Family

Happy Birthday: 10 Years Has Flown By

So I’m that guy, watching time slip by and his daughter growing up too fast.

number candles

Yesterday was a fun day for our family. My oldest child, our daughter, turned 10 years old. For her birthday she was able to plan all the meals, and choose an activity to do that she would enjoy. Her meal choices were pretty fun, she wanted biscuits and gravy for breakfast, lunch was not too important as long as there were artichokes to eat, and her dinner request was barbequed meat from Dickey’s Barbecue. She also asked to be able to go out in the evening with just me and her Mom to go to dinner and shop for some school clothes.

So Grandma came over to babysit the other kids and we took her out on her birthday date. I really enjoyed the evening we had together. It was a lot of fun spending time with her alone. We have not done that for a while. I think sometimes older siblings get lost in the chaos as younger children require a lot more attention and care at the early ages.

It struck me that somewhere along the way she had turned into a beautiful, funny, smart, silly, playful, responsible young girl. I took a mental snap shot as we laughed and joked around throughout the night. We had a great night together and I will treasure that memory.

Time seems to fly by, the last 10 years are a blur, and truly it will not be long before she is a teenager. Nothing in life has given me more pride and satisfaction than seeing my children grow up and develop into the people they are becoming. I am excited for the future, but at the same time I want to make the most of the present and live in the moments we share together.

It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years since she was born, but I think it is even harder to believe that I am old enough to be the father to a 10 year old.

Balancing It All

So I’m that guy trying to find balance in chaos.

Health Work Career Friends Signpost Showing Life And Lifestyle Balance

I’m sure everyone is just like me in thinking that life is chaotic. The hardest part for me is trying to find the balance in all the different aspects of my life. The ambitious part of me would spend 24/7 working on my projects and developing my businesses. The family man in me would love to stay home with my kids all day and develop those relationships.

I grew up with less than perfect examples of balance. My father is a farmer and in that profession the demands of the farm generally take control. There is no way to maintain a 40 hour work week throughout the year because the needs of the farm are much greater during certain times. He did try to balance that by involving us in the farm labor and spending more time with the family during less demanding seasons.

My mother is a business owner as well. She started her business when I was 3 years old out of our basement. Through the years it has grown into a business with about 30 employees that I currently manage. It has always been a big part of our family. My mom even likes to refer to it as one of my siblings. Unfortunately, as we grew up, it was the favored sibling and it received much more attention and care than the rest of us.

As a result of my childhood and role models, when I reached adulthood I had no concept of balance. Throughout my childhood, the careers of my parents came first and on many levels I can’t fault them for that. It taught me how to work hard and I had many opportunities to grow through working with them in their businesses. But looking back on that, I want to live a more balanced life.

My roles are many, I’m a husband to a beautiful wife, and we have four children ages 10, 4, 20 months, and 5 months. Professionally, I’m a part owner and general manager of the business my mother started when I was 3. I also own a general contracting and real estate development company, and I try to fit in selling some products on Amazon on the side. Civically, I serve on a board of trustees for a public charter school in our community, and I’m a volunteer leader in my church of a group of young men ages 14-16. Sometimes I feel like I have A.D.D. as I switch roles throughout the day. There is always a problem that needs attention, or a challenge to overcome. With all the demands on my time, it would be easy for me to focus solely on my work and neglect the important parts of my life.

To overcome my tendencies and maintain balance, I try to schedule out my day and structure it to meet all the needs of myself, work, community, and my family. I wake up every morning at 5 a.m. and focus on myself and my personal development. I meditate, read and write. Exercise is also a big part of my morning. I’ve found that if I don’t get it done in the morning it won’t happen.

When the family wakes up, I usually have my personal things done and I’m able to help my wife prepare the kids for the day and we sit down together as a family to eat breakfast. I help clean up and I leave for work at around 8 o’clock.

At around 12 o’clock I’m usually able to come home and eat lunch with my family. Then I’m back at work until 5:30 when we have dinner together. My office is close enough to my home that my commute is generally walking, so throughout the day I have the chance to see my family and sometimes we all load up in the car and go run errands for work together. Some evenings I have activities with my youth group or board meetings for the school, but most are spent at home with my family. Saturdays are always reserved for family activities or work projects around the house, and Sundays are set aside for church and visiting extended family.

