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Our Son, Part Five: The Choice

I have never loved my husband as much as I did in that moment in the alley behind the pizza place in Costa Rica.  He comforted me as I wailed about having lost a child.

Yes, it was only about an hour in which we were able to picture our family of four before the choice was thrust upon us to select only one of the kids.  But during that hour not only had we planned, I had already dreamed and imagined enough that I was already in love with both of them, or at least the idea.  And it was the most painful grief to have that ripped away.

Though we had to decide that night, Michael suggested that we go back in to celebrate the pre-wedding night dinner with our friends and then he and I would get apart afterwards to talk it all out and make our decision.  He then suggested I go to the restroom and clean myself up and while I was in there he'd inform the table what had happened and tell the group that we weren't going to be talking about it anymore, that there was a wedding to celebrate.

Before I returned to the table a few people gave some input on the decision.  More than one suggested something like "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush--take the child that is already waiting when you return."

Everyone was respectfully quiet when I returned to the table.

After dinner and the drive back up the mountain, Michael and I changed into our swimsuits and went to the pool before anyone else did.  There we talked it out.  

And for us the decision wasn't as difficult to make as the very idea of making a decision was.  We were already well into the process with Sebastian.  We had already spent weeks dreaming and planning for him.  We were going to be there the day he was born, in the delivery room even, whereas that was not the case with the girl in Iowa.  We had already named him.  Plus, his mom was not working with an agency, we were the people she had chosen, whereas the mom in Iowa had a second choice if we couldn't or wouldn't do it.  Plus, Michael pointed out, the signs seemed pretty evident.  "We were out of the country when the call came and the airport was closed due to a volcanic eruption, I don't know if it could get any clearer than that."

And so I got out of the pool and e-mailed the agency our choice.

The next morning over coffee everyone asked, "So?"  

"It's Sebastian," I answered.


Our Son, Part Four: Family of Four

Part three is here.

"What do we do?" Michael said.  We were sitting with other members of the wedding party, in our drying swim suits, drinking beer in a beachside cafe in Costa Rica having just got word that not only was the process with Sebastian (the boy in Kansas) working its way along, suddenly there was also a girl in Iowa who was available for us to pick up the day we arrived back in the States.  

"Let's go over here by ourselves and talk for a bit."  We walked into the dark and found a place to sit and discussed the big question--"Can we raise two newborn babies?"  It was a fast conversation.  Of course we want more than one child.  If this is the way it happens, then so be it.

We returned to the table and everyone looked up, ready to hear our decision.  "We're going to do both!"  There was a big cheer.

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And then we got to work.  I e-mailed our private adoption agency to bring them up-to-speed on what was going on with the boy in Kansas, as they didn't have the latest word how it had progressed.  We began e-mailing and messaging family and letting them know the situation.  We would also need to have $16,000 for the adoption fees for the Iowa baby, so we started working on how to access that immediately upon arriving in the states (and were humbled by the very quick and helpful responses we received).

Everyone was celebrating with us.  Plus, it was time to head off to dinner with the bride and the groom and the rest of the wedding party.  We hated how much our baby drama was affecting the wedding weekend.  Everyone else was on the roller coaster with us.  We headed for a pizza place about 15 minutes away.

Our huge party had just been seated when my phone began to ring, the first time I'd had a signal for an incoming call in days.  It was the adoption agency.  I grabbed Michael, answered the phone, and ran outside to the alley behind the restaurant for the call.

And quickly she cut to the chase--we couldn't do both.  The agency would not support two processes at the same time.  We'd have to pick.

I handed the phone to Michael so he could hear the same thing I had just heard, and I went across the alley, found a rock to sit on, and began to wail.

 


Our Son, Interlude: His Name

Let us pause in our narrative to discuss his name.

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First off, the surname.  Jones is too common and too boring.  We also didn't want to saddle a kid with a hyphenated name.  Some years ago we read about how kids with hyphenated names get married (especially to another person with a hyphenated name) and then they don't know what to do and surely don't want to have a string of hyphenated names such that they begin to sound like a late 19th century German prince.  Cich is unique and interesting, plus there are a big bunch of Ciches, whereas at this point no Joneses that we are in relationship with because my sister's last name is Adams, my mother's last name is now Stanford, and my Dad was an only child.

