Letter to My Daughter On Her 3rd Birthday

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My Dear Daughter,

Daughter… Oh, how sweet that word tastes on my lips! It has been 3 years since the story of you was gifted to this world. When you took your first breath, the world changed for the better. That 3 years has passed so quickly, in a series of blinks & blessings. I can still hardly believe it!

People told me a lot of things about becoming a parent, but the one thing that nobody could have explained is this fierce Love I have had for you since the instant I met you. I carry that love with me every second of every day. It is the purest, most powerful love I have ever felt.

When we brought you home at 5lbs, 4 oz, your strength was already evident. I loved you for that then, and I will always love you for it. Don’t let anyone take it away, or smolder it. It is so precious! Every night, before I sing Our Family Song, I tell you the story that I told you on the day that we met:

On the day you were born, all the gods got together and threw a biiiig party. And they decided that you and me and Momma and Lucy should be a family. So, we brought you home from the hospital, and that was the happiest day of our lives.

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Leaving the hospital August 18, 2015

Some people may think that 3 is no big deal, but you are changing so much and so fast that it makes my head spin. So, I want to share with you some of my favorite things about you being 3.

You’re already a girl ahead of your time; you have been from the beginning. You were born a little bit early, spoke early, expressed empathy for others early, and I have a feeling you’ll keep going on this trajectory because you’re already so wise and you understand so much. You’re sensitive, kind and insightful. You’re loving and outspoken and cuddly. I love the way you take my face in your hands and tell me that you love me. You always ask “are you happy?”. I am happy, my darling girl. I’m happy, most of all, that you completed our family. You leave me in awe, every day.

You love your family fiercely. This is a value that I hope remains with you always. At Christmas with our extended family, you stood up at the table, spread your arms out and declared, “This is my family!” The fact that you receive the love poured out to you makes our hearts sing. When you go somewhere with one of us, the other is guaranteed to hear how you want to go back again with your whole family (“I want to go on the Ferris wheel with Mommy AND Momma. With whole my family!”). You constantly tell us that your favorite time is when we are all together. You relish in sitting together, cuddling, talking, having adventures, eating together.. all of it! Being together is when you are happiest, and we are so grateful, because we feel that way too!

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You are so confident & brave. I pray that’s a quality that stays with you and that your self-assurance won’t become too tarnished by the world creeping in. I hope that your strong-will, which sometimes challenges my patience, remains a steady strength that takes you wherever your heart leads you. While it can be challenging because it sometimes delays me as I am rushing through this or that, it is something that I admire most about you, and I appreciate the pause that it forces me to take. You love your beautiful, natural hair, and your brown skin. I pray that you will let this pride ground you and guide you as a strong Black woman.

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Loving your hair!

You are very smart! You’re a true bibliophile, devouring books every day. You have started “reading” to us now, because you’ve memorized so many books almost word-for-word. You quote the things you hear, and I love the profound lessons you take away, and the hilarious things you quote! You are an exceptional listener, and you take in information in a way that impresses us every time you develop a new skill. When you are taught something, you don’t have to be told twice. Watching your mind work and being able to really have conversations is yet another joy for us. You’re engaging and bright, and always tender. You express your feelings so maturely, it sometimes shocks us.

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You’re so funny! You make me laugh every day.  You can talk me out of scolding you with your coy little one-liners and that sweet face looking at me so intently. It’s your way of letting me know that you get it. I love that you are so precocious. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You have music in your bones. You love to dance & sing. You’ve memorized the Sugar Plum Fairy’s solo from The Nutcracker, and you know every move, facial expression & hand gesture from Moana’s (Your favorite movie) How Far I’ll Go & Frozen’s Let It Go. You wake up singing and you sing yourself to sleep at night. You can carry a tune, too! You didn’t get that from me! Your favorite books are Up, Up, Down & Please, Baby, Please, among others. You’re my crafting sidekick, up for any project I put in front of you.

You are so compassionate. If someone is crying, you dash to the scene to ask how you can help, offering a hug, a kind word and whatever moral support you can. You don’t like anything with violence or raised voices. It makes you sad to see people being unkind. When someone is unkind to you, you don’t lash back, and you sometimes get very quiet, but you are learning to use your words to express the injustice that you feel, or just to say “please be kind to me”.

