It’s All in How You Look at It

Perception. Adoption is one of those institutions in which almost every person has a view point. Maybe it’s because they were adopted, or their grandparents were adopted. Maybe it’s because you’re an adoptive parent, or you want to be one. Maybe, just maybe, your view point has been shaped by movies, books or the latest celebrity adoption. Ask ten different people what they think about adoption, and you are guaranteed to hear ten different answers.

Recently we asked families, both birth parents and adoptive parents, to share statements and questions from others that have left them hurt or discouraged.

None of what we heard was anything we hadn’t heard before.

Yet hearing them still, in 2019,was disappointing. It feels as if no matter how much education is out there, no matter the example our birth parents and adoptive families set, attitudes toward adoption are sometimes holdovers from another era.

Our adoptive families have been called everything from baby snatchers to saviors. Our birth mothers have been called everything from callous and cold-hearted to brave saints. Our adoptees have been called everything from orphaned to lucky. 

Just how accurate are these pictures? 

The answer probably depends on many factors. What generation are you from? What media has fed into your viewpoint? How many people do you personally know involved in the adoption triad? What experiences have you had with unexpected pregnancies or pregnancy scares? What experiences have you had in raising children? Where has the road of life led you?

Just as every individual carries their own unique, fingerprints and genetic code into the world, those touched by adoption are unique individuals as well. To paint any group with a single brush is risking limiting the individuals involved to a stereotype.

So we urge you to have a little compassion. Show a little empathy. Remember that there are individuals behind the stories and the words.    

How do you view adoption? 


Scammed!

Scam. I’ve been scammed! I sent my money to a Nigerian prince, only to find out there is no Nigerian prince. I sent money to the IRS because they were threatening me with arrest. Only later did I find out it wasn’t really the IRS. I thought I was in love, and my man ran into some trouble overseas and needed money to pay a hospital bill. You know the outcome…it was a scam!

Adoption scams have been around for a long time as well.

Typically, this will involve a woman either pretending to be pregnant, or in some cases actually is pregnant, promising the baby to multiple potential adoptive parents. In the traditional scam, she will take money for living expenses from these families, only to have a change of heart when the due date comes and goes.

Of course, this is highly illegal. It is a Level 6 felony in Indiana. And most agencies, attorneys, and prospective adoptive families are on the alert for these. 

But what if the payoff for the scammer is not money? What if the payoff is your time and attention? 

As the use of social media becomes more and more prevalent in connecting expectant families to potential adoptive families, the possibilities for fraud also becomes more common. Recently the term “emotional scam” has entered the conversation after the promise of a baby being born “in the next couple of days” is offered to potential adoptive families without the request for money.

In these scenarios, an expectant mom reaches out over social media and begins talking with a prospective adoptive family directly. Usually the conversation goes very well and seems to be legitimate. The adoptive family begins scrambling to make plans to travel to another state, engage an attorney or agency in that state, and make arrangements for an adoption to happen! 

Of course, there comes a point where the story falls apart. Maybe the potential family encourages the scammer to contact their agency or attorney. Maybe the potential family suggests a meeting and is met with resistance. Maybe the instincts of the potential family kicks in and they simply block this person from their phone and social media accounts.

No money has changed hands. Where’s the harm?

For anyone trying to adopt, the harm seems obvious. Hopes and dreams are on the line! The thought that someone choseyou, wantsyou, and thinks you will be great parents is the validation you have been looking for! It’s the next step in getting a baby. It’s the next step to parenthood.

For the scammer, the payoff is the attention that is received. It’s the listening ear, the sympathy, the time. 

It’s the mental illness.

The good news is that families hoping to adopt and who are working with reputable professionals have support and emotional reserves on which to draw that will carry them through until their baby is in their home. The time spent with someone trying to scam them will pass and someday be a distant memory. 

The scammer will be left looking for the next attention fix—scouring the internet for the next vulnerable person who will ease their loneliness and pain.

If you are not certain about a potential adoption situation, please contact your agency, attorney, or home study provider. The process of adoption is difficult, but you don’t have to go through it alone.  


There is no “typical” adoption.

You will hear it a million times, but it couldn’t be more true. There is no “typical” adoption. When we met our amazing, strong birth mom for the first time, we clicked like crazy, and laughed and talked our way through a two hour dinner. We thought she was due in two months. But when it was determined she might deliver earlier (like, three weeks from that first meeting earlier), my husband and I watched the amazing ladies of ASC spring into action to button up all the paperwork, and answer our one million questions.

Our birth mom generously invited me to be with her in the delivery room, so I could be with the baby from her very first moments.

We bought a car seat, and packed a “go” bag, so we could be ready to run to the hospital the second we got the call that she was in labor. We cleared our schedules and let our bosses know what was happening so we could have some time off when we brought baby home. We were so incredibly excited to be matched with someone that just felt “right”. Then we settled in and nervously waited to get the call. 

But the call that finally came was our coordinator Leah telling us that the baby had arrived even earlier than what we were expecting, and the birth mom had changed her mind about placing her daughter for adoption.

It didn’t sink in what had happened.

