Monday, November 30, 2009

NaBloPoMo -The End.

Hey Meazi, Did you hear? Your mom finished that silly NaBloPoMo challenge.

You have to admit dad, some posts were better than others.

I'm just saying. I mean it was really hit or miss, don't you think dad?

I'm just glad it's over.

Me too.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Care and Feeding of a Habesha Tortuga

A woman that I have never met before is breastfeeding my son.

How's that for an opening sentence?

She isn't literally breastfeeding him, but he is drinking her milk, a lot of her milk. Every day. Every night.

There is a woman I know, her name is Elena. I met her several years ago. We were in a Yahoo group for women who were trying to get pregnant. I was the only one in the group who didn't end up getting pregnant. Elena got pregnant with triplets. On March 9th, 2005, Elena gave birth to her sons Carlos, Rafael, and Loran. All three of them died in her arms. She eventually went on to adopt two children...

And Ivy...
Xavi and Ivy had breast milk too.

I had been really interested in the idea of breastfeeding your adopted child. I did some research a couple of years ago, and thought that I might be able to give it a shot. Unfortunately it became clear to me that I wasn't brave enough to try it. It seemed that most protocols for induction involved some form of estrogen or progesterone, and since I had had cancer, my docs advised against it. That combined with the eye rolls I received from almost everyone I mentioned the idea to, made me quite discouraged. Many people find it bizarre, or unnatural. Steven was not really supportive either. He didn't think I could do it, and he was right.

I had heard about places where you could get donated breast milk for your adopted kiddos, but I was in such poor shape when we got home from Ethiopia (physically, emotionally) that the last thing I could figure out was how to get healthy, disease free, breast milk for Melese. I had always wanted to do it, but I just didn't have the energy to pursue it.

When we got home Melese transitioned from the sugary Bebelac formula to one our pediatrician recommended. (Disclaimer: I am not knocking anyone for using formula. We use formula too. There is no judgement in this post. I just want to tell you this story).

Elena made getting Melese some breast milk her mission. As she told me, "Julie, this is my passion". She told me to set up a FedEx account for the shipping of the frozen milk, and she got busy finding us a donor. She followed leads, sent e-mails, posted pleas, and interviewed potential donors.

On August 28th, Elena sent me an e-mail,

"Struck gold. A friend of mine found some milk (a lot) for you."

Enter Kasi. Kasi is the middleman as it were. Kasi, a woman I had also never met, delivered fifty bags of frozen milk to my house. (I don't know why a total stranger would do something this nice for someone else, but she did tell me she was from Wisconsin and I am thinking that has something to do with it). The breast milk was from her neighbor, a woman named Nina. I don't know the exact details of why Nina has so much milk, I didn't want to pry too much. I know that she has a new baby daughter, and I think I heard that her daughter couldn't nurse for a medical reason. We continue to get milk from Nina, and Kasi continues to bring it (Did I mention that Kasi is eight months pregnant, and has a young son at home?)

The first time Melese had Nina's milk he looked like one of those pull puppet ornaments, his arms and legs started moving up and down wildly. He guzzled it. He loves it. He absolutely loves it.

(And yes you may notice Mother Fail #204, I have not yet transitioned from the disposable liner, plastic bottles I bought "Just to travel with," to glass ones like I had planned. Isn't likely to happen at this point. Oh, and I didn't make homemade baby food either.)

Melese is healthy, and if you will excuse my saying it, beautiful. He is strong. He has blossomed from a listless baby with a bald patch on the back of his head (from lying in a crib for months), to a very active, very chatty, chub-alicious, chunk of love. He will walk soon. He has four and a half teeth. His eyes are shiny, and his skin is perfect.

I struggled for weeks trying to write a thank you note to Nina. What do you say? I have never even spoken to her on the phone. I don't know anything about her.

How do I thank Elena? I hadn't seen Elena in several years. We scheduled a playdate for September 10th. She just brought Xavi over. I was pretty much a mess. Xavi and Meazi had a great time together. Elena brought me another carrier to use for Melese. Meazi pilfered it for her baby "Sito Mito"...

Elena looked great, but was using a cane because she had a weird pain in her hip. She thought it might be sciatica, or something similar. She had been seeing doctors in the weeks prior in an attempt to get some relief from the pain.

The day after coming to my house, Elena went to pick up Xavi at school and had a seizure. I found this information out from our mutual friend, Deb. I e-mailed Elena. It turns out Elena doesn't have sciatica. This is part of a note she posted on Facebook...

"I'm not going to beat around the bush. I have extremely advanced lung cancer with brain, liver, and bone metastasis. There is a bone tumor in my hip which is of course what has been causing all of this sciatic pain."

