Where do I start? (as read to Malena)
On October 25th, Phuong put us in touch with your bio grand mom, Tammy, via the phone. She mentioned that you had a great family from Minnesota that was interested in you that was pretty close to perfect but they would keep us in mind. That was a Sunday. On Tuesday, your birth mom, Tomisha, had a scare at the doctor and couldn't hear your heartbeat. It ended up being that their machine didn't work! The other family backed out, and Tammy called us the following Thursday, right before Halloween. We were going to set up a time to meet you on the next phone call, which was Sunday. We talked and then Tomisha thought about it. On Thursday, November 5th, my cell phone had run out of minutes.
The cell phone minutes kicked in at 9 pm and Tammy had called. Your mom skipped birthing class and the family called a family meeting and made a plan to parent you and an adoption plan too. We arranged to have a phone conversation with Tomisha on Friday, November 6th. Eric, your daddy, was running late, but that all worked out because your bio family was just finishing dinner.
Your mom is really smart. She asked the following questions: 1. I am into politics. What are your political views? We mentioned that we canvassed for Barack Obama, who is our first African American president. That was the icebreaker and we knew then that this was all falling into place. 2. What would you do if your daughter were gay? We were excited to find out that you were a girl, and we stated with joy that we would love you. Being musicians, you are going to run into people that are gay and they are going to be your best friends. 3. Have you thought about daycare? Yes, home daycare we said. The teachers at school really love the home daycare, and we had heard great things about it. 4. What do you think about open adoption? We stated that the ball was in your mom's court. She could visit, have family meals, and baby-sit, and your aunt too! 5. Can I help name the baby? We said yes. We were very impressed by your mom's questions.
The weekend rolled around. I took a trauma training class for 6 hours pertaining to foster care training (we were ready to take in a teenager) and Eric had his percussion ensemble concert on Sunday. It went really really well. Sunday, I hiked with Alana, the Martinos, & the Wineys. I went to my Boulder Book club that night. We all talked about how excited Eric & I were to meet you, Tomisha, & Tammy.
Monday was so exciting! We couldn't wait to meet your grand mom and mom and knew your grand mom right when she walked in the door of Guadalajara in Windsor. We talked and shared pictures right when we were seated and instantly you, Tomisha, & Tammy right away! We talked about living in the present, spirituality vs. religion, and how we were all raised. We talked about supporting Tomisha’s decisions & progress the whole way!
On Tuesday, your mom had a checkup. She was told that she was being induced on Wednesday, since the amniotic fluid was low. I found out at 5 pm after teaching a clarinet lesson. I was shaking. I could barely wait for Eric to get home. He was shocked that you were coming so soon! We thought you would be in the hospital longer than a week, so we all made the decision for Eric to go to his PASIC conference on Wednesday morning to Indianapolis. The original plan was for your birth family to drive you to our house & have a passing on ceremony.
Tuesday night, when they called, they asked what your name should be. We had 4 names: Hadley Reese, Ellington (Ellie) Reese, Addison Grace and Malena Grace. We liked Tomisha’s names better than ours and knew how much she wanted to be a part, so we asked her to surprise us with Addison Grace or Malena Grace. Malena had been at the top of our list of potential baby names a few years ago after watching that season of the Bachelor. We thought Grace sounded better for the middle name, and one of your cousins is named Grace.
They wanted to induce on Wednesday, Nov 11th. Your grand mom kept in touch very often and called a lot. We appreciated all of the news and were happy to get to know your birth family through the phone calls. Wednesday went by with no new news.
Thursday, around 11:20 am, your birth grand mom called and asked me if I had a second. My 8th grade band was coming in, so I got them settled down. They were great! I listened while your grand mom said that Weld County was going to try to take custody of you! Being the protective mommy that I felt, I left school (with a very supportive staff to take over while I was gone) and went to the Hub to try to have Larimer County release our records & background check. I talked to Dianne Peterson, a wonderful lawyer, and she recommended that we call Adoption Dreams Come True, due to the timing. Your mom's GAL said the same thing.
After picking up the medical release for Eric and myself I headed to the Adoption agency, & called your grand mom, asking if they needed anything at the hospital. The original plan was to see you after the hospital. At this time, we thought you would be in the hospital a long time, maybe even 3 weeks! Your grand mom’s cell phone battery had died, and so I visited Car Toys to get one for her and drove it out. Eric was in Indianapolis at PASIC, still thinking we had plenty of time :-) His mom bought him a plane ticket to come home on Friday morning. When I got to the hospital, I had coffee/hot chocolate with your grand mom, and your mom was beginning labor. Your grand mom saw an old friend and introduced me as the adoptive parent!
