Thoughts about Adoptive Families While Waiting

I read this great article today that was written to friends of waiting adoptive mothers (in my opinion fathers too). Although in her situation it talked specifically about international adoption, a lot of the points carry over for domestic adoption or are similar at least. She listed 12 things you should know if you are a friend of someone waiting, and I wanted to share them here and kind of talk about what it has been like for us as a family. I also think that there are a couple other things to add to the list as well. Click here for original article
1. We are not crazy, we might act like it at times though. Adoption is a stressful process between finding and navigating an agency process at the beginning, getting your home study approved, dealing with updates to your home study every year, struggling through the waiting of getting a contact and making a match agreement with an expectant mom, waiting for a phone call once you are matched that it’s time to go to the hospital, and finally waiting for the adoption to be finalized. After all of that stress if we break down, or just get upset over something seemingly stupid there is a reason and it might have nothing to do with what is going on at that moment in life. Typically, Andy and I take the brunt of each others freak outs but it does still happen when we are with other people at times.  Try not to take it personally and realize that one day we won’t be so stressed out emotionally.
2. We love a child we have never met (or potentially hasn’t even been conceived/born yet). It is difficult to care so much about a child we know nothing about yet but we do. We also care about those children that have been born that have gone to different adoptive families or that have stayed with their birth parents. Getting a contact by an expecting mom is exciting but if it doesn’t end in a match or placement you still have feelings about the baby that won’t be our child; which can be hard to deal with. I still catch myself wondering what happened or how they are growing with their families for the contacts we had last year or earlier this year.
3. For an international adoption you get matched with a child and then you have the long process of more paperwork to do before you can go and finally bring them home. On the other hand domestic adoption we do all the paperwork upfront, then we wait to be matched with an expectant mom, and finally we wait for the baby to be born. In both cases we are parents without children though, and always feeling like we are missing something from our lives. It is hard to want something so bad and be so close to getting it but not knowing when it will finally happen.
4. We as a culture are addicted to phone and email already but it becomes even worse when you are waiting for an adoption. Frantically running to pick up the phone and see if it is a call from our agency or from our 800 telephone number setup for the adoption. When you pick it up though and it is a telemarketer call or not related to adoption at all it can get to be so disappointing. We don’t get excited as often now when it rings because we have had too many phone calls that were not contacts, but you still get that thought in your head maybe this one will be different and it will change our lives for the better forever.
5. Adopting a new born means that typically the child has not had trauma in their life so far. However, depending on how open the communication is after placement the child could experience a sense of loss later in their life still. It is one of the reasons we chose open adoption since there will be contact with the birth family and answers to questions such as where do they come from, what are their birth parents like, why they were placed for adoption, etc.
6. Adoption is definitely not the same as pregnancy. Once we adopt it is not going to be like we can commiserate with you over the difficulties of your pregnancy. Not that you shouldn’t have someone to complain to about what you are going through but someone with fertility issues is not the right person even if they have adopted a child. I wanted to be pregnant and experience all the joys and difficulties that come with it. Telling me that I am lucky that I don’t have to experience X from being pregnant is not helpful (and yes this has happened multiple times). Currently we don’t know when we will have a child in our arms to hold as it could be another month or 2 more years. While we hope it won’t take too much longer there just is no knowing at this point.
7. Questions about when we are going to adopt is not something we can answer other than giving average wait times. Those averages are just that though averages and it could be shorter or much longer since we are waiting to be chosen. While I don’t have a problem answering and talking about the wait there are those that do. I love it when our friends ask questions because it shows that they are thinking about us and the adoption.
8. Even once we are matched and have had a child placed with us it doesn’t mean that it is final. We could potentially lose the child if the birth family chooses to reclaim them. This reclaim period is different depending on what state the baby is born in and can be either short (no time once rights are signed away) to rather long (45 days in Rhode Island I believe). Preparing for this is hard to do and if we have to go through it then it will be gut wrenching. This is why we will not be introducing the baby to anyone, family or friend, until after the reclaim period is over for our placement.
9. I have definitely noticed that my mind does not work the way it once did. You can say that I am getting older and that is why my memory is not what it used to be but I know it is because my mind is never 100% involved on any task that I am working on. There is always a part of my brain thinking/worrying about something related to the adoption.
10. We have heard all the different horror stories about adoption, and we don’t need to hear them again (or the stories about how easy adoption was for someone else). These stories are not helpful or comforting to us as every situation is different and we don’t know what will happen for us. We are already worried enough about what might happen in the adoption process that we don’t need any more anxieties.
11. I have done so much research on the adoption process both before we chose the type of agency (international vs. domestic, open vs. closed, etc.), the actual agency we were going to use (there are a lot of them out there), and what we are open to in our adoption profile (race, gender, age, etc.) until now. There is always more information out there and although I don’t look as often at articles I still feel the need when I see something about adoption to read it. This is one of those times that the internet is both helpful and a hindrance as there is sometimes too much information and it can stress you out.
12. While I think we are brave for putting ourselves through the adoption process and wanting to do it again for a second child, I am also a complete and total mess inside a majority of the time. I am not one for big emotional break downs in public but sometimes it is all I can do to keep myself from losing control. We are choosing to adopt because for me I need to be a mom and Andy needs to be a dad, so while we are brave we are also a little crazy. Adoption is not for the faint of heart, it is hard and messy but in the end we will be parents and whatever we need to do to be that we will do it.
13. Just because we aren’t parents yet doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy being around our friends that are pregnant or already have children. This is something that is different for all waiting parents as some find it too difficult. We however, love to get time with children and play with them as often as possible while we are waiting for our family. Andy is always saying how we are available to baby sit if friends want and he isn’t lying. We have loved the opportunities we have had with friends and family that have taken us up on it.
14. While we wish we could have gotten pregnant we are happy when friends and family have children. We love to celebrate first children or growing families for friends and relatives, and we don’t want people to feel like they need to walk on eggshells to tell us. Even though at times it might be difficult for us to hear the news (because maybe we have been told 5 times in one week that someone else is expecting) we are still happy for all those people that are expecting. The difficult stories for us to hear are people in the news that hurt their own child when there are so many people out there that would have loved to be that child’s parent.

