December 02, 2014

My Dreams of Clerical Work Have Come True!

Oh my, all of this adoption paperwork is so diverting and interesting! ....said no one ever. Still, it is something real and concrete that we are doing to work towards our baby. And that *is* interesting.

We have to have 4 references! And only one is allowed to be related to us! I don't know that many non-relatives whom I trust in that way. Well, okay, I do, but only just barely. Do they have to write a letter? Do an interview? I have no idea. Hopefully my pastor doesn't say anything stupid. He's a good man, but excels at opening his mouth and inserting his foot.

We actually knocked out a good 70-75% of the paperwork in one evening over the holiday weekend. We still need to have our family doctor sign off on a medical form and then there's the 19 question long autobiographical info sheet from the agency. With very simple questions like "Tell us about your childhood and adolescence" - Ok, where shall I start and how many extra sheets am I allowed to attach? *Really*?!?!? Oy, how to condense 15 years of military moves, diagnosing my brother's disability, and being so very poor? And that's just 1 out of 19 questions! Just wait for "How did you and your spouse meet? Describe your courtship" - Sure! You're going to get the cleaned up, PG version, since I doubt anyone wants to know the "we thought it was just about the sex until we realized we were crazy about each other" story. And we are both filling out the questionnaire separately, which means I might get M's back from him sometime in the next 4 years, if I badger him enough.

To keep my busy brain occupied while we do less than exciting paper-pushing, I have been thinking about how to announce our adoption process to friends and family. I don't want to wait the 2 or so years until we have a baby placed with us before we state publicly that we are adopting, but how to announce the *process* (the long, loooong *process*) when a baby is still so far off? I've been trying to think of something cute to say on, either with or without a picture. So far, the best I've come up with is "We're expecting!....Lots and lots of paperwork. We're adopting!"

Cheesy? Lame?

See, I'm never gonna get to do some cutsie pregnancy announcement, so this is the closest thing for me. We've got *way* better ideas for when we can announce a placement. We are big time geeks/nerds so I was trying to think of how to incorporate a video game or sci-fi show reference to the adoption process announcement. So far, my brain is failing me.

So, yeah, paperwork! Now to go try to answer a few more questions on the auto-bio form....

November 26, 2014

3rd Agency Visit



It is 18 hours later and I still feel a little tongue tied over our phone interview with the Agency in City B. I was never 100% on board with them based on the literature they provide and their website, but everywhere I looked I saw glowing reviews for them. So I added them to our short list of agencies to interview.

This was an...interesting experience. If I had not done so much research and soul searching ahead of time, and if we hadn't already interviewed 2 other agencies, our reactions might have been different. But as it was, there was red flag after red flag and M cut the call short with a slashing gesture across his throat. When M voices an opinion, you know its important.

First off, I asked about expectant mother counseling. The woman, let's call her Marge, went on a brief soapbox about how no agency should be telling us that they "counsel the birth mother" because an adoption agency has a vested interest in getting the woman to place her baby. I'm thinking "Okaaaay, on one hand I see what you are saying and on the other hand No, a good agency with good social workers will still counsel a woman about *all* her options, including parenting, even though they have a 'vested interest'". Then she went on to make the blanket statement that "Birth mothers don't want counseling, they come to us for the support services we can offer." Okay, Marge, tell me about the support services you offer - none of which includes advising her of the services available should she choose to parent.

Then I asked about their adoption education classes. I had already read on the website that their education is just internet courses, but I wanted to make sure I wasn't missing some in-person aspect of it. Nope, Marge informed me that they "used to sporadically host in-person classes" but its just a bunch of online resources now. You send in your paperwork, do the home-study - the online courses make the whole process so much faster. Yeah....because faster is important...not, say, thorough education...

The final straw for both M and I was when I asked about Birth Mother expenses. In our state it is legal for a birth mother to request up to $3K in living expenses once she is matched with a family. I had read a lot about this on the internet and how some people feel it creates an ethical and moral gray area: Does this money compel the mothers to place out of a sense of debt or guilt? Is it made perfectly clear that this money is not some twisted *payment* for their baby? You can see how things might get dicey. The other two agencies made us feel much more at ease about the birth mother expenses because it is not immediately dispensed as one lump sum to a woman whether she brings up a need or not. The agency handles the money and if a birth mother mentions expenses she needs help covering (generally food, rent, cell phone, etc.) then the agency will use the money to provide her gift cards or they will direct pay bills for her. Almost never do they just hand cash over to a woman - again, because of the moral/ethical grey area. And they might not need the full $3K, they only use what is asked for. Well, Marge informs us that it is written in their info brochure that you provide $1000 to the birth mother up front when matched and that the remaining $2K is provided to her after placement...So, you know, she can feel free to walk away thinking that we just fucking *bought* her *baby*! Talk about incentivising placement! Yikes!

I was alarmed at the way Marge glossed over the needs of the birth mother. More alarming was the fact she said they are in need of adoptive families - that they currently have 2 expectant mothers for every 1 waiting family. Como what? Is it because the process is quick for them too? No need to soul search about what is the best decision for your baby; just come to us and in the end you get $3000 cash for your trouble? Is it because, without counseling, they fail to weed out the expectant mothers who are more likely to parent - thus leaving a match to fall through only once the baby is born? O_O

Obviously, there are many people (adoptive parents) who are perfectly happy with the way this agency runs. It gets straight to the point - fill out your paperwork, do homestudy, pay money, get baby - quickly. But a *faster* adoption process doesn't make it a *better* adoption process. Had we not educated ourselves ahead of time, this agency might have sounded really good, because how can you turn down an easier, faster adoption? I am so thankful that we already knew what we wanted out of an agency and an adoption, that we were clear on what was important to us.

So, oddly enough, a decision that I thought would be gut-wrenchingly difficult to make became quite easy. We felt the most comfortable with the Agency in City A and we feel confident about moving forward with them. I am printing the initial paperwork from their website today for M and I to go over on the holiday weekend.

