Our First Gotcha Day Anniversary: A Look Back At Our Adoption Story

Adoption is an incredible experience. When we found out we couldn’t have any more children, we turned to adoption to complete our family. I never could have imagined the ride we were about to embark on.

Newborn domestic adoption is a very lengthy, expensive, and emotional journey. Luckily, adopting a baby here in the United States can be compensated in tax refunds by the government (federally everywhere, and statewide if you stick to your state). So if you fear that you cannot afford it, look into your options. Grants and loans exist. And while carrying the loan payment is hard, it’s totally, of course, worth it.

As for the rest of it, I’ll share our story with you now. We first spoke to our agency in February of 2017. By July we had completed all of the paperwork, home studies, inspections, and classes that were required and were ready to go! We went live (were posted on the agency’s website) and then……..we waited.

I can’t explain that wait to you. I think it’s something you really and truly have to go through to understand. Other couples were chosen, why not us? Was our biography bad? Were our pictures bad? What did they have that we didn’t? What if we never get chosen? What if we get chosen tomorrow? What will our baby look like? We tried to prepare. What if our daughter was born addicted? How would we handle that? What if she was a different race? How could we be sure that she would be able to embrace and experience her own culture in this area and with a white family? I spent hours. Days. Weeks. Months. Pondering every scenario my mind could possibly conceive. I researched, and researched and researched. I tortured myself with questions. It was hard. It was really, really hard.

The social workers at our agency told us not to prepare. Not to buy her clothes or toys. Not to prepare a room for her. Because it would be all the more devastating if we never brought her home. For the most part, I obeyed this command. I did allow myself a few little cheats, however. For one, we already had the boys. That meant that we had a lot of the big stuff like a bassinet, play yard, highchair, etc. And I distinctly remember buying her a dress once when I was out shopping. It was so adorable that I just couldn’t help myself. I confessed to my husband who was, as always, so supportive. He said it was good to have the dress. It represented hope and possibility of what could be. And we bought clothes. I am a very Type A, control-freak personality. Not knowing if or when we would get a baby was torture for me. I had to, in some way, prepare. So we went to garage sales and got some baby girl clothes. I filled a couple of totes, and then I put them in storage. I figured, that way, if it happened fast, we wouldn’t be bringing her home with nothing. And if it didn’t, we could just donate them and not be out a ton of money. The other thing we did was create a registry. I had spent hours researching baby formula (I nursed my boys so I was new to the scene) and finally chose one. So we registered for it, and other things like diapers, wipes and pacifiers. That way, again, if it happened fast, we could run there and not even have to think. It was already all planned out. I also, of course, added some adorable girly stuff to the registry as well. I mean, come on, I’m only human.

Months went by. We were presented with several opportunities to try for a baby, but none of them seemed like the perfect fit for us. The holidays came and went and still, no baby. I thought a lot during those moments of childless couples in the world. How much more difficult was this wait for them? I had my children to distract me. I already had little hands to hold and faces to kiss. How much more trying would this time have been if I was wondering if I’d ever be a mother at all? And I though about all of the birthparents who were choosing adoption. How difficult was this for them? How hard would it be to choose adoption for your baby? Thoughts constantly ran through my head if I didn’t keep myself extremely busy and preoccupied.

And then came Spring. We were presented with a couple of opportunities that seemed like they could be a good fit, and both times the birthparents chose other couples. Not us. And even though the agency prepared us for this rejection, explained that it wasn’t us that was an issue, that the families chosen were just a better fit, I couldn’t help but wonder if we had done something wrong. Maybe we didn’t seem friendly enough in our letter to them? Maybe our pictures weren’t good. All of the old worries flooded back each time. Thank God for my husband. He’s so laid back and relaxed – and everything that is the opposite of me that I needed so badly throughout this entire process. He kept me from freaking out and being overly anxious. I kept telling myself to be patient (NOT my strong suit).

As we rounded the end of July, we reflected on the fact that it was exactly a year since we had completed everything and gone “on the market” so to speak. We had one more year left, and then our homestudy would expire, and we’d have to decide whether or not we wanted to pay to reinstate it, or let our dream go. Every July, on the last Sunday of the month, we have a family reunion on my mother’s side. It’s a wonderful day, and I can remember last year, sitting at a table with my cousins and Aunts, and talking. I told them about our adoption journey and how we were doing so far. I remember thinking about it on the way home, wondering where we’d be the following year. Wondering if the waiting ever got easier. And then, when we got home, we got an email.