Elena has cancer. She is undergoing treatment. Heavy duty treatment. She has cancer. The C word. She has two children, Ivy and Xavi. She has a husband Mark. She has a full life, which now has become about Chemo, and Cat scans.

These three woman have changed my life. It's not about the breast milk. Melese would have been fine without it, I am sure. It is about the intention, the caring, the selfless giving. It is about these women who have much better, and more pressing things to do then think about me, and my baby, and his diet.

In a little while, I will shake Melese's bottle in front of him, the sound of the shaking will set off a smiling frenzy, as he knows the shaking signals that the milk is just seconds away. Mid-bottle he will take a break to smile at me, and nuzzle his big turtle head into my shoulder. We will take a breath together. Then he will continue to eat, and then slowly drift off to sleep in my arms. When this happens, as it does every middle of the night, I will take a moment to hold these three mothers in my thoughts and in my heart; One mother that I don't know at all, one mother who is about to give birth to her daughter, and one mother who is fighting the biggest battle of her life.

These three incredible women...



and Elena...

Thank you.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Steven and Meazi went shopping for our Thanksgiving dinner. Meazi saw these flowers and said, "Get them for Mommy." My cart is full. So much to be thankful for.

I hope you have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What We Sent, What it Meant. Part II-One Voice


Thirty-four dollars, and ninety-nine cents. This may be the best money we ever spent. On the advice of this mom we sent a voice recorder to Meazi. We also purchased and sent one to Melese, but I don't think his was ever used.

We filled Meazi's recorder with songs, stories, and sounds from our home. Of course we were pronouncing her name wrong during the whole recording process, but I think she will eventually forgive us for that. This voice recorder was the single most important item that we sent ahead of time to Meazi.

I had wondered if the nannies at the orphanage would have the time to find it, give it to her, and show her how to use it. I thought it was a long shot, and that surely the staff had more pressing things to take care of at a very busy care center. I thought about how every single Ethiopian person that I know loves the singer Gigi. I thought that if I put a Gigi song on the recording, it would definitely get played.

It was played. And played again. I don't think I can convey how useful this small item became when we actually got to Ethiopia.

Meazi was afraid. Wouldn't you be if these two people came to take you home with them? I had asked the nannies for the care package back. Our agency did a great job with the transition period for the children. You'd see them briefly the first couple of days, and eventually they would spend more time with you. In the beginning, when Meazi and Melese started coming back to the guest house with us, Meazi would cling to that recorder. She would fast-forward, rewind, and flip the tape over to the other side. I would hear my own voice reading a story, or mispronouncing her name. She would be holding it up to hear ear, eyes wide, staring at me, trying to put the voice to my face. She did it with Steven's voice too. It was as if she was confirming what the social workers and nannies had been telling her; these people are your adoptive parents.

Meazi was terrified the night we took her into custody. The day, although celebratory in some ways, was one of the saddest days of my whole life, and I am sure it was one of the scariest days of her whole life. It is why we will never celebrate it as a "Gotcha" day, not ever.

She kept listening to the recorder. She walked around our small guest room listening to it over and over, the metal up against her ear.

It played the Gigi song. I chimed in, "To the one God we all have, to the one God we all love...." She looked at me. She couldn't believe that I knew the words. She smiled. When we got to the "Sing, sing" part, we sang together, she in a very soft breathy voice, (a voice that she sometimes uses now and will always be an indicator to me that she is feeling scared). From that point forward, we would always sing those parts together. Eventually, during that adoption week, she started to put the recorder down.

When something came up that was disconcerting to her, she would look at me with those gigantic eyes and start singing those words, waiting for me to sing with her. I would, she would smile, and then relax a little. It would happen several times a day. My mom had sent along a little "lovey" for Meazi, you know those mini-blanket things that kids sometimes use for security? It was soft and cute with a puppy head at the top. Meazi had no interest in it. This cold, metal, voice recorder was Meazi's lovey. The music on it was a universal language. It was our way to communicate when communication seemed impossible.

When we got home, Meazi had the recorder with her for the first few weeks, if not held up against her ear, then in very close proximity. She always knew where it was.

I played some Ethiopian videos for Meazi on Youtube when we got home. Almost every morning, for the first few weeks, Meazi would wake up and say, "Gigi mommy." Groggily we would make our way to my computer, go to the link, and play the song that helped us come together.

One of our first days home...

More recently...

Thirty-four dollars and ninety-nine cents.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Steven has this week off from work. We scheduled our first post-placement visit for yesterday afternoon.

Steven got to walk Meazi to school in the morning.