Holy shit.

We're going to adopt!!

November 25, 2014

The Healing Power of Hope

Hope was my enemy for so long while I struggled with infertility. Hope made me excited each new cycle, even at the end when I knew in my soul it wasn't working. Hope made me sob buckets, enough for a river, with each BFN. Hope was indestructible, no matter how hard I tried to squash it down in a tiny box, hidden at the back of mind to protect myself from the hurt it caused. There were days I wished for nothing more than to have no hope, so that I could give up and have some peace. Hope was the boogie man under my bed that terrorized me for 4 painful years.

Imagine my surprise when I experienced a new lightness of being by talking about our someday adopted child with M. I am becoming more comfortable speaking in definitives - instead of "if we ever turn the craft room into a nursery" I can say "when we probably turn the craft room into a nursery". And it doesn't hurt! I don't feel soul crushing agony when I consider how our daily routines will be altered by the presence of a child. Hope, it appears, can heal as much as hurt. And maybe, *hopefully* (get it?), I have turned a corner where hope and I can be friends instead of enemies; where I can feel safe thinking about the eventuality of our growing family without cursing myself in the same moment.

And I never knew how restorative and *wonderful* that could feel.

November 24, 2014

Losses Yet to be Mourned

I have worked hard to educate myself and M about the unique experiences we will have with adoption, the losses we are and will experience. I don't want to be blindsided by some unexplored grief when I should be busy encouraging attachment with my new little one. Here is a list of a few losses I've thought of that may cause us pain even in our joy of adoption:

A child who looks like M and I - Since we started trying to get pregnant almost 4 years ago, I have asked myself how I would feel raising a child that bore no resemblance to us. Did I want a child so I could see M's eyes and my hair? Was that my main motivation for having a baby? I have spent a lot of time over the past year doing soul searching and making sure I am comfortable with our child looking nothing like us, but I know in my heart of hearts that I can't truly mourn that loss until it is made manifest in whatever child we end up adopting. I hope, though, that I have prepared myself as much as possible.

Breastfeeding - I feel very conflicted about this topic. On one hand, I would be very sad to not be able to breastfeed my child because I do feel it is best for them and is an opportunity for so much comfort and attachment. On the other hand, it is possible to breastfeed your adopted child- but I don't know if I could go through the artificial stimulation and then the social reaction to me breastfeeding my trans-racially adopted child (if that ended up being our situation). Am I allowed to be sad about something that I did sort of have a choice over and chose not to pursue?

Naming rights - "Alice Clara Belle". I have never told a soul that name. That is the name that I chose for our now never-to-be biological daughter. I had that name picked out for about 2 years, back when I was so sure we could still have a baby. It is a first name of Germanic origin (both M and I have German heritage, among others) and a middle name from my maternal grandmother's first name. I never told my grandma that I had wanted to use her name - I was afraid to raise her hopes when we might not get pregnant. Now she has died and I can never tell her, though I guess it hardly matters since I won't ever have a biological daughter. I thought briefly about hanging onto this name for an adopted daughter, but it feels wrong somehow. This was a name specially chosen for a child that would share our heritage. With an adopted child, we will have so many new considerations: the wishes of the birth family, the heritage of the birth family, and just the way a name can "fit" a child. And I feel wrong about saddling a trans-racially adopted child with such a "white" name, if that makes any sense at all. Still, I'm sad over the loss of this choice. The loss of heritage. The loss of carrying on a family name. I mourn these things now and I will continue to grieve when a baby is placed in my arms.

A purely joyful beginning of life - I will write on this more in another post, but there is sadness and loss in the very first days of an adopted person's life. Loss of their biological connection. Loss of the only familiar person. Our child's homecoming will be bittersweet and there is nothing I can do but accept it and grieve with them. This is something no biological family need do, but is critical for an adopted family. The loss is real, even for a tiny infant. *I* am a stranger and "mother" is the woman they are not with. With time, that will change, but it is still something I will have to grieve right along side my baby.

Adoption is such an emotional journey - one that lasts for the lifetime of the adopted person. I am trying to learn and adjust, and to stretch my heart to make room for all the feelings, good and bad, which are to come. I pray that by doing this, I can see with clear eyes and do what is right by my child, and not just what I think is best for myself and M.

November 20, 2014

Agency Visit 2

The more actions that M and I take towards really starting our adoption journey, the more real it begins to feel. Like it is slowly materializing into something solid and tangible after being a ghost of a dream for so long.

Yesterday was the trip to City C for our in-person, one-on-one interview with my favorite agency so far. It was a really good visit, however the distance from our home is a little concerning. Almost 1 hr 45 minutes one way :-\ 

Honestly, I'm a little surprised I didn't walk away from that meeting beaming with certainty that we had found "The One". They take a very hands-off approach to the birth parent/adoptive parent relationship. They don't even send a social worker to attend the very first meeting of expectant mom and prospective adoptive parents. Kind of a throw you into the deep end and you either sink or swim philosophy. Which, I understand their reasoning, but that doesn't mean I think it is the right philosophy for M and I. If this were our second adoption or something, I think I would feel a lot more comfortable being left to our own devices to forge a relationship with the birth parents.

Apart from that aspect, though, I really like everything else about the agency: the way their education and homestudy process works, the fee schedule, the size of the agency and their connections and reputation in the community. Clearly they are doing something right. But there was something about the presentation by the agency in City A that made me feel more comfortable and confident about their commitment to openness and encouraging continued contact with birth parents. ::shrug:: maybe its just a difference of where the birth moms are coming from.

Another thing which can be seen as a positive or a negative is that with City C agency, we need to have our application submitted by early the week after Thanksgiving because their next education series starts in early December. If we miss that one we have to wait until March, I believe. So, we could get started on this process rather quickly, which is nice. But, are we ready to make that decision and jump right in? Around the holidays?

