Summer Update

Well as the summer is starting to come to a close with the weather changing and schools back in session we are looking back at our summer adventures. We had a hiatus from the blog this summer during our match with an expectant mom. There just wasn’t much time to keep the blog updated while navigating the new relationship. Now it is time to get back into the swing of things though and keep our followers up to date on what we have been up to.

We Finished the Nursery

The reason was due to the match although a majority of the room was completed already. It was great to put the finishing touches on it though. We bought the custom sheets we wanted, made a custom ruler to measure our future child’s growth, created a keepsake box, and hung some custom art work. It is great to know that the room is done and ready for an adoption. Luckily we don’t have to pass the room or go anywhere near it if we are having a rough week with the wait.

We Visited Family for a Reunion

millersburgWe have fun visiting family whenever we can but since it is an odd year this summer brought about my side of the family reunion. We were originally planning a week long journey to visit parts of Pennsylvania and some other family but ended up cutting that part out of our plans because of the match and not wanting to waste what little vacation time I have to take off then. We had a lot of fun with the activities that we did get to do though and I am already looking forward to the reunion in 2 years.

 

 

We Visited Friends in Asheville

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Through this wonderful but sometimes trying adoption journey we met some friends of friends that have been so supportive of us. We met them a little over a year ago only but have already visited them twice and they are getting ready to come for their second visit in a couple weeks! While visiting we got to tour around the Biltmore estate and eat some delicious food. Their daughter is also awesome to play with while visiting and she is always excited to see us!

 

We saw my Sister’s Family Twice

HoustonThe upside of having a match in Houston was that we got to visit my sister and our nephews. We don’t see them as often as we would like usually but this summer we saw them three times (two times in Houston and once at the family reunion). While visiting them we got to go to the Lacrosse All Star Game and go with the boys when they got to meet their teachers for the new school year. The next several months will go by fast hopefully when we get to see them again at Thanksgiving!

 

Stephanie Went to Vegas for Work

vegasMy current company has an annual conference that we host and this year it was in Las Vegas. It was five days of lots of work but also lots of fun networking and getting to know so many new people at my company and with some of our partners. Originally Andy was planning on coming with but we will just have to hope that the conference is in Vegas another year for him to join me out there. Luckily he doesn’t enjoy gambling really so even with kids in tow (hopefully in the near future) he will still be able to enjoy the pool and walk the strip taking pictures.

 

 

 

 

Andy Worked on some New Projects

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In addition to a couple Lacrosse tournaments this summer Andy also shot a summer camp for children with disabilities and custom photos for a landscape company in the area. He has a couple other potential projects coming up soon too that will be great to keep him busy. Plus, Lacrosse fall league will give him lots of teams to shoot again and have full weekends running around to the games.

 

In Addition

We also had fun celebrating with local friends and family for Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and my birthday. Spending time with friends and meeting new additions to their family has been great too. It is exciting that so many of our friends are growing their families and hopefully we will soon too so that we will have kids of similar ages to grow up together.

 

2 Years and Counting

Well today is day 1 in the third year of waiting, can I just say ugh. We went live with our agency on April 5th, 2013 which seems so long ago now. It has been hard to stomach that we have not adopted yet since our agency has a 80% adoption rate by the time you have been waiting 2 years. While Andy and I both still hope and feel like this is the year it is going to happen, this particular milestone to reach has been a little more difficult than the others. We are both so ready to be parents and the not knowing of when it will happen is getting harder. Both of us feel like if we knew the date that it would happen, even if that date was a year in the future, it would be easier knowing and not stressing about the wait so much.

Since knowing the date is not something we can know until it actually happens we are both making some changes in our lives. We are getting a couple doctor’s visits taken care of, looking into churches to attend, joining a gym (that has a pool in case I want to swim), looking at purchasing a new car, etc. It is also time to do some more projects around the house and we are looking forward to a few trips coming up over the next several months, including one this weekend to visit our nephews in Texas. We typically have very busy lives in general and we haven’t put anything off during the wait that we want to do, other than a couple really large trips (like Europe or a cruise). As the wait continues it is just finding other things we want to do before we have a child that will make travel or date nights more difficult.

Over the last week we did get the chance to have a date night and see the movie Home, which was hilarious and awesome. It has been a little while since our last date night just because of my changing jobs and Andy’s crazy schedule of photography in the spring. Also, we used Andy’s new smoker to do up some delicious ribs and have my parents over for dinner. They turned out great and next time we will try and improve upon them by cooking them even lower and slower. We finished up the week with a little Easter celebrating with the family. My mom and dad had us and my aunt’s family over for a ham dinner last night. It was delicious food and fun to catch up with the family a little bit.

