Is Loganberry a soda? That was the question of the day at the staff meeting. One of my 30 day challenges is not drinking any soda for 30 days, and it’s been a lot easier than I thought it would be. However, Saturday afternoon I found myself drinking a glass of Loganberry, and about halfway through I realized what I was doing. I thought about not finishing the glass, but decided at that point the deed had been done, and finished the glass. I brought my question to the staff today to see if I had a set-back in my challenge, and received an overwhelming answer of no, Loganberry is not a soda.
What does everyone think? Is Loganberry a soda? Give your answer in the poll below. [poll id="2"]
Everyone on the staff reported great success in their 30 day challenges thus far. Some of us have missed a day or two, but the goal is to not give up and pick up our activities where we left them. I think Adoption STAR CEO and Founder, Michele Fried, said it best when she said that we should keep reminding ourselves that this challenge is meant to add something productive to our everyday lives going forward, not just for 30 days.
We’d love to hear how your challenges are going, two weeks in!
Adoption STAR enjoys educating others on open adoption, also known as PACA (post adoption contact agreement), and we are happy to see that more and more birth families and adoptive families are choosing to maintain a relationship after the adoption placement.
We believe this is what is in the best interest of the child. Open adoptions can involve as much or as little contact as the two families agree upon, and many include visits between the birth family and adoptive families.
When a PACA involves visits after the placement, it is important to take into consideration the age of the child, the weather and geographic area you will all be connecting in. Often times it is better to have a structured activity or a designated place to go for these visits, so we are asking for the input of both birth family members and adoptive family members as we put together a comprehensive list of creative ideas and activities for post adoption contact visits.
Please share activities or places that have been positive for you during a post adoption visit. We would love to hear them! These activities or places can be specific to your local area or general ideas that anyone can do. The more creative, the better!
After gathering everyone’s suggestions we will create a shareable PDF that we hope will assist others when they are planning their next post adoption visit.
This post was written by Adoption STAR CEO and Founder, Michele Fried, and was posted to a previous Adoption STAR blog in 2007.
In June of 1990 my husband and I learned that our oldest son had a half biological sibling that was being placed for adoption. We experienced a great deal of emotions learning of the news and making the life altering decision to grow our family when we were not planning for another child at that time. For us, it became the greatest blessing to add this magnificent child to our family. However, having experienced it personally I am familiar with some of the reactions our clients have had over the years when they learn that their child’s birth mother is pregnant again. I have seen reactions spanning from elation to grief. The news sparks something different for every family, but what remains constant is the surprise.
Even when a second pregnancy and adoption occurs and everyone is happy with the plan, I am saddened by the fact that the birth mother has found herself in the same situation again. For those women who choose to parent the second time around, I can’t help but think that the pregnancy was hoped for. In some way, the birth parent may be trying to replace the child she lost through adoption. I have seen women with open and closed adoptions make such decisions. Sometimes a new (and hopefully healthy) relationship (possibly marriage) has occurred in the life of the birth mother and she is more then ready for this planned pregnancy. Other times we must question, “What has changed in your life to make a parenting plan that wasn’t in place when you gave birth and placed for adoption?” These are the more challenging situations. These are the sadder cases when we learn of a new pregnancy within a year or less of the adoptive placement.
A small number of Adoption STAR couples have experienced learning that their child’s birth mother is pregnant again. Each family experienced a broad range of emotions, many had to make difficult decisions or come to terms with choices made by the birth family. In an effort to help others who may one day learn that their child’s birth mother is pregnant again, I asked several of our clients to share their experiences, emotions and advice with us.
Harvey shared: “At the outset, we were thrilled to be able to adopt siblings from the same birth parents. This will certainly give them something in common that many adopted children do not have. I expect this will be especially true as they get older and start being more curious about adoption and about their birth parents and birth siblings. It gives us an experience more like that of parents raising their birth children, such as observing the similarities and differences between siblings of the same birth parents. For us, however, the decision to adopt our son’s sibling was easy because we already decided we wanted a larger family, had already submitted the paperwork, and were so happy with the first child’s 18 months, that it was a “no-brainer” to adopt a second child from the same birth mother. This is not to say we could not respect the decision of adoptive parents declining such an opportunity. Obviously, you have to do what is best for everyone. If the adoptive family is truly not in a position to add a new child, for whatever reason, and doing so would make things worse for the children already adopted, it would be better to decline than to make things worse. Each person must make the right decision for themselves and their families. They should not feel pressured to take in a child they could not care for and love in the way each child deserves.”