To account for this potential accelerated schedule, we'll be calling the agency in City B tomorrow evening or Monday evening. At the moment, I think the agency in City A has pulled slightly in the lead, but it is very narrow. Their education series is a little more spread out though, and only in the evenings; whereas City C agency has 2 full day courses and then you are done. Scheduling for that is easier than lots of evenings. No pressure or anything, right? Just one of the most important decisions we will ever make.

Does anyone have thoughts on meeting an expectant mother for the first time with no social worker present? Because I think that is my only hang-up that is keeping City C agency in second place.

November 17, 2014

Funding Adoption

M and I are funding our adoption solely by ourselves. We haven't asked our parents or anyone else for assistance. That's not to say our family and friends won't help out in other ways eventually. We may not have a traditional, pre-birth baby shower, but I'm sure there will be gifts and hand-me-downs nonetheless. This isn't the case for everyone, though.

There's a girl I went to high school with and, even though we were acquaintances at best, we somehow have remained friends for years. Around the same time M and I started to seriously research adoption, this girl got married and immediately knew she and her husband would adopt (undisclosed health issues making fertility an impossibility). So I have followed her journey in a vague sense of solidarity. For some reason, they have decided that it is supremely important they adopt while incurring zero debt. In fact, they paid off all their debt except their mortgage before they started saving for adoption. Okay, more power to them, except that "zero debt" to them apparently translates to "Almost entirely fund-raised".

I haven't exactly been "active" in the adoption community for long, but I have already learned that fundraising to pay for adoption is an extremely divisive topic. I don't know that I have a hard opinion either way, but reading about my high school friend's adoption process definitely causes me to grimace. I'm not condemning her, I have a very "to each their own" feeling about a lot of infertility and adoption topics, but I can't help feeling that they are creating their own hardship and trying to thrust it onto friends and family to resolve. On their site, their donation goal is listed as $25,000 - that is essentially how much it costs to adopt domestically in our state, which is their stated preference. Wow, hoping to fund-raise the full cost of adoption? You might think that is just their pie-in-the-sky goal, but realistically they don't expect to raise more than a few K. I'm not so sure...she posts every month or two on soliciting donations. She has updated and blogged about how no one seems able to help financially and she feels like they'll never be ready to move on to the actual process. They've got a few thousand raised now and she thinks they "almost" have enough to apply to an agency and do the Homestudy. Not sure what agency she wants to go with, but at any I've looked into, she has more than enough to do those things.

Of course, I understand adoption is expensive - boy do I understand it. And I get that can be a barrier to some people. But I think the whole "adoption without debt" part is what's giving me pause with her situation. She is putting extra constraints on herself and saying, "Alright people of the world, come help me do this because I refuse to take out a loan". I just feel like it is a little unrealistic to know how expensive this process is, to know the limitations of your own finances, and then to say "we will do this debt free". It is basically the cost of a new car! Not many people purchase a new car without taking a loan.

I do wonder though, if I am speaking from a more privileged point of view. Would I feel differently if we were struggling financially? We are incredibly blessed that M's grandmother set up a trust fund for him to attend college, that I work for a university which provides tuition at 20% for dependents, that M got a good paying job out of college, that we live in an area of the country with low cost-of-living. Most of these things we had no hand in, we were just very blessed to have them happen to us in the way they did, so its not like we can say we were 100% the architects of our current financial standing. But even with all of that, we have been conscientiously saving for this and we will *still* take out a loan against M's 401K (honestly the best option for us because of low interest and we can use our adoption benefits from work to pay ourselves back). So, it isn't as though we never needed to consider fundraising. I thought about it briefly and knew it was not for us; I would rather suffer through the saving and the debt.

I think my opinion coalesces around the idea that *some* fund-raising is okay, but ultimately it is our (the prospective adoptive parents') responsibility to take on the burden of the cost for this experience because it is a choice. Like it or not, it is a choice. I feel very fluid about that though and maybe along the way to my own adoption, I will change my opinion. What do you all think?

November 14, 2014

One Info Session down

Apart from the logistics being a total pain in the ass, the info meeting at the agency in City A was pretty good. We had to leave immediately when I got home from work (I ate microwaved leftovers in the car while M drove) and barely made it on time. Plus, we didn't get home until bedtime so we let the dog out for a few minutes and headed upstairs. And I felt super guilty for being a bad dog-mom - poor animal spent all day, then most of the evening, and all night in his pen. This is why I prefer to have control over the schedule.

About 45 minutes of it was kind of a waste of time for me because it was all stuff I already knew about the agency/the adoption process, but it was good for M, I think. And I was impressed there were only 2 questions along the lines of “But what if a birth parent comes back and tries to steal ma bahbah?!” And I loved the answer from the social worker because, in as nice a way possible, she said “Well, A.) they have no legal rights after surrender, but more importantly B.) they’re not monsters out to ruin your happiness, they’re human beings. 99.9% of birth parents will do no such thing.”

M and I agree they seem like a good place that is genuinely concerned with helping expectant mothers in whatever way they can, even if they don't end up following through with an adoption plan. And the social worker who presented was very honest about the realities of adoption. She said there are plenty of women who decide they can't relinquish the baby once it is born. And that's something you have to accept. You can be upset about it, but don't be mad at a woman for wanting to keep her child with her.

Next week we will visit the agency that is the farthest away. I feel much more relaxed about it because we are taking the day off, we get to meet one-on-one with someone, and we're meeting friends for an early dinner afterwards before heading home. Much less stressful on me from a planning perspective.

Another step I am taking in this adoption adventure is that I am going to talk to my supervisor briefly next week and fill her in on my family building plans. I still feel very...uncomfortable telling new people and talking to...most people about adoption. IF was just so hard and so painful and personal - I still very much feel the need to insulate and protect myself against the world and the thoughtless ways it can hurt me. I'm *trying* to be brave and have faith and not be a pessimist, but as anyone who has nothing but failed IF cycles behind them knows, it is incredibly hard. I want to let my supervisor know, though, because I know I will have emotional days, or increased days off, or get overwhelmed easily, and I need her to know I'm not a crazy person, I'm just a person who is putting their very damaged heart out into the world and praying *this* time it doesn't get crushed.

