Tag Archives: Adoption

Mary Katherine Gallagher & Her Ball Rodeoing Friend

I almost lost a friend once. We were very best friends. Like…do everything together, love you so much, thick and thin, tell it like it is friends. You know those kind of friendships that feel like forever; where you know that, no matter what, you will care where that person is  when they are eighty?

I have a few friends that I can say this about. Girls who I would run to even if I hadn’t seen them in years. The friend I am talking about holds a very special place in my heart, and it is hard to think how close we came to losing that.

A little history: (I could tell you a million stories, but they just seem too personal… too “ours.”  So, I will give you the ones I feel are shareable.)

Friendship example #1, 2002’ish…At a Halloween costume party, just before we decided to ‘perform.’ 

My friend: Katina, I don’t think you should smell your pits on stage!

Me: Call me Mary Katherine Gallagher.

My friend: OK. Mary Katherine, I don’t think you should smell your pits on stage! And don’t you try to do a back handspring either. Don’t you try to do it!

Me: (bounding onto the makeshift stage) Sometimes, when I get nervous…

My friend: (behind me, through gritted teeth) Don’t you do it, Don’t you tumble…

mary kath

 

 

 

 

Friendship example #2, Sometime after 2002 at our little old house with the giant ditch in the back. My husband & my friend’s husband had gotten angry at our ridiculous ability to telepathically give each other Taboo answers. My friend had an idea… 

My friend: Hey, I just had an idea for the best game…it’s gonna be called, Ball Rodeo! All you do is see who can balance on this yoga ball the longest.

My husband & friend’s husband: Yeah!

Me: I’m tired. I’m going to bed.

Friend: You’re going to miss out. It’s gonna be awesome.

Me: Goodnight, y’all better not break anything.

Crash sound coming from ‘game room’ (‘game room’ may be a bit of an over exaggeration…’tiny room with Scarface poster, futon, and play station’ is more accurate)

Me: What happened?

Friend: Don’t come in here. Katina, DO NOT come in here!

Me: (walking in & seeing husband’s upper torso plunged through the wall) Oh my GOSH!! What happened?!?

Friend: Two words, Ball… Rodeo

I can’t remember the exact moment, but at some point we kind of drifted apart. (I know, I know! How could Mary Katherine Gallagher & Ball Rodeo Queen ever drift apart?!?)

I had been married for a while, and I wanted a baby. She had not been married as long and wasn’t ready for that yet. When I started going through all my baby junk…surgeries, doctors, shots, my friend was in a different place. Looking back, I can see that I completely shut everybody out. I was hurt and I wanted to waller.   (I think the real word might be wallow… This is probably one of my Granny’s southernisms.)  Anyway, I wanted a pity party, and I guess I was mad when my friend didn’t throw it.

I also had a massive amount of strong hormones pumped into my body, so I may have been irrational. For example, we were both reading the Twilight series. She finished before me. As I was reading the honeymoon chapter, I became suspicious of stupid Bella’s stomach aches & throwing up… My heart rate sped, my world spun, was this vampire loving hussy about to be pregnant?? No!!!! Not Bella! Not this stupid, vapid, teenage cliche!! I quickly texted my friend:

Me: (in a very hostile tone)  Is Bella pregnant?

My Friend: Who is Bella?

Me: (shrilly) Don’t play dumb!! I can take it! Just tell me. Is… BELLA… PREGNANT?

Minutes pass…..

Friend: Yes.

Me: Noooooooooo! I’m burning these books!

Life went on, as it always does, and my husband and I moved on to adoption. This was a super lonely time in my life. I think it was because I was younger than most people who adopt, and I didn’t know anybody else who was in the same situation. I was really bitter and angry. I got pregnant and had a miscarriage. It’s been years ago, but it honestly still stings to write about. I was extremely hurt. I was so very sad.

It was about this same time, that my friend started trying to have a baby. I hardly remember what was going on with our friendship then, but I know it seemed strained. We hung out some, but I was probably weird & totally self absorbed. (I started doing a lot of yoga, quit eating meat, and obsessed over possible adoption situations. So, basically, I was a super fun person to be around. ;)) Also, I just knew that at any given moment that old heifer was going to get knocked up, and then I would have to hate her forever! (I’m sorry, I already admitted my bitterness & anger! The hormones, remember? Don’t judge!)

She didn’t get pregnant; and even though we had drifted apart, she was still the person I called when the miraculous happened…

I will never forget finding out our little girl had been born. My husband and I called our parents and brothers, but as soon as we hung up I immediately called my old friend. I could hear the true joy in her voice, the laughter, the tears… (I don’t know if you are crying reading this, but tears keep escaping my eyes as I am writing it!)

