Adoption Adventures

Follow Cory and Rebecca on their quest to adopt!

The Big Update Part II

And now for the thrilling Part II of our adoption tale!

When we left off, Katherine’s birth mom-to-be was in labor, and the plan was for Cory, me, and the adoption coordinator to visit her in the hospital once the baby was born. I got a call while we were having lunch from the adoption coordinator. She said that Katherine’s birth mom was requesting that I be in the delivery room with her and her mother. This was definitely a change of plans since for the weeks we had been communicating, she stated that she really just wanted her mom with her. And who could blame her? But she said that she thought it was important that I be with Katherine from the very beginning, so of course I accepted the invitation. I told the adoption coordinator that I would be honored to be there, and that I would also be completely open to leaving if Katherine’s birth mom wanted to kick me out at any point. Although we were part of the adoption plan she created, first and foremost this was a young woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and facing a situation that was both emotionally and physically difficult. Anything she wanted me to do was fine with me.

A scenic view from our trip (rather than photos of needles)

A scenic view from our trip (rather than photos of needles)

Now, those who know me understand that I don’t do so well with needles, blood, thinking about the fact that there are skeletons within all of us, etc. When completing our adoption home study and updates, I drove all around the county and ended up getting our mandatory HIV tests at methadone clinics because they were the only places that offered the cheek swab test rather than one that requires a blood draw. (That was actually pretty great because I got to spend half an hour each time talking with nurses so passionate about their jobs helping folks through addiction.) And now I had just a few hours to prepare for being in a real, live delivery room. The up-side about this particular type of medical situation is that I’ve worked for several reproductive health and rights organizations, so I was much better prepared for witnessing childbirth than, say, open heart surgery. I texted a former labor and delivery nurse friend for tips on not vomiting or passing out and was told “don’t lock your knees.”

We headed to the hospital around 4pm and got to spend time with Katherine’s birth mom-to-be, her mother, and her grandmother. Cory stayed with us until the contractions got strong and nurses began checking on Katherine’s birth mom more frequently. I won’t go into all the details, but will say that Katherine’s birth mom was AMAZING as she went through the tough process of giving birth to a surprisingly large baby. I got to be part of her support team and was right in the middle of things–not just standing on the sidelines. It wasn’t until she was pushing that we all found out she had only seen people give birth on TV, where an actress pushes once or twice and then her doctor holds up a magically clean and alert baby. Things got even more dramatic once the doctor could see that Katherine was larger than expected and NICU nurses were called in just in case the baby sustained any injuries (like a dislocated shoulder) while making her way into the world. Katherine’s birth mom powered through the pain and Katherine was born–shoulders intact–just before 10:00 that night. I managed not to lock my knees (thanks, Sarah!) and the only time I thought I might pass out was when the doctor asked who was cutting the cord and I heard Katherine’s birth mom say, “Rebecca is!” And then the doctor handed me blood-covered scissors, and then this vegetarian was cutting through an umbilical cord. (It seems odd that that particular medical procedure is an “honor” given to the untrained.)

Things moved pretty quickly after that point. Nurses whisked Katherine away to check her vital signs. They called me over to the baby warmer and handed Katherine to me. Aside from the medical staff, I was the first person to hold her. The adoption coordinator called Cory in soon after Katherine was born and he got to hold her, as well. Although I’d like to say it was the most beautiful, tear-filled moment of my life, the truth is there was so much going on that it was hard to get too emotional at that point. Our concern for Katherine’s birth mother was equal to our love for this new baby. How could we shift our focus so quickly to Katherine when the doctor and nurses were still working on her birth mom across the room? It was surreal to her, as well. Soon after the doctor left, Katherine’s birth mom was already saying, “Did all of that really happen???” Additionally, at this point Cory and I were legally nothing more than family friends to Katherine. The earliest her birth mom could sign relinquishment paperwork was 48 hours after her birth, or once she got a discharge order from her doctor. All births are emotional, but these circumstances added a few more layers. Cory and I stayed with Katherine and her birth mom for another hour or so, then stumbled out to the parking garage and headed back to our rental home.

Day 2 of air breathing

Day 2 of air breathing

We headed back to the hospital the next day. After a few hours’ sleep, we were all in a better position to enjoy spending time together and learn more about this new baby! The highlight of that day was when Cory and I got to spend time with just Katherine and her birth mom. Katherine’s birth grandmother had to work that evening, so it was just the four of us. While Katherine slept, the “grownups” talked about favorite books, movies, holidays, and just generally got to know one another better. Katherine’s birth mom told us more about how she came to make an adoption plan. She approached it with such maturity and selflessness. She looked into all of her options and found that adoption was the best choice for her and for her baby-to-be. Seriously, people with ten and twenty years more life experience than this young woman don’t possess the same amount of self-awareness and goal-setting abilities for themselves as she does. Katherine is so lucky to have the birth mom and adoption story that she does, and we’re so looking forward to telling her about the conversations we all had that evening.

