Watch this: Family is Adoption

I just came across this touching short film about special needs international adoption and an incredible household that’s absolutely bursting with love and hope. This is a different type of adoption than we are currently pursuing, but this family’s story is so uplifting and inspirational. I love what the dad says about adoption and what the kids say about family. It makes me want a whole houseful of little ones! But like Jamie says, “One at a time, Allie. One at a time.” Β πŸ™‚

It’s a great story for a Friday if you have 5 minutes to spare. I promise it’s worth it.

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Don’t put adopted children in a box

One of the things that worried me when we first considered adoption was the emotional scar that adoption leaves on adoptees. I know adoptees feel a loss, even if adopted as infants, and that it’s natural and understandable for them to wonder why their birth families couldn’t raise them. If I was adopted, I would wonder that, too, and I’m sure it would hurt. But some of the stuff I’ve read online makes adoption seem like it’s a life sentence for misery. The notion of the “Primal Wound,” in particular–that a child is irreversibly damaged when separated from its mother at birth–is disturbing. At first, this really freaked me out. Is it a given that my child will grow up to be miserable just because he or she is adopted?

growBut then I realized I shouldn’t believe everything I read. I don’t agree with this at all. Yes, adoption involves loss and grief. But adopted children are not broken, irreversibly damaged, or hopeless. There are many other, perhaps far worse, hurts a child can experience in life and still remain resilient.

My parents went through an ugly divorce when I was nine and shortly afterwards, my mother, brother and I moved out of the small town we had always called home and away from all of our family and friends. Did I feel a tremendous sense of loss from that? You bet. I was a daddy’s girl and it was incredibly painful when he was suddenly no longer a part of my day-to-day life. And it was scary and difficult starting a brand new life at that age away from all that was familiar. But many wonderful things also came out of that divorce and move. I gained new family members and friends who I treasure, for example, and opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I learned to be brave and strong and independent and unafraid of change–all things that have served me quite well in life. Did the loss and pain from this experience determine who I have become and my happiness as an adult? Yes, but in some very positive ways.

Adopted or not, life is full of loss–for all of us. That’s just life. What matters is what you make of it.

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Nesting: Not pregnant but expecting

clean-instinctI’ve been thinking more and more about the baby’s arrival lately and what we need to do to prepare.Β The fact that we could have a baby here sometime in the next several months hit me on Saturday morning after breakfast. Fortunately, it was rainy, gray and totally blah outside, because all I wanted to do was organize, clean, organize, and clean some more.

If you know me, you know this urge doesn’t strike me very often, if ever. I mean, our house is clean, but I don’t spend all weekend cleaning. And I’ve never been a particularly organized person (or even a mildly organized one if truth be told). My closet has never been arranged by color. My pots and pans don’t always get put back in the same place. We still have unpacked boxes in the storage closet. Typically, I’d rather be hiking or running or doing something outside than spending an entire weekend refolding clothes and finding a better way to place things in a cupboard. But that is ALL I wanted to do this weekend.

“What is happening to me?” I asked Jamie when I finally sat down after ten hours of organizational mayhem. He laughed. “Um, I think you’re nesting,” he said. “Majorly.”

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Learning to share…

ATWhen I first started writing this blog, I had it set to private so no one could find it. I was going to treat it like a personal journal of our adoption process. Writing has always been therapeutic for me and sometimes it’s the only way I can sort out complicated emotions. But even though they taught me to share in kindergarten, I rarely do when it comes to writing about matters of the heart.

But after writing a few posts, I thought I’d share it with my mom so she could stay updated on what was happening and understand how I was feeling since I’m not always so good at verbalizing that kind of thing. I hadn’t planned to share it outside my immediate family because it just felt too personal.

I have a tendency, as I think most people do, to keep painful things private. Somewhere along the line, I learned to keep my pain to myself which is why most of you didn’t know we had been struggling to start a family. If we had decided to progress with infertility treatments and pursue IVF, it probably would have remained that way–a very personal thing. I would have continued to suffer emotionally and mentally, in private and without ever telling you what was happening. I wouldn’t have shared the hell I would surely have been going through if and when IVF failed. It’s in my nature to want to project strength, not vulnerability, even if vulnerable is exactly how I’m feeling. It’s a defense mechanism, I think.

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Getting over it: on acceptance and adoption

A part of me has always known that I would not have a biological child. I’ve just always had a feeling that it would not be that way for me. It used to break my heart and I spent so much time worrying about it. Don’t get me wrong: it didn’t consume me entirely–I enjoy my life very much, particularly the last few years–but I also lived with a dull, ever-present heartache for a long time. Psychologists say the emotional pain of infertility is similar to receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis. There have been moments when I absolutely believe that. Not being able to start a family when everyone around you is doing so is absolutely, end-of-the-world devastating.

Summer-s-Stages-of-Grief-the-oc-10182118-333-500Looking back now, I can see that I went through all five stages of grief (illustrated here by that girl from the O.C.):Β 1. Denial: It’s no big deal. I need to “just relax” about it. If I try this supplement or that herb or stand on my head for twenty minutes or whatever, it will happen.Β 2. Anger: I can’t take seeing another pregnant woman or newborn! Why can everyone get pregnant but me?! Screw you, body! Up yours, world!Β 3. Bargaining/pleading: Please, please, I will do anything. I will give all my clothes to charity, volunteer at the soup kitchen every night, help old ladies cross the street, anything.Β 4. Depression: Crying. Crying. More crying. Sappy chick flicks. Not wanting to get out of bed. Avoiding life in general.

