Saturday, April 18, 2015

Eating an elephant.

When you first think about the paperwork involved in an adoption, you know it's got to be extensive. You think you have some concept of its volume...especially if you've bought a car, a house (that sounds a bit insensitive...a child isn't a 'thing', but you get the idea)...Well, lemme tell much as you think it's going to's more...much more.  :) They were very kind and gave us everything on a USB, but we heard from folks that adopted back 'in the day' that the binders were five inch binders completely full!! Granted, some of the forms are just to read and initial and some are merely instructions on how to fill out the other forms, but still! I've been working for a week on three forms! I'm not even done with them!
What makes it difficult is the nature of the 'questions'/check lists.  We have to categorize all these conditions/disabilities into 'unacceptable', 'acceptable', or 'willing to discuss'.  So, here's the deal: I don't feel comfortable checking anything less than acceptable if we're talking about issues that run in our families anyway because obviously that would be a concern if we were able to conceive.  However, things that are not already in our gene pool, but still 'possible' (muscular dystrophy, seizures, heart defects, cleft palate, etc...) make things a little tricky.  So, just lots of prayer and time to mull things over.
This blogging stuff is new territory for's so completely one-sided...I feel like I need to finish with "so what's new with you?" :)
But on that note, if anyone has questions or comments...I'm all ears! [in a manner of speaking]

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Orientation (continued)

Day 2:
This was the emotional day.  There were three panel discussions.  One each from adoptees, birthmothers, and adoptive parents.  Without going into a lot of detail, I will say there were a couple things that stood out and I feel they will 'stick' with me for a long time.
The first is this: I seem to have a habit of underestimating the heart of a child.  For a while, my biggest fear was whether an adopted child would love me as much as a 'real' child.  Wouldn't they always wonder about their birthmother? Wouldn't they always wish [at least partly] that they were a 'normal' child? Even now, writing these out, I realize how silly they sound/look! What child doesn't wish they were more 'normal'?! What child, at one point or another, thinks, "What am I doing in this family?! I am so completely different from all of them!" So, giving myself a smile and a mental shake of my head, I heard something so insightfully children not usually have two grandmothers/grandfathers? multiple aunts/uncles? Am I arrogant enough to think their hearts are not capable of loving every one of these people for exactly who they are? Listening to the adopted children (adults now) talk about their parents sealed this in my mind:  They KNOW their parents! They LOVE their parents! They are able to say, "I look just like my birthmother, but she hates Italian food...I definitely take after my MOM." Those are some of the most comforting, beautiful words I have ever heard from a complete stranger.
And the second: the birthmothers showed such compassion and love for the couples they entrusted with their child.  I realize I was hearing from three representatives, the ones that maintained at least some relationship with the agency months/years after-the-fact, so hardly the majority.  However, for them to sit in that room staring at 20 faces of complete strangers, sharing intimate details about their experiences, and having the courage and compassion to actually help make ME feel better about all this?! I am still in awe.  They offered advice as to how to support the birthmother and shared what not to say/do.  What was again very eye-opening, was the blatant differences in each of their stories.  Literally, not one adoption story is just like another.
I won't say much about the adoptive parents' panel, because honestly, I found it to be the most frightening and least helpful (not a reflection on anything except my current emotional state: the people were lovely and their children were precious).
I will backtrack to share this gem: before any of the panelists arrived, a staff member shared a story that flattened every single one of my toes and twisted something sharp and pointy right into my heart.  A woman who had experienced two miscarriages and a stillbirth was to be the adoptive mother.  At the hospital, the birthmother had signed away her rights and was standing in a room with the couple she had chosen.  Just when the birthmother is about to place her baby in the woman's arms, she [the adoptive mother]says, "I can't do this" and takes off down the hall.  The stunned birthmother looks at the adoptive father, says, "Hold your baby" and takes off down the hall after this woman.  She catches up to her and proceeds to say, "This isn't the've lost babies before, but this is not. the. same." Apparently, knowing the pain of losing a child was not something she was willing to inflict on anyone, even if it was their choice.
I was sitting near the front, so I don't have a clue what was going on behind me, but I turned into a tearful mess...for pete's sake, it's not even 9:30...HOW am I gonna sit here all day with stories like THIS?
But, thankfully, that was the only breakdown.  Incidentally, I believe that particular adoption worked out...I really can't say for sure because I was...a mess.
It did make me think some other things though...those that have studied the behavioral sciences and the therapist/client relationship have dealt with counter-transference.  In one 'picture' I have in my head, I'm in a hospital room with a woman and we are just sitting together, hugging, and crying.  In another, I am unable to go into the room because how can I ask this woman to witness MY tears? To share in MY grief that I feel for her? I'm not talking about the happy tears when I look at my child; I'm talking about the 'can I really allow this woman to do this?' kind of tears.  I can not and will not ask her to deal with my sorrow for her anymore than I can ask her child to deal with my feelings of incompetence from infertility.  So, dear friends, All of you who have promised to pray for us, may I ask this of you? Be really specific in this matter for me.  If I am put in this position, may God please equip me to be there FOR HER.  May the words, "I'm sorry" NOT escape my lips.  I applaud the courage and wisdom of the birthmother in this story, but I can't say it was right for her to be put in that position.  Making me feel better about what is happening is not her responsibility.
I know this was a lot; thanks for listening.      

