Sunday, December 23, 2012

Baby Photo Shoot

A couple years ago, we were lucky enough to find Amy Soper to be our wedding photographer. She did an absolutely amazing job! Now that Dominic's here, she quickly volunteered to come do his first photo shoot! One of our favorites is below, and many more are on Amy's blog.

Thanks again, Amy!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Winter's Here!

One of the fun things about having a newborn is that people love to give you baby clothes. Seriously, I don't think we'll have to buy Dominic an outfit for at least 6 months. And with a November birthday, a number of those outfits are winter or Christmas related.

With that in mind, Dominic wanted to do some modelling!

"Yeah, Santa asked me to fill in up north this year."
"No, no, no, the lighting is all wrong!"
"This is much better."
"Who's this guy?"
"No, too close, too close!"
"If I plank some more, will this be over faster?"
"Absolutely not. Mittens? On a onesie? Really?"
"This is much more to my liking."
"Baby camo time! Can you find me?"
"Pete can't find me, that's for sure."
"Hmm, I think I can make this outfit better..."
"...with a popped collar! Totally going for the preppy look."
"Or do I just look like a baby vampire?"

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy 1-Month Birthday, Dominic!

Yesterday marked 1 month that Dominic has been around, and I couldn't let the day go by without a little recognition! We celebrated by (wait for it...) going to Safeway and Costco! Dominic had his first big outing to the stores, which he promptly slept through. I was a tad nervous about taking him somewhere that people might come up and start poking and prodding at him, but luckily having him in the Baby Björn carrier so close to my body seemed to keep people at bay.

Back at home, Dominic decided to recognize the day with a few photos:

Dominic contemplates his old age.
"Would you stop it with the paparazzi act?"
Okay, fine. I'll just sleep.
He's growing so fast! From a birth weight of 7 lbs 8 oz, he's now up to 9 lbs 10.5 oz. And he's already outgrowing some of his clothes! I can only imagine what month 2 will bring...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ready, Set, Married!

First comes love,
Then comes marriage,
Then comes baby in a baby carriage!

... oh, right. How about this one:

First comes love,
Then comes baby,
Then comes marriage in a state-sanctioned ceremony?

In general, Brian and I have tried to stay away from posting too much about political topics here, preferring instead to focus on adoption and how we're creating our family. But the events of this past weekend deserve at least a passing mention! Back in February, Brian wrote about how our governor signed a marriage equality bill into law, meaning that we might soon be able to get married. And this weekend, on December 9, 2012, we did just that!

We got married!
Taking a step back, I should say that marriage equality has been quite the journey in Washington state. After our legislature passed the law and the governor signed it in February, a signature drive ensured that the law would actually go up for a popular vote in the November election. The ensuing months were nerve-wracking, especially since no marriage equality measures in the US had ever passed in a vote before. But after an unprecedented amount of success on November 6, we finally had an answer: our home state was ready to recognize that our relationship is just as valid as any other!

Laws passed by referenda in Washington take effect 30 days after the election, so marriage equality became official on December 6. And so down we went to the King County Administrative Building to get our licenses, just about as soon as we could! They opened at 12:01am that morning, and stayed open until 6:30pm - the previous record of 212 licenses issued in a day was already shattered in the first three hours. All told, there were 489 couples issued a license that first day. Amazing!

We wanted to try to avoid the rush, especially since we had to take care of Dominic, so we waited until after he woke us up for a 3am feeding to go downtown. My mom stayed and watched him while we left, and around 3:45 we were couple number 243 in line:

They still gave us a number, even though
there was almost no line at 3:45am.
By this time of the morning, the midnight rush had all but dissipated, and there were only 5 or 6 couples ahead of us in line. We whisked right through it, and before we knew it had a marriage license!

Brian was tired, but waited patiently.

