Tuesday, April 29, 2008

You Know You're an Adoptive Parent When...

I find a lot of these things on the various message boards I lurk on. I haven't felt/experienced all on the this list, but I can definitely relate. My favorites are #2 and #14; #12 and #13 make me smile.

You Know You're An Adoptive Parent When . . .
1. The fact that there are 143 million children without a parent to kiss them goodnight has made you lose sleep.
2. You realize DNA has nothing to do with love and family.
3. You can't watch Adoption Stories on TLC without sobbing.
4. The fact that, if 7% of Christians adopted 1 child there would be no orphans in the world, is convicting to you.
5. You spend free time surfing blogs about families who have experienced the blessing of adoption.
6. It drives you crazy when people ask you about adopted child's 'real' parents.
7. You have ever been 'pregnant' with your adoptive child longer than it takes an elephant to give birth (2 years!).
8. You had no idea how you would afford to adopt but stepped out in faith anyway, knowing where God calls you He will provide.
9. You have ever taken an airplane ride half-way around the world with a child you just met.
10. You believe God's heart is for adoption.
11. You realize that welcoming a child into your heart and family is one of the most important legacies you could ever leave on this earth.
12. You know what the word 'Dossier' means, and you can actually pronounce it!
13. You have welcomed a social worker into the most private parts of your life.
14. You shudder when people say your child is so lucky that you adopted them, knowing full well you are the blessed one to have him or her in your life.
-Author unknown

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Small beginnings

I received an email from the hospital where Sassy Girl was born. They are updating their NICU "graduate wall" where they post "then and now" pictures of babies who have stayed there. They asked if I would want Sassy Girl to be part of this wall.

After Sassy Girl was born, she spent three weeks growing in the NICU. Granted, three weeks is a very short time compared with the months some parents of micro preemies have to endure. Still, at the time it felt like forever. Furthermore, everything was unknown - not only did we not know when she would be able to come home, but we didn't know if problems would develop because of her prematurity. Sure, everything looked great and she had few problems at the time, but there was always that chance. Babies weren't meant to be born that small or that early.

As I walked to long hall to NICU every day, the graduate wall was like a beacon of hope for Ebo and me. We would compare the birthweights and gestational ages of the kids' to that of Sassy Girl's. It was especially helpful to see pictures of older kids doing "normal" kid stuff like riding bikes, running, or reading books.
I still visit the NICU about once every couple of months. Ebo and I are part of a group of volunteer parents who support families who currently have babies in the hospital. We mostly bring goodies on holidays, but I have also occasionally shared our story with the parent support group. Even though it's been almost four years since Sassy Girl began her life in that hospital, I am still hit with surge of emotions when I turn that corner to the long NICU hallway. Then I stop and start looking at each picture of each graduate, reading the information that I have long since memorized. I am comforted once again by pictures of Michelle, Caitlyn, Nicole, Sarah, Winston (Ebo's favorite), and all of the children who were faced with tough challenges early in life. I hope that Sassy Girl can provide the same hope for parents.

Now that Destructo Boy has joined our family, it feels just a little bit different when I visit the hospital. I don't know much about Destructo Boy's NICU stay. All I have is a translated hospital report. When I would visit Sassy Girl each day, I would notice that there were some babies that seemed to never have visitors. Because of work and circumstance, their parents were not able to come and care for them. The nurses did a phenomenal job caring for each baby, but they couldn't pump milk or give them kangaroo care. Now I'm wondering who cared for Destructo Boy for the first three months of his life. I wish I was able to do for him what I was able to do for Sassy Girl.

Though their struggles are minimal, both my kiddos still deal with being preemie - Sassy Girl with her size and Destructo Boy with his speech delay. But they have proven to me that they are up for all of life's challenges. One of my favorite songs from the musical, Les Miserables, is called "Little People" - I think it should be every preemie's mantra:
They laugh at me, these fellows, just because I am small.
They laugh at me because I'm not a hundred feet tall.
I tell 'em there's a lot to learn down here on the ground.
The world is big but lil' people turn it around.