You have a charisma that you aren’t aware of yet. I believe it will serve you well. You make friends wherever you go. I call you the Mayor of Everywhere! When you see other children, you always ask them if they want to be your friend or play with you. When you see babies, you are drawn to them, wanting to hug and kiss and make them smile. You already have quality friendships and you adore your friends, and their families.  They bring you joy, and you return it without any effort at all.

Momma and I both feel so grateful, and that helps us to enjoy the moments, as the days pass so quickly. The weight of the gift we were given when we became your moms is never lost on us. I wish I could keep you little forever, but I am looking forward to continuing to watch you grow into the young lady that you’re meant to be. You’ll do great things, my girl.

As you move into this year, my hope is that you will just keeping being the wonderful, beautiful you that you are. As long as you remember that Mommy and Momma love you more than anything in this world, and stay true to yourself, all will be well. Stay strong, let your voice be heard, be kind, hold your family close. Know that you will always be loved, no matter what. And no matter how old you are, you will always be my Baby Girl.

With All My Love,

Mommy

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Soraya Miré, FMG Survivor, Author and Human Rights Activist: Raising A Baby Activist

Soraya Miré, age 2, with her siblings. Somalia, Africa

Meet Soraya Mire. Life has a beautiful way of bringing people together. Serendipity worked its beautiful magic one day last year, at a local coffee shop where I was writing. As I headed for the largest table in the place, I joined a beautiful woman who smiles with her whole face. Little did I know that asking to take a seat at that table would would lead to a wonderful friendship and a chance to hear, and read, her story. Little did I know that she’d been through the unimaginable, and that she had taken her pain and used it to heal, and to become a leading Human Rights activist, author, lecturer, filmmaker and champion for justice the world over.

Little did I know.. But I know now, and you should know, too. I am so honored that she agreed to be featured as this month’s Raising A Baby Activist post.

Though Soraya was born in Somalia, this story isn’t based in Africa, the Middle East or Asia. All countries, cultures & families have cycles of pain. It is how we choose to look at them, respond to them and act in contradiction to them that matters. This story is based in our own backyard, wherever you are in the world. It is the story of children, of refugees, of moving parts. It is people coming from other cultures that we aren’t aware of. It is in America.

When I started this journey, I was ambivalent about circumcision of little boys. I once interpreted for Deaf parents whose newborn son was being circumcised and I can tell you it was terrible to watch. It was clearly painful to the newborn, and it didn’t make sense. It was bloody and horrible and felt unnecessary, but society taught me the myth that it’s “cleaner”, so witnessing what price a baby has to pay, I made the mental note not to do that if I ever had a son, blocked it out and moved on. I am now keenly aware of my place against circumcising, no matter a person’s gender. With all due respect, cultural norms, be damned.

In her book, The Girl With Three Legs: A Memoir, Soraya writes about the extreme devastation and physical, mental and emotional trauma she faced and overcame as a survivor of Female Genital Mutilation at the tender age of 13. This book takes us on her journey of how she overcame this horrendous trauma, moving forward as a champion for women and girls all over the world. Her story blew the lid off of this largely ignored “rite of passage”. “The misconception,” she explains, “is that this somehow equates to a first drink or experimentation with a drug. Or perhaps even a girl’s first menstrual period. But this has a different meaning. This is something put upon my body before I was even aware of my body.”

How did you become an activist, and what activism have you been involved in?

Looking back, I was born to be an activist. My mom used to say, “You are a reign of terror!” I believe in fairness and justice. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but if I’m right, and something is unjust, I’ll tell you without a filter. I respect religion but we are talking about child abuse under the cloak of culture. Mutilation is the ultimate child abuse. The children subjected to it were born perfect. It’s my choice if I want to enhance my body in any way at the age where I can decide for myself correctly, not influenced by the idea of the perfect body.

When I was faced with the decision to choose my family or my activist path, I was considered to have discarded my family because they disagreed with my choices to speak up and reveal what has been happening young girls in our culture, and many others, for about 2000 years. I had no choice.

I have spoken before the United Nations, U.S. Senate Human Resources & Health Assembly and the World Health Organization. I have worked with medical professionals, government officials and with women and families affected by FGM. My goal is human rights for women & girls, and to end this violent global oppression while empowering women.

I was struck by the way you were able to express the emotions of yourself as a child in your book, going through all of that trauma, but speaking as your adult self. What was that like for you?

