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The One with the Lucky Baby

19 Nov

Dear Little Man,

One of my favorite TV shows when I was growing up (and now) is called Friends. Recently I got my hands on the DVD seasons (it ended in 2004) and I’m re-watching them all. It’s a funny sitcom-type show about six friends (three boys, three girls) who go through all of their ups and downs together, but no matter what, they are always there for one another.

Now — following that description — it is a sweet show with some truly tender, genuine moments…but mostly it’s just really, really funny. It will probably be way outdated by the time you’re old enough to appreciate it (or old enough to be allowed to watch it) but I think you should check it out at some point. If you turn out to be anything like me, you’ll certainly relate to the humor :)

Now in the first season of Friends, there’s a weird dynamic between Ross (one of the main characters) and his ex-wife Carol. As it turns out, Carol’s romantic interests were not…how should I put this…male-oriented. However, before Carol discovered this, she and Ross created a baby boy. By the time the baby was born, Carol was with her new life partner, Susan.

But Susan and Ross didn’t get along so well, especially when it came to the baby. Ross was technically the father, but Susan wanted the baby to recognize her as a parent as well. She and Ross would argue all the time about who would get to see the baby more and hold the baby more and love the baby more. Finally, at the hospital on the day that the baby was born, Ross’s friend Phoebe was listening to Ross and Susan fight over this little guy, when Phoebe said this:

“When I was growing up, my dad left and my mother died and my stepfather went to jail, so I barely had enough pieces of parents to make one whole one. But here’s this little baby who has three whole parents who care about it so much, they’re fighting over who gets to love it the most, and it’s not even born yet. It’s the luckiest baby in the whole world.”

That quote had me riveted. Of course, years ago when I first saw this episode it didn’t mean much to me, but now that I’m older…and now that I have you…I have a new appreciation for what Phoebe said. While no one has ever fought over who gets to love you the most — I think The B’s and I (along with my family and friends) share that job incredibly well — I hope that one day, you feel like the luckiest kid in the world. The baby in Friends (who they ended up naming Ben, by the way) had the love of three parents. But you have four — two moms, two dads, not to mention four sets of grandparents, and I don’t even want to go into how many aunts, uncles and cousins you have.

But I can tell you right now that, just like Baby Ben, we were all madly in love with you before you were even born. And our love grows as you do…it just keeps getting bigger and bigger every single day.

 

Little Man and Michael Jackson

15 Nov

When J and I first met, we clicked on a lot of things:

– We both love Jane Austen and LOVE the movie Pride and Prejudice (yes, we’re girls. Indulge us.)

– We both use Jergens Healthy Glow tanning lotion in the summer because J burns and I just like to tell people I spent the summer in Aruba or somewhere exotic

–  We were both pregnancy book nerds — she read What To Expect When You’re Expecting from cover to cover when she was carrying Sports Man, and I hit Barnes and Noble less than a week after I found out about you.

However, one of the other things we discovered we had in common was dance. I played tons of sports in elementary school, but once I got older (and got braces…and terrified Pop Pop by getting hit in the mouth one too many times…), I took up modern dance and ballet instead. I danced all through middle school into high school and once I hit college I took up ballroom dancing and a teeeeny bit of contra dancing. I was never quite as flexible as I wanted to be, but oh it was fun! It was nice to find out that J and I shared such a passion.

But do you know what’s better than finding out we shared that passion? Discovering that we both passed that passion to youAnd thanks to J’s lighting fast iPhone filming skills, we have proof that you will probably hate us for in 10-12 or so years. And may I just say, you have incredible, prodigious skill. It’s overwhelming. You even pose like Michael Jackson. Next time we’ll get you gloves and you can do the moon dance.

But for now, it’s just another thing that J and I can commiserate over :) P.S. — The thing you do with your legs at the end is my favorite.

