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One year ago, today, a 19-year-old girl made the biggest, bravest, most selfless decision of her life and changed our lives forever.  We were finally going to be parents.  After years of infertility challenges, health problems, and disappointment, it was finally in our future.

Jennings and I were on our way to Beaufort on April 12, 2019 to visit our friends Dave and Mindy when our adoption consultant, Melanie called us.

“What are y’all doing?”

“On our way to Beaufort for the weekend, “I answered.

“Well, when can you get back to town?” she asked.  “I am showing your book tomorrow, and I think this is the one.  I think you guys are a perfect match.”

“We can be back whenever you need us to be.”

“Ok, well I am meeting with them Sunday, and if they choose you, I am going to want y’all to go meet them Monday night, because she’s due in June. This is going to move fast.  She is a 19-year-old girl, no drugs or alcohol.  I will let you know more later.”

“We’ll be home Sunday.” And with that she hung up and Jennings and I were on pins and needles all weekend.  This wasn’t the first time we’d had our book shown, that we’d be excited only to not be chosen.  I had stayed up all night one school night redoing our whole “book” so she could show it the next day. That didn’t work out.  Every situation that didn’t work out broke us down a little bit more.

Just two weeks before this phone call, I had turned fifty and told Jennings that I was done.  I told him I couldn’t keep dragging this out indefinitely.  We had been trying for years and after miscarriages, 1 failed adoption and being passed over time and again, I just couldn’t face the disappointment anymore.  I have cried oceans of tears through this ordeal and didn’t think I had it in me anymore.  After Melanie called, I said, Ok, this is the last time. It’s now or never.

My entire life, I wanted to have kids.  I always said I wanted to have a soccer team of kids, only half joking.  One of the hardest parts about not being able to have kids and having adoptions fall through is that I was failing at something.  I have ALWAYS accomplished something if I set my mind to it.  I just seemed so unimaginable that I wasn’t going to be a mom.  I was failing. I mean, this was unprecedented.  I wanted to go to college, so I made it happen.  I wanted to work in a law firm, done.  I wanted to teach, yep, did it.  I decided when I was 42, Ok, I am going to meet the man I am supposed to marry. It’s time to get serious. I’m getting old.  So, I went on a million horrible dates, but they led me to Jennings, and I’d do it all again.  So, now, I wanted to have kids, and I couldn’t. My body wouldn’t cooperate.  Adopting had turned out to be equally as difficult.  Now, I had one last chance.

We came home early on that Sunday and waited and waited.  Finally, we decided, well, they must not have picked us. Let’s go to bed.  We were lying in bed when the phone rang at like 11 o’clock at night.  It was Melanie.  I have never had a bigger batch of butterflies in my stomach than I did when I answered that phone.  Her first words brought me to tears “Well, are y’all ready to be parents to a little girl in June?”  They had chosen us!  It was so surreal.  We were both in tears.  Melanie was in tears, and arrangements were made for dinner the next day.  We got our instructions from Melanie as to what we needed to do. It was like courting someone.  We were to show up with gifts and a card and don’t say this and don’t say that.

That Monday night, April 14th at Fatz Café, we met the two people who had chosen us to be parents to the life they had created.  They were so sweet and young.  We were so nervous. But the Birth mom and I felt an immediate connection.  She texted me that night and said after meeting us she knew she had made the right choice.  Over the next two months, we spent hours together getting to know each other, talking about her dreams and hopes and plans, how she and the boyfriend just weren’t at the place in their lives to give a child everything she’d want to give her.  She was not a religious person, but she felt like God had brought us together, that she had gotten pregnant so that Jennings and I could be parents.  Every minute I spent with her I just couldn’t believe this young girl could be so selfless and loving to a couple of people she had just met.  She wanted nothing in return but for us to give this baby the best life possible.  She is loving, kind, brave and generous.  There will never be enough thank yous in the world for us to give her.  Whenever she talks about Harvie, she always says that she was meant to be our baby and she was meant to have her for us.  She was so young, but so mature and practical.

When the time came for Harvie to be born, the four of us spent three long days and nights at the hospital waiting for her to make her appearance.  I was in the room, holding birth mom’s hand while she had contractions and was crying and scared.  I was right beside her as she pushed Harvie into the world.  She laughed at me for crying as the baby’s little head crowned, and I got my first glimpse of our daughter. Then when the time came, birth mom said, “She’s your daughter.  You should do it”, and I cut her umbilical cord, and we all cried together.   From that moment on, we created a bond that no one else has.  It was scary thinking, what if she changes her mind now that baby was her, but deep down, I knew this was real.  That night Harvie slept in a room with us, and the birth parents slept in a room alone.  I know this was not easy for her, and I know she mourned for a bit.  She would not change her mind and the next morning she signed her parental rights over, and all that was left was a court date to make it official.

