Thursday, December 27, 2012

Reality Television

There are a few shows out there about adoption.  One is called "The Baby Wait" and their latest episode does a good job of showing what it's like to go through a disruption.  The adoptive mom said almost the same thing I said to Ida when it was clear our adoption with her wasn't going to work out - we wanted to match with someone who really wanted to have an adoption go forward, not someone who was coerced.  Here's a link to the streaming episode:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Bill

Since I was really little, I have loved getting mail.  When I was a kid, I once wrote to the tourism offices for about a zillion different countries just so I could get their packets in the mail with all of the photos showing how great the countries were.  Of course, I wrote to so many that eventually I got overwhelmed and stopped paying any attention to the packets, but no matter.  You get the point.  Okay, well if you don't, this is what I look like when I'm waiting for the mail carrier to come:

Christmastime is the very best time to love getting mail, because you get something nice almost every day.  Christmas cards, packages, pretty much fun!  So, yesterday when the mail came I was dismayed to find the bill from the agency.  My initial thought was, "Really, guys?  You wait until the week before Christmas??" and then I braced myself.

Backing up, the way you get billed for private adoptions through our agency is broken up by service.  You pay for the initial seminar, the home study, the entry into the pool, and then you stop for a while and wait to be matched.  When you get to the match, it all starts adding up based on how close you get to placement.  Each step closer involves several thousand more dollars.   The idea is that you're not paying for the baby, you're paying for the services provided by the agency as you move towards placement.

I'm not going to give dollar amounts here, but I will say that we made it through ALL of the steps.  We matched.  We met with the family. We decided to move forward.  We negotiated an open adoption agreement.  We took placement of Ida.  That's it - there are no more steps after that, and therefore we technically owed the entire amount, even though the placement disrupted. In addition, we owed the money due to the attorney the agency had to use as we were moving through the process, and because of Ida's ambivalence, there was a lot of interaction with the attorney. If you imagine how much a private agency adoption costs, that's about what we owed.

Back to the mail.  I started opening the envelope with the fear that the savings account that holds all of the money we've saved for the adoption was about to be decimated, but with a faint little hope that the agency decided to be kind to us.

The bill shocked me so much I almost woke Rob up (he's working nights this week) to celebrate.  The agency was very, very kind.  As in, unfair-to-themselves kind.  The attorney fees were about what I expected, but the agency fees were significantly lower - in fact, the agency charged less than the attorney did.

So, Merry Christmas!  Our adoption savings fund is in healthy shape, and we are ready to go if we match again!  Hopefully, we won't be waiting so long that I end up looking like this:

Art credit to:  Cory Basil

Monday, December 17, 2012

Screening Email in Dublin

Rob and I had planned a trip to Dublin, Ireland for this month, and had to deal with a few adoption logistics. First, we had bought trip insurance, something we had never done before, in case we ended up having to stay because of an adoption match (we almost canceled it when we got Ida - just hadn't gotten around to it yet) or leave early for the same reason.  We also had to think about how the agency could reach us in Dublin.

We bought an international calling plan for my phone to include texts, calls, and data, all within certain limits.  We chose a plan that gave us 200 minutes of calling, 50 texts, and 300 MB of data.  I figured that would be enough for all of the different communication methods and arrangements we would need if something popped up.

Jet lag is not something I've ever been good at handling.  I'm learning that I need to plan trips to the UK or Europe to be for at least two weeks because it takes me most of the first week just to adjust.  I spent a lot of time this past week in Dublin wide awake all night long.

On our second or third night, a friend of mine called (not realizing I was out of the country), and when I got up to see who it was, I saw that I had a screening email from the agency. I knew that our agency had started to reach out more nationally, but this one was actually brought to them by an Oregon attorney regarding an expectant mother in the southwest who was looking for an adoptive family for her daughter, to be born in January.

I called the agency and asked the questions I always ask - "Is she nice?  Does she want an open adoption?" and this time there weren't any answers to those questions.  The agency was still working to get information from the attorney, and had hurriedly sent out the screening email because of the short time-frame before the expected date of birth.