Sebastian is simply a name that Michael and I have both liked for a long time.  I think Michael was the first one to mention it in conversation, and I immediately agreed to it.  I link it in memory to the crab in Little Mermaid, of course, but farther back to the boy in Neverending Story (a movie Michael and I both loved as kids).  Of course there is also St. Sebastian.  I'm often drawn to his images in art, and Michael and I saw many representations of him in our 2011 trip to Italy.

Interestingly, Sebastian was rare in America until the 1990's, so we Gen X-ers must like it.  Since then it has been on the rise, peaking in 2012.  Last year it was the 34th most popular boys name in the country, according to this website.  According to this one it is "global hit" currently ranking in the top ten in countries as diverse as Chile, Denmark, and Austria.  The same website says that it is a sophisticated name, which fits with current trends in US baby naming.

Some people have wondered about nicknames.  We aren't going to automatically pick one, assuming that a nickname (if needed) will arise on its own.  Some think Sebastian too long.  Well, if so, then this website lists 16 different nicknames and shortening of the name which are already common.  My preference has been for Basti.  His mom's mom calls him Bash.  And one of my friend's kids already calls him Bash Bash.

Briston is the middle name of one of my great-grandfathers, Arthur Briston Adams (which is a superb name).  I've always liked it and always wanted to use it and am glad that Michael liked it as well.  According to this website, there were only 3 Briston's born in the US last year.  

He has a very diverse name--a globally popular first name that is originally Greek; a very English, old-fashioned middle name; and a surname that is an American shortening of a Polish-German name.


Our Son, Part Three: Raining Babies

“What is that?” I asked.  The sky had suddenly darkened where moments before it had been clear and sunny, with bright blue, mostly cloudless skies.

“I think it’s dust,” Rachel said from the backseat of our small SUV.

My husband Michael, who was driving, said, “There’s lots of construction going on nearby.  Maybe the wind has picked up dust from that."

We were in the cloud now and the particles were sticking to our front windshield making it difficult to see.  “You know,” I said.  “I think it’s an eruption.  A volcano has erupted.  This is an ash cloud.”

Michael looked at me, “Don’t be dramatic.  It’s simply a dust storm.”

We had just driven out of the parking lot of the Wal-Mart in Alajuela, Costa Rica on our way to Uvita, on the Pacific Coast for the wedding that weekend of our friend Sara.  Heading south out of the mountains, we eventually left the cloud behind.  We crossed the crocodile bridge (a bridge over a river where lots of crocodiles live and people stop to see them), passed the resort town of Jaco, and enjoyed views of the Pacific Coast until the sun set.  We learned that the people we were meeting were actually an hour behind us, so we stopped in the town of Quepos for dinner.  We chose the Best Western because the restaurant was on the second floor and overlooked the street where our car was parked with all of our luggage.  We passed some prostitutes (legal in Costa Rica) as we went up for dinner.

As we sat down to our meal, I logged onto the hotel's Wi-Fi system in order to check my messages.  Normally on a trip I don't use my phone, but we wanted to stay in contact with the states in case there were any developments with the baby.

The message that popped up was from our private adoption agency, which was not involved with the baby in Kansas.  Strange, I thought, and clicked on it.  They were happy to announce that a birth mom in Iowa had chosen us for her daughter, could we be there the next morning to take her home?  I blanched and quietly passed the phone to Michael, who read the message and then looked up stunned, "What do we do?"

"I don't know.  We obviously can't get back to Iowa tomorrow."  Suddenly the random dinner conversation turned to a serious set of questions about what we could do and what this meant.  I tried calling the agency, but didn't have a signal.  So I replied by e-mail that we were in Costa Rica and there was no way we could be in Iowa the next morning.

Soon, Sara and others in her party arrived.  We informed them of the situation.  Sara said, "Well, you definitely couldn't get a flight out tomorrow, because the airport is closed.  Did you see the eruption?"