In the meantime, your support system of at least 1000 people kicked into high gear, sending you positive thoughts, and prayers. Tracey Winey offered a car seat. Keri Mizska offered you an infant starter set. We were overwhelmed with love and support. Jean Johnson, Jenn Dunn, and Kris Rangel came over Friday night and converted an empty bedroom with nothing to your nursery.
One moment of love on Thursday was when I walked into Car Toys and heard mine and your daddy's favorite song playing, "You & Me Together, we can do anything, baby " by Dave Matthews Band and driving to Greeley, your adoptive grand mom said that when she got her bonus that she would send it all to us for you. She really sacrifices and gives so much. To know that out of the at least $8000-$10000 that we are going to need for this to happen, that your grand mom gives everything that she has just shows the love that is abounding and unconditional.
Thursday at 4 pm-8 pm, I was interviewed at the adoption agency. Sue Martino and Michelle Stanley came by in person to fill out recommendations. I took another one to Beth and Tom. I got a text from Phuong that you had arrived, since one of your aunts texted him. Your grand mom called with the news that you were born at 8:01 pm November 12th, 19.5 inches, 5 lbs, 2 oz, and were beautiful and perfect and wanted me to come see you in the morning, and to have Eric come home. I was at Mac Grill giving Beth and Tom their recommendation to fill out. I couldn't sleep and hardly could believe that we were going to be parents. I cleaned and made a few calls and emails to friends, as well as the inevitable post on facebook, telling them of the exciting news.
Friday morning, I was up at 4:45 am, thinking about our new Malena, and thinking of your birth family and what a selfless choice they were making. I called your grand mom at 6 am already in the car, to see if I could come out to see you. Her reply, "Oh, I'll kiss you when you get here!" and I was on my way. I got to see you at 6:45 am on Friday morning, November 13th. I was so amazed at how perfect you were. You spit up on me right away and that didn't even faze me. We changed your outfit and I remember thinking, "this is why babies need so many clothes at first." Your grand mom went home to shower and take a break and your bio mom and I bonded and connected for about 3 hours. She knew so much about what your needs were and showed me how to feed you, clothe you, hold you and she gave you some little outfits that were precious. I was thinking about Tomisha just as much as I was thinking of you. She was a trooper and a rock star during your birth, and was doing well.
About 10:30 am, your grand mom came back, and we went to the nursery for your little ultrasound. You met your granddaddy there for the first time and he held you. He loves you so much too! He sat down and rocked you in the rocking chair. As we were standing there, Eric came in the hospital with Emily, Sarah, and Cindy from the adoption agency. When Eric held you for the first time that was the first time that I cried. His smile stretched as wide as the state of Colorado and that moment was priceless.
There was a little humor when your granddaddy held his hand out to shake Eric's. Eric didn't realize whom it was and was taken aback for a second. We hung out with you & Tomisha little longer, and then Eric went to finish his interview, since he started about 8:30 that morning. After about an hour, your bio mom was talking to the agency workers and Eric and I were interviewed together for another 3 hours.
Larimer County was working hard on our benefit trying to get our background info released to the agency. Weld County was threatening to put you in their foster care system. They finally let up about 2:30 pm on Friday (though little to our knowledge didn't cut the cord until Tuesday morning the 17th). Cindy was on the phone all day Friday working to get provisional custody, so you wouldn't have to go home to cradle care, someone else's home until we were licensed to be certified parents, which is ironic, being that Eric and I are wonderful parents and went through 4 1/2 years of trying to conceive as well as 1 miscarriage. At 5 pm, right before the office closed, we were granted provisional custody, barring that we would get fingerprinted (again) on Monday, Nov 16th and go through another background check.
After the long interviews, Eric and I went to our house to pack some items for the night, since the hospital gave us a complimentary room and you were going to stay with us! It was snowing, but not too heavily. The weather forecast was saying that it would be bad, though it was fine. I got nervous, b/c I still haven't ever driven an automatic in the snow, just the straight shift. We got home and Tracey brought us some soup, which was perfect, and packed our bags. Jenn, Kris and Jean set up your nursery. We sat and ate, and then packed and headed back.
We were hoping to be back at the hospital at nine pm Friday night the 13th, but got there about 9:10 pm. When we called Tomisha, she was starting to get worried. We couldn't find the night entrance to the hospital and finally walked around. Sarah called and asked us one more question, our weight and height while we froze, walking to the emergency room entrance. We got lost in the hospital & finally made it to your room at 9:45 pm. Tomisha had just fed you and she handed you to us. We met your aunt Macee for the first time, and her boyfriend Matt. We asked her if she wanted to say goodnight to little Malena, and she gave you a kiss on the forehead.
