Monday, September 26, 2011

For Better or For Worse

When the doors opened and I began my walk down the beautiful aisle, of a church that would echo the promises Chris and I exchanged that day, I did not fully understand the true blessing that was being handed to me at the end of that aisle.  He was my gift that day and has been every day since.  My love.  My life.  Our marriage is my most sacred possession.  It is the foundation of our family.  The foundation of our life.  For Better or For Worse, Chris and Dana. 
It is within a marriage, after the wedding day…when the presence of “worse” actually appears, that one really begins to contemplate the meaning of that sacred promise…For Better or For Worse.

Months before our wedding we needed to participate in marriage preparation classes.  We had a unique situation in that we were, and still are, friends with the priest (Father Stanley) who was going to marry us.  So, we really did not go to “classes”, per say.  Instead, we had Father Stanley over for dinner and then began discussing the topics that are typical to these classes.  We first started by taking a little quiz, answering questions about our expectations of a marriage.  We took the quiz and then we began discussing.  One question occupied the majority of our conversation that evening.  This was the question:  Will you ever question your love for your partner?  Chris answered “Yes”.  I answered “No”.  According to Father Stanley, and to Chris, I was wrong.   Apparently, in the history of Father Stanley giving this quiz, only one other man, and now Chris, had answered this question “correctly”.  Great. 

I spent the remainder of that evening, and the first years of our marriage, arguing my point.  Arguing that there may be times that I would not “like” Chris, or not agree with him or something he has done, but my love for him would never change.  I would always love him and love him so deeply that there would never be any reason to question my love for him. 
Their argument back to me was that sometimes when the “worse” comes in to play you will have moments of questioning your love.  It does not mean that you don’t love the other person or you don’t want to be with your spouse, it just means that you will question at times in your marriage if you do, in fact, really love this person.

So, are you ready?  This does not happen very often…they were right.

It took me awhile to get this.  It took my lowest moment in life to fully understand what this meant.

We had been at the hospital for over a day trying to induce my body into labor.  Trying to deliver a baby that was no longer alive.  It had been the absolute worst few days of our lives…the ultimate of “worse”.  The baby would not come.  We had been gone from our home for so long, and had left so abruptly, that we decided to have Addison come and visit us at the hospital.  For her, I needed to attempt to put myself together.  I needed a shower.   I had an IV in my hand, was tired and weak and my body had already been through hell.  Chris was going to have to help me shower.  I stood in the shower with my body showing all the signs of pregnancy: large belly, stretch marks, acne…and all the signs of death.  I was carrying our dead baby.  Chris needed to wash my hair.  My lowest moment was seeing the look in my husband’s eyes as he tried to help me as my dignity crashed to the floor.  Yes, his actions were all love and the truest test of For Better or For Worse.  He and I did what we had to do in that moment and in that day.  But the look in his eye, and what I later reflected was in my heart too, was a question.  Do I really love this person?  Is this really what I signed up for?  Do I really love this person that stands here vulnerable, broken, scared, holding the hand of death?  Do I really love this person that is watching me fall apart at my absolute worst?   

The answer, of course, was yes.  Without a doubt…YES.  But the question still presented itself.  We would in fact question our love for one another.  That day we would indeed question our love. 
We will celebrate 8 years of marriage this week.  8 years of better and worse.  I am so proud of us for what we make of this marriage.  I am so proud of us for asking the tough question…do I love this person?  I am so proud of us for walking hand-in-hand through the “worse” and even though the last few years have been heavy with “worse”, we keep walking…together, Chris and Dana, through the “worse” yet always reaching for the “better”. 
Thank you to Father Stanley for helping prepare us for the unthinkable…the question…the “worse”.  It is inevitable that each marriage will face its own worse and it is imperative that couples understand that questioning your love for your partner is indeed only part of a real marriage.  Answering “yes” to that very question represents the love and commitment required for marriages to persevere through the most difficult of times.   We will continue to preserve, to love, to celebrate what is real, what is us. 
Happy 8 years to the love of my life!  I am thankful for everyday…For Better and for Worse.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What is Your Biggest Fear?

I have picked up “lucky” pennies.  I have wished on stars and numerous years of birthday candles.  I have prayed to God and any other higher power that may be listening.  I have looked for signs…good signs, bad signs.  I have thought positively and visualized positive outcomes.  But mostly, I have hoped.  I hoped with every ounce of energy I have.

