Adoption Adventures

Follow Cory and Rebecca on their quest to adopt!

Gearing up!

Families waiting to adopt have different opinions on whether or not to buy baby things before they are matched with a potential birthmother or otherwise have a good idea that a baby is on the way. Some are superstitious about purchasing anything baby-related at all until they have a little one in their arms. Others jump right into decorating a nursery so that whenever they and their baby find each other, their home will already be ready and waiting.

We're not here yet

We’re not here yet

For the most part, we’ve walked the line between the two by not getting too caught up in the world of baby buys, while also taking advantage of good deals when we see them. I’ve shopped for end-of-season baby and kids’ clothes when they hit 80% off at Kohl’s for years. At first I would donate everything to a local nonprofit organization where social workers can “shop” for their young clients. These days, I tend to hold a few outfits aside for our future child and donate the rest.  If the items I’ve kept turn out to be the wrong size or season for our child, someone else will surely be able to use them. We’ve largely stayed away from larger purchases up to this point. We ordered a crib that was on sale around the time our new homestudy was finalized with our agency because it matches the twin bed set that I inherited from my grandmother. Again, if we end up not needing it, someone will. Nonprofit groups tend to not take used cribs because of safety issues, and it’s very rare for people to donate brand new ones–even though they’re always needed.

IMG_7288

Well of COURSE it’s the top-rated car seat! What do you think we’ve been doing all this time if not researching?

Speaking of safety issues, waiting to be chosen for adoption has given us plenty of time to do a lot of baby item research. Consumer Reports? Online reviews? “Best-of” product lists? Yeah–we’ve read ‘em, compiled the data, and determined the best of the best. Pushing past the super cute patterns or mod designs to get to the most solid and safe baby products around will not be a problem for us. I’ve even been able to help out with product research and advice for some of our pregnant and newly parenting friends! Most of the research has merely resulted in a lot of Pinterest pins for us.

However, our thinking on buying other big items has shifted a bit recently, because early next year we get to go on our adoption agency’s “Last-Minute Hospital List.” That means that we’re eligible to get a call when a woman contacts our agency from the hospital, where she is about to or has already given birth and wants to make an adoption plan. If we get a last-minute call from our agency, it means we’ll only have a few minutes to decide if we’re ready to possibly become instant parents! (This concept kind of terrifies Cory, but I’m all for it.) A combination of our going on that list, some great Cyber Monday sales, and the power of positive thinking led to a big ol’ box containing a carseat and stroller being delivered to our driveway just now.

We’ll most likely remain in a state of prepared-but-not-overly-so readiness for the foreseeable future. Don’t come to our house looking for an immaculate nursery. But if you want, I can show you our hidden stash of baby goods.

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We’re Fine

It’s National Adoption Month, which means an uptick in articles and stories published in the news and online about all sorts of adoption. International, domestic, foster care, and private infant adoption are highlighted more in November than other months of the year. My favorite stories include National Adoption Day photo galleries of children formerly in foster care legally joining their “forever families.”

In addition to the happy stories, there also seem to be more and more focused on loss, written by birth parents and adoptees. There are also tales of adult adoptees from closed adoptions finding and being reunited with their birth parents after years of searching. I absolutely support these folks’ right to publicize their experiences with adoption, but believe that these only tell half the story. By promoting primarily the stories of those who have had less-than-stellar experiences with adoption, the stereotypes of the troubled adoptee, broken birth parent, evil adoptive parents, and manipulative adoption agency are what take root and become the norm. (To be fair, there are also stories that focus solely on happy adoptive parents with newborns or toddlers. Ignoring birth parents or adoptees is also problematic.)

