Thursday, June 5, 2014

Zooey Magazine Issue 20

Zooey Magazine Issue 20
Xavi and I have the honor of being featured in Issue 20 of Zooey Magazine. When I was asked by the editor, the lovely Lucia Tran, if I would be interested in writing a piece on our adoption journey, I jumped at the chance. As you can tell from my previous post about Xavi's adoption, I believe in banishing the myths and praising the glory of adoption, while also recognizing the loss and heartache. Just the same as my previous post, it was a tough article to write, especially since it was to be a narrative and not an interview. I probably rambled on a bit too much, but I'm still happy with the outcome as it was straight from the heart. Xavi and I also had an amazing time during our photo shoot with the incredibly talented, Wing Ta of Canary Grey. Xavi took a major shine to her and gave her some of his best smiles. I was an awkward, nervous mess, but Wing quickly put me at ease. Anyways, be sure to check your local newsstand or order a copy online!!! And in the meantime enjoy these outtake photos of me and my boo in his nursery, which even after all this time isn't fully finished. ;)
Zooey Magazine Issue 20
Zooey Magazine Issue 20
Zooey Magazine Issue 20
Zooey Magazine Issue 20
Zooey Magazine Issue 20
Zooey Magazine Issue 20
Photos by Wing Ta, Canary Grey

I wanted to also say Thank You So Very Much for all your kind comments and love on Xavi's adoption story!! They all touched my heart!

xxMaria

Friday, May 16, 2014

An Adoption Story Q&A

An Adoption Story
June 2013, less than two weeks old in Austin, Texas.

This has been a difficult post for me to compose. I have been mentally writing it for almost a year. It was hard to know what to share and what to keep private. This isn't just our story but also Xavi's birth mother's story and I want to both honor and respect her.
An Adoption Story

I felt the best way for me to finally get this written was to do a Q&A post. A big Thank You to those of you that responded to my plea for questions! They were instrumental.

What inspired you to adopt? I'd love to know how you initially began tackling the subject? We knew we always wanted to adopt and even when we were dating in college we always imagined a family of two biological children and two adopted children. After trying on and off for seven years to get pregnant (doing all kinds of fertility treatments including three IVF cycles) and being stuck with the diagnosis of unexplained infertility, I found a specialist in Chicago that was known for explaining the unexplained. In August 2012, we drove to Chicago and had a final round of fertility test done and a whole lot of blood drawn. At this point, I just wanted answers. I wanted to know why, so I could grieve and move on. Well, we got our answer and then some. It turns out that aside from my autoimmune issues (Hashimoto's) I also had a bunch of random hereditary issues that combined created a perfect storm of infertility. In other words, it would take a miracle to get pregnant and sustain the pregnancy, which if it even got that far, could majorly jeopardize my health. We finally had our answers but that didn't make it any easier to swallow. For the next few months, we both grieved our loss. At that point we had already been through years of pain and loss, but we still needed the time to fully grasp what it all meant and how it effected our hearts. By January 2013 we were ready to go ahead with our plan to adopt.

What type of adoption did you do? Once you decided on adoption, how did you decide between international and domestic, private, or with an agency? We chose a domestic adoption, which means adopting a child within the United States, and we were open to all races, ethnicities and genders. Several years ago we thought about doing an international adoption. I had heard so many horror stories and myths about domestic adoption that the whole process frightened me. I was terrified of the birth parents changing their minds, I thought they could come back at any point in the child's life to get them back, I was worried about sharing the title of parent. But when we really got serious about starting the process and once I did more research, I realized my fears where unfounded. Yes, there are a few days after the baby is born that the birth parents can decided not to place their baby. And since Xavi's birth father couldn't be located, we did have to wait thirty days before his parental rights were terminated. I won't lie, those two days in the hospital felt like an eternity with our love for Xavi growing hourly and for the month after his birth I kept wondering if Xavi's birth father would come forward, but those were the risks we had to take.

The biggest reason I wanted to go forward with a domestic adoption was that I felt a strong need to help a child within the US. There are so many children that spend their whole lives in foster care that I wanted to help in any way. It was also important to us that our future child have the chance to have a relationship with their birth family.