Mission Accomplished!
Despite the thinning out of the crowd, King County Executive Dow Constantine was still there after 4 hours, signing personalized commemorative marriage licenses for any couple who wanted one. And as a symbolic gesture, he was using the same pen that Governor Christine Gregoire used to sign the marriage equality bill into law. I'm still astounded at the level of support from our elected officials; this was just the first of many examples.

Marriage license signed by King County Executive Dow Constantine.
After getting the license, Washington has a mandatory 3-day waiting period for all couples. The first day for weddings, therefore, was December 9, 2012. City Hall had pulled together an all-volunteer wedding day, free for any couple who wanted to come and get married; and somehow, Brian and I managed to RSVP quickly enough to get a spot! We were one of 142 couples scheduled to marry on that first day in Seattle City Hall. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn was on hand, greeting couples as they entered:

With Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, just before our wedding
And how wonderful to have Dominic join us!

Two grooms and a baby!
All the judges were donating their time too.
Brian and I have an absolutely wonderful set of family and friends, and we were pleased to have a small group join us for the ceremony. My parents were able to be there, as well as a couple friends who were in our original wedding party two years ago. And of course Dominic was there, and his birth mom Carly came up from Tacoma to join in the festivities as well.

What a wonderful, joy-filled day. Getting married ourselves was exciting, of course, but seeing so many happy couples everywhere was one of the most heart-warming feelings ever. Every few minutes there'd be a fresh round of cheers from some new couple getting married, just adding to the joy.

As we left City Hall, we got to make an exit down the grand staircase to a crowd of cheering people - talk about surreal! Dominic made the trek with us, and it was captured by a few different folks:

Photo by Matt Stopera for BuzzFeed
Photo by Matt Stopera for BuzzFeed
I love watching all the happy couples come down the stairs!
We're at about the 1:35 mark.

So now we're an "official" family! Brian and I have considered ourselves a married couple since our wedding in July 2010, but it's still an absolutely momentous day when the state recognizes us as the same. Congrats to all the other happy couples as well!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dominic's Artistic Side

Dominic was really awake this morning around 7am.  After having most of his breakfast, we went downstairs to play with some toys.  Then I realized that he was really in an artistic mood when I was getting looks like these:

Ugh. Do you have your camera ready yet?
Ok, let's do this.  Here is my 'I'm too cool to care' pose.
Time for a moment of reflection and long-distance thinking.
I'm cute. You know. I know it. PS: Send a copy of this to Summer.

Following Dominic's masterful works of art and a showing of Blue Steel, I decided to take it to the next level to see if he could play the role of Houdini.  My current favorite toy for him (thanks to Brett and Kathleen!) is a fun little elephant with a green ring on one end and a yellow ring on the other which makes for some perfect magic trick handcuffs!
Oh no, I'm trapped!

Must... escape.

 Oh wait, he escaped that easily.  He's so bright and has a great future ahead of him. Also, this might just be proof that I shouldn't get up too early and be left alone with Dominic for too long without adult supervision  :)

Meanwhile, today Andy and I are getting legally married.  It'll be Dominic's biggest outing beyond the house and we'll also get to see Carly again!  We might not get a post up right away, but look for one in the near future.

Friday, December 7, 2012

3 Week Videos

We've been around a number of babies recently, and none of them have liked tummy time. So it's surprising to see Dominic so calm with it!

And meanwhile, Brian's discovered a new way to wake up the little one:

Fun times had by all!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Field trip! work

Dominic is officially 3 weeks old now!  Well before Dominic was born, I planned on checking out a laptop from work and working part time from home during December.  Today just made for a good day to get out of the house and take Dominic on his first real trip out into the world.  (His other 3 trips have all been appointment related, so they don't count!)

In a way, it was a lot of fun to take Dominic out for a couple hours.  We used our battleship(stroller) for the first time, and Dominic got to meet a lot of my coworkers.  It was heart warming to see how excited many of them were to see Dominic.  Several people also went in on a giftcard which was really nice.  I'm sure Andy and I will be making some store runs to get Dominic some fun things as he continues to grow.  Just earlier tonight, I noticed that one of my favorite newborn onesie outfits for him was getting a little tight.

