Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Burf the Baby

Joci has really good speech, especially for a 3 year old, but there are still a few funny things.

Words that begin with "F" are pronounced with a "P."

Words that end in a "P" are pronounced with an "F."

And you don't *feed* the baby, you *eat* the baby.

So when it's bottle time, Joci loves pix a bottle and be careful of sharf knives in the kitchen, then it's time to eat the baby and after Noelle only takes a swallow or two, it's time to burf her.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Noelle's Story Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

After a sudden unexpected opening on the waiting list at our adoption agency, I wasn't sure whether to take it or not. It seemed too soon. Justin, however, didn't think twice and said if there was an opening we should take it. Who knows how long it would take to get on the list again?

So we filled out the application and sent the check. We were officially one the list. Time to update our homestudy. We plodded through it, filling out a paper here or there. Booking our FBI background checks. Making doctor's appointments. But I didn't feel the same kind of urgency I felt the first time around. With Jocelyn, we had our homestudy done in five weeks. Second time around, we took close to five months. I just wasn't in a hurry and didn't feel like I needed to rush. On a few occasions my caseworker had to nag me to make progress. How many times does that happen?

While we were homestudy ready in November and had an online profile set up, I still hadn't completed my parent profile - a little "scrapbook" of info about us that the potential birth parent(s) review to help them choose an adoptive couple. I was slowly working on it. Once in December, my caseworker asked where we were on it. She had someone she wanted to show it too. I emailed her a PDF. I was grateful that my caseworker was still thinking of us and trying to find us a match even though we were lagging. She could have easily passed us by. I'm telling you, A New Beginning is a really great agency.

Even though we still had things to do with the agency, I was pushing forward with personal finding efforts. About half of all adoptions happen without an agency and I thought that maybe my next adoption would be a private adoption just due to the odds. I blogged about it, talked about it on Facebook, and made pass-along cards.

The second week of January, I got a Facebook message from a high school friend named Nicole that I hadn't had a ton of contact with since my days as Hillcrest Knight ten and a half years ago. In her message, she said that she knew I was hoping to adopt because I had talked about it on Facebook and her brother-in-law is an adoption attorney and facilitates a lot of adoptions and had some upcoming situations but not enough families and asked around if anyone knew of families hoping to adopt. She instantly thought of us and asked if she could share our information with him.



Along with my permission, I gave Nicole my adoption blog address and my phone number. A couple of days later, on January 13, a lawyer out of Arizona named Paul Petersen called me to explain how he facilitates adoption and ask if we were interested in possibly using him as an adoption resource. He told us he exclusively works with Marshallese adoptions because he speaks the language and we would have to be on board with a beautiful island baby. We didn't see any harm in having Mr. Petersen on our side as well as our agency and told him to go ahead and show us off if he had the chance.

I didn't think much of my connection with Mr. Petersen at all. I did write something about it on an adoptive moms Facebook group I am part of and learned that two women I knew in my childhood had also listed with this lawyer. One woman had adopted elsewhere but one had a successful adoption with Mr. Petersen. I was curious to talk to her and ask her about her experience. I really wanted to make sure everything was ethical and upright. This woman was HARD to track down. Who doesn't have a blog or a Facebook account these days?

On February 1, I attended a baby shower of a coworker. It was the first baby shower in a LOOOOOOONG time that I thoroughly enjoyed. Seriously...every second of it. That is a HUGE accomplishment for an infertile woman! :) A coworker/friend named Kristen asked me how adoption stuff was going. I told her about the lawyer and the possibility of adopting a Marshallese baby. Kristen swooned at the thought--beautiful brown skin, exotic black eyes.

my gift for the baby shower (okay, not the most relevant picture, but I felt this post needed another image)

When I got home from that baby shower and checked my email, I saw I had a message from Mr. Petersen. The subject of the email was "Placement Opportunity." WHA?????

Based on our blog, a birth mother had chosen us to adopt her baby, due June 19. How thrilling. It just seemed unreal. The email was very business-like and unemotional. It was very different from getting a phone call from an enthusiastic caseworker who could answer my every question on the spot. I reread the email a dozen times to make sure I was understanding correctly.

Justin and I were thrilled, but we had reservations too. We hadn't talked to anyone that had gone through the adoption process with Mr. Petersen. We wanted to make sure everything was ethical and right. And maybe it was a little sappy, but we had a hard time parting ways with our beloved agency and the same caseworkers that helped us build our family through adoption Jocelyn.