It’s Just You & Me, Kid

14 Nov

Dear Little Man,

Now quite obviously, it’s not just you and me. Even when I was pregnant and it really was just you and me, it was also you, me and my gynecologist. Then it was you, me and the ultrasound tech (who got to know me realllly well). Then it was you, me and an entire medical team on the maternity ward.

Then it was you, me and The B’s, and the rest is history!

However, a few days ago I was revamping my Letters to Little Man site. There were places where it still said I was 20 and I was boasting about how you could recite the ABC’s. I turned 21 in May and you can practically read now, so yes…updating was needed. So I changed some descriptions, added a few things here and there and lastly, I changed the pictures. You especially have a tendency to change rapidly as you grow, but luckily, J is on top of taking pictures as always, so there’s no excuse to have a photo of you that is a year old.

I went to change my photo too. Though I don’t change as much or as frequently as you do (wait, that’s a lie. I just got bangs for the first time in 3 years), I figured it couldn’t hurt to update my photo as well. So off I went, hunting through my most recent Facebook pictures for one that would be suitable for the blogosphere.

Though I wanted one of just me for the “Meet Renee” section, I also thought it would be super neat to have a few pictures of us together. I began the Facebook hunt again. Only this time, I found photo and photo after photo of you and I together. I’m generally so preoccupied with getting great shots of just you, that I truly failed to realize that there are a lot of pictures of us.

So alllll of those photos, paired with my natural inability to make decisions, has resulted in way too many pictures to post in the Meet Renee section. However, there is no such thing as too many photos for a letter to my Little Man :)

Technically one of our first pictures together. Technically.

Definitely our first picture together. You look so happy…

One of my favorite hospital shots!

A little over a week old. This was at Bethany during the interim period.

Exactly one month old! Oh, I miss your itsy bitsy days…

This was on a trip we took to an apple orchard with The B’s when you were 2 months old. Hey there, chunky legs ;)

At Sports Man’s 7th birthday party. You fell asleep in my arms. Then, you started falling OUT of my arms.

And so the hilarity of your expressions begins…

I could never resist giving you kisses. It’s a good thing too because now you’re moving too fast for me to even catch you to give you one!

You and I around your six-month birthday!

A Valentine’s Day visit at Grandma M and Pop-Pop’s house!

This was around the time you discovered you had a tongue. Apparently it was fascinating.

You were suuuper sick this day, but we still smiled together :)

Smoochin’ on you before our first Mother’s Day!

A perfect display of how happy you make me :) This photo is in your nursery!

This was the morning of our first Mother’s Day! J and I went to a “girls” luncheon to celebrate together. I’ll remember that day forever.

A month or so before your first birthday. This was probably the last time you ever sat still for a picture ;)

Little Man turns ONE! This was taken at your “little man themed” party. I got to celebrate the whole weekend with you!

This probably won’t be the last time you get exasperated with me. It also probably won’t be the last time I find it funny.

I would follow you anywhere :)

This past March, right after St. Patrick’s Day. J brought her camera on a visit and we had a little photo shoot! I think we’re applauding your cuteness ;)

You + Me + The B’s + Grandma M + Pop Pop + Aunt S = BEACH TRIP! We went to the Isle of Palms and hung out together for a few days. We even spent a day in Charleston which was funny because the last time I had been there, I was pregnant with you :)

At your second birthday party (time flies!!). Your hand was alllll the way in that cow’s mouth. All. The. Way. Giving mommy a heart attack? Yes.

The same weekend as you second birthday. You and I played in the hose for a while. We got soaked and it was lovely :)

I love every single photo we get together, but not just because you’re incredibly photogenic. I love our photos for the simple reason that we get to take them together. Adoption didn’t split us up, it didn’t cause me to miss out, it hasn’t separated us in any way except literal distance. The fact that I got to be around for all of this stuff — holding you at Sports Man’s party, spending Mother’s Day with you, giving you kisses and spending birthdays playing with you — it’s the part of adoption that I love the most. It’s part of the reason why I will love and owe The B’s forever, and it’s definitely the reason we will grow up knowing one another.