Teri responded: “When I first learned that Nicole had given birth to twins- almost 18 months to the day after Gabi was born- I was surprised. I couldn’t imagine that she had gotten pregnant so soon. The only thoughts I had ever indulged in regarding a possible future pregnancy included a fantasy where I pictured Gabi at about 4 years- and Nicole asking us to parent her biological sibling. I had never even imagined (let alone prepared for) the idea that she would choose to parent. I wanted so badly for the things she had told the agency at her initial contact to be true- that she was returning to college, and getting her life back on track. When it started to sink in that she had not only gotten pregnant again, but she was also choosing to parent- so many questions began to form. The most pressing by far; how can I explain to Gabi that out of Nicole’s 6 children, she was the only one that had been placed for adoption? I cried for a few days. I called family and friends for comfort and advice. I posted my feelings on the STAR adoption family message board at Yahoo groups. I also called STAR and talked to our caseworker. I talked. It was the best thing for me. Speaking to others about it allowed me to better understand my feelings. Eventually, I wrote a letter to Nicole. I shared my fears for Gabi with her. This was a HUGE relief. After about two months, I sent gifts for the twins along with our congratulations. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I still have the occasional fantasy of getting that phone call from STAR- where they relay the message to us that Nicole wants to know if we are interested in parenting the twins. My husband and I have even had fantasy conversations of bedroom arrangements and twin parenting. The best advice that I have for those who experience this is to remember that sometimes we create worries and fears for our children. I don’t know what Gabi’s reaction will be as she is able to comprehend her situation. I don’t want to create problems for her by assuming that she should or will feel a certain way. As with all situations, I need to follow her lead- let her grow and develop into the person that she is destined to become. I’ll let her decide what things bother her, and what to roll off of her shoulders. It is my duty to be there for her and love and protect her through whatever comes her way.”
Jennifer wrote: “When we found out our son’s birth mother was pregnant we were surprised to say the least! We were very angry at first. Our first reaction was, “How could she do this to us?” After the reality set in, we started to feel empathy for her parents who were so supportive of her first adoption plan. It was weird because immediately we wanted the entire family to know that we were here if she decided not to parent. Really though, deep down in our hearts no matter how much she tried to convince us, we knew that there was no way she could or would follow through with it. How could she go through such a painful ordeal again? Up until weeks before the delivery we never really felt that butterfly feeling you get when you are going to be a parent again. We had that exciting, nervous feeling when we first learned about Matthew and Bella.”
Yael shared: “When the birthmother of our twins emailed me that she was pregnant and planning to abort the baby, I was so sad. After getting amnio results that her baby boy had Down Syndrome, she was planning an abortion. I wonder to this day why she chose to tell me at all–but especially before she had the abortion. After consulting with our rabbi, I emailed her back and urged her to reconsider, that we would love to adopt her baby. The next email from her said, “The deed is done.” Then, several months later she emailed me that she was pregnant again–this time with the biological father of our twins. I remember feeling very conflicted. On one hand, I assumed that they were back together as a couple and I wondered if they might want more contact with the girls or feel they had made a mistake in placing them. On the other hand, knowing her, I was concerned that she would not be able to bond with her child. Of course, I also wondered if she would want to place him with us–especially if he was not healthy or “perfect”.
As it turned out, he was healthy and perfect. The baby’s father has never visited him and they are not a couple. She brought pictures of her son when she came to visit the girls in the spring. She has sent other photos of him a couple of times. He looks so much like the twins. It is hard to imagine that these kids will not want to connect some day. I wish our birth mother the very best and hope she is enjoying parenting.”
