right. We’ve welcomed him into our home, we have helped him learn to snuggle and expect attention and ask for things when needs them. We feed him, give him a consistent routine, give him plenty of hugs and affection, and pretty much take care of any need or want he can have.

And yet I think I’ve been carrying around this guilt that somehow I’m not enough—that I don’t know enough or have enough skills or enough energy to help him catch up. And when his diagnoses in the areas of social development and language continue to be “delayed,” I feel responsible for those delays somehow.

And it makes me ashamed.

But today it dawned on me that the only thing I can be for Matthew is his mama. Maybe that seems simple, but his life and his development are in many ways up to him. He doesn’t need me to be an expert or a child psychologist or a doctor. He doesn’t need me to be a therapist or specialist. He can find all those people when he needs them.

But the one thing I can be for him is his mom—that’s the only job I have that I’m really good at—that I’m supposed to be doing.

What a relief.

Aaron and I were talking last week about how in many ways Matthew’s challenges aren’t any different because he’s adopted. Yes, we choose to adopt a child with a cleft lip and palate—we knew about surgeries and visits to Children’s Hospital and some follow up speech therapy to correct speech impacted by a cleft palate. But we had no idea our child would come with such significant social and language delays because of his time in the orphanage. It’s not something we signed up for.

Which is exactly how it must feel to have a biological child—or any child—whose delays come upon a parent suddenly or without warning.

So here we are. Yes, our boy has some delays. But he’s also so smart and continues to develop and grow, albeit at his own pace. And as his mama, I can choose to worry and wonder. I probably won’t be able to entirely stop wishing I was more—had more—knew more—for my boy. And I will feel the losses palpably—the loss of certainty about the future, the loss of being able to hear my boy speak my name right now, the loss of him chattering with his brother and sister or playing alongside a friend.

And I will always carry and feel deeply the losses he sustained early in his life—losses he had no control over (and neither did I). It all makes me incredibly sad, and sometimes a little mad too.

But what choice do I have now except to dig in and be the best mama I can be? Matthew needs me—not to change him but to love him. The changing and growing is all up to him. But one thing I know is true: We all grow and thrive better with love.

So instead of feeling guilty for all that I’m not, I’m going to try and choose to be grateful for all that I am—and glad my only job right now is just to be Matthew’s mama.

And to believe that is enough. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Loss + Goodness

I just finished writing a blog post about all the losses I’m feeling in our life right now, but I’ve decided not to post it. There are just some things that don’t belong in the public sphere, and the deep discouragement in my heart today isn’t the right message to be sharing on our blog, at least not at this moment.

I advocate for honesty, and I have pledged to tell the truth in my words. But it’s also okay to carry some things deep in my heart, and to keep them private where they belong.

Let’s face it: sometimes adoptive mamas get discouraged by all the losses our children face—our families face—and in truth, we face—but that is part of living and parenting and loving a child.

So instead, tonight, I feel like telling you about this amazing little boy in our lives and all the wonderful things he is doing, plus some things we wish for him to learn. Here’s a list of the GOODNESS that I see every day in our amazing boy:

He can now sign: more, all done, milk, ball, book, shoes, help, no, eat.

We are teaching him to sign: Mama, Dada, Maya, Sam, socks.

He can do the motions (although inconsistently) to: The Wheels on the Bus, Open and Shut Them, The Itsy Bitsy Spider.

He responds to these statements: “Want to take a bath?” “Do you want a bottle?” “Do you want to eat?” “Go get a book and let’s read.” “Go put your shoes on.” “Want to go outside?”

With his body, he can: throw a ball, kick a ball, climb the ladder to the playhouse, sit on his sister’s lap and swing on the swing or go down the slide, run through the sprinkler, move the sprinkler, toss the sprinkler, sit on the sprinkler, hold a hand and walk several blocks, run down the sidewalk, climb up and down the stairs.

He LOVES looking at books together.

His favorite toys to carry around: the plastic horse, Tigger, matchbox cars, small balls.

Things he’s NOT supposed to do but does anyhow: climbs up on the coffee table, opens the dishwasher while it’s running, throws things down the stairs, stands on the dining room chairs, pulls the wooden vents out of the floor and drops toys down the vent shafts, plays with the television remote control, surfs on the rocking chair.

The things he does that warm my mama heart: Wanting to be picked up ALL the time by me, readhing for me when he’s in someone else’s arms, sitting in my lap even after he’s finished his bottle just sucking his thumb and snuggling, jumping on top of me (or his dad or brother or sister) anytime we are lying on the floor.