I cherish these photos. The silly, the blurry, the candid, the posed, the goofy the smiley, the serious and the fun. We’re creating a history together, you and me. And I hope that one day, you cherish them as much as I do.

Adoption is Everywhere

13 Nov

Dear Little Man,

I’m going to share a secret of mine with you. That secret is that I dream about being pregnant again someday.

In my actual dreams, I’m generally terrified of pregnancy and, in dream world, I find myself thinking, “I’m pregnant again? Oh my, I wonder if The B’s will raise this one for me, like they did Liam…” So, so, so weird. I’m generally thrilled to wake up and realize it was a dream because I has such a difficult time going through with placing you…I’m not sure I could do it again.

But during my waking hours, sometimes I think about having a baby when I’m ready for one. I love you so very much…in that “beyond words” kind of way…and I hope to be able to someday have a little half-brother or -sister for you to meet, that I can love just as much. I never thought I wanted kids, but once I discovered I was carrying you, I realized that I wanted nothing more than to be the best mother I possibly could. Hopefully I will be able to be that mother someday. Hopefully you think I am that mother today.

Yesterday evening, Miss Manhattan (one of your many aunts, a fellow blogger with a wonderful site, and one of my oldest friends) sent me a link to a blog called Arielle Elise. This blog is mostly (beautiful!) photography, but this particular post was about a couple going through an adoption in Uganda.

In my many talks/discussions/speeches given at Bethany functions, I have heard a few stories of international adoption, though most of the ones I’ve heard have been from Asia. Though I don’t know much about international adoption (I am studying it!), I still love that adoption spreads its influence so widely. The love that adoption encompasses can span oceans…how beautiful is that?

The couple featured in the Arielle Elise post are twenty-somethings, married for 5+ years and in the process of adopting their own Little Man from Africa. Their photos are all about them and love and how love creates family (oh how I can attest to that!) Their blog, This Beautiful Truth, follows an incredible, emotional journey through adoption and their daily lives. Like one of my favorite bloggers, Infertility Awakening, these journeys fascinate me. People who have the hearts and souls for adoption never fail to astound me with their openness and their love. I always find them to be very brave, courageous people who have decided to open their hearts and look on the bright side of life…just like The B’s!

I love sharing stories of people like this, mostly because I feel that somehow, we’re all connected through this adoption experience. Birth mothers, adoptive families, adopted children…though we’re all different a spread far and wide, I somehow feel like we’re all connected at the core. I get to share our story and other couples and birth mothers get to share theirs and together, we form this network, this collaboration of people who want nothing more than to love their children and families as much as humanly possible.

And I understand. Though I am the birth mother rather than the adoptive mother, I think I get it, or part of it at least. I understand that longing to be a mother, to create a family, to want to share your love with a child you have the privilege of calling your own. Though I certainly can’t empathize with the frustrating, upsetting, sometimes devastating effects of infertility, I think I realize the desire that drives it. The desire to hear someone call you “mom.” It sounds like a small thing, but it means something so much bigger to so many people.

And that’s why I still have my dream. My dream of being “mom.” That’s why. someday, I’d like to give you those half-sibling(s) that call me “mother.” It’s a small thing, but that tiny act of love can fill a heart to the point of bursting. I would know. That’s what I feel every time you call me “Nay-Nay.” It may not be “mom” outright, but I cherish it as though it were. Because though you may not call me your mother, I will forever call you my son and I will be proud. That’s just how love works.

So enjoy this tiny piece of your expansive network, Little Man. I hope you enjoy reading the stories of this family as much as I enjoy telling the stories of my own little boy, my shining star, my bright light at the end of all of my dark tunnels.

That would be YOU, in case you were wondering ;)

The “New” B’s

9 Nov

Dear Little Man,

I recently realized that I hadn’t updated the “About Renee” or “About Liam and The B’s” section of your blog in ages, and since J has a slew of new photos regularly, there’s really no excuse for this.

