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.




No wonder Daddy is tired


When Steve is home, all of the attention is on him.  The girls and the dog are beside themselves trying to get attention first.  He is so good about immediately engaging with the girls – it allows me to disengage a little and start dinner.  They don’t leave him alone until he puts them to bed.  I can’t imagine a better partner in parenting.




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I have been neglectful in thanking all of our friends for the lovely gifts and well wishes we have received. I took my box of thank you notes with me to the hospital but they never left my over night bag…and truth be told still haven’t. I want to at least say thank you here until I get around to writing real thank yous. Have I mentioned I am incredibly tired because of this cute face?

Because that is my excuse for just about everything these days. But I’m still receiving sweet surprises in the mail. Today I received this beautiful box from Priscilla (how inadequate do I feel that I can’t even mail out thank yous and she manages to send gifts that look this pretty?):

This package arrived from my local friend Julie while I was in the hospital:

Thanks Julie!

And is this not one of the cutest sights ever? From Alleen:

Here are the contents of Priscilla’s box (I’m too tired to even get the photos in order LOL):

The girls will look so sweet!


Thanks P! You are awesome!

And from Melanie:

And huge thanks for the other thing too!

Samantha sent this completely adorable and oh so comfy looking outfit (do they make this in mommy sizes?):

And my cousin Vanessa who is living in London with her husband and 2 children AND is pregnant sent us this sweet dress and toy along with a box loaded with fabulous hand me downs (and a book from her parents that isn’t pictured because Sabrina has squirreled it away already):

Thanks for thinking of us!

Steph sent this sweet outfit and a video for Sabrina:

Carla and E sent Sabrina this darling Big Sister shirt:

And today on my doorstep, I found these great books from (TN)Kerry. Sabrina loves books so I have already read her 2 of them while feeding Tessa this afternoon.

Steve’s mom also brought some gifts from some folks at the family company (thanks – love the cute little pink rosebuds!) and his team at work gave us some incredibly generous gift cards (thanks TMC!).

I am positive that I have forgotten several people. It isn’t because I wasn’t aware or didn’t appreciate the gift. It is more likely because I thought I already thanked you or because it is temporarily lost in the sleepy haze that envelopes my days right now. I have been overwhelmed with all of the love sent our way during this joyous time. Thanks to you all – the wonderful thoughts and wishes mean as much as the boxes of goodies.

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Top 10


Top 10 best things about not being pregnant anymore

10. Bending at the waist! You don’t understand until you lose the ability. I no longer cry a little when I drop the soap in the shower. I can clip and paint my toenails with ease. And if I felt alert enough to trust myself to put a sharp object to my skin, I could shave easily too.

9. The hope that some day I will again be able to wear cute shoes and pants without elastic.

8. Not having to pee twice each hour. Sometimes I hold it now just because I can.

7. I may not get a lot of sleep but between feedings, I can lose consciousness sleep without pain and turn over without thought and planning. And? I can sleep on my stomach if I want.

6. Booze. In theory at least, I can have a drink again. I haven’t but I will one of these days. If I can stay awake. And sushi is on that list too.

5. People have stopped telling me their terrifying birth stories. Why do women feel compelled to tell the most horrific birth stories they’ve ever experienced or heard when they encounter a pregnant woman?

4. Coffee. With caffeine. ‘Nuff said. (Oh hush…it’s only 1 cup a day and I’m not giving it up again so quit your nagging internet.)

3. No one expects much from me at this point. I have a newborn and a 2 year old so people cut me a lot of slack. Lower expectations mean that I can often exceed expectations with little effort (look! She showered and fed herself and doesn’t have any spit up on her shirt – wow, she has it all together!).

2. Not one person has gone spelunking in my uterus since I left the hospital.

1. Boobs – I have them. Who knew? The rest of me may look like crap but my boobs look pretty darn good. I like to think they distract people from noticing my scary dark circles under my eyes. It is a shame I can’t keep them but I know they are loaners.