The following day, Katherine’s birth mom signed all the necessary paperwork to move her from a “mom” to a “birth mom” and Katherine came into the care of the adoption agency. Later that day, Cory and I went to the adoption agency office and signed our own paperwork to have her placed with us. In the coming months the Florida courts will formally terminate the rights of Katherine’s birth parents, and then finalize our adoption. Until then, we operate pretty much as any other parents do. We had to stay an extra couple of weeks in Florida while FL and NC okayed Katherine’s placement with us, then were free to come home near the end of July.

We’re so grateful for open adoption because it alleviates much of the fear that parents in closed adoptions may feel during this legal waiting period. We’re in ongoing contact with Katherine’s birth mom and can continually assure her–through photos and answering questions about the baby–that she made a great choice. We also get to hear how she is doing (currently excited that she can once again fit into her “skinny jeans” and looking forward to starting back at a new school!). We’re so honored that she chose us for Katherine, and thrilled that our relationship with her gets to continue into the future.

First family selfie

First family selfie

So that’s the short version, folks! We’re back home, our family and friends have been so excited to welcome Katherine with open arms, and even the cats seem happy to have her. (Until she gets to the tail-pulling phase, at least.)

 

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The Big Update Part I (Because no one wants to read this much at once)

After years of talking with social workers and agency folks, taking all the steps to complete and then annually update our home study, marketing ourselves online (or at least attempting to), and just generally waiting around hoping for a call that would lead us to our child, everything about our adoption happened very quickly and not in the way we anticipated.

Spoiler alert!

Spoiler alert! Cory and baby Katherine

In February, we had been “on the books” with our adoption agency for a year. (We had been hoping to adopt for several years prior, first through foster care, then through private adoption.) As we moved through month after month with no contacts from potential birth parents, we looked for other ways to increase our chances of being noticed by people making adoption plans. We asked friends to share our adoption Facebook page and family profile, we made sure coworkers knew we were hoping to expand our family through adoption (in case they met someone hoping to place a child), Cory mentioned our adoption journey in music label interviews, I talked about our desire to adopt with the county social workers I met through volunteering as a Guardian ad Litem for kids in foster care, and we updated our family profile with new photos and a more eye-catching design. Still no bites. We asked our agency for suggestions and most of their ideas that we weren’t already implementing involved what felt like the same type of online exposure we were already getting–but with a higher price tag. Then I remembered a women whom I had gotten to know years earlier, while working together on local adolescent pregnancy prevention efforts. She started her own adoption referral service several years ago. After making sure it was ok with our adoption agency, we signed on with her service in early February of this year.

A referral service serves as something of a middleman between agencies and waiting families. The woman at the referral service is in contact with around 12 adoption agencies across the country. When one of those agencies has a potential birth mom who wants a different type of family than the agency has “in house,” the agency contacts the referral service, which then puts a brief description of the birth mom and situation (including agency fees) out in an email to the waiting families on her list. Families can then opt to have their profile shown to the potential birth mom/family. Once she chooses a family, everyone can agree to be matched together and the waiting family connects with the agency that the birth mom has chosen.

We got several emails while on the referral list, but none of them really spoke to us until one that came in May. There was a young woman in Florida seeking a family for her baby to be born in late June. She was a petite cheerleader, which stuck out to me because that’s how my own birth mother was described. This  young woman’s own mom had also become pregnant as a teen and made an adoption plan for her baby, so her family understood adoption and at least had to have a positive enough view of it for her to also make an adoption plan. Her profile described her as quiet and a book lover. She loved her siblings and didn’t like math class. She wished her mom didn’t have to work so much so that they could spend more time together. She had plans for her future that included starting high school–not taking care of a child so soon. There were still lots of unknowns about the baby-to-be, but we felt connected to the potential birth mom just through reading her profile. I had a really good feeling about it.