I want you to smell that burning rotten flesh. That’s the fire that keeps me going. My voice and experience matters. I know that speaking and making you feel how I felt, you will understand millions of innocent children who are forced into this before their bodies were developed. Women can’t have a normal delivery when they give birth. The fistula -the tissue between the anus and vagina falls off – and childbirth is excruciating.

Let me walk with 3 legs. I would rather my clitoris dangling between my legs. I’d rather be “different”.

People refer to Female Genital Mutiliation as body-enhancing surgery. How could this be viewed as that?? I can’t believe this is actually a real perspective! The belief is that this is the mistake God made; that we need to fix this body so that we can make a woman the wife a husband “should have”. It’s wrong.

These are the hidden secrets in our cultures. This is the shame they live with. I wanted you to know it so that change could happen.

What do you say to the people put off the topic of FGM?

This is a crime against humanity.

There is a difference between Empathy versus Sympathy. Any human being who doesn’t have empathy has no reason to block the feelings of the other human being – especially on the topic of FGM. Sympathy comes in the form of looking horrified, turning a blind eye and downplaying what is actually happening. People say things like “What do you think about yourself? If that happened to me, I would have killed myself. What kind of a woman would I be then?” One American woman told me that she considers any person who has experienced it less of a woman because they are mutilated.

When we think of it in the right context, the response is “You’re a survivor. Beautiful. You were abused; how can we make this right and stop this cycle?”

Somalians and other Africans say ‘you brought the most intimate secret out – we had this.’ The countries and cultures knew. Torturing our kids every hour and we kept silent but I refused. I remember my mother’s eyes looking at me allowing my mother provide the ultimate betrayal.

I love and respect, understand and forgive my mother, but it doesn’t give her the right to do that without fighting for me. I have the right to say ‘you are my mother but you were wrong to do this to me. You thought I was like an animal, to do with me whatever you want.’

This happened to my mother, and her mother, and on and on. My mother was abused and so she continued the cycle with me. I didn’t ask for this so now I ask myself how I can make it better for others.

What is your advice for people who feel exhausted by the current political climate, and who may want to take action but feel that they won’t have an impact on lasting change?

We all have a spark inside. Sometimes dimmed with worries, depression, fear – it takes a lot to get off the couch and make things better. Remember why you wanted to make a change a long time ago. Make the choice to live your truth. Television will numb your brain, and you will find yourself forgetting what your truth was. Beware of the hypocrisy of religion & power.

Stay in touch 100% what your mission and purpose in life is, and you will always have that torch to pass it to the next generation. We were too angry or radical, fighting too many fronts to have a torch. Focus on one issue. CHANGE IS HERE – always remember your mission to have that spark to have that torch.

What is your advice to the youth of today, who may not be able to vote yet?

Educate yourself on the topics at hand. Become an expert and learn the opposition’s facts. A good activist must know what their opponent is thinking before your raise your voice. Be an expert without arrogance. Be authentic. Not only when the cameras shine on you. Others may not see your truth because they see standing in their truth. You have to understand what the other is feeling to bring them over.

Angels make mistakes and become eagles. Too much power goes to our head awhen we allow ego and you really must know what you’re standing for.

  • Know who you are and where you stand.
  • Be humble.
  • The closest people you know will be scared of you standing in your truth
  • Have strong, open dialogue.
  • Never, ever, ever back down when improving someone else’s life and you have done your homework
  • Know your facts.

What about parents who are raising baby activists for the future?

It is the hardest job to raise a child. A parent’s first job is to really understand their own self; making peace with their past, how they felt in society, how they saw their bodies in the eyes of others, how they came to be a parent.

Lead with encouragement and listen with sympathetic ears. Allowing their voices to have a space where they are heard “you’re just a child” Once we have empathy. If I hurt you, I know how it feels because I’ve been there.

Wanting to help their children and making peace, they must accept the child’s decision to have, do and say. The choices of understanding happen at an early age. If you take their choices as an insult, and respond with hostility, you break their heart and you are the one left to look in the mirror. When a child doesn’t understand consequences, too much freedom will lead to issues. Too much screen or phone time is unhealthy living and will damage growth.

Male Circumcision

Soraya & I also spoke about infant male circumcision. This is something inherent to American countries, and something that is not common in other countries. There are so many misconceptions among society, and the medical community who profits from its continuation, about culture, cleanliness/disease prevention,

This is the most thorough resource I have found for understanding how absolutely unnecessary & damaging Circumcision is for boys. My conclusion: Just don’t! Here is what a male experiencing this goes through.

