open adoption

Life in the Tension

Sometimes I like to imagine what my kids will remember me teaching them throughout their childhood. What will stick? Will they remember all the "I love you's?" Will the "you're so brave's" and "tell me about your day's" be the words that become fastened to their memory? Or will something else overshadow the sweet and encouraging sentiments? One thing I frequently tell them that they find less favorable (but I am certain they will remember me saying) is "that is not a real problem." Let's run this down so we are all clear on what a real problem is in our house.

Scenario 1: You are four years old and you have no food to eat. At all. Ever.

Correct, that's a real problem. 

Scenario 2: You are four years old and you do not like "beet taste." 

Not even close to a real problem. (Also, beets are delicious.)  

Scenario 3: You must spend a half a day walking to a source of (questionably) drinkable water. 

Yes, this. This is a real problem. 

Scenario 4: Your food touches.  

No. Having your hot, nutritious food touch other bits of hot, nutritious food? That is - comically - not a real problem. 

You can see how they might remember me saying this. Because it is said frequently. And trust me, we are a big 'feelings' house. We talk about our feelings, we validate each others feelings, we use lots of expressive feeling words. There is no shutting down how they might feel about beets. This is a safe space to feel strong dislike for "beet taste." While I strive to always hear and even affirm their feelings, I don't pretend for a second that this is a real problem. 

I was discussing this with my friend Megan the other day. (Some of you might remember her from previous #AdamsActs posts about the heartbreaking loss of one of their sweet little twin girls, Zoey.) Megan and I were discussing our very low threshold for problems-that-aren't-really-problems. I think that low threshold is directly correlated with experiencing great and tragic loss. It changes you. It changes your perspective on what suffering is. It changes your capacity to tolerate complaints about that which is not a real problem. 

When facing challenges of various kinds, the leaders at our church will often use this phrase, "This is a tension to manage, not a problem to solve." Ugh... I love this, and oh how I wish that this concept would go ahead and just embed itself in my memory already! There are some challenges in my life that I have viewed as problems I desperately need to solve. Or avoid. Or feel sorry for myself about. These "problems" are not really problems to solve, they are simple tensions to manage. 

Instead of graciously managing the tensions, I have tried to control the tensions. I have tried solving the tensions. I have attempted to escape or avoid or blame the tensions. Shoot, I'd punch the tensions in the face if I could. Yet, nothing changes... the tension remains.

I recently shifted my definition of a problem to something more like this: a problem is only a problem if there is an actionable step one can take to work toward a solution. If no actionable step can be taken, there can be a lot of tension. That tension needs to be managed in a healthy way.

Parenting a child with a pretty severe behavioral disorder can feel a heck of a lot like a life-consuming problem. Except for one thing... there is no actionable step that I can possibly take to work toward a solution.

I must live in the tension. 

I can pray in the tension. I can cry in the tension. I can seek wise counsel in the tension. I can adjust my attitude about the tension. But I cannot solve it. I must accept it. 

The focus then is not on how to "solve" my son's disorder, but on how I can remain emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy enough to manage the tension that surfaces in light of my son's disorder.   

You may be wondering, "Who cares? What's the difference?" But the difference is everything. It's the difference between overwhelming shame that I cannot heal my child, and accepting him where he's at in his process. It's the difference between feeling exhausted and infuriated by the sheer volume of time spent supervising every little move, and recognizing our family's need for respite in order to prevent that fury and exhaustion. 

The difference is the understanding that I cannot play the Holy Spirit in my child's life. In the tension, I can only manage my own reactions, my own health, my relationships. But in the tension, I can know that I did not cause my child to have Reactive Attachment Disorder any more than I can cause my child's aversion to the glorious taste of a perfectly roasted sugarbeet. 

I did not cause either of these phenomena, and I cannot "cure" them either. I can only manage myself in the tension. 

It's hard to suffer well. And the greatest suffering occurs when there is no actionable step to take, because we cannot solve our way out of our pain. We cannot bring back the child that died. Or the parent who left. We cannot heal the primal wound that is left within the child who is separated from his first mother. 

We must simply learn to live, and accept, and love, in the tension.

So, when my five little ones are all grown and they reflect back upon their childhood, I hope that what they remember most is all the expressions of love, encouragement and adoration. Yet, I don't mind if they also remember me clarifying the difference between a real problem - real suffering - and something that is simply a tension to manage. Not only do I hope they remember hearing me speak these truths into their life, but I hope they remember me living, and loving, in the tensions... and teaching them to someday do the same. 


Jay, age four, confronting his greatest fear, a beet.  


Today we had Jaylen's ABR test (audio brainstem response) which is a natural sleep test that took about 3 hours to complete. We were not surprised to discover that Jaylen is, in fact, hearing impaired. The bottom line is that Jaylen has mild/moderate hearing loss in both ears and will be fitted for his first pair of hearing aids in June.