Lucid again


First off – wow. Bowled over by all of the bloggy land love. Thank you all so much for cheering me on during and welcoming Tessa after. I’ve had several real life people express awe at all of you being here for this wonderful occasion. Being so far from most of our friends and family it was wonderful having a virtual waiting room full of all of you waiting for news.

Now for what you came for – details and photos.

My doctor broke my water at 7 am yesterday. The nurse said she never gets to use words like “copious amounts” in her notes but breaking my water qualified. It was rather amazing and a bit painful. About an hour later, I was sitting on the bed talking to Steve and there was another geyser – water running off both sides of the bed and flooding puddling on the floor. The nurse came in and said I now officially had the most water in my that she had ever seen in her years of nursing. (Heh…that doesn’t even count what I’m still holding on to in my legs and ankles.) I couldn’t stop laughing and imagining it happening at the grocery store “Clean up on aisle 5”. I was having regular contractions so they decided to hold off on the pitocin (no idea if that is the correct spelling – it is the med that helps jump start labor). Around noon, the pain was getting worse and they want to start pitocin so I received my epidural. I was stoned off my ass for the next 4 hours. Didn’t feel a single contraction from then on. Epidurals rock.

I hit 4 cm at 4 pm. My doctor said she was starting the active labor clock then and she wanted to see some progress in the coming hours or we would have to make some decisions. At 8 pm, I was still stuck at 4cm. Steve went out to get himself something to eat while I tried not to growl at him since it had been 24 hours since I was allowed anything but ice chips. He had barely left the hospital when I was informed we were heading down for a c-section. I freaked out until they tracked him down. We all headed for the operating room. I was a little freaked by it all happening so fast (the c-section, obviously not the labor). I didn’t enjoy the c-section experience. It didn’t hurt exactly but wasn’t comfortable either. Knowing they are tugging out your innards while rocking you around on the table is rather disconcerting. Tessa didn’t want to come out but they eventually managed to get her free and clean her up. Steve and I immediately started crying when we heard her cry.

She is beautiful and perfect. She has been wonderful so far. I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night but that was more my fault than hers. I catnapped while she slept on my chest and fed every few hours. I will admit to some trepidation that I couldn’t possibly love another child as much as I love Sabrina but I quickly fell in love with Tessa. I am completely enchanted by her. It is different from our first days with Sabrina but no more or less amazing.

As for me, I was shocked by the amount of pain immediately following the c-section. And I continued to be shocked by the pain through the night and this morning. They still didn’t give me the okay for food this morning and I started getting very sick to my stomach. I told the nurse that I was going to be sick if they didn’t feed me so they brought me broth. Didn’t help. They gave me percocet and 2 saltines. When the lactation consultant came to see me at 11am this morning and found me unable to pay attention to her and in tears, she immediately rounded me up some food. Too late, the pain killers were too far ahead of the food and I ended up tossing my cookies. I felt horrible for hours but once the pain killers got out of my system, my day started looking up considerably. I still have some pain at my incision site, but nothing I can’t handle. I’m moving slowly but I’ve showered and been moving around a good bit as the day has moved on.

We are both enchanted with our beautiful girls.  Many of you have asked what Sabrina thinks.  Unfortunately, she was here during my not-so-lucid period today so I wasn’t able to interact much.  She said baby and hi and wasn’t amused that mommy didn’t pick her up.  Otherwise, no real reaction from her that I noticed.  Abuela has been keeping her happy at home.  Steve and I both miss Sabrina a lot so he went home to stay there tonight.  We look forward to us all being under one roof.

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Tessa Catherine


Please welcome Tessa Catherina to this wonderful world. Tessa and mom are busy right now learning to to breast feed, so the proud dad is making this post.

Born at 8:52 PM CST. 6 pounds and 12.8 ounces, and 20 inches. Here she is about 5 minutes after greeting mom and dad for the first time.

