It’s February

A month known to celebrate love, women’s heart health, chocolate, canned food, pies, dental health, and spay and neuter awareness.

In fact, one website, Holiday Insights, lists twelve special awareness campaigns celebrated in this one short month. (www.holidayinsights.com).

Probably the most important on this list is the official designation of Black History Month.

February gives us the ability to celebrate Black History Month.

There are special activities designated at sites throughout the state. The website Visit Indy (www.visitindy.com) suggests a tour of Indiana Avenue and the Madame Walker Theater Center or a visit to the Crispus Attacks Museum.

Visit Fort Wayne (www.visitfortwayne.com) offers the African/African-American Historical Society or Allen County Public Library as great places commemorate this part of our history.  

Live in South Bend? On February 23, 2019 there is a musical celebration of the African diaspora at the IUSB Civil Rights Heritage Center at 3:00 in the afternoon.  

For our southern Indiana families, Bloomington offers a fully packed schedule of activities that can be found at    https://bloomington.in.gov/sites/default/files/2019-01/2019%20BHM%20Calendar_draft

Is there a better way to honor and celebrate Black History month?

What about having conversations about race?

Looking at historical figures who have made significant societal contributions is important, but hundreds of thousands of people live their lives without the rest of us knowing about them.

What is their experience of living day to day? What does a person of a different race or ethnicity think about you? How do you define racism? Do you see examples of segregation around you? How will you raise your children to embrace their own culture and celebrate the cultures of others? 

How will you be celebrating Black History Month?


Love Makes the World Go Around…

(and how to help keep it spinning) 

Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching!

Have you bought a card for your sweetie? Found a babysitter and made your dinner reservations yet? Bought the roses and candy? Remembered to send your child’s birth mom a card and warm greetings? (Hey, this is an adoption related blog! Of course, we were going to slip that in there!) 

While there are multiple explanations of how the holiday started, including at least three different saints martyred on February 14, it has been linked to romance since Medieval England when Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales. Over time, celebrating this holiday has morphed into sharing love with anyone significant in our lives, not only romantic partners. 

According to a February 5, 2019 article on the website retailcustomerexperience.com, “Consumers are projected to spend more than ever on Valentine’s Day yet fewer will be celebrating the annual February love event.” This same website projects Americans will spend $20.7 billion on Valentine’s spending this year, or an average of $196.61 per person on this holiday. 

On the other hand, showing love does not have to involve spending money.

Homemade Valentine’s Cards are another tradition that dates back at least a couple hundred years! With today’s technology, it’s even easier to snap a photo, decorate it, and send it on to someone needing a smile. 

Which brings us back to sharing the love with birth families.

It’s not too late to send something through ASC, if that’s how you normally communicate. It’s definitely not too late to send something directly, if that’s how you normally communicate. 

Not yet matched or directly involved in an adoption?

There are still ways to spread a little love. Volunteer at your local pregnancy care center, donate to a women’s shelter, or get involved with any cause that is close to your heart. After all, the world could always use a little more kindness. 

So whether you spend the holiday as a romantic extravaganza or a cozy time with family remember that ten different song writers who claim “love makes the world go ‘round” can’t be wrong. We all need to do our part to keep that world spinning.


All You Need Is… Empathy?

(Also known as Empathy Makes the World Go ‘Round?)

Why is it that there are no great songs written about empathy?

Love may make you go weak in the knees, but empathy builds connections and helps you through the rough spots.

Empathy is the ability to relate to another person in the midst of their pain.

If you’ve ever had any experience with adoption—as an adoptee, a birth parent, an adoptive parent, or professional, empathy is a foundation on which to build the rest of the relationships.

While an expectant or birth parent may not understand the pain of infertility, they can understand the sadness that this brings to the adopting family. While an adoptive parent may not fully understand the circumstances in an expectant mother’s life that lead her to consider making an adoption plan, they can listen and relate to the pain of the difficulty. Neither the birth parents or adoptive parents may fully understand the feelings the adopted child has regarding their identity, but being able to offer empathy connects both sets of parents to the child.

Empathy is understanding and showing concern for other.

It helps build bridges and resolves conflicts. To be empathetic involves being present and limiting distractions. 

Empathy may not make it to hit song status, but it will definitely keep adoption relationships on a healthy track. 

Noted author and speaker Brene Brown explains empathy in this charming video. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw


Roots and Wings

There is a frequently quoted inspirational saying which asserts the two greatest gifts we can give our children are roots and wings. This has been interpreted to mean as parents we provide the foundation for our children so that they can develop into their own personalities and be able to chase their own dreams.

When our children are young, we make all their decisions for them.

What they wear, what they eat, where they sleep, their schedule…all of these things are determined by parents. After all, babies don’t choose their own onesies! As they grow, they begin to make their own choices. Sometimes we agree with these choices, sometimes we don’t. Have you ever seen a pre-schooler who has dressed herself in her favorite outfit?

Adoption adds another layer to all of this.

Adoptees have roots with both their birth AND adoptive families. Both sets of parents contribute to the person that the child becomes.

But what about wings?

What happens when all the days and years of love and choices and decisions made are done and the child—who had no voice or choice in the adoption to begin with—is now an adult?

When the adoptee becomes an adult, the decision for contact with birth families and adoptive families becomes their own. The person who was adopted at birth or during their childhood now can say if they want to meet their birth families or not. They can continue to develop adult relationships with the parents who raised them, or they can become distant from them. They can embrace the circumstances of their lives, or they may choose to reinvent themselves and have little to do with either birth or adoptive families.