We headed to our room for the night. You did great! The night nurse was wonderful in helping us with all of our questions. Eric stayed up with you from 3-5:30 am, rocking you and loving you and feeding you and changing you. I took you for your hearing test at 6 am and you passed with flying colors! The morning nurse wasn't as patient or nice, and she even "forgot" to feed you at your noon feeding.
We woke up and about 9 am, the Schmers came to see you and held you and brought you your first diaper bag. At 10 am, the nurse came in to take you to your bio mom's room to hang out with your grand mom and your aunts. I was sending positive thoughts to your room b/c I knew that would be one of the toughest moments. Eric and I packed the car, ate our cinnamon roll from Silver Grill, and watched the parenting video before we left the hospital. We asked about breastfeeding and the side effects range from muscle loss to depression to not even working, so that option was ruled out.
At noon, we went to put the car seat in and the whole family was in the waiting area. I went up to your bio mom and tears started rolling down my face. I told her that I care for her very very very much and that we are still supporting her and asked her how she was doing and what she needed. When I looked up, we were all in tears. Your grand mom said that her original plan was to avert eye contact for the morning to avoid the tears, but that didn't work. They were tears that held all kinds of emotion, and Eric and I just wanted to take care of your bio mom. Your 8-year-old aunt, Katelynn gave you a little green teddy bear, which we keep on your changing table. She had never given anything to anyone before and that act in itself brought tears to our eyes. We regained our composure and Amanda helped put the car seat in. Wow! Was she fast!
The nurse had to make a copy of your records, and that seemed to take a good 2 hours. Your bio mom held you in the nursery and fed you. We went in there and got a picture of all of us together. It was good times and a momentous occasion. We got everyone loaded. Katelynn rode with us and took a liking to your daddy, Eric. She looked at you and said, "ya'll are going to have a funny life."
We all arrived at our house, and our neighbor had just finished cleaning our yard. The girls from the agency came inside and we all ate Pizza Hut. We sat down and had lunch together and talked and visited and looked at your room. I had a chance to talk to your bio mom in your nursery and asked her how she was. She was doing well and told us about the bottles and how to use them, and why they are good for you. I told her that we were genuine in keeping the adoption as open as she wants it and that facebook would be the quickest and easiest way. We became friends on facebook too where all of your pictures are posted and it is easy to see all of the sweet comments that people have posted about you. We stood in a circle and your granddaddy said a prayer, and all of us had tears in our eyes, though they were tears of gratitude and joy. We took a group picture and your bio family went to their house. Eric and I started missing them the minute they rode out of the driveway.
We had our first night together, starting about 5:30 pm. It was a great and peaceful night.
Sunday, Nov 15th, was a little bit of a blur. I know that we talked to the agency and they were still working on our paperwork. Monday was a little "logistic-crazy." I got fingerprinted at 8am, though I did get to stop by Starbucks, which I dearly love their hot chocolates. I got home, and Eric had to go and get fingerprinted. Your bio family called and said they may not want to stick with the adoption agency and that we needed to inquire about the fee schedule that they were charging us. Eric talked to the agency and told them that we just needed some time to process and get the remaining documents together for them. They said ok. As soon as Eric was out the door to get fingerprinted and have the fire dept check the car seat (in which they each have a 40 hour training on), the agency called and was on their way. I called Tom Bittinger, and he brought over 2 fire extinguishers and installed the child safety kit in the house. The agency arrived right as he finished and right as Eric returned home.
We answered a few more questions, visited with them, and they inspected the house for a second time. It is interesting, for lack of a better word, how the inspection lists compare to foster care training (93 items) to a private agency (about 17 items). They said that they had to take the fee schedule and would get it notarized for us and needed a copy of our birth certificates and 2 other documents on Monday, since they had legal custody. We kept reinforcing that we were happy if the bio family was happy. They told us the birth dad (15 yo at conception, 16 years old now) would be served at school and his name would be in the paper, or he could sign over his rights. He and his mom (who by the way doesn't have rights in this) finally (after a week and a few days) said that they would fight it at first, then gave in, which saves us about $3k in legal fees. So, Monday's logistics lasted from very early morning until about 4 pm that day, including phone calls and your first wellness checkup. You did great! You were so sweet and everyone that saw you commented on how perfect and beautiful you were! You had a little tear duct blockage, so we put drops in your eye and massage it every 3 hours. You scheduled an appt to see a neurologist for your little dimple at Children's Hospital for Dec 3rd, then we moved it up to Nov 23rd just to be safe.
In the meantime, our friends are wondering why we aren't taking calls or visitors, lol.
