Ah, The Holiday Season

The sounds—bells ringing, the laughter of children, the radio stations playing non-stop Christmas music. The scents—pine trees, cinnamon, the turkey roasting in the oven. The tastes—freshly baked cookies, candy, the pumpkin pie. The feels—soft cozy socks and throws. The sights—lights on the trees and houses, Christmas trees, Hanukkah menorahs, Santa and his sleigh, Nativity scenes with the Baby in the manger. The experiences—visiting Santa, caroling, exchanging presents, Christmas Eve church services, dinner at Grandma’s house.

Are you in the mood? Are your senses taking in all that the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day has to offer? Are you social media ready? Does your holiday season look like everyone else’s on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram?

The holiday season is supposed to be the best, most exciting time of the year.

Remember Have a Holly Jolly Christmas? According to that song and many others, “it’s the best time of the year!”

But for many people it’s not.

For anyone who has had a loss, the holiday season is one of the toughest times to navigate emotionally. And for anyone who has had a loss that is not widely recognized or understood, it can be even trickier to navigate. Adoption and infertility are two of those losses that make the holidays especially challenging.

For women who have placed their child for adoption or who are considering placing their child, the holidays may be a reminder of profound loss. No matter her reason for placing her child, there is a piece of her that had wanted things to be different. That she could give her child the life she believed her child deserved. Adoption may have been the way in which she did give her child the life she believed her child deserved, and yes it was her choice, but it doesn’t make the grief any less.

For families experiencing infertility, the loss of being able to conceive and carry a child is felt deeply and profoundly during the holiday season. This is also true of families who have experienced an adoption “fall through”. When will it be their turn to take their child to see Santa?

While there are no easy answers to how to grieve during the holiday season, it is important to be good to yourself during the grief process.

Recognize that your experience does not have to look like everyone else’s on social media or in real life. Allow yourself the luxury of your feelings—including the less than happy ones.

And don’t forget to add a little hope to your season. This may be a dark year, but light is always stronger than darkness.

   


A Four-Letter Word that Has No Place in Adoption

How careful are you in the words that you use? How careful are the people around you in the words they choose? Are there any words or phrases that make you uncomfortable? That are overused until they lose their meaning?

There are many words used when talking about adoption.

There are words that describe the process. Words that describe the emotions. Words that describe all the people involved. Much has been said and written about the correct terminology. This is NOT one of those lectures or pleas.

This post has to do with a small descriptive word of only four letters. It is used so frequently most people do not even realize they are saying it or how it might sound to the other person in the conversation.

Ready?

Here are the four little letters… J-U-S-T. Just. As in, “If you can’t take care of your baby, just give it up for adoption.” Or “If you can’t get pregnant, just adopt a kid.” Just.

Making the decision to place a baby for adoption is emotional. It is gut wrenchingly difficult. It is not done without thought, care, or information. The emotional cost in placing a child for adoption is often life-long. There is no just about it.

Likewise, the decision to adopt a baby or child is emotional. For families experiencing infertility, just adopting involves letting go of the dream of having a biological connection to a child. For all families hoping to adopt, there is a lengthy process of background checks, home visits, and questions about motives. Adoptive families sometimes feel as though this process is intrusive and unfair. There is no just about it.

What can you say instead? Is there a replacement for just?

How about “I care about you. Can I offer any suggestions?” Or “If you need to talk, I’m ready to listen?

And if you can’t think of anything at all to say, just don’t say anything. Be a presence. Show your love. That will always be appreciated.


Dealing with Fear in Adoption

Creepy Crawlies and Things That Go Bump in the Night- Dealing with Fear in Adoption.

It’s officially fall and we’re officially into the month which celebrates Halloween. Halloween has become a bonanza for retailers, with some reports indicating that 179 million Americans spent $9.1 billion dollars on candy, costumes and decorations in 2017. Since 72% of those 179 million people decorated their homes, it’s quite likely that you’ve been seeing Halloween decorations in stores, your neighborhoods, community centers, and maybe even your home.