Life got crazy, I was crazy, she was crazy…

My friend found out she was pregnant. She miscarried.

I found out I was pregnant again. I miscarried.

You would think two old friends, like Mary Katherine & Ball Rodeo, would have bonded over these hard times. But we didn’t. Somehow, we had both hurt each other’s feelings. We fought on the phone, we yelled, we hung up, we unfriended each other, on Facebook & in real life.

I’m not making this up: I found out I was pregnant… I found out my friend was pregnant. (Goodness, doesn’t God have an interesting sense of humor! He knew we were two jealous, crazy ladies! His ways are so awesome & his timing perfect.)

This sounds unrealistic, but I can say with all honesty, I had just felt the first little gold fish flutters of Bubba moving in my tummy, when I heard my phone’s text alert, and saw a text message with my old friend’s name at the top. It said, “Congratulations.”

Y’all, it was like she knew…like she knew I had just felt this tiny little thing move…she knew this was real…Like when we used to kill it playing Taboo...(Seriously, one word & we knew exactly what each other meant.) She knew.

I cried so hard. I ugly cried… for myself…for her… for our lost babies… for Mary Katherine… for Ball Rodeo… for the dumb girls we were… & the grown mamas we were becoming. I cried for the last few tatters of our friendship.

So, here we are, some years & some babies later. Is it the same friendship as when we were twenty? Of course not! We were idiots! Do we still love each other? Yes! Can we read each other’s minds? I’m not 100% sure, but I have gotten some perfectly timed text messages.

I’ve been thinking about how God looks at us like I look at my babies. He loves us more than that. It’s incomprehensible. I think about my kids fighting, and how much I hate it. I can’t stand seeing them being mean to each other. I think about how happy I am when they love each other. If they randomly hold hands, my heart swells. How much more must God feel…

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

This is me randomly holding my old friend’s hand. Love u, Ball Rodeo… Yee-Yee…

 

 

 

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To Sissy, on her 5th bday. Love, Little Miss Not-so Perfect

Dear Sissy,

If you are reading this, you are probably old enough to realize I, your mama, have two pretty prominent character traits. I am a major procrastinator. (I know, I probably need to sign some kind of field trip paper that has been sitting on our table for forever!) Also, I am kind of a perfectionist. Not the ‘there is a crumb on the floor’ type, but a more internal perfectionist. I really do not like to mess up! (Something I should probably get over before your wild brothers prove I am an inept mother!)

My perfectionism was never more dominant than when I was in elementary school. I memorized bible verses for fun, loved workbooks, always read, and played teacher. I remember coming home crying, and my mama asking what was wrong. I told her my teacher called me little miss perfect. She seemed confused and asked me to explain. My lip trembled as I told her that my teacher would say things like, “Okay, everybody stop and look at little miss perfect. She has to get ALL of her books and go to her little GIFTED class.” Mama’s jaw dropped. I am not sure what happened, but shortly after that conversation my teacher stopped with the ‘little miss perfect’ comments.

Not too many years later, I married your daddy, and we decided to have a baby. It just didn’t happen. I know it sounds conceited, but this was the first time that I really could not do something that I wanted to do. (Keep in mind, I was still a child.) Not being able to get pregnant was like fuel to some type of fire that had been burning inside me. I really felt lost. I remember talking to a friend of mine, and telling her that I understood what God was all about now. I told her how I felt like a kid again. I had been told as a kid that Santa brought my Christmas gifts. God was like that. I thought he was the one protecting me, clothing me, feeding me. I learned it wasn’t God after all, it was my parents. (This sweet friend, a mother of FIVE, listened and told me I would change, it would be ok.)

So, life went on. People moved on. Friends came and went. Family changed. I grew older. I needed a baby. The perfectionist in me was giving in. I jokingly told your mammy that I would just steal a baby. The look on her face said I think you need to be committed. She actually said, “You need to think about adoption.” The snotty, prideful, perfectionist in me replied, “I refuse to beg for anything.” Mama stared at me. She very bluntly told me that if I wanted a child I just might have to beg.

I thought about that for a while…procrastination…and I knew she was right. Not about begging, but about adoption. I should adopt. I can’t even begin to explain the feelings that went into this decision. I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect. I did NOT expect you! Throughout the whole adoption process, I was brought to my knees. My pride was thrown out the window. I had to completely admit  that I could not do this on my own. Worst of all, I had to ask for help. I prayed, but I didn’t feel it. I felt like I was praying to Santa.