These newfound wings can be stressful for both sets of parents.

Will the adoptee want to meet the birth family? Some birth parents want to meet; some birth parents do not want to meet. Will the adoptive parents welcome the birth parents in their adult child’s life? Or will this be stressful and unwelcome to the adoptive parents?

Many of the answers to these questions depend on how the adoptive family tended to the roots.

Did they water the seeds of love planted by the birth family? Did they provide opportunity for discussions about identity and adoption? Did they speak of the birth family with gratitude, kindness and respect?  

Some adult adoptees use their wings and fly toward their birth families. Others fly in a different direction. Yet the flight does not have to be between the two families who gave the adoptee roots; the adoptee can fly along side both. 


Grief and Anger

Most people recognize sadness as a part of grief.

If you see someone crying, it’s easy to make the assumption that something is wrong. Tears and sadness are a combination that everyone seems to understand. 

Anger is also a part of grief.

It’s that little understood part, because let’s face it. No one likes to be around an angry person. It’s like standing next to a can of pop that has exploded. It’s unpredictable. You don’t know where the pop will spray or what kind of mess it will cause.

Anger is one of those things that build.

One little thing after another adds to the emotions that are stirring inside, and it only takes one thing to cause an explosion. 

So what can be done to prevent an anger explosion? 

First, know that being angry is perfectly ok.

Own your feeling! Anger is just an emotion. A powerful one, sure. But so is joy.

After a loss, it is quite natural to feel anger. A word of caution, though. If expressing your anger causes you to hurt yourself or someone else, you may need to do some damage repair. Apologize for the action, but don’t apologize for the emotion. If you apologize for the emotion, you may find yourself caught in a cycle of rising anger that has nowhere else to go.  

Second, recognize anger for what it is.

As we tell toddlers, “use your words”! Recognizing and naming anger takes away some of the unpredictability associated with how anger is expressed. Mark Twain famously said “When angry count four; when very angry swear.” This is really good advice! Swearing gives voice to the anger and is a way to express it without it building up inside to a greater level.

Third, know that anger doesn’t last forever.

Remember that other old saying, “what comes up, must come down?” We aren’t designed to stay in a heightened emotional state forever. Think back to your last ugly cry. Did you need a good long nap afterward? That’s because our bodies aren’t designed to carry that much intensity all the time.

Finally, find someone with whom you can safely let off this anger.

A close friend, a counselor or a therapist are good places to start. If your anger is related to adoption, find a therapist who understands adoption issues and can help you find ways to express it.  


I HEREBY RESOLVE…

So here it is, another new year. Welcome to 2019! 

For almost half of Americans, making a resolution for the new year is a part of the tradition of the holiday. These generally are self-improvement based…lose weight, add a fitness routine, improve personal finances, or stop smoking. 

Do these resolutions work? Do those Americans who make resolutions become thinner, fitter, and richer?

The statistics aren’t good.

One recent study suggests that a full 80% of resolutions fail by February. To combat this, the internet and other media are full of suggestions designed to help resolution makers be successful. 

One of those suggestions is to frame your resolution in positive terms. Rather than giving up something, add a little something to your life. One study suggests that people who are motivated to make a difference in the world tend to keep those resolutions as it leads to a sense of peace and happiness while contributing to society.

So here’s a new year challenge from ASC.

Resolve to make the world of adoption a better institution.

Like all resolutions, making the world of adoption a better place is much to broad of a goal. Psychologists also suggest taking small steps that are concrete and lead to an immediate sense of reward tend to keep propelling us forward.

What can you do to improve adoption?

Here are a few suggestions.

  1.  Resolve to listen to one perspective other than your own each month. For example, if you are an adoptive parent, listen to a podcast from a birth family or adoptee to better understand their experiences. 
  2. Resolve to provide assistance to an organization that advocates for members of the adoption triad. Assistance can be given in the form of your time, your finances or your positive recommendation and encouragement. 
  3. Resolve to speak up! Share your story. Comment on social media on the stories of others. 

Here’s to 2019! What do you resolve? 


My heart is full.

Today I watched the beginning of a miracle. Working in adoption is hard. It’s filled with joy, but it’s also filled with grief and brokenness. 

So much of the work done in adoption is done prior to the delivery of the baby.

It’s careful consideration on the part of the expectant mother. It’s looking at all the options and who is on her team. Who will be there to help with parenting, survival, emotional support?  

It’s equally careful consideration on the part of the adopting parents. Is adoption a calling? Is adoption a choice because of infertility? Do the adoptive parents-to-be understand that the child will always be a part of the birth parents, even if they do not see them often (or even at all)?  

And then there is placement.

One family says “good-bye” to a child they have only met, and another says “welcome home”. “Bittersweet” may be the word that best describes the emotions swirling around placement time, but it only begins to scratch the depths of the emotions involved.  

 Then time passes and life happens.

The child grows and matures, as do both sets of parents. From toddlerhood to adulthood, adoption remains with the both families, and is always a part of the child’s identity.  Emotions ebb and flow.  

As an adoption professional, I’ve been on the preparation end of the process for more years than I care to admit. As an adoptive parent, I’ve watched my girls navigate the ups and downs of childhood and adolescence, and then I’ve watched them become mothers. But I’ve seldom had the privilege to be a part of an adoption reunion. 

That is changing.

Today I watched two mothers come together after more than 20 years apart. The foundation is being laid for the child who is now an adult to meet the family that created her.  

Questions will be asked. Answers will be given.  

Maybe—just maybe—some of the broken pieces will be made whole.  

Wishing you all grace and peace — Diane 


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.