Our love for her is enduring.  Our story is special.  Not all adoptive situations are like ours.  We continue to stay in contact with her and the birth father.  I send pictures and videos.  Why wouldn’t I share those joys with this person who gave us so much?  What does it hurt me to do that for her? The five of us have gone to eat and visit more than once.  We want her to know that Harvie is happy, well-adjusted and cared for in every way.  She is ecstatic that our little family is so happy and that she had such a crucial role in making it complete.   Now she says, when she has her own children, she wants me by her side in the room coaching her through because I made her feel safe and loved.  And if at all possible, I will be there to do it again.  Harvie will know she is adopted.  She will know these people, and she will know that she was always loved and always wanted.  All I can offer her is my small thank you and the promise to give all that I can to this little treasure that she made for me.

 

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I am sure most of you are sitting around thinking, “What is going on with Kim’s uterus?”  Obviously, since a woman’s uterus is up for public discussion, this is a natural thought for you to be having.  As you know, Jennings and I have been struggling to have a baby for the nearly 5 years now.  We wanted to do this the natural, romp in the hay way, but that’s not an option for us now. We also can’t buy any eggs and IVF isn’t an option either.  So really, all that was left was adoption, which seems to have stalled out for a while now.

Well, last year, I had horrendous monthly “cycles” (that’s periods for you not of sensitive mindsets).  I won’t get into the disgusting details, but they were the worst experiences each month. After discovering that my uterus was the same size it was when I was 4 months pregnant and we lost our baby, my doctor decided I need to have two procedures.  Apparently, it never returned to normal size.  As we all know, I always have to be the odd ball.  This predicament was not atypical.  Anyway, my doctor had to perform a hysteroscopy and an ablation.  You can look them up if you want to know the details, but they were supposed to help reduce the severity of my periods each month and help shrink my uterus.  Then, I was told, “Now, that you’ve had these procedures, you can under no circumstances become pregnant.”   We’ll decide in a few months if/when we’ll schedule your hysterectomy.

Well, that was that.   It was basically a really emotional, terribly sad time for us.  Admitting that one dream you have had your entire life is now gone is devastating as fuck.  But you pack it up with the other disappointments in life and move forward.

As a result of these procedures, I was taking a low-dose, continual-dose progesterone birth control bill.  Thankfully, it did help my menstrual problems, but it had some side effects.  Oh, I have also been anemic for years, so I take an iron prescription that costs $68 a month, with insurance. With the procedure, the lesser periods and the iron pills my hemoglobin is now up to 12.5!  I have had it as low as 7.9, so everyone was really pleased.  I also have been able to up the hysterectomy off indefinitely, so there’s another plus.  No baby for you, but at least you don’t feel like aliens are shredding your giant uterus.  Meanwhile, the fertility gods will impregnate these fourteen year olds and these drug addicts, and other idiots who can’t take care of themselves much less a baby.

Poor Jennings has suffered greatly.  The primary side effect that I have dealt with is NO LIBIDO.  None.  Now, I am a liker of the sex. Seriously, when it’s consensual and loving, it’s the greatest!  Jennings is patient and loving and kind, so he didn’t put up too much complaint.  On top of that, I was also coming to terms with our infertility, so I was a handful.

Fast forward to today. I went to talk to my doctor, who I really like, and figure out what to do.  I will now be using an IUD.  The doctor says I am not menopausal yet, but when that happens, this will help with that as well.  The doctor was hilarious telling Jennings to watch out because I would be a handful now.  He was laughing and making funny faces like he was really cool picking on Jennings, who was on the phone.  So that’s the latest.

It has been like coming to terms with the death of someone you really love.

I decided to share this intimate store because men love to tell us what to do with our bodies, so I thought they were entitled to the full story.  I deleted the literally gory details, because I know they are quite sensitive so such matters.

And, remember, never ask a couple why they don’t have kids. Or if they want kids. Or whatever else you think is your business, because it’s not.

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In January 1986, I was an 11th grader at Dreher High School.  I was a Library Aide for one of my class periods.  There weren’t televisions in every classroom or SmartBoards or computers.  We had a few TVs on AV carts that were borrowed by teachers.  On this day, there were only so many to go around.  One of the self-contained classes had come to the library to watch the Challenger lift off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on one of the televisions we did have in that area.

