Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Zoe turned 2! (just added a couple more pics)


Over the weekend, we had a birthday party for Zoe with our family.  We invited Zoe’s birth mom and her family.  She was able to come with her boyfriend, and we’ll be getting together with the rest of her family this weekend.

We had such a great time – Zoe had a good day playing with her relatives, including her little cousin L who is close to her age.  We even got a huge surprise when Zoe’s Aunt Tracy walked in the door!  She’s been working out of state and we haven’t seen her for a while. It was great to have her at the party.

Here are a few pictures from the big day…

Zoe  sitting in the backyard at Grandma and Grandpa’s


The 3 of us


Tracy walking in to surprise us



Ladybug themed desserts:



Back at home…dancing in the sunlight in our kitchen


She looks like she’s striking a disco pose!


Time for night-night – all ready for bed in pajamas from Aunt Barb and Uncle John!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Talking more about open adoption

A few of my blog readers asked me to talk a little more about what open adoption specifically  means in our situation.  LisaAnne at Living Through Today asked me to talk about the level of openness in our adoption.  Erin said she likes learning how our open adoption works because they all seem so different.  ArmyWife at My Story wrote how she is “open to the idea of adoption” and “wanted to know more about your experience as I have always felt I wouldn’t consider an open adoption.”

When we first started looking into adoption, we had a basic knowledge of it based on the experiences of our friends.  I remember how my 7th grade teacher adopted a little girl through international adoption.  One of my childhood friends was adopted from Korea.  A sister of one of my friends was adopted through domestic adoption.  One of our very close friends was also adopted through domestic adoption.  So over the years we have both had some experiences with adoption, although not in our families.

Before we met with our agency and while we were a waiting couple, we did some research.  Our agency required us to read two books.  We chose Dear Birthmother and Adopting After Infertility from the list we were given.  I couldn’t get enough information – I read adoption memoirs, how-to-adopt books, adoptive parent and birth parent blogs, adoption-related websites, and anything else I could get my hands on!  I also joined adoption chat boards and read a lot about what other waiting parents were going through.  It made me feel a connection – like we weren’t alone in what we were going through.

Through all of the research and reading, we learned about different types of domestic adoption – closed, semi-open, and open.  As we attended meetings at our agency, we learned more.  Our caseworker ran one of the meetings where we learned about what each type of adoption means and how it can look in different situations.  We learned that semi-open adoptions are the most common within our agency, but that open adoptions are encouraged as well.  Closed adoptions happen but are more rare.  They do have adoptions where babies who were dropped off at a hospital can be placed with an adoptive couple; I think these are called “safe haven” placements if I remember right.  My guess is that these adoptions tend to be closed unless a birthparent leaves contact information at the hospital.

The birthparents decide what type of adoption they would prefer.  Once they make that decision, they can look through profiles of adoptive couples to decide who they would like to choose to be their  child’s adoptive parents.  Our agency basically defines the types of adoption as this:

Closed:  No contact between the birth parents, adoptive parents, and child.

Semi-open:  Adoptive parents send letters and pictures to the birth parents at designated times throughout the year, such as at 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, etc. up to age 18.

Open:  Adoptive parents send birth parents letters and pictures (the same as semi-open adoption) but also agree to a yearly visit or two with the birth parents.  Open adoption can include the sharing of personal/private information such as last names and addresses.  It can include communication by phone and email as well. 

So back to our particular situation.  Zoe’s birth mom wanted an open adoption.  When we met with her (during the summer before Zoe was born)we talked about what she wanted that to look like.  It included  letters and pictures and up to 2 visits with Zoe and us per year.

What we have at this point is so much better than that.

We got to know Zoe’s birth mom over the summer prior to Zoe’s birth.  We emailed each other and talked on the phone.  In fact, during our first meeting, I think we even felt comfortable enough to exchange cell phone numbers and emails (maybe even addresses?)  I can’t quite remember.  But we had contact over those months, and I was able to even see her birth mom a few times.  She had invited me to a doctor appointment and to a labor/delivery class.  I won’t ever forget that she let me into her life like that and wanted me to be a part of it with her.  We met some of her family members over the summer, too, and that was great to start to get to know them, too.

When Zoe was 6 months old, we had our first visit with her birth mom, her birth grandparents, and one of her birth uncles.  We invited them to our home for lunch.  It was really nice (even though as  I mentioned in the last blog post, I was so nervous!)  But we had a great time, took pictures, and talked.  LisaAnne also wrote, “I would also like to know how you came to that level of openess. Was it 'agreed upon' or did it happen organically?”   We originally agreed to the pictures, letters, and 2 visits like her birth mom had asked.  We do not have any contact with her birth father at this point, but we are open to it if it happens.  We just took it one visit at a time, I guess, so I would say it happened more organically.  We all get along and like to spend time with each other.  We also feel that it is really important for Zoe to have contact with her birth mom and birth family.  We also had visits when Zoe was 9 months old, one year, 15 months old, 19 months old, and 22 months old.  Four out of the six visits have been here at our home.  One of the visits was at my parents’ house for Zoe’s 1st birthday, and one of the visits was at the zoo.  Two of the visits were during the holidays – once at Christmas and once at Easter.  Some of the visits were at her birth mom’s request and some were at ours.   We’re hoping to see her birth family next weekend for Zoe’s 2nd birthday, too. 