November 12, 2014

Agency Visits

I enjoyed the traumatic experience of calling adoption agencies on my lunch break last Friday. All I wanted to do was schedule a sit-down with someone at 3 different agencies to go over some questions I need answered before we can choose an agency to work with. Nope, sorry, doesn't work like that. At City A's agency we *have* to attend a structured orientation session with a bunch of other couples in the evening. At City B's agency, they do everything over the phone because "isn't that so much more convenient than taking a half or whole day off to come down for an appointment?". City C's agency, fortunately, was all “of course we can do that! Would you like to leave a voicemail and she’ll call you back or you can schedule it all through email.” Really? I can have my private, face-to-face appointment? You aren't going to force me into a situation I don’t want to be in and certainly isn't the best way for us to ask/process information? That is so novel…

I have already had to grieve the loss of control over almost every facet of family building, just let me ask my damn questions the way I want to! In person, in private! This is *such* a big decision, possibly the biggest of our lives. I want to meet these people in person, get a feel for their personality etc., if we are going to be working with them and trusting them to help us over the next 2 years - I need to know if I can feel at ease with them. I want to meet them in private because this is so personal. My IF doctor didn't have me come to a group class to learn about IVF and I feel this should be treated the same way. I have very particular questions I want answered. I have already educated myself *A LOT* about adoption and these 3 agencies, I just need to check off a few very specific questions and I can make my decision. I don't want to sit through "Adoption for Dummies" for an hour on a week night after driving 45 minutes home from work and then 30 more minutes to the agency (in rush hour traffic no less :-P) . Plus, even though I know I am in a pretty good place of having dealt with my IF grief, I also know there are some things that can still bring me to tears - particularly in a high stress environment (another reason I wanted control over when the appointment was, so I could be as much at ease as possible). I prefer my privacy to deal with my emotions rather than being in a big group setting.

The group info session in City A is tonight. I'm not really looking forward to it simply because of the logistics to get there on time making me anxious. I would have much preferred scheduling something during the day and taking time off from work to eliminate outside stressors. I would love to be proven wrong about how unhelpful this will be. I would love to be blown away and so happy with their presentation - Mmmm, crow!

We have decided to interview 1 agency a week, so next week we will visit the agency in City C - the one that didn't act like I was crazy for wanting to sit down one on one with someone. Right now, they are my favorite agency based on their website and info packet. Unfortunately, they are also the farthest away. The other 2 agencies are between 30 and 45 minutes from our house. City C is at least an hour if not more :-/ But you know what, if they make us feel the most comfortable and their methods match our concerns, then I will happily burn those miles.

::deep breath:: Here we go...

October 29, 2014

A Long Overdue Post, and Moving Forward

The summer was a very rough time for me. Several events happened in quick succession, each one dealing a body blow I wasn't prepared for. My emotional cup was overflowing everyday and I had nothing left over to give to the thought of adoption. I was honestly scared that I would never regain the emotional fortitude to move forward with an adoption.

Fortunately, from the very bottom of the barrel, I was able to make the good decision to find a therapist. I've been seeing her weekly since the end of August and it has helped SO. MUCH. I definitely feel less stressed, more in control, and more at ease with the world around me than I have since...probably since my mom's back injury which left her paralyzed. That is a long time to dance around pretending to be okay.

For the first time since June, I think, I am thinking about and reviewing adoption information. From all the research we did earlier in the year, I have chosen 3 adoption agencies to interview. Each one is in a different major city, each roughly within an hour of our house. I would like to have an agency chosen and the paperwork at least started by the end of the year. One of the first major steps with any adoption agency is a workshop or seminar and they are usually group sessions held 4 times a year. If we made a deposit with an agency by January, we could attend a spring info/education session. I fully expect the whole adoption process to take about 2 years and I'm okay with that.

The only thing that remains frustrating for me is I have no one in real life (internet doesn't count) that I really feel totally safe talking to about adoption. My concerns for birthmother education and support seem baffling to most people. Even my therapist said that Ohio has excellent adoption laws which secure the rights of the adoptive parents and isn't that a relief. Well, yes, but I pray I never have to fall back on the security of those laws! I would be horrified if a first mother placed with us and then realized she had made a horrible mistake and had been manipulated by the agency. A well informed woman, making an adoption plan free from coercion is the MOST important factor for me in adoption. If even my therapist can't understand this, then who can I turn to? I am very hopeful that once we choose an agency, we will be connected with other like-minded families. Until then, I will have to cling to people on the internet, like Lori Holden over at Lavender Luz. Her book is quickly becoming my adoption bible.

Hopefully I will be updating this space more often as we really, officially get the ball rolling on the adoption process. I will say as much as I can while maintaining the necessary confidentiality. I tend to write more about my feelings and less about process anyway.

July 21, 2014

Rug. Pull. Pain.

I don't even know where to start with this rant - I'm so confused and angry. Briefly: for two glorious weeks, M and I were led to believe that he would be receiving a hefty promotion. Something beyond our wildest dreams that would allow us to pay off student loans and save for adoption much faster than we'd hoped. Today, the bottom dropped out of that dream.

The sum up of the situation is that M is getting a promotion. He has greatly increased responsibilities, including supervising 3 employees. And he did get a raise in salary, however it falls short of the original figure M was floated by nearly $20K. That's the rug pull.

The facilities manager at M's work put in his 2 week notice at the end of May and the company decided to cannibalize his job rather than hire in someone for the exact same position. Part of his job, supervision of a specific area of the facility, was passed on to M. He was told about this additional responsibility and started doing the job over a month ago. Without a formal offer. With no knowledge about how they were going to promote him, what his new title would be, or what they would compensate him. But they were "working on it".