Our social worker came after naptime. It seems that we are doing okay, and that we are allowed to keep the children... for now. (I am kind of joking here, but I have to admit that I kind of feel that way. When do you stop feeling like someone can take your adopted children away from you?)

The night before had been a bit rough. Melese woke up four times in the middle of the night, Teddy had to be let out to pee, and I heard Moses puking in the kids room. I bolted from the bed in an effort to get him outside before he puked on the rug. I ushered him out, and then tried in vain to locate the mess. It was 1:00 am, I was groggy and I couldn't find it. I finally gave up and went to bed. The next morning I spent a very long time looking for dog puke. I was just picturing our social worker saying, "Excuse me, what is this substance in the children's room?" That coupled with Mel's fat lip from a clumsy tumble, and a mysterious welt under Meazi's eye from bumping into my camera lens, made me a bit anxious about the visit. Steven assured me that Moses had eaten his own puke, and that everything would be fine.

It was.

We celebrated with Chinese food...

We were having a lovely time. Meazi had us in stitches. Melese feel asleep early. It was giggles and laughs until Meazi opened the fortune cookie that was obviously meant for me....

This made me burst into tears. Meazi looked worried, and once again I explained to her how sometimes mommy cries because she is so very, very, happy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What We sent,What it Meant. Part I.

When we sent care packages to Ethiopia, we included photo albums for our kids. One of the most enjoyable things to watch has been Meazi meeting our loved ones in the flesh. She had obviously looked through the photos in Ethiopia, and as soon as she was in our care we paged through them together.

We included photos of our relatives, many of our friends, her school, our house and garden, and the pups. She carried that album (and her voice recorder-more on that later) with her everywhere. The album was one of several 'books' she chose to read each night at bedtime once we got home.

Meazi with Pip and Squeak...

There is a picture of our next door neighbor in the album. Her name is Blake. She is thirteen years old. One day after school, I took Meazi over to meet Blake. Meazi was really shy. We only stayed twenty minutes or so. Blake played the piano for Meazi, and showed her how a Jacob's Ladder worked. Blake's father gave Meazi her first Cheez-it cracker. That night, as Meazi lay down to sleep she opened her album to the picture of Blake. She slept with her small hand clutching it the whole night. When she woke up she rolled over and groggily uttered, "Blake" her first word of the day.

In the beginning there was a lot of checking, and cross referencing with the album. She'd meet someone in person, and then later, after they had gone, she'd go to their photo in the book.

"Lori is Abe's mommy?"

With Lori and Abe...

She met Mimi's daddy and developed what I think was her second crush, (her first one being Solomon from the orphanage). After meeting Mimi's daddy she said, "Mommy, Chris konjo." Then she giggled.

Meazi and Mimi...

With Amy and Tunsi, and Tamoco (Tunsi's nanny)...

With Pip and Squeak and Yennie and Demoze...

And Sentayehu...

And Gigi...

And Aliya...

And Noah...

Of course the most moving 'photo to face' moments for me have been when she met my parents.

Meeting my mom at LAX when we landed...

Meazi showing her Papa her album...

Maybe it is too much. Maybe it is too many new people for just over three months. Steven and I have been talking to Meazi lately about who is friend and who is family. This too, is another post. Meazi definitely had some issues with indiscriminate affection giving in the beginning (just ask any stranger who happened to be in the elevator with us and received a hug and kiss from Meazi). Now she will confirm, "Mommy, Uncle Mark family?" "Yes Meazi, Uncle Mark is family.

After a particularly lovely afternoon with Amy and Tunsi, Meazi got into the car and said "Mommy, Amy and Tunsi family?" I hesitated with this one as I feel like so many people we know are indeed our family, but remembering my discussion with my husband I said, " Amy and Tunsi 'friends'.

She said, "No mommy, Amy and Tunsi family." I just nodded my head in agreement.

The album is less of an accoutrement now for Meazi. She is okay with leaving it in her bookcase. She even took the 'M' sticker from the beginning of her name to use on another project.

As the images become flesh, and the flesh becomes familiar, we put the album behind us and move forward...

with our friends and our family.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Good News, Bad News.

Bad news is I didn't have time to write anything today. Good news is Meazi saw some statues, and got to hang out with her 'uncles' Clark & Jesse- World-renowned documentary filmmakers.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Friday Firsts

I had a big, long post planned about 'Firsts', but Meazi got her First Fever. Since Wednesday afternoon I have been following her around like a crazy person, sticking that handy electronic thermometer in her ear. No time to write.

She'll survive.

Don't like to see my kids sick.

Don't like it at all.