So in her 2 years, we’ll have met up 7 times.  We talk on the phone and online.  We text.  We mail and email photos and letters.  We send her birth family cards, and we send her birth  mom little things now and then.  Her birth mom and her birth family have given Zoe gifts when they’ve visited, and they are very special keepsakes.  We feel really fortunate to be able to spend time with her birth family.  We love that they have seen how Zoe had been growing and learning so much.  It means so much to us that she has a relationship with them.  We know that every adoption is not like this.  We certainly don’t take it for granted.  We’re so fortunate to be in a situation where we all want the same thing – we all want Zoe to know how much she is loved.   We’re so appreciative that they want to be a part of our lives and that they let us be a part of theirs.

PS.  Just want to congratulate Kelly E. at The Big Long Wait who, when she commented, was waiting to take their 1 week old daughter home.  Hope you are doing well!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Open Adoption–Positives and Challenges

I wanted to say again how nice it was to read the comments from my earlier post and to see how many readers have followed this blog either since Zoe came home or from long before that.  Like I wrote in the last post, I have been unsure of what to write.  I have wondered if I should continue writing the blog or not.  I really love to write; I am just unsure of the direction I want it to go.  I want to focus as much as possible on adoption (open adoption, specifically), but I also debate with myself about how much is okay to share.  This is an experience that belongs to more than just me – it impacts our daughter, my husband, my family, and of course, Zoe’s birth family.  As I write my posts, I find myself trying to write in a way that will honor and respect everyone.  I also find myself wanting to share more because I really feel so passionately about adoption.  I love sharing our experience and encouraging others, too.

I had said that I would answer all of the questions asked in my earlier post.  Penelope mentioned in her comment that she would “love to know more about the good/challenging things in an open adoption.”  There are so many great things about having an open adoption with Zoe’s birth mom, Z.  I am so thankful to her for wanting to be in Zoe’s life and to be in our life.  She’s part of our family.  We have gained so much by having this relationship.  Zoe does not understand adoption yet, but she knows that she is very loved by Z and her family.  Zoe is so happy when she sees them. 

Zoe’s birth mom is a really strong, brave person.  She made such a hard decision and has impacted our lives forever. She is funny and kind,and it has been wonderful learning more about her each time we visit (or talk, text, or email.)

My husband agrees with me, but he also added a few things to what we appreciate about having an open adoption.  Steve brought up how it is really a positive thing to have medical information about our daughter.  And if something  should come up health-wise, we could ask Z about it.

Steve also brought up that it has been a gift to us to get to know Z and to see how she has been doing since choosing adoption for her/our daughter.  And we are so glad that she (and her family) get to see how Zoe is doing.  Zoe will have a relationship with her birth mom.  She will know how loved she is by her birth mom, uncles, and grandparents.  Because of our open adoption, we are connected to each others’ lives.

As far as challenges go, I guess there are some.  I know that I was incredibly nervous when we got together the first time.  We were so excited to see them and for Zoe see her birth family.  But I was so nervous about what to say.  I really wanted her birth mom to see how much we love Zoe and how beyond-thrilled we were/are to be her parents.  I also wanted her to be happy she chose us.  That’s a lot of pressure, you know?

Steve and I also talked about how when we adopted Zoe, we went from a couple to a couple with a daughter to a family of three with an even bigger family.  You have to be sensitive and respectful to everyone’s feelings.  Of course we have always tried to be respectful to our family members, anyway, but then you suddenly have a whole new section of your family.  You have to consider a lot of different feelings and get to know the new family members as you go.

Penelope also wrote: “If you plan on adopting again, how (if at all) would you change aspects of the birth parent involvement?”  We would love to adopt again, but we are not sure if/when it will happen.  I will probably write about that in another post.  But as far as would I change aspects of the birth  parent involvement…If we were in a similar situation with another birth parent or a set of birth parents, I would not hesitate to have the same level of openness.  We got to know Zoe’s birth mom prior to Zoe being born and we were comfortable with the idea of having an open relationship with her.  As long as we felt that way, we would be happy to have another open adoption relationship.

I think I will stop here for now..I will read through the comments again and see if there are other questions to answer in my next post.  I will leave with a pic from our Labor Day weekend…we spent some time at the lake with my parents.  Zoe is quite comfortable on Grandpa’s boat!