An Adoption Story
1.Our first night out of the hospital in our hotel 2.Xavi's first bath 3.Coping with the heat in Austin 4.At the Alamo

How'd you get started? What kind of research did you do? Could, please share how you selected an agency. We looked into adoption many times over the years. Like I said, it's been on our mind since we were dating back in college. We went to several different agency information meetings while we lived in Massachusetts and when we first moved to Minnesota, but the timing never felt right and the agencies never felt like a good fit. When we were finally ready, I was lucky to find a fellow adoptive mom, vintage seller and blogger, Maria, through instagram. I knew that Maria had recently adopted and I was curious to know who she worked with and how it all went. She was a lifesaver and directed me to Susan at Christian Adoption Consultants. Working with a consultant was a game changer.

Do you guys want more children? Do you plan to adopt again? Yes, we do! But sometimes we're just so happy and fulfilled being Xavi's parents that it's hard to imagine adding anyone else to the mix. Also, there's the financial impact of adoption to consider. If we are fortunate enough, we would love to adopt again in a few years. I also have a dream of adopting an older child or teenager from foster care when Xavi is in high school or college, and when I have more practical parenting skills to take on an older child. Most people don't realize that foster children are kicked out of foster care when they turn 18. That could be while they're still in high school and then they are all on their own. Needing to make money, find a place to live, finish school and somehow survive. I remember what 18 felt like, how confused and lost I was and I had the help of a loving family there to support me. So the thought of an 18 year old being kicked out of the foster care system, with no safety net, really gets me crazy.

If you were to adopt again, would you go the same route as with Xavi? Yes, we would. Cutting out the middle man (the agency) really sped up the timeline. I loved working with our adoption consultant, Susan. She was a great support and had a wealth of knowledge. She also helped up create our family profile book (which is what the birth mother looks at).

An Adoption Story
Xavi's first plane ride flying home to Minnesota.

Can you share the cost of your adoption and maybe break out costs? If that is not too intrusive. The published average cost of a domestic adoption is $34,012. These costs can vary depending on many different factors. I won't go into the specific cost for us, but I'll tell you that adoption expenses are well above the average. Here's the breakdown of what you need money for if you go this route: the consultant fee, the cost of printing and shipping family profiles, the home study fee, the agency fee once you're matched, travel costs for airfare, hotel, food, etc, the post placement visits with the social worker, the lawyer fees and random fees for legal documents, certificates, etc. The biggest are the agency fee, travel expenses, and lawyer, with the consultant, home study and post placement fees coming in second. There are however lots of ways to finance an adoption. The government gives a tax credit of $13,000 and some companies even match that (Cole's thankfully does). If you adopt a waiting child in foster care, the costs are minimal and I believe you only are required to pay lawyer fees. There are also many ways to raise money and save. We weren't too clever with that, since I truly didn't think it would all amount to so much, but next time we'll be better prepared. It's also been tricky since our finalization took so long, we haven't been able to submit our taxes and get reimbursed. We're still waiting on Xavi's social security card and both the government and Cole's company won't reimburse us till we have it. One of the things, I've learned through adoption is how terribly slow and backwards our government, adoption agencies and lawyers function. Grrr.

Did you know your son's birth mother prior to adopting him? Any chance of adopting from the same birth mother? We knew Xavi's birth mom only briefly. The time between our match with Xavi's birth mother and his birth was only three weeks. We did have a phone conversation with her before we flew down to Texas and had dinner with her the night before her c-section. However, we were fortunate to really spend time with her in the hospital after Xavi's birth and the remaining weeks that we were in Texas. Getting to know and love Xavi's birth mom and siblings is a gift we will forever cherish and it helped us create a relationship that I hope will last for Xavi's whole life. The choice is always with the birth mom. If she was to choose us again, then yes we would.

Was there a kind of mental/spiritual connection prior to holding him for the first time? Yes! I had a huge, instantaneous connection the moment I read Xavi's birth mother's profile. It was crazy how strong it was. The minute I saw her picture and read her information, I got goosebumps. I immediately called Cole at work and told him he had to read her profile. He also felt strongly that she was the birth mother of our dreams.