Lynn remembered: “When we got the call about Morgan’s biological sibling being born our feelings spanned from overwhelmed, excited, and not being able to process. We learned about the baby when he was already one month old, so we didn’t have much time to digest the information. I remember saying, “I can’t believe Morgan has a brother.” Rob and I had just assumed that Morgan was going to be an only child. Although we did want other children, we were both okay with raising one. We were lucky to adopt Morgan. We never, in a million years, would have thought that this would have happened. I wasn’t working, so we didn’t know how we could afford the adoption fees, let alone all the extra expenses that went along with raising another child. We had no money saved. We were still paying off the loan for Morgan’s adoption, and didn’t think it was feasible. We couldn’t escape the feeling that we couldn’t let them live separately. Yet how on earth would we come up with that kind of money literally overnight? After speaking with the agency, a lot of our anxieties were soothed. Placing siblings together is regarded highly and a payment plan was discussed. The experience taught us what the true meaning of family is as our family members offered to lend us as much as we needed to adopt again. Ultimately, it wasn’t hard to decide to adopt Aiden. That part was easy. If there was a way, we were going to try to find it.”
Karen responded: “At the initial phone call from Adoption STAR, we were surprised and shocked. It was not something we had ever thought would happen. Our first reaction was “how can we do this again so soon and where do we get the finances, if we decide to adopt this baby?” Then we both thought “how do you say no?” After much talking and praying, the decision was made to move forward with this placement. It took a while to sink in that we were going to bring home another baby. It just didn’t seem possible. We had mixed emotions. We were excited, happy, nervous, (even though this would be baby number 3), and a little scared. We wondered how our other two children would adjust and how we would adjust. We had to do our home study update paperwork over again in a short period of time. It didn’t feel real this time until Justin was placed into our arms. I must admit that it took a while for all of us to adjust to our newest addition. We talked about the baby with our 10 year old so he would be prepared as best as possible. Our 18 month old didn’t understand what was going on. He was not real happy about this tiny intrusion on his life. We allowed him to touch the baby and sit next to us whenever he wanted to. When he was ready to hold the baby, we allowed him to do just that (with our assistance, of course). Our 10 year old was allowed private time in his room when he needed to get away from the ‘babies.” Although, he has been asked to help out a lot and usually does so happily (keeping him involved is so important, he did feel a little displaced this time, just like the last time; although he got over it much quicker. We continued to inform him how much he is loved by both of us. The best advice we could give anyone is to communicate with each other, family, friends, and Adoption STAR about your feelings and emotions.”
L told me via telephone: “Finding out our daughter’s birth mother was pregnant again was a shock to say the least. Our daughter was turning two in a closed adoption. We felt so blessed to have a son by birth and a daughter by adoption that we were afraid to tempt fate. We also had so much else going on that we felt we had to say no. At first we brainstormed who in our family may want to adopt our daughter’s half sibling, but that became too painful for me as I did not want to see that child as a family member only to question whether or not I should have made a different decision. We want to know the new family and keep in touch for the children’s benefit. I feel blessed everyday for our children and know that the decision we made was in the best interest of our family.”
Of the seven responses, we covered adopting your child’s birth sibling, learning the birth mother of your child chose to parent her next child or children, one who chose abortion and another family who chose not to adopt again. These situations clearly show that everyone is different. Each family’s response may have started with “surprise” or shock but each family’s journey took them on different paths. One important piece of the puzzle however is often overlooked. We can more easily relate to the adoptive parent perspective and whether we may want to consider adopting the sibling of the child we already adopted, but have we thought about the birth mother and her situation?
Granted, as mentioned earlier, a pregnancy that occurs within a year of the birth of the child she placed for adoption is hard to deal with – not only for the adoptive parents but for the birth mother herself and for the adoption professionals involved. There have been adoptive families who have told me that they hope to hear that the birth mother is pregnant again so they can adopt again. I respond that it sounds neat, but it actuality it would be very sad if the birth mother found herself pregnant again. One of our “repeat” birth mothers called us almost daily throughout her subsequent pregnancy and had such a hard time overcoming the fact that she got herself in the same situation again. She felt terrible about herself; embarrassed to have the adoptive family find out; and anxious about living through another loss.
If the birth mother selects a parenting plan and allows us to work with her we counsel her to identify why she thinks she has become pregnant again. Was it an unexpected pregnancy or planned? Does she believe by raising this baby that she will fill the void she feels? Does she believe that she can “replace” the baby she placed for adoption? Of course this is not possible and often leads to disappointment and challenges for the birth mother throughout her parenting plan.
On the other hand, if your child’s birth mother is pregnant again and chooses to parent this time, have there been remarkable changes in her life? Was she at first a college student and now she has graduated with a degree and feels more ready for parenthood? Is she engaged to be married or currently married? Is she more mature, responsible and stable? Has she identified additional support from family members or friends that perhaps were not there for her before? It may be hard to accept a woman’s decision to parent when you desire to adopt her child, but it is her right to make the decision to parent, just as it was her right to choose you to adopt the baby she placed for adoption.
