Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Mommy Guilt


I was going through some old draft posts.  I wrote this one on August 6th, 2008 when Tessa was 8 days old. It struck a chord with me because I’ve been asked recently how it was different. It being adoption vs biological child. The post must not have been finished but I present it as I found it. I thought I would share.

One nurse in the hospital made the joke that makes all adoptive parents cringe “So you did it the easy way the first time, huh?”  Anyone who has adopted knows there is nothing easy about it.  And those who have children the traditional way know that pregnancy isn’t always easy.  In my mind, it is apples and oranges.  One was one of the most emotionally taxing things I’ve ever experienced and the other was full of physical discomfort and uncertainty.  But both produced miracles – my daughters.

The flood of post partum hormones has surprised me.  I don’t know why.  I knew it was part of the package.  I’ve worried about post partum depression.  Steve has done some reading and marveled at the chemical changes documented in the post partum brain (told you he is a geek).  But despite the knowledge, the sudden tears and overwhelming emotions I’ve experienced since having Tessa have caught me by surprise.  Thankfully, the majority of my emotions are sappy, happy, and awe filled rather than anything depressive.  But all of this emotion has lead me to feel guilty at how different this experience is from my first week with Sabrina.  For some reason, I feel like the experiences should feel more alike to reinforce the fact that I love my adopted child every bit as much as my biological child…and in fact don’t think of them in those terms at all.  They are my children.  Period.

But despite loving each with my whole heart, this first week with Tessa has been a completely different experience than my first week with Sabrina.  Our first week with Sabrina was when she was 3 months old.  We visited for a week in Guatemala.  I felt incredible love for her but I also felt fear (that the adoption could fail) and uncertainty (did she like being rocked like this) and clumsy (I didn’t know how to comfort her).  I felt rather fraudulent declaring myself her mother and her my daughter.  I loved her from the minute I saw her photo but I didn’t feel like her mom until I earned it – meaning had her in my care for good and stopped feeling like I was playing house with her.  I sobbed for her, ached for her, worried about her, longed for her but the throw-myself-in-front-of-a-speeding bus to protect her love took a little time to develop.  It was fast once I moved to Guatemala but it wasn’t instantaneous.

Before I had Tessa, I was a little concerned about loving another child as much as I love Sabrina.  I just couldn’t imagine it was possible.  I anticipated it would take some time with Tessa as well.  I thought I would be so tired and so busy that logistics would keep me going until that fierce momma love kicked in.  That wasn’t the case at all.  The second I heard her cry and then saw her face, I was lost.  I look at her eating or sleeping on my chest and I cry because of the overwhelming love I feel for this child.  I am awed by the miracle that we created.  I suddenly get why people love newborns (I’ve never been a fan).  I won’t go into the ride home from the hospital but suffice it to say the level of protectiveness from both Steve and I was bordering on absurd.




Guatemalans Unite!


There was a small gathering of families who adopted from Guatemala in Gatlinburg last weekend. We all rented little condos at a resort and hung out. I don’t want to post photos of other folks’ kiddos so you’ll have to just enjoy a couple of my little family.

It was an odd gathering. It seemed to be a group of people with nothing in common except beautiful Guatemalan children. But it was fun to step outside of our comfort zone (we didn’t know a sole…I was acquainted with 2 moms on FB) and remind Sabrina there are other families out there that look like ours. It was also fun to meet other families who had that in common with us. I miss that part of the adoption community. We didn’t spend a lot of time with the other families but Sabrina and Tessa got the chance to play with the other children while the adults chatted.

The highlight for the girls was the waterpark that was on the resort property. (Holy expensive! $84 for the 4 of us and the “lockers for a nominal fee” were an additional $10. It was a somewhat smaller and older one than the Great Wolf type place. Good speed for our little girls but wow that price tag hurt.) The highlight for me was Saturday night after the gathering of families. We went back to our little villa, popped some popcorn, got out some ice cream, lit a fire, and watched a Disney movie all snuggled up together. It made me all warm and fuzzy and squishy inside. It almost made up for the next day when they were both being gigantic butts.