***

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That night we made it to our rental house where we and many in the wedding party were staying for the weekend.  It was a comfortable home with a great pool, nestled on a jungle hillside, with a gorgeous view of the coast and a natural phenomenon of sand bar isthmus and islands called "The Whale's Tail."  The steep dirt road up to the house was somewhat treacherous.  Getting our SUV up the mountain had required us getting out of the car and walking, in the dark, in the jungle.  I had enjoyed it as an adventure--the rest of our party not so much.  Fortunately we never had to do that again, as we never had luggage in the car again, except for when we were pointed down.

The next morning we went for breakfast at a fun little empanada place.  I logged onto their wi-fi and there were two important e-mails.  The first was from our lawyer in Kansas; he had met with birth mom and dad and gone over things and was ready to send us our copies of documents to review and sign, except that first he needed the baby's name.  Suddenly we had moved into the territory of it being official.  We were thrilled.

The other e-mail was from the adoption agency--the mom in Iowa would probably pick someone else then, since we couldn't make it today.  When could we make it though?

Michael and I tried calling the agency.  We did get a signal and were able to leave a voicemail.  We informed them that we would be unable to depart Costa Rica before our scheduled flight, as currently the airport was closed due to a volcanic eruption.  We had waited so long to get a call that there was a baby, but it looked like this one was simply not going to work out.  If we had been in Omaha, that very day we could have been dads.  

We had to finalize a name.  For years we had discussed our favourites, and had narrowed down to a few options, hoping to wait and give a final name to the baby when we saw him.  We quickly made our choice--Sebastian Briston Cich--e-mailed the lawyer, and then celebrated with our friends.

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That day we spent on the lovely Playa Ballena, having the beach almost completely to ourselves.  We ran and played and swam and did yoga and sunbathed and had the most glorious time.  The whole day there was an emotional undercurrent as we made peace with the fact that things would not work out with the baby in Iowa as well.

When we left the beach and sat down to dinner, the e-mail came--the mom in Iowa will wait for you to return from Costa Rica.  "It's raining babies," our friends said.


Our Son, Part Two: Is there a reason you're looking at cribs?

She had two questions--would we be in the delivery room when he was born and what plans did we have for getting him home to Omaha.  Fortunately, we had discussed the latter as we drove down that day.  We had an enthusiastic yes in answer to the first question.  As gay men, we never expected to have the opportunity to be in the delivery room to watch our child being born.  She said our presence there would make it easier for her, knowing that he would immediately be in the arms of the parents who would care for him.

Otherwise, she didn't have any questions about us.  She said that our photo book had pretty much said everything she needed to know; "It was adorable and absolutely perfect," she said.

***

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Making the photo book last year was a surreal experience--how to put in a few words and pictures who you are as a family, and what will expecting moms want to see and know about you?  Due to our somewhat perfectionist natures, it had taken months to get it finished.  We spent countless hours pouring over photos, asking our parents for childhood pictures, writing and revising our words.  Michael did all the layout and design work (since he does have an advertising and marketing degree).

The agency wanted them done on one of those on-line photo book services, which made it easy to produce multiple copies once we had it designed.  We ordered one for ourselves and have had it on our mantle for months.  I often take it down and look over it again, enjoying the photos and the stories.  I've enjoyed it even more since knowing that our son was on his way.

***

The conversation in Pittsburg, Kansas went exceedingly well.  I was so happy that I didn't know what to say.  It was the rare moment when I just smiled and didn't talk very much.  Fortunately Michael asked the questions.

We not only met his mom, but her mom, her sister, two nephews, and her daughter.  This was encouraging, as here was the whole family, supporting this decision for adoption and wanting to meet us.  Her daughter was beautiful and charming.

Jason had arranged the meeting.  We had it in the lobby of the civic auditorium.  The kids were running around and playing.  Jason sat there beaming the entire time, proud to have made the moment happen.  And I guess he was texting people throughout, because later that afternoon we kept running into people who said, "Congrats, I hear the meeting went well."