For those of us who adopted a birth sibling we recall the moments of learning of the pregnancy and birth and the incredible stress and unbelievable joy that coincided. For those of us who learned that a birth mother parented after placing a child with us beforehand, we can not stop wondering what life would have been like if he or she joined our family and how different his or her life would be today. Both scenarios cause a great deal of emotion that can easily be recalled even if much time has passed. Unexpectedly, my husband and I encountered both these scenarios.
For those who chose to pass on adopting the sibling or half sibling, you may feel similarly, wondering how the child is doing and overwhelm yourself by asking, “Did I make the right decision?” These feelings are typical and expected. Reminding yourself of all the reasons why you made your decision will help you understand that you did make the best decision for your family.
It is important to value the fact that life takes us on many paths and we must find security by accepting the choices that we make for ourselves as well as those made by our children’s birth families. Often these times cause us to feel unsettled, however acknowledging that we do not have all the answers will help us to enjoy our journey even more!
Maybe my love for Jerry Maguire trends a little bit to the extreme, but I can’t help it; every time I see the movie on a cable channel I’m sucked in. Now that Cuba Gooding Jr. is making another comeback with the movie Red Tails, it seems like as good time as any to ask all of you…’How can we help you?’
- Is there a specific adoption topic that you would like us to focus more on?
- Is there an adoption question that you would like answered?
- What type of podcasts would you like to listen to?
- Who would be interested in participating in a live Webinar with an adoption expert?
- What type of Facebook/Twitter posts are you most interested in?
Thanks for all of your help!
Bindu had dreamed of being a mother for as long as she can remember, and though she said she hasn’t found that special person to start a family with, she knew she was ready to be a mother and start a family on her own.
“Even though I wanted to get married and have a family, things didn’t happen that way. I worked really hard at school and as a physician. As I got older I still wanted to have children, and to me it wasn’t necessary that it be a birth child,” Bindu said. “I realized I was getting older and giving birth may have been a problem. Adoption had always been near the top on the radar, even when I was younger, it was always something that interested me; providing a family for a child through adoption.”
In 2008 Bindu began the adoption process by signing up for Adoption STAR’s International Adoption program though Nepal and spent over one year filling out paper work and waiting for a placement. Bindu said one of the biggest reasons she wanted to adopt from Nepal was that the Nepalese culture is very similar to her Indian heritage. She had also been to Nepal and felt connected to the country and people.
In late 2009 the Nepalese government re-opened their international adoption program, getting Bindu’s hopes up that she could soon receive a placement. However, in August of 2010 Nepalese adoptions were again suspended in the US. One of the major reasons was that the US and Nepalese governments could not confirm that the children who were considered orphans had actually been relinquished by both parents.
“I was heartbroken to say the least. Even now, if things were to change, I would love to go (to Nepal) and adopt a child,” Bindu said about the second suspension. “It took a little time to get over that, and then I switched to domestic adoption.”
Bindu said moving to Adoption STAR’s domestic adoption program was an easy decision because most countries do not allow single women to adopt internationally.
Once she switched from the international adoption program to the domestic program Bindu says she was profiled several times but wasn’t chosen. In June she went to India for a visit, and when she returned she received a call from Adoption STAR that one of the expecting mothers who had originally declined her profile had changed her mind and chosen her. This expectant mom was working with Kirsh and Kirsh, an Indiana adoption specific law firm who frequently works with Adoption STAR.
“I just about hit the floor. I was very excited; very happy,” Bindu said about hearing the news.
After speaking with the expecting mother several times, Bindu went and visited her and her grandparents in October. Because there was such a long time period between the beginning of the adoption plan in June, and the expected due date in December, Bindu thought it was best for everyone to meet in person to begin a relationship and get to know one another.
“I got to meet her grandparents and her four-year-old-daughter, and meet Vikram in her belly. It was nice to see where they were coming from and for them to put a face to the person they had only seen in books and heard on the phone.”
“(Vikram) was born at 9:14 am and I started crying. I got to hold him for the first time, and it was such an amazing feeling. His birth mother was great about the whole thing and wanted me to start bonding right away. She got to spend time with him as well.”