This was important in SC and in schools because we had home state hero, Ronald McNair and teacher, Christa McAuliffe on board. It wasn’t common to watch the lift offs, but occasionally we would in a science class.  The librarian, myself, the special education teacher and her aide and a handful of students from the self-contained classroom were all standing up watching the lift off.  For most people who watched the tragedy unfold, they remember the sight of that explosion and witnessing the deaths of the brave men and women on board.  While I do remember that, the moment I remember most about that day was when Helen, one of the students in that class of students who had come to the library excited to witness this event.  She was stricken.  As soon as it was clear that this was a fatal event, she let loose the most pained, heart-wrenching cry.  “NOOOOO!  THERE’S A TEACHER ON THAT SPACESHIP! NOOO! SHE CAN’T DIE!”  She just fell down and started crying and repeating this over and over.  She was utterly inconsolable.  I felt so sorry her, and her raw emotion and utter sadness touched every person in that room.

She was finally able to be led to the nurse, where her parents were called to come get her.  She missed several days afterward.  Apparently, she had to be sedated and kept that way for several days until she was able to come to terms with the tragedy.

Even today, 32 years later, that is the image that comes to me whenever the Challenger tragedy is discussed.  As a teacher, we take our students to the Challenger Center that we have here in my town.  The Challenger Center provides students with hands-on activities and experiences related to NASA and the space program.

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June 4, 1987, I had it ALL planned out, no vision boards necessary. The next ten years were all laid out in my head.  I would go to the College of Charleston, live with my best friend, become a child psychologist, find Mr. Right, get married, have 3 kids (all boys) and live happily ever after.  HAHAHA!  Oh, how much I knew at 18.  I did go to C of C and live with Amy Jo.  That’s about as far as I got in my 10-year plan.  During my Freshman year, I met and fell in love with who thought was my Mr. Right.  We were together for 4 years, then broke up the month I graduated.  During my Sophomore year, I decided I didn’t want to be a child psychologist.  I had always thought about teaching and law school.  So, obviously, the next step was to obtain a very useful English degree.  While I was doing that, I was also taking education classes so I could teach when I graduated, until I went to law school.  Changing my major and my overly active social life, plus working three jobs screwed up my credit hours, I ended up getting to the end of my financial aid eligibility and not finishing my student teaching.  I graduated.  I moved home.  I got a job in a law firm.  I got my paralegal certificate.

All that time, I was living with my grandmother.  Ultimately, we would live together until her death.  She could not financially take care of herself when she got too old to work, so I took over the bills.  I was glad to do it.  She had worked hard her entire life.  She deserved some time to lounge around and a little pocket money from her Social Security check.

Fast forward 20 years from my high school graduation.  My grandma passes away.  She had been ill and chose to no longer take her medications.  The event in my life that I am most proud of is allowing her the dignity of her death. She never wanted to be in a hospital, hooked up to machines.  My entire life she had always told us she wanted to die at home.  That was my last gift to her.  She died in her bed surrounded by her family and friends.  I will never regret that decision.

So, I still hadn’t found Mr. Right, had three sons but I was living pretty happily, aside from the normal grief that comes with life and death.  Ultimately, I did find and marry Mr. Right.  Unfortunately, it was rather late in life and I don’t know that we will have 1 child, much less three.  I can take some solace in knowing that I have had the joy of impacting the lives of hundreds of children.

Now, 30 years later, almost to the day, my senior class is celebrating and preparing for our reunion.  I am seeing lots of family and friends graduate or promote from kindergarten, middle school, high school and college.  I think about all of those high school and college graduates and their “plans”.  I can only offer advice that at 18 or 22 you’re probably not going to think is very realistic.

First, take chances.  Don’t sit and wait for anything to come to you.  It won’t.  Whether it’s a job opportunity or that special girl or guy, you have to go after it.  Time is not on your side.  In one blink, you are 30 then 40 then 30 again (haha).

Second, forgive.  Don’t hold grudges or hatred towards someone else, if you can avoid it.  It only makes you feel bad.  They usually don’t even know or care.  Forgiveness is more for you than for the other person.  It allows you to move on.

Third, don’t wait.  That’s similar to taking chances, but different.  Don’t wait for that ex-girlfriend to realize she wants you back.  Don’t wait until your 40 and then decide you want to go to law school, but realize you have too many adult responsibilities to justify another $100k for schooling.

Fourth, have fun!  There are so many amazing things you can do.  Travel alone, meet new people.  Take that class in class French cuisine or creative writing.  Plant flowers in the yard because you LIKE that, not because you want your yard to live up to the Joneses down the road.  Be silly.  It’s okay to laugh at yourself.  It’s pretty necessary actually to keep a sane mind

Fifth, let the people you love know it.  I have a friend whose parents never say they love each other or even tell this man or his sister that they love them.   I tell my husband multiple times a day that I love him.