I have been thinking one way to kick off the new year of waiting is to start a thankfulness/positives jar. Where every day we try and put in 1 thing positive that happened or 1 thing that we are thankful for that day. While we can then focus on the good things that are happening for us and around us we can hopefully stress less about the wait. Today I am thankful for everyone that has supported us so far in this adoption process. It is amazing to see over 1000 people on our Facebook page that have been following on our journey, the people we have met in support groups help to keep us sane when we feel like no one else can understand what we are going through, and our friends and family are anxious to see us as parents and look forward to updates no matter what the update is.

April Fools Day

I must say that this year was surprisingly the easiest April Fool’s Day to get through since we started trying to have a family. Not a single friend or family member that I saw on Facebook posted a prank about a false pregnancy. Also, I saw multiple friends that posted something along the lines of how hurtful that type of post is to some people and you that people shouldn’t make jokes about it.

While I have never participated in an April Fool’s Day joke I do find most of them funny. Lately it has seemed like people are trying to do a joke though and are instead using some situation that can be a difficult topic for some people to deal with. It isn’t even just the pregnancy jokes that are hard to handle for those having difficulty starting or growing a family but jokes about life events that can be very emotional for people. There were a lot of people that hated the joke that Sam Smith tweeted about being straight since there are so many people that struggle with their sexuality, coming out, etc.

These jokes feel like the person that posts them doesn’t understand how difficult it can be for some people and the reminder of things that they have no control over. I feel like there are better ways to play a prank or joke on someone (or for all of facebook) without playing with topics such as divorce, sexuality, pregnancy, etc. So I just want to thank those that I am friends with on facebook for not pretending to be pregnant. I am not the only one struggling with infertility/adoption and while there are those that don’t feel upset over it there are many more that it hurts. On the other hand if you are pregnant I love to see the announcements! We just had a friend announce a few days ago and I was happy to see that they were expecting again.

March 2015 Support Group – Red Flags/ Risks

Last week Andy and I attended the monthly support group for our adoption agency like we usually do. It was a fairly large group with a lot of new faces (at least to us). When we started going around the room introducing ourselves and where we were at in the adoption process we quickly realized that we were the longest waiting family in the room. There are plenty of people that have been waiting longer than us (some are good friends) and while we know there are many just starting out on their journey it was a little depressing to be the longest wait in the room. Only one other couple in the room was already live and the rest were working on paperwork or profiles.

We had also already attended a group session on this or a similar topic so we weren’t sure what new information we would be getting. We do love to go to support group though just to be around other people that know the pain and frustration that the process can bring. At this point of 2 years into the wait we have attended almost every topic session that the agency offers but we still go and meet new people and hopefully get some new perspective or information.

This month we had a checklist of different characteristics or background information that we might potentially be faced with in an expectant mom looking at placing her child for adoption. A majority of the risk factors seemed fairly straight forward to both of us though with a couple things that we hadn’t really thought too much about. For instance if she is due around the holidays, if she comes to the adoption center later in her pregnancy, or her age. While an expectant mom might have certain risk factors it doesn’t mean she still won’t place (if it is the right decision for her) but it does give us an idea of some things to think about if we see or hear any of the risks in a potential expectant mom we are talking to.

It was a pretty good night though and we got to meet a bunch of new people that are going through the adoption process so that is always fun. Maybe our next social gathering outside of group session will have a couple new faces!

Choices

Everyone has choices in life. Every day we are faced with choices on what we will do that day and although there are consequences to certain choices we still get to make those choices. You can choose to go to college, be happy, make good grades, smoke a cigarette, learn an instrument, go to work, find a new job, etc. as long as you are willing to put in the effort to accomplish those goals/dreams. We definitely have a choice in if we will have a family or not. Andy and I have made the choice from the beginning of our relationship, that we wanted to have a family and that it was important to both of us no matter how those children enter our family.

Although it is taking us longer to realize our dream of being parents, we are still fully invested in one day being parents. Now that we are waiting to adopt (and have been for almost two years) our only choice really is to continue the adoption process and wait, or to stop and not become parents through adoption. Neither of us is close to being at our stopping point for the adoption rollercoaster, so we wait for someone else to make a choice that will include us. We cannot imagine not having a family, and we are willing to put in the time and effort to have one. Also, we know someone out there will choose us and will want us to be parents.

During the waiting you come to realize that you are now waiting for a choice to be made by someone to say I choose them. I choose them to be the parents to my child because I cannot give them what they will need or what I think that they should have as they grow up. It is humbling to think that there is someone out there that will one day say if it can’t be me that raises my child then these people are who I want to raise him/her.

