Almost My Daughter – Adoption.com

ExactlyWhereWeShouldBeThis time of year always gets to me a little more than other times. The daughter we thought would be ours is turning two. When we officially started our adoption journey, we met a young lady who was very early in her pregnancy. We chatted a little on Facebook, as she found me through our adoption page. Since we were working with an agency in our state and she was in another state, I honestly never thought anything would come of our conversations in the form of an adoption match being made; we just talked about her situation. After talking awhile, she expressed her wish that we could be the parents of her unborn child. We began educating ourselves on the possibilities and what we would need to do since our agency only worked with people in our state. We soon drove to meet her and her boyfriend and immediately hit it off with them. We got along great and had so many similar interests!

It is a difficult journey when you are faced with a match that falls through, but time does heal and now I look back and know we are all exactly where we should be.  To read more about the way I feel about our failed match and what lead us to adopting our son, Ezra, click here to read the rest of the article on adoption.com.

Why I Love Open Adoption – Adoption.com

wearemotherhoodIt was a brisk afternoon, and we had just returned from the outlet mall where we had bought the boys new gym shoes. Our youngest son, Ezra, was running around the yard and chasing after a football. As I fondly watched on, snapping a few adorable pictures on my phone, one of my first thoughts was to share a photo with his birth mom. I remembered she had recently asked if he has started to run yet, so I switched over to video and recorded a short clip of him running across the yard. Her response was quick and full of 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.”

To read more about our open adoption and why I love it, click here to continue on adoption.com.

Did You Feel Adoption Guilt?

guiltAdoptions come with complex emotions.  One of those emotions that most birth parents and many adoptive feel is guilt.  I think it is completely understandable (yet unnecessary) for a birth parent to feel guilt.  They may feel guilty for making the adoption plan, for not being in a better place in their life, to wanting more for their child and themselves.  But, at the same time, it is my hope that they also see the all the positives of why they are making that choice.  It can come as a surprise when people outside of adoption learn that adoptive parents may also suffer from feelings of guilt.

Guilt is a loaded word.  The definition of guilt to many people is that you have done something “wrong”.  However, I think these people are just looking at the word guilt differently.  While some may use the term “guilty” to describe the feelings they have for feeling joy with their adopted child, other words could easily be used in its place.  Empathy, Compassion, Appreciation, Affinity, Pity, Sympathy, etc.  It really is about the person feeling the emotion and to what degree they perceive the situation.  Some people just tend to beat themselves up more than others.  Some people rely on the good in a situation to thrive or survive through it. (Some people just lack understanding and feel entitled.  Let’s hope none of my readers are of that variety.)

When we were in the process of adopting, I went through a variety of emotions.  Guilt was one of them.  Guilt came in many forms:  Guilt that I couldn’t provide my husband with a biological child (or that I wasn’t sure I even wanted to).  Guilt that I wanted to adopt a newborn.  Guilt that I questioned my ability to parent outside my race.  Guilt that I was going to “sell” myself as someone with more resources for parenting a child, to an expecting mother.  Guilt that I would get to be called “mommy” by a child she loved so much.  Guilt that I would experience all the firsts.  Guilt that I would never understand how tough her decision was.  Guilt that I may not be a perfect parent either.

While Ezra’s birth mother is an incredibly strong woman, I know this hasn’t been easy for her.  She seems at peace and very proud of Ezra as well as her decision, but still, I am sure there are times that she wishes she could have parented him instead of placing him for adoption.  Ezra’s birth father has always shown more emotion when it comes to the struggles he faces with adoption.  He has always been extremely kind to us and never showed us any resentment.  He is always smiling when we are together and he is very affectionate toward Ezra.  These things just show me how much he cares.  Watching the yearning in his eyes gives me guilt.  It gives me guilt to know that we have the ability to give “more” and because of that we were chosen to parent their child.  It is very normal to celebrate success, but when it contributes to someone else’s pain it is more guilt producing.

Guilt in adoption hopefully fades with time as the open adoption relationship blossoms into a healthy, loving extension of your family. Understanding that these people chose you to parent their perfect little creation is something you should not feel guilt over.  But just because it is OK to not feel guilt, does not mean it is OK to feel indifferent or not want to help ease their pain.  Sharing an open adoption and open communication is good for all members of the adoption triad.  However, if you allow guilt to consume you, you may begin to suffer in other areas and your child will also suffer.