Sixth, actions speak louder than words.  Sometimes idioms enter our culture because they are true.  Thought you may tell others you love them, SHOW them you love them. Clean up the cat barf because you know your wife doesn’t like to.  Call and make the dental appointment because you know your husband hates talking on the phone.  You can still be a snarky jackass and show kindness.  Just ask me, I do it every day.

Seventh, cut the people out who need to be cut out.  Sometimes, we have to “break up” with friends and even family because they are toxic to our lives.  We must watch out for ourselves sometimes.  It’s not easy, but sometimes it is necessary for your well-being.

Eighth, sometimes we don’t know everything.  Whether you’re new to a job or in a workplace, whether you are going through an illness or a divorce, SOMEONE has been there before and can give you reassurances, guidance and an empathic ear.

Ninth, step out of your comfort zone.  Try new things that scare you! Public speaking! Parachuting out of an airplane! Asking that person out! Getting out of your rut will invigorate you!

Tenth, finally, ignore all of this if you want, because ultimately, it’s your life to live and no one can judge you for your decisions and how you carve your path.  As long as your actions don’t inflict harm on others, trudge on.

I’m not writing this just for you nubile adults just graduating.  Sometimes we old folks need a reminder, too.

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Since I was a small girl, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday.  When I was little, Gramma would pull up a chair for me to stand in and let me help her cook. I learned to make a lot of dishes that way, but Thanksgiving was special. After helping her “prepare” dinner, we would make place mates or name cards for the family coming to eat.   Soon, my aunt and uncle would show up with my cousins and we’d be ushered to the yard to play until dinner time if it wasn’t too cold.  If it was too cold, we would go play in our bedroom.  My sister and cousins and I would create all sorts of games and scenarios to keep us busy. Sometimes, we’d talk my uncle in to playing with us because he would rough house and toss us around.  My mom may or may not show up, but when I was little, most of the time she found her way home for holiday meals.

I always liked it when my gramma and her daughters (my mom and aunt) were together because they’d start telling stories about people they used to know and old memories.  It was one of the few times I would be still and quiet so they wouldn’t notice me, and I could eavesdrop on them.  We would eat so much that I always joked about wearing sweatpants on that day.  That night, sometimes Kelli’s friend would come over and we’d eat leftovers and goof off. Friday, we ALWAYS ate turkey clubs and chips, made the RIGHT way, according to her, with 3 slices of toast.

Gramma died right before the holidays and it was heart-wrenching for me.  She loved the holidays as much as I did. She loved cooking for everyone and having all of us at the house. The year before she died, she became obsessed with Thanksgiving dinner, the actual meal.  We had several turkeys in the freezer, and periodically throughout that year, she would want to cook a Thanksgiving feast, with all the fixings and trimmings, invite family over and be together.  It was exhausting, but she knew her time left with us was limited, and she wanted to make the most of it.  So I obliged her.  I got up at the crack of dawn (because Thanksgiving meals were ALWAYS at 1:00 p.m., as well as most holiday or Sunday dinners), get the turkey prepped and in the oven for her.  I only started with the really intensive help after she broke several glass pie plates and baking dishes getting a baking dish out for a casserole.  She would do the lighter stuff: peel potatoes, mash them after they were cooked, prepare the sweet potato casserole, etc. I handled the stuffing, the turkey, most of the other veggies, the bread and the actual being in the kitchen.  We got her an extra-long oxygen tube so she could get to the kitchen and still be able to breathe, but it was still exhausting for her.

I grumbled about it to friends and some family, but never to her.  I knew it was important to her.  Now, 7 years later, I am thankful that she and I had that time together and that I was able to make her happy.   Now, I am married and my husband and I got married a week after Thanksgiving.  We are starting our own family traditions and ways of doing things. I hope one day, if we’re blessed enough to have any children, that I can make holidays fun and memorable for them.  We are starting this year by taking our first holiday trip, a tradition I hope to continue one day.

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Known

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I was just looking at my cat, Gus, thinking, “I have known you all but 3 weeks of your little kitty cat life”.  That got me thinking, about who I have known all of their lives, from the minute they were born.  Then I started thinking about who has known me since I was born. At this point, the only person who has known me all the years I was alive during their life time was my gramma. We lived together the first 18 years; I went to college and came home to live with her for the next 18.  Even in college or when I was out of town, there wasn’t a full week that went by that we didn’t at least talk on the phone.  I can’t say that about anyone else.  I have known my niece and nephew since they were born, my cousins, my sister, but there have been gaps in the times I have been in communication with them. 