So I went in and added a new photo of The B’s to their section, but it was too cute not to share with everyone! This was from a recent trip you all took to a pumpkin patch (I’ll post a few more soon…J took some great pictures!) I love you all!

My Extended Family :) And one, cute, classic Little Man Smile!!

The Best Part

5 Nov

Dear Little Man,

After attending my fourth event (and giving my second big speech) at Bethany get-togethers, I finally realized what my favorite part of the events were: after they were over.

First off, I just re-read that and it sounds rude. I promise I don’t mean it as it sounds! The food is always great, the people are amazingly nice, and the information you learn is special and irreplaceable. The only reason the ending is my favorite part is because that’s when people come up to me to tell me how much our story has touched them.

My dream has always been to inspire others — to touch someone’s life in a small way that makes a big difference. Ever since I had you, my new dream is to be great mom, even if I have to do it from a distance sometimes. But hopefully, as we both grow, I’ll inspire you a little bit, too.

But for now, I’ll just play with you at every chance I get and I’ll tell our story until I run out of people to tell it to. Because at the end of every informational meeting or banquet or fundraiser that I’ve spoken at, people catch me as I’m leaving and they say things like this:

 

“Thank you for sharing your story! It was very touching and special.”

“What an incredible journey. It’s so inspiring for those of us who want to adopt.”

“You sound like you have a very special son and adoptive family (*Renee nods her head vigorously*). It was lovely to hear about, it really boosted my spirits.”

And the best one…

“We had never considered open adoption until now. It sounds so beautiful. Thank you for sharing about it!”

 

We may not change the world, but even if our story only touched the lives of these four couples, that’s enough.

Actually, even if I just touch your life and inspire you, that will be enough for me :)

Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About

3 Nov

Tonight, I’m speaking at another Bethany fundraiser in Asheville, NC. And before you ask, no, I will not be starting this talk with an underwear joke.

In a way, I’m almost more excited for this talk than I was for the last one. Someday, you will learn that once you give a speech, no matter how well you plan it out, inevitably you will forget to say something. Around midnight or so that night, you will sit bolt upright in bed and think, “Oh shoot, I forgot to mention [insert important factoid here].”

I did that after my talk in Charlotte — it didn’t even take me until midnight. But luckily for me, I now have the opportunity to add the things I forgot to mention. I won’t give you any spoilers, but I’m happy I have the chance to add my “important factoids.”

Also — since my last speech was given in front of a surprisingly large audience — I’m pretty sure all of my stage-fright nerves are already fried. That sounds like a bad thing, but the silver lining is that tonight I won’t have to worry about having excessively sweaty hands and a heart rate of 100 beats per minute. Knock on wood.

Sadly, you and The B’s can’t make it to this talk either (Sports Man’s baseball team is in the playoffs this afternoon…probably because Sports Man hits so many home runs :) ), but I know they’ll be there in spirit as always. I love talking about them almost as much as I like talking about you. They are beautiful, remarkable people who (along with my parents and friends) are responsible for making my life as lovely as it is. I love, love, love spreading our story to everyone that I can. But also, I just like to brag about having you all in my life :)

So wish me luck (again) and keep your tiny fingers crossed that I stay far, far away from any undergarment-related material.

Funny Faces

1 Nov

 

You make some great faces. Ever since day one, you have been Mr. Personality and you’ve never been afraid to show it. But on this monumental day, I have to say a new face has taken first place in my book: this one!

I love this face because it’s funny. I love it because it has attitude. I love it because it’s so you. But I also love it because it’s my face. Literally days before J took and posted this picture, I was talking to The Boyfriend about how I make that face. When I make it, it’s generally saying, “Seriously?” or “I’m humoring you but also rolling my eyes just a little bit.” I’m guessing your face is saying, “I’m busy strutting my stuff in this pumpkin patch and I don’t have time for your shenanigans.”