Halloween provides us with a safe scare. It tames down things in which we don’t really even believe and makes for a time of fun. Even on a scale of scary starting with cute kids in costume yelling “trick or treat” and ending with a big guy in makeup and a fake chainsaw jumping out at you at the local haunted house, the thrills and chills are manufactured. You know that these things are not real and last just for a few moments. Come November 1, the turkeys and Pilgrims will start replacing the skeletons and witch cauldrons that adorn the landscape.

Real fear invokes a physiological response.

Our brains revert to the defense mechanisms of freeze, flight, or fight. Sometimes the fear is brief and goes away. Other times fear lingers, lodging itself in the corners of our being and turns into a gnawing sense of anxiety.

Sometimes fears are easy to name. Some people have a fear of spiders, or of heights, or of losing someone near to them. Sometimes fears are less obvious. These may show up as worries. These worries may start when something happens…DCS takes your children away. You have a miscarriage. Suddenly you are no longer in control of things that only yesterday seemed like a certain deal.

Adoption brings its own fears to the table.

For expectant and birth parents, there is the fear that their child will hate them or someday reject them. There is fear that the adoptive parents will not keep their promises. Adoptive parents fear their child will someday hate and reject them and return to the birth family. Or that the birth family will show up on their doorstep and demand the child back. Even adoptees may have a fear of being unlovable or unwanted. And these fears are fears that often wear masks. They are less easy to identify.

What helps ease these fears?

After all, adoption is a lifetime of relationships. It’s not as if the calendar will one day turn to a new month and a new set of decorations comes into play. These adoption related fears can impact our identities. Am I really a mother if I’ve placed my child for adoption? Am I really a mother if I didn’t give birth to my child? Am I a real person if I wasn’t born to my parents?

This is one reason why openness in adoption is valuable—whether you know everyone’s full identities or even have visits.

The mindset of openness in adoption is one of open communication and honesty. You may not want to admit to feeling nervous about an upcoming placement because you aren’t certain what will happen. You may not want to admit to feeling anxious about having a visit with the other parent in your adoption relationship. But naming those feelings and bringing them out into the open is the first step in conquering those fears. 


Should I or Could I?

Did you know that you talk to yourself almost all the time? Whether or not you are aware of your thoughts, our brains are working constantly. The things we tell ourselves have a direct impact on our emotions.

One of the most detrimental words that we use is “should”.

To say we should do something indicates a duty, or that something is a must do. Generally, when people hear that they should do something, the rebel in them immediately goes for the opposite.

Potential adoptive parents might be hearing from friends and family the things they should be doing or feeling as they go through the process. They might hear or say to themselves, “You should be happy you don’t have to go through pregnancy”, or “You should be excited about your birth mother lead”, or “You should be grateful you were approved to adopt”. Expectant parents might hear or say to themselves, “You should let the adoptive family be in the delivery room”, or “You should be happy this baby will have a good home”, or “You should use this attorney or that agency” 

Are any of those statements really helpful? Be honest. Don’t they just feel heavy and dull?

 What might be a better way to handle these heavy shoulds?

Try substituting the word “could” for every “should”.

For the grammar geeks out there, “could” is the past tense of the verb “can”, and it is used to express possibility. The word could gives you much more power, more of a choice, and takes away the urge to rebel. We all really do have the ability to change how we feel about our situations by changing what words we say to ourselves.

There is so much in the adoption process that is beyond anyone’s control.

Timing, what the expectant parents are thinking or doing, what the potential adoptive parents are thinking or doing, and family members’ opinions and actions are all things that are far beyond any one person’s control. Each of us can only control how we will react to any given situation. Feeling overwhelmed and down? Take a look at the things you say to yourself. If the “shoulds” are outweighing the “coulds”, do a little substitution and flip them around. Hopefully this will frame things in a more positive light.