A healthy, beautiful baby girl had been born that morning. Her birthparents contacted the agency and let them know that they were interested in creating an adoption plan for her. Now, this email went out to probably 40 families. Just like all those which came before it. I was excited, but tried not to get my hopes up. We wrote our letter to them and submitted it, and then…we waited.

It typically took a week to hear in an email that a different family had been chosen. Those emails were hard to take. That rejection, while in no way personal, feels like a dagger through the heart. It’s hard to take. So this time, I was prepared for it. I didn’t expect to be chosen. As a matter of fact, I was pretty sure we wouldn’t be. I had it in my head that they wouldn’t want us. It’s like breaking up with someone before they can break up with you. It’s stupid and unhealthy, but it’s self preservation.

Sunday night I sent our letter. By Wednesday I hadn’t heard anything, and knew she wasn’t ours. I prepared for the email that I knew was coming. Instead, on Wednesday evening, I received a phone call from the agency. The birthparents had chosen us. They chose us. Out of all of the people who wanted that baby more than anything in the world, they picked us. I started sobbing. I remember vaguely having a conversation with her, but I can’t really remember what we said. I just remember crying and pacing while I talked to her. At the end of the conversation my best friend walked into the room. As soon as I hung up the phone she asked, “Did you get a baby?” I nodded, still crying, and she ran to me. We hugged, jumping up and down, and cry-laughing like children. I then showed her the text I got from the social worker, a picture of our daughter.

I immediately called my husband, took a screen shot of my text with the social worker, and sent him the picture of our baby. I was shaking. I remember that. And then, instead of being excited, I got really scared. What if they changed their minds?

The social worker had explained that they were going to wait until the following Monday to sign the paperwork. Which meant that they had until Monday to change their minds. It was Wednesday. And let me tell you, those were the longest, most emotionally exhausting 5 days of my life. We also had explicit instructions from the social worker. Buy newborn diapers, an outfit to bring her home in, formula, a few bottles, and nothing else. These were the bare necessities, and nothing was certain yet. We did as we were told. But come on. We also bought a few of the things on our registry. By then some of them were on clearance and I was afraid they’d be gone. So with the assurance that we could return them if we didn’t get our baby, I filled that cart up and we carted it all home. I left it in bags and put it in storage. And then we just….waited.

Monday finally came and the time that we were to go to the agency arrived. My husband and I packed up the diaper bag and made the (almost) hour drive to the agency. I wasn’t sure what to expect. We were told to be there at 1:00, even though the birthparents wouldn’t be there to sign until later that evening. When we arrived, she was there. Her foster mother had brought her to the agency so that we could meet her. We spent the next several hours holding her, feeding her, and talking to her. We were in love. And so, of course, the monster in my brain was stomping around, scaring me. Wondering what would happen if her birthparents didn’t show up. Or what if they did, but they changed their minds at the last minute. What if they wanted to meet us? What could I possibly say to them to thank them for choosing us? How can you ever find words for something like that?

The time finally came. The social worker said that they had arrived, and she and the attorney were going down the hall to meet them. I gave her something we had picked up for them. A card, thanking them, and 2 small tokens. The first was a ruby necklace for her (our daughter’s birthstone), and for him, a silver picture frame and a giftcard to shutterfly, so they could print out pictures of the baby if they wanted to. Let me tell you, in those moments, I could feel my heart beating all throughout my body. I went from elation to panic to nauseous about a thousand different times. Then I noticed that my husband was acting very out of character. He was cleaning the room. Lifting up cushions, checking under them to see if we’d dropped anything, packing the bag, throwing away trash, etc. It was the absolute first time in our 12 years together I’d actually seen him nervous.

Finally, finally, the social worker returned. The papers were signed. It was done. Once we signed, we would be taking her home. They didn’t want to meet us. They couldn’t see her. It was just all too hard for them. A little piece of my heart broke for them right then, and I don’t think it will ever be the same. I think about them every day, and especially today. I had wanted so badly to meet them. To thank them. To reassure them that they could always see her if they ever wanted to. To promise that we would always be there if they wanted us in their lives. But that moment wasn’t to be. And that’s OK. I did need to mourn a bit, in all honesty. It’s difficult to explain, but I really had wanted to know them, and for them to know us. But I understood, and I empathized, and I still had hope that, maybe someday, we would meet. So we signed the papers, and then, we brought our daughter home.

