Year Two: Adventures in Instant Parenthood

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It’s amazing how life’s time can leave you…fast. It was almost one year ago that our daughter came to us. We had found her in foster care and opened our home to her. This, not knowing that our son was already growing inside me… the son that the doctors had, for ten years, told us we couldn’t have.

Ms. Gracely Sinclair and her husband were both born and raised in Portland, Oregon. After ten years, they were blessed with two children at once, and haven’t looked back. Back is out of reach.

The author is a freelance writer…when the pasta behaves.

So…

I think that receiving two children in the space of five months, as rookie parents (and one a newborn!), was the toughest thing that either of us had ever done. But it was also a sudden open door onto an avenue lined with good things. The avenue was stony and sometimes hard to walk. But the good things became gooder and gooder.

Why haven’t I written down every observation on parenthood; every cute look and lisped phrase; every gurgle, smile, and fart? Because I’ve been reaching for my pen and formulating half-sentences for almost a year. But always, before being able to commit thought to paper, the spaghetti boiled over, the phone rang, the family walked in, or the pen dropped to the floor and my thoughts ended in, “Zzzzzzzz”. Now comes the actual effort of recording our adventures as a new family. And just in time… I forget things quickly, easily, and often forever.

“She”

Our daughter is the daughter of a niece of ours, gone wild. We’re not sure where the niece is, just that she’s not wherever her various children are.

She was 10 months old when we got a phone call from a frantic grandmother, telling us that the child had been abandoned to foster care in Washington state. The grandmother lives in Mexico and could do nothing. Fortunately, God had stayed our hand when we had considered adoption a year or so before so that, though eligible to adopt in Oregon, we hadn’t yet. That smoothed the path for the child that He had for us.

The gears of the state grind slowly, though, and another year had gone by before we got to see She for the first time. In between was the paperwork that means the state is letting you care for this little thing instead of doing it themselves. Finally, though, we got to visit her.

We’ve talked about that moment many times. How frightened we were, waiting for the door to open. How such a small being could make us – grown adults who drive and have jobs– shake in our shoes! And then, there she was. The most adorable 22 month-old girl with braided hair and eyes that seemed big enough to wrap around the sides of her head. She was perfect.

Well, almost perfect… A month later we had her home and two months later she was calling us Mommy and Daddy. We were over the moon and then down into the valley as the terrible two’s began in earnest. But the hills and valleys, thankfully, were interspersed with each other so that life averaged out on the wonderful side.

When she arrived, we could count the number of real words that She could say on a couple of hands. She still took a bottle at night and we couldn’t figure out where to get her hair done. I probably obsessed on this last point more than any other. I wasn’t able to take care of my own hair, let alone the mop she came with.

She cried at night and we had to learn just how to comfort her. She had a drooling problem; thank heavens that’s starting to take care of itself. And she had a habit of biting and hitting when angry. That resolved itself with reasonable discipline. But it’s a work in progress and her progress has been amazing.

She just loved to pat Mommy’s growing tummy and talked endlessly about the baby inside. Her own tummy was shown with pride to all, and she wondered aloud if she would have a baby, too. (When the baby did come, I wonder if it registered. The patting of the tummy and the wondering where the baby is continued for some time…)

We quickly learned that She did not like to be thwarted. She wanted what she wanted. She wanted it now, and she told you so often. When whatever it was was not forthcoming… well, we literally bought ear plugs. But a trip to the park or a ride on a slide and especially the adventure at Zoo Lights in Portland showed us her active, athletic, and curious side. The sponge part of her now is inside her – wondering, asking, learning, and repeating what she’s learned.

When she arrived, She fit into size 6 or 6-1/2 shoes. Now we’re lucky to get her into a size 9. She has grown some inches and we can make out cheekbones where we used to see chub. She no longer eats her crayons and actually enjoys applying them to paper. She loves working with glue and other art supplies… anything sticky. And – we can’t wait – she’s been on the potty a good many times, with reasonable (if not consistent) results.

Now She speaks well, often in full sentences. She has an amazing memory and knows some Korean words that she’s taught at her day care. She talks about her friends and wants me to make her babies and her toy bears talk and move. Then she talks back to them, consoling and chiding them, just like Mommy does.

With us she’s very direct. She has given me a count (“1 - 2 - 3! Time out, Mommy!”) and tells us to go to sleep. She loves “my music”, and bounces and sings to Jesus Loves Me, The Bare Necessities, and The Mickey Mouse Club March, among others. She dances to music and TV theme songs and commercials. Whenever we have company and the dancing starts, we all sit down and watch “The She Show.”

She gives me imaginary presents to open, since Christmas made such a big hit with her. She wonders where the stockings went and why we had to take down the lights. She always wants to go back to the beach, which is where we spent Thanksgiving with my family. And she wonders how big she’ll have to be before she can go see Mickey at Disneyland. After we tell her that she has to get bigger and stronger, she says, “I get my coat.”

She loves her Daddy’s family, who are all in town. She will look at me and ask after a member of the family…Uncle This or Auntie That. I’ll tell her where they probably are at the moment and then I’ll say, “Who else?” And we’ll talk about every member of the family that we can think of. Of course, she wants to see the cousins every day. And even more of course, though she knows the answer well, “Where’s Daddy?”