The other adoptive parents/prospective parents-to-be that I’ve met who have not had a personal connection to adoption often expect their children to feel broken because of the stories they have heard. I’ve witnessed some speak ill of their children’s birth mothers who may feel like they need to step away from their open adoption from time to time. They’ve been led to believe that by doing so, the mother is dooming their child to a lifetime of “what ifs” and sadness. Thankfully, our child will have a mom who shares the adoptee connection with her or him, as well as an extended family who has a greater understanding of adoption because we’ve been there before. We will be honest with our child from the start, and since our adoption will most likely be open, she or he will know their birth family to the degree that the family wants to be known.

doing-just-fineAs I’ve written here before, I was adopted at two months old through a closed adoption. I’ve never felt abandoned, unloved, or “given up” by my birth family, nor uncomfortable in my adoptive family. The people who raised me are my “real” parents. My brother, who is my parents’ biological son, is my “real” sibling. I didn’t grow up believing that anything was missing from my life.

Acknowledging this does not denigrate birth families in the least. Although I know very little about her, I have great respect for my birth mother for making a choice that was undoubtedly difficult for her, and wonderful for me. I believe my story is exactly what birth parents want for their children when they make adoption plans.

There are many other adoptees like me, but we typically don’t feel the need to put our stories out there. Let’s face it: “We’re fine” doesn’t make for exciting headlines. But maybe it’s time for those of us who are OK to make time to tell our stories, too.

 

 

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A Recipe for Grandparents’ Day

Yesterday was Grandparents’ Day, so today I’m posting my favorite dish that my grandmother made. It combines two of the loves of my life: cheese and vegetables. IMG_2388What could be better?

 

Kiss Kiss’ Au Gratin Vegetables

  • 1 pound mixed cauliflower, broccoli,
    and carrots
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
    (2 ounces)
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan
  • Hot Hungarian or sweet paprika

Cut cauliflower and broccoli into florets; chop carrots into “coins,” or halve if using baby carrots.

Cook vegetables, covered, in a small amount of boiling salted water for about 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid. Add enough water to reserved liquid to make one cup. Keep vegetables warm.

In a small saucepan cook onion in the butter until tender, but not brown. Stir in flour. Add reserved cooking liquid all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in cheddar; cook 1-2 minutes more or until cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour some of the cheese sauce into a greased 10x6x2 inch-baking pan. Top with cooked vegetables and put remaining sauce over. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and paprika.

Broil 4 inches from heat for about 5 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Serve at once.

Makes 4-6 servings.

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Looking for the 1%

thorne-moxie-scaled500

Not this kind of Moxie (although having some of this type wouldn’t hurt)

 

It takes a woman with a special kind of moxie to choose adoption these days. Across the US, around 1% of women experiencing unplanned pregnancies make and carry out adoption plans. Forty years ago, it was closer to 20%. There are several reasons for the drop in numbers–some of which you may know and others that may be surprises.

Although the expansion of safe and legal abortion services in the ’70s caused the number of women “choosing”* adoption to drop initially, the current low number is just as much or more due to single women opting to parent. Fewer teens are becoming pregnant these days and never-married women in their 20s experiencing unplanned pregnancies are more likely than their grandmothers were to take on the joys and challenges of single motherhood.

Beyond more women choosing to parent, adoption has too many negative connotations for many women to consider. Unfortunately, adoption has become politicized over the years as the “loving alternative” to abortion. (You’ve seen those bumper stickers, right?) The assumption is that only a woman who is morally opposed to abortion would choose adoption. I see that as a false dichotomy. The same woman at different points in her life and in different situations may make different choices when faced with unplanned pregnancies. A woman who chooses adoption at age 16 may choose abortion at 22 and parenting at 30. A vocal pro-choice activist may choose adoption, while a clinic protestor may choose abortion. (Yes, this happens.) At any rate, it’s not too hard to see how a pro-choice woman going into a conservative adoption agency may not feel like she belongs.

Women choosing adoption today often don’t get the support that they deserve. At best, friends and family may be confused about a woman’s choice to make an adoption plan. Given the 1% statistic, fewer people know someone who has chosen adoption than parenting or abortion. Some folks claim that the woman who chooses adoption is selfish or shirking her responsibilities as a parent. In reality, adoption takes an immense amount of planning–all of which is done with her future child’s wellbeing in mind. Carrying a pregnancy to term is a very visible act so unless she takes a sudden “trip to Europe” before she starts showing, people in her community are going to know that a woman is pregnant, and they’re going to wonder what happened when they see her a year later with no baby. The woman choosing adoption has to be tough enough to put up with the comments, insults, sideways glances, and potential family struggles that come with it.

