Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sleeping....isn't so easy with kids.

One of the hardest parts of having a gifted child, is their inability to sleep.  It was so super surprising to both Flavio and me when Lia turned about 20 months and started NOT sleeping.  As a baby, she sleep a ton!  She would go to sleep around 8:00pm, wake up around 9:00am (unless she was teething or sick) and then take two naps during the day.  She was our sleeper.  And it was great!

Then one night, she wasn't able to go to sleep, needless to say, neither did we.  I was just pregnant with our second IVF baby and I was tired, sick and moody.  This was the last thing I expected.  From then on, Lia woke us up almost every night around 2 or 3 am screaming.  We would go in and she would be fine, but as soon as we would leave, it would happen again and again.  So we tried to ignore her.  She would scream and scream.  We would give in and she would stop.  We knew that she wasn't having night terrors, because she was awake.  She had a nightlight, she was fed, she had her nighttime music.  We were out of ideas.  

Both Flavio and I were exhausted.

The lack of sleep was getting to Lia as well.  She became super ornery   Throwing epic tantrums, kicking, biting, screaming, throwing herself down on the floor and against the wall.  The simplest things, set her off.  Every morning we would wait and see who we were getting, was it sweet, kind, Lia today?  Or was is going to be the mean, tantrum throwing little monster, Lia?  Everyday was anyone's guess.

So many things went through my head...was she bi-polar, did her birth-mother really do drugs or drink?  Was I not giving her the attention she needed?  Was I treating her different because she was adopted?  I became depressed and weighed down.  I questioned everything, including my ability to be her mom.  I hit a low point.  Eva was born and the stress of a new baby didn't help.  We were now dealing with two little non-sleepers.  And it was getting to us.  Between the sweet little cries of our newborn and the blood curdling screams of our two year old...I was at my wit's end.  I could not do this anymore.  I was done.  Flavio was now totally in charge of Lia when she woke up....

This pattern lasted until we met with our play-therapist a year and a half later.  Things have quieted down, we are able to sleep through most nights now with a rare upset from Lia or Eva.  But Lia still struggles the most with sleep.  We now know that part of being gifted includes, not being able to sleep well.  Her little brain just has a hard time turning off and she will do everything she can to stay up...getting away is very hard as most people can't deal with her at night.  Luckily for us, we have an angel of a friend, who says she LOVES to watch all of our kids overnight...and so we let her.  We are truly blessed to have her in our lives as getting away would literally be impossible.  Thank you, Emily.

In the end, we now know why she doesn't sleep well.  So when I have nights, like last night, I can be a little more patient with her when she literally talks to herself, gets in and out of bed, tries to wake up her sister and kicks her wall for 3 or 4 hours before going to bed.  I will just have to get used to her sleeping habits and pray that one day she will be able to handle it all on her own.

What are some ways you have dealt with your non-sleepers?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Happy Friday!

This weekend is going to be filled with seeing color!  Utah is known for it's amazing Fall colors and my kids and I are going for a fun filled Fall color drive :)

I took this last year at Sundance.

The mountains are just amazing right now.  

I get to go take pictures of one of my favorite families...and then it is just me and the girls, as Flavio is in St. George this weekend.  I think we will stop to get some yummy food and watch a fun family movie.  It should be a great Friday!

What are your plans this weekend?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Finding a little me time...and Super-Hero Status for Dads

I don't know about you, but finding a little "me" time can be somewhat of a task.  Between, the kids, the house and being a wife...I am booked.  Luckily, I have an amazing husband who feels that my "me" time is important.

Okay, go get your husband for this next will thank me for it later :)

I know a few hubbies out there, who don't feel that "me" time is important for women.  I am not sure why this is, as your wives work just as hard as you do, waking up early to get kids off to school, waking up in the night to calm fears or to feed, getting everyone ready and out the door, making lunches and breakfasts, cleaning up toys, clothes, dishes, garbage, food, and any other surprises that come along.  They are also in charge of discipline, laundry, cleaning the bathrooms, the kitchen, making dinner, vacuuming, dusting, homework, dinner and many other chores that most of us tried to avoid doing growing up.  

Also, there is a huge difference between a man who works away from home and a woman who works in the home...No Scheduled Vacation Time.  They don't even get weekends off!  And when the family does go on vacation, do you think the mother is really on vacation?  No, she is just doing her job in a smaller, cramped space with no kitchen and no toys and messed up sleeping schedules.   

I plead with all of you fathers and husbands out there, be okay with your wife going out with her friends.  Give her a break now and then.  Take the kids out (what kid wouldn't love an evening out with their dad, you might as well sign up for super-hero status). 

Let your wife have the house to herself to do the things she never gets to do in peace, watch a show in peace, eat what she wants without someone wanting to eat it with her, taking a nap, or just going for a walk.  If your wife is whole...your family will be too.  And I promise, if your wife feels will be better for you too!