Here is some information about male infant circumcision:

  • Performing a totally unnecessary procedure on an infant who is not at the age of consent is a human rights issue.
  • As the vaginal hood over the clitoris aids in sexual pleasure, so does the foreskin of the penis. This means that circumcised men & women tend to experience less pleasure than uncircumcised people.
  • Amputation of this body part is aesthetic in American society (“it’s what everyone does”, they say. “It’s cleaner”, they say) and it is extremely lucrative to the remainder of medical community which still supports it.
  • The reports of injury, disfigurement, infection and even death have been reported, and many more which have been kept under the radar.
  • It there is no threat to a child’s health, this – again – is medically unnecessary.
  • The idea that the uncircumcised child will be made fun of is a dated excuse for amputation and mutilation. There is a large population of uncircumcised males in the U.S. To think otherwise is a dated way of thinking.
  • As fewer parents request it, the culture is changing from the bottom, up.
  • This is a trauma, chosen and imposed upon a newborn by a parent.
  • Internationally adopted children are being circumcised far beyond the age of infancy in order to “match” their American family members and peers.

Soraya Miré works tirelessly to keep this conversation alive and open, and to continue the progress of the laws against this. Her ability to educate the world about this important issue will continue as she is developing a screenplay of “The Girl with Three Legs: A Memoir”. With the brutal honesty of that which exists in real life, and the Truth of her story, this story must be told!

I can’t say this is in the past”, she says. “What about the next one, and the next one? All of us are born into raising our voices to advance humanity, to make the world a better place for all of us. When I’m feeling good, I can bless others and pay it forward. I stand in acceptance.”

To read more about Soraya’s story, visit http://www.sorayamire.org/

To donate fund to further Soraya’s work, and the making of her film, email: sorayamire@hotmail.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sorayamire

National Adoption Month: “I Lush You Too, Mommy”

Happy National Adoption Month!

As I move into our daughter’s second year of life, I have so much to be thankful for!  Ella is small, but mighty.  She tells us about a lot of her feelings these days, and I am so grateful for her own self-awareness. She brings us never-ending joy, and she treasures us.  She tells us that “I feel happy” and “Mommy, Momma, Ella, happy family!” just about every day.   This allows me the opportunity to foster her expression, awareness and articulation even more.

I think about the weight of her adoption on a daily basis.  I write letters to her birth mother in my mind.  Sometimes I write them in real life too.  As I participate in groups like TAP 101 and  Transracial Adoption Perspectives on Facebook, learning the perspectives and experiences of adoptees, I know that my responsibility to honor my daughter’s ethnic identity, her identity as an adopted person, and as a Black female, is crucial.

My experience is just 2 years old, and I know it will continue to grow and change based on the needs of my child.  I know that my understanding will evolve.  Once I understood that being a better parent meant learning, growing, educating myself and teaching her how to embrace her own identity, the results were enormously rewarding.  As a toddler, she embraces her dolls, books, places we go, things we do and her friends who provide mirrors for her.  She understands that her family is made up of three different skin shades and one heart, and she kisses my hand every time we talk about it.

On Monday, November 6, the Parent Voice, an online magazine for multiracial families and their multicultural lives, published an article that I’ve written about this topic. Please be sure to go and read it and the many other stories, interviews and perspectives from other parents from around the world.  My article is based on my family’s experience, and the perspectives and lessons that I’ve received from other adoptees who were adopted transracially.

“Not flesh of my flesh,

Nor bone of my bone, but miraculously my own.

Never forget for a minute;

You didn’t grow under my heart, but in it.”

~Fleur Helinger

As I watch this person grow, from my 5 pound, 1 ounce baby to a toddler with her own thoughts, feelings, ideas and a very clear point of view, I ache with the depth of love that I have for her.

I eat up each moment because I know it is never to return, except in my memory. I relish in the delicious moments of tender hugs and requests to “hold-ju, Mommy”, and the chance to be by her side as she learns to navigate this world that is now hers.

This gift of motherhood is a privilege that is not lost on me. Her kindness and love of others, her ability to be a good friend already, her sense of adventure… My life is forever changed because she is my daughter & I am her mother.IMG_6492

Recently, when I tell her I love her, she responds with a big hug or by pressing her sweet little cheek to mine saying, “I lush you too, Mommy.”  That is everything.

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*updated on Nov 22, 2017*

Dear Scottsdale, AZ, You Dazzled Us!