Rob and I had to really talk about this one.  It looked as thought the baby was going to be healthy, so that was great, but we really want an open adoption and we didn't know if the expectant parents wanted that or even how that would work with the geographic distance.  Ultimately, we ended up asking for our profile to be shown, but we did it with a "we'll cross that bridge if we get to it" attitude.  We figured tons of families would be shown to the expectant parents, not only from our agency but from many other sources, so the chances we would be picked would be extremely slim.

We still haven't resolved that issue, though - what would we do if we were picked by someone who didn't want an open adoption?  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Monthly Bulletin

Every month our agency sends out an email bulletin that reports on their outreach efforts and provides a list of all of the people who have entered the pool, been selected by birth parents, taken placement of a baby, or disrupted.  For the month of December, after the longest list of baby placement announcements I've seen yet (about 10% of the waiting pool), came this:

  • Shannon and Rob of Seattle were chosen by a birthmother to adopt her two week old baby girl.  They met with the expectant mother and her parents at OA&FS on Saturday, November 24th and spent some time getting to know each other.  Afterwards, Shannon and Rob welcomed the expectant mother and her parents into their home for a visit and tea.  The baby was placed with Shannon and Rob on November 27th at the end of a long day and many hours at a local Chinese restaurant that hosted for the final stages of adoption planning.  Shannon and Rob provided loving care for the baby for two nights.  After a very difficult decision-making process the birthmother decided to parent her baby.  Shannon and Rob were incredibly thoughtful, compassionate, empathetic and caring throughout their journey with the baby and birth family.  Our warm thoughts and support are with Shannon and Rob as they process this experience and continue on with their adoption path.
 I knew it was coming, I had said it was okay, and I still wanted to go home from work.  

That said, I felt a lot better today.  It is getting better, just like I knew it would.  When I was out for coffee with a friend today I showed her a photo of Ida.  She teared up and I didn't, and that right there is major progress.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Okay, so I left you kind of in a dramatic moment on that last post.  Ida went home on Thanksgiving morning.  Before we had known about her, we had plans to visit with Rob's family in Portland for the holiday weekend. After we found out Ida was going to be placed with us, we canceled those plans so we could just settle down at home and also be available for LeeAnn.  Since Ida wasn't going to be with us, we packed up our stuff and headed to Portland after all, and we left as fast as we could so we would be there in time for dinner.  That left us three and a half hours in the car to think about everything that had gone on.  I've spent a lot of my time since then stuck in that place in my head.  Here's what I've come up with:

1. In general, I am happy with how we conducted ourselves.  At almost every step of the process, we were really trying to keep Ida's needs at the forefront.  We didn't get overly possessive when LeeAnn was expressing her ambivalence - we recognized that it wasn't our place.  I'm really sad that I don't think I'm going to know what happens to Ida, but again - not really my place.  We were kind and open to LeeAnn the entire time, and when I look back, I know I feel a lot better about that than I would had we freaked out.

2.  Open adoption is definitely better than closed in this type of a situation.  It wasn't something where a baby was dropped off with us with no context and then taken away two days later.  We knew exactly where Ida was going and who she was going to.  This gave us a ton of peace of mind when she left.

3.  When negotiating the next open adoption agreement (assuming it all works out in the end), I've decided that I would handle the letters/pictures issue much differently.  At this point, I'm planning to try to come to an agreement where we commit to sending letters and pictures once every three months until the child is 12 and then once every six months or whatever the child wants to do, whichever is more, thereafter.  In addition, if the birth parents send us a letter and picture about themselves, we will respond in kind once per month.  I want to make it more of a dialogue.

4. Assuming I feel safe having the birth family in our home (and it's quite likely I will) I would be more assertive about having visits at our home instead of out in the community and I would have a definitive time-frame for visits.