All that build up, and all that springing into action, then no baby. Our prayer from the beginning of our adoption journey was not just to become parents, but that the situation with the birth mom felt resolved and right, and we knew she was at peace with her decision. So of course we understood that she had changed her mind, and we comforted each other by saying “this just wasn’t meant to be our baby”.

But it still really hurt. About two weeks after the fall-through, I found myself telling a friend “we lost a baby”, and just saying the words out loud really drove it home. We were back on the waiting list, back to square one, waiting to be rematched, still not parents. Thanksgiving came and went, and we dragged ourselves through it. My husband forced me to decorate for Christmas, and planned a trip for me to visit a friend in NYC to get my mind clear so we could be emotionally ready when the time came to be rematched and go through it all again. 

Instead, we got another call from our coordinator Leah saying that birth mom had changed her mind back, and would we still be open to adopting her baby? My husband said yes right away, but I had so many questions, and honestly, my heart was still broken from the first go-around. I didn’t think I could bring myself to potentially lose the same baby two times! Leah answered literally every single one of my questions.

The adoption was set for the next day.

This baby girl was being placed for adoption. The birth mom really hoped that we would be her parents, but understood if we couldn’t get there that quickly after the fall through. Looking at our awesome daughter now, and seeing how perfectly she fits into our family, I can’t believe I questioned it for even a millisecond.

We truly got the child we were meant to raise, and are so happy we put our hearts on the line one more time!

Adoption day was so incredibly special. We drove to the agency, unsure of what would happen, if the birth mom would go through with it, trying to find the words to write in a card to express our gratitude in case we didn’t stay in communication and never got the chance to tell her again. We knew it must’ve been such a struggle for her to prepare herself to place her baby for adoption two different times, and we had been thinking of her and praying for her during the weeks after the fall through, just hoping she was doing well, and at peace with her decision. As hard as it was for us to go through the fall through, we couldn’t even imagine what she was feeling. 

When we got to the agency, the paperwork had already been signed. It was done! She was our daughter! We walked to the back building, and our incredibly strong, amazing birth mom literally placed her daughter she had been parenting for the past month in my arms. Just like that, after years of waiting for a baby, all the doctor appointments, all the frustration and pain that comes with infertility, all the heartache, she made us parents, made us a family of three. It was such a powerful, and amazing, and surreal moment. The gratitude we felt (and still feel) is really indescribable.

One of the best days of our life was probably one of the worst days for our daughters birth mom.

Her strength in that time is something we are excited to share with our daughter when she’s older, so she knows without a doubt that the decision to place her for adoption came from absolute love. We all sat together, talking and laughing about what super awkward new parents we were, our birth mom’s friend teasing us about how bad we were going to be at doing our daughter’s hair. We will always treasure that time we got to share together.

When our daughter’s birth mom was ready to go, we said our goodbyes, spent about twenty minutes figuring out how to buckle her into the car seat like total nervous new parents, and headed home.

It really is amazing how quickly you can fall in love with your child.

By the time we got home, a switch had flipped, and she was our daughter! The next couple of days were such a blur. We literally became parents overnight! With so much help from family and friends, baby gear and supplies showed up at our house, and we began to settle in. The lights on the Christmas tree my husband forced me to put up turned out to be a great way to calm a fussy baby. Friends and family visited, and everyone called her our Christmas miracle (and she was!). The trip to NYC was cancelled and my google searches switched from “cute winter boots” (to pack for my trip) to “best baby bottle for one-month-old”. With no planned maternity leave, our brand new daughter just slept in a swing next to me while I finished work projects, and we figured out how to work out this unexpected parenthood. It was such a crazy, sleepless, hard, amazing, joyful time! 

We weren’t sure if we would hear from our daughters birth mom or not, we had left that decision up to her. After about two weeks, she got in touch, and was ready to see some photos and just check in. I was so scared to share photos with her. What if she wanted her back? What if this child we had already fallen in love with wasn’t going to be ours anymore? What if it was too painful for her to see her baby she placed with new parents? It didn’t matter that all the paperwork had been signed, and everything was official, that crazy strong (and sometimes irrational) maternal instinct still kicks in.

My husband and I remembered what we had been told in our pre-adoption class about honoring our birth mom by keeping our promises, so I took a deep breath, and sent a bunch of photos. And we got the most amazing response (we saved it to share with our daughter when she’s older). “I love the pictures. You just don’t know how happy I am that you two took her in as your own. Words can’t explain how I feel. Thank you for the pictures.” And it clicked. We were just three adults who will always be unified in wanting the absolute best for this little girl.

It is such a powerful and amazing thing to be a part of.

Literally one of my favorite things we’ve gotten to do as human beings. My husband and I both feel so lucky to have experienced what we can only imagine is adoption at its best.

Our daughter is now two and a half, and we look forward to our visits with her birth mom. They are always the best, most joyful days, and we continue to be in awe of her strength in this decision, and her dignity and grace. We are so glad to be able to give her the opportunity to see firsthand how happy and healthy her daughter is. And, of course, we are so, so very grateful that she chose us, and we get to be the parents of one awesome little girl!! 



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 


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.