Traveling with a toddler can be intimidating.  As infants, they're so portable, predictable, go-with-the-flow in comparison.  As we prepared to tag along on L's business trip to Scottsdale, AZ, I knew that we had to prepare in a whole new way.  Ella is a laid back little girl, but she's still a toddler and lack of preparation can lead to meltdowns, and meltdowns are just not fun.  Luckily, there are parents who have come before me & they have posted their own lists.  Between Scottsdale's official travel site & the wonderful blog of Mommy Poppins, along with our own family interests leading the way, we were set for a wonderful time in this scenic city.  There is no shortage of fun, and the good food is plentiful!

Day 1 – We landed at PHX airport at about 5:30pm, and had reservations at The Roaring Fork.  Ohhhh my goodness, was it good!  We ordered the Chicken Tortilla Soup for Ella.  It arrived as a plate with a perfect circle of shredded chicken, cheese, avocado and cilantro & then the broth was poured, tableside, around it.  The result is what is hot remains hot, and what is chilled, is slowly warmed up so that the flavors meld together perfectly!    IMG_3729

L & I checked out the menu the night before, and it was clear immediately that we were not having lite faire for this meal (though the menu offers it if that is your desire).  We ordered and shared: BACON-WRAPPED PORK TENDERLOIN with White Falls Mill Cheese Grits & Mexican Street Corn (photo below) & ROARING FORK "BIG ASS" BURGER Poblano Pepper, Cheddar, Smoked Pepper Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Onions, Pickles, French Fries (sorry, no photo because we got too excited and I forgot before we attacked it).  Delicious, and our favorite meal the entire trip, by far!  What a way to kick it off.  Not only that, but our waitress, Amy, was lovely & very sweet with our little one.  Even better, there were 3 very elegant drunk women celebrating a birthday at the table next to us so they were delighted when Ella belted out her new favorite song, "Happy Birthday!" at the top of her exhausted, delusional lungs.

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After dinner, we checked into our room at the Embassy Suites by Hilton.  From the moment we arrived, the staff was friendly, courteous & extremely helpful.  They delivered a playpen for Ella to sleep in for our stay so we didn't have to lug our own along.  Lovely!

Day 2 – While Momma went to work, Mommy & Ella hitched a ride on the hotel's courtesy shuttle to Scottsdale Fashion Square.  This expansive mall offers shopping, food and play area.  After we shopped, we played in the kids play area.

**I am always looking for a great deal. I love shopping the clearance sections in other states because it's always sunny in California, so we benefit from the change of seasons in other places.  This trip, Ella's gorgeous 18-24 month & 2T clothes were found at babyGap, one of my favorite stores for kids fashion.

Butterfly Wonderland held the magic and wonder that made family time even more exceptional than usual.  Butterflies move just as they are depicted in movies, or by artists, giving them a surreal quality..  As we moved through the sanctuary full of fruit & brightly colored flowers, more than 3,000 butterflies surrounded us in all their brilliance.  IMG_1194

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This really is a must-see, one-of-a-kind experience when you're in the area.  It delighted all of us.  Though we cannot touch the butterflies as the oils from our skin can harm them, one did kiss Ella's cheek.  All of this magnificence is topped off by an awesome gift shop.

We had dinner at the hotel restaurant (Granada Bar & Grill).  The pizza seems to be their specialty, but it doesn't come with a spatula to serve it, so that's something for the suggestion box.  We had the deviled eggs as an appetizer & they were delicious!

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Day 3 – Swimming at one of the hotel pools was great.  Ella & I were alone, except for a lovely couple from England who were reading and napping on the other side of the deck.   I picked up a fabulous Stearns Puddle Jumper Life Jacket at Target & Ella had a wonderful time with more independence in the water!IMG_3805

Family dinner that night was at Bootleggers where the Moms tried delicious & refreshing peach moonshine, and ate pulled sandwiches (the perfect blend of smoky, sweet and tangy) and waffle fries.  Located in the heart of Olde Town Scottsdale where there is no shortage of fabulous eateries, this was a spur-of-the-moment decision that did not disappoint. 4.5 stars (my waffle fries were overdone otherwise it would've been 5)!  We shall return!

Day 4 – Ella & I packed then walked back to the mall to check and see if Mommy had missed anything on my sale spree.  Then we caught the courtesy shuttle back with Brad, the lovely driver from the resort.  One of the front desk staff  (whose name I'm sorry I didn't get) gave Ella a little bag of M&Ms.