A few months ago we sat at our adoption support group meeting.  Couples surrounded the long rectangular table…couples waiting to adopt.  That particular night we were discussing grief, loss, fear and coping.  A pretty heavy lineup for the evening.  Today I remember vividly the one question that prompted a unanimous answer:  What is your biggest fear as it relates to open adoption?  One by one each couple shared their biggest fear…a birth mom changing her mind after bringing a baby into their home…after bringing a baby into our home…by far our biggest fear. 
Two weeks ago today we received a phone call - another life changing phone call.  We had once again been matched.  Matched with a mom that was already in labor.  Matched with a mom that had been adoption minded since the beginning of her pregnancy.  Matched with a mom that was carrying a healthy baby boy.

That baby boy (whose name will remain confidential) was born the very next morning.  Our bags were packed.  Grandparents were put on alert.  We sat anxiously waiting for the OK to head to the hospital.  Waiting, the three of us, on the couch… waiting and waiting for the phone to ring. 
When Chris and I got to the hospital we were moved into a small private waiting room.  It was comfortable with a couch and two would be the room where we would fall in love and begin to bond with the little boy we had been told would be ours.  The nurse came in and said that the baby was in the nursery under the warmers…but we could come and see him through the windows.  We walked down the hall in absolute awe that this was actually happening.  When we came up to the window the nurse pointed to him…perfect little him.  My body crumbled, my tears started to flow and I leaned back to feel Chris to know that this was real.  He had more hair than I had ever seen on a baby and the most beautiful kissable lips.  The nurse cried too.  They warmed him up and brought him to the window so we could have a closer look.  They needed to make new bracelets for us so that that we could be alone with the little guy.  Once that was done they brought him down to our room.  We cried again as he was first placed in my arms…the emptiness lifting, the weight of his little body filling my world.  This was unreal. 
We spent the next two days feeding, changing, bonding, loving, and sharing with this little person.  Addison came to visit, not wanting to miss out on one bit of the action.  At one point the baby was having his diaper changed, screaming his head off and pooping like crazy… Addison stood on the side of his bed sobbing, not wanting to see the little guy so upset.  Chris and I smiled…it was a moment we had been waiting for…a moment of being overwhelmed by the needs of two children.

Then the morning of discharge came.  All the paperwork had been filled out.  Plans were in place on what would take place as we were all leaving the hospital.

And just like that everything changed.  His birth mom was having second thoughts.  She wanted to parent.  Having planned on an adoption since the beginning of her pregnancy she had nothing prepared at her home for a baby.  She needed time to think and time to prepare.  She asked that we take the baby home while she considered parenting.  We said yes.

We spent a total of 10 days with this most beautiful baby boy.  We had already fallen in love and our bond was growing stronger every day.  Two days after we got home, his birth mom stated that her plan was to parent but she still needed to finish preparing to bring the baby into her home.  Again, we were asked if he could stay with us while she prepared.  We said yes...still hoping and praying that she would ultimately come back to her adoption plan, and yet fully respecting the decisions and choices that she was trying to make during this difficult time.

Then the dreaded day came.  His birth mom was ready to take him.  Her home was ready to welcome him.  She was 100% confident that she wanted to parent.  We felt our world crashing down.

We gave him one last bath.  We packed all of the special things that needed to go with him to his mom.  We put together a note and a list of things that would be helpful for his mom to know.  We dressed him and held him.  We told him that we loved him.  Addison said her goodbyesdisappointed and sad…wanting to know why he had to leave and when we would get to see him again.  She asked if she could give him one of her books to take with him.

Chris and I drove the little sweetheart to the adoption agency.  We said our goodbyes in the office, gave him our last kisses and then we left.  The pain of having to walk away from a baby that you love, a baby that you brought into your life and home, a baby that although only briefly you thought might be yours forever, is indescribable.  His mom was there to pick him up minutes after we left.

We have been thrown back into the darkness of grief.  While comforting to know that this little boy is safe, healthy and being showered with love…his loss in our life is immense.

We fully respect this mom, and all birth moms, for making some truly difficult decisions.  We can only imagine how her heart ached and the agony she must have felt being away from her baby and weighing his future for those 10 days.  We wish her, and especially this sweet boy, a lifetime of love and happiness…only wanting the best for them both.

As for today, as for us…we will be ok.  We continue to survive what we think we cannot.  We continue to walk through life tackling the day-to-day ins and outs.  We don’t know why.  We will probably never know why pain and suffering have been such a large part of our journey.  We are fortunate to have family and friends that hold us up and support us unconditionally.  We lean on them during this time of haze and darkness.  There will always be tomorrow.

I have picked up “lucky” pennies.  I have wished on stars and numerous years of birthday candles.  I have prayed to God and any other higher power that may be listening.  I have looked for signs…good signs, bad signs.  I have thought positively and visualized positive outcomes.  But mostly, I have hoped.  I hoped with every ounce of energy I have.