Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Were you surprised?


Melba from Dreams Really Do Come True asked, “Was there anything in either of the responses you received that surprised you? 

I wasn’t surprised that my parents appreciated reading other people’s stories about open adoption, but I was happy to hear it.  One of the best parts of the process for us while waiting was attending Waiting Family meetings at our agency.  We got to hear other people’s stories (birthparents and adoptive parents), and it made the process easier.  We always left the agency with a lot to talk about and more hope.  My book collection of adoption stories grew to about 2 feet high!  I love reading anything about adoption – from everyone’s point of view.  So I was really happy to hear that my parents learned from that as well. 

I got very choked up when my sister, Tracy, explained to me how she was so happy that Zoe would be able to get to know her birth family.  It was so nice to hear her say it.  (Oh, and she was all choked up as she told me, too!)

I was a little surprised that Janice felt she would have a hard time if the adoption wasn’t open.  She mentioned that she would be worried about what was okay to say/not say to Zoe and how to approach certain subjects.  I guess because we knew from the beginning that it would be an open adoption, I hadn’t really thought about how it not being open would affect my family members.  I’m glad that she feels happy that Zoe will know her birth family and have contact with them.                                                                                                                                                  

Janice also wrote, “Watching my sister's heart break after each treatment didn't work was one of the hardest things I've ever gone through…”   Isn’t it something how infertility and the desire to have children really affect so many people in one family?  Our families knew how much we wanted to raise a child, and to a certain extent they saw what we went through emotionally.  I think the fact that they know the process and all that’s involved really makes everyone appreciate every moment with Zoe even more than they already would have.

Christa from Fearlessly Infertile, asked about being afraid of failed adoptions, the long wait, and the thought of not being “good enough” to be chosen by a birthmother. 

Yes, we were afraid.  We were definitely afraid.  However, we had already been through a lot, and I guess at a certain point we just felt it was time to jump in and take another chance.  When friends and coworkers found out about us adopting, I heard many (MANY) stories about people knowing someone who knew someone who had been through a failed adoption.  It was less than helpful, let me tell you.  I felt like we already knew the risks involved – our agency was very thorough as they went through them at our meetings.   Plus, we weren’t naive – we knew we could be waiting for what would feel like forever or we could wait for a very long time and still not be linked with birthparents.  Thinking about it can really be overwhelming.  But what it comes down to (I think) is what are you willing to risk to become a parentAre you willing to risk going through the process and it possibly ended without a placement?  The possibility of the birthparent deciding to parent is real – but hopefully the fact that so many people really do adopt is hope that it can happen for you, too.  On top of that, we know quite a few people who have been touched by adoption (children who were adopted and adoptive parents) and we felt really good about starting our family through adoption.  That made us less afraid and more willing to try it.

The long wait…well, we were told it could have been up to 2 years or more that we might wait.  We were really fortunate to be chosen by a expectant mother early in the wait – we went “active” in mid-December and were chosen in late June.   So we expected a long wait, but we didn’t have as long of one as we could have had.  While we were waiting, we just tried to keep busy and do things to prepare ourselves – we attended our meetings at our agency, I read everything I could get my hands on about adoption, I joined adoption chat boards,and we sent letters out at Christmas time to our family and friends about adoption.  We let everyone know so that if they knew of a situation, they could keep us in mind.

The  thought of not being good enough…

It wasn’t so much that I didn’t think we were good enough; I think I was worried that it would take a really long time for someone to feel like we were a good match for them.  It’s hard to sometimes express who you are on paper with words and pictures – sometimes it comes across much better in person.  But when a birth parent is looking for adoptive parents they are most likely looking at a stack of profiles – full of words and pictures.  Our caseworker encouraged us to be specific about ourselves and hopefully that gave a better idea of who we are.  We really feel like we’re a good fit with Zoe’s birth mother and her family– we have similar interests, similar values... So I guess you could say it’s a good match for everyone involved.

I wanted to say that I really appreciate everyone’s comments on the last post.  A few people mentioned that they were going to talk to their families about how they felt about adoption, too.  My mom mentioned today about how it’s neat that writing a blog can help so many other people (and she mentioned how it’s therapeutic, too!)  I just think it’s pretty cool that one blog post might generate so many other conversations about adoption.  Definitely a good thing. :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

How did your family handle your adoption? (edited a 2nd time!)

Patti from It’s Just One Hat asked, “ You were asking for questions on what to write about, and these pictures made me wonder, how did your family handle your adoption? Are they cool with open adoption? You may have addressed this in prev posts, I just don't remember. I've never addressed it on my blog, maybe I'll answer my own question with my family!"

