The Math of Relationships

Relationships. Are good relationships a math equation?

When both sides give 50 percent effort to making the relationship work, it must be a good relationship because 50 + 50 = 100Oh, just meet me halfway! That’s all I’m asking of you, right?  

Realistically…good relationships are not math equations. Why not? There are simply too many variables. Time, energy, control, desire, needs, values, goals, personality, chemistry, effort…each of these variables can come into play in a relationship at any given time on any given side. Whether it’s a friendship, a romance, a working relationship, or an adoption relationship, what makes the relationship work  depends on any or all of those attributes. And the mixture of these elements can change from day to day, hour to hour. 

What does this have to do with open adoption?

It can’t be said enough. Open adoption is all about relationships. It IS relationships. It is the relationship between adoptive parents and birth parents. It is the relationship between adoptive parents and their children. It is the relationship between birth parents and the children they have placed for adoption. It is not only about keeping in contact, although keeping in contact is certainly an element of open adoption.  

The thing is, if contact is the only variable in these open adoption relationships, they start to look like those math equations. Isn’t that what keeping score becomes? Adoptive parent first texts birth parent, and if birth parent does not respond, adoptive parent does not believe any further effort needs to go into reaching out to birth parent. So what is wrong with that? Potentially many things. Birth parent may not have the time to respond when the text first comes in. Or she may be having a rough day and can’t emotionally bring herself to respond. Or is afraid to respond at that time.  

So many variables.  

In the interest of healthy open adoptions that foster confidence and love between the children placed for adoption and their birth families, the adoptive parents should get out of the score keeping, math equation type of relationship. Send those texts, even if there is no response! Stop only if the birth family specifically asks for that to stop. Have letters and hard copies of photos ready to send, even if the birth mother’s address is not current. Someday your child will be happy to see that you loved his birth family enough to share his life. Offer a specific date for a visit and be willing to be flexible. Don’t wait for your child’s birth family to ask! Not even if it is the birth family’s “turn” to make arrangements. Not even if it is tiring for you to be the one to always be the contact initiator.  

Not even if. 

Score keeping math equations? Or healthy relationships?  

It’s all in your hands.   


Priorities: Getting Out What You Put In

What are the key ingredients to making an open adoption actually be an open adoption?

Aren’t open adoptions just open because birth parents and adoptive parents agree that the relationship is an open one, share phone numbers and have an occasional visit?

Let’s return to the basics. It’s often been said that open adoption is a relationship. In all actuality, open adoption is not a relationship, it’s several relationships. It’s the relationship between adoptive and birth parents. It’s the relationship between adoptive parents and adopted children. It’s the relationship between birth parents and the child they placed for adoption. On top of this, let’s throw in the relationship the child has with grandparents, both through adoption and birth. And what’s the relationship between siblings…those in the family who lives together day-to-day and those who are seen during visits?

So back to the ingredients. If we are going to have this thing called open adoption, and it involves all these relationships, how will it look and how does it work? There are many cliches that come to mind, including “you get out of it what you put into it.” The crux of most relationships comes down to this  simple saying.

Think about a great relationship that you once had, but no longer do.

Maybe it was a relationship between your best friend in high school. Maybe it was your first love. Maybe it was with a co-worker from your last job. Why is this relationship no longer great? In all likelihood, it’s not because of some huge argument. Relationships tend to drift away because they are not made a priority. Things happen. Phone calls or texts don’t get returned immediately and then become forgotten. The in-box of the email keeps getting more and more new emails on top of the original from that friend. The talk of “we should get together someday” never actually makes it to an actual date.

Now think of a relationship you are still in and all is going well. It’s a safe bet that phone calls and texts are returned. Conversations happen regularly. Time is spent together. Plans are made—and kept. The vague “someday” becomes “next Friday”.

Not all relationships are meant to last forever. There are good reasons why certain relationships are not a priority. A former co-worker with whom you shared an occasional drink after work is not the same as the person connected to you through a child you both adore. Adoption, on the other hand, is a lifelong set of relationships.

In an open adoption that works well, the relationship with the child is the priority. Because it’s a priority, you plan ahead. You put dates on the calendar. You answer texts. Not only do you answer texts, you initiate texts or calls. You don’t worry about whose turn it is to do what.

And you do this open adoption relationship thing because you know the child benefits.