Three weeks after M was already doing the job, he finally had a meeting with HR. They still did not have a formal offer prepared for him, but they could tell him some basics: what his new title would be and what pay class their offer was being based on. The minimum salary in the pay class he was told was about $25K more than he was currently earning. We were dumbfounded. We didn't know what to do. We could finally pay off the student loans. Adoption would absolutely be within our reach. It was scary. It was wonderful.

It was a lie.

Two weeks after this meeting, today: the offer was finally in writing. FINALLY. M has been doing this job without formally being offered it for over a month. The promotion doesn't go into effect for another 2 weeks. The pay is nothing like he was told. To me, knowing how hard he works and how much more he is going to have to work now, the pay is a step above a slap in the face. Plus, he qualified for overtime pay in his "old" position and his "new" position is fully salary, so no overtime no matter how many hours he works.

I don't think I would be quite as upset as I am if HR had not told him a figure that was either patently false, or not set in stone. Who does that? Who waves a huge carrot and then snatches it away with no explanation? Yes, the number they told him was above and beyond anything we hoped for, but the truth fell so very short of how much I thought they valued him. I was terrified they would low-ball him and that is exactly what they did - *after* they lied and made it seem like he was getting an *amazing* promotion. Two gut punches, one right after the other. If their "real" offer had been $10K less than what we were told 2 weeks ago, I wouldn't have been upset at all. It was a number I thought was within reach if they really valued M.

I am thankful M has a job. I am thankful there is some upward mobility at his facility. I am thankful that the money we are earning right now is more than sufficient for us to live on. We are not struggling. I recognize that these are each things that many people our age don't have. Even with college degrees. We are extremely fortunate. I just wish we had never been lied to. I wish the "dream salary" had never been told to us. I wish we had been told from the start, *way* back at the beginning of June, just what this promotion would entail and the "value" that his employers placed on that work.

I am going to pray for perspective, and patience, and calm. To be thankful for the small advance that we have made. To let this go and just move forward. But today it is raw and new and I just want to punch someone for messing with us.

July 09, 2014


Harlem, by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

      Or does it explode?

I feel like all my dreams are on hold. Put off into the future for one reason or another. I feel like a derailed train. Or a train bound for the wrong destination. Have I missed the last switch-track? Can I get back on the rails and moving again?

I wish I had known in college just how out of step I would feel doing "traditional" work. I tell people there must be something wrong with me because I think it's crazy to spend a life toiling away in an office. Maybe I just have a sucky work ethic? Maybe I'm un-American. I used to dream about staying at home and homesteading, only when I was feeling particularly stressed out and crazy. And I've told myself it is a silly fantasy. But I think more and more about it lately. I think about how much better of a parent I could be if I didn't work full time. I think about how self-sufficient and environmentally friendly and *healthy* my life could be. If I could be home. Instead of in an office, dreaming of the things I would do if I had the time. There is never enough time; I am forever away from home. And when I am home, all I have time to do is play catch up with all the chores that I've fallen behind on. Because I was sitting in an office somewhere doing nothing particularly important. Just wasting time.

I want more time for gardening, time to learn canning and other food preservation methods, I even want to learn how to spin wool! I'm going to try to slowly learn these things anyway, but it takes so much time and there's so little I can do in one sitting. I want more time for projects around the house, things I know I can do or learn to do. I want to feel useful, like the things I do matter. I want to wear the clothes that I like, instead of whatever is "professional" and "office appropriate". I want to sing, prance, curse, and laugh as loud as I like. All things that you reeeeally can't do in an office. I want to do work that feels satisfying. I want to stop feeling like I'm wasting my life. I want to *live*.

It's not that I don't want to work. I do. I just want to do different work. Work that serves my family and maybe my community (if I could ever get good enough at something to sell or trade). I'm happy with my hands in the dirt. I feel accomplished when I'm covered in sweat after finishing a task. Why did it take me so long to figure this out? I feel like I'm living someone else's life. Is this a mid-life crisis?

Unfortunately, my desire to live a simpler life remains a dream deferred. We cannot get by on just one paycheck yet. Not with student loan debt. Not if we want to adopt. And I hate that it feels like I am choosing between having children or living a more enjoyable and satisfying life.

Langston Hughes was right - it sags, like a heavy load. I will keep dreaming though because right now, it keeps me going.

June 10, 2014

I Bought the Book

This is big.

It maybe sounds small and insignificant, but for me, in my mind, this is HUGE!

I went to the used bookstore on my lunch break one day last week to see if they even had a section of books about adoption. They did, although it was really small and wedged in with ten copies of What to Expect When You're Expecting (*vomit*). Being a used bookstore, they are slaves to the whims of people who sell them their old books, so I don't fault them for the narrowness of their selection. I hadn't heard of/wasn't interested in most of the titles -BUT- and I take this as a small gesture from God- they had a copy of Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew. The book I am currently riveted to and goes with me everywhere.

And I bought it.

I bought. A book. About adoption.

I know - it's like I might actually be starting to think that we may possibly, actually, do this. And not in some vague unknown future time. But soon. Ish.

That is a big step for me.

June 06, 2014

I Don't Want to Talk About This

I always minimize my browser when I'm reading infertility blogs or websites and someone walks by. I have NEVER brought an IF related book out in public. Phone conversations with my sister while I'm at work are intentionally as vague as possible (since we both have IF from PCOS, many of our convos are on these topics).

I want the people around me to be aware of infertility, but I don't necessarily want them to be aware of MY infertility. I'm not interested in having that conversation with most people, even people I see every day. And to that end, I want to be in control of whether or not I have that conversation and with whom. But people see a book or a website open and think it is an invitation to start asking questions. Not that I don't ask people about books they are reading, but only if it appears to be fiction or a biography or something. If I saw someone reading a title like "Your Hidden Pain" - I would not try to chat them up about it since it sounds like a pretty heavy and probably personal topic. I *will* chat them up if they are reading the Hunger Games.