Like I said before, I am so blessed to have a wonderful husband who knows and believes that my "me" time is important for me and for our marriage.  

He will take our girls out on dates to dinner, to the park, to a museum or just down stairs, so I can be by myself in my room.  That time away helps me recharge, refocus, and relax.  

So take the challenge wives, tell your husbands that "me" time will help everyone.  Help them understand that just like they need a break from their work, so do you!  And do it often!  Schedule a "me" time every two weeks or every week if you can.  

Good luck!  And I hope you can come back and tell me how it went!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sorting the Drama

We have three girls.  Growing up, I knew that girls = drama.  And I will be honest I got along better with boys.  I was never into the whole "girly" thing growing up.  I played sports, loved camping, hiking and the outdoors, I liked watching scary or action packed movies and I LOVED playing video games.

Needless to say, I was never really interested in having any girls.  I really just wanted boys.

I didn't want to deal with the hair, the fights, the crying and all the drama that comes with having girls.

And then infertility happened.

When we had our first ultrasound with Hannah, I was positive "she" was going to be a "he".  I felt like Bella in Twilight, when all I could picture was this little curly haired boy bouncing all around.

And just like Bella, I was wrong.

But, of course, I didn't care. All of the worry of dealing with a girl went out the window!  I was super excited!  We were having a baby girl!

Then our adoption time came, so many people wondered if we would ask for a boy...personally I didn't want to be the one to make that decision.  I figured God should be in charge.  So we waited and we waited and after two failed adoptions, which both happened to be girls...we got Lia...another girl :)

This last pregnancy was for sure going to be a boy.  This was our last baby.  I was done.  I was done with dealing with infertility, I just wanted to get it behind me already.  I have always felt that there is a boy coming to us...and this had to be him.  We went to the ultrasound tech and we waited, not long.  Before anyone could say anything he said, "She, looks great!".  To which Hannah stated, "But we wanted a boy!?"  We all laughed.  It felt right.  Our little Eva was snug in my belly and we would have three healthy, beautiful girls.  I couldn't have asked for more.

Now two years have passed.

There are a few things that I have found that are great when it comes to having three of the same gender, in our case, girls.  Toys go a long way.  I am becoming an expert at hair and styling their clothes.  Shopping for girls is really fun.  And having them all share clothes has been a great way to save a buck!  So today, I went through all of Hannah's and Lia's old clothes.

After sorting them last Spring, I put them in bins and waited for the next season.  Both Eva and Lia received full Fall and Winter wardrobes for zero dollars.  ZERO!  And the D.I. is getting a nice little load as well.  It is a lot of work for just one day, but it saved us a lot of money and Lia and Eva were so happy about their new, used clothes!  It was like Christmas Day :)

So if you are thinking the sorting and storing clothes is a pain, you are right, but if you want to save a little and you can...go for it!  It is totally worth it!

Monday, September 24, 2012

A switch...The gifted child

We live with a gifted child.

When our Lia turned about 18 months, I knew something was different.  She had been a really good baby, didn't cry a ton, slept really well and was mostly observant.  However, when 18 months hit, it felt like she had changed overnight.  The transformation was unreal.  Her vocabulary and understanding went through the roof!  She could say almost anything she wanted to by 20 months.  Lia and Hannah seemed to have the same communication skills, Hannah was 4 and Lia was 2.  While this sounds amazing, Lia would say things like, "I promise, Mama, I will not do that again." and then turn around and do it.  I wasn't sure what she truly understood, so disciplining became a big problem.  Her manipulation skills were very impressive.  We found that most babysitters were outsmarted every time they tried to put her to bed.  Flavio and I couldn't go anywhere.  Her behavior and tantrums were for the books.  Everyone just kept telling us she was just a hard 2 year old and that she would grow out of it.  I didn't agree.  But there wasn't much I could do for a two year old at that point.

We endured (and that is no exaggeration) her second year of life, with her battles against eating or swallowing her food, going to bed, hitting or biting her sister, screaming and throwing herself against the wall or floor, taking toys away from other kids, and having a meltdown and screaming at the top of her lungs almost every night around 2 or 3 AM because her blanket wasn't right, or her sock had turned wrong or she had taken off her pajamas or her get the point.  We were exhausted and overwhelmed.

Then she turned 3.  I was hoping for a miracle.  But the insanity moved into her extra circular activities.  I would come to pick her up from gymnastics or preschool or dance and I would get, "you are Lia's mom, right, well...." and they would have to tell me how she was not listening and refused to do what they had asked her.  They would tell me that she had thrown a tantrum or spent the whole class in the bathroom playing with the water.  As a mother, that is not the most pleasing experience to have.  I was embarrassed and I was angry.  I was angry with Lia, I was angry with myself.  What had I done to my child, this was all my fault.  I wasn't a good parent.  I was ruining my child.  Depression set in.

