Adoption and Holidays

family treeI hope everyone had a wonderful Easter!  We were able to go see Ezra’s birth parents and siblings on Good Friday since Joe was home from Chicago and we all had some free time.  We all had our own things going on for Easter, so it was nice to spend a couple hours hanging out and catching up, plus we got to see their new house! We are all getting together again on Mother’s Day weekend to celebrate and I had a little gift picked out for T for Birth Mother’s Day to celebrate all 3 of her children, but of course, I couldn’t wait that long and gave it to her when we visited.  (She knows I am terrible at waiting!)

A year and a half into our adoption, new things are constantly coming up.  I am starting to think a lot more about how I will talk about Ezra’s adoption with him as he begins to understand what it means.  Holidays bring the unique relationship forefront.  Having an open adoption and often celebrating holidays together with all our extended family, brings a different dynamic to adoption.  Also, things come up between us and his birth parents now as we all try to navigate this process.  I LOVE how open J (Ezra’s first father) is with us about his feelings on the adoption. He is so honest and addresses things so respectfully.  He asked us on Friday what we would like for Ezra to call him and T moving forward.  Obviously Mommy and Daddy are reserved for me and Joe, and although J obviously longs for that title a little with Ezra, he also knows that it would be very confusing.  We tossed around a couple ideas and landed on just using first names for how Ezra will address them, but Joe and I will still talk to him about who they are.  Ezra also has biological siblings.  Isaac is Ezra’s brother as far as Ezra currently understands, but there will be a time where Ezra learns more about his biological siblings.  They are a couple years older than Ezra, so they already have a slightly better understanding of who he is to them.

With holidays, there is also the involvement of extended family and friends.  Whether it is on the child’s biological side of the family or the adoptive, when everyone get’s together, especially the first few times, it can be awkward.  The beauty is everyone is so in love with the child, there is that as an instant connection and bond.  Sometimes it can be a little strange though for people like me, who are ultra aware of other people’s feelings.  I am constantly over thinking, protecting, being cautious, and trying to stay politically correct or comforting.  So, I may fumble over the introduction when introducing Ezra’s birth parents to people.  Or I may feel uneasy saying “Come to mommy” to Ezra with his first parents right by me.  I may keep a watchful eye on conversations and interactions with different members of the family. With time, these fears are easing as our relationship grows.  We all love him so much and we just have to show Ezra that we are all willing to do EVERYTHING it takes to make his life the best we can.

This year’s Mother’s Day weekend cookout will be our third full family gathering.  A few people from my family that weren’t able to make it to the first events will be attending, so I am not out of the woods yet with my watchful monitoring, but I am sure it will go great.  I know new things will continually come up as we learn to navigate and understand open adoption, but I am glad I have support and amazing people in our journey to help us along.

So, there are a few things I would love your feedback on? Comment below.

1. What holidays are your favorites to celebrate with you child’s birth family (or adoptive, if you are a birth parent)?

2.  Have you ever had any hiccups between your family and the birth family at events? If so, what happened and how did you handle it?

3. What does your child call his/her first parents?

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The Thing I Love Most About Open Adoption

mineA few nights ago I realized my favorite part of open adoption. It is sharing my proudest moments with someone else that is equally proud! I just LOVE when my son does something new and I can share it with his birth mom. Sure I can say it to my family or post it on Facebook. It may even get a bunch of likes and comments. But other than his birth parents, no one is quite the same level of proud of him as we are. That is a very special bond.

My husband has been away on business for a few weeks.  He has luckily been given the ability to come home for the weekend to spend time with us (and because he teaches a Saturday class at a local college).  This weekend we tried basking in as much family time as possible.  Friday after we picked up Isaac from school, we went out to dinner and since the weather was perfect, we headed to the outlet mall to get the boys some new gym shoes.  When we returned home, the boys still wanted to be outside (Ezra loves being outside and is constantly running to the door saying “side”).  Joe and Isaac were tossing the football around and Ezra was just cruising around the driveway and the yard in his new Nike’s.  Of course, like any proud mom with an iPhone, I was snapping pictures.  Then I remembered that T, his birth mom, had asked if he was starting to run yet.  So when he was chasing the dog, dad and brother around the yard, I switched the camera to video mode and recorded a little one minute clip of him running around and “playing” football.  I couldn’t wait to send it to her!

Her response was pure joy!  “Look at him run.  I love it.  It almost looks like he’s been running and walking for years!”  I typed back “he’s a pro!” and her next message was when it hit me… she said “I’m so proud.”   It is those moments that I know that no matter how many likes a picture gets on Facebook or how many oohs and ahhs grandparents, friends or other family members give, no one else in the world shares the same love for him with me and Joe as his birth parents do.  They’ll never tire of seeing pictures that look exactly the same as the ones I took the day before.  They’ll never think I talk too much about him.  They’ll never think “Gosh this woman is obsessed with her baby.”.  They get it.  They are still his parents too, even if they aren’t parenting him.  They are proud of him.  They love him.  They take joy in his happiness.

So many people are still scared off by open adoption, simply because they don’t understand it.  Open adoption is not co-parenting or fearing that my status as “Mom” is at risk.  It is sharing the joy of a child that is loved by many.  Imagine depriving them that joy of knowing how he is doing, that would be a terrible heartache to be responsible for causing.  Being able to share with him their love, well that in itself is very special.  He will know he is precious, loved and cherished.