The issue is, I don't trust other people to know how to be sensitive to me, to know what questions are okay and what questions cross the line into too personal. And I am not always in the mood to "educate" people. Sometimes I am feeling raw and vulnerable and that is not a good place to be in and then feeling like I am defending my life situation to someone.

I bring this up because, much like my infertility, I don't want to broadcast my ongoing family building efforts. But I don't have much of a choice except to haul my adoption books with me everywhere I go because I don't have time to read at home very often. I would love to leave a stack of books by my bed and only read at night, safe from prying eyes. I can't do that efficiently and these are library books.

I'm not ready to talk about this though. I cannot say with absolute certainty that M and I are going to adopt, not yet. I am still forming my opinions, still researching, still learning. And again, I'm not in the mood to educate people, it is *exhausting* and I'm too vulnerable right now. I don't want their opinions, their horror stories, their cringe-worthy platitudes. "Adopted kids are so lucky!" - Adoptees *hate* being told they are lucky. It's like when Fertiles tell us we are "lucky" because we don't have kids. Yes, there are benefits, but don't you dare tell me, sitting from your vantage point, that *I* am lucky.

So I'm not sure what to do. What is a socially acceptable way to shut down a conversation before it starts? "What are you reading?" "A book." - that seems rude. But as soon as I say, "A source book for multicultural families", I feel like I have opened the door to invite more questions that I don't want. I wish I could lie and say it's research for a class, but then I'd have to tell an avalanche of lies to keep *that* lie going.

What's weird is, I was reading the Divergence series on my Nook just before I started reading all these adoption books. I was glued to my Nook every time I had to walk somewhere because I was that addicted to the books. And one or two people from my office commented or asked what I was reading. Now that I'm carrying around adoption books, *everyone* is making comments and asking what I'm reading. Seriously, like 6 people in my office. One in particular makes a comment every damn time she seems me with a book, which has been everyday for over a week now. I GET IT, YOU SEE ME READING EVERY TIME I AM WALKING. WE ALL GET IT!

I'm being overly-sensitive, aren't I? I think maybe that is part of it. I can't help it. I suppose I could settle for the most innocuous answer to "What are you reading?" - "Oh, it's research" and then immediately go back to reading and hope they leave me alone. That's all I want. Just leave me alone until I am ready to talk.

May 27, 2014

How Much Does a Baby Cost

Nobody wants to put it in those terms. "Can you put a price on your child?" and other saccharine, useless platitudes come to mind. But let's cut the bullshit and be real: If you are building your family in the "traditional" way, your expenses don't come even close to what those of us on the other end of the spectrum have to consider. And they *must* be considered - weighed in the pros and cons. Because these can be life altering expenses if you don't prepare yourself.

I've been investigating adoption agencies in my area over the past week. For the most part, fee schedules and individual expenses are either listed on websites or easily available by requesting the digital information packet. And this is what I've found:

M and I need to be prepared to spend $29,000 to bring home a baby through domestic adoption.

Twenty-Nine THOUSAND dollars.

I knew adoption was "expensive" in that vague, generalized way that most people think of a sports car being expensive. But when you're watching Top Gear and they tell you that the Bugatti Veyron costs 1.5 million Euros, the word "expensive" almost doesn't cover it.

To be fair, on average, the adoption agency fees only add up to $19,000 (haha, "only" is so relative, isn't it?). The other $10K comes from two expense categories: Birth mother living expenses and Birth mother medical expenses. In my state, Birth mothers are allowed to request up to $3,000 in living expenses from the adoptive parents before the baby is born/placed. A few websites I found indicate that medical expenses, if not covered by an insurance plan or Medicaid, are to be paid by the adoptive parents and you should budget $7K for an average in-hospital, vaginal delivery. Let's not even think about complications, emergency C-sections, etc. Fortunately, the baby gets Medicaid coverage (at least as far as I can tell), so there are no additional expenses when it is born.

Now, we are doing pretty well, financially, for a couple from our generation. I graduated from college a year before the economy tanked and we got married during the worst year of the recession. Due to a number of factors (many of them not of our own doing), we have managed to pay off my student loans, kept M's to a minimum, and had money already set aside for a mortgage down-payment so we could get a house as soon as M got a job. We have relatively low debt for our socio-economic cohort and have very healthy savings accounts. If we wiped out every cent of savings we have, it would not cover half the expense to adopt.

This is not to say that the full $29K burden rests on our shoulders. We do have to pony up the cash up front, but both of our employers have adoption expense assistance benefits and, combined, we can be reimbursed $9,000 after finalization. And most people know about the adoption tax credit which can be used for the tax year the adoption is finalized or up to 5 years after. For 2013, I think the credit was $12,500 or so and it goes up incrementally every year or so (I don't know for sure).

So now that the money talk is out in the open, I have to revisit a question: Is this worth it? I felt that IVF was emotionally as well as cost prohibitive - is this any different? Would we be better off throwing our savings at more medical expenses trying to have a biological child? A fresh IVF cycle at my clinic costs $12,000. You can complete a series of 3 for like $20,000 (bulk pricing?). ::sigh:: It is just so expensive to be on this side of family building. "Normal" parents gripe about their hospital bill, but here we are shaking imaginary money trees just to *try* to have a kid. No one is promising that it will work, whether we choose IVF or adoption.

Honestly though, I suspect our odds of bring home a baby are better if we go the adoption route. I'm very wary of our chance of success with IVF considering how every other medical intervention was one epic fail after another. I still think there is an un-diagnosed issue with either myself or M and if we don't know what that issue is, IVF may not work either. And then what do we have to show for our $12,000? More heartbreak. Even if a birth mother chose us and the placement fell through, we don't lose all the money we spent. Agencies will even refund some money if a match doesn't result in placement. You don't have to start aaaaaaaall over again, you just go back to showing your profile. There is still heartbreak, but the financial sting is lessened and you can jump right back into the pool of prospective parents without laying out another ten grand.