I needed help.  With no family close by for some relief, I went to the doctor and he told me to find a child psychologist.  We did.  Again, we prayed about who could help us the best. We found Dr. Karen.  She took us in and listened as I cried and told her how I had destroyed my child.  How I felt so upset with her all the time.  How I felt I was the worst mother of all time.  And how I worried about her future and I thought she was going to end up in jail or worse, dead, because of her lack of obedience and seemingly love for going against every adult in her life.  Dr. Karen smiled and let me get it all out.  Then she tested Lia.  We waited for the results.  And the following week were given the best news, not for the reason you may think, Lia was gifted.  Her IQ was tested at 130, and it may be higher, but testing a 3 year old is not always completely accurate.  Dr. Karen sat us down and told us how Lia's abilities are the cause of her behavior.  Lia was born this way.  Her brain was way more advanced than her little body and Lia was just trying to deal with it all.  So that is where our Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide came from.   

We had been given a gift, literally with Lia.  But the reason I was so happy with the news was not because we were now raising our own little Einstein, but when the characteristics of a gifted child were explained to me, I realized that I hadn't done anything wrong.  I felt vindicated, that I had not ruined her.  It wasn't my fault.  A huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders.  It wasn't my fault.  Selfishly, this was all I could think about.  A huge relief came over me.  It. Wasn't. My. Fault. We had something to work with now.  And I was excited.

She is now working with a play therapist...she is making some great strides in her behavior.  But it will be something we will have to work on for her entire adolescence.

"The Gifted Child.  No individual can be more exhilarating, or more frustrating. The parents and teachers who deal with these wonderful children can often be described in a single word: Exhausted. The gifted child can speak as an adult one minute, comparing the emotional relationships in Les Mis with relationships in her own life, or discussing potential conflicts between evolution and the bible, and in the next minute throw an impressive tantrum because she didn't get what she wanted... right now! She can have you in awe of her theories on accelerated space travel, or pulling your hair out in frustration over her argumentative refusal to do her part in everyday chores."

I knew we were not alone, and that we could now do something about it.  We are excited about the future, but when it comes to living with a gifted child, you have to slow down and work day to day.

My goal with this post is, to not only share our experience with a gifted toddler, but to hopefully find others in our same situation.  So if you know someone who has a gifted child, please pass this along :)  Thanks!  We need all the help and support we can get.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Choice to Adopt

So many people have asked me, why did you adopt, when you can have a baby through IVF?  That is a good question.  Although I am always shocked that people feel okay asking someone a question like that.... I used to get mad and think, "what business is of yours?" or "how insensitive are you?"  But as time has gone on, I realize that most people are not trying to be mean or judgmental, they are just not educated in the concept of infertility.

Unfortunately, adoption is still a little tabu for people to talk about, like it is a bad word or if you talk about it, it will make those of us involved feel bad. And I understand this, because for so many years adoption was kept a secret from the kids and the birth-mothers involved.  It wasn't talked about openly as it is slowly starting to now.  No one ever really knew when a child was adopted.  But, luckily, times are changing.  Now a family can be as open with the birth family as they want.  The children are not left with so many unanswered questions.  And instead of the adoption being a secret, it is just a part of the child's identity.  It is a part of them that is unique and special.  From our experience, this child has been loved by so many people before they even are placed in the adopted parent's arms.  The whole process of adoption, is about love.  Selfless love.  

I saw it with my Lia.

As a parent of an adopted child, I will tell you, we chose to adopt because that is what felt right.  Flavio and I have a special opportunity to pray about each child that comes to us.  We have to really work hard to bring these little beings into our family.  There are no surprises (although I have never wanted a surprise more in my life) and I feel that each baby is given for a special reason to each family, and it is up to that family to seek out why they received such a gift.  However, the fact that I get to pray, work, ponder, hope, show faith and then pray, work and hope some more, I feel that I have been given a great gift of knowing without a doubt each of my babies belong to me, no matter how they come and even when they drive me crazy, I have that knowledge that they came to us for a special reason.  This is an amazing confidence to own.

Adoption is a very personal decision.  There are so many babies and children who need a loving home and I feel that God has made it possible through our trial of infertility to make what may seem like a hopeless situation for those birth-parents who are not sure they can support their baby, into an amazing miracle of love, sacrifice, acceptance, and hope for a better future for all those involved.

I am so grateful for the gift of adoption.

That is why we are going to do it again!

We are so excited!  Please help us spread the word!

Friday, September 21, 2012

This will not be in chronological order....and you are not alone!

As the posts I will be sharing will cover a nine year span, plus snippets from my everyday comings and goings, I will not be sticking to a chronological stream of posts...I will have days where I want to share what has happened that minute.  Order is out.  So I am giving myself permission right now, that order means nothing when it comes to the emotions of the heart.