Birthdays: From Bittersweet to Joy

The anticipation…complete with countdowns to the big day when “this many” fingers increases by one. The sound of paper being torn from the packages. The sticky fingers and face from the icing on the cake. The sounds of singing that simple little song—“Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you!” The glow of the candle. These are all rituals of celebration—symbols to mark the importance of the day a new life entered the world.

While it’s easy to join in the celebration, birthdays are also a great time to take a step back for reflection, especially for parents. In some traditions, an extra candle is placed on the cake to signify hope for the upcoming year. And in families where adoption is a part of that family’s creation, there is always another layer to consider.

A person’s birthday is the day they entered the world.

For a woman contemplating adoption, her child’s birthday is when reality hits and the “what if” starts to become more insistent. The “hello” starts to become the “see you later” that is the bittersweet part of adoption. The celebration is associated with sadness and loss.

On the other hand, adoptive parents find it easy to celebrate their child’s birthday because this marks the day their dream of parenthood is realized. And every year that passes is a recognition of their family.

Is there a way to reconcile the loss of the birth family with the gain of the adoptive family?

Well…whose life is being celebrated on the birthday? Of course, the answer is the child—the person who joins a family through adoption. And that is where the reconciliation begins. For young children, a birthday is a good time to retell their adoption story. Incorporating the birth family into the celebration is a positive way to show that child that they are loved and valued.

Birthdays are celebrated because we remember the past year…the good days and the growth. Birthdays are celebrated because we look to the future…the dreams and the hopes. In a healthy adoption, birthdays recognize that the child is shaped by the birth family and by the adoptive family. The child is celebrated for who they are and who they will become.


Dads—You Matter! 

Check out the self-help section of any bookstore. It’s likely that you will find many of these books divided by gender. Maybe this all began with Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus back in 1992. Maybe it’s biology, maybe it’s society, or maybe it’s none of these things. But when it comes to being an adoptive dad, the role of father is important, special, and unique.  

It may not seem like it. It often seems as if the women involved in adoption are running the show. The expectant mother makes the choice of adoptive family. The potential adoptive mother fills out the paperwork and arranges the appointments for meetings. Even adoption professionals tend to be women! 

So where do you men fit in?

The answer is everywhere. In every step of the adoption, you are important. While not every expectant mom chooses a married couple to parent her child, most of them do. Many times her reasoning is simply that because she is struggling as a single mother, she would like the stability that the two-parent family offers.  

If the reasoning behind an expectant mom’s decision is this stability, it just makes sense that the waiting-to-adopt dad steps up and demonstrates what kind of father he plans to be. Show her in the little things—from opening the door for her when entering and leaving the restaurant at your meetings to offering a hug as a greeting. Show her in the big things, like how you treat your wife, the expectant mom’s children, and in how you answer questions. 

The relationship between hopeful adopting parents is on display during the waiting time and during meetings with the expectant mom.

If expectant mom is looking for a stable and happy relationship between the hopefuls, it makes sense she would see a relationship in which both the husband and wife are interacting easily with one another and with her.  

Once the hospital experience hits, hopeful dads really need to shine. If the laboring or newly delivered mom needs an advocate, a hopeful dad can speak for her while the hopeful mom can be the one holding the birth mom’s hand.  

The dad’s voice, just like the mom’s, is not confined only to words.

Don’t forget that actions often speak louder than words. Being willing to hold the newborn baby or change a diaper lets the birth mom know that you will be an involved dad, which might reinforce her decision that adoption is the right one.  

Then baby comes home.

Hopeful dad becomes Dad. Countless research projects have shown the importance of fathers in the lives of their children. Birth mothers know this too—especially if she chose adoption so that her child would have an involved dad. Even if adoptive mom is the one to typically send the photos and updates, birth moms appreciate hearing directly from adoptive dads too. Dads can send those updates as easily as moms.  

Dads can and should also talk to their child about adoption. They can be the ones to answer questions about birth family. Adoption is not just a mom thing!   


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.


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.