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As we headed to the airport to fly home, I was filled with gratitude for this trip.. Ella & I got to relax and have fun without the demands of life at home, and we got some great quality family adventure time.  We will see you again soon, Scottsdale.  Thank you for the wonderful trip!

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**The statements made in this post are my own opinions.  I wasn't paid anything to promote anyone or anything.**

 

 

 

 

 

What Dazzles Me – DinDin Smart Bus Platter

I’ve decided to post some of my favorite things related to kids and parenting, beginning with this gem from InnoBaby.  At this time, nobody has given me products or paid me to talk about or photograph their products.

• Such a fabulous platter, designed with perfectly portioned sections that baby simply loves to eat from.  Using finger foods or food that calls for utensils works.  Versatility is key in a day in the life of a baby-person.

• It elevates mealtime.  This is a kiddie bento box.  Totally trendy!

• I love making meal and snack time fun!  This takes makes it so easy.  It makes introducing new foods an exciting adventure, rather than a chore.  Baby is excited to see what makes up her plate.

• We can have interesting discussions about food groups, types of fruits, veggies, colors, etc.

• Now I can take fresh, healthy ingredients on the go rather than to depend on pre-made food like crackers and pouches.

• I got the one with the lid so that we can take it to the park. I discovered this when a nanny brought one with her little charge.  It was chock full of blueberries, cheese, strawberries & grapes – all sorts of good, fresh foods.

• The bus design is something that my girl loves too!

• Its slim design slides into our diaper bag perfectly.

At $19.99 for the version with the lid ($17.99/$4.99 for the 2 separate pieces), I think this high-quality contraption is a great addition to my parent tools!

http://innobaby.com/eat/din-din-smart-bus-platters/

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Raising a Baby Activist

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In August 2016, after a bunch of pretty severe tummy troubles, just a few days after Ella’s first birthday, my dear uncle was diagnosed with cancer at the esophageal/stomach junction. Less than 3 months later, Donald J. Drumpf was elected. 2 weeks later, my uncle died. I haven’t been myself since. Both events absolutely shattered me. It felt like 2 deaths, to be honest. One of my first pen pal, who taught me about Picasso & finding your roots, and the other of fundamental human rights in what is supposed to be The Free World.

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When the women’s march came to fruition across the world in January, we jumped at the chance to be a part of it. I knitted Ella a pussy hat, and Lynne & I stayed up late creating the signs that we would carry. We knew only that we have a responsibility to fight even harder for what is right and good, and what will leave our child the legacy of a world that she is able to live and love in a safe & happy way. And did you SEE those crowds??? HUuuuuuge! Big League! They made Trumpy’s Inauguration Day look like, well, what it was: pathetic.

The reality of this election, and its results, has shown that a big ugly scag of bigotry has been ripped off.. and there is puss and it smells really bad.  All of the racists, misogynist, homophobes and people who love to use the word “fag” as part of their vernacular were invited to hate openly, and the secret is out: we aren’t as safe as we thought we were.  As a lesbian, transracial, adoptive family, we cannot leave the state of California.  When we travel, we have to be careful.. whatever that means.

I’m told that grief comes in waves, like the ocean.. it ebbs & flows. I feel as calm as sunset some days, and on others, I feel as if I’m drowning in it. My dear uncle is dead, leaving behind 2 small children – one with autism – and Donald Drumpf is holding the title of “leader of the free world”, as his very presence destroys the principles which made us great to begin with, standing tall as he destroys anything that will lift up our children. Continue reading “Raising a Baby Activist”

Bonding With Adoption

Mothers hold their children's hands for a short time, but their hearts forever. ~Author Unknown

My wife and I got the call that our baby was here when Ella was 5-days-old.  She'd been taken to the NICU because her birth mother thought that she was about 30 weeks pregnant when she delivered.  We were allowed to pick her up the next day.  As we walked in to the room to meet the tiny person in the hospital bassinet, the nurse asked, "Who wants to hold her first?"  Lynne immediately said, "Lola.  Give her to Lola."  My child.. the greatest gift I've ever received.

The moment that I was alone with Ella for the first time, I cradled her in my hands and told her this:

On the day you were born, all the gods got together and threw a BIG party!  They decided that you, Mommy, Momma & Lucy should be a family.  And so we are going to take you home today.  You are our dream, come true.

