Posts in Family
Part 4: We Pray

Sometimes when Baby A goes to sleep I sit on the couch on my phone and stare at photographs of him. See how much he has changed. His tiny fingers always gripped around mine. His eyes lit up from the inside.

Sometimes when I run errands with him I get congratulated. "Congrats on your new baby. Will change your whole life."

Sometimes I wonder how I could've possibly thought that this path would simply be “challenging.”

My friend Goldie told me the other night that she was talking to her husband about what we were doing, fostering and dealing with uncertainty and all the things. Her husband said "Well they must have their guards up." And Goldie said, "That's the thing. They don't."

My guard is so far gone I wouldn't even know what to do with it. I left it in the car before I walked into that hospital to meet Baby A and my heart as I knew it was blown to bits. Stretched, over stretched, transformed, forever altered.  I'd like to build the Great Wall around all three of us and our hearts, untouchable by social workers and judges and stuffy court waiting rooms. But that's the thing. I can't do anything at all except love him and let him go when I'm told I have to.

I haven't written much about foster care as of late or about Baby A because it's been so damn painful. When we met him almost six months ago, we were told that it was likely we would be able to adopt him. I can't give details of his case, nor would I, but we had the full support of everyone around us - social workers, doctors, most certainly our family and friends. And then it changed. 

We knew this was a possibility. We knew we might fall in love and get our hearts broken. I've written about it, I've sat in classes about it, I've talked to other foster parents about it. But I had never felt it.

It is so beyond painful.

Since it changed we have had ten court hearings. We are told almost twice a month that this could be the moment he leaves and do we have his things ready? 

How do you plan your week when you know you might be saying goodbye to one of the loves of your life? How do you return phone calls? How do you try to update people and keep them in the "loop"? I'm living in it and I don't know the answers to this.

A couple of weeks ago we were sure he was leaving. It was out of nowhere and my husband had a work trip that day. I awoke at 4 am to see him dressed to go to the airport, his suitcase by his side. He leaned over to Baby A, who was sleeping next to me, and just said “Thank you” over and over again, tears rolling down his cheeks. When Baby A and I awoke we did all of our favorite things - took a lavender bubble bath together, strolled around Echo Park Lake with Rosy, sang songs, read books, stared at the fan, stared at each other.

Then he stayed. 

My husband wraps me in a bear hug at least once a day and tells me how in awe he is of me, how he would do this over and over again for the experience we have had with him, with each other. I cry, sometimes I sob and heave, but I feel it all.

What I do know is this - we are told our time with Baby A is coming to an end and we are cherishing every single moment. A couple of weeks could turn into longer, as we've found nothing is ever certain in foster care. We now pray every single day for his safety, his future, his giant heart housed in a tiny body. We pray for his family. We pray for his father to have the strength and the patience to love him like we do.

And we remember this - we saved this little boy's life and he, in turn, saved ours. We will not for one single moment be the same and we will carry him with us. Always.

He has taught me something else that’s very important. To truly treasure every moment you can together as if it’s your last. Not a Hallmark card platitude but to truly live it. To pay more attention, To open your heart as it will go. My relationship with him isn’t the only one that has deepened. My relationship with life has. How differently do we live if we are saying goodbye? Our relationship to oursleves, to one another, changes. There’s a sense of reverence. Of honoring the fragility and resilience of all things. Of bowing and knowing we don’t know a damn thing. I am humbled by the uncertainty and forever changed because of it.

We are not done. This story is by no means finished. We are Baby A’s parents forever in our hearts and we will give him every ounce of while we can. And there are children who need us to love them and there are our hearts that will continue to grow and expand and defy all of our odds.

I pray. And I cry.

But deep down I do trust. 

Part 3: On True Love + Uncertainty

I've had the honor of being a mother to Baby Boy for the past five weeks. These weeks have been the most sleep deprived, deeply in love moments of my entire life.

A lot of our day is filled with normal baby and mama stuff. Filling bottles. Singing to him. Getting pooped on. Walking around the neighborhood trying to get him to fall asleep. Staring at him in wonder.

And then parts of our day are very different.

We see social workers. We receive court documents. We take him to get assessed. We fill out paperwork. We see more social workers.