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If I was being honest, I mean deep dark recesses of my mind that I don’t usually say out loud honest, I would tell you that having no contact with the birth mom went into the Pro column when deciding on international adoption.  It was by no means a deciding factor but it was there, in my mind, as a positive as compared to domestic adoption. Five years later, I have trouble believing I thought that way. From the moment the adoption was final (read: the moment we stopped operating through a haze of fear), Sabrina’s birth mom became a part of our hearts and our family. I expected that feeling would remain but I didn’t expect that it would grow with time.  With every year that passes, I feel more connected to this woman who carried our (hers and mine) daughter for 9 months. I ache more for this woman who made the ultimate sacrifice and kissed our beautiful girl and wished her well. I want so badly to be in touch with this brave woman and let her know how amazing our daughter is and how incredibly loved she is. I really didn’t expect my feelings for this stranger to grow stronger each year but as I watch Sabrina become this incredible girl I want so badly to share the joy of her with the woman responsible for her life. Each year I become more resolute – I will find her someday.  I want her to have the opportunity to know our girl (assuming she wants that).

I spent Sabrina’s birthday tearing up on and off all day as I thought of her birth mom. But I also spent the day getting ready for her first friend party (we usually just do a family thing).  Sabrina wanted a princess party.  In Sabrina’s world princess = whatever she likes.  The girls had tutus and wands.  The boys had pirate hats and eye patches.  Everyone enjoyed some chaotic play time  then pizza then cake.  A good time was had by all.

Photo taken by Crystal

She is just becoming so grown up.  Sometimes as I look through photos, I’ll see a moment captured and it will take my breath away.  An angle, an expression, a posture and suddenly I can see the woman she will be.  It fills me with joy and grief.  We all know time passes too quickly but to actually see the days speeding by never fails to startle me.

Good news about BRESMA


That’s Church released a statement from the families of the women running the orphanage in Haiti – one women and the children are safely back in Pittsburgh with the other woman soon to follow.  Thank you to everyone who got involved – even if just through spreading the word and praying.

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Spreading the word


Social media has been furiously working on getting the BRESMA children to the states.  I was amazed that every time I looked today there were new developments being reports.  I sadly have no political or wealthy contacts to offer so I offer my personal connection with all of you.  Currently, they are trying to reach out to the families who are adopting from BRESMA. Do you know anyone?  Or know anyone who knows someone?  I posted this on the Haiti board at adoption.com as well as a couple of Haitian adoption blogs and facebook.  But if you can think of other places, spread the word.  We adoption bloggers are a community so we should be able to help them find these folks – they need information from them quickly.

Visit the main link for That’s Church for the latest – the above link will take you to the  post about wanting to reach adopting families.

Anyone out there have any real connections?


Most of my readers are fellow adoptive parents.  You all remember that helpless feeling when something happened in Guatemala (or whatever country you adopted from)?  The earthquake near Guatemala City?  The hogar raided?  The birthmoms who were terrorized for giving up their babies?  We were besides ourselves because these babies, our children, were beyond the scope of our arms.  We couldn’t make sure they were safe.  We couldn’t protect them.

Now imagine you are in the process of adopting from Haiti.  Made your heart stop for a second didn’t it?  I’m sure there are millions of heart breaking stories about amazing individuals who need assistance in the aftermath of the earthquakes.  I can’t imagine the need.  But there is a specific situation that has been given a face (figuratively) for me.  My heart is breaking.  Go read about it at That’s Church (formerly PittGirl). The American women running that orphanage need help.  They need a private plane to get them and the babies (who have adoptive parents here waiting for them) out.  Without help, the babies will not survive.  Can you help?

Update: My understanding is now they might be able to physically get the children out, but they need some powerful political strings pulled to grant these children refugee status until their adoptions can be finalized.  Any political strings out there that you can pull?  I can’t bear that red tape is the cause of these children not surviving the aftermath of this earthquake.