“He is mine in a way he will never be hers, yet he is hers in a way he will never be mine, and so together, we are motherhood.”

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Birth Father Rights – Sound Off

lawBookA few days ago, on an adoption Facebook page, a moderator asked the question: “If you could change one adoption law, what would it be?”.   Wow, where would I start, how could I choose just one?!?!?! I went with a general answer of “federal adoption reform laws” and then added in a few examples of lowering/standardizing adoption fees and making birth father part of the process and not a burden.  This spiraled out of control by people in the “anti-adoption camp”.  They accused me of saying that the birth father posed a burden to me getting my baby via adoption.  This is NOT at all what I meant and luckily before I saw it a friend came to my rescue.  Although the nay sayers still questioned my intent.  So here it is…

In many states birth fathers have very little rights when it comes to the baby they helped create.  Utah is the worst of all the states.  Adoption agencies in Utah actually will pull expecting mothers from their home state to Utah and house them there (at the expense of the potential adoptive parents) to hide them away from birth fathers who are seen as someone that can interfere with the adoption plan.  The right for these men to have a say in the adoption or parent their child is stripped of them.  In states like mine, Ohio, things work a little differently, but recent proposed adoption laws seem to be getting more and more like Utah in my opinion.

When we matched with our first expecting mother, she lived in Indiana which is a state that allows expecting fathers to sign their rights to the child away prior to the birth.  Although the father of the baby did so prior to birth, he later regretted it very much.  This was a constant source of heartache and stress in our adoption match and was one of the reasons the match was not fruitful.   With our second match, the one that resulted in the placement of our son, it was in Ohio and done differently.  The expecting father had rights.  He was involved.  He was a part of the process and agreed 72 hours after birth, just like the mother. It’s not always the case in Ohio though.  Ohio has something called a Putative Father Registry.  In Ohio a woman is not obligated to tell a man she has become pregnant.  It is said to be the man’s duty to inquire if a pregnancy resulted from intercourse.  After birth in Ohio, a father has up to 30 days to register that he thinks he MAY be the father of a child born.  This can disrupt the adoption and that’s not what this blog is about… this blog is about the fact that he is not required to be notified or given any opportunity to fight for his child before birth.  He has to KNOW the registry even exists in order to register.  Did you know about this registry?

Ohio’s new bill passed the House in January and it takes the ability for a father to register with the Putative Father Registry from 30 days down to 7 days.  They are also stating that it “Establishes a pre-birth notification process modeled after the one used in Indiana to provide a mother the option to notify a putative father prior to giving birth”.  I’m sorry, but why is this a legal matter?  The expecting mother CAN ALREADY NOTIFY him.  What this is actually saying though is that now she can ask him to sign away his rights or be forced to sign away his rights by serving him a court order as they are able to do in Indiana and other states.  Don’t mistake the verbiage they are using in the bill for being pro-woman or pro-family.  It solely serves the purpose of diminishing the man’s role in the adoption process because agencies see him as an obstacle to overcome so they can place the baby in a paying clients hands.

As an adoptive mother, I am NOT ok with any form of coercion when it comes to becoming a mother.  If a father is not involved in the adoption plan, I don’t want it to be because he was tricked, manipulated or lied to.   I am part of an adoption triad that is VERY open and is open with all family members.  Not only are Ezra’s birth parents involved regularly in his life, but extended family members as well.  Adoption doesn’t have to be ugly like these laws are trying to make it.

Here is more information on the Ohio Putative Father Registry Law:

3107.061 Putative father on notice that consent unnecessary.

A man who has sexual intercourse with a woman is on notice that if a child is born as a result and the man is the putative father, the child may be adopted without his consent pursuant to division (B) of section 3107.07 of the Revised Code.

Effective Date: 06-20-1996

3107.062 Putative father registry.

The department of job and family services shall establish a putative father registry. To register, a putative father must complete a registration form prescribed under section 3107.065 of the Revised Code and submit it to the department. The registration form shall include the putative father’s name; the name of the mother of the person he claims as his child; and the address or telephone number at which he wishes to receive, pursuant to section 3107.11 of the Revised Code, notice of any petition that may be filed to adopt a minor he claims as his child.

A putative father may register at any time. For the purpose of preserving the requirement of his consent to an adoption, a putative father shall register before or not later than thirty days after the birth of the child. No fee shall be charged for registration.

On receipt of a completed registration form, the department shall indicate on the form the date of receipt and file it in the putative father registry. The department shall maintain registration forms in a manner that enables it to access a registration form using either the name of the putative father or of the mother.

Amended by 129th General AssemblyFile No.180,HB 279, §1, eff. 3/20/2013.

Effective Date: 07-01-2000

3107.063 Searching putative father registry.

An attorney arranging a minor’s adoption, a mother , a public children services agency, a private noncustodial agency, or a private child placing agency may request at any time that the department of job and family services search the putative father registry to determine whether a man is registered as the minor’s putative father. The request shall include the mother’s name. On receipt of the request, the department shall search the registry. If the department determines that a man is registered as the minor’s putative father, it shall provide the attorney, mother, or agency a certified copy of the man’s registration form. If the department determines that no man is registered as the minor’s putative father, it shall provide the attorney, mother, or agency a certified written statement to that effect. The department shall specify in the statement the date the search request was submitted. No fee shall be charged for searching the registry.

Division (B) of section 3107.17 of the Revised Code does not apply to this section.

Amended by 129th General AssemblyFile No.180,HB 279, §1, eff. 3/20/2013.