On the work side of things, it was fun to see so many coworkers that I hadn't seen for the past 3 weeks.  However, it also meant that I was beginning the transition back into the work realm.  The past three weeks have been amazing, trying, draining, and extremely rewarding.  Dominic has grown so much in such a short span of time that I wish I could stay home from work even longer to see him grow and develop.  Luckily, I'll still be home until Jan 2nd, but that date suddenly looks to much closer than it did before today.  I'm really hoping to do as much as I can and make more trips out of the house with Dominic before I have to go back to the office in less than a month.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Week #3

Dominic is 2 weeks old as of Monday.  Rather than having a quiet 3rd week, we've been keeping busy:

Example of PKU Test
On Monday, he had his second pediatrician visit.  We found out that Dominic was doing really well and near the 50th percentile for length, weight, and head circumference which was great.  He's also up to 8 lbs 3.5 oz which was a huge jump from his last weigh in of 7 lbs 2 oz.   The hard part was his follow up pku test.  I held him as they pricked his foot and squeezed out several drops of blood into 4 separate circles on a card.  Dominic rarely screams or desperately cries, so it was really tough to hold him when that happened.  I just held him close while the nurse pulled on his leg and got drop after drop onto the card.  It was pretty tough for me as I anticipated it being a quick thing to get done.  Instead, it took at least 5 drops of blood per circle which was really unpleasant  :(

Yesterday we had our first official meeting with an adoption counselor since bringing Dominic home from the hospital a couple weeks ago.  Our original counselor, Katie, stopped by our house for a couple hours to do a general check-in meeting.  Compared to our homestudy sessions back in April, this was pretty low key.  Katie had a set of questions to go through, but it was mostly just making sure that we were surviving the first couple of weeks ok.  As some newborn babies can require a lot of attention, time, and effort, it's probably wise for the agency to make sure new adoptive parents are holding up all right!  We'll have 1-2 more visits from either Katie or Courtney until the adoption is legally finalized.

Picture of our wedding rings by Amy
Another super exciting thing on the docket is that Dominic will feel like a celebrity tomorrow!  We've talked to our super awesome wedding photographer and she'll be over to take some pictures of Dominic.  Amy is really fun and took some great pictures for our wedding, so we're looking forward to seeing her again and having some great early pictures of Dominic.

Lastly, I wanted I've tacked on a brief video of today's tummy time.  He was awake and did great.  This video shows a little movement, and he got in even more leg movement after this was recorded.  Definitely an upgrade over Monday's tummy time which was really just naptime.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tummy Time

Today was an exciting day for Dominic.  We've heard of the wonders of "tummy time" through other parents.  Now that babies are recommended to lay/sleep on their backs, tummy time is helpful in muscular development and coordination.
Tummy Time!
Given that Dominic is only 2 weeks old, it's rather early for him to start tummy time as he isn't very mobile.  However, we want to get him used to being on his belly, so he isn't distressed during later sessions of tummy time at an older age.

After Thanksgiving, Dominic's umbilical cord stump fell off.  We gave him a few days for things to heal up and then decided today would be a fun trial run at tummy time.  We laid out the exercise mat and activity gym in our living room.  Then we brought over Dominic and set him down.  It looked nice and comfy, but that may have been a down side.  Dominic was rather sleepy and just crashed.  On the good side, Dominic's first experience with tummy time didn't include crying, distress, or bad memories.  Instead, it was just some half awake glances that devolved into nap time.

Nap time

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Holiday Spirit!

Grammy Mary!
It's been great having my mom in town this weekend.  Her excitement to see Dominic in the days before her trip out to Seattle has only been trumped by her excitement to be here in person.