Update #2: Members of Congress have become aware of the situation and are working with the White House to find a solution.  @JanePitt said on twitter that CNN was made aware and their crew on the ground in Haiti was checking on the women and children to make sure their immediate needs were met – she also said lots of important people were getting involved.  It seems that social media does have use and value when used for good.  Let’s hope there is a resolution quickly.

And if you are interested, there is a Facebook page for the cause with almost a thousand members.

What No One Told Me About Adoption


There is a blog carnival going on at Grown in My Heart for bloggers to discuss what no one told them about adoption and then link up.  I’m fascinated reading these posts!  I thought I would add my own list.

  1. I didn’t truly understand that my greatest joy was rooted in another woman’s greatest pain.  In order for Sabrina to become ours, another woman had to give her up.  Sabrina had to lose her birth family and cultural identity.  So much loss for our incredible gain.
  2. That I would quickly stop fearing and jealously regarding Sabrina’s birth mom and foster mom and instead begin loving, respecting, and aching for them.  I so wish I could share this beautiful, joyous little girl with her first mom and her foster mom who loved her for the first 7 months of her life.  I think of them so often and wish they could be part of our family in more than just spirit.
  3. That attachment was a process for all of us.  Someone probably did tell me this but I didn’t hear it.  I thought we were already in love with that photo and that little girl we spent a week with a couple of times.  But when I picked her up and lived in Antigua with her, it was a few weeks before I stopped feeling like her babysitter and started feeling like her mom.
  4. That adoption would bring so many amazing people into my life aside from our daughter.  I’ve had the good fortune to meet so many of you in person.  I told someone once we were all like war buddies – we might not have anything else in common but our time in the adoption trenches forms a strong bond that few others understand.
  5. That 3 years later I would fear my top notch, beyond reproach, ethical adoption agency wasn’t any of those things despite the premium price tag for their services to ensure everything was above board.  What if it wasn’t?
  6. That I would get so tired of educating random people who seem to think it is okay to ask (in front of my cognizant child) “where did you get her?” “how much did you pay for her?” “couldn’t you have your own?”
  7. That I would still be so happy to share our adoption story with random strangers who seemed to be genuinely interested or who just want to swap stories about their cousin Mabel who adopted or was adopted or has a secretary that wants to adopt.
  8. That I would reach a point of almost feeling angry when someone says Sabrina is lucky or we did such a good/charitable/Godly thing by adopting her.  We didn’t save her.  We adopted for selfish reasons not altruistic ones.  We wanted a family.
  9. That some times other adoptive parents would be the most guilty of this and want others to see them as having “saved” a child.
  10. That I would feel myself held to a higher parenting standard in public because my daughter is obviously adopted.  I feel like I can’t have a bad mommy day publicly because people will judge that differently than if I had one with Tessa.
  11. That I would come to love her so fiercely that when I found out I was pregnant, I would worry that I couldn’t possibly love another child as much as I already loved Sabrina.
  12. That I would feel twice (thrice?) the bittersweet joy and touch of sadness with every milestone Sabrina achieves because I feel like I am celebrating it for 3 women: myself, her birth mom, and her foster mom.  I will never forget that I am the lucky one in that trio.
  13. That I should have learned more Spanish more quickly so that I could have had a conversation with Sabrina’s foster mom without the agency person in the middle – I am almost positive she wasn’t translating so much as telling us what she wanted us to hear.
  14. That I could have not one single regret about our specific adoption (because how could I regret anything that brought this amazing girl to me?) but still have many worries and doubts about the circumstances that lead to adoption situations in general.
  15. That when I brought my daughter home to the US, I would be leaving a piece of my heart behind in Guatemala.
  16. That I would continue to worry that no matter what we do, Sabrina will grow up feeling a tremendous loss because she was adopted.
  17. That my husband and I would look at each other almost every single day and ask each other how we got so lucky as to have 2 such amazing, funny, bright, beautiful children.
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Adoption vs. Biology Part 1


If you’ve been around the adoption blogosphere awhile, you may remember the woman who had both a biological and an adopted child then announced on her blog that her love for them was different.  If her biological child needed a kidney she wouldn’t think twice but that it just wasn’t the same with her adopted child.  Most of the adoption world was angered by this – my husband was enraged.  Now and then, as we sit and marvel at our beautiful Sabrina, he asks if I remember that.  I never thought I would be in a position to have a biological and an adopted child and be able to unequivocally say she was full of shit – but I do and can.  However, this has gotten the wheels in my brain turning.