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Questions on Adoption

We had asked our friends and family to ask any questions that they might have on adoption so that we could put together a blog with the answers. Here are the questions we got and our answers. Hope that it is informative and that it helps you to know a little more about adoption!

How did you choose the adoption organization you are working with?

When we decided to not continue fertility treatments any longer we knew that our next step was going to include adoption. We had talked about it from the beginning of our relationship knowing that with my medical issues I might not be able to get pregnant. After stopping the fertility treatments we started requesting information from different agencies (domestic and international) and talking to friends/family that had adopted in the past or where in the process of adopting. Our big issue was making sure we found an agency that was comfortable and experience working with someone who has a disability. We also knew after reviewing information from the different agencies that domestic adoption was what we wanted to pursue instead of international just because of some of the restrictions we found (long wait times in country and that those with short wait times did not do infant adoption) at the places we had contacted. After we had that narrowed down we did more research and went to a orientation session with our agency. After that short session Andy and I knew that it was the agency for us. Even if there might be faster/cheaper/better agencies out there we felt at ease as soon as we were there talking to everyone. There wasn’t any one thing that made us choose the Independent Adoption Center but everything that we heard while there that morning. The fees were average for what we had found at most agencies and so were the wait times. They also offered long term support for everyone involved. If you are thinking about adoption I recommend getting as much information as you can about as many agencies as you can and then eliminate those that don’t have what you are looking for in your adoption and go with your gut from the others that are left (there are so many agencies and they are all the right choice for someone).

Can you go through more than one organization at the same time? Or do all organizations work together?

You could technically work with multiple agencies at a time but you would have to pay the fees for multiple agencies at a time so it would just be too expensive unless you have the money to throw at it. Which if you have more money to throw at your adoption there are agencies that have higher fees and shorter wait times that you could work with instead. I do believe that if an agency has a child that comes in that doesn’t match any of the waiting families that they have they will either refer them to another agency or try and find a family that does match but at most of the bigger agencies that isn’t usually a problem.