Grammy Mary will only be out for a few days, but she's already gotten in some good memories with Dominic.  There have been all the usual things like feedings, diaper changes, naps, and Dominic's first Nebraska game on TV.  Another great milestone has been decorating for the holidays.  When I was younger, it was always a lot of fun to decorate the house for the holidays by putting up the tree, Christmas lights, and playing holiday music.  With Grammy Mary around to help take care of Dominic, the three of us spent Friday afternoon putting up Christmas decorations.  Happy Holidays everyone!

Mantle with stockings
Christmas tree
Ornament from my parents
Dominic's first ornament

Even better, Molly and Angie stopped by today with a special Christmas present for Dominic!  His new stocking is amazingly cute  :)

Dominic's Stocking

Friday, November 23, 2012

Dominic's First Thanksgiving

Yesterday was Dominic's first Thanksgiving!

Poppa Mark and Poppa Rich invited us to their place for a wonderful Thanksgiving meal, turkey and all. And Poppa Mark definitely got in a good fill of time with the little guy!

After dinner, Dominic anxiously awaited the arrival of Grammy Mary from Nebraska!

And finally, the long-awaited meeting:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

No One Said It'd Be Easy...

It's been almost two weeks since I've posted anything here, and what a crazy, wonderful, emotional, and joyous couple of weeks it's been. I've been wanting to post earlier in the week, but there just hasn't been time. And now, I finally have a few minutes to sit down and sort out my thoughts.

Being at the hospital already seems like a distant dream, even though we only brought Dominic home three days ago. The time we spent there was exhausting, both emotionally and physically. From the moment we left our home Monday morning through our return Wednesday afternoon, there wasn't any real downtime. (As I write this, it's astounding to realize that period was only two days - it certainly felt a lot longer!)

As we've mentioned before, the original hospital plan was that Carly would spend a few hours with the baby following the birth, and then she wanted to completely hand over his care to us. We were totally on board with that, and we were also ready to accept any changes in the plan that she might decide she wanted. Well, as it turned out, Carly wanted Dominic to spend the night in the room with her. Though it meant we wouldn't be able to spend as much time with him right away, Brian and I were completely fine with that decision, and in fact we had somewhat anticipated it. It was a little easier to be patient when we knew that in a short amount of time he'd be coming home with us, and we'd be parenting him for the rest of his life.

Dominic in his hospital bassinet
Even while Dominic was with Carly, though, we were still around. We spent a lot of the visit with both of them and some of Carly's friends in her room, with everyone taking turns holding, feeding, and changing Dominic. On the one hand, it was a wonderful way to welcome him into the world: so many people there to celebrate his arrival, for which I'm incredibly thankful. On the other hand, it was very difficult for Brian and I since we couldn't really relax the entire time. Don't get me wrong; we really like Carly and I think that we all get along very well. It was just that this was her space, and we were spending almost all our waking time there, so we had to be constantly "on". It was for that reason that I was so excited for our trip home with Dominic - we'd finally be able to spend time with him on our own schedule, in our own space.

And that's also why it hit me so hard on Tuesday when Carly decided she wanted Dominic to spend another day in the hospital with her. Carly had a C-section, and so she had to spend 2 full days in the hospital afterwards. Dominic, being a healthy baby, was ready for discharge after just 1 day, and the original plan in that case was that he'd leave after 1 day. Even at the time, I knew that it was a good thing for Carly to do whatever it was she needed to bond with and welcome Dominic, as well as process her grief; and in hindsight, I'm glad that she decided upon having that second day. But at the time, I was just about at my own breaking point, since I'd been so looking forward to us leaving for home, and that was going to be postponed for another night. I had anticipated a lot of changes to the hospital/birth plan and was mentally prepared for most of them, but somehow it never crossed my mind that another day in the hospital was a distinct possibility until it actually occurred. And in the end, it was a very good thing, but just was difficult to process as it was happening.

That second night "in the hospital" actually turned out not to be - the courtesy room that the hospital staff gave us on the first night was needed for actual patients, so we had to head out to a hotel for the evening. That was both a blessing and a curse - neither of us wanted to spend the night away from Dominic, but it also forced us to give Carly some time and space on her own with him. That, and it afforded us one full night of sleep outside of the hospital before we would bring the little guy home (and probably not sleep again for a few years!).