Monday, April 13, 2015

Orientation Weekend

Before the formal application can be submitted, each couple must attend a two-day orientation.  The first day is filled with hearing from each staff member about their job and how it ties into the overall vision of Christian Homes: a Christian Home for every child.  The staff walked us through the adoption process step-by-step and shared their anecdotes.  They included the good, the funny, the ironic, and the devastating scenarios they have witnessed over the years.
A couple things that I did not know: rights relinquished to an agency is an irrevocable agreement! Contrary to relinquishing rights to a private attorney.  This really put my mind at ease knowing there would be a time when we could 'breath easy' again without fear of being separated from our child.  Also, the parameters of an open adoption are negotiable.  The birthmother may not want contact at all, but typically will ask for at least photos and updates for the first couple of years.  However, post-adoption agreements are not legally binding (at least in Texas).  The staff did make a side note to mention since they do assure the birthmothers that they will be providing the children with CHRISTIAN parents, it is very important to uphold those agreements as much as possible.  I had no idea there were so many varying factors!
So, this is the basic plan: Ideally, we will be selected by the birthmother a few months before the birth in order to build a relationship with her.  Then, we arrive for the birth.  Depending on our relationship with her, we may be able to be with her and witness the birth, we may be waiting in a room in the hospital, or we may be waiting in a hotel room in town.  She is required to wait 48 hours before being presented the option to relinquish her rights.  This does not mean she has to sign; one scenario described was a cesarean birth.  The birthmother wanted her baby there in the hospital while she was there recuperating; FOUR long days for the adoptive parents to wait.  So, assuming she signs, we are free to take our baby home upon his/her discharge.  During the next six months, the agency is the conservator of the child.  Then, at four months we are eligible to apply for the finalization of our adoption.  This can not happen before the baby is six months old.  At this hearing, it is technically a lawsuit between us and the agency (a very nice lawsuit where we're all on the same side) :)  At this point, we receive an amended birth certificate.  We will be able to change the name of our child if we wish and we will be named as the parents of the child!
Let me back up a bit and talk about the biological father.  There is again many contributing factors, but the readers' digest version is this: if they have not waived their right upon the birth, they have 30-42 days to contest the placement and adoption. So, even if the mother has signed and the baby is placed with us, that is just the first 'hurdle'.  Approximately a month after the birth, there is a termination of rights hearing.  This is the second hurdle.  The staff of course had the devastating stories and words of caution, but at the end of the day, they say it's fairly uncommon.  I would have preferred them use the word 'rare', but they didn't.
The first day was mentally exhausting, but on the whole extremely encouraging!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Let's try this again...

Almost exactly 12 months after our first contact with Christian Homes, we were back.  Older, wiser, and growing more impatient by the day. ;)
They had an orientation coming up! Could we get everything in on time?!?
No matter where we go in life, there will always be such a special place in my heart for our church family at Western Hills in Fort Worth.  Our friends did not hesitate one minute when we called desperately trying to get references submitted by the deadline.

A little more about Christian Homes: in 1962, 'Christian Homes of Abilene', a ministry of Highland Church of Christ, provided foster care for young needy children.  In 1975, a similar ministry began in Tyler by the Glenwood Church of Christ.  This one was called 'Christian Services of East Texas' and focused on children rescued from neglect and abuse.  The agencies merged in 1999 and by 2006 was operating under the current name "Christian Homes and Family Services".  There are many different agencies and avenues to adopt a child.  However, this organization spoke to my heart in their care and ministry to the birth mothers.  They are provided free prenatal care, an apartment (when needed), food, clothing, counseling, etc...These costs are not passed on to the adoptive families! The mothers work with their case workers on identifying what is best for their baby.  They identify key elements they want for their child.  They are shown profiles of couples who match their criteria and make a list of the top three.  If the first couple agrees, a match meeting is held and birth mother/caseworker/adoptive couple/adoptive caseworker discuss expectations and compatibility.  If everyone agrees, great.  If not, the process repeats with the other two choices.  If you haven't noticed, these adoptions are all open; however, there are varying degrees of openness.  More on that at a later time!

Well that just figures...