This schedule has been working well for us and I think it is helping maintain the balance in my different roles. I’ve found that the most important part of the scheduling is living in the moment. For example, when I’m with my children, I can’t let my mind drift into work. I have to be present in every moment whether it is with my wife and children, at work, or in a board meeting. If not I’m neglecting another part of my life and losing the balance that I’m trying so hard to maintain. I’ve found that being present is both the key to balance as well as the hardest part.

In the end, what is really important? At my funeral, I don’t think anyone will talk about how great I was at business or how many houses I built. What they will talk about are the relationships that have been developed. They will talk about the fun vacations we went on together. They will talk about the lessons they learned through example and conversation. They will talk about the memories of eating meals together as a family and spending time together.

Life is too short. Children grow up fast. Providing an income and meeting their physical needs is an important part of being a father, but it shouldn’t be done at the expense of spending time together. Finding balance between these roles has been one of my greatest challenges, but I have found that it is also very rewarding.

Coping With Camping

So I’m that guy, chasing my 20 month old son around the great outdoors, trying to keep him from killing himself.

 

No Camping Sign

We took the whole family camping last weekend for a reunion with my immediate family. I have mixed feelings about camping with kids. We have a 9 year old, 4 year old, 20 month old, and a 5 month old. The 5 month old was nearly perfect during the trip, the 9 and 4 year olds had their share of whining and drama, but the 20 month old was the challenge. I think it might be somewhat normal, but he seems to have a stronger than usual desire to test the durability of his small body. One comedian I have listened to likes to say that all children around the age of two are essentially suicidal and it is our job to make sure they do not succeed in their attempts. I’m becoming more and more convinced of the truthfulness of that theory as I observe the judgment of my son.

The campground we went to was next to a small water park. Our first activity after setting up camp was to go swimming with the kids. As we got to the pool I was watching our son. We went to set our towels down about 20 feet from the pool and I set my son down as I took off my shirt. As I was distracted, my son recognized the opportunity and went straight for the pool. He is not necessarily fast, but my judgment to finish taking off my shirt before chasing after him was called into question as my wife rushed to catch him with less than 1 foot to spare before he went toddling into the deep end of the swimming pool. It was an effective reminder that my son could not be trusted and I would have to be on high alert through the rest of the trip.

The rest of the trip was essentially two days of suicide watch as I followed my son around the campground; watching him get as close to danger as possible and dragging him back to our campsite.

The first night in the camper was a disaster. Our kids thrive on routine and changing that routine by being in a new environment and sleeping in a camping trailer was enough to make life difficult. Once again, the 20 month old proved to be the most difficult. At 11 p.m. my wife finally gave up trying and loaded him into the truck to drive him around until he went to sleep. No one got enough sleep that night.

The next day in the pool was when it finally caught up with them. The 20 month old fell asleep on my shoulder while I was carrying him around in the water, and the 5 month old fell asleep in her floatation device. I found a quiet corner of the pool to hold them as they took their naps. After the morning swim we went back to camp for lunch. We spent some time with my family visiting and after lunch I took the two babies into the trailer where they both fell asleep. I think that was one of the best parts of the “vacation.” I was able to take a short nap and the rest of the afternoon I watched the Shaytards on my phone.

That evening our routine was interrupted again. My sister was in charge of dinner for the group and she was at the swimming pool. Our family is accustomed to eating dinner at between 5:30 and 6:00. We were finally eating at 9:00. In spite of this delay and the late bedtime, thankfully the children slept better than the night before.

In spite of all the interruptions to our family routine, we were able to have a good time. It was great to be able to visit and spend time with my siblings and their families. We have a pretty close family and get together regularly, but being in a different environment seemed to improve the interactions that we had. The children had a lot of fun playing together and swimming.

It may sound like I had a terrible experience, and yes many aspects of the camping trip were difficult and annoying. But there were moments of fun interspersed throughout the experience that, in the end, made it a worthwhile trip to go on.

I was telling a neighbor about our trip the other night and he said something that impacted me. “Making memories and having fun, are not the same thing.” That is a very profound statement. I may not have enjoyed every minute of my time camping, but the memories of the good times we had will stick with my older children for a very long time. I have to constantly remind myself to live in the moment and enjoy the experiences we have together. Children grow up fast and the memories we have are the only things that last.