We were very surprised to learn that his hearing loss was not considered more profound, since he rarely (if ever) responds to any sound, even very loud noises close to his ears. What is difficult about this is that he SHOULD technically be able to hear conversational speech, but is not responding to it. At this point, this means that the concern is less about his ears now and more about the brain. Basically hearing aids should make the full spectrum of sound available to him, but that won't necessarily mean he can process/receive sound properly. The audiologist confirmed that the hearing loss was likely caused by gentamicin poisoning (toxic levels of the antibiotics he was given at birth.)

We are still processing this new information since, as I already said, we can clap or shout right next to Jaylen's ears, and he usually won't even blink. We are also trying to wrap our minds around what it means to receive sound, but not be able to respond to it. This new discovery puts significantly more stock into the brain MRI. We were originally undecided about whether or not we were going to do pursue that test,the but after today, I would have them to the MRI tomorrow if they would let us.

Without a good look at his brain, there is no way of knowing what is causing the disconnect between receiving some sound and his ability to startle when appropriate, or turn toward a loud sound or voice.

I am exhausted and confused. I had prepared myself for the "worst case scenario" and was feeling excited about
moving forward with some answers and a plan, no matter what the diagnosis was. I felt confident that we would be able to work with any challenges that we faced, and that there were going to be awesome and exciting things that we wouldn't get to experience with a hearing child. I felt prepared to tackle the challenges and move in a clear direction. The only thing I was really unwilling to tolerate was more unknowns... Surprise! We know less now than when we started. Well, it feels that way at least.

The good news is that none of this surprises the One who created Jaylen. Each of Jay's days has been written out since the beginning of time, so I am praising the Lord that He is neither shocked by this (nor as irritated) as I am. For anyone willing to fall on your faces in prayer, we would ask that you pray specifically for quick answers. I don't think there is anything wrong with asking God to do a miracle... I'll take one for sure! More than anything though, I am asking God for provision no matter what his health situation is. I don't ever want anyone to think that God failed if He doesn't choose to make Jaylen hear or process sound the way you and I do. Perhaps the true miracle would be loving him just the way he is and enjoying all that he will teach us through the way HE hears and processes.

That being said, I am praying for sheer speed in receiving answers. I can take whatever they tell us. God will provide all the Jaylen (and we) need. I can let God stretch me, and I can trust that He loves Jay even more than we do. But Mama needs some fast answers, because I can do a lot of things, but waitin' ain't one.

in the NAME of love.

After going back and forth about the risks vs. benefits of sharing baby boy's name and picture before the 30 day window closes, I have decided to share his name. I will not be posting a photograph until the 30 days pass, out of respect for his biological family, but his name is the same whether she changes her mind or not, as we have decided to keep the name Miss N. gave him at birth. So, wether she ultimately chooses to parent, or we continue to... his name will remain the same.

I know his face will also remain the same no matter who has the privilege of parenting him, but the difference is that it would no longer be our right to share his photograph publicly.

Throughout our two and a half year adoption process, we have been planning on using the name Judah, should we have a baby boy. We wanted to remain open to any given names though, and were pleased to hear that Miss N. chose such a sweet and lovable name for him, one that was very meaningful to her. Knowing this, and loving the name, we decided to keep it, but to add in a little meaning of our own.

So, we are pleased to announce that on January 28, 2013 at 6:02pm our sweet Jaylen Jonathan Khalil Capuano was born in Bronx, NY... Weighing in at 7 pounds 13 ounces.

Khalil is to honor N's beloved uncle, and Jonathan is to honor one of Tom's brothers... Jaylen's beloved uncle Jonny, who has played a very large role in helping us raise some funding for adoption fees. Jonathan spent countless hours designing beautiful and unique t-shirts and dresses that he screen-prints by hand, out of the goodness of his heart. His work has helped take the edge off of the huge financial burden of paying for a second adoption.

Jaylen's name means "calm" and "tranquil" which is a perfect description of his demeanor so far, as well as his birthmama's. Something else that was kind of special to us was discovering that the alternatively spelled Jalon was a descendant of Judah - our intended first name for him.

So, there you have it... Little Jaylen, the name of a very special boy, who we pray will live a life that brings glory and fame to the name of Christ, no matter who ends up being his mommy and daddy. The bottom line is that while we see no reasonable indication that our parental status would be revoked, we simply cannot go another day without acknowledging and naming such a miraculous gift we have been given... even if it were only for a time.

The Good, the Bad, the Inedible

We have some very exciting news regarding our brave little guy!! He is improving so much that it looks like the NICU doc is comfortable just doing the ten day antibiotic treatment!!! He is ten days old today, but did not start antibiotics until late at night on his second day.... But still, that means that tomorrow, I can walk out of this hospital with a baby boy who is NOT ATTACHED to a single tube, wire, machine nor any other beeping thing belonging to a man. (See what I did there? Shakespeare don't mind.)