Tuesday November 17th, seemed to finally calm down in the afternoon around 1 pm. My birthday was that day, and as your grand mom wrote in the very nice birthday card, “bet this was the best birthday ever” and she hit the nail on the head. Jenny, Macee, Katelynn, Amanda, Tomisha, James and Tammy all signed the card. Tomisha wrote, “Happy Birthday! To the new mom, I hope you had a great day, and all your wishes came true.” They did. The bio family was more content with the agency and the agency said they needed a break from our case, as they have already spent more time with us than any of their other clients, which makes us feel very special.
Time just flies. You went to my wellness checkup on Wednesday and your eye was doing better. Thursday and Friday was a lot of mommy time and the weekend was mommy/daddy time. Your first TV showing that you heard aside from the Christmas music radio station was the Alabama Tennessee/Chattanooga football game.
On Monday, November 23rd, I went to work at Preston since FMLA doesn't pay, just guarantees your job, which is still something for which to be thankful. Your daddy took you to Children's and the doctors were very very kind and nice to you. They aren't worried about your little skin tag and you will get an MRI in 3 months. Daddy had a great day with you, bonding & loving with you and he even napped when you did once today. We called your birth family to tell them the good news that you are doing great. They mentioned that they were tickled pink that you are okay and said that they are happy to gain a family with no worries about losing you. After visiting Adoption Dreams Come True to give them a check, I couldn't wait to come home to see and love on you. At your 9 pm feeding, you cooed and made new noises that you haven't made before. We love you so much. It is so easy to just watch you sleep and want to hold you all the time.
Tuesday you spent all day with daddy. He napped when you napped and you slept on his chest, on your tummy for over 2 hours. We both enjoy the skin on skin time that is good for your growing. Wednesday, I ran a few errands, got a haircut while you spent time with daddy, then we had a great afternoon and night together, playing music, bonding and playing on the activity mat. Wednesday, the 25th, you started eating more, 4 oz at an eating! You weigh 5 lbs and 10 oz and have already changed. You are very photogenic and we love taking pictures of you.
Thursday was your first Thanksgiving. In the morning, we rested and then I went for a walk, then daddy for a run. We cooked your great grand mom’s recipe for chicken and dressing to take to Mike and Jennifer Dunn's house and you slept all day! When you awoke, we got your picture with Emily, who is only 6 months bigger than you. You are so precious and Emily was very sweet to you.
We enjoy just watching you sleep and play. You've stayed on your feeding/diaper schedule of 3,6,9,12 this whole time and we wake you to feed you. You got a teeny diaper rash, and that disappeared after we figured out that you have to have a dry bottom before the diaper goes on. Your visitors included the Wineys, Brenda Meier, the Martinos, Michelle Stanley, the Clancys and the Schmers. They all brought you special little gifts, and loved holding you. You love listening to music in the mornings, especially piano, clarinet and marimba. In your awake time in the afternoon, you enjoy playing on your activity mat and you seem to be drawn to the rattle more than the other toys. Since Miss Tracey brought you a wipe warmer from Preston, you don't cry at getting your diaper changed anymore. Petey and Punky are protective of you and are always checking on you to make sure you are safe. Schatz, our foster doxen, is the same, and does check on you, though doesn't make it as big a deal as Petey or Punky does. They love sitting very close to you when you are eating and sleeping. You love to purse your lips and keep your right hand close to your face. You like to sleep on your tummy on our chest best. You cross your feet at your ankles and you hold your legs straight up in the air when you first start to eat.
You are a miracle child in all kinds of ways. This story should be named “Meant to Be.” There are so many little intricate details that just fall into place. Your bio family and your adoptive both read and try to live by Ask & It is Given and Eckhart Tolle. The Dave Matthews Band song, “You and Me” was playing the day that you were born, and Eric and I think of that as our theme song. Other little commonalities include: both families-bio and adoptive, never once doubted the process and kept positive thoughts with zero doubt or worry this whole time; your grand mom and me both love clothes from Ann Taylor; Malena was your bio mom's top name and on the list of mine's and Eric's top names; the driving distance. Your bio mom, Tomisha, is very selfless and giving, and she loves you so much. Malena, you are so special that you have 2 mommies and an extended family that loves you from here to the moon and back. Every choice is made based upon a belief and is always for a good reason. You were meant to be with us and God and the universe made it so.
The butterfly effect: I suggested to Jamie Tovar a few years ago that her son Alex, take lessons from Phuong Nguyen, since he challenges kids, makes it fun and always looks out for their best interest. Who knew that one day Jamie would mention to Phuong that she wishes the Hollenbecks would be blessed with a child, & that sparked Phuong to put your extended family all together to become one big family. Thank you God.