Have you experienced any of these emotions?

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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I’m on the Radio!

Rodney Lear interview photoI went into the studio and recorded the interview for the Sunday Morning Magazine show yesterday, so now you have to do your part and tune in Sunday morning (April 13th)!

If you are in the Cincinnati listening area, you can tune in live on the radio, or if you are outside the station’s reach, you can click the links below and stream the show live.  I was super nervous, but Rodney did a great job putting me at ease and the conversation flowed naturally.  Tune in to the show for information about my adoption story and upcoming books!

Here’s the schedule for Sunday Morning Magazine with Rodney Lear 

Airs Sunday April 13th: (times are EST)

7:00 a.m. on WKRQ-FM (101.9)

7:00 a.m. on  WYGY-FM (97.3)

6:00 a.m. on WUBE-FM (105.1)

6:00 a.m. on WREW-FM (94.9)

Click picture to "Like" Sunday Morning Magazine on Facebook.

Click picture to “Like” Sunday Morning Magazine on Facebook.

Letter to Santa – By The Ugly Volvo

This is one of the best blog posts I have seen in a long time.  Ezra just turned 11 months old and this fits him to a T.  Sorry, this entry is completely unrelated to adoption, but it fits my Ezra perfect!  I had to share it with you!

A Ten-Month-Old’s Letter To Santa

By , December 10, 2013

Dear Santa,

 I am a ten-month-old baby and I write because my mother has been sending out my “Christmas List” to people, and her list does not in any way represent the things I really want.  I could give two s#*ts about receiving stacking cups.

And I know you’re ready to make the joke about ten month-old babies and how all we want is the wrapping paper and the boxes.  Touché, SantaTouché.   We do, of course, want those things.  But I have a number of additional things I want very badly.

My list is enclosed below.  Have a lovely holiday.

-Ten Month-Old Baby

See the wishlist at:  http://theuglyvolvo.com/2013/12/10/a-ten-month-olds-letter-to-santa/

Open Adoption

Open Adoption

Sarah Baker | September 17, 2013 | 06:38 PM

I posted a blog awhile back about lessons we learned during our first match. Most of the lessons we learned surrounded setting boundaries early on and communicating directly what your wishes are for the adoption. Both parties should fully understand the adoption plan so there are no surprises or hurt feelings later down the road. One of the most common things I have heard from people who are opposed to adoption or looking to reform adoption say is; “In most states, open adoption is not legally enforceable”.

Open adoption is a relatively new concept. In the lifetime of adoption, open adoptions just started being more accepted in the 1970’s. As with all new concepts and alterations in tradition, changes don’t occur over night. Studies were done and are still being done. Since people my age are pretty much the forerunners of this new concept in open adoption being the “norm”, it is not uncommon to have friends and relatives question and caution the decision to have an open adoption. They have fears (and let me admit, so did I before learning more about it) like; Will it undermine me as the parent? Will it confuse my child? Will it hurt the birth mother more to see the child? Will it cause trauma? Will the birth parents try to steal the child back? Will it be a competition of love? Will it be awkward? What will other people think? After hearing these questions dozens of times, it starts to get frustrating, but keeping in mind that open adoption is “new” and they are just looking out for your well being, I take it as a great opportunity to educate them and involve them in the expansion of our family.

As a reminder from my previous post (Lessons Learned):

Things open adoptions are not:

• Co-Parenting

• Custody arrangement

• Long term child care

Things open adoptions are:

• Birth parents having knowledge of well being of the child

• Self-identity for the child

• Love and communication

So my response to the people that like to constantly remind expecting mothers that “In most states, open adoption is not legally enforceable”, is that while it is indeed not legally enforceable, choose wisely. Choose an ethical agency. Choose an agency that advocates open adoption. Choose an agency that has training and education on why open adoption is healthy. Ask the agency if they will intervene if an open adoption starts to take a turn, sometimes miscommunication can be a simple fix. Tell the adoption counselor what your expectations are. Make sure you are choosing adoption for the right reasons and fully understand what adoption is. And lastly, choose a family that you feel you can trust with the adoption plan you envision and that you see your child having a good upbringing with.