I really cannot believe this. It feels like I have been here for months. I have so many ups and downs along the way, as many of you have probably noticed, but this time in the hospital has been the happiest and crappiest of all. In review:

Happy- they let me ride along in the ambulance as they transferred his incubator to a different hospital.

Crappy- my baby was in an incubator.

Happy- they allow one person to stay with him at all times, that got to be me!

Crappy- I did not know this was going to happen so I had absolutely nothing with me... Not a purse, clothes, toiletries, nothing. I have been here for a week relying on my husband to bring me clothes and toiletries. While I appreciate it so very much, I just gotta say, boyfriend don't know a mineral powder from a liquid foundation to save his life. I feel like I am at a junior high lock-in without my overnight bag. And then the leaders were all like "Yeah, change of plans... we're locking you in here forever, and instead of your belonging we will provide you with a sick newborn, and inexplicable amounts of beeping at all hours, and we'll wait 'til you are all finally asleep, and then we will yell in a Jamaican accent and put a thermometer in your baby's butt. Hope you brought a bag for that!"

Happy- I have been bonding with my son. I have gotten to know him and care for him and he has gotten to know me. We take turns telling each other our secret hopes and dreams and let me tell you, this kid is going places. We are really very fond of each other.

Crappy- seeing miss N. struggle over the decision to pick him up or not, knowing that if she does she will have to put him back down.

Happy- seeing N. laugh and joke and relax into herself with us. I could only have dreamed that we would develop a relationship like this, playful and close, and sisterly. I am as wild about her as I him.

Crappy- this has, hands down, been the worst food experience of my life... And I grew up eating Spam on camping trips. I would kill for a can of Spam right now. Spoiler alert: The picture below is NOT furniture stuffing, but is a stack of rock hard, petrified waffles.

Happy- we will be leaving tomorrow with no major health concerns. After all this, he is in perfect condition! Okay, he may have one bum ear... but even that isn't decided. We have to retest his hearing when we return home.

Crappy- even though he is discharged, he is still just a little pumpkin baby and the doctors recommend we not fly with him until he is a little older. Two weeks would be the absolute minimum... So we are looking at early next week, or later.

Happy- he has a clean bill of health. So i can't complain!

Crappy- but if I were to complain I would say that I have been finding myself feeling very sad about the way some of this transpired, mostly as it relates to the kids. I had no idea we would be adopting a baby in February... so I thought nothing of taking a trip to Portland in January. Looking back, I realize that I missed the last days of normalcy with my family as I know it. I am overjoyed to have my family now complete, but I am sad that the last days with my family of six were spent separately, first because I had traveled, then because I ended up at the hospital lock-in. Not the end of the world, but it's a little crappy.

Happy: I have felt so lifted up by all the prayers and support. Baby boy is making a remarkable recovery and I am so pleased to say that he is joining our family.

Crappy: there is still this 30 day window of time left where N. can revoke her consent if she should choose to. I do not foresee this as a big likelihood, but crazier things have happened to better people than us. It makes it very challenging... Do we post pictures? Send birth announcements? The reality is that I can't keep calling him baby boy for 30 days, but adoption etiquette suggests you hold off on the big announcements until it is official.

So, there you have it. A few of my highs and lows to date. But as I lay here snuggled up with this babe of my heart, finally able to call him my own... I can't feel anything other than supremely blessed by a God who loves adoption, and led by example when He chose to adopt you and I into His own forever family.

Surrender & Soul Food

When a child is placed for adoption, his biological parents must sign a series of documents giving consent for another couple to parent their child. The documents basically confirm that they are choosing to transfer or relinquish their parental rights. The papers, in the adoption community, are typically known as "surrenders."

Yesterday, was a day of surrender for us all. Miss N. had to sort through a lot of grief and emotion in order to process this decision. Ultimately, she chose to surrender. We have had to sort through a lot of fear and worry, and have been holding our breath and waiting for a definitive yes or no, and finally, we were able to surrender all that and fell into the bittersweet relief of placement day.

We met in Harlem, Tom, the kids, my mom and his parents all came together, and I met them there because I was coming from the hospital in the Bronx. We signed all the paperwork and went into a conference room where Miss N. and her boyfriend met our whole family for the first time.

After such an emotional morning for N. we were surprised to find that while he was pretty quiet, the mood was relatively light. She enjoyed seeing the kids, and really got a kick out of London.

Perhaps this was because she was the only one who did not heed my pep talk beforehand about being sensitive to how Aunt N. might be feeling. That speech went in one ear and out the other for London, and she was just as bossy and insensitive as ever. I couldn't help but cringe when she shout-asked N. across the table "Wayuh's yoy baby!?" Only by the grace of God himself did N. seem to find her endearing in the moment.

After the placement ceremony we all went out to eat at Sylvia's in Harlem. It was so special to go through this whole experience together - the beautiful, the gritty, the painful... and then walk away and eat together as a family, Aunt N. included. A lot of people can say that they have eaten soul food with their baby mama, but very few people mean it the way I do. I felt completely blessed in that moment, it was food for the soul indeed.