Then…well, through lots of hurdles… there you were. I recently read something about an adoptive mother admitting how she didn’t quite bond with her adopted sissy babychild. She said she felt detached, and I am not disputing her feelings. I imagine those feelings are very valid and totally normal, but…Oh my goodness…Sissy! I just fell in LOVE with you. I tried not to. The perfectionist in me said to be careful, to guard my heart. I was repeatedly reminded that this could fall through. I should try to stay detached until all the paperwork was completed. But, seriously?! How could we be detached from this tiny, sweet smelling, beautiful little girl?

I will never forget the bond your daddy and I felt after meeting you.   We left the hospital to check into our very creepy hotel (thank God for the Ronald McDonald House), when daddy turned to me and said, “How can we ever go back? If this doesn’t work, how will leave?” We knew loving you was risky, but how could we stop? Logical or not, we loved you. You were just amazing to us. In that moment, those silly ‘God=Santa‘ feelings were crushed. God was so real. You were so real. I wasn’t perfect. I couldn’t do the most basic, womanly thing..make a baby. But, in all honesty, you weren’t perfect either. You were early. You were orange. Your eyes were bruised from a difficult delivery. But…Oh my baby, we were meant for each other.

josh sis

me sis

 

 

 

Now, of course you know you are adopted. We do not share DNA. You did not grow in my tummy, and I did not give birth to you. In spite of that, there are things I see in you (memorizing bible verses for fun, loving workbooks, always reading, playing teacher) that force me to make the following speech:

Perfect is boring.

God works in the imperfect.

Do not focus on fixing your imperfections.

Don’t compare your body with your friends’ bodies, (skinny isn’t skinny forever…cupcakes beat genetics eventually).

Grades matter.  (I know we should have some type of college fund. Don’t count on it….procrastination) But, you are not your grades. I love you outside of that. Your intelligence is amazing, but it is not your identity.

Your heart is beautiful. But, you are human. You may not always instinctively know what to say or do. You will make mistakes. You will lose friends.

Don’t blame yourself when bad things happen, they just happen.

Don’t blame God when you don’t get what you want. That is immature.

You are you because God made me imperfect. You are you because God made your birth mother imperfect.

Your birth mother’s imperfections led her to me. My imperfections led me to you.
Imperfections can be beautiful!

I love you.

Love,

Little Miss Not-so Perfect

Ariel at desk

 

me in desked

Adoption & the Scary Teenage Writer

When my husband and I decided to adopt, I went straight to Books-a-million, found the tiny adoption section, plopped myself down, & began devouring all the information I possibly could. I cried as I read story after story of loss, love, & sacrifice. There were books explaining international adoption, open adoption, foster care, what to expect, what not to expect, and so on. Then, I saw a little book, I can’t remember the title, that was written by an adopted child. It explained all the things she wished her adoptive parents had known. As I began to read through this small book, I felt the walls closing in around me. The author said things like,   I wish you hadn’t treated my birthday like a celebration, because all I could think about was how my birth mother lost something on that day. I wish you hadn’t talked about my adoption with other people while I was standing right there. It is my story. I wish you would have openly talked to me about my adoption. You shouldn’t have used cliches like “You grew in my heart…”  I hated it when people said, “You can’t even tell she’s adopted. She looks just like you.” I hate when people ‘forget’ I am adopted. 
My heart pounded in my chest. What was I doing? All those fears I had were true. My child would hate me. What was I supposed to do? Adopt a baby, never celebrate the baby’s birthday, never talk about our adoption with other people, talk about it all the time with our baby, punch people if they said the baby looks like us?!? Ahhhhhh, I couldn’t breath. I peeled myself off the floor, left my pile of books (sorry books-a-million), and fled that store. I rushed home and immediately began ugly crying. (You know what I mean.) I cried for the parents of that adopted girl. I cried for that girl. I cried for all adopted children, all birth mothers, all adoptive parents. I cried for myself.
The next few months slowly passed by with profile books, home study visits, and massive amounts of paperwork. We had a couple of possible adoption situations that didn’t work out. My emotions were crazy. I wanted to be positive and excited, but the author of that book would not leave me alone. For every success her petulant little voice had a negative comeback. When we finished our home study, she said, “Wonderful, you are one step closer to taking someone else’s baby.” When our lawyer called to let us know she would be sending our profile book to another state, that poor girl was relentless, “Great,” she whined, “you are spreading your prospects. Making it more unlikely that ‘your’ (she said that word with spiteful sarcasm) baby will ever get to meet his or her birth family. How wonderful for you…. Baby thief.” (I know, she was getting really mean.)
I started doing yoga. I became vegan (maybe it was the evil meat infiltrating my mind). I tried to push those horrible thoughts away. As the school year ended, the weather warmed and we planned for our beach vacation. I decided I would forget about adopting. My work was done anyway. I could only wait, and there was no point in staying in this constant state of fear over something that might never even happen. Pity party over, vacation on. Well, you know how life is. When you least expect it…