Communicate your feelings, no matter what they are. Don’t assume that people know what you are thinking. But, if you are thinking that you want to see your child that you place for adoption at least weekly or maybe even monthly, that may be unrealistic for an adoptive family and could also be a sign that you don’t really want to go through with adoption. You may want to explore your options and see if there is a way you can parent. Don’t let anyone tell you that you must place your child for adoption. That is YOUR choice. Open adoptions are great, but ultimately, you are no longer that child’s mommy. You turn into a birth/first mother. So just be comfortable and confident in your choice.

So, while some people do close the door on their open adoption, I’m an optimist that likes to believe that this is not the norm or that they have valid reasons. I can’t understand why an adoptive family would enter into such an agreement and take this amazing gift from a loving woman, and then shut her out. It’s something that doesn’t comprehend in my mind. Was it in their plans from the beginning? Were they deceitful? Did something in life change? My thoughts on open adoption are this: We have an open adoption with Ezra’s birth family. I say family because it’s not just his birth parents. He has siblings. He has aunts. He has grandparents. These are extensions of my son. Who am I to deny him this identity of himself? There are very few circumstances I can see me making the tough decision to limit physical contact with these people. Those reasons would be drugs, crime, abuse, prostitution, alcoholism, etc. Allowing Ezra to see his birth parents this way at a young age would be devastating. I would carefully explain that until these actions are corrected, we would cease visits that include Ezra. However, I would never stop contact altogether. I would still send updates and photos. I would still be there as emotional support and encourage them to get back on a better path in life and if that day never came, when he is old enough, then I would provide him with the way to be in touch on his own accord. I pray that is never something we will encounter; we really enjoy our family picnics and time spent together. But, I believe they placed their son in my care so that I would do what is best for him… and if they were in one of those situations I described previously, I think I would be doing them and their choice an injustice by putting him in harm’s way.

To learn more about the benefits of open adoption and stereotypes often associated with them, please visit: http://www.openadoptions.com/ (I didn’t have a chance to read every single topic on this page, so I hope the information is useful and accurate)

Follow our adoption story more at www.facebook.com/OurAdoption

If you have specific questions about open adoption, please message me, I am open anytime to help!

When a Match Falls Through

When a Match Falls Apart

Sarah Baker | September 13, 2013 | 02:00 PM

This is how our first match fell apart (from my perspective). Adoption is so beautiful, but the ride isn’t always smooth.

This is how fast things can fall apart. It’s been a really difficult subject for me to talk about. We went to visit the expecting parents in their home town in September of 2012. During that visit we had a scheduled 4D sonogram. Our birth mother also had signed us up for a TV show. The producers and camera crew were there to spend the weekend with us and document our story. It was an amazing weekend… but emotions were high and many things came up that were red flags that this adoption may not be everything we and the birth parents were looking for. Our previous visits we stayed in a local hotel. This visit she invited us to stay with her so we could have more time together. We had grown into more than just a “match”, we were friends. We left feeling closer to both of them than ever, but also had concerns that we weren’t on the same page all the time with what adoption is.

The birth father never fully supported the idea of the adoption. He is 15 years older than the birth mother and has 3 children. She is the mother of a wonderful little boy, whom she gets no financial support for from his biological father. She convinced the “birth father” that together with 5 children they would NOT succeed and adoption was the best plan. He reluctantly signed papers that would terminate his rights as long as she was moving forward with the adoption. During that weekend visit, on and off camera, he told all of us that he was becoming more comfortable with the idea of adoption, but would still prefer to keep her. It was very difficult for my husband and me to move forward knowing that this father wanted to parent his baby. But we also wanted to support the birth mother, and let’s face it; we wanted a baby that she wanted to give us. That’s when we found out they were going to want more involvement in the child’s life than what we were prepared for. The father wanted custody returned to him if we were to both die and he wanted us to return with her yearly for a father/daughter dance at his church in addition to the many other visits a year we were offering, plus a lot of holidays spent in their home. This we were terrified of. If we are being honest here, we felt it may threaten our bond with the baby as her “parents”. We also didn’t want to commit to something, living so far away, that we may not be able to stick to. Broken promises, I assured myself, were much worse than hearing the truth at the beginning. Unfortunately, I hadn’t had the opportunity to express the “truth” until it was too late.