 

Adoption “What If’s”

So, what if I’m that guy who analyzes things too much?

what if

Adoption was not our “plan A” when it came to growing our family. Don’t get me wrong, I had the idealistic thoughts that many have, thinking that someday it would be nice to adopt. I viewed it as something that truly selfless people do to help humanity, but it was not necessarily for me.

Infertility changed all of that for me. It took some time to wrap my mind around the situation, but eventually it became a present reality. I realized that adopting would fill a need in ourselves and our family as well as give a child a good home. I didn’t come to this realization easily, here are some of the “what if’s” that crossed my mind, and some of the conclusions I’ve come to through my experiences.

-What if it is too expensive? This is a very valid question. Adoption can be very expensive and to some it seems impossible. We were blessed with the resources to make the adoptions happen and I have never regretted it. There is nothing that money could have bought that would bring more joy and happiness to me and my family.

-What if I’m not able to bond with the child? This question was one of the first I had. I had no idea if I would bond with an adopted child the same way as I had with our biological daughter. In my situation this is the easiest one to answer, the bonding happened immediately. From the first moment I saw each one of our adopted children, I was totally and completely in love. There was no hesitation or second thought.

-What if I feel like a babysitter? This question went back to the previous question of bonding. Like I stated earlier, from the beginning there was not question of the bond that immediately formed between us. Whenever my wife goes out with her friends, leaving me alone with the kids, she likes to tell me that it’s not “baby sitting” when they’re your own kids.

-What if the birth parents want the baby back?  We have all heard the horror stories of the birth parents who come back after two years, and after a long court battle regain custody of their child. While this does happen, it’s very rare. In my experience, the birth parent’s greatest motivator is the happiness of the child. Though difficult, they put their own needs aside for the child to have an intact home, and a better future than they can provide.

-What if the child grows up wishing they were with their birth parents? In visiting with adults that were adopted, I have found that the child does mourn the loss of his or her birth parents, but they all have expressed to me the gratitude they have for the birth parents that placed them for adoption as well as for their adoptive parents. A few have described difficulty in their teen years, but adolescence can be a very difficult time for anyone. We all try to identify who we are and who we want to be. Adoption is something that kids can blame their troubles on, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that is the root of the issue. While I am sure there are exceptions, adult adoptees that I have met are very well adjusted, happy people.

-What if I’m not a good enough Dad? This was the hardest question for me, and continues to be difficult. A birth mother places a lot of trust and hope in an adoptive couple. She wants her child to have a life that she can’t provide, and it rests on the shoulders of the adoptive parents to fulfill her dreams for that child. When I lose my temper or catch myself not being the best I can be, I feel like I’m letting that her down. We all have weaknesses and struggle at times, but I always try to remember the sacrifice of their birth mother and try harder to be the father she wanted for her children.

Don’t let the “what if’s” stop you if you are thinking about adoption. If nothing else, through my experiences I’ve realized that things have a way of working out. And even though they may not turn out the way we first planned or hoped, I can look back and say I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you have had experiences with adoption that you would like to share, please leave me a comment.

The Economics of Adoption: Using an Attorney vs. Private Adoption Agency

So I’m that guy that decided to go forward with a private adoption thinking it would be cheaper and easier than working with an adoption agency.

Adoption agreement

When we received the information that the birth mother of our first adopted son was once again pregnant, we had some mixed feelings. With our first son, we went through a private adoption agency and the cost was difficult for us to manage. We have no regrets at spending the $30,000 fee that the agency charged the first adoption, but we just didn’t feel that we would be able to afford another costly adoption so soon afterward. At the same moment, we wanted the baby and could not imagine telling our son that we couldn’t afford to bring his brother into our home when he was older. It seemed silly on one hand to quibble over the cost of adopting a half sibling, but on the other hand, it would put a serious financial burden on our family.

Upon further research, we were told by the adoption agency that their fees had gone up since our last adoption. The current fee would be $33,000 plus any medical expenses incurred during the birth. The medical costs could be anywhere between $7,000 and up to $10,000 if a c-section was necessary, and any costs associated with complications would be ours as well. That brought the cost to a range between $40,000 and $43,000.