This was in a fortune cookie we got the weekend that Katherine's birth mom was making her final decision on adoptive parents

This was in a fortune cookie we got the weekend that Katherine’s birth mom was making her final decision on adoptive parents

We asked the woman at the referral service to submit our family profile for the potential birth mom to consider, then waited. We found out just over a week later that she had narrowed her choice of families down from six to three, and we were  one of those three families. A week later, we learned that she had narrowed her choices down to two families, and we were not in the top two. We were disappointed, but honestly elated to have even been in someone’s top three choices. That’s the closest we had ever gotten to being chosen and it felt great to know that someone liked us enough to consider us! Two days later, we got another email saying that there had been some miscommunication about us being ruled out and the potential birth mom hoped we were still interested. She had several more questions for us to answer. That was on a Friday, and we got the word the following Monday that she had chosen us!

We drove down to Florida the second weekend of June to meet the potential birth mom, her mother, and the adoption coordinator with the agency she chose. We were all nervous! Despite the butterflies, it was evident that this young woman had been exceptionally thoughtful in making her child’s adoption plan and choosing the family she thought would be best. It was also clear that she made this decision, herself, and was getting strong and positive support from her mother and her adoption agency. That was a huge relief! As we drove home, Cory and I tried to figure out what all we needed to do to prepare for a baby in just a few weeks’ time. We wanted to tell everyone what was going on, but told only the bare minimum of family, coworkers, and other “need-to-know” folks. If this fell through, we didn’t want to have to explain it to everyone and their brother for months to come.

IMG_8427

After trying out several colors, we went with Benjamin Moore’s Williamsburg Wythe Blue for the nursery

Once home, we brought all the boxed-up furniture, baby clothes, and other goods up from the basement and started putting the nursery together. A neighbor painted the nursery for us and we started a list of all the many “little things” we would need day-to-day to take care of a baby. Luckily, the adoption wait had given us time to poll parent friends about their favorite baby items and to check Consumer Reports for the safest ones. I installed the car seat base in my car, but kept it covered with a towel to avoid any questions people may have had about it. Although we were excited, we tried to stay cautiously optimistic about the adoption. We have friends who had gotten to the point of the hospital before learning that “their” potential birth mom had decided to parent. We wanted to stay realistic and allow the idea that this young woman may change her mind. She had the right to make whatever choice she felt was best up until signing relinquishment paperwork and we didn’t want to put any pressure on her.

James Turrell's Joseph's Coat at the Ringling Museum of Art

James Turrell’s Joseph’s Coat at the Ringling Museum of Art

We kept in touch through her adoption agency over the next several weeks. There were three different estimates for her due date, over a range of three weeks. Each date passed with seemingly no movement on the baby’s part, and an induction date was set for mid-July. Rather than wait for that date, Cory and I opted to drive down to Florida a few days beforehand. There’s so much that adoptive parents-to-be have no control over whatsoever, so it was nice to be able to make that choice for ourselves. We rented a cottage and visited local museums and an aquarium while we waited. There was a James Turrell skyscape at one of the museums, which was probably the highlight of our sightseeing.

It was such a peaceful place to sit and think that we went back to the Turrell part of the museum the Monday morning that Katherine’s birth mom was scheduled to be induced. It was while sitting there that we got the call from the adoption coordinator that Katherine’s birth mom had gone into labor naturally a couple of hours prior to her scheduled induction. We let her know that we were already in Sarasota and she called back several times throughout the day to give us updates. All the discussions we had about the birth up until that point involved Katherine’s birth mom and her mother going to the hospital for her delivery, and Cory and I visiting with the adoption coordinator later that day or the next. But a few hours later, we learned that the plan had changed.

 

 

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Not our parents’ adoptions

I was talking with Mary, a fellow adoptee friend of mine, this afternoon when she asked how our adoption progress is going. I said what I always do, “we’re waiting.”

"Baby here. I'm ready for pickup!"

“Baby here. I’m ready for pickup!”

Our parents waited as well, but they were on a true waiting list. Back in the olden days (ha ha), infant adoption was something of a first-come, first-served situation for adoptive parents. Potential adoptive parents would go through background checks, have a home study done, and register with their adoption agency, who would put them on a list. A birth mother would place her newborn with an adoption agency, then the baby would often live with a foster family or at an orphanage-type home until after any waiting period was over. Adoptive parents were then called to pick up their child.  Mary’s parents got the call while they were visiting relatives out of state, when she was three months old. My parents’ agency called them to come pick me up when I was two months old.

These days, potential birth parents are more likely to want to be (and are allowed to be)

Are we number 3, or 300? Who knows!