Having a hotel sleep on Tuesday night was probably one of the best things that could have happened, since we really needed it on Wednesday. The morning started quietly enough - we got to Carly's room relatively early, and we spent the morning chatting with her, holding Dominic, watching TV, and generally having a relaxed time. But I think we all knew that in just a few hours, Carly would be entrusting him to us in a very permanent way, and that knowledge added more than a bit of tension to the environment. After a little while, Courtney (the counselor from OA&FS) arrived, and she really started the entire process moving for the day. Carly was able to take as much or as little time as she wanted; but there was no more ignoring what was about to happen.

Most of the discharge process went by in an uneventful way - Carly was given her last vitals check, Dominic had all of his stuff packed up, and eventually the checklist was completed. Then it was really time for Carly to say goodbye, in whatever way she needed. Courtney took us downstairs to sign some paperwork, although I think the true purpose was to give Carly the time she needed with Dominic on their own. And then, when Carly let us know she was ready, the time we were waiting for was finally there.

When we got back to Carly's hospital room, she said she was ready for us to take Dominic home. She herself was walking around the room gathering her things - I could tell she was trying to distract herself. We had a small gift to give her: a photo album with a number of pictures of all of us, from Dominic's first few days of life. When we pulled that out, Carly began to cry - and that was when it truly hit me how difficult this was going to be. Nothing I've ever experienced can compare for me to the next few minutes.

Carly is not a person who likes to appear vulnerable, and I know that she would have liked to hold back her tears. But the grief and pain on her face was palpable, and I still can't get it out of my head. As happy as I was to be bringing Dominic home, I knew that at the same time she was parting with him. And I know that she made this decision willingly, and in trying to keep Dominic's best interests at heart, but that didn't make any of the pain easier to handle. Once Carly said it was time for Dominic to leave with us, we tried to accommodate her wishes and not draw out the goodbye; unfortunately, we had trouble actually strapping him into his carseat before we left the room. Hearing Carly quietly crying did not help the process, and it almost sent me over the edge myself. But I knew that we wanted to show a strong front for her, and I was able to pull myself together until we made it into the hallway.

By the time we got to the elevator, however, I was sobbing. I know that this should have been one of the happiest moments of my life, but all I could feel was a profound sadness. I still can't fathom what it would be like to experience that pain we saw on Carly's face; and I couldn't stop from feeling that we were causing it for her. Even thinking about it now is causing me to tear up a little, since the emotions are still so raw. I know that the parting in the hospital was not a permanent goodbye by any means, and I look forward to many happy gatherings with Carly and all the people who love Dominic; but I also know that what had just happened was a fundamental transition in Dominic's life, and I couldn't help but feel some of the loss.

Courtney accompanied Brian and I to our car, where she gave us each a hug and sent us on our way. I haven't written a lot about her role here, but I can't imagine how we would have gotten through this entire process without her. Obviously she's a professional and this is her job, but she was a wonderful guide for the entire process, and without her I don't know what we would have done.

With Courtney, in the hospital lobby
In the car, we just sat there for a few minutes. My tears of sadness gradually became tears of joy, as I realized that we were finally bringing Dominic home. Carly's grief, and our grief, is deep and profound; and while some of it may fade with time, I know it will always be there. But this goodbye was also an opening into the rest of Dominic's life, and he will always be surrounded by so many people who love him immensely. For that, I'm indescribably thankful.

Dominic sleeping on the ride home

As I've reflected on this past week, it's struck me just how important this experience has been. Yes, there were some bumps in the road, and yes, it was a difficult and emotional few days; but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I'm so glad we chose to pursue an open adoption, raw and painful as it's been. We saw firsthand how much Carly loves this little boy, and I hope she could see how much we love him too. No matter what else changes in his life, he will never be short on love.

Dominic, our son, is home. And that makes everything worth it.