She doesn’t do well with change. This is typical of foster and adopted and… well… just kids. She cries often while in bed and it’s sometimes hard to figure out why. Heaven help us, we get angry. Tired people often do… But then came the day (quite recently, really) when she moved across the room into her “big girl bed”, which is furnished with a rail that has her name cut into it by another brother who is a woodworker in his spare and generous time.

Her Daddy bought her a Tinker Bell light and another Princess night light that help her deal with the dark. It’s so comfy and cushy and PINK that I’m envious sometimes. She surrounds herself with plush toys and favorite blankets and settles in for the night – more and more, the entire night. And we have peace… blessed peace… and then the boy wakes up and wants his food.

“He”

I have never been happier than when I was pregnant with our son. At 37 years old, with special health issues, I was considered a high risk in pregnancy and had ultrasounds almost every week. I had a high-risk team of obstetricians following me around with charts, probes, and pee tubes. This last item was always welcome.

I look back at pictures of myself during that time and see this glow and smooth radiance in my face that I remember inside me but never noticed in the mirror. I was never sick or even the slightest bit nauseous. My other symptoms disappeared almost entirely… no more soreness or swelling, no more aching back until the very end.

He wanted us to know immediately that he was a HE. During one of the initial ultrasounds, he flipped himself over and spread his legs as wide as he could. The ultrasound picture of his defining male characteristic is one of my favorites. I’ll never forget the tone in my husband’s voice when I told him he was going to have a son. Just a very, very quiet, “No way.” There was so much awe, hope, and fear in that tone and in that voice. It moved me as few other speeches have.

He grew well and exactly on schedule. He turned over from a breach position to a head-down position in plenty of time. He got the hiccups so often that it became no longer novel. We had several baby showers and are still going through clothes and toys donated to us from friends and family. We have bought very little for the kid; and he has everything he could possibly want and more.

Then we went to the hospital in one of those scheduled and arranged situations. We would be induced here and then the birth would happen there, they said calmly. My obstetrician had a party to go to but would be back in “plenty of time”, since labor would probably take such-and-such hours.

Uh huh…

Hours after being given the pitossin to induce me, I had barely dilated at all. In the meantime, the baby’s heart rate was up then down then up and down. They broke my water manually and OWWWWW… the contractions started, minutes apart and hard as h-e-double-hockey-sticks. Sorry, Grandma. Hours of this, I thought. Are you crazy??

The senior member of my OB’s practice arrived and suggested a Cesarean procedure with an epidural. I have rarely been so grateful to any man still living… or dead for that matter. I love whoever Mr. Cesarean was! The operation began, with my husband gowning himself with shaking hands (he’s not a hospital guy). And minutes later the epidural was in effect and my son was being shown to us.

I will never in my life forget that moment. I burst into tears for so many reasons that it seems silly to recount them. He was safe…he was here…he was ours…he was healthy-looking…we had done it. Thank you, God. Thank you forever.

Four days later I was released. The doctors studied the baby and myself for after-effects and drug levels and we were fine. He developed cradle cap and, in pictures, was downright ugly unless you were his mother and you were holding him at the time. He was skinny and seemed undersized, though I was assured he was exactly average in that regard. He smiled on his second day of life but wailed in a surprisingly piercing way when hungry or tired. I was exhausted and stressed. The doctors were sending me home with a life that I hadn’t had when I came into the hospital. Where was the manual? Who would I call at 2:00 a.m. when we were so stupid with fatigue that we were confused about which end the nipple went into?

I don’t know how we would have gotten through that first month without the love and backup of family and friends. They cooked and cleaned for us. They came and brought us hope and encouragement. When the house was filthy and there was no food in it, one couple went to the store and brought back $300 worth of goods and sent us to bed while they cleaned and cared for our kids. We got sleep. The dishes were done. There was food. We were speechless…we still are.

Day by day, hour by hour, month by month He grew and we came to understand him better. It took a solid month before routine had been re-established and we could eat and sleep with any amount of comfort. I can’t stop looking continuously into his bed, to check for breathing sounds. That will probably end when he’s 12.

Then breast-feeding became bottle-feeding. He suddenly was able to hold his head up and had a magnificent grip. We noticed immediately that he was strong; he was a true son of my husband’s. Much more alert than the average athlete, though. He noticed everything and studied everyone. And they always received a smile. The boy was a smiling fool, from the beginning.

The cradle cap moved back and the fine dark blonde hair began moving forward. The baby acne starting clearing up and I felt like a teenager, limp with relief that it was less visible all the time. He started eating more and more and crying less and less. The blankets with which we had to prop him in his swing became thin blankets, then disappeared. Then we had to strap him in because he was big enough to fall out.

He reached for us, then grabbed onto us. Then he reached for She’s toys. That was a mistake. Then he arched his back and looked behind him, above him, around him. Then he rolled over to get something and light dawned. Motion! Now we have a very active boy on our hands and, in our 40’s, get more exercise within the confines of our home than out of it.

Year Two

I’ve never imagined my life as full as this. Even as a young woman, my visions of motherhood were blurry and distant. I never knew where my life was headed in that regard. Then, after several discouragements, those hopes faded almost completely.

I’m so grateful to God for taking this decision out of our hands. People’s eyes get big and I hear breathed “Wow, you’re busy,” when they hear about us. And for us it is hard to step back and just see who we are. There’s always a load of laundry waiting to be folded, the same spaghetti boiling over, and the two kids competing for our attention.

But we know what we can seldom speak. That life has become mission. That movement now has meaning. And that we are the luckiest two people on earth….

Let Year Two begin!



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