Here is some un-professional tax advice for people looking to adopt. There are adoption tax credits available to adoptive families. In our situation there was up to $12,000 in non-refundable tax credits. Non-refundable means that you don’t get it back unless you owe taxes. If you owe taxes, the tax credit is a dollar for dollar reduction of your tax bill. It will usually make your refund larger, but you won’t necessarily get the money back in the first year. Consult your CPA for further information on this.

Even with the adoption tax credit, the price was so high that we felt we couldn’t move forward with the adoption because of the cost. The only other option we had was to work out a private adoption and work with birth mother directly. Believing this would cost less, while knowing it would be difficult to manage the situation, we chose to move forward without the adoption agency.

We contacted the birth mother and told her our situation would not allow us to go through the agency, but that we would like to handle it privately. She was hesitant at first, but she decided that she would cooperate in order to keep the kids together. My wife and I started making phone calls and doing research into the costs that we would have in doing an adoption privately. We interviewed lawyers and spoke with social workers and hospitals to pin down all the costs that we would be responsible for.

Our budget included an estimate of travel and living expenses to move the birth mother closer to us during the last two months of the pregnancy as that is what she had asked us to do. All together we estimated the cost of a private adoption at between $15,000 and $18,000. That was still a stretch for our finances, but we decided we would make it work one way or another.

The adoption turned out to be very difficult. The day to day events could fill a book and I don’t want to get into the difficult details of the situation. To put it concisely, when you are doing a private adoption, you take the roles of social worker, adoptive family, and financial provider on yourself at the same time. It puts you in a very tenuous position, and opens you up for manipulation. If you know going into the situation that you will be manipulated, be sure and be open and honest with your spouse on how much you are willing to be manipulated. We found it to be very difficult to refuse extravagant demands when she threatened to leave and not place with us. We would not only be devastated at losing the baby, but any money we had already spent in the adoption would be unrecoverable as well. In some states there are legal limitations on what can be provided to a birth mother who intends to place a baby, but unfortunately the laws in our state are very liberal in this area and have virtually no limitations.

With our willingness to bend, we were able to successfully complete the adoption. There were several points along the way that we were afraid we were going to lose the opportunity to adopt the baby and looking back, it is nothing short of miraculous that it all worked out the way it did. We realized in the end, the value of the adoption agency probably would have been worth the added expense. We did save money on the cost of the adoption, but it took an emotional toll on us and our family and required a lot of work that we had not planned on.

By the end of the adoption, our lawyer now had a new, “Most expensive adoption.” The fees added up as they helped us navigate the situations that we dealt with daily. Be aware that your lawyer is not your friend. When you call them up to chat about a situation, they are billing you.
Between the added legal expenses and the added living expenses for the birth mother, our do it yourself adoption ended up costing just a little over $30,000. Yes, we saved some money, but it was a far cry from the budget we had started with. In the end, we had an amazing outcome. We walked out of the hospital with a healthy baby boy that has been a source of joy in our family ever since. While we would change some aspects of it if we could, the outcome was well worth the struggle we went through to get him into our home.

How I met their Mother

So I’m that guy, who while looking into his wife’s eyes as they were married, thought that he loved her more than anything in this world and couldn’t possibly love her more, but realizes now that he can and does love her more every day.

Couple holding hand at sun rise

 

When I first met my wife, Katy, she was only 16. I thought she was cute, but as she was a little more than 4 years younger than me, I didn’t consider dating her. She worked for my mom’s business at the time, and I also ended up working in the business. We didn’t work together but we were around each other sometimes through the day, so we were able to get to know each other a little.

When Katy was 17 I was pressured in to taking one of her friends to her Senior Prom. I wasn’t very excited about the situation, but I said I would do it if Katy came along, so I arranged a double date where she went with a friend of mine. We had a really fun time together, and on that date, I saw her sense of humor and personality and I really liked her. After that night, I was talking to my friend, who had also had a good time, and he said he had also liked her. “Too bad she’s so young,” he said.

It was another year before we started dating, but through that year we had a few opportunities to hang out and get to know each other a little better. Finally, one day at work we were talking about our lack of weekend plans. I had said that I wasn’t doing anything, and she said the same. So I asked if she would like to go out with me to see the Star Wars movie that had just come out in the theaters. She said yes, and the rest is history.