So it’s been a year to the day since we got her. We didn’t technically adopt her until March of this year, but this is the anniversary of the day that she became ours. A day I will never, ever forget. Her birthmother and I text from time to time. She’ll check in every once in awhile and see how things are going. It’s always nice to hear from her. We still have yet to meet. My hope is that we will, someday. That our daughter will grow up knowing her birthparents. That she’ll never question their love for her, or the sacrifice they made for her in choosing adoption. But even if they never want to meet us, I’ll still tell her the story of how she came to be ours. Of how God’s plan miraculously came to be, and of just how lucky she is to have two sets of parents who love her more than anything else in this world.

bb1
Our daughter, wearing that dress I bought when she was still just a dream for us.

 

Penny Pinching at Babies R Us!

Hey there! I went to Babies R Us today and did a little shopping. Our Babies R Us is not closing so there were no closeout sales going on. However, I did still manage to get a lot of stuff for my money. Please watch the video below if you’d like to know how I try to shop in ways that save our family money!

Postpartum Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Different From Depression and Just as Terrifying

Because I experienced this disorder, I feel an obligation to share it. I’ve never in my life been so terrified and lost as I was when this happened to me – and if speaking out helps just one new mother, I will be happy. Here is my story.

As a teenager I suffered from depression, but I seemed to outgrow it and after the birth of my oldest son when I was 22, it disappeared completely. I did have a mild case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder prior to this. It developed when I was 19. I started checking things 5 times. Before I went to bed, I’d check the oven 5 times to make sure it was off. The door 5 times to make sure it was locked. My alarm 5 times to make sure it was set. Over time I was able to stop these behaviors and all was well until I turned 25 and developed anxiety.

My anxiety presented itself in small panic attacks. I tried a couple of medications but ultimately decided to try to deal with it on my own and with counseling because I didn’t like the side effects of the medication I was taking. As time went on I managed my anxiety fairly well. It, and my OCD which had returned, were an annoyance but I was functioning pretty normally aside from certain things. I didn’t want medication because of my previous experiences with it, but also because I had a (stupid) sense of pride and wanted to “beat it” myself without the medication. I still saw a counselor from time to time to help me deal with it and felt that all was fine.

At 36 I had my son, Maxwell. He was an angel and I loved him more than anything. We were home about a week or so when the strangest thing happened. Someone stopped by to deliver flowers. The flowers had a balloon on them. I took a pair of scissors out of the drawer and cut the string of the balloon and then, suddenly, was paralyzed with fear. The following thought slammed into my mind: Hide the scissors. Someone could come in and find them and stab the baby. At first I was confused. Why in the name of God would I ever think such a thing? But in that moment it was like a floodgate opened and thoughts like that came pouring in. Plastic bag from the grocery store? Throw it away, someone could suffocate the baby. A knife I used to make dinner? Hide it, someone could stab the baby. I was so overwhelmed and horrified that I began crying hysterically. I was so wrapped in fear that I could barely breathe. I called my husband at work and begged him to come home. I told him that something was wrong with me and I didn’t understand what was happening and that I was terrified of being alone. He advised me to call my counselor. She spoke with me over the phone and helped me calm down and we made an appointment.

Leading up to that appointment, things only got worse. I remember sitting at the top of my stairs, petting my cat, and thinking What if you pick him up and throw him down the stairs? I quickly got to a point where I was not functioning. Because I was afraid that I was going to kill my baby. I couldn’t bathe him alone because I was afraid I would drown him.

At first I thought that perhaps I had Postpartum Depression. I searched online and found that the symptoms of PPD didn’t match what was happening to me. But then I found an article about Postpartum Anxiety and OCD. And I had those symptoms. It turns out, most women who have this are afraid someone is going to kill the baby. And sometimes, that someone is you. Imagine the horror that overcomes you when you are having these thoughts. I was a new mom. I was supposed to be wrapped in the bliss of bonding with my baby. But I couldn’t even pick him up because I was terrified of hurting him. But then, reading the article, I found the exact words I needed to hear, and I will share them with you. Women with this disorder DO NOT hurt their babies. You will not hurt your baby. I wept with relief. What was happening to me was real. It wasn’t in my head. I wasn’t insane. It had a name. I wasn’t alone. And it wouldn’t make me hurt my baby.

