progression | part 3

december 14

we had to do it alone.

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we were alone when we summoned his body from the earth, and now, alone, we return the sum of our bodies to the earth and water and air and elements.

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these ashes feel hideously indecent, powdered triune nakedness.

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web ready-010i pour into my hand and they slip through my fingers, soft and caressing like a baby’s touch.

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fine like baby powder.
fine like powdered baby.

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i strew my heart and my passion and my future and my body along this river. spiritual and carnal comingle, cold rain and hot tears. the water and ash make mud in my hand, and this is creation. i hold the stuff of adam.

creation and desolation, beginning and end.

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alpha omega is here, in this infinite moment.
distilled and destroyed image of god.
breath and dust.

i breathe. i choke hot dusty sorrow. it is finished.

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but it is also beginning.

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a small seed of rainbow, the root of ash, nestled in the womb, a circular room that circles from beginning to end. sky’s life began and ended here; ash’s life begins … and begins again. old mud is formed into a baby who is not yet powdered, bringing forth order from chaos.

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i have two babies: one knit into order, the other flung into chaos. earth and water and breath course through the baby of order. the baby of chaos is in the earth and air and sky. my sky child, and my ash child.

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a paradox:
my baby who is ash is not called ash, and my baby who is called ash is not yet ash.

web ready-035the beginning and the end curve together into a circle, and binding them in orbit is love.

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progression | part 1

i feel it is important to clarify that this will be my story of ashal emmanuel’s adoption, not his.

his story starts in a place that is unreachable to me, and it will emerge as he finds the words to tell it. the story that follows is my story of motherhood, an evolving story of loss and confusion and unexpected joy. of finding myself and god and a world of mystery in the complexities of mothering children who are both living and dead.

it is a picture story, because photography is an essential part of how i make sense of life. sometimes it’s awkward. it’s awkward to pull out a big fancy camera in moments of great emotion, awkward to focus my lens when my eyes are full of tears, awkward to punctuate the music of crying with clicks, awkward to ask a stranger if i can take her picture. but i do it anyway, because, well, it’s what i do.

my refrain, starting last january, was “i can’t get through another christmas with no children, no family.” over and over throughout the year; i can’t get through our 9th christmas with just the two of us. can’t is such a cruel word. each time i have said i can’t over the past year, that which i could not do came and went. i didn’t explode or disappear, but each time the tyranny of my self-professed inability chipped away at hope. i can’t is not a statement of fact, but of despair. i knew i would live through another childless christmas as i had each one before that, but … i can’t.

in november, our first adoption opportunity arrived. a baby would be born at the end of november, and we were one of two families considered to be his parents. it was a protracted affair, with certainty pushed off more times than i could count. each time we heard “no word today. hopefully tomorrow.” my heart said i can’t. after 10 days of this, i wrote the following journal entry:

i really should be doing a better job of journaling this adoption process. so many emotions and memories and thoughts – tidbits of learning that fall like the parable of the seeds on the road, trampled by the stomping of strong emotions and complex experiences.

i feel certain tonight that this mom won’t choose us tomorrow. and i can’t really say i feel peace about it – more of a sad acceptance. we will spend this thanksgiving without the present hope of a child. this whole year, the grief year of losing sky, must be lived out, loose ends must be tied, and ashes must be scattered.

we’ve tried so hard to start the next thing before finishing the first, and i don’t think the universe works this way. maybe it does. one could certainly say that the universe multitasks. but i must bring the silence into my soul before it can be filled with hope again; of this i am sure. joel says that 90% of life is just showing up and bringing what you have, but i think that, to take this next step into present motherhood, i must prepare my broken heart.

this premonition proved to be true, and we set about finding ways to bring some amount of resolve to our mourning hearts, never dreaming that a child would come into our family exactly between sky’s birthday and christmas, the tiny window between finishing that which we had to complete, and spending another christmas alone.

goodbye

dear florida,

please accept a goodbye kiss from ashal.

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… cause we’re going HOME!

our ash baby is about to experience the wonders of life in oregon, where daddy isn’t the only guy around with facial hair, mommy isn’t the only one who greets strangers on the street, and a host of people are waiting to love him!

 

 

emmanuel

we gave ourselves the entire plane trip to pick out a name for our 12 day old, yet-unnamed baby, forgetting that the plane would have no internet access. how the heck do you name a baby without the internet?!

the process went something like this:
watch an episode of seinfeld.
“what name do you like the best right now?”
“you answer first.”
“let’s watch another seinfeld.”
(lather. rinse. repeat.)