Newly born Sassy Girl - all 2 1/2 pounds of her

Sassy Girl at three - takin' on the world

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Research and the "Duh" Factor

Over the past few years, I have become very cynical about research, especially in my own discipline. The anthropology conference last weekend nourished my cynicism. Does what I do really matter? If the earth was going to be hit with a meteor, would I be one of the 100,000,000 to be chosen to survive underground? My guess: probably not.

I chose to study anthropology because I believed that the perspecive of the discipline forces you to truly understand the human condition. I still believe that....only you can only get so far with perspective. Furthermore, some anthropological research just confirms the obvious. The more I write about my own research, the more I'm convinced people outside the discipline will read it and say "Well, duh." The bright side is that in all likelihood, no one will read my dissertation (this includes my committee members).

But if by some chance my writing did reach the general public, it will probably fall in the same category as these:


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

My Seperate Lives

Ebo and I have very different philosophies when it comes to organizing the files on the computer. While he prefers to keep everything in the "My Documents" folder, I like making seperate folders on the Desktop. Call it a irrational pet peeve, but it bothers me to have my personal documents in the vacinity of my course syllabi. When I was in college, when the world was still using floppy disks, I would have a separate disk for each class even though all of my semester documents would have most likely fit onto one. I guess I was afraid my homework for Primate Social Behavior would contaminate my Human Sexuality papers. Call me crazy.

I compartmentalize my life the same way. It makes me uncomfortable when parts of my life "mix." I recently heard from a wife of a graduate school colleague who I haven't spoken with in over a year. She had seen my profile on Facebook and saw a picture of both Destructo Boy and Sassy Girl. She had met my daughter, but she didn't even know we had a son. When we were sending out announcements to celebrate Destructo Boy's arrival, I purposely left them (and a bunch of other graduate school people) off the mailing list. I didn't want to be the subject of department gossip/chatter.

Since Sassy Girl became sick in 2005, my contact with the department has been minimal, partly because I'm ashamed of the progress I haven't made. But I guess the other reason is that I don't want to disturb the perceived equilibrium between my personal and "professional" life. Right before the E. coli incident, I had started to make plans to increase Sassy Girl's day care time. I fixed up my old office at the department and began writing again. I was just about to finish when...boom. Sassy Girl goes into kidney failure and everything else seems so trite and unimportant. Since then, every time I start to try and start up again, I am scared that bad things will happen.

This past weekend, my equilibrium was disturbed. Back in October, I made a promise to Jenna and the rest of her blog readers that I would write a paper for the Society for Applied Anthropology. I originally wanted to do a piece that showcased several stories, but time constraints and family illness prevented me from doing in-depth ethnographic work. Instead, I decided to write a piece that focused on how the internet, particularly through online support groups and blogs, helps shape the "infertile identity" and create a virtual community. It was mainly a reflective piece that highlighted already published research, but I did manage to get some quotes and experiences from my friends at Carolyn's Boards to make the piece more "human." I will post about the actual content of the paper and my interesting experience later, but I will say that my talk was well attended, well received, and generated a lot of discussion afterwords. Someone even suggested that I write a book.

But I think the most interesting part of the whole experience was my illogical behavior throughout the whole thing. Even though I used my university affiliation to get into the conferenece, I told NO ONE that I would be there. I purposely did not stay at the conference hotel and I chose to drive instead of fly in fear of running into people at the airport. The abstract I had written was mysteriously missing from the online preliminary program (an error which was corrected in the final program), so I didn't come up in any online searches. I thought I was home free...until the chair of the department walked in the room the last few minutes of my presentation. He gave me a confused look, snapped a picture, and headed out of the room. After my session was over, I snuck out of the hotel and left the conference.

Why was I being so silly? Well, no matter how kick-ass my paper was, it wasn't really part of my dissertation research. This is something I had to write for myself and my community. The problem is that this means that my personal life is encroaching onto my professional life. My work is being mixed up and my files are merging. What will happen to my universe now?