Someday, I’m sure you’ll make this face to me. Maybe I’ll make it right back at you, but it’s more likely that I’ll think back to this moment and laugh. Partially because it’s just funny to see this much attitude coming from a two-year-old, but also because it is one of the first times I’ve truly seen my face in yours.

The Audience in Their Underwear

21 Oct

“I feel like I should make one of those ‘imagine-the-audience-in-their-underwear’ jokes, but I feel like that might be mildly inappropriate.”

That is what I opened with at my banquet speech Friday night. That was the first thing I said. Yep. My opening line was about underwear.

When I think about it, I have an image of the real me on stage actually saying it, but I also see an imaginary, invisible me trying to catch the words as they come out of my mouth and shove them back in, silently whispering, “Oh my God! Shut up!”

I’ll defend myself by saying that this banquet hall was packed. One-hundred-and-fifty people, easily, all affiliated with Bethany Christian Services (the adoption agency I worked with), all staring eagerly up at me. I honestly don’t mind speaking in front of people, especially when I’m speaking about a topic that I’m passionate about (like you!), but that doesn’t stop me from getting nervous (and making bad underwear jokes). Likewise, being nervous doesn’t stop me from talking about the things I believe are important — and raising awareness about open adoption is certainly one of those things.

I love telling our story. I love telling the part where it was just you and me and those seven months we spent growing together. I love telling the part where The B’s and I met and how we came together as a family. I even like telling the parts that were difficult for me: having to sign the adoption papers, trudging through those ten days, and missing you all the time.

But my favorite part of telling our story is seeing the looks on the faces of others as I tell them about the relationship I’ve had with The B’s since the adoption became official. They all look a little…stunned. Wide eyes that look a little incredulous, even a few dropped jaws here and there. But they’re stunned in a happy kind of way: Like they didn’t know that adoption stories could turn out that wonderfully, or like they’re thrilled to hear that happy endings aren’t just for the movies.

I love seeing that look because I know that there is one more person out there who knows that adoption has changed people’s lives for the better. When I hear about adoption in my classes at school (if I hear about it at all, which is rare), the only things I hear are negative: negative impacts on the child as they grow up, negative impacts on the birth mother after her child is gone, abuse, neglect…the list goes on. And the sad part is that they’re not entirely wrong. In some cases, things end up that way: bad families, damaged children, etc. But that’s why I feel it is so important to share our story. Because if awareness is raised and optimism is spread, maybe the stigma can be lifted and people can learn about how openness can really change everything.

I know I always say that you are my inspiration, but I really mean it. The reason I love to do these talks and give these speeches and attend these banquets and info meetings and fundraisers is because I have you. You are a miracle, but not just my miracle. You’re a miracle for The B’s and their friends and family, too. Your existence has brought so many people together which, in turn, has spread so much love and happiness…how can anybody not want to share that? Personally, I like to sing your praises from the rooftops (or through social media, the new age “rooftop”) and judging by the great feedback I got on Friday after the rest of my speech, maybe your story will become someone else’s miracle too.

But hopefully, when that person retells the story I told them — about you and me and the wonderful family I found in The B’s and through open adoption — they’ll leave out the part about the underwear.

The Football Face Mask Penalty

23 Sep

I am a huuuuge football fan. It’s one of the many reasons why autumn is my favorite season — prime ACC football and NFL season. I’m a fanatic. I’m one of those yell-at-the-referees-even-though-they-clearly-can’t-hear-me-through-the-television people. Luckily, my love for football seems to be genetic. And also it’s highly encouraged by The B’s. They’re big Giants fans. I’ve forgiven them for that because I’m a good person.

You are already a pigskin fan. I still remember the day J sent me the text telling me that you had learned to say, “touchdown.” So proud.

Unfortunately, the rules of football seem to be eluding you. But seeing as you are only two years, two months and one day old (but who’s counting?), you have time to learn. Here’s your first lesson: face mask penalties are bad and generally considered illegal. And by generally, I mean always. Why is this your first lesson?

This is why.

P.S. — You’re adorable.

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