Well, I just emailed my family, so we’ll see how they respond.  I thought I would ask them your question directly.  Overall, our families were excited when we told them we were going to adopt.  We really wanted to be parents.   After dealing with infertility for a few years (and multiple procedures) we knew that adoption was going to be the way we would start our family.  We even went to our first adoption meeting before doing our first IVF.  We wanted to have as much information as possible so we could decide what to do.  We didn’t think we would be able to try IVF more than once, but we actually were able to try it 2 more times after that.   When it didn’t work the third time, we decided we needed to stop treatment.  We knew we didn’t want to risk trying IVF again with my eggs or IVF with donor eggs/donor embryos – the odds just weren’t in our favor.   I had a hard time dealing with the losses, as well.  We stopped treatment and took a different path. 

We really wanted to save up and put the money toward adoption.  We researched, read books, went to meetings…you name it.  We talked to our families about it, too.  I can remember one family member worrying that maybe we should try IVF one more time.  She just wanted to make sure that we wouldn’t have regrets about not trying with donor eggs/embryos.  We didn’t have regrets about that at all.  We felt relief when we decided to adopt – I found hope again. 

We tried to keep our families informed along the way.  We let them how involved the process is – from application to home study to waiting to being linked.  It helped us, too, to be able to share when we made it to the next step in the process.  Again – it was that sense of hope that we felt again.  When we felt frustrated or worried, we were able to share it with our families as well.  When we felt good about getting to the next step, we could celebrate that with them.

Mostly our families asked a lot of questions about adoption and open adoption throughout the process.  They were very supportive of us and our decisions.  As we read about and learned about open adoption, we educated our families about it as well.  Our agency had required us to read Dear Birthmother and Adopting After Infertility.  We passed those along to our family to read.  We also bought Adoption is a Family Affair and passed that around as well.  Some of our family members had a lot of questions about open adoption – how does it work?  What’s involved?  What’s expected?  What will happen if…?  We did our best to answer those questions.  We did our best to explain what an open adoption could look like.  

I guess through our conversations with family members, we sometimes remind them why we chose an open adoption and why Zoe’s birthmom wanted an open adoption.  We wanted whatever would be in the best interest of our child and his/her birthparents.  We want Zoe to know her birthmom and her family and how much love they have for her.  Zoe will be able to talk to her and learn about her as she grows up.  If she has questions (particularly questions that we don’t know the answers to) she can ask her birthmom and find out.  She won’t have the “who was my birthmom/first mom” question in her mind; she’ll know the answer. 

Here’s what my parents wrote:

When we first heard you and Steve were considering open adoption,  we were a little apprehensive.    It's somewhat scary to think about it at first, mainly because we didn't want you to be hurt any more in case something happened to change it all.    The more you talked about it with us the more comfortable we felt.  We figured if the two of you were comfortable doing it, we should be too, and we wanted to support you all the way.    We're now able to better communicate to others what open adoption is and  what we've all gone through. 

We read all the literature you suggested  and that helped in many ways.  Reading other people's stories was a big help - knowing what happens through the process, etc.  The most important thing is that Zoe  came into your lives and ours,  and she will have all the information she needs.   Her  birth family  knows she's safe and loved, and can see her grow up. 

Hearing about your emails, phone calls, and visits with Z and her family makes us feel very comfortable that Zoe was meant to be Your Daughter.  We feel that your relationship with Z and her family will be a good, strong one; and Zoe will benefit from it too. 

We love Zoe more and more each day  - can't seem to get enough of her! 

My sister, Tracy, said this:

When she heard about us adopting, she was, “happy…knowing the pain we went through with the IVF – she felt hopeful.”  When she first heard that we were considering an open adoption, she said it was “kind of a scary thought…”  She said that she “worried about it – you would hope it would be a good positive situation for everyone involved.”  Now she thinks that it’s a “great opportunity for Zoe to get to know people who are a part of her family.”

My other sister, Janice, wrote:

How did I feel when I heard you were considering open adoption?  I was fine with open adoption from the beginning.  You both had always said it was an option to start your family, so it didn't come as a surprise or a shock.  I knew you both would be fantastic parents and could handle the possible ups and downs of the process. 

How did I feel through the process?  The waiting was hard at times, but then when you were linked with Z., it was just elation on my end.  I was so happy for all of us.  I guess there was always that little nervous voice in the back of my head saying that things could change, but I just wanted to focus on the joy of the situation.  And from what you had told us about Z., she seemed very sure of herself and her decision, so that really helped.