What does open adoption mean? or How is open adoption different?

Open adoption is when there is contact between the birth family and the adoptive family after placement of the child. There are varying degrees though within open adoption. If all contact goes through an agency or intermediary then it is a semi-open adoption whereas if contact exists between the birth family and adoptive family then it is a fully open adoption. Our agency does fully open adoptions and we have the opportunity to meet in person, over the phone, send letters, emails, pictures, etc. directly from us to our birth family. How much contact that exists is unique to each adoption though and is decided on between the adoptive family and birth parents at the match meeting. Most people are familiar with the traditional closed adoption where the birth parents and adoptive parents have no way of contacting each other.

Why choose an open adoption?

To start with there are not many adoption agencies that do fully closed adoptions only at this point and if you are wanting a closed adoption you might need to wait longer to find a match because most birth families want an open adoption. This however, did not take part in our decision to choose open adoption. When we started researching adoption we found that we liked open adoption because it adds more clarity for everyone involved in the process. It is better for all three parties of the adoption triad (birth family, adopting family, and child). The birth family doesn’t have to worry and wonder what happened to the child they placed as they know how the child is doing and that they are being loved for and cared for which can make it easier for them to cope with the loss. The adoptive family knows more information about their child’s medical/cultural history by having contact with the birth family that will help teach their child about where they come from. Finally, the child will be curious as they grow up about where they come from and who their birth parents were and with an open adoption you can have some if not all of those answers.

What is a match meeting?

This is usually done before placement (unless child has already been born when matched) and is the time when everyone decides what expectations there are with the adoption match/placement. There is the hospital agreement that goes into information such as when will the adoptive family be contacted about the birth mother going into labor, whether they are allowed in the room, if the birth mother wants to see the baby at the hospital, are photos allowed, etc. Then you have the match agreement that goes into information on what type and how much contact there will be after placement. Visits, phone calls, video chats, letters, emails, and pictures are all decided on how many and how frequently they will happen if they are to happen at all. It is up to the adoptive and birth families to decide what is going in this agreement. Depending on the state you live in this is a legally binding agreement (it is in the state of Georgia) and if it is in the document we have to allow at least that much contact between the birth family and us but the birth family does not need to use the contact if they choose not to in the future.

Do you get to decide on gender/race/age/etc.?

Our agency does not allow gender selection because a majority of their placements are newborns and the gender is not 100% guaranteed even if they have had an ultrasound. There are other things that we do get to decide if we are open to or not though, i.e. race, age, mental disabilities, physical disabilities, multiple births, birth mother expenses, drug/alcohol use, etc. This information is used to match with potential birth mothers that have requested profiles from the agency. Also, if gender selection is important to you there are agencies that allow you to do this that you could choose to work with instead.

Is there an average time frame to get a child or is it case by case?

Each agency has different average wait times. Most are fairly consistent with each other and those that offer an average wait time much shorter probably have higher fees and those with much longer wait times lower fees. Our agency has an average wait time currently of 15 months (which we have just passed this month). With open adoption the wait time is different for every adoptive family because the birth parents choose the adoptive parents rather than the child going to the longest waiting family that matches their profile.

Adoption Myths

From a birth mother’s perspective:

You are abandoning your child – When having a child the mother usually starts making a plan for her child so that the child can have the best life that she can give them. In the case of adoption that plan just doesn’t include the birth mother as the one caring for the child and watching them grow every day. They are doing what they can to ensure that the child’s needs are met first and worrying about their needs second. It is a very brave act to decide to place a child for adoption.

You don’t know where your child will end up – In open adoption the birth mother (and father) select the adoptive parents that will be receiving the child after placement. They can decide what type of family they want their child to be in and can select people that have similar interests/hobbies as they themselves have. This allows them to know exactly where their child will end up and know the people that are going to raise them.