I did as much online research as I could. I searched for information about Marshall Island adoptions and what I found scared me. Accusations of child trafficking, coercion, and misunderstandings abounded in these stories. Because of a compact the US has with the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), the Marshallese people can travel to the US easily without a visa. And RMI adoptions are not governed by the Hague Convention, which means there are no ethical or legal standards for the adoptions. Many of the stories I read told of desperate families in poverty with very little understanding of the American concept of adoption being flown to the US to deliver a child, relinquish rights, then sent back home never to see their child again and not really knowing what had happened. Most of these accounts happened in the early 2000's. But I was terrified to be involved in such a scheme.

I remember breaking down during a phone call with my sister, saying that I wanted a baby so bad, and it would make sense to accept the baby no matter what and provide it a good home. Doesn't the end justify the means? Doesn't a dog born in a puppy mill also deserve a good home, even if puppy mills are unethical? (Not that I am comparing adoption to a puppy mill, but it was the best comparison we could come up with.) Should the child suffer because of a corrupt institution?

It tore my heart out, but I said no. I knew I could not be part of something like that. I knew that when my child asked about her adoption story, I needed to be proud to tell it. I needed to tell her that she was where she belonged - not where she ended up due to coercion and corruption.

But I still didn't know exactly how Mr. Petersen's adoptions worked. I emailed him with a slew of questions needing to know EVERY. LITTLE. DETAIL I needed to make my decision. And I was desperate to talk to the girl I knew as a child who had adopted through Paul. Doing an internet search, I saw a very recent obituary for her mother, who had just passed. The funeral was still to come. I admit, I kind of considered crashing that funeral just to talk to her.

I was a mess. I wanted to be excited but I couldn't go into this situation blindly. I knew that educating myself could reveal things I didn't want to know, but I refused to remain ignorant. I prayed so hard, but felt lost. I was torn up inside, desperate for answers, desperate for peace.

To be continued...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dancing In the Rain

Sometimes, you go out for a brief stroll in the rain for a little refreshment and you just can't resist jumping in a giant puddle.

For the record, I jumped in the water before Joci.

We were soaked from the waist down. But I wouldn't trade these memories for the extra load of laundry ti cost me. Being a mom is so much fun!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Loving Joci More

So many wives (myself included) say how much more they fall in love with their husbands when they see him interact with their first child for the first time. It's true. I kind of expected to experience that and I did. I knew my Justin was a wonderful husband but seeing what a tender, wonderful father he was made me love him more.

What I didn't expect was for the same thing to happen with my Joci.

Being a big sister has shown me a tender, endearing side to my little Joci that I hadn't seen before. And it has made me love her even more, which I didn't think was possible.

Just one example...

I had just fed Noelle and got her back to sleep at 7:00 a.m. yesterday morning. I had had a long night of seemingly constant feedings. I was excited to slip back into bed for a couple of hours. To my surprise, Joci got up. She usually isn't up until 8:30. Grumble, grumble. I was desperate for a little more sleep so I told Joci that I had to go take a nap. She could either watch a movie in the living room or go play with toys in her room. She chose the movie. I put Noelle in the bassinet by my bed and settled in to go to sleep, knowing Justin would be up soon and one of the four grandparents in my home would probably be up soon as well.

Twenty minutes later when Justin got up, he woke me up (and I was *not* happy to be awoken after 20 minutes!) and told me to look out into the living room. Joci was out there with the bassinet. She had tiptoed into our room and wheeled it out. She was very gently petting her baby sister. I can't believe neither one of us heard Joci come into our room, let alone wheel out the bassinet! After pushing aside the thoughts of tipped bassinets and smothered babies and after chuckling about the silliness of it all, my heart melted at how tender of a moment it was between big sis and little sis. (We've since had a discussion about moving the bassinet and other things the baby may be in.)

Joci adores her baby. She is so good with Noelle and wants nothing more than to help with the baby in any way. Sisters have such a special bond. I am so excited for these two.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Noelle's Story - Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

After overcoming the pain and what-ifs of infertility yet again, I felt reassured by the answer to my prayer to stick to our plan of waiting until the beginning of 2012 to move forward with another adoption.

Easier said than done.