There are lots of adoption sayings out there saying “I am chosen”, in reference to a child that has been placed for adoption, when the child is actually being chosen twice. The birth family chooses to love the child so much that they want a different life that they cannot give them. Then, the adoptive family chooses to make the child a part of their family forever.

In open adoption it is not about one choice but many choices by several people that will one day make us a family. We look forward to having a child and we also look forward to knowing the birth mother and making her part of the family as well. We know that with open adoption the amount of contact might not be a lot (depending on the birth mother and us) but we hope that we can all be part of each other’s lives even if it is just through emails or calls.

Emotional at the Holidays

Well it is time for our busiest time of year and the typically wonderful holiday season. Lately, though, I have noticed that I seem to easily get annoyed or upset this holiday season. This is our second year going through Christmas and Thanksgiving while waiting to adopt. It is normally my favorite time of year with all of the decorations, movies, music, food, family, and friends. This year there have already been times that I wish I could just skip it all though and fast forward to the new year. I really want to enjoy the holidays with friends and family though at the same time.
There are so many traditions I want to share with our children and things I can’t wait to see them experience. Being around our family helps but we can’t be with each other through the entire holiday season since we don’t all live in Georgia. Plus at some point we all need to make money, go to work, and get things done, it can’t be all fun all the time.
This year we are hosting Thanksgiving at our house with my sister’s family visiting for the entire week. Hosting this year is at least giving me something to occupy part of my brain with planning events, finding new recipes for the turkeys, figuring out any projects I need to finish before then. We will have 14 people at our house for the day so there will be lots of prepping and cooking to do during that week as well as being busy with family activities. My nephews are great distractions!
I know technically we don’t know what will happen and maybe we will get a last minute call about a situation and be parents still before the holidays. However, that isn’t extremely frequent to have last minute situations through our agency. Also, I figure if I plan for it not to happen it might be easier to get through and enjoy the holidays than thinking that it could happen and be even more disappointed if it doesn’t happen.
Instead we are trying to plan out all of our free minutes between now and the end of the year. We have always had the motto during the wait that if we are busy with something else then we can’t dwell on what could be. Currently, we are planning on doing a holiday party for friends, going to our normal holiday parties, working on projects around the house, and attending any shows or events that we think might be entertaining. If you know of a fun event in the Atlanta area for during the holiday season let us know and maybe we will fit it in our schedule!

So what is it like to be a man during/in the adoption process?

In two words…shockingly difficult.

 The beginning…

Our adoption story started when I was 36 years old. That was the age that the adoption paper work began. However, for me, I wanted to be a dad in my late 20s, early 30s. I was ready. Maybe not professionally, or financially, but I wanted children long ago, only Stephanie was missing. Maybe it was babysitting neighborhood kids, maybe it was having so many cousins, I can’t put my finger on the moment it happened, but I have known I wanted to be a dad for a long time.

I realize growing up in Michigan, and then moving to Georgia during prime marriage/kid years and starting over took some wind out of that sail. But it was that move that set me on the path I needed to be on. It set me on a career path that would define me. It sent me down the path that lead me to marrying Stephanie, and ultimately where we are today. It was the right path.

Sure when I met Stephanie I immediately had questions about our ability to have children together, but we were told we had a good chance. We tried and tried. Nothing. This is where things got really tough…even for me, the man. Over there, she was now struggling on the fertility drugs, the testing, and the ups and downs of hormones coursing through her body. She had it rough, but it bothered us both a lot.

Because of the hormones she was hair-triggered sometimes, stressed beyond my calming etc., and I could do nothing to settle her nerves. Damn drugs. I struggled silently with ups and downs of her moods, and her false positives when she took pregnancy tests. We had a bunch of those, and I found out years later during the adoption process, she stopped telling me because she knew it killed us both a little each time. Knowing what I know now, I wish she would have just told me, it was only fair we face the negatives together.

Line in the sand…

We drew a line in the sand during all of the trying, for a place to just say enough is enough, and move on to something different. As the months drew on from fertility drugs, we began to talk more about adoption, and started researching agencies and collecting information. We reached the line.

It was really hard to “give up” on trying to have children of our own flesh and blood…but we’d talked about that possibility for a long time and there was nothing we could really do about it now.

I suppose I had a hard time mentally giving up the idea. I am the only son of my father, he too the only son. Without a blood son, my family name would end. But that is just emotions talking…and it’s stupid. Any son I have will have my name, blood or not. It became less and less important.