The child knows they are loved. They learn their identity, both from the birth parents and from their adoptive parents. The child can deal with reality, not fantasy. And in the end, this set of adoption relationships helps create an adult who can create healthy, loving relationships of their own.

Healthy, loving relationships. Isn’t that what we all are hoping for?


40 Weeks and a Circle of Support

Everyone knows that pregnancy lasts for nine months. 

It’s divided into three trimesters, each with three months in it. Everyone knows that pregnancy lasts for nine months. Unless you’re pregnant and waiting to deliver. Then you remember it’s forty weeks from conception to delivery. And if the due date for the blessed event is set for July or August in humid Indiana, it seems as if those forty weeks turns into an eternity. It certainly doesn’t help when people start asking the expectant mom “so you haven’t had that baby yet, have you?” (Feel free to insert your own sarcastic response here…)

The emotional waiting time is different for those involved adoption.

For the potential adoptive family there are no visible signs of pregnancy. There is the uncertainty of not only the baby’s birth, but what will happen after the birth. Will there be a baby coming home with them or not? For the expectant parents, the emotional waiting time is complicated. Preparing to give birth and preparing to say good-bye all at the same time is not for the weak-hearted. No one can predict with 100% accuracy how they will handle any given situation until they have been in that situation.

For everyone involved in the waiting game, there are just as many people on the sidelines who also want to know what is going on. They want to know the timelines too!

Is the baby here yet? Do you think the expectant mom is going to follow the adoption plan? Will she be ok if she does? Are the adoptive parents ready? Have you all met each other?

All this brings up another question, and that is—do you answer these questions?

And if you do, how many times do you have to answer them? Does everyone you know deserve to be in on the action?  Do you record your answer to the most frequently asked questions then just hit “play” when one of these comes up?

While those pre-recorded answers might be nice, another way handle them is to create your circle of support. The people in this circle are those who care about you and have your back. Face it, not everyone deserves to know all about your business. Once you have determined who is in your circle, create a group text or email chain. Let these people know they will have answers as you are ready to share them. Send out the information on your time table. And for those who don’t make the circle, be ready with your “mind your own business” answer. A simple “I’m not ready to talk about that” or some variation of this should be enough.

The forty weeks of pregnancy is a long time to wait.

The unknown amount of time for adoptive families is a long time to wait. Make the wait more bearable by sharing what needs to be shared with the people you know, trust, and love because you know they trust, respect, and love you right back.


What do you think when you hear the word adoption?

Adoption is one of those topics that everyone—yes, everyone—seems to have an opinion and story to share. There are the people who know and want to share adoption horror stories. You’ve probably heard the stories of expectant parents who scam desperate couples out of tens thousands of dollars. Or the stories of adoptees who become psychopathic murderers. Or the stories of abusive adoptive parents who are more interested in having a servant than a child. No matter what side of the adoption triad is being discussed, someone is ready to rain on the parade with a terrifying tale of adoption gone wrong.

Then there’s the flip side of the horror stories…tales of sunshine and lollipops. In these stories, the adoptees are perfect and become big stars and never cause their parents a minute of worry. The adoptive parents, with big homes and bigger hearts, make parenting look like a walk in the park. They never struggle, they never doubt, and they have the perfect answer to every question their child asks. Birth parents? In the tales of sunshine and lollipops, the birth parents make a brief walk on appearance, tearfully kiss their baby good-bye, and then conveniently disappear into the sunset.

How do you react when you see a story about adoption in the news or on the cover of People magazine? Do you ever stop to wonder why this story is even being published? Most of the time, these stories are meant to tug on the heartstrings. Tugged heartstrings are good for ratings and sales.

Is there anything wrong having your heartstrings tugged? No, not necessarily. But if your entire perspective of a situation is based solely on emotion, you may not be dealing with the entire story. And when it comes to adoption, there are real people involved. These real people have feelings, thoughts, and lives that go on beyond the event of adoption.

So when you hear the latest news about another celebrity adopting a baby, it’s ok to be happy for that celebrity. It’s also ok to think about that baby’s birth family—and recognize that the celebrity’s joy comes at the expense of a birth family’s grief. For another perspective, it’s ok to recognize and celebrate that the baby will be afforded every advantage in life. Yet that child does not get to have what most of us take for granted…knowing and being raised by the people who gave us life.