I was in contact with our former caseworker and I learned that the adoption agency we used with Jocelyn and wanted to use again, was full. They only represent a certain amount of families. To their credit, I think this is one thing that makes them exemplary--they never spread themselves too thin and always offer their families the best service. But they were at capacity in the spring of 2011 with a waiting list to get on their adoption waiting list.

This threw everything out of whack! We wanted to be on that adoption waiting list in 2012. But would there be a spot? Should we get on the pre-wait list? Surely if we got on the pre-wait list, we would get a spot by January 2012. But what if we got on the list too soon? What if it happened before we were ready emotionally and financially? There was no way to know how fast the list would move, and no way to plan when we would get on the real list.

Thinking about this pre-list/list thing drove me crazy. We sort of landed on getting on the pre-list around June, giving us six months to move onto the actual waiting list by January. I hated not being able to plan everything.

Last June, I discovered that my coworker was a very talented, budding photographer. He had done a lot of still photography and wanted to venture into portraiture. I asked if we could be guinea pigs for him sometime in the upcoming months. Some nice family pictures would be good for our adoption profiles in January. He was excited and said he would love to and after checking his schedule, he wanted to do the pictures that week. Like three days after I asked him. He had some family events and his wife was super pregnant and they would have a baby soon, and he wanted to do it right away. I told him we could wait - we could wait three or four months even. This wasn't urgent by any means. He insisted. Our pictures are breathtaking. I knew they would be the icing on the cake for our adoption profile.

When July came we were ready to get on the pre-list with our adoption agency. I let our caseworker know our intentions.

Still, I had doubts in the back of my mind. Was it too soon? Not soon enough? We didn't have enough money. Maybe we should wait. Maybe we needed to go on faith because we never would have enough money. I prayed but no discernible answer came. My head and my heart were jumbled, but logic is given to us for a reason so I did my best to use it.

A week after getting our family pictures taken and a day after telling our caseworker we wanted to get on the pre-waiting list, our caseworker told us that a spot had opened up at the agency and it was ours if we wanted it.

I felt a little blind-sided. All my careful planning, all my focus on January 2012, seemed to be thrown by the wayside. We had two options: either say we weren't ready and hope they would have a spot for us in January OR get on the list and just go with it.

I struggled with the decision. In my experience, when things are meant to be, decisions come easily, naturally, and peacefully.

I was struggling.

Why had the answer to my prayer been to wait until January if things were moving now, in July?

What was I supposed to do?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Legally Ours

All dressed up for court

Noelle's finalization was a lot less formal than Jocelyn's. With Joci, we were in an actual courtroom with a judge at the bench in robes. We had to answer questions in a microphone. 

With Noelle, our lawyer said, "Let's go back and meet the judge." We went into Judge Beth Storey Bryan's chambers. She wasn't wearing robes. We chatted about Idaho, Arkansas, mountains, ticks, open adoption, etc. She was rifling through papers and signing a few things while we conversed casually and then she asked if we wanted to get a picture - we were done and didn't even know it! 

Noelle's bio family and us went to an early dinner together. Then they took us to a little store with Pacific Island/Marshallese goods. We bought this Marshallese flag for Noelle's nursery. 


Friday, May 18, 2012

Finalization Day

I will have pictures of our adventures later.

Today is finalization day! Noelle's birth family should be showing up at our hotel any minute for some baby time. In two hours, our hearing begins where our adoption will become legally finalized. Then we will go out to eat afterward. I am so thrilled that Noelle's birth family have decided to come to court with us. It means a lot to us and I think it will mean a lot to Noelle someday. Open adoptions are such a blessing. How can you deny how much love Noelle's birth family has for her? Their decision to place her in our arms is out of pure, selfless love. Warms my heart.

Tonight we will pack up everything we have. Noelle's birth parents have given us so many baby clothes and blankets that I think we may have to buy another bag to check on the plane. :) We'll shower and try to have a calm and productive night and then we fly home tomorrow just before noon. I pray Noelle is a good traveler or it will be a really long day!! :)

Over the past few days, we've done a little sight-seeing. Tuesday, we went to a quaint town called Eureka Springs and took a steam-engine train ride through the Ozark Mountains. We shopped in town and had a yummy Italian dinner.

Wednesday, we went to Pea Ridge National Military Park--a Civil War battleground where one of the most important battles was fought. We also saw the Trail of Tears where it crosses through the area. It was beautiful and informative. So strange to look across such beautiful landscapes and think of the pain and horrors thousands of people suffered there.