My counselor explained it to me like this. She said that your maternal instincts kick in when you have a baby, and one of those is your protection instinct. But in women with PPA & OCD, it doesn’t hit the normal threshold. It keeps going. It extends so far that it enters an area of irrationality, believing that anything and everything is a threat to your child – even you. So you are trying to protect your baby so much that you don’t even trust yourself. Here are some of the symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety and OCD:

Symptoms of Perinatal / Postpartum OCD

Symptoms of Perinatal / Postpartum OCD vary widely from mother to mother. Some examples of common obsessions seen in Perinatal / Postpartum OCD are:

  • Horrifying, intrusive thoughts of stabbing or suffocating a newborn child
  • Unwanted images of throwing or dropping a baby
  • Disturbing thoughts of sexually abusing a child
  • Fear of accidentally harming a child through carelessness
  • Intrusive thoughts of accidentally harming the fetus or child by exposure to medications, environmental toxins, germs, chemicals, or certain foods
  • Fear of being responsible for giving a child a serious disease
  • Fear of making a wrong decision (i.e., getting inoculations, feeding certain foods, taking antidepressants) leading to a serious or fatal outcome

Some common examples of compulsions seen in Perinatal / Postpartum OCD include:

  • Hiding or throwing out knives, scissors, and other sharp objects
  • Avoiding changing soiled diapers for fear of sexually abusing a child
  • Avoiding feeding a child for fear of accidental poisoning
  • Repeatedly asking family members for reassurance that no harm or abuse has been committed
  • Avoidance of certain foods, medications, or normal, everyday activities for fear of harming the fetus
  • Monitoring self for perceived inappropriate sexual arousal
  • Avoiding news articles and TV shows related to child abuse or infanticide
  • Repeatedly and excessively checking in on a baby as he/she sleeps
  • Mentally reviewing daily tasks and events in an attempt to get reassurance that one has not harmed a child or been responsible for harm to a child

I copied this list from the following site if you would like more information from there:

https://ocdla.com/postpartum-ocd

You may not have all of these symptoms, I didn’t. But if you recognize any of them in yourself, breathe a sigh of relief honey. You are going to be OK again, and you are not alone.

Now, at that time I started going back to my counselor regularly and working through it. I still refused medication because I thought I could handle it on my own. And I did, but not as well as I was convincing myself that I was. Fast forward 2 years to the birth of my now 2-year-old son, Bennett. The same thoughts came flooding back. Now what I didn’t want to admit to myself at the time is that they had never really left. I’d have good days and bad days, but I wasn’t healed. And after I had Bennett, it escalated again. This time was much easier to deal with because I knew what was happening. It’s like my husband says – it’s not as scary when the monster has a name.

I went through life and went to counseling for about 6 months. What I didn’t know was that an avalanche was forming. As I dealt with my PPA & OCD in my own way, I was also not dealing with it completely and it was escalating in new ways. My anxiety got so bad that I was having problems sleeping. It snowballed to the point that I went to my doctor for help. I remember sitting in his office, crying, feeling embarrassed and afraid. He handled it so well. I’ll never forget what he said. Megan, you’re one of the most self aware patients I have. If you say something is wrong, I believe you. I will help you. It will be OK. At this point I was so desperate that I said I wanted medication. He prescribed some for me. Zoloft for the anxiety and a sleeping pill to help me sleep for the first week until the Zoloft took effect.

Now, this transition had it’s own difficulties. For me, I was very – very – sensitive to the medication. It made my anxiety so much worse at first. But with my counselor and my doctor and lots of online chatrooms full of people going through the same thing, I came out the other side.

It’s been a year since I started taking Zoloft. In that time I’ve adjusted my dose up a couple of times. It’s been at it’s current dose for about 6 months now and I’m pretty comfortable with it. I still sometimes have anxiety, but the PPA & OCD symptoms are gone. I sleep well at night (well, as well as a mother of 4 – with 3 under 4 – can) and my normal OCD symptoms are gone as well. For example, my best friend and I got food the other day at a drive thru and she opened my straw and put it in my drink. Immediately she apologized because, before, I couldn’t have handled her touching my straw. But now, I don’t care. I drank from it, no issue. My anxiety is still there. I still have moments where I am anxious. In these moments I consider upping my medication. But then they pass and I keep moving forward.

I can tell you this. I am happier and more relaxed than I have been in years. So my advice to you as someone who has been through it is this: Don’t be afraid to get help. Because this IS treatable. And there are counselors and therapists and doctors and support groups who can help you. So if you find that you are going through this, don’t be afraid – but get help. You can’t do it alone, and you shouldn’t feel the need to. There is no shame in the game, baby. You get what you need to move forward and be the best Mommy you can be. You’re a good mother, and everything will be alright.