I'm not quite sure what this means, but at least it looks more positive than many folks' impression of adoption

I’m not quite sure what this means, but at least it looks more positive than many folks’ impression of adoption

Unless they’ve had a recent, personal experience with adoption, most Americans have a very outdated understanding of the process. They often think a birth parent “gives up” her baby and never sees her/him again, as it was in the ’50s. They think that adoptees are damaged or not truly accepted by the families that adopt them. These days, with 95% or more of infant adoptions being open to some degree, the woman can choose to have an ongoing relationship with her child and the family she chose for her/him. Rather than losing a family member, she and the parent(s) she chooses are creating an extended family together. Studies have shown that children are not confused by this kind of family structure, and adoptees are no more likely to be emotionally scarred than any other people.

So that gets us back to that teeny percentage. A family like ours that has wanted to adopt from the start (rather than winding up here due to infertility) may seem crazy. Why gamble on a woman from that relatively tiny group choosing us out of all the families hoping to adopt? Why do we support contraceptive access, abortion rights, and single moms when doing so means fewer babies being made available for adoption? Well, we think today’s open adoption is a strong pro-choice option for everyone involved, even if it means we’ve already waited longer than my own parents did when they adopted me. We feel good knowing that today, the 1% of women choosing adoption are doing just that–freely choosing it. They know that abortion is an option (if they find out they’re pregnant early enough), they live in a country where single parenthood is far more normalized than ever before, and they are empowered to choose the family for and relationship with their child through open adoption. What could be cooler than helping a woman carry out her adoption plan, and growing our family at the same time? We’re confident someone out who shares our values will choose us, and you can bet she’s got lots of moxie.

 

*Though not always the case, adoption prior to the 1970s was often not a free choice for the woman involved. Many young women who found themselves pregnant were sent away by family members to maternity homes where they were pressured into adoptions they didn’t want. The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler tells the stories of several such women.

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It’s never too early!

Cory and I have learned so much about adoption over the past few years, but perhaps the biggest lesson that we’d share with

You may not be able to see the future, but you can learn enough now to be prepared for it.

others is this: Start Early.  Even if you’re absolutely sure you aren’t ready to be a parent for several years, there’s plenty that you can be learning and planning for in the meantime.

Choosing an adoption agency can take a while, depending on your family and your values. Some agencies won’t work with single people, same-sex couples, non-Christian folks, or people who aren’t infertile. (Don’t get me started.) Agencies vary in the services that they offer, and the cost of those services. It’s possible that the best agency for you isn’t in your city or even your state. Check out your options sooner rather than later.

Most adoption agencies have open houses or programs that you can attend to learn more about the adoption process. Attend a few! This is a great way to learn not just about the nuts and bolts of adoption in your state, but also about individual agencies. I guarantee you: no one is going to make you take a kid home with you from one of these sessions.

Adopting from foster care typically requires you to take special classes through an adoption agency or county. Many states and agencies require families adopting from foster care to also be licensed foster families, which means everything from taking CPR and other extra classes to ensuring that your home can meet certain requirements.

International adoption is its own can of worms. Just as every state has its own set of rules for adopting families, each country may have its own regulations. Some countries have a more streamlined process for international adoption than others, and some don’t do international adoptions at all. Anything you research now may have changed by the time you’re ready to adopt, but it’s good to look into the various rules and regulations so you’ll at least have an understanding of the process and common requirements for those seeking to adopt.

You may have support for adoption that you didn’t even realize! Larger companies may offer adoption benefits to employees. For example, Wells Fargo provides up to $5,000 in reimbursements for adoption-related expenses, The Home Depot offers counseling and reimbursements, and Jockey offers employees $10,000 in reimbursements per child per year. If you’re job-hunting, you may want to give companies that support employees who adopt a second look. If your workplace doesn’t currently offer adoption benefits, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has resources to help you make your company more adoption-friendly.