Think critically about the adoption stories you hear. Be curious about the motive of the storyteller. Because you will be curious and critical, you don’t need to worry about the horror stories. Because you are curious and critical, you don’t need to elevate birth parents, adoptive parents, or adoptees to sainthood. You are able to celebrate the joy of day-to-day life, where some people’s lives are touched by adoption


Words Matter: Telling Your Child’s Story

As a society, we tend to throw around words that then become labels.

Words serve as codes and conjure pictures in our minds. These pictures then shape our attitudes. Attitudes become beliefs. And these beliefs are what we pass on to our children.

Here at ASC we have long advocated for the use of positive adoption language. Positive language serves to remove both stereotypes and judgements. For example—to say a woman gave up her baby evokes a pictures of an uncaring woman who just quits. She quits being a mother. She quits caring for her child. She is then deemed a quitter. This is negative language at its worst. Positive language says a woman placed her child for adoption. She made an adoption plan. The picture that comes to mind shows a woman with purpose and intent. Far from being a quitter, this woman is choosing and acting in a way that provides love, care, and stability for her child.

The use of positive language for your child’s story may involve more than just those things related solely to adoption. There may be pieces to your child’s story that involve birth parents who use drugs, have mental illness, or are in the United States illegally. It can be easy to use that shorthand and refer to the birth parents as addicts, or crazies, or illegals. What will your child think of their birth parent if this is how you think of them?

Here’s a quick guide to positive language for situations that may apply to your child’s adoption story.

While not all the words on the left are negative in and of themselves, they should be used with caution. Don’t let the “less positive” become just a label!

As you wonder who your child’s birth parents will be, or wonder how your child’s birth family is doing now after the placement, practice using the more positive language. If you slip up, give yourself some grace. Just keep on going. This is not an all inclusive list—if you’ve got a term or phrase to share, just let us know!


Heartfelt Mother’s Day

It is almost here.

That day of the year that we buy cards, flowers, gifts, and go to brunch will be here on Sunday. Do you have your plans made yet? Have you spent your $180.00 on your mother, or will you be spending more? (According to the National Retail Foundation, projected Mother’s Day sales will total more than $23 billion this year, or an average of $180.00 per person.)

Mother’s Day is one of those holidays that retailers love, but a portion of women dread. If you have experienced fertility problems or had a miscarriage or a still birth, Mother’s Day can be a reminder of significant loss. If you have placed a child for adoption, you may feel as if you have no claim to Mother’s Day at all—it’s simply something else that the adoptive mother gets that you miss out on.

The “mother” of Mother’s Day never intended for this day to become so commercialized.

Anna Jarvis began advocating for a national day or recognition for mothers in the early 1900’s, and in 1908 held the first official celebration in West Virginia. She lobbied for greater recognition and acceptance of this day, and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson established the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. But she was a proponent of the sentiments of love and gratitude to be shown to mothers—not that any type of company use the day for profit. Rather than sending store bought cards, she believed a mother would best be honored with a hand-written, heart-felt note.

Based on the actions of Miss Jarvis later in her in life, it is doubtful she would have wanted any woman to feel slighted or uncomfortable or sad on that Sunday. She never had children herself, and she died completely destitute from her efforts to have the holiday removed from the national calendar.

So how are you celebrating Mother’s Day?

Are you taking your mother out to eat? Men, are you giving your children’s mother flowers and candy? Do you all have your brunch reservations made? More personally, are you going to focus on your losses rather than celebrating the love women have for their children?

However you choose to celebrate Mother’s Day, remember the story of Anna Jarvis. Whether you are a waiting mother-to-be, a birth mother, an adoptive mother, a foster mother, or someone who mentors someone along the way…think love and gratitude—and then go out and show the world the same.


Open Adoption: For Better, For Worse

Defining what an “open adoption” is can be tricky.

It’s that little word “open” that seems to cause all the confusion. Does open mean both adoptive and birth parents share the care taking responsibilities of the child? Does it mean the birth family comes to all the child’s events—soccer games, birthday parties, and dance recitals? Does it mean the birth family is able to drop in on the adoptive family anytime they would like? Does it mean only that the child knows their adoption story and the names of their birth parents? Or is it somewhere in the midst of all these things?

The problem with definitions is that all too often definitions come with rules. For example, if open adoption for one family means the adoptive parents promise to send monthly updates and photos, as long as they are doing this, they believe they are upholding their end of the bargain. If the birth mother asks for a visit, the adoptive family may believe they are justified in denying this request because it is not what they agreed to do.