Do I feel differently now?  Did I have any concerns?  I don't really feel any differently about the process now.  I think I would be having a hard time if the adoption wasn't open.  I'd always be worrying about how to say things to Zoe and approach certain subjects, but there's no secrets to keep, so it's a lot easier for me.

How did I learn more about it?  You had given us a few books to read, and I think they gave me more insight into the ins and outs of the process and what to expect.  I also think I learned more from just talking with you and Steve about it.  You were so willing to share the process with the family, and answer any questions that I might have, that I didn't have any real worries about it.

Edited a 2nd time to add:

Janice also wrote: I always knew that Wendy and Steve would be wonderful parents, so watching them go through the fertility treatments was so hard.  When they decided to pursue adoption over another round of IVF, I think I was actually relieved.  Watching my sister's heart break after each treatment didn't work was one of the hardest things I've ever gone through, so I guess I viewed the adoption process as a way to work past that grief and heartache toward happiness.  I knew there would be ups and downs, and possibly a long waiting period, but adoption just seemed like the next logical avenue to follow.  We (as a family) would just have to deal with the ups and downs as they came.

I definitely felt more comfortable with the adoption process because Wendy and Steve were so open about it.  They were always willing to explain what was happening and what the next step was going to be.  They had a few books for the family to read, and I think they helped me to understand all of the complex emotions surrounding adoption. 

I have to say that I was happy that everyone agreed to keep the adoption open.  I think that knowing about her birthparents will provide Zoe with a better sense of self when she's older.  Friends of mine have asked me how I feel about the situation, and I always respond with "It just means there's more people in this world that love her."   Through all of the reading and thinking, I realized how much love is involved with adoption, and I know that Zoe will know how much she is loved by everyone.

My question for everyone who is reading is:  How do your families feel about adoption?  Are they on board with your decision (to adopt or to place a child for adoption) and if not, how do/did you handle that or educate them? 

Monday, March 15, 2010

Time with our daughter’s birthmother and her family

This past weekend we had our first visit with Zoe’s birthmother and her family.  We were a little nervous leading up to it…well, I was, anyway!  Steve would probably say he was a “rock”!  I think it was just because we hadn’t seen them in 6 months, so it’s been a while.  It was so nice, though – we didn’t need to be nervous at all!  We met at our house and had lunch together.  Zoe’s birthmom (Z) and her family took turns holding Zoe and playing with her.  She was showing off how she can roll from her stomach to her back and from her back to her stomach without any trouble.  At one point, I even thought she was going to crawl for the first time – she was that excited to have so much attention all at once!  They asked us questions on how she’s been doing, and we filled them in on everything.  Zoe was ‘babbling’ like crazy, too – it was like she had so much to say to everyone!

I took lots of pictures and even a few videos.  I plan to make copies for Z and her family.  (I’m not going to share them here for privacy reasons.) We were so happy that they were able to come and spend part of the day with us.  We hope to see them again soon.  We’ll have to see what works out. For now, we are very grateful for the time they shared with Zoe and with us.

On a side note…

Zoe kept looking at the door around 5:00pm this afternoon and saying “da da” “da da” over and over again.  One of my sisters (Tracy) was here and we both said it really sounded like “da da”, not just random sounds.  Then after Steve got home, she looked for him and said it, too!  She has said “meh meh” before but it’s more of a sound she makes when she’s tired.  I’m not sure if she’s trying to say “ma ma".”  Pretty cool, either way. :)

March 2010 (5 Months) 002

Monday, March 8, 2010

What do you think?

I was talking about my last post with another member of an adoption board. She was asking if I felt open adoption was the best option for every situation. She and I "talked" about it online, but I realized that I really should have addressed that in my last post. I figured I would write about it here.

I think every adoption situation is different. There are so many variables that you have to consider. No, I don't think open adoption is the best option for everyone. If visits with my childs' birthparents would put her in danger, I would not allow them to continue/to happen. If visits with my child's birthparents would be unsafe for my child, I would not want to agree to them, either. What kind of danger or safety issues am I talking about? Drug use, a history of violence, negative 'influences' such as gangs...those types of things.

I do think there are times, though, when there are exceptions. For example, if a birthparent had been using drugs, but he/she had decided to seek treatment. If they were in some type of recovery program that might be a situation where we would consider visits. It really seems like it would be a case-by-case decision.

I also want to mention that you need to make a decision that you are comfortable with -- if you make a promise to have contact with your child's birthparents, you need to be prepared to keep that promise. I cannot imagine the hurt or pain a birth mother or birth father would feel if the adoptive parent broke that promise. If you research open adoption and still feel like that much contact would not be the best fit for you, then maybe a semi-open adoption would work better for your family.