 Wheels start turning…

We jumped into open adoption and hit the ground running. You can read about all of that in past posts. Adoption was a simple choice; there are kids out there that need homes and moms sometimes want to know where and who their birth children are in the future…of course, why not? It was a simple choice and we’ve learned so much along the way.

The paperwork is crazy. The hoops are insane. Adoption is hard. But it’s not as hard as the fertility drugs where. Papers get turned in, and you get in “line” and you wait. Ahh the wait. For some people, it’s a month, for some year after year of nothing. In open adoption, we just don’t know when the checkered flag will wave. We are currently at 19 months.

To tell you that waiting 19 months for ANYTHING is easy, I’d be lying. I am a terrible waiter. I want, I want, I want…and I want it now. After all, most of our checks have been cashed; only after we match will we write even more checks. What does the wait feel like? You know those claws at the carnival where you try to get the amazing prize out of a glass box, and you get candy instead… well at least there is candy in that box.

So what does a man’s mind go through during adoption? Where do I start? Of course I think; when will this happen? Why has it NOT happened yet? What is wrong with us? Is it me that is holding us back? Is she really ok? How is she handling this? Did she just yell at me because I am an ass, or because she’s upset it has been 19 months?

Those questions can drive a man or anyone insane. I think about adoption daily. I think about being a dad pretty much everyday. Over the last two years, I started to shoot a lot of youth sports with kids, and I absolutely love it. It’s my calling. What is better than using photography with kids AND sports. It’s a win-win-win deal for me. Watching kids play basketball or Lacrosse competitively hits me in the heart every time I get to do it. I don’t know if it’s watching the kids, or watching the parents watch the kids that get me, but I am a softy…I have sobbed on the sidelines. I have the images of those exact moments etched in my brain, and my hard drive.

Right in the chest…

Facebook is amazing. It is also soul crushing. On one hand, Facebook is how you are reading this. It is how we spread the word fast, and easy, and keep people informed. But it is soul crushing. Everyday I read about friends and family having babies. Being in photographer groups that are full of baby pictures does not help either. It is not so hard to deal with now, but in the beginning it was brutal.

How brutal? In the time that we have been working on adoption, some friends and family have had SEVERAL children. Soul crushing. It is just THAT hard for me. Honestly, I love all of you parents out there, because that is what I want to be. I envy you, I am jealous of you. I wont say I don’t throw my phone down, and walk away from your post about your second or third, I do, but I am happy for you, and it is my WANT to feel that way more than anything in the world.

I am interested in seeing how I am as a dad. I have always wondered how I would stack up. Will I be the best dad ever? No, clearly not. I don’t have the attention span or patience for that, but I will be the best dad I am capable of. I learned parenthood from my parents, and they raised me pretty well. Combined with Stephanie and her mad skills, our children will have a great home to grow up in.

So I sit here typing, pouring out my soul, letting you in, because it is easy, I love to talk. People tell me I could/should write a book about the adoption process…but it would not be that interesting. It would have 18 chapters of waiting. It is brutal.

Thanks to all who support us, it helps immensely.

-Andy

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.

Girls Night Painting

I was so happy to hang out with some friends we have met through the adoption process this week. It was a great time to be able to hang out with other people that know what we are going through because they are going through it too or they have gone through it. Even though we didn’t talk about adoption specifically over the course of the night it is nice to know they understand what we are going through and feeling.

We went to a place called Sips and Strokes to paint and snack together. It was a lot of fun and we really enjoyed the time. I was the only one that had painted before so everyone wasn’t sure how their painting would turn out. We all ended up having a great painting to take home though!

painting2

 

Friends in Adoption Night Out

Since we haven’t had a chance to make any of the support groups this summer, we really missed seeing some of our friends. Support groups are a great time for us to talk about things going on in our adoption wait that will understand exactly what we are going through. Friday night Andy and I met with a couple of our friends we have met in our adoption journey. They are also waiting to adopt and hoping to create their own families with our agency as well.

It was a low key evening where we had dinner and hung out talking for a few hours but it was a great end to the week. Also, we talked about how we want to try and get together more often with other people/couples that are working with the agency. Right now we are planning a girls night to paint and have some wine and a picnic in a park for everyone to hang out and socialize.

Another thing we talked about is how we can’t wait until we all have adopted and we can include our future kids in our outings. We hope to have a big support group of people to have around us that:

  • understand some of the difficulties that we might come across as adoptive parents
  • we can explore different cultures with (since we are open to trans-racial adoption)
  • so our children know others that have been adopted too.

It was a great night and looking forward to others like it soon!