5.  I'm happy with how we cared for Ida.  I love our cloth diapering system - even the cloth wipes, which sounded really weird to me but were *so* much better than the disposables.  They're so soft and warm coming out of the wipe warmer and you really only needed one, whereas I always used to use several disposables when I changed diapers as a nanny.  Our bottles also worked out really well. She was an exceptionally easy baby, but all of these things felt great.  It's actually what I miss the most.  When we got back from Portland, I washed all of the diapers and clothes, and we put away all of the things we had out to care for Ida.  While we were doing that, I felt really peaceful.  Once everything was clean and put away, I felt really sad.  That feeling has stuck with me.  I just want to take care of my baby.  And maybe Ida wasn't my baby, but she taught me how great it can feel to take care of your baby.

6.  Thoughts on other people's reactions (and if anyone who has said the ones I'm critical of is reading this, please don't take this personally - it's not directed towards anyone and I can't even remember everyone who has said these things, I just know they've been said!)

     a.  Upon the match - Lots of people were drilling us with questions about the legal process.  Adoptions (in Washington State) are inherently unstable for at least the first 48 hours, potentially a lot longer depending on the birth father's status.  The last thing someone who has just brought a baby home wants to deal with is questions about the relinquishment process or the default process.  Just be happy for them and offer excitement and support.  They have to manage their own worries about the relinquishment finalization, they can't really manage anyone else's.  It's part of the reason we didn't tell anyone that it was falling apart until it actually was officially fallen apart.  It might have been helpful to have family and friend support on the Wednesday afternoon we spent at the mall while LeeAnn was changing her mind back and forth, and that night when she sent the text that ended it all, but I just couldn't deal with anyone else feeling stressed about the situation, so it seemed better to just go it as a team of two.

     b.  If you know someone who has this happen to them, please make sure that anyone who you told about the adoption match is also told about the disruption.  I have been congratulated by all kinds of people who heard from others about the match.  Word obviously spread really, really fast that I had a baby at home.  Word has not gotten around nearly as fast that I didn't.  Help a girl out!!  Trying to tell people who are congratulating you that there's nothing to celebrate is really awkward.

     c.  Some people suggested that next time, we should just keep the whole match a secret until it's all final so we can avoid uncomfortable conversations.  First off, that's impossible.  We both have to take time off from work, our families certainly need to know, and our neighbors and friends might notice that we are suddenly carting around some noisy little 8 pound wriggly thing.  Second, it's really disrespectful to the process of adoption and marginalizes adoptive families.  Sure, going through a disruption was really hard, but we loved how much support, excitement, kindness, and compassion we received through the process.  How awful to go through it all alone, with no excitement that the baby was home with us, and no support when the disruption took place.  Finally, the adoption isn't actually final for months and months.  We are not keeping our new family member a secret for that long!!

     c.  Best reaction ever - when my friend Stephanie dropped off the gifts for Ida and some items she thought would be helpful.  It made me feel like we were "normal" and we were being treated like anyone else who had a baby.  We didn't have a baby shower, we didn't have visitors in a hospital room bringing us flowers and teddy bears, but we had a sweet little package on our front porch and that rocked.

On a sadder note, since Ida left, I feel like I don't have a sense of purpose anymore.  I have lost interest in things I used to be interested in.  To deal with this, I've lately been saying yes to every invitation that comes my way because I know I need to get out of the house and the only way I will is if someone is waiting for me out in the world.  Otherwise, I have holed up in our basement, where I watch television all day.  I go to work, but I'm super distracted and can't remember a lot of things that I should remember.  I'm sort of overcome.  Time will heal a lot of that, and I know that getting back out in the world doing things will help.  I know that we are back in the pool and I'm just dying for a screening email or call - just anything to let me know that the process is back on track.

As much as this has been a difficult situation, if I could go back and make it not happen, I wouldn't.  I loved being a mommy for the short time we had.  Those two nights were precious to me, and I like to think about them a lot.  I liked being able to test-drive some of the plans we had for parenting, and I liked learning that Rob and I really worked well as a team.  I'm probably going to be a bit off for a while, but in the end, it will all work out - everything somehow always does.