While Bindu and her parents were in Indianapolis, she says she formed a strong bond with Vikram’s birth mother that she hopes will grow through open adoption. She said the two have been texting back and forth and sending photos of Vikram, including a Christmas update.
Bindu said she was aware of open adoption before beginning her adoption journey but learned much more through her orientation and her own research. She knew that open adoption was something she wanted if at all possible.
“Identity is important to a child growing up. Even as an Indian-American growing up at a time where there wasn’t a lot of Indian-Americans, identity was important to me, and I hope open adoption will foster that in Vikram,” Bindu said.
Though Bindu has been dreaming of being a mother for many years, she says the reality of being a mother is better then she could have ever expected.
“I expected to have to take care of a child and teach him. You always think you’re going to love a child no matter what, but when you see your child in front of you, you can never imagine it,” Bindu said.
Bindu is taking some time off work to bond with her son but she will eventually be returning to work at the hospital and she said that she is very lucky her parents have offered to help with the day-to-day care of Vikram.
One thing she is looking forward to is watching Vikram grow and being a part of his life. “(He’s) growing up so fast, and I don’t want to miss a single moment of it,” Bindu said. “I really want to see what he turns out to be. I think he’s going to be a really good person.”
One piece of advice that Bindu has for anyone thinking about growing their family through adoption is to do a lot of research and looking into all of your options.
“(It’s important to) really look at what adoption is,” Bindu said. Be patient because it’s a process. Be open minded and open hearted to all possibilities.”
Though Bindu first imagined her adoption journey would take her to Nepal, the journey took a turn and she found her son through domestic adoption. It is hard to change paths and to tweak one’s vision for what they planned for, but with hope, support, education and flexibility, Bindu reached her dream of motherhood.
Congratulations Bindu and Vikram!
If you are interested in growing your family through adoption, please visit the adoptive parent section of the Adoption STAR website. You can also contact us toll-free at 1-866-691-3300 or email at email@example.com.
All photos are credited to Michelle Pinage, Waltham, MA.
Today (Tuesday) marked the end of the first week of our 30 day challenge. Each Adoption STAR staff member picked an activity to do (or not do) for 30 days, and it has been a fun challenge so far.
To see how some of the staff members are handling their challenge, please watch the video below:
If you chose an activity to challenge yourself with, please let us know how your first week went!
In the past we have noticed that the Adoption STAR staff, as well as friends and family of Adoption STAR, visit some really interesting locations, and we got to thinking “why shouldn’t Adoption STAR get in on the fun?” so we have come up with a fun project that we hope everyone will take participate in.
Next time you’re going on vacation or going somewhere fun, take an Adoption STAR pen with you and take a picture of the STAR pen at the location. Get as creative as you want with these photos, and then email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Once we receive the photos we’ll create a Facebook photo album and website album for everyone to see where the Adoption STAR pens have been.
Our goal is to receive photos from friends, clients, and family members to put together a great collection of pictures that will tell a fun story of where the Adoption STAR Pen has been in 2012. If you would like us to send you pens to for you to take pictures of, please email Alex with your mailing address or you can call the agency toll-free at 1-866-691-3300 with a request.
Here is out first photo:Can you guess what country the photo was taken in?
The Washington Post recently wrote a feature on two American teenage adoptees who were adopted from Eastern Europe, one from Russia and one from Kazakhstan, and how they traveled back to their homelands with their families.
The feature focused on Deanna Torstenson, 17, who was adopted at the age of two by an American family. According to the article Deanna began asking about her birth family at a very young age, always wanting to know if she had brothers and sisters in Kazakhstan. Deanna’s parents eventually turned to International Adoption Search, a company that searches for and contacts birth families in Russia, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine. According to the article, 14 months later, when Deanna was 10-years-old, the family received a letter from International Adoption Search that said they had found and contacted Deanna’s birth mother. Deanna’s birth mother, Maryam, was told that her daughter died in the hospital and was in tears when the researcher told her that Deanna was alive and well.
Often in international adoptions, the adoptive family does not receive a lot of information on the child’s family history, which makes it more difficult to search for the birth family. Deanna’s mother, Karen, said in the article that the search was difficult at times because she never expected her daughter would be able to contact her birth family.