Maybe it would be more helpful to look at open adoption less as a definition and more as a relationship. And it’s not one relationship, it’s many relationships! There is the relationship you have with your child and the relationship your child has with you. There are the relationships you and your child have with extended family members. And also of great importance, there is the relationship between you and your child’s birth family.

All relationships that work well take time and effort to nurture.

The initial stages of a relationship are fueled by excitement and possibility. It’s as time goes on that prove if the relationship will survive the differences and troubles that are certain to come. That’s why traditional marriage vows include these familiar words, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.” What would happen if you gave the same consideration to your child’s birth parents? Could make similar promises?

As your relationship with your child’s birth family grows, you will want to celebrate the joys—the “betters”. And the worse will come along—maybe you will lose contact with your child’s birth family. Maybe you will remain in contact, but your child’s birth parents find themselves incarcerated or moving across the country.

Remember, your child’s birth parents chose adoption because at that moment in time, they did not believe they could give the care your child deserved to your child. Time will change. Your child’s birth family may encounter great successes and great setbacks. You may encounter great successes and great setbacks. As will your child!

Are you ready for an open adoption?

Are you ready to love a child for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health? And are you ready to love your child’s birth family in the same way…because they are also a part of your child?

If so—then welcome to adoption!


Livin’ on a Prayer

It’s quite common to hear people voicing their prayers, asking for prayers, and sending thoughts and prayers. Whether it’s from the pulpit of a church or a shared post on Facebook, it seems as though prayer is pervading every part of our lives. Those associated with the world of adoption hear prayer requests all the time. Even those who do not think of themselves as religious or even particularly spiritual seem to both seek and offer prayer when an adoption situation is mentioned.

So, if you are praying for an adoption situation, what exactly are you praying for?

(Or to keep the grammarians happy, for what are you praying?) As an adoptive couple, are you praying the woman who just gave birth will sign those papers so that you can take the baby home? Are you praying the baby is healthy? Is the prayer to keep away a family member who wants to take the baby home instead of you? Maybe your prayer is a little more personal. Maybe your prayer is a little more along the lines of “please don’t let me be hurt again. I can’t handle any more disappointments.”

But wait! Is there anything wrong with asking an adoption go smoothly? Is there anything wrong with praying for the birth parents to sign a consent, for a healthy baby, for the storybook ending? Maybe not. Yet maybe there is something truly limiting in this type of prayer.

What about prayers for the woman who has just given birth?

Even more challenging, what about prayers for the woman whose children just entered foster care? How about praying for the extended biological family of that baby who are losing their chance to be grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins? Where do the siblings of the baby fit in? Is a prayer for your happiness and ease all that matters?

It has been said that prayer is a conversation. There are always two parts to any conversation—speaking and listening. The speaking comes easily. The listening often takes more work. And in an emotionally charged situation, like adoption, the listening gets crowded out by our own wants, hopes, and dreams.

So here’s a challenge.

When you ask or are asked for prayers regarding an adoption, pray for strength and peace for the birth family, and for joy in the life of the baby. And then be prepared to listen—even if it’s an answer you don’t like. Listen to the voice inside that says you were meant a part of this other family’s story, for just a little bit. Listen to the voice that says you made this woman’s last part of pregnancy a little easier. Listen to the voice that says your example showed her children they have value and worth.

When you do get to bring your baby home, don’t let the prayer conversation end. Let the prayers you speak reflect gratitude. And let the prayers you hear result in actions that show the world that same gratitude.


Agency or Attorney?

Adoption is one of those topics about which everyone seems to have an opinion or story. If you mention that you are thinking about becoming an adoptive parent, you will likely hear those opinions or stories, whether you want to or not. Within that conversation, there is also a good chance you will hear the agency versus attorney debate. Should you trust this very important step in your life to an adoption agency or just use an attorney?

The thing is, agencies and attorneys BOTH have a place in the world of adoption.

As an institution, adoption is a legal process that allows for the creation and expansion of a family. Because it allows for the creation and expansion of a family, it is also involves relationships. Opening your heart to adoption means you are opening yourself to new relationships. There is a relationship between you and your child, and there is a relationship between you and your child’s birth family. Your child will always have a relationship between themselves and you, and also will always have a relationship between themselves and their birth family. Yes—let’s repeat that one. Adoptees will always have a relationship between themselves and the family who created them and gave them life. They may not always have a day-to-day relationship with their birth family, but nothing can change the fact that the first relationship in their lives will be with those whom they share a genetic link.