An Adoption Story

What was your son's birth like? Were you there in the room when he was born? How did they hand him to you? The whole hospital situation was chaotic. The doctors and staff were pretty awful and treated Xavi's birth mom terribly. She had expressed her wishes to have me in the room during her c-section and for me to cut Xavi's umbilical cord. When they wheeled her out to get prepped for surgery, the nurses told me to put the scrubs on and they'd be back in five minutes. With shaking hands, I quickly threw on the scrubs, face mask, hat and shoe covers and proceeded to wait for twenty minutes. Those twenty minutes were some of the longest of my life. I was in a panic and the whole time I was waiting, there was a incessant beeping coming from a machine in the room. I thought I was going to lose my mind. I finally went into the hallway to see what was going on. Two of the nurses saw me and came and got me, their expression was something close to "oh, you're still here." They had already started the operation and Xavi's birth mama was laying there alone and upset. I thought I could scream I was so mad at the staff. Instead, I held her hand while we both cried. When it was time for Xavi to come out, I was supposed to get a picture and cut the cord but they didn't give me the option. They just whisked him out and cut the cord before even asking. I felt that everything that his birth mom wanted was being ignored. But there he was healthy and screaming as they quickly wiped him down and wrapped him up. First, they held him up to his birth mom's face and then they handed him to me. I could barely see through my fogged up glasses I was crying so hard. I held him close to her while she asked me to always love him and I said I always would.

An Adoption Story
1.Alone, waiting to go int into the delivery room  2.He arrived healthy and screaming 3.Cleaned off and sleeping in the nursery 4.First car ride leaving the hospital

At what point did holding your child feel real? This is a tough one. The whole time in the hospital felt so scary, overwhelming, stressful and surreal that I don't think I had time or really allowed myself to fully bond with Xavi. I was so worried that he wouldn't be ours and I knew I already loved him so much. I would say it grew more real with time. Especially once we were out of the hospital and in our hotel for a few weeks post birth. All those long sleepless nights helped make it feel real. But there are still times when I look at my amazing son and think "is this real, am I truly his mom?" The fact that he's in our lives...just takes my breath away.

An Adoption Story
Early July 2013, back in Minnesota and snuggling with my wee baby.

How long did Xavi's adoption take from start to finish?
We signed up with Christian Adoption Consultants at the end of January 2013. Started our home study paper work, got physical exams, fingerprints and back ground checks in February. Met with our social worker in mid March. Were home study approved on May 9th. We were emailed our son's birth mother profile that same day. Found out she had chosen us on May 20th, while we were in Paris. Found out Xavi's c-section was moved from June 17th to June 10th. Flew down to Texas on June 9th. Xavi was born June 10th. He was placed in our care on June 12th. Discharged from the hospital on June 15th. We left Texas and were back in Minnesota on July 1st. We finalized Xavi's adoption at the courthouse on April 7, 2014. Aside from waiting months for the finalization, it was all incredibly fast. I just kept telling myself through all the paper work and meetings with the social worker that I hoped we had a match in a year and if we were lucky a baby by December. Xavi was six months old this past December. It's just too amazing to think about how blessed we were that we got matched so fast and with the first birth mother of our choice and that the adoption didn't fall through.

An Adoption Story
April 7, 2014 our Forever Family day. Before and After the court hearing.

How did you pick out Xavi's name? Once we looked at Xavi's birth mother's profile and submitted our family profile to her agency in Texas, we started thinking about names. It was probably premature, but it helped me focus and feel proactive. We knew she was having a boy and that Xavi would be 3/4 Mexican American and 1/4 African American, so it was really important to us that we chose a name that respected his heritage. I had a short list of names with Hugo and Xavier at the top. Cole really didn't like Hugo, so we both decided to temporarily choose Xavier and see how we felt about it after some time. We soon left for Cole's business trip (which I called our babymoon) to Paris. Once we arrived we kept seeing and hearing his name everywhere we went. There was the Saint François Xavier metro station in Paris and while we were in Nice we kept seeing soccer jerseys with the name Xavi on the back. It felt like a sign. We both decided that we really did want the name Xavier (pronounced Zayv-yur) and would use the nickname Xavi (Zay-vee). When we shared our name choice with our family, we found out that Cole's great-great grandfather was named, Xavier. It was such a strange coincidence and we had no clue! During our first phone call with Xavi's birth mom, she asked if we had any names that we liked. We told her that we really like Xavier and she said that was her youngest son's name. I got goosebumps and immediately asked if that would be weird if we used the same name. She said no and that she liked that we wanted it. I asked her if there were any names she liked and she said Jacob. I told her that we also liked Jacob and were thinking about using that as his middle name since we knew from her profile that it's his birth father's name. Even though his birth father isn't in the picture and we've never met him, we felt it was important for Xavi to have a piece of him.