You may have noticed that those workplace benefits are reimbursements. There’s also a generous adoption tax credit offered by the IRS. However, families often still have to pay money upfront for adoption costs, which is something else to plan for.

Some other things to consider if you would like to adopt someday:

  • Are you moving into a new house in the next few years? Check out foster care licensing requirements for your state and have them in mind when you’re house-hunting.
  • Buying new furniture for your guest room? Consider “flexible” options, like two twin beds that you can group together as a king size bed for now, and separate later.
  • Does your family hunt and own firearms? Ask for a gun safe for an upcoming birthday or holiday. (Actually, that’s a good idea if you plan to ever have any kids in your home. It’s a requirement if you want to adopt or even mentor through many agencies.)
  • Are you in college? Think of using an elective to take a course on child development, counseling, or social work.
  • Do you know anyone in your area who has fostered or adopted? Ask them about their experiences, and what advice they have to offer.
  • Do you like the idea of adopting from foster care, but have heard spotty things about “foster children”? Volunteer through an agency or as a GAL/CASA. You’ll get to help children in foster care directly and get a better feel for what they endure.

…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. All of this may sound daunting, but that’s more of a reason to plan ahead so you can tackle it a little at a time. Just remember that the more legwork and research you do now, the more time you’ll have to focus on actually becoming a parent when you’re ready.
Our Adoption Agency

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Book It!

A friend posted about her favorite Easter picture book this weekend (The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes), which took me down the rabbit-hole (tee hee) looking for it online. Amazon is so “helpful” to suggest other similar items to the one you’re seeking, so I wound up ordering The Country Bunny and two other classics before putting a stop to the spending. Some adoptive-parents-to-be stock up on baby clothes and toys. We’re more book people.

Cory’s fondest children’s book memories involve Bunnicula, the rabbit who sucks the juice out of vegetables, vampire-style. Bunnicula has a whole series. The books are told from the point of view of a family’s dog and have excellent titles like The Celery Stalks at Midnight and Howliday Inn.

Alexander

Bunnicula, Chester, and Harold

Growing up, I loved Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It’s the story of a day in the life of Alexander in which everything goes awry. He wakes up with gum in his hair, there’s nothing but breakfast cereal in his cereal box (no toy), his dentist finds a cavity in Alexander’s mouth, and the shoe store doesn’t have the shoes he wants in his size. Alexander manages despite these atrocities and resists the urge to move to Australia. The line drawing illustrations in the book tell the story as well as the words do, keeping young readers and listeners doubly engaged.

It wasn’t until later that I discovered what may be my favorite children’s book these days: Corduroy. Young Lisa saves up her money to buy a little bear in green overalls. Her mother doesn’t understand Lisa’s interest since the bear’s overalls are missing a button and he doesn’t look new. But Lisa sees something special in him and knows that Corduroy will be a good friend. My favorite part of the book is when Lisa sews a new button onto Corduroy’s overalls, telling him, “I like you the way you are, but you’ll be more comfortable with your shoulder strap fastened.”

We don’t know much about our future child, but we do know that she or he will be well-read!

How about you? What’s your favorite children’s book?

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Just the facts, Ma’am

On the list of things that cheese me off, people and resources purporting to espouse “facts” that are, at best, poorly researched and, at worst, downright lies, rank right up at the top. When those resources are targeted toward people who are especially vulnerable and looking for reliable information to make life-changing decisions, it’s even worse. This is one of the reasons that so-called “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” (CPCs) are so nefarious.

CPCs have physical locations throughout the US, and they also run websites. The pickle is, those websites are often affiliated with otherwise legitimate adoption websites. This can end up creating all sorts of confusion. It lends credibility to CPCs to be associated with trusted organizations, and that connection can lead potemalarkeyntial birthmothers to take CPC lies as truth. It helps perpetuate the all-too-common myth that folks who support adoption must be anti-choice. (The funny part there is that “choice” is the important part of “pro-choice.” That means that someone who is pro-choice supports a woman’s right to make the choice she feels is best for herself and her family–and for some women that choice is adoption.) Not to mention, it makes it very difficult for potential adoptive parents to find adoption agencies with pro-choice sensibilities.