We were THERE! Emotionally ready, psyched about taking those first steps to achieving our dream! It was only a matter of time!
After contacting Christian Homes, we learned their process began with a preliminary application that included references from several people: parents, church elders, ministers, neighbors... So, this was not going to be a quiet/private process.  We were going to have to let everyone 'in' on our plans. Ok, that's cool.  We got started.
Of course, everyone was just as excited and eager to help in any way! We are so blessed!
However, just as the paperwork started to get submitted...the little boxes of our checklist were getting checked off...I had a feeling.  A gut feeling.  I had since chunked out all my charting sheets that had been maticulously documented with every temperature fluxuation, odd feeling, hormonal swing that had occured in the past three years, so I really had to use my brain, a scary thought! How many days had it been? I couldn't be...but what's going on? Knowing the next box on the checklist involved the payment for the orientation weekend, I wanted to be absolutely sure before writing that check.  So, on a whim, I stopped by the store on my way home.  I took two tests because it was beyond anything I dared think possible. I was pregnant.  Through tears of joy, the one thought that kept coming was...'if this moment is all I get, it's more than I thought possible'.  I had that thought again when Chris got home.  At least I, for one time, got to experience the pure joy and elation at telling the man I love more than anything in the world that I was carrying his baby.  It was perfect.
The following three days were filled with so much joy.  But on Monday morning, that gut feeling was gone...something was wrong..I just knew it.  Long story short, by the following Thursday, it was officially a miscarriage.  There are no words, so I won't try, but I will say a special thank you to the wonderful people in my life who acknowledged this as a real loss and shared in my grief.  The validation you offered meant the world to me.
So, what now? For the first time in six years I had something that I had only dreamt of having...a chance.  If it happened once, it could happen again!   Chris and I decided to put the orientation on hold and give it a few more months.  A 'few more' turned into nine.
I'm going to go on a tanget for just a bit to share my feelings on fertility treatments.  Everyone has to make up their own mind what will work for them: emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  There are things we were just NOT going to do, expenses we were NOT going to incure, and chances we were NOT going to take. However, Clomid seemed harmless enough.  Well, my body just didn't care for it.  Not only did it not work, but it made me feel really horrible for an entire week afterwards, both times.  So, no more of that.  Again, we had already come to terms with the question of whether we wanted to 'get pregnant' or 'be parents' more.  Very different things.  We decided to put our energies towards 'becoming parents', not 'getting pregnant'.

How did we get here?

Chris and I married in May of 2005.  I assumed, as many do, that children would follow in a timely manner.  I took birth control pills for three years naively believing I would know when we were 'ready'.  We were ready when I finally got a 'real' job as an activities director at a nursing home.  We were ready when we bought our first house.  We were ready when we adopted our three animals.  We were ready when those animals were still living after three years! I think you see where this is going...
When we had been officially off birth control and trying to conceive for one year, I went to the doctor wanting answers.  Simple, quick, fix-it answers.  He response was simple and very quick, but broke my heart.  Infertile? Seriously? Me? What did I do wrong? Why? 
I remember feeling so embarrassed. An odd emotion looking back...why not anger? why not confusion? Sadness, yes. But mostly, embarrassment.  I think for the next two years, Chris and I were both in a little bit of denial.  Surely, just a little more time would do the trick.  'Oh yes, I see what you're doing God.  Sure, we'll wait on you.  We have faith."  
When 2011 came around, we started talking about adoption.  Only between Chris and I because I was still very embarrassed.  How silly would I look when I shared my diagnosis of infertility and then turned up pregnant just months later?  So, we attended a one-day seminar all about fostering and adoption.  Rather I should say a one-morning seminar.  Everything was great until a very good-intentioned person in a session about fostering-to-adopt said very matter-of-factly, "This is not a cure for infertility.  If you have not worked through your own issues, don't put that pressure on a child.  They are not there to fix you." ouch. [Cue the waterworks. Exit hastily stage right.] Truth hurts kiddo.  
So, my wonderful husband held my hand the entire way home and filled my ears and heart with words of encouragment, love, and an unwavering faith that something wonderful was meant for us..."You're all I need; everything else is icing." 
It was after this that I began to share my heartache with others and began to acknowledge my emotions for what they were...grief for a very real, but intangible hard-to-put-your-finger-on-it loss.  I cried for the child I did not have, for the child I may never know, for the family I had imagined.  Grief is tricky; it sneaks up on you.  The families at the grocery store, the fussy toddlers in worship services, diaper commercials, the beautiful and exciting announcements of other's pregnancies! Constant reminders everywhere.  I know enough to know that men and women grieve differently, but other than that, all I can say is, we took turns.  When I was having a rough time, he held me.  When he was asking more questions and researching possibilities, I listened.  
In January of 2014, we were 'ready' again.  But this time, we were different.  We got very specific in our prayers.  We just want to be parents.  Even if that means our child is born of another woman, I want to be 'Mom'.  We contacted Christian Homes and Family Services in Abilene, Texas.  We had since moved on from that area, but still remembered the name and figured it was a good a place as any to get started.