The Newest Brownlee

Drugs ‘R Gud


Steve here posting on behalf of Michelle at her request.

She’s heavily medicated at this point and is barely able to form coherent sentences, let alone control her fingers enough to actually type out a full blog post.  However, she’s comfortable, in no pain at all, contractions are coming along nicely and she’s slowly dilating to delivery readiness.

As I finish this, Michelle has requested that I provide this quote: “Duuuuude”.

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Long night


Well, that was fun *please note sarcasm*.  Why is the getting knocked up part fun but getting un-knocked up not so much fun?  I spent the night with the medicine on my cervix have having painful contractions.  They gave me an Ambien to help me sleep so I was able to grab a couple of cat naps when my contractions settled down.  This morning they checked me still only 1 cm despite the pain.  But my cervix softened and I am contracting pretty regularly on my own.  They broke my water this morning (okay that wasn’t pleasant) and are letting me contract on my own for the moment (meaning sans pitocin medicine).

At this point, things hurt but are bearable.  We’ll see what happens as the day progresses.

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I have been trying to imagine what it will be like to finally see Tessa’s face. But even more than that, I’ve been trying to imagine watching Steve seeing Tessa’s face. Those thoughts bring joy but also have lead to the sudden realization that I am suddenly going to have to share Tessa. She has been all mine for all of this time. Only I can speak to her activity level or guess at her mood. I am the only one with a concrete connection to her. But soon, I have to share her with the world. I’m having mixed feelings about that. I like her being all mine but I also can’t wait to share her with Steve.

With Sabrina it was different. We had photos and couldn’t wait to show them off. Then we had stories from our visits and couldn’t wait for everyone to meet her and love her as much as we did. I had a few mixed feelings about sharing her after I fostered for 2 months but it was so much work being a single mom during that time that mostly I was thankful and excited to share the workload. Yes, it was hard letting Steve take over the dinner and bedtime routines that I had developed with her but at the same time it meant that I could sit down and relax.  It also meant I had someone to share the wonderful moments of watching our daughter laugh or sleep or make silly faces.

And speaking of Sabrina and sharing, I am feeling a little sad that it won’t be just her and me anymore.  She has been my side kick, my buddy, my constant companion for over a year now.  I am sad that our relationship will inevitably change as a result of it becoming a threesome.  I know change is often a positive thing – I just fear losing some of our bond and our closeness.

None of this makes me any less excited to not be pregnant any more to meet Tessa.  And none of this makes me feel any less blessed to find myself having our second daughter soon and contemplating what a second child means to our family.  A “dilemma” I wasn’t sure we would ever have the joy of facing.  Just the rambling thoughts of a hormonal mind.

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Baby Watch ’08


I saw my doctor again today and had another ultrasound.  All is okay.  Blood pressure was okay.  I am 1cm dilated but the doctor seems to think I will make it until the 29th.  My amniotic fluid is a bit high but she didn’t seem concerned by that.

I haven’t been feeling so great the last couple of days.  No new complaints (tired, achy, retaining enough water to irrigate the crops of a 3rd world desert village) – just a general malaise.  (One of the nurses today commented that I looked tired.  I laughed at her and told her I haven’t had a good night sleep in 3+ months but thanks for pointing that out.)  I am guessing this is the wall that all pregnant women seem to hit at some point – the one where labor and delivery stops sounding scary and starts sounding like a relief.  My doctor says the high amniotic fluid is probably part of the reason for my not feeling so great. I think it is just a combo of being 9 1/2 months pregnant and almost 36 years old.  But, I tell myself how blessed we are to be at this point and remind myself it is only 12 more days.

Some one asked about plans for Sabrina during Tessa’s arrival.  Assuming things stay on schedule, Abuela is excited to come and spend some time with Sabrina so Steve and I can focus on Tessa’s arrival.  If things don’t stay on schedule, there is no plan B so let’s not go there.

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