This isn’t the first time, that I have gotten teary-eyed thinking that the person I loved the most on the planet isn’t here.  The person who drove me crazy, made me laugh, encouraged me, scolded me is gone. The one person who was always there.  If you have a one person who is always there, don’t lose that.  My cousin can say that about her children.  She is always there for them.  She knows what’s going on in their lives.  She loves them unconditionally.

I know lots of people who are close to their parents and talk weekly, monthly, daily.  I know that my friends and others might think I “wasted” my youth living with Gramma, caring for her, dealing with her when others couldn’t and wouldn’t. I have never felt that way.  I have never regretted keeping her with me until literally the minute she died.  It is the thing I am proudest of, and not to toot my own horn, but I have plenty to be proud of, but this is it for me. 

She would have been 83 this year, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I do think about her daily.  More days than not it’s to laugh about something silly she did or said.  Sometimes, I see an older lady in a grocery store, drug store, restaurant, sitting at a bus stop, and I suck in my breath because they strike a resemblance or dig up a lost memory. I have gotten past the crying every time I talk about her stage of grieving, but holidays are still not as fun as they once were, and her birthday is no exception.  We always celebrated our birthdays big in my family.  For her 75th birthday, I called all over town to find a florist who would deliver 75 gladiolas to her.  Most just didn’t have that many, but one older woman was so touched by it, that she tracked down 75 for me and delivered them all.  When I got home, Gramma said, “Well, I guess I know what my funeral will be like”.  She loved them, but a morbid sense of humor is a family trait.

She loved cardinals as well.  Whenever I see one, I take that as a greeting from her, a little, “You’ll be fine”. So, tomorrow or any other day if you see a cardinal, just know that I’ll be fine. 

 

 

 

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– Tonight, I have a raging headache that I have been fighting for days. I am now drugged up on Benadryl and Dalmane, hoping for some sleep.

– I have had a roller coaster week, and right now I am on a down slope. I can see a little curve up ahead, but I don’t know if that’s going to take me back up or further down.  I’m not sad, so don’t be sending me all these little pity comments. I am just frustrated, confused, broke and ready for good things to happen on a regular basis.

– It has been a shitty year, and I am ready for the next six months to be awesome. The first six have sucked in a major way.   If there was just one area of my life that was AMAZING, the mediocre parts wouldn’t be as oppressive.

– Really, the problem is I am not used to failing at things I attempt.  (Except Algebra)  Somehow, a specific area of my life has proven time and again to be a failure. Please no homey epithets or clichés.  I am NOT a fatalist.  I am realistic and pragmatic.  I am also about ready to throw in the proverbial towel.

– I have always worried about meat going bad in the fridge, but after hours of watching Food Network, and watching them let meat sit in a marinade for 3 and 4 days, I am rethinking this.

– I was a late bloomer, and did not date a lot in high school.  I didn’t for a while, but this year I tried to be more proactive, but I have at least been going on dates pretty regularly this year. I pretty much hate it. I like being in a relationship, but I hate the dating process.  I hate all that wondering and doubting and insecurity.  This is why it’s just easier to be single.

– I am really baffled by people who still vote for bad politicians. I don’t mean bad as in “evil”, I mean they suck at their jobs.  I am not going to continue to vote for someone who is doing a shitty job just because they have a D beside their name.

– As a child and well into adulthood, I was obsessed with bubblegum and blowing bubbles. I have spent thousands of dollars on Bubble Yum, Hubba Bubba, Fortune gum, Bubblicious, Super Bubble.  Once, I start chewing it, it is almost physically impossible to stop myself.

– I need to find some duck fat and cook something in it. It is apparently the culinary shit.

– I also am beginning to think I need to move to a new state or city.   I don’t think I’m a suitable Southern Girl, which has resulted in my chronic singular status.  Although, on occasion I meet someone who makes me think, maybe…. I am looking at options for relocation within the year. Shhh, don’t tell my friends.

– Parents, you should go ahead and tell kids now that life is going to be hard and nothing will go according to plan.  Right now, my godmother is struggling financially, and I think she’s a bit lonely.  When I was younger money never seemed to strap her like it does now, but she was ill and had to quit working for a while. Now she’s trying to find work, but it’s not easy for a women in her 60s to obtain gainful employment, although she is VERY skilled. I am sure this is not how she planned her twilight years to be. I can guarantee that this is not the adulthood I thought I’d have.

– I wish bacon was low fat and healthy.  I’d be in tip top shape.

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