I love my children with a ferocity that takes my breath away some days.  I love them equally but I love them differently.  I believe this is largely due to their differences as little people and not due to adoption or biology but those things can’t be completely taken out of the equation because it is part of who they are.

I loved the idea of Sabrina before she was born.  I loved her photo when we received her referral.  I loved her cute chubby self when we went to visit.  I fell in love with her when I lived in Guatemala with her.  It wasn’t easy and it was a process – but I became her mom.  I love Sabrina’s joy and her smile.  I love watching her learn new things – she is quite smart.  I love that she giggles over everything.  I love that she charms every person who comes into contact with her.  I love that she has sympathy for real and imagined “owies”.  And I love that she is my walking sunshine – even when she is being obstinate.  She is a beautiful child inside and out.  I also hold her a little tighter when I say good night because I know there is a woman in Guatemala living with a hole in her heart because she wanted to give this amazing child a different path in life.  (Please, not better – different.  It bothers me to hear adoptive parents or strangers assume that we are giving our adopted children a better life.  Who is to say it is better?  It is simply different.)  I want to love Sabrina enough for both of her mothers.

When I found out I was pregnant with Tessa, I was angry.  Angry because I was sure it meant yet another miscarriage and I didn’t want to go through that again.  As the days and then weeks passed, I was still pregnant.  Outwardly, I remained pessimistic but inside the hope was blooming.  Until the day she was born, there was a piece of me that was convinced something horrible was going to happen.  Then she was here and she was perfect.  I wasn’t prepared for the hormone driven tsunami of love and worry that immediately rushed over me.  Even when she made me weep out of exhaustion and frustration, I was overwhelmed by my love for her.  Tessa is very sweet and funny.  She makes the best faces and she makes me laugh every day.  She is smart and beautiful and mischievous.   She is going to be the one giving me gray hairs as she gets older and tests her limits and boundaries.  She is stubborn and becoming more of a giggler every day.  While her sister only has eyes for daddy, Tessa remains a momma’s girl.  She isn’t a big cuddler anymore but when she does snuggle up, I cherish those moments.  I am a little sad as she achieves each milestone because it takes her further from that baby that snuggled under my chin.

I love both of them with all of my heart but yes I love them in different ways for different reasons.

I’ll call this part 1 and  pick this subject up again next week.

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2 years ago today


dsc02654Two years ago today, we were on a jet plane making our way back home from our Guatemalan adventures.  I’m never sure what day we should call our official Family Day.  April 12th is the day we picked Sabrina up and I moved to Antigua with her.  She never left our custody again after that day.  Or June 1st which is the day she became our daughter legally.  Or June 5th the day she stepped onto US soil, became a citizen, and truly came home.  In my head, I mark each anniversary.  Externally, we don’t do anything to mark the occasion other than tell Sabrina the story of what happened that day and why it is significant.

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Middle TN adoptive families picnic


The picnic in May was a lot of fun so we are on for October!

October 25, 2008
2pm – 6pm
River Park, Concord Rd, Brentwood, TN
Bring a covered dish, plates and utensils for your family

Feel free to bring balls or bubbles or other amusements for the kids.  Or not!

All adoptive families are welcome.  We had originally talked about the weekend before for the picnic but I couldn’t find a park shelter available for reservation that date and I ended up having another commitment that date.  I can’t wait to see everyone from the previous picnic and hope to meet some new families too!

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