Are we number 3, or 300? Who knows!

part of the process of choosing adoptive parents for their child. Through open adoption agencies like ours, potential birth mothers are presented with a stack of family profiles based on their preferences (such as geographic location, race, whether or not there are other children in the family, etc.). Often, the potential birth mother already has a family in mind–whether they be friends-of-friends, coworkers, or folks they’ve found through social media or an adoption agency website. From there, she can choose to contact families of interest to her and plan a meeting. If she narrows her choice down to a family and everyone involved thinks it’s a good idea, they can elect to be “matched” together. All of this is usually done while she is still pregnant, so a match can last a few weeks or several months, depending on how far along she is in the pregnancy. She may or may not want the potential adoptive parent(s) to be there when she gives birth, and her adoption plan may include spending lots of time with her new baby, none at all, or something in between. Legally, the potential adoptive parents have no connection to the baby until the birth parents sign paperwork voluntarily terminating their parental rights. This means it’s  possible for a potential adoptive family to be matched with a potential birth mother for months, witness the birth, and even take the baby home, and a member of the birth family change their minds and bring the baby back–as long as that happens either before the birth parents have signed the paperwork, or after signing if they’re still within a state-determined window of time when they can change their minds (often 30 or fewer days after the birth). More frequently, if the match has lasted through the birth of the child, the rest goes according to the birth mother’s adoption plan the baby’s legal custody goes to the adoption agency. The baby goes home from the hospital with their adoptive parents-to-be, and the adoption is finalized within several months.

Also in contrast to my adoption and Mary’s, now open adoption with continued communication between the adoptive family and birth family is common. That can mean that the adoptive family sends updates like school photos and letters to the birth family, or everyone gets together several times a year. Lots of families use social media and texting to keep in contact now. There are also birth families who don’t want as close a connection, or they do only up until a certain point in the child’s life. With open adoption, the birth parents get to set those parameters in their adoption plan (although such agreements aren’t legally binding in all states, so being able to trust that the adoptive family will follow through with the plan is very important).

Modern-day infant adoption is complicated, but studies show that it works best for everyone involved. The risk is definitely scary for potential adoptive parents. I’m still hoping we’ll get a last-minute call from a woman who put the finishing touches on her child’s adoption plan after giving birth, so our relationship with her and the baby can grow from there. But we’ll ride this out whichever way it happens, knowing the “front of the line” doesn’t exist until we get there.

 

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What’s wrong with me?

Several months ago, I asked some of our friends to offer suggestions for adoption blog topics, or other information to put in our family profile. One said she thought folks considering us as part of their child-to-be’s adoption plan would want to know what our flaws are, or at least our guilty pleasures. Not long after that, a couple using our adoption agency got a similar question from a woman thinking of placing with them: “Your profile tells all the good stuff. What are the flaws?”pobodysnerfect

It’s a valid question, and one you wouldn’t be able to answer simply by looking at our family profile. As when choosing what to include on resume, hopeful adoptive families typically don’t use their profiles to delve into their worst features. So what better opportunity than this blog to air my flaws* in a public forum? Who wouldn’t want to do that? Let’s get to it!

  1. I have a blinding need for facts that keeps me from enjoying theoretical discussions or understanding the difference between someone embellishing a story to make it more interesting, and flat-out lying.

    CoolCat

    This cat’s probably cooler than you

  2. I like puppies, but I think they smell.
  3. Animals–even stinky puppies–are often better than most humans.
  4. Just the thought of having blood drawn scares me.
  5. I have strong stances on pretty much everything but religion. That isn’t always an asset in the South.
  6. I’m an introvert, which some people think is a flaw. It really just means I need time away from crowds to recharge after being in the spotlight for a while.
  7. I’ll sit down for a cup of coffee with pretty much anyone, but I don’t want to talk with you on the phone. Phones are the worst.
  8. I spend too much time staring at screens.

    julep-nail-polish-set-53473

    Never enough colors!

  9. If you murder someone/steal a car/burn down your house for insurance money, I’m going to rat you out. I don’t care who you are.
  10. I purchase more fancy soaps, lotions, cosmetics, and other personal care items than any one person could ever use. Then I feel kind of bad about it.
  11. The sound of a human chewing food disgusts me so much that I turn on the radio when I eat alone.
  12. Live theater makes me uncomfortable because the actors can see you in the audience.
  13. I’ve had anxiety issues over time, but am better now at not letting them get to me.
  14. Finishing all the awesome projects I start is a challenge for me.

Flaw-full enough? I’d invite those who know me to add more in the comments, but:

15. I don’t take constructive criticism (or praise, for that matter) very well.

 

*”Flaws” or “delightful eccentricities”? You be the judge!

 

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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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