My wishes for him this summer: Learn to self-feed with finger foods, start making “placeholder sounds” for words (like “woof” for dog or “vroom” for car), learn to put on his own pants and shirt.

When the losses abound, it’s helpful for this mama to step back and think about all the amazing steps our little boy has made in the past year. From a baby who couldn’t walk or sit up, who didn’t know how to play with toys or interact with others or even make eye contact, to this amazing, lively, happy little boy who is working hard every day to catch up and learn, this child we have is a miracle—in the world and in our lives.

Some days it’s right to take pause and feel the losses deeply.

But some nights, as the sun is setting and the house is quiet, the right thing for an adoptive mama to do is to sit quietly and feel the fullness in her heart of the blessings that come in loving and parenting such a boy as Matthew.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Visit to Neurodevelopmental

I’ve promised to keep this blog current with updates about Matthew, and have pledged honesty above all, especially for those of you currently in the adoption process, so I thought it would be appropriate to give a little update about our visit to the Neurodevelopmental Center at Children’s Hospital earlier this week.

I have to admit that both Aaron and I were feeling a little hesitant about our visit. As we anticipated the appointment together, we agreed that most of our hesitation came from a worry that the staff there wouldn’t take into account the full history of Matthew’s experiences, that they would be quick to label him, or that they wouldn’t value our thoughts as his parents as much as we wanted them to.

I am pleased to report instead, that the nurse practitioner we saw did just the opposite of what I listed above, which shouldn’t really surprise me as I have always felt like Children’s is an excellent place for children and their families to receive care.

We spent about an hour talking with the NP and learned a few things that were helpful to us, but at the end of the day, she agreed that Matthew’s delays in development stem from the list of challenges he has faced in his life: 18 months in an orphanage in a situation that appears rather neglectful, an unrepaired cleft lip and palate, a change in language, three surgeries, and a transition to a new family, culture and way of life.

One additional insight the NP provided us with is this: many of Matthew’s “unusual” social behaviors are similar to those they see in children with undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss. We know from the ENT doctor who placed the tubes in Matthew’s ears at the time of his palate repair that he likely had very little hearing because of a massive amount of fluid in his ears, and once they put the tubes in, his hearing increased significantly. And we now know that he also has some hearing loss in his left ear. We obviously don’t know the extent to which Matthew’s hearing was or is impacted, but it’s pretty certain that hearing loss has been part of his life experience the past 2-½ years.

So perhaps this is one explanation that helps make sense of some of his rather strange movements, sounds, and interactions.

Most of all, our NP said she wants us to work hard to measure Matthew ONLY against Matthew—and to stay away from assessments that try to norm him or measure him based on other kids his age. We should obviously continue to pay attention to his delays in development. She prescribed some OT feeding therapy from a therapist at Children’s to help him develop confidence with crunchy and textured foods (at this point he’s still eating mostly softer consistencies from a spoon).

Overall, we were encouraged by the support we received from the NP and our team at Children’s. We’ve been asked to return again in four to six months, so we can see how much growth and development Matthew has experienced in that time. It’s funny because just this week, even after our visit, Matthew has made some more strides in his development. He’s using a few more signs now, enjoying back and forth play with faces and bodies (something new) and really focusing in on our mouths and lips when we talk to him. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these days, either soon or a few months from now, he just started saying some words of his own.

And in the mean time, we will continue to support him in every way we can. We are so glad for all the people in Matthew’s life who help him to learn and grow: his brother and sister, Marmie and Bapa, Aunt Amy, cousin Parker, other family members near and far, his preschool teachers, his SLP, dear friends who invest time and energy in his life, and the wonderful team of doctors and specialists at Seattle Children’s who have taken such good care of him.

What a ride this is—so many things we would never have expected.  But at the end of the day, we can’t imagine life without Matthew. As I type this, he’s standing in the evening sunshine spinning a Matchbox car on the coffee table and making the most gleeful, joyful sounds you could imagine. What a boy!

And the thing that I marvel at most is the way our family life feels so normal now—like Matthew has always been here. Of course there are moments when we take pause and feel emotional about the challenges Matthew still has ahead of him.

But most of the moments in our lives these days are ordinary—normal, even. Goodness abounds in our house, and love is here too, continuing to knit our hearts together, the threads of our own paths intertwined with this amazing, wonderful little boy whom we get to call our own.

An ordinary moment at our house . . .