I was in a store a few weeks ago and a few of the women asked me about my son. He was so small and I was so upright and slightly together. "Did you just give birth?" As we talked more I started to explain that my husband and I were foster parents and would someday adopt. Maybe Baby Boy, maybe not.

One of the women looked at me and asked "Should you get so attached?"

I was taken aback. The answer is an absolute yes. This is a tiny little boy with nowhere to go. I'm a thirty four-year-old woman with every ounce of support in the world. Family. Enough money. A job. Sobriety. White privilege. A yoga practice. A relationship with God.

Every day when I wake up I tell Baby Boy I'm going to do my best. And my best, surprisingly enough, has him sleeping soundly, relaxing in my arms, gaining lots of pudgy rolls around his belly and chin. My best is just what he needs and I'm so attached to him I'd give him anything he asked for.

A woman came by the other day to "assess him." She asked what my goal for Baby Boy was. 
What do you mean?, I asked.
Anything. Anytime. What's your goal for him?

My eyes filled up with tears. I want him to feel beyond safe, empowered, kind and know that he could do anything he wanted to with his life. I want him to help others.

God, I want that so much that my heart explodes when I picture it. 

But here's the kicker, my friends - Nothing is certain. We don't know if Baby Boy will be with us forever. We won’t know for some time. This is the nature of foster adoption. We have tidbits of information that we honor and take in but then go back to the job of loving him with all we have.

He is our family, for life. Whether or not I get to watch him take his first steps or sing in a school play or go to his first dance or receive his diploma. He is in our hearts forever.

There are souls that are meant for us and they make their way to us exactly as they are supposed to. This path chose us. It was written. I know that I sat in that fertility office and heard that news so that I would go home and make a call that would change me forever. There was a little soul that needed to make his way to us and that's Baby Boy.

We meet the people who will change us. Our partner, our best friend, someone who wrongs us and teaches us how to grow. And then there's these angels. Whether they make their way to us through the birth canal or a phone call or an adoption pairing. They are meant for us because they will change us. It doesn't matter how they get here. What matters is that we know them and through loving them we are forever transformed.

Nothing is guaranteed. It’s all impermanent. And that's so scary. Our mind doesn’t like that so we grasp and hold so tight and try to control. My future is uncertain and so is yours. I'm just living with it in front of my face every single day.

Little man, I have never ever known a love like this. You've given me a purpose as deep as the sea and as vast as the sky. I am cherishing every breath because of you.

Now all we can do is love and trust and lean into the present.


“When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You're able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open. And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression. You develop an enthusiasm for no longer watering those negative seeds, from now until the day you die. And, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently.”

Pema Chodron

Part 2: Falling in Love

It's a few days before Christmas. Last Christmas Matt and I celebrated here in Los Angeles alone. We opened presents then went to see "Lion" at the AMC. The movie, about adoption, shook me to my core and I left the theater to splash water on my face. Twice.

Now here we are here. This little man, who had nowhere to go, will be home in our house. He's a beginner in this world and I'm a beginner in this role. I take my giant pinky around his tiny one and pinky swear him that I will do my best. My absolute best.

After demonstrating to the nurses that we could change a diaper, swaddle and load babe into a car seat we are given the green light to head home. With a seven day old baby. As we walked out of the hospital the nurse took our family photo and said she’d keep us in her prayers. I sit in the backseat next to Baby Boy’s car seat and begin doing what I’ll do for the next ten days.

I just stare at him.

His perfect gossamer eyelids and pouty pink lips and hairy forehead (yes, forehead) and tiny fingers and toes. I stare in wonder. 

What I'd pictured and imagined was a hodgepodge of other people's foster stories, other people's children. He is nothing like those stories or those photographs. He's right here, right on time. So many strings attached, nothing guaranteed. I'm all in.

My dad called a couple of days before he arrived. He told me he went to Catholic mass in Omaha to pray for us. And when the priest asked for who to pray for, he spoke up. For us. It's never been easy for us to speak in front of groups and when he told me he did, his voice shook. 
"I knew I needed to, MB."
So he did.

This child is so wanted, so loved, so celebrated.
From a stranger to a son within moments.
We are all connected.

Part I: Meeting Baby Boy

Last Tuesday I wrote the words:

Every morning I wake up and think: Today might be the day.