“I guess I’ve had some mixed feelings over the years,” Karen said in the article. “It wasn’t something you expected to have happen. In international adoption, you don’t expect you’re ever going to have the birth family be part of your life.”
Deanna was so excited to receive this information that, according to the article, she began taking Russian lessons and made plans to visit her birth family with her father. This past summer those plans came to fruition when Deanna and her father traveled to Kazakhstan to see her birth parents and siblings. While Deanna fit right in playing with all of her siblings, she and her father were affected by the living conditions. The article said that Kazakhstan can get to 40 degrees below zero in the winter, and the snow and mud can make traveling to-and-from their home town impossible 10 months out of the year.
“You read about poverty, but when you see it, especially when it’s your own family… There’s so much they’ve never seen and will never see,” Deanna said in the article. “It’s kind of amazing to think, what if I had lived that life?”
According to the article Deanna still keeps in contact with her birth family through letters and occasional Skype visits and hopes to see them again soon.
If you are interested in growing your family through international adoption, it is important that you work with a Hague Accredited adoption agency, such as Adoption STAR. Each country has its own regulations and it is important to work with a reputable orphanage. For more information on Adoption STAR’s international adoption programs, please visit the Adoption STAR website.
We would love to hear from those who adopted or were adopted internationally about any experiences they’ve had finding birth family members.
This is part two of a two-part blog post on the waiting period one prospective adoptive mother, Lesa Quale Ferguson, has gone through with her family. To read part one, which was published yesterday (Thursday, 12/19), please click here.
There was a time when I was 26 that I believed I was pregnant. I was in what I thought was a long term, committed relationship. I went to school; he was in a band. We lived in an apartment that befit our circumstances. The pregnancy scare changed us. As we factored in a baby and all that goes with it, the lights went out on my relationship. My once fun, affectionate, loving boyfriend began to ignore and mistrust me as if I were trying to tug his dreams out from under him. I reacted to him poorly with moodiness and resentment. This was my profile:
Her name is Lesa; she’s 26, Caucasian; due at the end of October; she’s 5’5, brown hair, brown eyes; she’s a waitress; she attends college and studies writing and theater; she’s not married; she and the birth father recently broke up; he questions paternity; she lists no other possible fathers; he agrees to adoption; he is Caucasian; she drinks one latte a day; she drank three beers before she knew she was pregnant and three or four times afterward but no more than two drinks at a time; She has been experiencing depression and anxiety and has so in the past but, has never been medicated for it; she has been receiving prenatal care since May; her parents are divorced; she has a younger brother with allergies and eczema; each of her grandfathers had heart attacks, her paternal grandmother had breast cancer, all of her grandparents are still alive; she is interested in a semi open adoption (photos, updates, emails through the agency); she is willing to meet the adoptive family one time.
The social worker’s impressions are that this birthmother is very emotional at this time but committed to the plan since she has no means of supporting the child on her own.
I felt my life was unraveling. We were no longer the young couple committed to their artistic pursuits, believing in each other and putting aside our dreams of a family until a more realistic time. The scare made me realize how much I wanted to have a family; it made him realize he was nowhere near ready.
As parents for my baby, I know I would have resented any supposedly well adjusted, happy, stable, hetero couple who would have at their disposal the raw details of my unhappy, troubled life while all I got to see of them were their vacation and wedding photos. I would have felt competitive with any woman my child would call “Mommy”. I don’t know if I could have sat through a meeting with her. I probably would have picked a gay male couple because I wouldn’t feel so threatened and their beneficence would be easier to receive. I picture myself looking through profile books and focusing on backgrounds to see where these couples lived. It would calm me to envision my child growing up in a clean, well-lit, tolerant place. This mattered to me because my apartment since the pregnancy scare had begun to look shabby, lonely and ill-fitting the needs of a baby.
I also know that once my family found out about my situation, if one person had come forward with financial help, I would have given up the adoption plan without a look back. I would not have considered who might be hurt by my decision—sometimes life presses so hard on you that it’s difficult to think of others.
When the pregnancy scare was over, my relationship was over. I moved out and in with my mother, started therapy to figure out was next. And then I waited for a man who couldn’t be scared away by a pregnancy. And I found one who couldn’t even be scared away by fertility issues. Oh, how I’ve learned to wait.