There’s a particular website that claims to be the “#1 Registry of Adoptive Parent Profiles” that advertises widely. They seem to do a good job of getting the word out about the families who pay them a decent bit of money to be marketed to potential birthmothers. They have a very small amount of profiles of families living in our state, so if we were to pay them to promote us, I think that it would greatly increase the number of people who see our adoption page. In addition to the profiles, they have information pages on a variety of topics ranging from prenatal care to talking with friends and family about adoption. Unfortunately, this includes a page about abortion.

I’m not going to link to the site, but here’s one of the sections from the page on abortion. This list of “risks” is similar to those found in most CPC literature:

Abortion Risks:
As with any procedure, there are risks involved in getting an abortion. As mentioned earlier, in order to make an informed decision, you must understand what you’re agreeing to. When it comes to the risks of abortion, there are both physical and psychological risks to consider. Here is just a small sampling:

  • Death
  • Infection and Inflammation
  • Lacerations and Perforations
  • Higher Risk of Breast, Cervical, and Ovarian Cancer
  • Complications in Later Pregnancies: Pre-Term Labor and Ectopic Pregnancy
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Post-Abortion Syndrome
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Feelings of Loss, Guilt, Shame, and Depression

They start off strong, with “Death” being at the very top of the list of abortion risks. (Suffice it to say, there are no footnotes on their site.) In truth, a woman in the United States is far more likely to die from complications in childbirth than from a legal abortion. This article on the NIH website from 2012 shows that “The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion.” This doesn’t show that childbirth is exceptionally dangerous in our country; just that legal abortion is very safe as far as medical procedures go.

An increased risk of breast and other cancers is also a common myth that anti-abortion organizations and individuals tout. In the most extensive study ever on this theoretical link, the medical records of 1.5 million women in Denmark were researched. There was no connection found between induced abortion and a higher risk of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society cites this study, and several others, on its website before concluding that “the scientific evidence does not support the notion that abortion of any kind raises the risk of breast cancer or any other type of cancer.”

The assertion about PTSD, depression, and negative mental health impacts similarly doesn’t survive scrutiny. The American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion released a report in 2008 that took into account all published literature on the subject since 1989. They found several things. One is that the majority of research done on mental health and abortion was (and most likely still is) methodologically flawed. However, “The best scientific evidence published indicates that among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy the relative risk of mental health problems is no greater if they have a single elective first-trimester abortion than if they deliver that pregnancy.” Additionally, “the prevalence of mental health problems observed among women in the United States who had a single, legal, first-trimester abortion for non- therapeutic reasons was consistent with normative rates of comparable mental health problems in the general population of women in the United States.” (Eighty-nine percent of abortions occur in the first trimester.) This study and others noted that the stigma that we as a society place on abortion, and the lack of support for women who choose abortion, can lead to negative post-abortion feelings.

awesome_scienceI won’t go through all of the points, but are you noticing a pattern here? The Guttmacher Institute has a nice fact sheet from February 2014 with even more science-based information on abortion in the United States.

Needless to say, we will not be using this company’s services. We believe that big, life decisions (and even tiny, daily decisions) are best made when a person has all of the facts and is able to weigh her or his options. However much working with a company like this one may increase our chances of adopting, it’s not worth it if they’re lying to potential birthmothers in order to coerce them into a continuing a pregnancy. We want to be matched with a birthmom who thinks adoption is fantastic and right for her, based on nothing more than her own feelings and the truth.

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Well, how did I get here?

This post has nothing to do with adoption, which is fine because a good number of people aren’t looking for adoption when they wind up on this site. Here are just a few of the search terms that have led people to our blog:

  • Describing people and things (This is the #1 most searched)
  • Money fun
  • Weird science
  • 1952 heavy equipment pictures
  • Children mistreating cats
  • Your family isn’t really your type
  • 1952 sports for woman
  • Interesting way of serving mash potatoes
  • How is one hundred and eighty degrees in shortened form
  • Awesome tortoise

In an effort to keep the odd keywords coming, here’s a triumphant water bear dressed as an astronaut:

water_bear_astronaut_by_obviouslycloe-d3gjbjp

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We’re live! But what does that mean?