I know there are books and websites and Youtube serials all about how to adopt with no debt, but, to be honest, I have no energy or interest in hosting a hundred yard sales, bake sales, church fundraisers, etc. just to collect a few hundred dollars to *slightly* off-set the cost of adoption. I work full time, so does my husband, and we are tired bums half the time as is. If I tried to do that, I really would give up on adoption. (I would much rather make requests for help with furnishing our nursery and gathering the supplies to care for an infant.) And I already know we would not qualify for any special grants from non-profits or government agencies because we are planning on a private infant adoption. I can accept that. The adoption benefits from our employers and the federal tax credit are far more financial support than we have or would *ever* receive for infertility treatments.

Maybe we will match with a birth mother who has insurance. Maybe we will match with a birth mother who needs an emergency C-section. Maybe we will have to renew our home-study 3 times before we are matched. So be it, I guess. I want to go into this with eyes wide open. It doesn't change that $29,000 price tag, but if M and I make the conscious choice to commit our money to this, then I know we will get through it. God has provided through my whole life, it's not like He's going to ditch me *now*.

May 21, 2014

The Internet is my Best Friend and my Worst Enemy

No problem is unsolvable. No question cannot be answered. You are never the only person in the history of the world to come upon a certain issue. As my favorite fictional FBI agent, Dana Scully, would say "The answers are there, you just have to know where to look."

So of course I am researching adoption *to death*. And the internet makes researching any topic so easy because more information than you could find in a whole library is right at your fingertips - just a quick Google search away.

However, the internet contains a lot of...noise, for lack of a better word. I had no idea how many different communities and schools of thought there are on the topic of adoption. And in some of those groups, emotions run high. Particularly adult adoptees and birth mothers. Now, I am desperate for the knowledge I can gain by reading adoptee narratives. Adoptees are the ones in the "adoption triad" (am I using that right?) most impacted by the adoption process - the early loss, a life of feeling different or "other". I get that, which is why I want to see the process from their eyes.

You might be surprised how hard it is to find adoptee narratives. Way harder than finding the chronicles of adoptive parents. There are many, complicated reasons for why this might be, but regardless, it is a reality that is making my search more difficult. And there is only so much help I can glean from an adoptive parent explaining how they deal with questions about adoption and race. I'm more interested in how the adopted person deals with those questions on their own and how their parents provided the tools to do that in a healthy way. That's something that only an adoptee can explain. But here's another road block: the internet often serves as a safe space for nothing but negative, unproductive talk.

In my desperate search, I reach out and immediately cling to *any* adoptee writing. And there is a lot of negative writing coming from adult adoptees on the internet. Some of what they say resonates with me - validating the lack of the adoptee perspective from the mainstream adoption rhetoric, the suffering related to old, closed adoption practices, the importance of confronting racism and prejudice with transracial adoptees. But there is so much more to these adoptees' writings that scares me. Pointing out every word and action prescribed by other adoption communities and basically ranting "wrong wrong wrong!" "as an adoptee, that offends me!" It is terror inducing because the words and actions they are picking apart are things that sounded perfectly acceptable and appropriately sensitive to me. For example, one of the websites I found tore apart a popular "What not to say to an adoptive family" video. According to a collective of adoptees, everything in the video was wrong and the adoptive father who made it is a terrible, ignorant person. I was shocked!

But who am I to question the adoptees' perspective and opinions? What the hell do I know? I pride myself on my critical thinking and reading skills - always questioning information that is presented as "fact" but doesn't back itself up with objective evidence. You can't really do that when it comes to something as personal as the adoptee perspective. And my initial reaction to the negative views by adoptees is pretty much "Well, that is a valid opinion and I am recoiling from it because it challenges my pre-conceived notions. I cannot reject this information outright or I won't learn anything."

But honestly, what is there to learn? In the whole of the article about the video, no one made useful suggestions for what could have made the video better. At best there were vague, general ideas offered, such as "This video is focused solely on the adoptive parent when really the questions are all about the adoptee. The adoptee should always be considered and involved in dealing with these situations!" Ummm....okay, but how do you meaningfully involve a *3 year old* in the situations that the video discussed?? No help there, the comment did not elaborate. That is beyond frustrating for me. You can't just tear apart something that is done with every good intention, call it ignorant, and then not supply guidance for how it can be corrected or done better. That's just not helpful!

I am so frustrated to know that I am asking the right questions (for example, how do I know that the trans-racial adoption process does not damage the adoptee?), seeking knowledge and information from the appropriate sources (namely, seeking out adoptee narratives rather than adoptive parent reports of how children adapt), and yet still not finding the guidance that I need. There are so many opposing views about adoption and I can't believe how difficult it is to wade through the muck and discover the truth!

I have gotten so fed up with the wild west of the internet that I turned to my university's library for academic, objective resources. I have ten or so peer-reviewed articles to read about various aspects of transracial adoption. At least if there is any negativity in them, they will point back to specific data that provides a "why" or a "how" for the claim. The only other resource I have found that hasn't made me want to scream is the book Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge.

If all this frustration and questioning leads me to be a better adoptive parent, I hope I will consider this madness worthwhile.

May 19, 2014

Do I Have Enough Black Friends?

I don't know what triggered it, but all of a sudden last week, I was back on the "let's research trans-racial adoption" bandwagon.

I really haven't touched the idea since January or February. For a variety of reasons: Late-winter malaise, frustration with how complicated and expensive it is, and mental exhaustion. I think I needed more time to fully process the fact that life is not going to exactly be easy whether we choose to live childless or to adopt. No matter what we do, all of our choices are firmly outside the circle of "normal" (I'm gonna play fast and loose with a lot of loaded words, but please know that if I put them in quotes, I mean the word is supposed by society at large, not by me in particular). I think that was the hardest for me. No matter how hard I tried to be "normal", it just did not happen. And I never asked to be in this position! I don't want to stick out. But here I am, through no fault of my own, choosing in which way do I want to appear "odd" to others.