That was around the last week in May of 2002. By the middle of June we were going out almost every weekend. We had a really good time together and enjoyed talking and spending time with each other. We talked about anything and everything. The realization that she was the one I should marry came little by little, but it wasn’t long before I knew I would be very happy sharing my life with her. We really became close through those few months, and in late August our relationship had arrived at the point where we started talking about marriage.

I remember the first conversation we had about marriage. It was exciting and new to realize that we were both thinking about this. We were driving in my truck at the time, and she said, “We haven’t even held hands yet.” I was a very shy person and struggled to get up the courage to make the “moves,” but when she said that, I reached over and held her hand. From that point on we were inseparable. We spent all of our free time together and shortly thereafter I bought a ring.

We went for a drive and parked to talk. I had the ring in my pocket and I was so excited at the thought of putting it on her finger. We were talking and I held her hand and said, “When we are old and grey, I want to look at your hand and see this ring on your finger,” and I pulled out the ring and showed it to her and I asked, “Will you marry me?”

She said yes and I put the ring on her finger. Then she said, “Don’t you think you should kiss me?” Looking back on those moments, I can’t help but think I could have done it all a lot better. I could have made the proposal more elaborate or more romantic. We could have held hands more and kissed while we were dating. But all in all I don’t have any regrets. From that courtship we have developed a relationship that is built on a true friendship and not solely a physical bond.

That stage in our lives culminated in the most important day in my life, November 30, 2002, when I held her hand and we were married. It was at that time that our family was united and began. I can truly say that I married my best friend. I clearly remember thinking on that day that I could not possibly love any person more than I loved her. Looking back at our lives, we have gone through a lot together. There have been amazing times, hard times, tragedies and miracles. I realize now that I do love her more with every passing day. Through it all, the friendship that we started with has only strengthened. Our relationship has become integral to our lives. I realize that with each passing day, I do love her more and more.

Our First Adoption

adoption

So I’m that guy who woke up one morning with no idea that in 13 hours, he and his wife would be walking out of a room with their newly adopted son.

We had been “paper pregnant” for almost two years. In adoption vocabulary, that means that we had gone through the home study and approval process with an adoption agency and were waiting for the right situation to come along and to be selected by a birthmother to have a baby placed in our home. The major difference between paper pregnancy and normal pregnancy is that the latter has a definite end date. We were losing hope as the situation dragged on.

We were currently working with a faith-based agency and we decided that our chances might be better if we went forward with a private adoption agency that a friend had used. The private agency was substantially more expensive, but they did not collect fees until the placement was in process, so this didn’t seem like a huge obstacle when we signed up.

It took a few weeks to sign up and be approved by the new agency, but soon we had a second “paper pregnancy.” We were used to the notion that nothing happened quickly in the world of adoption, so we were stunned when we received a call from the private adoption agency a little over two weeks later.

I remember the events of the day so clearly and vividly, even four years later as I am writing this. It was about 1 o’clock in the afternoon and we were driving close to home when the adoption worker called me. I pulled into a parking lot to focus on the call. She said, “We have a birthmother with a 3-week-old baby boy. She will be here in about an hour and I would like to know if you would be fine with us showing her your profile.”

“Of course, that would be great,” I said. She told us a little more about the situation and explained the financial obligations associated with it, and the phone call was over.

My wife and I were very excited. We faced other possible adoptions previously, so we were cautious about getting our hopes up for fear of building up to a letdown, but this felt different and exciting.

We went about our day and at 3 o’clock, my phone rang again. It was the adoption worker again. “We showed your profile to the birthmother,” she said, “and she loves you guys. She would like to meet you. How soon can you come in? By the way, if this works out you will need to be able to stay in town for 1 to 2 weeks while you wait for the states to finish up necessary paperwork.”

We live about 3 hours from the adoption agency’s office, so we told them we would be there at 7 o’clock that night. And the whirlwind began. We had 30 to 45 minutes to prepare our 5-year-old daughter and ourselves for a trip that would last at least a week. I went to work and tried to tie up all my loose ends there while my wife frantically packed bags for everyone. She also prepared for the event that we did adopt the baby and would need to care for him through that time period.