I closed my computer, hopped in my car and drove to teach. And two hours later, I got the call. Two hours later, my life changed forever.

The moment I saw the number on my screen, my heart leapt into my throat. I pulled my car over. I took a very deep breath and answered.

You ready for this?, she said.
I'm ready, I said.

Little boy, 7 days old. Ready to go home from the hospital now. Like right now.

I pictured so many scenarios. So many. All boys for some reason. Always toddlers. I even hung the soft ornaments on the bottom ring of the Christmas tree for that reason. But one I just did not picture was a helpless newborn baby boy. I did not picture walking into a hospital and leaving with a little boy.

A lot of things happened in those next few minutes.

I called my husband. He said, "Oh my God, it's him, isn't it?"
We called the social worker and said yes. 
I cancelled my private.
I took ten deep breaths.
I got on the 10 and drove home as calmly as possible.
We unboxed the car seat.
We got in the car.
We texted our families.
And we drove to the hospital.

We didn't know his name. We didn't know what he looked like. We knew about three whole sentences about this human we were about to meet, bring into our home and love like we had birthed him into existence ourselves.

It was a freefall into trust like we'd never known. You know that exercise where you'd fall backwards and someone would catch you? We were doing that but off the Grand Canyon and were unsure of who or what was at the bottom. For a moment I wondered, who will catch me but then I remembered: I'm here to catch him. I've been caught my whole life, comforted and supported. I'm here to catch him.

But even after all the classes we took, the books I've read, the foster and adoptive moms I've connected with, I was scared. Who would I be? Would I be good at this?

We pulled up to the hospital. Left the car seat there. Walked in. Okay, wrong building. Left that one, walked into the other one. Got a name tag. And started down the hall.

My entire body was vibrating. Anticipation, excitement, fear. Honestly, in retrospect it was already vibrating with love. Stepped up to the nursery door. A nurse waved us in. And then there he was.

Right there in the middle of the room in a clear bassinet. I could see him from the side, loads of dark brown hair and big brown eyes. My eyes welled with tears and I walked over to place my hand on his very tiny back.

There you are.
You are perfect.
I love you.

My entire body flooded with something I've never felt before. I recognized him instantly. I loved him even before I recognized him.

As I looked up at the nurse in tears I asked, "Where are the other babies?"
She shrugged, "With their moms, of course."

To be continued

Blank Pages

Every morning I wake up and think: Today might be the day.

Today marks one week. One week since we signed the papers, one week since I told the world, one week since I started watching my phone like a love stricken teenager.

We've met so many parents on this journey and they tell you their story.
"They called while we were in CPR."
"They called thirty minutes after we signed."
And others who said no to five or so calls before they said yes, waiting for what felt right.

I have every one of their stories in my head and my heart. Every single one I’ve been lucky enough to receive, to hear.  

We received a text from J, the head of adoptions yesterday. 
"You're next," said said. "Top of the list."

I wonder what our story will be. Together, on our own, with the birth parent. In so many endless ways I wonder what our story will be. I'm cultivating curiosity over fear, that little girl in me that always wanted to adopt now growing her family in ways she never would've imagined. 

Volumes and volumes of blank pages lie before us.

I know better than to think I have any control over what's happening. As though my clenched fists and jaws could hurry "fate." And though the moment this baby enters our home will be a beautiful moment for us it's a moment steeped in loss. There will be losses that have already occurred for birth mom and babe. There will be losses for us. We will do our best. 

Like that book my mom read to me as a child:
Are you my mother?

I don't know about forever but today or tomorrow or the next day I will wrap you up and keep you safe and wish all the blessings on you in the world.
A new chapter.
A part of one another's story.
A new story together.

Let Myself Be Led
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A year and a half ago we left our life in Venice and moved across LA. We'd spent several years burrowing deep into California cottage and making our neighborhood our own. Rosy and I could walk to our local coffee shop with our eyes closed and the baristas knew us by name. I remember just a couple months prior to our move thinking, I could never leave here.

Never say never.

Our friends, a married couple with a new babe, had moved to Silver Lake a couple years prior. I hadn't spent much time there and when we did make the jaunt across the city we went straight to their house and hunkered down there. On a Sunday afternoon we decided to brave the traffic and spend the afternoon there. Once we arrived Patrick pointed out the house across the street saying it was for rent.