Thursday, we went to War Eagle Caverns. We saw a brochure for this place our first day here but figured it wouldn't be a good place to take a baby. We checked out their website though and realized that they were wheelchair/stroller accessible, so we went and it was really neat. We went on a guided tour through a neat cave and saw a bat, a baby beaver, and a salamander. Parts of the movie Frank and Jessie were filmed there - now I am going to have to check out that movie!  We went back to Eureka Springs and I bought a blessing/sealing dress for Noelle that I admired the day before. It was spendy but I love it and it will be a relic from the state she was born. We wanted to do a few more sight-seeing things, but everything closes at 5:00 pm on weekdays. Kind of silly for a tourist town.

As we were driving home, I said something about being in the Ozark Mountains. Justin asked, "Where are the Ozarks?"

I said, "We are in them. Right now. We've been in them for the past few days." I pointed towards the wooded hills around us.

"What? These are the mountains? I've been looking for these mountains for days!" 

We got a good laugh out of that. We are so used to mountains meaning snow-capped, granite peaks thousands and thousands of feet in the air. It's hard to imagine that there are mountains that don't break the timber line. :)

I will have pictures later. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Diva Demands

Who hasn't heard about the ridiculous contract riders of musicians? Van Halen started it all in the 80's with their demand for a bowl of M&M's backstage with all the brown ones picked out. Their logic was to prove that the producers and stage managers had read and followed the entire contract therefore ensuring the safety and quality of their performance. 

Of course the little M&M test turned into a full opportunity for the diva tantrum. Now musicians demand all kinds of crazy things. Sure, they are living on the road and don't have access to their own kitchens and beds so I think it's fair they ask for things they way they want them. Within reason. But what's fun about being reasonable? :)

I got to thinking...what would I demand if I were a diva?

Here are my demands
A platter of fresh, ripe raspberries
Hot bacon
Numerous bouquets of white and pale pink peonies and lilacs
Diet Coke
Renew Lotion
Down alternative bedding--mattress protector, pillows, and comforter 
Pillowtop mattress
Electric blanket
White noise machine
A massage therapist!

What kinds of things would you be diva about? 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Noelle's Story - Part 1

Noelle Kelly Malia Zierke

Born May 9, 2012
6 lbs. 13 oz.  
19 3/4 inches

She may have joined the world five days ago, but the journey to get her here started long before.

We always knew we wanted more than one child, so we knew Jocelyn was just the beginning. But after her adoption, it took awhile to feel like we ready for number two. Most agencies won't let you get on their adoption list until your previously adopted child is a year and many adoptive couples--not knowing how long the process will take--get on the list as soon as their baby turns one. We talked about that, but the idea of it was too overwhelming. We were just enjoying our precious Jocelyn and recovering financially as well. We thought it would be perfect to add another baby to the family after Joci was three but hopefully before she was four. But it's so easy to plan these things, right? :)

So we made a plan. In January of 2012, we start on the process again.

That plan got derailed a little bit in the fall of 2010. In October 2010, my period was late. I have never had a late period. I don't think I even realized it until I was a week late...and I wondered if it had happened. Would I be one of the women who miraculously got pregnant after adopting? No...I didn't want to jump the gun and get my hopes up. I waited a few more days and took a pregnancy test. 


Okay, no big deal. Been there before. I didn't really think I could be pregnant.

But a week later, I still hadn't gotten my period. So I took another pregnancy test. 


A week later, I still hadn't gotten my period. Another test.

Another negative. 

For whatever reason, I just entirely skipped my period that month. It has never happened to me before or since. But it did a number on my mind. I got so baby hungry. And I began to wonder if maybe I could get pregnant. Maybe I didn't try hard enough. That's one thing about unexplained infertility--the "what ifs" are never quite laid to rest. So I decided to give it the old college try again. 

I could not handle fertility treatments again. I decided to go for a more holistic approach. I had gone to acupuncture before, and the practitioner told me that if I gave him six months he could get rid of my uterine fibroid tumors. My ob doctor said the only way to get rid of those was surgery and he said it wouldn't be worth the trouble--they weren't causing any problems and surgery could create scar tissue and create more problems. 

I always thought that was weird--I have two large growths on my uterus and they don't affect my uterus whatsoever? I didn't buy it. So my acupuncturist said he could take care of them in six months. I wasn't sure how much I bought into that either, but I could give him six months and see. 