We were on the road in 45 minutes. The trip was filled with “what if” conversations. The most common centered around the question “What if this doesn’t work out?” But we also dwelt on the hopes and scenarios that would play out if it did work.

We arrived at the adoption agency’s office just after 7:00 that night. The adoption worker sat down with us and we spoke a little about the situation. She said that the birthmother wanted to wait to meet with us for about an hour so she could have some more time to say goodbye to the baby.

This brought about a whole new round of issues. We had packed and driven 3 hours with the thoughts that we would meet the birth mom that night and hoped that within the next few days we would get the baby. But with this new wrinkle, we were going to receive the baby in an hour. We had not been able to round up all the baby supplies we needed, so we took that hour to go to Target and pick up what we needed to take care of him through the night.

At 8 o’clock, we met the with the adoption worker again. It all seemed surreal as they walked us down the hall to the room where we would meet our baby for the first time. We walked into the room and there they were.

Our son’s birthmother was holding him and rose to meet us as we came in the door. She was a beautiful young woman. We sat down near her, and we began to talk. After a few moments, she asked my wife if she would like to hold the baby. That moment of her placing Max into my wife’s arms is burned into my memory. For the last 3 years I had been by my wife’s side through the tragedy of a miscarriage only to be followed by the hopelessness of infertility. I had tried to console her through the difficult times, but I felt powerless to take that pain from her. As I watched Max being placed into her arms, all that pain went away and I will never forget that moment.

We continued our conversations for another 15 minutes. We talked about the baby and how he had been developing over the last 3 weeks of his new life. We talked about what our communication would look like as we maintained a connection with the birth mother. The connection would be as much for her as it would be for him. The time went so fast, and when the social worker said it was time to go, we were shocked back to the reality of the situation.

My wife handed the baby back to the birthmother. She held him tightly as she stood bouncing him gently. Her heart was breaking as the moment had arrived that she had to say goodbye. She gave him one last hug, kissed him on the forehead and said to him, “Goodbye, little man. I love you.” My heart broke for her as I realized that this amazing experience that we were having was at the same time the most difficult thing she would ever do.

Then she placed the baby into my wife’s arms for the second time. This moment was so emotionally overwhelming. It was an act of pure love by the birthmother to place this beautiful baby into our arms, trusting that we would give him the life she dreamed he would have. For us, it was the end of a journey to grow our family through adoption. It had been a long, difficult time in our lives. That very morning we had woken with no idea that at the end of the day we would be holding our new son.

Words cannot describe how grateful we are to this young birthmother. This experience has continued to fill our lives with joy and happiness, and we will always be thankful. Looking back on it now, I know it couldn’t have been any more perfect. Every trial along our journey had prepared and directed us to the moment when our son was placed in our arms.

Miscarriage: Take One

So I’m that guy, sitting in the room with an ultrasound tech and his wife, anxiously looking for a heartbeat.

 

Kinderzimmer mit Wiege für Baby

 

This was our second pregnancy. Our daughter was 2 ½ years old. We had been trying for about 6 months to get pregnant, so we were excited when we found out we had become pregnant again. My wife was dealing with worse morning sickness than she had experienced before but there were really no other worries at that point. In the past everything had always gone perfectly normal throughout the pregnancy and we had no reason to expect anything different.

At about 11 weeks we went in for the first prenatal visit with our OBGYN. She was unable to locate a heartbeat with the Doppler so she scheduled for my wife to have an ultrasound the next day to measure the development of the baby.  We went to the ultrasound appointment really feeling like everything was fine. As the tech took more and more time, and we did not hear that tell-tale rhythmical beating of a baby’s heartbeat, we were more and more concerned.

The ultrasound tech, not knowing how to handle the situation, excused herself and went to get her supervisor. He came in and spent some time trying to find the heartbeat with no success.  At this point we knew that something was wrong, but we were still not prepared for what came next. He said to us, “I am sorry, but there is no heartbeat.”  He continued to explain that the baby had stopped developing at about 6-7 weeks into the pregnancy. I don’t remember anything that was said after that, as he left the room, I tried to process the situation we were in.

Taken by surprise, we really did not know how to react to this news. Time stopped for a moment with my wife still on the exam table and I was standing next to her.  She sat up, we hugged, and tears flowed as we realized our hopes for this new pregnancy were over. We knew these things happen, but we never expected it to happen to us.