I did consider using other times in my life where a pregnancy would have been difficult. If I had been 16 and pregnant, I might have chosen someone like me and Dave ~ people who like bright colors, wear hats, and play in the snow. At age 32, I might have chosen a happy suburban couple to give my child the supposed ideal. At any age, given the option, I would have chosen a couple with a kid. I would want my child to have a sibling. I want my son to have a sibling now.
What did I learn from doing this exercise? The choices birthmothers make are probably circumstantial just as it would have been for me. I was surprised to discover that a painful episode that happened (and ironically didn’t happen) so long ago could come so quickly to the surface. Real and sometimes even imagined babies can rock worlds. I can try to sympathize with a birthmother but I’d have to live in the midst of her circumstances: in her home, inside her dreams, with whomever it was that impregnated her to truly understand. At least now after doing this exercise, I see more clearly my part. All those laments to Missy about my age, our income, and the offended social worker represent the mental and emotional tax on an expectant-adoptive mother in waiting mode which is what I truly am.
All I can say to a birthmother is, “Dave and I are a devoted couple. We’ll provide a loving home for your baby. We don’t judge because we’ve led imperfect lives. Please choose us.” And then we wait for one birthmother whose circumstances meet ours: Maybe she’ll choose us for the hats, or our son, but more than likely she’ll choose us for something I can’t possibly foretell.
I kiss my sleeping son’s cheek. I waited such a long time for him to arrive and I hate waiting. But by now, I am a pro. I know about the shadows that creep out from under the bed, the tricks of light and dark, the way my imagination takes off into the unknown, scary territory regardless of whether it’s fiction, fact, or recreation. Such are the challenges of waiting. But after many, long, difficult years of waiting, I gave birth to my boy. And if Sam has taught me anything, it is that nothing in pretend life measures up to real life. The years of despair and worry pale with the reality of my little family. Life with Sam has surpassed our imagination and life with our next child will do the same.
I steal out of Sam’s room and tiptoe down the stairs. My husband has fallen asleep on the couch. I take my notes and stick them into a journal I have tucked away in the sideboard. Next time the social worker calls, I hope I remember to use it.
In a Post from 12/20/2012) Prospective adoptive mother, Lesa Quale Ferguson, writes about waiting for a placement. She and her husband Dave have since adopted their son Cal
I sit in my chair and pick up the loose scraps of paper. I should have a journal set aside for these notes but when the social worker from Adoption Star called, I scrambled for whatever paper I could find. Dave had just finished reading a story to our five-year-old son, Sam, and tucked him in. We never have this conversation in front of Sam. He’s too young. I wait for Dave to settle on the couch.
I ask, “Are you ready?”
I shuffle through the papers nervously. I want to begin at the most difficult part: “she’s bipolar” or “she smoked crack.” I want to begin there because I want to hear Dave say, “That’s okay. The baby will be healthy. This birthmother will choose us. We’ll meet her. We’ll have a baby very soon.”
But my husband will never say those things. His reassurance will never be so unrealistic. We don’t know if the baby will be healthy. We don’t know if the birthmother will choose us. Based on previous experience, we probably won’t meet her. Even though I long for reassurance, I trust him implicitly. I know my husband’s strength and wisdom doesn’t derive from false hope for future outcomes. Often, in order to deflect my incessant need to over dramatize and my cravings for reassurance, he’ll tease me, “Tomorrow will be colder; we’ll have to work harder; And we’ll be more miserable.” His absolute refusal to bank strength in a rosy future is reassurance in itself. Strength should come from what we have here and now. I know this.
I begin to tell it to Dave just as the Social Worker told it to me. I’m a stay at home mom so I field all the calls from the agency. Every few weeks, sometimes less/sometimes more, a social worker calls with a “profiling opportunity”. A certain order to them reigns. She tells me about a birthmother who has put together an adoption plan. Her plan has to align with our grids, which we filled out as part of our homestudy. The grids speak to race, physical needs and circumstances. We have a varied grid so we are open to many situations and in the position to enjoy many “profiling opportunities.” Once we hear the profile and accept, our profile is then shown to the birthmother. Our profile book is a scrapbook of our family life along with information about our health and finances. She looks at our profile along with the profiles of eight or nine other hopeful couples; from these she chooses the couple she wants to raise her baby. We have never been chosen.
