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. 


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.


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.   


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.


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.


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.

 

 

 

 


Is visitation after an adoption a good idea?

Once you start exploring the idea of adoption, you begin to face lots of decisions. One of those decisions is whether or not to ask for visits with your child after the placement is done and baby is home with the adopting mommy and daddy. And like most things in adoption, there is no one size fits all answer. Every adoption creates a unique relationship. But for most women, visits with your child are a very good idea.

Look at it this way. You’ve spent a lot of time searching for the exact right family. You’ve thought about whether or not adoption is the best choice for your baby. You’ve worried about whether or not the adoptive family will do what they promise. You’ve worried about what your child will think of you someday. Having visits with your baby as they are growing up is very healing. It helps take some of those worries away. You can see for yourself how things are going.

On the other hand, visits can be hard. You may feel anxiety, or anger, or sadness when thinking about a visit. And that’s ok too. You may not be ready. No one knows you better than you. You might find comfort in pictures and video chatting. It’s back to the no one size fits all approach!

So what is the biggest reason to have visits with your child after the adoption? Because children who grow up knowing they are adopted deserve to know about their history, and that history includes the people who created them! That history includes you! The adoptive parents can tell your child all about you, but telling about someone and actually knowing someone are completely different things.

Adoptive families working with the Adoption Support Center understand that a child’s history is important to a child who joins their family through adoption. They also understand your connection to your child. As your relationship develops, you and the adoptive parents will navigate the visit decision together. Is visitation after an adoption a good idea? You be the judge.


I’m Not a Quitter

Ever since I started talking about adoption, people have been giving me all kinds of grief.

The most common thing I hear is “how can you give up your baby?” Just because I’m considering an adoption plan, doesn’t mean I’m giving her up. It’s not like I’m throwing her up into the air and just waiting for her to be caught by some nameless, faceless, and soulless stranger out there!

The thing is, right now my life looks overwhelming. I have two toddlers—and I love them—but when one gets sick and can’t go to daycare, I can’t go to work. My boss says she understands, but she’s written me up twice for being late when my car died. I’m literally one write up away from being fired. My ex is no help and right now he’s living with his new girlfriend. I’m not a priority, and he says he doesn’t care about the baby I’m carrying. He’s not even sure she’s his.

So I’m planning. I’m thinking.

I’m working things through in my head. I love this baby—like I love all my babies. The two at home need me to be strong and to get them fed and get them to bed at night. They need me to be able to read their bedtime stories. They need me to get them ready to go to the sitter’s and play in the park on the way home. I can’t give them a father. But I know they deserve the best of me that they can get!

So I’m making a plan. I’ve been talking to Alli, an adoption coordinator at the Adoption Support Center. She’s introduced me to this family and we had lunch together. I can’t put it into words, exactly, but it’s like I’ve known them forever. My baby is not going to be put up for random people to become parents! I’m not going to just “adopt her out”.

I’m making a plan. Right now, that plan includes adoption. I may follow through on that plan. I may not follow through on that plan. Whatever I decide, it will be what is best for this baby, my kids at home, and me. I’m not going to quit being a parent, even if I do place my baby with the family I met. I’ll be her parent in a different way, but I’ll always be connected to her.

I am not a quitter.