I hope you will follow along in my crazy, emotional filled journey and I would love to hear your stories as well.  Inspire me, inspire others to go out and be brave or be themselves!

You are not alone.

I have met so many wonderful family's and couples who, like us, have dealt with infertility their entire marriage or for part of their marriage.  It is amazing how something such as infertility, or I am sure cancer, death of a spouse, death of a child, a child with a disability, divorce, and many other of lives' challenges bonds us together.  When I meet someone who knows my pain, I feel a automatic kinship to them.  Without telling any of my story, they understand.  They have felt my pain, been in my sorrow, walked down the same path I know so well.  Their pain is my pain.  Their sorrow is my sorrow.  While we all have different experiences...we know a feeling that only we can know and understand.

Feeling alone is painful. 

So, my advice to you today is to speak up.  Share your story with others.  Let them help you.  You will only find other who understand you.  It will help you get through this.  I promise.

Do you have a story you want to share?
How did sharing your story help you?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The grieving process

Some may not know this, but the grieving process is not just for when a loved one passes from this life.  The grieving process is:  "...a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loves is taken away." (taken from Wikipedia's definition of Grief)  

When I found out that I was not going to be able to get pregnant, I went through what seemed like a long grieving process.  I had what I wanted most in life taken from me in one instant, in one word, Infertility   

My grieving went something like this: I got angry, I cried, I prayed, I cried, I got angry, I tried to keep busy, I felt alone, I felt stressed, I felt betrayed, then I got angry again, and prayed some more...and then I cried again.

Now, I will admit, I am a very religious person.  I strongly believe that God is my father and that His Son, Jesus, is my Savior and brother.  I am not sure how I would have dealt with any of this without prayer and the knowledge that even though what we were going through was the hardest thing I had faced in my life, my Heavenly Father and my Savior were going to always be with me.  

My husband and I prayed together. 

We prayed that we might know what we needed to do to have a family of our own.  

In the meantime, we met with our first infertility specialist.  Our regular doctor had done some basic tests and we already knew that having kids on our own would be difficult, but the specialist put it in numbers.  Because of my husband's sperm count, our chances of conceiving on our own, was less than 1%.  I felt like someone had just punched me in the stomach...again.  Less than 1%, seemed pretty low.  And it was.  We went from having kids will be difficult to having kids on our own would be almost impossible.

After my initial response (which lasted a few weeks), my husband and I got to work.  We knew we still wanted a family and now we had two options, IVF or Adoption.  Both were the unknown and very scary.  Plus, how were we going to afford either one? We had only been married a year, Flavio was still in school.  I worked for the city and didn't get paid very much.  We had insurance, but Utah does not mandate converge of either of those options, so we were left on our own.  Luckily I had saved money while I was single...but that was all of our savings.  The stress became overwhelming.  Having a baby is expensive on its own, throwing in an extra $14,000 to $20,000 dollars doesn't help any.  But we were determined to see this through.

After many prayers and thought, we decided to go with In Vitro Fertilization or IVF.

We were scared and unsure of what the future held for us...but we had faith that it would work and that we would be able to finally have our first baby.

Have you ever been scared? 
How did you get through it?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Where to begin...

When I was young, I knew that I wanted to be a mom.  People would ask me, what do you want to be when you grow up?  And I would say the normal, a teacher, a nurse, and at one time I wanted to be a lawyer (I am good at arguing).  ;)  But deep down, I knew I really wanted to be a mom.  I have always loved kids.  And kids have always loved me.  We are drawn to each other.  I am not sure it if comes from being an only child, as I wasn't around kids a lot, or if that is just who I am.

Fast forward 15 years and I was married and ready to start my family....

The dream of holding my baby in my arms seemed so close and so real.  My wonderful husband was excited as well and so we began the pregnancy tests.  However, two months, three months four, five, six, seven, eight and then a whole year past and nothing.  Each month felt like a punch in the stomach.  Even though I was resisting, I felt deep down that something was really wrong.  I knew some people tried this long and were still able to get pregnant...but I was sure at this point this wasn't going to be the case for us.

After a few simple tests, the doctor confirmed my fears.  Having children was not going to happen for us.  Unless, we went through a crazy, hormone riddled, very expensive treatment called In Vitro Fertilization, or IVF.

So that is what we did.  We emptied our savings and we went for the big guns.  Without getting too deep,(I will talk all about it in a later post), we went through three trials before we got our Hannah.

What a miracle she is.

Our second miracle happened two years later when we adopted Lia (our gifted child).

And yet again, and two more years later, one more miracle came to us through our first try of IVF, our little Eva.

In this blog, I plan to be open and honest about our journey through infertility.  My challenge of having and working with a gifted child and how photography helps me get through it all.