After six months, I had an ultrasound. My doctor could only see one tumor and it was smaller than either of the previous two. He didn't believe my acupuncture story and said it must have been a bad ultrasound. 

This news gave me a lot of hope and I thought I may actually get pregnant. 

But I didn't. 

All the emotions and infertility pain I had waded through before and put far, far behind me came back. It was devastating. I cried. I got depressed. And I prayed. 

I got an answer. 

The answer to my prayers was this: Stick to your original plan. 

It reassured me. I stopped stressing about pregnancy and went back to my regular plan. We wouldn't think about adoption until January 2012. 

To be continued...

P.S. Read Part 2 here. 

Mother's Day 2012

I've had Mother's Days where I've cried tears of pain and frustration.

I've had Mother's Days where I've been too callous to care.

I've had Mother's Days where I got homemade gifts and felt like I was finally "normal."

But I have never had a Mother's Day like this. I am sorry to my husband and kids for the rest of forever...but I really doubt anything will top this one.

On Wednesday night before we came to Arkansas, Justin gave me my Mother's Day presents. A Kindle with a few accessories and a couple of CDs. I was able to use it on the flights.

 My longtime friend Meagan who lives four hours away in Kansas took pity on my Arkansas "house arrest" and drove four hours with her kids to see me. It was so fun and did my soul good to have a friend here with me.

Noelle's birth family came to our hotel for a brief visit. We exchanged gifts and I got five pairs of Marshallese earrings.

We went to Red Lobster where I ate all the junk and carbs I wanted.

We watched We Bought a Zoo at the hotel. Great movie.

And I snuggled my four-day old baby.

While I am having an amazing Mother's Day, I am aware of those who have a hard time today. Mothers without children. Children without mothers. Mothers are angels that bless our lives with unconditional, selfless love. Those angels are more often than not completely unrelated to us. Wishing ALL mothers a happy day and praying for blessings for your service and love.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Meet Baby Noelle

Baby Noelle is sleeping on our hotel bed right now. What a sweet feeling. 

Last night as we were holding her, we found out that birth mama had wanted to name the baby Kelly. We decided to keep Kelly as a middle name. We have known for awhile that we wanted Malia as a middle name - Ma-LEE-uh. It is Hawaiian for "Marie" which is Justin's mom's middle name and we wanted to name the baby after her. Plus since it's Hawaiian, it honors the baby's island heritage. And holding her, the name Noelle sounded so right. So the official name is Noelle Kelly Malia. 

This morning, we hung out at the hospital for a few hours before baby and birth mama were released. We had some touching moments. It's never easy to see a mother say goodbye to her baby. I know both birth parents are completely at peace and confident in their decision, but it was hard to see. They gave us bags and bags of clothing and blankets for the baby. The nurses loaded us up too - we got about $100 worth of formula. 
After leaving the hospital we went straight to the attorney's office where all the consent forms were signed. I was worried that would be really emotional, but it wasn't. 
Noelle and I had a nap today. We had a lovely dinner out. 

Noelle is a slow eater. And she doesn't like to let us know when she is hungry. She would sleep forever if we let her. We have to watch the clock with this one. 

Daddy seems to have a special touch with her. He can settle her down easily. 

The only time she cries is when we change her clothes. By the way, this girl can PEE!

She is so sweet and precious. My heart is full. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

First Look at Baby Pictures

I am tired but too excited not share some pictures with the world.

Our baby was born in the wee hours on May 9. I've heard 4 a.m. I have heard 2 a.m. Her birth mama was amazing and didn't go to the hospital until she was at a 7. Had the baby au naturel.

Baby weighed 6 lbs. 13 oz. and was 19 3/4 inches. My guess is that the due date was OFF. I don't think this baby was truly 6 weeks early!

We got up at 4 a.m. and flew out of Idaho. Connected in Salt Lake and then in Minneapolis. Our last flight was an hour late.

Finally got in around 7 p.m. Spent a couple of hours at the hospital and then we left to get food and a car seat. By the way, it was astoundingly tricky to find a Walmart in Arkansas. And seeing that this is the birth place of Walmart, we were floored.

Anyway, more details later. Enjoy these pictures. And I look disgusting. Gross hair. Giant shadows under the eyes. Kinda looks like I've been through fifteen hours of labor - or fifteen hours of security checks and flying! :)


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