At that, my newborn baby girl smiled in her sleep.  She already  knew and loved my voice, and I already knew and loved her smile.  Our bond was instant, and it is strong.

My friend recently told me that the bonding hormones that are produced from childbirth & breastfeeding were absent for us, so our bond must be less than that of a birth parent.  Oh contrare, mon frere!  We've got it goin' on over here with the bonding.  The odds were in our favor, though, because studies show that when you're the first to bond, the bond is most likely to be successful.

Contrary to popular belief, the fact that I didn't birth or breastfeed her is, in fact, irrelevant in our case.  Her moms are the first people she looks for when she's happy, sad, scared, hungry, wants a hug or a kiss, or just wants to have fun with someone.  We are her first best friends, and we relish in the delight of it all.  I cannot imagine feeling any closer to my child than I already do.  She feels like a part of my body. She is a part of me, like it or not.

Since bonding is a term that describes a caregiver's attachment level to a child, it's really the adoptive parent that needs to bond with a new baby—not the other way around. ~Jae Curtis 

We did skin-to-skin bonding, we took care of each other and ourselves so that we were able to relish in the moments without too much crazy newborn fatigue, we had lots of face time and snuggle time, and we love the crap out of our daughter.  That's the most important part.  Love.

Lately, Ella says, "Mommy! I hug yoooo! I holdu!" and I know that the gods really did have that huge party, and they really did line up the stars, and we really are a Family.6A2A51E8-864D-42D9-83E1-F5DA667209AA                      My tiny girl.. 2-months-old_MG_2764                     She is one of the most joy-filled people I have ever know.

Mommy & Ella June 2017                                                  See?!? Pure joy, and she is mine.

Oh, You Haven’t Written a Blog Post About Mommy Shaming?

When my daughter was 18 months old & began to show interest in using the potty, I knew that she was ahead of the curve and I was thrilled at the idea of ditching diapers early! But potty training a child was one thing I’d never done before.  So, like any good first-time mom, I went online and researched until 2am.

I learned of The 3-Day method, I learned that I need to let her lead the process, I learned that I should be prepared for her to pee and poo all over the floors and carpets.  I learned that babies in Ukraine are potty trained at 12 months (no pressure, America, with our 3 and 4-year-olds still in training pants!).  I was in full-on panic mode about which “method” to go with, and how I could emotionally scar my daughter if I didn’t pick the “right” one.  The very next day, I texted my friend who had the highest ratio of potty-trained kids in my world.

As our text exchange began, I was filled with hope as she explained that she used an “all-or-nothing” approach, and how with one child, it happened quickly and the other took longer, etc.  Okay, cool! A new method ! Let’s start fresh — I’ll go with that.  (I was really wrapped up in the “methods”)

So I asked, “What did you do about car rides while you were potty training?”

She answered, “The 3-Day Method is all or nothing.  You leave the diaper off no matter what. Probably best to stay home.”

I replied, “You used that method. Ah, gotcha!”

She replied, “Judgmental much? LOL!”

But it hit me immediately that she wasn’t joking.  Though I only thing intended was clarification, when I said “gotcha”, she was triggered.  It was offensive because her experience as a mom, I later learned, is that perception of parenting styles is attached to a great deal of harsh judgement and criticism.  Through personal experience, along with articles and blogs about “right” “wrong”, parents are on edge when it comes to sharing the decisions that they make.  This conversation was just that trigger for my friend.

She likened my “ah gotcha” text to the judgmental tone used by parents perched on high, looking down on each other’s parenting decisions.  Which potty training methods we choose, whether or not we vaccinate, the way we discipline, how we feed our kids, which “method” of child-rearing, education, the quality of cotton, style of dress, whether or not to post photos of our kids online, preschool or no preschool, circumcise or not, work or stay at home —- you name it!  As this unfolded, and I realized the reality, I felt like my head was going to explode.

At first I felt really annoyed that my meaning got all twisted up and was misinterpreted. Expressing that didn’t work out for me.  My friend was very upset!  What followed was 24 hours of discomfort, uncertainty, anxiety, my being introduced to the terms “Mommy Shaming” and “mommy blogs“, a conversation with a member of the clergy, for God’s sake! (I was desperate, people) and a lesson in the difference between intent & impact.  I INTENDED to get advice about successfully potty training my baby.  The IMPACT was far different from my intention, and that absolutely Continue reading “Oh, You Haven’t Written a Blog Post About Mommy Shaming?”

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