The birth mother, young and not truly wanting adoption, seemed to also be having a hard eliza bellytime with separating herself from the baby. She called the baby by the name we chose and referred to me as “mommy” when she would tell me that “Eliza” was saying goodnight to me each night. But, she had loved and cared for this child in her womb for 7 months and was now forced with the very real fact that she chose adoption. Meaning someone else would be parenting her baby girl. This was something she was having a very hard time with. Almost daily I worried about her emotional attachment AND the one I was forming to the baby as well. We provided her with a counselor of her choice so she could work through what she was feeling and help her come to a decision she was comfortable with. I fully believe that if a mother wants to move forward with adoption, then that should be supported. But if a mother wants to parent her child, then she should have that option without feeling guilty for making the decision. I checked in with her all the time, making sure adoption is what she wanted. She always assured me it was. But, I felt I needed to prepare for her to change her mind anyhow. Gut feeling I guess. I couldn’t talk directly with her private counselor, but I often reached out to the one provided to her by the adoption agency. Whenever I was concerned for her mental stability or how she was handling her choice, I made a quick phone call asking the agency to check in on her. Sometimes, I knew I wasn’t the right person for the “birth mom” to talk to.

I had always told her we would like the baby to know them and see them “as much as possible”. Being that we live 4 hours away, both work and have an 11 year old son that is active in many school, sport and music activities, we thought they would understand that would probably mean a few times a year. After all, she already knew that we were already running into scheduling conflicts with our visits during the pregnancy. When we returned from our visit, everything seemed to crash and fall apart. She started asking a lot of questions, that I thought the agency had already clarified with her, but she was feeling the need to ask me directly. When I told her we could visit her 2-4 times a year and they could also visit us, she was devastated and it led to two solid weeks of her being very upset and angry with me. I tried everything to fix it, but it just wasn’t enough. She only heard what her emotions filtered. I told her it was ok if she wanted to keep the baby, because it felt like she was not happy with the amount she would get to see her if she went through with adoption. She lashed out again. She didn’t understand why I thought her emotions meant she wanted to keep the baby. To me though, that is exactly what she was saying. I wanted her to know it was ok.

I admit there were times I had a very hard time containing the anger I felt when she lashed out at me. She accused me of lying to her, leading her on, not trusting me and betraying her. It’s natural to get defensive when a person feels attacked. There were times I let my emotions get the best of me and I responded to her hastily. But, no matter what, it is understandable that a scared, young mother is terrified of this process and I am the best person to lash out at… I was, after all, the threat, the woman “taking” her child.

As things began to mend with us several weeks later, she found out that by switching agencies, (She switched because the agency and myself wouldn’t participate in filming us for the show having a mediated meeting to rectify our differences.) the consent form signed by the birth father was no longer going to be used and he would have to sign all over again. She was scared of what may happen because she says she still wants to move forward with adoption. The new agency began showing her adoptive parent profiles and she is telling me about them. This is what got us into this mess in the first place that blurred line of friendship and adoption. It hurt very much hearing about new families she was considering and picturing them with the baby I was just weeks ago so certain was going to be in my arms. We knew we were not getting the daughter we thought we were going to have. It became very hard to maintain a relationship with her when I felt sick to my stomach and so much stress and depression over this situation.

After time, and convincing my husband that this wouldn’t happen again, we moved on. We got matched again a few months later and we now have our beautiful son, Ezra. But that doesn’t take away the pain, the loss, the sadness, the anguish, the anger… Having never had a miscarriage, this must be the heartache that is felt? When the baby was born, she did decide to parent her. Her and my relationship took time to move forward, but we did try. It was just last week that I made the very, very difficult decision, that for my mental health and the happiness of my family, it was time to move on. I wish her well and hope that she succeeds in life and reaches all her goals. She has a beautiful daughter now. I wanted to remain in their life, but I realized it hurt me and stopped me from healing. It may have been a selfish choice to move on from our friendship, but one I do not regret… so far.

Is a failed match something you fear? Have you had one fail in the past? I’d love to hear your experiences.