Will you tell him why he's so incredibly special...the whole story? Yes, I do practically every day! We want Xavi's adoption story to always be an open dialogue, something he's been used to talking about from the beginning. It will never be a shock or source of fear for him. And even though there will be times when he'll struggle with being adopted, we will always be there to walk with him and help guide him. Plus, I hope that by maintaining a relationship with his birth family, Xavi will never wonder where he came from. He will know them and love them, the same that we do.

An Adoption Story
May 5, 2014 heading to a Cinco de Mayo festival in St. Paul.

I'm sure there is so much I'm forgetting! If you have any other questions, leave a comment below and I'll do a follow up post! If you have a private question, feel free to email me.

xxMaria

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Nice, France

Nice, France
Oh, Nice. You're so gorgeous. After spending our cold, drizzly week in Paris, it was a welcome change to arrive in the warm and sunny cote d'azur. Cole and I spent our first day in Nice strolling the Promenade des Anglais and seeing the sites. Climbing up Castle Hill was the perfect way to see Nice from a bird's eye view. On our second day, we spent the whole day at a private beach. It was simply perfect. Endless gin fizzes and delicious salad niçoise. The warm, salty Mediterranean breezes. I was in heaven.
Nice, France
Nice, France
Nice, France
Nice, France
Nice, France
Nice, France
Nice, France
Nice, France
Nice, France
Nice, France
Nice, France
Nice, France
iPhone photos by me and Cole.

My next post will be on the adoption of our son. This is going to be a tough one. There is so much to say and remember. It may take me awhile to work through but hopefully I can have it done later this week or early next week. I get all teary eyed just thinking about it!

xxMaria

Friday, March 28, 2014

Paris, France

Paris, France
Hello, blogging world! I've missed you. I'm coming in just under the one year mark, so hopefully you'll forgive my long overdue return. Geesh. Where has the time gone?! When Cole and I left for Paris last May, we were ready for a big adventure. What we should have been ready for was a big life change...we left for Paris on May 17, 2013; on May 20th we found out we had been chosen by an amazing birth mother to parent her son; on May 30th we were back in the States; on June 3rd we were back in Minnesota; and on June 10th our son was born in Texas! To describe this time in our lives as a whirlwind is an understatement! Sometimes it's hard for me to keep it all straight, let alone process things like our trip to Paris, which at this point (even with photographic proof) feels like a dream. Today you're going to get an iPhone photo overload of our time in Paris, which I can quickly sum up as cold, rainy and magical. Next week, you'll get a post on our few days in Nice, and then hopefully after that, I can somehow sum up the adoption of our son! Whew.
Paris, France
This was my first time in Paris and my second time in Europe. Most days, I explored the city on my own. Thank goodness for my iPhone and maps app. I was able to map my way to any location and know which metro lines and streets to take. The only hitch was when I had no cell signal, which meant I was pretty much lost. After just a few days, I walked so much that I had major shin splints and the sniffles from the constant cold drizzles. As you'll notice, my most favorite place to visit and photograph was the Eiffel Tower. Our hotel was fairly close and it's really not hard to get a photo with the tower in the background. My second favorite thing to do, was to eat at all the outdoor cafes. I don't think I had a single bad meal and as long as I made a small effort to speak french, all the waiters were polite and accommodating.
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
On my third day in Paris, I made sure to visit the Shakespeare and Company bookstore and Notre Dame cathedral. I happened to visit Notre Dame, only an hour or two before that guy walked up to the altar and shot himself. I had no idea till I returned to my hotel and was watching the BBC. Thank goodness I didn't witness that or have to deal with the crowds or police.
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Our last night in Paris was freezing cold, we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and froze our butts off. However, the next day was warm and gorgeous. The sky was a brilliant blue, the sun was shinning and I turned 32. That afternoon, we hopped on a train to the cote d'azur to spend a few days in Nice.
Paris, France
iPhone photos by me and Cole

Next week, Nice!

xxMaria