You won’t know if your child is doing well – Luckily we are doing an open adoption and this myth should never come into play. There will be photos and updates of how the child and family are doing whenever the birth mother wants and depending on the match arrangement there could also be in person contact as well. They will get to see their child and get affirmation as to how well their child is doing as they grow up.

From an adoptive mother’s perspective:

The birth mother will try and take the child back – If you have an agency that will work to make sure that the birth mother and birth father are making the right decision for themselves and that they are truly making their decision for themselves then the chance of having them change their mind after placement is much smaller.

Adoption takes a long time – The process of adoption can take a long time depending on what your circumstances are for the adoption. However, if you go into the process without having a lot of restrictions on gender, race, disability (physical or mental), expenses, etc. then the adoption might not take as long as some people will think. Our agency has an average wait time for expecting families of 14 months only. That means it is just a few months longer than a pregnancy would take.

You might not love your adopted child – You might not pick the child up and immediately feel undying love for your child after placement but as you bond with the child you will have the same connection to them as any other child and parent has. I don’t think Andy or I  will have any issues with loving whatever child we adopt as we already feel so much and we don’t even have a match or placement yet.

From the child’s perspective:

My birth parents didn’t love me – They will actually have information directly from the birth parents in an open adoption usually of why they were placed for adopted and that the reason had nothing to do with how much or how little they loved them but with other parts of their lives not being ready for a child.

Trans-racial Adoption Reading

Oh my gosh! I just love the book I read on the plane this morning. It was an easy read compared to some of the other books we had to read for the adoption agency but I feel like I got so much out of this one now that I had read those books.

This book helped me to realize that everyone going through adoption has the same feelings that I am having and that it is normal to wish for more control of a situation that I have no control in. It is hard to imagine other people going through the same thoughts and situations as you when you don’t know people with the same problems.

I like that this book had good information but didn’t seem clinical since it was written by an adoptive mom on her views and what she went through in the process of finding a baby to love and raise. I can’t wait for us to be selected but now I at least know I am not alone in my fears and feelings.

secret thoughts of an adoptive mother

Adoption Reading

While reading one of our books we got from the agency I came across the following poem written by an adoptive parent. I don’t see how anyone else can sum up the feelings that I am feeling and that I know I will continue to feel.

“It’s my child’s birthday today
I have no memories of the pain and struggle, as he entered this life
As he fought for his first breath
I have no memories of his life growing inside of me and fighting to be released
I have no memories from the beginning months of his life
Another “someone” was there – Another “someone” suffered for my joy”

Doing the reading suggested by the adoption agency has really helped me to not only understand some of the things we should expect but also to get validation that the things I am feeling are normal. Looking forward to a few more books we got from them and then it is on to more searching for blogs or other books to read.

Dear-Birthmother

Open Vs. Closed

We had some questions that led us to our decision to seek out adoption agencies that have an extremely open policy between the adoptive and birth parents. Did we know what we were getting into when we finally made our decision on how we wanted our adoption to be? Are we afraid if too much contact will be more difficult for us and the child we adopt? These are a lot of the questions that we have talked about and researched when it came to what type of adoption we want to do now that we have decided on a domestic adoption instead of international.

It is hard to come by a truly closed adoption agency at this point within the US. All agencies have some form of open adoption when going through a private agency. Even some children that are adopted through foster care have open communication with part of their birth family (as long as it doesn’t pose a threat to the child emotionally or physically).

After taking that into account and realizing there will be some form of communication more than likely between us and the birth parents/family, we had to do more research to find out just how open we were willing to be and how that will affect our family in the future.

We are both a little worried about what the interaction will be and if it will be difficult to feel comfortable with the relationship between us and the birth family. We have read articles that say that it is better for the child to have some form of contact so they have more information and all we can do at this point is hope that whatever relationship we have is the right one for everyone involved.

There are some agencies that allow the families involved determine how open their adoption is and I think that is the best for us to look into at this point since some birth families might want more than we are comfortable giving at this time.

We have a meeting soon with a potential agency and hopefully after that we will feel more comfortable with what open adoption means.