Wanna go see it?
Why not, we said.

We walked through the rooms, all full of boxes and furniture and a good amount of dirt, as the couple who lived there was moving to Texas. It was nestled in the trees and had a special room made of windows that was hit by light at every angle.

Matt and I looked at one another. The strangest thing happened. They asked if we wanted to move in, we looked at one another and we said yes. Just like that.

I could’ve never imagined leaving our home and our neighborhood but all of the sudden the choice was easy and not even much a choice. We just knew. We moved in and the "treehouse", as we've come to affectionally call it, was an absolute mess. I spent many an afternoon in rubber gloves wielding a bottle of bleach... and crying. But you bite off more than you can chew then you chew it.

We settled into our life in East Los Angeles. It turned out that the treehouse just needed some love, like all of us, in order to be shinier, more full of light. I turned the room of windows into my yoga sanctuary and we cooked big meals and fed our friends to make it feel like home.

Almost a year later we drove to our original “get to know you” appointment at our foster adoption agency. As I input the address into our GPS I laughed aloud. It was right down the street. In all of Los Angeles, this sprawling, messy city, and it was right under our noses. In all of LA the place where we would grow our family was right here.

2017, you’ve been hard. You’ve taken everything I saw as “safe” or “guaranteed” and turned it on its head. But you’ve also taught me how to trust. I feel like I’m in an absolute freefall but also right where I’m supposed to be. I just gotta let myself be led.

On Becoming Real: My Not-So-Conventional Journey to Mamahood

I was never sure if I was meant to be a mama. 
Actually that's an understatement. I felt immense doubt around motherhood.
I cried in a lot of hotel rooms when my best friend and I would travel for work. 
"I don't know if I'm ready," I'd say, tears running down my face. "I don't know if I want to."
She'd hug me and say, "Then don't."

Don't get me wrong. I love my friends' babies to the moon. I love my friends’ round bellies and ability to eat all the nachos. I even thought decorating a nursery would be fun. But the rest of it? I was unsure.

I'd close my eyes during vision meditations where I was supposed to see my life and I just couldn't see "it." Whatever it was. That was challenging when at least half the room experienced major waterworks talking about their perfect baby and my best friend pictured her three flannel clad children summiting a mountain. 

That being said, after a few years of marriage my big bearded honey of a husband (who was so meant to be a dad and had talked about it on our second date) and I started to "try." We are in love but we are kind of lazy together too, so I was not exactly a "peeing on sticks" and "sex around the clock" kinda gal. I figure if it was supposed to happen, it would and I'd trust that the universe had my back on this one.

We tried. We kept trying. I bought some of those sticks. I peed on them. I took vitamins. Still nothing.

Okay universe, I know I said I was unsure but now I'm kind of pissed.

Fast forward to this past spring. I'm in some stupid outfit that I think is "mom-like." I'm in a stuffy doctor's office with my husband and clutching his hand for dear life. It's a fertility center and I don't like anything about it. After many tests, the doctor told us that there was a chance we could get pregnant but it was pretty small. He immediately ushered us into an even smaller, even stuffier, room to show us pamphlets about IVF and other means of becoming pregnant.

He told us that we could begin these fertility treatments as soon as the next week. Not even five minutes later, a woman shows up with another folder of paperwork about how to pay for said IVF. I was overwhelmed and in tears. We hadn't been trying that long. We hadn't seen a naturopath. We left. Matt drove us to our favorite ice cream shop and we sat outside eating massive cones at 2 pm. 

I looked at him and said, "Should we just say fuck it and move to Bali? Just the two of us?"

He looked at me and shrugged. Maybe, he said.

The further and further we got away from that office the more I realized that this was not how I wanted to grow my family. But something else had started to bloom in me. That I was actually meant to be a mother.

Matt and I were on a walk on a Saturday afternoon when I asked him, "What do you think about adoption?"
He looked at me with big eyes and said, "I think it's beautiful."
I smiled. "Yeah, me too. Really beautiful."