What do all of you think? Are there times when you don't think an open adoption agreement would be appropriate?

Friday, March 5, 2010

How much openness?

I'm going to start with the topic of open adoption and then move on in a later post to profile books and life books.  Thanks for the suggestions in my last post.  I came up with 6 questions related to open adoption; Steve and I are going to answer them.

1.  How did you feel about open adoption before you started the entire adoption process?

Steve:  I didn’t know anything about it when we started looking into it.  I certainly didn’t know what “open” meant.

Wendy:  I did a lot of reading and research about adoption prior to us making the decision to adopt.  When we were going through infertility treatments, I read books about adoption as well as infertility.  I wanted to be as prepared as possible, and I wanted to know more about different types of adoption.  At that point, I was reading about both international and domestic adoption.  Through learning about domestic adoption, I learned that there are 3 types of openness in adoption:

  • closed – there is no contact between the child, the birthparents, and the adoptive parents
  • semi-open – this can vary depending on the agency, but basically the birthparents, child, and adoptive parents would have some contact (i.e. letters and pictures.)  Only non-identifying information would be exchanged.  Letters and pictures would be exchanged through the agency.
  • open – the highest level of contact – may include letters, photos, phone calls, emails, and visits. 

The degree of openness would be determined by both the birthparents and the adoptive parents.  I have to admit, I was a little nervous about the idea of a completely open adoption, but that’s because I was still learning about it. 

2.  How did you learn more about it?

Steve:  Reading online, going to our agency’s meetings, and reading 2 books that the agency required (Dear Birthmother and Adopting After Infertility.)

Wendy:  I read books on the subject.  I loved going to our agency’s “Waiting Families” meetings because families who had already gone through the process shared their experiences.  We got to hear from a birthmother and her thoughts on openness (she hadn’t wanted an open adoption.)  We got to also hear from a family who have an open adoption agreement with their daughter’s birthmother.  The birthmother and the adoptive parents all spoke at the meeting.  During our home study process, our caseworker explained what would be involved if we decided to choose a semi-open adoption vs. an open adoption.  I also joined adoption chat boards and reading blogs about open adoption.

3.  How did you decide what was right for you?

Steve:  We weighed the pros/cons of an open adoption.  We had already agreed that a closed adoption wouldn’t be our preference.

Wendy:  We talked a lot about it.  We talked about our fears and our concerns.  We talked about all of the benefits of having an open agreement.  We knew that we needed to make the choice that would be in the best interest of our child.

4.  What type of openness do you have with your child’s birthparents?

Wendy:   We have an open adoption with Zoe’s birthmother.  When we signed our paperwork, we also signed an openness agreement.  We agreed to send pictures and letters to Z at specific points in Zoe’s life.  For example, I just sent a package since Zoe is turning 6 months soon.  For the first year, we will send pictures about 5-6 times, I think.  Then it’s a little less each year until age 18.  That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t send more pictures more often.  We can and will if it’s okay with Z.  We have sent cards for holidays and birthdays.  We email back and forth and often include photos with our messages.  I’m saving the emails and putting them in a binder so Zoe can read them someday.  We have spoken on the phone once in a while, and we are hoping that a visit will happen soon.  We have not had contact with Zoe’s birthfather.

5.  Have any of your friends/family members had issues with your level of openness?

Steve:  One relative in particular has expressed concern because that relative worries that it might not be a completely positive thing.  This relative doesn’t have any direct experience with open adoption (other than ours.)  It probably stems from fear that something could go wrong with our situation if we are open.  We have talked to this person and tried to educate them (and we continue to do so.)

6.  Any regrets over your decision?  Would you change your agreement if you could?

Steve:  No regrets at all.  The only change would be if we were able to be open with both birthparents.

Wendy:  We are very happy with our decision to have an open adoption agreement with Zoe’s birthmother.  We hope our relationship with her continues to grow.

Thinking about open adoption can be scary if it’s a brand new idea to you.  If it is something you think you might want to consider, try to do as much as you can to educate yourself on the idea.  As we learned more about it, we felt more at ease with it.  We really feel that it is in our child’s best interest to have ongoing contact with her birthparents.   We can’t imagine being adopted and growing up not knowing where you came from and who your birthparents are.  We can’t imagine always having the questions in the back of your mind.  We can’t imagine not knowing your history and some of what makes you who you are.  We hope that our decision to be open to open adoption will be a good thing for everyone involved.