The rest of the day is a blur. We went to the doctor again and she advised us to have a D&C rather than waiting for the pregnancy to end on its own.  We spent the rest of that day in the hospital and at home as my wife recovered from the surgery.

This was one of those experiences that kicks you in the teeth and makes you realize bad things really can happen, just that easily. I struggled with at the time, and still have the “what if” thoughts that naturally occur with such a loss.  It was probably the first real tragic event that had occurred in my life and it took me time to work through it.

As hard as it was for me, I think it was probably 10 times worse for my wife to deal with. When my wife finds out she is pregnant, she immediately plans the next year of her life. I think a mother has an instant bond to the baby as soon as the test comes out positive. That is what kept her going as she suffered through two months of morning sickness, and all the other difficulties associated with the first trimester of the pregnancy.

What hurt me most was watching that bond taken from her. It seemed like there were reminders every day.  Someone was always announcing they were pregnant.  There were friends and  family members who were pregnant and had babies when ours should have been born. Even to this day there are reminders of that horrible day when everything fell apart. If I had the power to take that pain from her, I would do it in a heartbeat.

It was impossible to understand at the time, but looking back at that tragedy in our lives, we can see that it was a pivotal turning point in our lives. It was not the end of the struggles and difficulty.  In fact it was the beginning of an ongoing battle with infertility that has not allowed us to have any more biological children.  But had it not been for that first step, we never would have started down the path to adopt the three beautiful children that have filled our home since that day.

Father and Son Outing

So I’m that guy, mostly enjoying every minute of his Son’s first Fathers and Sons camping trip, realizing that his family is a miracle.

Camping

My family has this tradition. In the beginning of the summer, our church has what are called “Father and Sons camp outs”. I have memories of these events from the age of about five years old. In Idaho, the first part of the summer can either be a little hot or very cold and most of my memories involve the very cold.

One year, I think I was about eight years old. I woke up in our tent at midnight with a fever. It was raining outside and very cold. My Dad ended up leaving my brother with a friend and driving me home in the rain. I remember the trip home with the heater on high the whole way. I remember it being a great feeling to be warm again.

I have memories of sitting around the campfires, listening to stories. Whether they were funny or scary, I liked them all. The food was always good, and there were always friends to play with.

I have memories of many motorcycle rides on these outings. Large groups of friends and neighbors exploring the local mountain trails and having a good time.

All in all, some of my favorite memories came from these trips with my Dad and brothers. I have always looked forward to the day when I could bring my own son on a Father and Sons campout. Many years, as my wife and I struggled with infertility, this was one of my perceived losses.

The day finally arrived, last week I was able to take my four year old son on the camping trip. Although, for us it is not really a “camping trip,” we would rather spend the night in a warm hotel room. Remember, all my negative memories of the trips involved the actual camping aspect. There is a hotel near the usual site for the outing, so we opted to enjoy all the parts we like and sleep in a comfortable, warm room.

Four years old is too young to recognize the grandeur that is, “The great outdoors.” Max wasn’t very impressed at first and went into a wailing fit when he accidentally stepped in water and got his shoes wet. I watched as the other boys, who were obviously “farm kids,” ran around in their cowboy boots, wranglers, and snap front western shirts, running circles around my boy. They would fall down and bounce back up ready to do it all again. Then there was my boy, who wearing the Crocs his mom had bought him, was obviously at a disadvantage. Although he loves to run and play, he can be a little sensitive to impacts with the ground and does not tend to react with the same enthusiasm the other boys had when they fell. I was also a little conscious of the fact that I was the only father watching the pack of boys as they ran to and from each point of interest.

After about two hours of running, jumping, fishing, sliding, falling, and playing, my son had had enough. It was an hour past his dinner time and the food would not be ready anytime soon. He was grumpy and tired and not in the mood to wait around for dinner. Once again I decided to forgo tradition. I loaded him and his 8 year old cousin into the truck and drove 5 miles to a roadside pizza restaurant.

It was one of the high points of the trip, as I sat across the table with them eating pizza. We talked and joked around and had a great time. The pizza and soda pops did the trick. After a few minutes everyone was in a better mood and ready to go back to the campsite and finish out the evening.