We were driving to Florida when we got a call from our lawyer’s office, “She picked y’all!” I just couldn’t believe it. I was so excited, but also terrified. I thought about that little baby girl. Should I buy her clothes? What about a carseat? Of course, that stinkin’ teenage author snuck into my thoughts, “You know, while you are thinking about a car seat and silly clothes, ‘your’ baby’s mother is thinking about pain & loss.” I tried to explain myself to this girl! I told her I knew about loss. I understood this mother would feel pain. I told her I was sad about that. But, I begged her to let me be happy.

We were at the beach for a few days, when we received more shocking news. The baby had come 8 weeks early. We needed to get there, now! My husband and I threw our things in suitcases and jumped in the car. All I could think about was getting to my baby. I knew she needed me. It was so strange; even though that girl was still in my mind…. She doesn’t need you. She needs her ‘real’ mother. You can’t give this tiny baby what she needs.    I felt powerful enough to take her on. I told her, my baby did need me. I told her the facts. This mother, who had given birth to our baby, had also made me a mama. She went through all the profiles in her state and surrounding states but didn’t find any couple she wanted to be the parents of her baby. She searched and prayed. Her lawyer sent requests everywhere looking for a couple that this mother might choose. Our little profile somehow ended up in front of her. Who knew a teacher and coach from nowhere, Louisiana would be exactly the parents she was looking for? I took a deep breath. (Learned that in yoga.) I allowed myself to imagine the baby, but only for a minute.
We got home, unpacked, re-packed, and hopped on an airplane. Our lawyer called the children’s hospital that our daughter had been transferred to. We had permission to go to the hospital. We walked to the desk and explained our situation. The nurse gave us two badges that said, PARENT. My heart fluttered. Was this real? I was a parent. A small voice said,     You aren’t a parent. Did you feel her kick? Did you grow huge? Did you scream and push? Were you there for that first breath?

I bent my head low. We were in the elevator. Rising up, up, almost there. We were totally silent. Some upbeat music bounced around. My husband and I held hands and watched the numbers climb. The doors opened and we walked out and looked for her room. There. The door was open. We peeked in. Oh my. 100_1776My heart was suddenly filled with a need to hold her. A nurse came in and showed me how to open the incubator and take her out. She placed her in my arms. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, that girl was rolling her eyes at the mushy cliche of an adoptive mother I had become. I couldn’t help it. It was all true! My heart was full! I felt complete! I was this baby’s mama. I wanted to scream, “I love you!” I didn’t dare though. That voice whispered, “This isn’t real. It isn’t going to happen.”

100_1717

The next few weeks were crazy! We stayed at the Ronald McDonald house, then moved to a hotel when our baby was released from the hospital. She quit breathing a couple of times, so we had to take CPR classes and she had to wear an apnea monitor. The state’s laws required us to stay there for several weeks. Over a month after we had arrived, we were finally allowed to take our baby home. Six months later we returned to finalize sister’s adoption. Both my husband and I had to stand in front of the judge and tell her why we were there. Of course, I was all trembly. There was that voice, “You are going to say something weird. The judge will slam her gavel and call you a ‘fake’ mama. They will take your baby.” My sane self knew these thoughts were crazy, but it was so hard for me to believe everything would be ok.

The judge gave Sissy a little gavel which she happily gnawed on. We took pictures and floated around on a cloud of happiness.

That voice hasn’t left me. I still have fears. I have learned that this is a part of motherhood. No matter how your family is formed, you worry about them. The book I stumbled upon that day in Books-a-Million wasn’t painfully skimmed over in vain. I kept some of those words and I think about them. I have always told Sissy about her adoption. I made a scrapbook for her and we read it together. We never discuss any details of her birth family with other people. We will honor her birth mother and explain to Sissy what a brave and difficult choice her birth mother made. I could never forget she is adopted. The journey was too beautifully painful. However, we celebrate that little girl’s birthday with a big party, cake, hugs, & love. How could we not? What a special day when she took her first breath. The best parts of life are usually arrived at by way of heartache and pain.