You might notice I am fixating on what other people will think. I don't know why I do that. My husband pointed it out on Friday when I told him I was researching again. He is...interesting. Ever since we started kicking around the notion of adoption, he just seemed to accept it very simply and move on. I don't know how he does it. I worried that it meant he wasn't truly considering the ramifications of that choice. That he was not soul searching to find out if he felt comfortable raising "someone else's" child - a child that will not resemble us. But after talking to him more, it seems he just truly doesn't care. "There will be problems we have to face no matter what way we have a child. You can't prepare for everything. I know that we will figure things out as they come." Maybe it is different for men because even with a bio-baby, they aren't getting the early physical bonding that the mother is through gestation.

And we aren't just talking about adoption, here. We're talking *trans-racial* adoption. A means of family building that is weighed down with judgments from so many groups. There is an organization of African American social workers who have published their beliefs that being raised by white parents is so damaging to a black child, that they should *only* be placed with an African American family. How is that not supposed to freak the shit out of me??

I mean, I get it, I'm white, so what do I *really* know about racism and prejudice, having always lived in my white-privilege protected world. I can see institutional racism, but I can't experience it, not in this country. At the same time, does that mean I am completely incapable of understanding my limitations and working to overcome them in order to prepare my AA child for the racism and prejudice that they will face? That's not rhetorical, I am honestly asking because I honestly don't know, never having had to consider it before.

And I feel like I can't accept "permission" to adopt trans-racially from another white person, even if they are an adoptive parent or an adoption agency employee. I feel like I need to talk to an adult adoptee who was raised by parents of a different race who can tell me they did *not* get screwed up. And then maybe tell me what the parents did that kept the kid from being completely ill-prepared to face a racist and prejudiced society. I need to hear, from someone who knows, that it *can* be done so I can wear that affirmation as armor when someone inevitably verbally assaults me for raising a black child in a white household.

It's one thing to honor a child's culture of origin. That, honestly, sounds easy to me. Buy health and beauty products meant for their skin and hair type, provide books and toys that reflect their heritage, skin color, historical experiences, expose them to art, music, TV, and movies that are created by people of that culture, etc. That might be difficult if we were adopting internationally, but it's not like African Americans don't have a deep and thriving culture here in the U.S. And it's not hard to find, you just have to step outside of your white-bread world. I can do that!

It is quite another thing to be aware of the unique difficulties a person of color (any color other than white, really) faces in their daily life. Do I have enough black friends? Am I culturally aware enough? Do I know the limitations of my own experiences? Is there a way to discuss race and racism in a meaningful, helpful way when I am one of the privileged majority? If not, what do I do? Do I have to let someone else, someone of the same ethnicity, be a mentor to my child, to teach them how to handle institutional racism that I may not even be able to see at times?

When I was in college, I had friends who were African American, Middle Eastern, Asian, all kinds of different cultures and backgrounds. College is an easy place to have a diverse group of friends, I think because people mix and mingle more than happens in the "adult world". But since graduating, we've all spread out and moved away. It doesn't mean the same thing to be friends on Facebook as to be friends who actually see each other from time to time. What resources do I tap to give me support and guidance on an aspect of parenting I am completely unprepared to face? Sure, I'll join adoption groups, but if it's a bunch of other white parents I will always question if their advice is right or if we are all convincing ourselves that our interpretation of race and prejudice is enough for our kids, cloistered in our white experience, with no outside perspective to validate what we are doing. Can I do right by my hypothetical, African American, adopted child? Wanting to and hoping to just aren't enough. I need to *know* that I will do the right thing.

Does this all circle back around to fixating on what other people think? I guess it does, but in this instance, I think I do NEED an outsider's validation. It is the only way I would know I am doing the right thing because I'm lucky enough to not deal with people being racist AT me. Does that make sense? I don't want to be the blind leading the blind - I want someone who can SEE to give me guidance, and that means relying on an outsider's judgment and opinion. So what do I do?

None of this is going to keep me from moving forward with information gathering. I'm even prepared to start narrowing down our agency choices. But it is something that is permanently housed in the back of my mind. I would hope that by being aware of this issue, that it makes me fit to parent trans-racially - that it means I'm not blind to the unique challenges and I will do my best. But I also worry that my best is not enough.

I'm in an extremely vulnerable place right now, emotionally and mentally, so please be kind in the comments.

January 23, 2014

Commencing to Begin to Get Ready

The holidays came and went. The tree came down and all the other Christmas trappings with it (such a lie, its all piled up in the library still waiting to be put in bins and taken to the basement). My mid-winter malaise has set in, so we may as well address the next step in child procurement: adoption.

My best friend got me a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle for Christmas (Doctor Who themed, of course!). So I scattered the pieces on our giant dining room table and set up Video 1 of the Adoption Academy for M to watch, listen to, whatever. He paid the most attention to the discussion about expenses, which I suppose makes sense. He asked me exactly one question throughout (What age range are you considering? Answer: infant only) and that was about it. At least I got him to watch it. And we got, like, 40 pieces of this stupid puzzle put together. I really suck at puzzles, but this was a sweet gift from my friend so I'm going to finish it, dammit!

Hopefully we will watch the second video sometime soon. Right now I feel like, even if we did decide to pursue adoption, I wouldn't want to get the ball rolling for another year or so. I'm enjoying not being immersed in a world of high-strung anticipation and horrible, crushing disappointments. My family and I are still recovering from the Series of Unfortunate Events that was 2013. In one year, my mother lost the ability to walk, M and I lost out on the dream of biological children, my family lost my grandmother, I lost my job (but got a new one, admittedly), and the cherry on the sundae was having to put down one of my mom's dogs right after Christmas (he was a ripe 16.5 years old, though). I don't feel like volunteering for further let-downs any time soon.

I want to go into the next chapter of my life (be it adoption or child-free) with hopeful determination, not with teeth gritted and loins girded for certain doom. I know for sure I'm not in that good mind set yet, so we will continue to wait and educate ourselves and prayerfully consider what the hell we are meant to be doing with our lives.