As we drove back to Omaha that evening gratitude was our overwhelming emotion.  

Though there was still some caution.  An adoption isn't done until it's done.  We didn't rush to make the news public, though we had a wonderful time calling our parents and siblings and telling them all about it as we drove home.  

And then the legal stuff began.  Jason connected us with a good friend of his, a lawyer who was excited to take our case.  He also knew the mom and her family (the older sister actually works with him), and they trusted him.  Phone calls and e-mails started going back and forth, as he began working on all the necessary documents.

At the same time we began doing some research and making to do lists.  One Saturday we went baby shopping, just browsing all the stores and researching what was out there and what we liked (and didn't).  Early in the day Michael said, "We're going to be broke."

We were at the Furniture Mart in the crib section, when a couple of friends walked by.  They said "Hi" with a quizzical, questioning tone.  "Hi" we answered guardedly.  After a pause with awkward smiles, they said, "So . . . is there a reason you're looking at cribs?"


Our Son, Part One: You Can Touch Him

"You can touch him," the nurse said, looking over at Michael and I who had been standing a little to the side (and crying) as our son was delivered and then laid on his mother's belly to be cleaned up.  As she was holding him with her left arm, I walked over and reached out, brushing his left hand, which then reached up and grabbed my finger, and I cried some more.

April 29, 2015--the day our son Sebastian was born.  Today, May 18, 2015 we received the documents and the adoption is now final.  

 

Back in October, Jason Huffman called.  "Today I ran into a young woman I used to work with.  She told me that her younger sister was pregnant and was considering adoption.  I told her, 'My best friend and his husband are trying to adopt, would she want to see their information?'  And she does.  What can you send me?"

We sent the photo book we had completed that summer, working with a private adoption agency.  This was the most promising lead so far, though we had learned that there are often a number of possibilities before the right one works out.  We had also been told, from our very first adoption workshop in 2010, that someone you know will know someone and that's how it will happen, so be sure that everyone you know knows that you are trying to adopt.

Jason showed her our photo book, told her about us, and answered her questions.  She liked what she saw, but decided she wanted to explore more possibilities.  Then a few months later we heard that she wasn't sure about adoption, but if she did decide for it, we were choice.  By winter I wasn't thinking actively of this possibility anymore.  Instead, we would occasionally hear from our private adoption agency about some mom that they were showing our materials too, and we were taking foster parent classes to renew our license.

Then, one Thursday at the end of February I was at a clergy breakfast when Rabbi Brown asked, "How is the adoption process going?"  I unloaded all of my frustration and disappointment and anger even that we had been trying everything we could for years and still nothing seemed to be happening.

Two hours after breakfast, my cell phone rang.  I was sitting at my desk in my church office, and when I looked down at the phone, it was Jason calling.  Jason would only call during the work day for one reason.  I answered with restrained excitement.

After very brief small talk he said, "She's decided to put her child up for adoption.  She's picked you guys.  And she wants to meet as soon as you can."  I think I made it through the phone call without crying, but just barely.

Then I called Michael, and he definitely cried as I told him.  And we made plans--that Saturday we would drive the almost five hours to meet the woman who would make this miracle happen.


"God only knows what I'd be without you"

Post number fifteen in this series as I listen to our cd collection in alphabetical order.

My step-dad spent his adolescences in Long Beach.  He was a tall, thin, blonde surfer.  He remembers going to an outdoor Beach Boys concert when he was pretty young.  Last year he and Mom traveled to Long Beach for a walk down memory lane.

My own father tried surfing once, according to the story my mother told.  They were living in Hawaii at the time.  She said Dad couldn't get the hang of it, and that he ended up with his head buried in the sand.  

My parents lived in Honolulu when they were newlyweds in their early twenties.  This always sounds so romantic to me.  Of course, Dad was in the Navy, therefore away from home for long stretches of time.  But I'm sure when he was home, they really enjoyed themselves.  My favourite story was always about Thanksgiving.  They had lunch together, called their parents, put up their Christmas tree, and then went to the beach for the rest of the day.  