Our adoption website with our agency is finally up and viewable!

It’s been a long road to get here, and we’ve still got miles to go. Since we’ve gotten lots of questions about where we are in the adoption process, here’s a handy timeline to give folks an idea of where we’ve been and what’s likely to be ahead of us.* (Click the timeline to enlarge it.)

AdoptionTimelineMarch2014

In short, we’re at the point now where potential birth parents (and anyone else) can read about us on our website. They can send us messages through the site, call us on our 800 number, or specifically talk about us when communicating with the adoption agency.

Coinciding with the website launch is our agency’s ability to send information about us out to potential birth families. If a potential birthmother calls the agency and says she’s seeking placement for her future child with a certain type of family, our agency can send her a print copy of our brochure (aka our Dear Birthmother Letter) if we fit the bill. For example, if she’s looking for a same-sex couple living in Oregon who is fluent in French, the agency would not send her our brochure. But if she’s seeking a heterosexual couple in the South, our brochure would go with those of other couples into a packet mailed out to her.

The average wait time for families like ours with our agency is around 15 months. However, it’s up to the potential birth parent to choose a family**, so we could get a call tomorrow, or we may not hear from anyone for years.

For now, we’re closer than we’ve ever been–even if we have no idea what that means!

*If you’re interested in pursuing domestic infant adoption, yourself, don’t be concerned about our multi-year timeline. You could jump right in at our March 2013 point and be just fine.

**Potential birthmothers and potential adoptive families have to both agree in order for the adoption to occur. So while she will be the one choosing the family for her child, the family can decline if they don’t believe it’s a good fit. Relationships count for a lot in open adoption, so it’s important for everyone to be on the same page.

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Bring it on, Potential Birthmoms!

nancy-drew-mystery-at-the-lilac-inn

It’s a mystery!

As we’re inching ever-closer to going “live” on our adoption agency’s website (after updating our home study, background checks, and taking some other steps that sound small but actually take a while), I’ve begun thinking more about this whole adoption thing actually becoming a reality. As with most parents-to-be, my emotions range from excited to somewhat freaked out. The complete uncertainty in adoption timing definitely feeds the latter feeling. Although the average wait time for couples like us is around 15 months, technically a woman could pull up our website on her phone while she’s in labor and we could have a baby faster than we could put together a crib! And what if she’s having triplets?!? Or we could go for years without anyone expressing interest in us at all. Who knows? One thing I am definitely getting excited about is the opportunity to talk with potential birthmothers.

A couple of years ago, I was really worried about having conversations with potential birthmothers. Cory and I were still trying to adopt through foster care and in a moment of frustration with the process, I called up a friend who works at the agency we’re with now to talk through private adoption options. I confessed that I thought I’d be horrible at “marketing” us to potential birthmothers because I’m such a prochoice resource referral nerd.

Options are awesome!

Options are awesome!

What if every woman I talked with ended up going with another option because rather than sticking with talking points about what great parents Cory and I would be, I would be helping the woman brainstorm local resources that could help her parent if that’s her preference? Or referring her to a clinic if it turns out that what she truly wants is not to be pregnant at all? After I dumped all of that on my friend, she said something to the effect of, “Actually, that’s exactly what would make you really good at this. You’re not just trying to get a baby–you care about women and want them to be confident that they’ve made the best possible decisions.” She assured me that the agency does options counseling with everyone who contacts them, as well.

I now see talking with potential birthmothers as getting the chance to do some of my favorite things. I love helping people make solid decisions and life plans that make them feel good about themselves. I love helping people realize that they have options and opportunities. And I’m especially sensitive to the pressures and expectations that our society puts on women who are dealing with unplanned pregnancies. It will be fun to share the hopes we have for our future children and maybe we’ll even find enough common ground that it will lead to a solid adoption down the road!

Those calls are still a little while off, though. We’ll put up a post when we’re on the agency’s site and open for business. At that point, we can truly say:

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