I cycled through numbers 1-4, on and off at varying intensities, for several years. But then like a ray of sunshine… the stage I had been waiting for finally appeared, # 5. Acceptance: I’m not going to have a biological child. And that’s OK. Get me off this crazy train, please.

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Adoption runs in the family: my cousin’s happy adoption story

My cousin Jennie and her husband Eric adopted their adorable daughter through the same adoption agency we chose. Jennie has been a huge support and amazing resource and has given me so much confidence in the process. (Thank you, Jennie!)

Our agency’s website features this video of them telling the story of their adoption day and the days leading up to it. They enjoy a very successful open adoption and their relationship with their daughter and her birth family is inspirational… as is the story of how the adoption came to be.

Looking forward to so much: the day we get “the call” about a match, they day our baby is born and the day Jamie and I have our own adoption story to share. And I feel fortunate that adoption now runs in our family and that our child will have a relative who was also adopted. That’s pretty special!

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Monthly agency update – 8 is great?

adoption searchNow that we are officially active and waiting to be chosen by a birthmother, we will receive monthly updates telling us how many prospective birthmothers were presented with our profile. We got our first one yesterday. We had no idea what to expect, but over the past month our profile was presented to eight birthmothers. I’m not sure if that’s a good number or not. When I see all of the waiting families on the website, eight birthmothers does not seem like very many. And I’m sure our profile was just one of many sent to these eight women.

Of the eight birthmothers we were presented to, three chose another couple and have been matched, two women fell of the radar, one “screened out” of the process (which I’m assuming means our agency discovered something that made her ineligible), one is in the process of matching with another couple, and three have not chosen a family yet. So, I guess we are still in the running with those three women. And if November is anything like October, we will be shown to a new birthmother every few days this month, too.

I’m not going to lie–we were anxiously awaiting the update and knew that we had not been chosen yet, but it was a little disappointing anyway. Just a little bit… kind of felt like not being picked for the A team in gym class or something.

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Heartbreak, hope and healing

Many times in the news we see adoption stories gone bad. But The Today Show has been sharing a lot of happy and successful stories lately. The show has been celebrating National Adoption Month this week and finalized twelve adoptions live on the air yesterday. It’s so great to see adoption in the mainstream spotlight. It’s probably just because I have adoption on the brain right now, but I’m seeing it everywhere.Β birthmotherstorytoday

I especially love reading stories like this one:Β Heartbreak, Hope and Healing: A Birthmother Tells Her Adoption StoryΒ about a birthmother who documented her journey to adoption. It’s heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, as I think most adoptions are. I’m really struck by the depth and beauty of the special relationships I keep seeing between adoptive mothers and birthmothers. It’s really quite special.

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Opening up to open adoption

Things have changed a lot in the world of adoption over the past 20 years. Once shrouded in secrecy and shame, the majority of adoptions are now open and involve some degree of contact with the birthmother, both before and after the adoption is finalized. Having knowledge about things like genetic medical conditions is obviously good for adopted children. And because the biggest source of pain for adopted children in the past was the unknown–not knowing who their birth family was or why they were put up for adoption–having an open adoption helps ease that pain.

But, if you ask people about open adoption, the first reaction of many is something along the lines of, “I don’t think I would want that. Won’t you be worried the birthmother will want her baby back?”

love-makes-a-family

That was actually my first reaction, too. I was intimidated and fearful of open adoption when we first started thinking about it and even as we went through the home study. There was even a point when I had serious second thoughts about whether or not I could handle an open adoption. I felt threatened. With the birthmother still somewhat in the picture, would I ever feel like the “real” mother to my child? Would I just be a substitute mom or a glorified nanny? Could I handle “sharing” my baby with the woman who had actually given birth to him? Would I be jealous of their innate connection and constantly reminded that our child was, in fact, someone else’s? Was I setting myself up for heartache and pain?

These feelings, I think, are probably pretty common among prospective adoptive parents, at least at the beginning of the process. My feelings on open adoption evolved quickly, though, as soon as I realized I was thinking about it in entirely the wrong way.

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Things I wish people knew about our adoption, #1

As a hopeful adoptive parent, I don’t expect people to understand what we are going through or what to say to us when we tell them about our adoption. I know that adoption is a different experience than most people have ever had and that people may not know what to think, especially with all of the myths and horror stories that have been in the press over the years. But even though we are just beginning the process, there are already some things I wish people knew.

#1: We chose adoption and we are excited about it

adoption is beautifulMy closest friends and family know how excited I am about adoption. But this past week, I had a well-meaning friend sit me down and ask me if I was really OK with adoption. It totally caught me off-guard. “Of course I’m OK with this – I’m very excited,” I said. This person looked at me with an expression of pity as if trying to draw out my true negative feelings. “You can tell me the truth,” she said. “How do you really feel?” I feel excited. Really. Seriously, I do.

I understand that many people feel that adoption is a last resort. That may be true for some, but while we tried very hard to have a biological child first, we did not try as hard as we could have. We did not do IVF, even though there is a chance that would have worked. We chose adoption over infertility treatments as the right thing for our family. We chose to adopt a child for many reasons. We are thrilled. We are beyond happy. We are not sad or disappointed or depressed that we “have to adopt.” We don’t have to adopt. We could have kept trying to have a biological child. Maybe we could have. Or we could have elected not to have children at all.

But we WANT to adopt. It’s every bit as special to us as if we were pregnant right now–and honestly, maybe it’s even a little bit more special. Is it going to be easy? No. Will there be some tough moments along the way? Of course. We know we will have to face some unique challenges that our friends with biological children won’t. But do we feel it will be worth it? Definitely.

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