The Beach Boys are among the musicians they'd listen to on the radio as we drove long distances in our car, reminiscing about their youth.

I own Pet Sounds because it is fantastic music, of course.  Yet listening to it does make me nostalgic for the stories of my parents as young adults.

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Extra Smooth

Aaliyah

I didn't own any Aaliyah albums before Michael and I got together.  In the 1990's I wasn't (generally) collecting soul and R&B divas.  But Michael sure was.  He has quite the collection of Whitney, Mariah, Beyonce, etc. 

When I'm talking to couples about their impending nuptials, I often ask them what their favourite music is.  The responses are often humourous--one is into rap and another country, or (even worse) one is very particular and into obscure alternative bands and the other one likes Katy Perry.  The couples will tell stories of how one of them took the other one to a concert, and they simply endured it, or (occasionally) really enjoyed themselves.  

When Michael moved in with me in 2007, we kept our cd collections separate.  I did merge our books, but that didn't go so well.  I did it without asking, hoping it would demonstrate my desire for the house to be his place too and that I was opening up the space and fully incorporating him into it.  Books for me were symbolic in this way (like Bryan giving Justin a drawer early in their relationship in Queer as Folk).  

But, for Michael, it was me exerting control and incorporating him into my life and the house on my terms (I didn't think of that).  Plus, he could never figure out my book organizing scheme.  Keeping our cds apart, then, was probably also a way to make it easy just in case we ever parted (remember the fight over the record collection in St. Elmo's Fire?).

When we moved to Omaha in 2010, Michael merged the two cd collections.  He did the organizing this time.  Though he did it the same way I would have (alphabetical order).  He was particular in one way: band names went by the first word and solo artists by the last name, so Ben Folds Five is organized under B and solo albums by Ben Folds are under F.  Michael also eliminated duplicates.  I took all this as a sign of relationship permanency.

This new year I've decided to listen through our entire cd collection.  I did something similar with only my cds in the autumn of 2008.  Listening to everything will remind me of cds I've forgotten.  It will also mean that, for the first time, I'll listen to all the things that Michael brought to the relationship.

Which is why I began with Aaliyah.  This week I've listened to three albums.  It is smooth music to play in the background while one is working.  But it simply isn't the type of music I was collecting in my twenties.  But Michael was.  What can I learn about my spouse from listening to his music?  I'm not sure yet. 

In my twenties I was generally into alternative rock, which dominated the radio and my group of friends.  We were, clearly, more about angst than smooth and sexy.  What does that say about us?

So, I'm looking forward to this listening (and writing) journey through our cd collection.  Please share your own comments and stories as we go along.

 


Ornament Series: The Elephant

On our tree hangs a sparkly, red elephant.

Elephant

I forget exactly where we found this ornament, but we knew immediately we needed to buy it.  The reason is that Michael's Mom collects elephants.  In her home are display cabinets filled with all sizes and types of elephants.  Whenever Michael sees one, he thinks of his Mom.  

My mother-in-law, Ninfa Cich, is a hard-working woman.  She is an immigrant from the Philippines who has often worked three jobs at a time while also running the family business back home.  She has used her money to put all of her nieces and nephews through college and to otherwise support the family back home.  Despite all this hard work and surviving cancer, she is still petite and beautiful in her mid-60's.  

Michael decided when our niece Zoe was born that she would also be into elephants.  Every year we've gotten her some sort of elephant-themed gift.  This year it was a comforter and sheet set with pink elephants on it (along with yet another stuffed elephant).

So, every December, as we admire our tree, the red elephant reminds us of Michael's Mom.


Ornament Series: The White House

Every year there is an official White House ornament that is sent out to probably hundreds or thousands of people.  We have the official ornament for 2006.

White House

Not because we were big donors to George W.  Michael worked for a part of the university which handled all sorts of government contracts.  The agency received the official ornament every year, and that particular year Michael's boss gave it to Michael.

It's a beautiful ornament, though we don't particularly care for it reminding us of the occupant in 2006 every time we are decorating our tree.