I noticed the way adoption made me feel in my body. Vulnerable but open. Soft but sweet. Strong yet tender. It made me feel the way I do when I see my dad's eyes crinkle up with laughter. The way I feel when I'm really connected to others - sometimes in yoga classes, sometimes at church when visiting my parents, sometimes in nature. I felt it in my bones and knew it to be true. For me. For us. For this little human out there. I could close my eyes and picture every curve of their sweet, little face. Picture the moment the car drove up and a social worker placed this baby in my arms.

I didn't feel this way when I thought about the other ways of becoming a mom. To be completely and utterly honest, I didn't even feel that way when I thought about myself as pregnant. It felt right, like soulmate-right, and it made sense to me why I couldn't picture it before. I was trying to picture what someone else's version of motherhood and family looked like, and Photoshop my face on a dream.

Life happens like that. It’s so easy to feel when something is wrong, when something is not for us, not ours. And it’s also so easy to stay in that place of lack, of not ours, of feeling empty. That day in the doctor's office was a gift as it opened up another path full of possibility and heart opening and transformation. Thank God we kept asking the questions, thank God I kept feeling the word “mama” in my body, thank God for a partner who was willing to ask the questions too. There was no trying anymore, no struggle or effort, everything that happened before brought us to the clearest moment. This, this, is how we were meant to be parents.

Fast forward to a few weeks later. We've met with a student of mine who is foster adoption lawyer. She had been coming to my classes for years, front row, front and center. Because life is like that and will not let you miss the important people that will change everything for you. We’ve talked to parents who have adopted privately. We've talked with parents who have foster adopted. We've met with a foster adoption agency. We've made a big, scary, beautiful decision: we are going to become parents through the foster system of Los Angeles.

They tell you that in the foster-to-adopt world, there are no guarantees. They tell you this, and they tell you again, and then they have you talk to other foster parents who tell you: There are no guarantees. You open up your home and a little heartbeat comes inside, and there is no knowing if it will be forever. That being said, I'd be hard pressed to find anything that is absolutely, 100 percent guaranteed in life. I have found peace in this. Matt and I are strong, that our home can hold this level of uncertainty in the floors and in our hands, the whole point is to love and provide safety and what an honor to do so.

I handed a nurse my foster parent paperwork at a physical I needed to get certified. She looked at my paperwork, looked up and said, "I'm sorry."
"Excuse me?" I said.
"Can you not get pregnant?" she asked.

This was the first of many insensitive comments I've heard and will continue to hear, I'm sure, but they pale in comparison to the amount of support we've received. And I looked that nurse square in the eyes and said, "I think you meant congratulations, not sorry. This is exactly what we want to do and exactly how we want to become parents." I meant every single world.

That brings us to today. We've filled out mountains of paperwork. We've delved into our past and talked about our future. We've completed weeks of classes and met the most amazing future parents and social workers. We've learned about burn marks and trauma and what will be asked of us. We've baby-proofed our home. And in a few days or weeks we will receive a phone call and we will say "yes."

We will be parents. To our forever baby? Maybe. But no matter what we will love up this little angel with all we have.

In our training with Extraordinary Families a social worker explains that as an adult the loss should fall on us. These babies, these children have experienced enough trauma and pain in their short lives. We are adults and we have cobbled together tools and coping mechanisms. We have family. We have friends. We have a yoga practice.

Are we scared? Of course.
Is it risky? For our hearts, for sure.
But damn, if that isn't the point then what is?

I was born for this. We were. And I can't wait to walk alongside you on this journey, my love.

'Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'

'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit. 

'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.' 

'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?' 

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.'

Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

More to read + watch :

Extraordinary Families
This is the nonprofit foster and adoption agency we are working with. We have met the most unbelievable, selfless social workers and parents and feel beyond blessed to be on this journey with them. We live in Los Angeles, which has the largest child welfare system in the world, with more than 34,000 children receiving services.

 The F Word: A Foster-to-Adopt Story
A YouTube series by a couple that keep it very real on their journey in foster care and adoption.

Four Castaways Make a Family
I read this NY Times Modern Love piece weekly. Read it and you'll understand why.

Instant Mom
This book is by Nia Vardalos, who wrote and starred in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." She adopted her daughter through foster care after 13 failed rounds of IVF. It's an amazing book and has many FAQs at the end.