That night in the hotel room my son could not stop talking, he was so excited to be “camping.” He finally talked himself to sleep and I was able to get some sleep too.

When I woke up in the morning, I had a few minutes to just look at him before he woke up. His face was so perfect and peaceful. I thought about how five years ago I had no hope of ever having a son to take on the Fathers and Sons outing. After dealing with infertility and spending so much time waiting for an adoption opportunity, it seemed hopeless that we would be able to grow our family. But there he was, quietly sleeping next to me. He is truly a miracle.

It was at that moment I came to a conclusion. Even though these outings don’t always turn out the way we think they should, the important part is spending time one on one with these kids. The rest of the day was cold and we went home early, but it was a great experience for my son. It was his first of many memories to come through spending time with his dad. I can’t wait for the next one.

My Firstborn

So I’m that guy, staring into the huge eyes of his newborn daughter, oblivious to the ways she will change his life for the better.

girl shoes

 

I had known the day was coming for the previous nine months, but I don’t think that time prepared me for the significance of the birth of my first child. My wife and I had been married for a year when we found out we were expecting.  We hadn’t made any specific plans to get pregnant, but we had stopped preventing for a short period of time.  Looking back on the ease of getting pregnant from our current reality of infertility, it almost seems like another life.

We found out shortly before our first anniversary. We had been planning a trip to Jackson Hole Wyoming to celebrate our first year together and we chose to go through with it.  On that trip I made the realization that pregnancy tests are evil.  Everything can be totally fine, there are a few symptoms of pregnancy that nudge a couple towards a pregnancy test, but I am convinced that once she takes that test and it is positive, it becomes the catalyst for “Morning Sickness,” or as in our case, “All Day Sickness.” Needless to say, the trip to Jackson would have been better had we not taken the test.

The pregnancy progressed normally and all went well for the nine months leading up to the birth of our daughter.  Another miracle, as we have not achieved a healthy nine month pregnancy since.

It started when my wife was already a week overdue. The contractions hit slowly one evening and by 1 a.m. the next morning, we felt they were close enough to make the trip to the hospital.  We had a 30 minute trip to the hospital, as we walked out the door I joked, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we got pulled over on the way to the hospital?”  The state highway was almost empty as I went from a 55 mph zone to a 45 mph zone.  I left the car at 55 mph and sure enough the only other car on the road was driven by a Sherriff deputy.

He pulled me over and came to the car window. I said, “Officer, I’m sure you probably get this a lot, but my wife is in labor and we are trying to get to the hospital.”

The officer shined the light into the car and onto my wife’s pregnant belly. He said, “Well okay, I am going to let you go this time, but it won’t do you any good to rush to the hospital if you never make it.”  I was disappointed there was no offer of a police escort, but glad there was no added cost to the late night trip.

We did make it to the hospital safely and after checking my wife, they said she was not close enough and sent us home again to let things continue to progress. A few hours later we went back in and once again they said it would be a little longer and sent us home.  Finally, about 24 hours after the contractions had begun; we were admitted to the delivery room to have the baby.

Once my wife was able to get the epidural, the pain was much more manageable. We both slept for a few hours and were woken up at about 1 a.m. when it was time for her to push.  It was a slow process, and the umbilical cord was apparently wrapped around my daughter’s neck, because every time she pushed her heart rate would drop drastically.  After 2 hours of pushing the doctor’s decided to use forceps and they were able to pull her out.

That moment, when I saw my daughter for the first time, is etched into my memory. It was a beautiful moment and very scary.  I saw her in the doctor’s arms and she was struggling to breath.  Her chest was contorting and she was making efforts to breath but she couldn’t get the air to her lungs.  For those 30 seconds, that seemed like a lifetime, the doctor and nurses set her in the warming crib and worked at clearing her airway.  Finally, there was a cry. She was breathing and everything was okay again.

After cleaning her up they put her in my arms. Her eyes were wide open and she stared at me through her huge blue eyes. I can’t put the happiness I felt at that moment into words, but it was one of the best of my life.

I cannot finish this post without saying how amazing my wife is. She is the one who had gone through 9 months of pregnancy and 33 hours of labor to give our daughter life. I love you babe.

Looking back, almost ten years later, I am still amazed at the miracle that happened that day. She is now a beautiful young woman who has changed my life for the better. I am proud to be her father.