As Tom Petty sings, The waiting is the hardest part
A few months ago, a new social worker called and she bumbled a bit through the “profiling opportunity”. At that moment, I realized I had received so many of these phone calls I had absorbed the template.
And so the phone call begins…
The birthmother’s name is Chelsea, Jasmine, Dominque, Amber; she’s 32, 13, 23, 41; she’s due in 2 weeks, next month, in October, April, she’s in the delivery room; she’s Caucasian, African American, Hispanic; she lives near Albany, in Florida, Indiana, Niagara Falls; the birthfather is unknown; not the birthmother’s husband, wants nothing to do with the baby, agrees to the adoption plan, incarcerated; the birthmother is in college, has an 8th grade education, received her GED, she works at a pizza parlor; she has three children who do live with her (or don’t live with her), she has another child who is 10 months old and twins on the way…;
At this juncture, the social worker tells me the challenges and difficulties the birthmother is experiencing. Most of these challenges have already been listed as acceptable in our grid but over some of them, I get a twinge of anxiety.
…She smoked a joint on New Year’s Eve, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, smokes 4 cigarettes a day, smoked crack in her 6 month, drank heavily before she knew she was pregnant; drinks two cans of soda a day; she is on Medicaid; covered by her parents’ insurance, she has just started prenatal care in her eighth month; the baby is a girl, a boy, she doesn’t know, she doesn’t want to know; she wants a closed adoption (no contact), she wants a semi-open adoption (letters and photos through the agency only), she wants an open adoption (once or twice- a- year visits).
We have only passed on two profiling opportunities: extreme drug use and pervasive familial mental illness. Nothing about that was easy. One of the social workers reassured me with, “You do not want to look over the shoulder of your child waiting for the worst to happen.”
As I sit and tell Dave about our latest profiling opportunity, he knows I have already said yes to having our profile sent on to the birthmother. In the past, I have only delayed the process for the two difficult profiles. We’ve discussed and considered endlessly so we are on the same page. Our nighttime talk serves to keep him apprised.
I try not to take the fact that we haven’t been chosen personally. But how could it not be personal? The birthmothers must not be choosing us based on our personal history. Every couple months, I arrive at the office of Missy, our primary social worker and I lament: I’m too old; we don’t make enough money; we have a biological son; I offended the birthmother social worker (considering we had never actually met, this was a bit of a stretch).
Missy has propped me up, told me that often families with biological children have to wait longer. She has repeated the Tom Petty lyric, the waiting is the hardest part, so often I think she must tour with him.
After I finish telling Dave about this profile, he asks a few questions but eventually shrugs and says, “we’ll see,” and turns on the TV.
I attempt to watch with him but my imagination has been fired up. I’ve been given just enough information to have this latest birthmother spring to life like a character in a novel. I have to remind myself that whatever character emerges, she is fiction. Whoever this birthmother turns out to be, I can’t create her from the words of a social worker.
I hear Sam at the top of the stairs, “I’m scared.”
I bolt up to get him. It’s selfish but I am relieved he’s up, I need comfort too. Sam is my reassurance, my strength in the present. It came as a surprise to me that Sam is a liability in the adoption process. If I were a birthmother, I would want an older brother for my child, especially a Sam. I realize I’m ridiculously partial but it got me thinking, “What if I were the birthmother; who would I choose?” A couple weeks ago, I called and asked a social worker to send me the paperwork the birthmothers fill out for their adoption plans. I decided to locate a time in my life when having a baby would have been exceedingly difficult. And then I used those circumstances and I filled out the forms. I wrote a profile just as a social worker might.
Sam and I stand at the threshold of his bedroom, “I think there is a monster under my bed. Look at the shadow.”
I peer in the darkness and a shadow emerges from under his bed. I turn on the light.
“Poof, it’s gone,” I say.
I pick him up.
“Are monsters pretend life or real life?” I ask.
“Pretend life, but the shadow is real life.”
I have created two bins for him to sort the world: real life and pretend life. I’m happy to play Frankenstein with him but I don’t want him to think we’ll find Frankenstein under the bed. ”Shadows can be scary because we don’t know what is making them. But mostly it is just a trick of the light.”
We look under the bed: only dust bunnies. I flip off the light. We snuggle into bed and I wait to hear the easy rhythm of his breathing. I am glad for the dark room and the chance to visit the shadows that lurk in my head. I let my imagination go back to my past…