Can you imagine how complicated this can all be?

And if it’s complicated for you, imagine how the children of adoption feel? That baby you are hoping for is going to grow into a toddler, then elementary school kid, and then teenager, and then into adulthood. Along the way, questions will be asked. Will you be ready to answer them?

An adoption agency can navigate all those relationships with you. The people working for adoption agencies see and understand the pieces of those relationships that go into adoption. You know—those things like unexpected pregnancies. Infertility. Physical needs. Emotional needs. They have experience in working through the good and the bad, ups and downs, joys and sorrows that are a part of adoption.

Where does the lawyer come into this? The goal of the lawyer in adoption is to represent either the person placing the baby or the person adopting the baby. The lawyer is there to make certain the legal process is understood and the rights of the party they are representing are upheld. If the lawyer is representing the adoptive parents, the goal is to make certain the adoption is finalized in a court of law and an adoption decree is issued.

Adoption is a lifelong commitment.

If you are going to make this commitment to a child, make certain you have the resources to do honor the commitment well. Know the resources available to you—both for legal support and for emotional support. The best of all worlds in adoption uses both an attorney and an agency. Let them help you create a happy story for your family.

To find out more about the history of our agency, click here.

 

 

 

 


Do You Have a Secret?

 

What happens if you have a secret? A secret that is so terrifying you know you can’t possibly share it with anyone? What if your secret literally has life or death consequences to any decision you make about that secret, and you just can’t imagine how to make any choice? If you put yourself in that place, it’s likely that all you can feel is fear. That fear is so deep it is paralyzing you.

For some women and girls, this fear and this secret are the realities of an unexpected or unplanned pregnancy. Whether the pregnancy is the result of what some would call carelessness and irresponsibility or the result of something tragic like rape, the emotional fall out can be devastating. To reveal the pregnancy may result in further trauma. What kind of trauma? Maybe the fear and likelihood of being kicked out of her home is a reason to keep the secret. Maybe the trauma is the fear and likelihood of being physically abused for “getting knocked up”. Pregnancy is not always met with joy and happiness.

If pregnancy is not always met with joy and happiness, especially if the pregnancy is kept a secret, the arrival of the baby just heightens the fear. Now instead of protecting only herself, the scared new mother must protect that baby. She must find a resolution to her dilemma.

Sadly, the “solution” she sometimes finds happens to tragically make the evening news. There are stories of babies found in dumpsters, in creeks, and in snowbanks. These babies do not survive. There is no ‘happily ever after’ for these children. And yet, can you imagine the guilt and shame the mother carries? While we all might want to point fingers and demonize her, not many of us have been in her place.

Thankfully, dumpsters and snowbanks do not have to be the solution. The Indiana Legislature and Governor Holcomb have authorized the use of “Baby Boxes” which expands the Indiana Safe Haven laws. Under Safe Haven laws, women are able to leave their babies in fire stations, police stations, and hospitals without fear of being prosecuted for neglect. If the fire station is equipped with a “Baby Box”, the baby can be placed completely anonymously and remain warm and safe until rescue personnel arrive.

Currently there are only two official “Baby Boxes” in Indiana. Hopefully the new 2018 legislation will encourage the placement of more boxes throughout the state. In the meantime—here’s to courage and compassion. Courage to find a fire station or police station to take care of the baby and protect the secret. Courage to allow a child to live. And compassion to allow the baby’s mother to heal and be loved for the courage she has shown.

If you find yourself in a unplanned pregnancy, we understand! You can always call or text someone from the Adoption Support Center to discuss your options. We are available 24 hours a day!
Call: 317-255-5916
Text: 317-560-4523
If you or someone you know needs immediate emergency help, fire stations, police stations and hospitals are trained to be a Safe Haven for your newborn when you just don’t know what else to do.
To reach the 24-hour Safe Haven Emergency Hotline, please call 866-99-BABY1

To read more about the Safe Haven Baby Boxes, click here.

Monica Kelsey and the town of Woodburn, Indiana, dedicated the first Safe Haven Baby Box of its kind on Tuesday, April 26, 2016, at the Woodburn Volunteer Fire Department. The box, which is temperature controlled and has a padded inside, is electronically monitored and sounds an alarm to the fire station whenever the door is opened.