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ashal was a name that we had briefly considered before sky was born, but never even reached the “let’s research this name” phase. basically, we wanted to call him ash, but give him a slightly more dignified full name. “asher” had a little too much R action with our last name (asherrrrrroberrrrrts), so ashal was a lovely alternative.

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my dad did some research on the name. (cause, you know, he had internet. such a useful invention.) he found that it means “tamarisk tree” in hebrew, and “a flower in the heavens” in arabic.

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joel asked why the baby even needed a middle name. i informed him that depriving a child with the ridiculously common last name of “roberts” of the many internet-age options a middle age name provides is not very nice. joel capitulated.

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ashal’s has haitian heritage, so i used our half-hour layover in phoenix to look up popular haitian names for inspiration.

unrelatedly, the phoenix airport carpet is weird. (though i suppose a pdx native can’t really boast in the matter of airport carpets.)

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and there, right near the top of the list.

emmanuel.
god with us.
christmas.
haiti.

it all came together.
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today we’re snuggling our little flower from the heavens, who brought the hope of god-with-us back into our life after a desolate year of pain and grief.

web ready-039i wondered if i would ever say this again.

merry christmas.

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ash with mom, day 2

 

it’s been almost exactly 24 hours since we brought ash home (i.e. extended stay america) from the agency. yesterday at this time we were in whole foods, buying baby wipes, cocoa butter, and big people food. we’re spending as much time holding him as possible to promote bonding (i.e. all the time), so instead of carrying his carseat through the store i carried him, swaddled in his little receiving blanket and drawing stares from everybody. one lady, beaming at him, wished us good luck.

he’s been giving us plenty of time to sleep. he rarely fusses unless we put him down, and is content and alert when he’s awake. today’s itinerary includes a first attempt at the intricacies of babywearing and finding milk donors in southern florida.

oh, and snuggling. lots of snuggling.

flying

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yes, that’s a carseat i’m holding … and it felt weird, let me tell ya.

the us airways check-in man was named rico. he asked where the baby was, and we told him. he asked if this was “our first time,” to which i still answered yes, and then stuttered a bit. our first time adopting? or our first time being parents? if rico had phrased his question slightly differently, he would have heard all about sky. as it was … i said yes.

i’m posting this in phoenix at 12:55am, which means that we meet our baby TODAY!

we narrowed down our list of names on the plane, and though he still doesn’t have a name yet we’re determined to make it happen before we meet him. i don’t want my first words to my son to be “hello … bucko!”

not happening.

accomplished

we finished the home study.

i want to tell the story of this home study, but that sad fact is that a home study just doesn’t make for nearly as interesting blogging as a pregnancy.

pregnancy is a journey inside and back out again, a planting watering flowering mystery. we watch fascinated as a person just like us becomes exaggeratedly unlike us in her glowing, herculean strength. for a little while she seems to commune with the creative divine, and in pondering her we sense our own mortal miraculous. a home study, on the other hand, is a 4 month, tortuously protracted job application. there is nothing “glowing” about paperwork.

somewhere, maybe even now, a woman is living in physical communion with a child who will be both ours and hers. she will experience unimaginable emotions as she binds us in legal contract to parent her child, and in spiritual contract to love it. our child’s story doesn’t begin with our home study, but wrapped within her heartbeat.

and yet, i don’t believe that our “protracted job application” is any less sacred. it is a great effort of will, a labor of trembling choice. love, notarized. every blessed page holds a blood oath, in invisible ink.

and so, in this picture post, i tell a story that is as transcendent as it is mundane.

the first major mundane hurdle of the home study process was arranging for the fingerprinting of everyone in our community house. this was no small feat, as we represent every possible working schedule, and one of our number still lived in idaho. nevertheless, we managed.

not pictured: micah
pictured but no longer living with us: ryan & tricia

after this, we read books, wrote our life stories, obtained reference letters, and filled out forms. finally, at the end of july, i took big stack of papers to the agency: the pre-home study paperwork.

the agency, in return, sent us a wonderful angel of adoption named cathy. cathy gently pried open our lives, asked tons of questions, and didn’t even mind when we gave really, really long winded answers. after 3 meetings with cathy, we received our completed home study in the mail last week. yesterday, we dropped our completed profile books at the agency, to be mailed to other agencies all over the country.

the next step will be for us to be chosen by birth parents. this could be next week, or in 2 years.

for now … we wait.