Finalization

Finalization

Sarah Baker | July 23, 2013 | 07:56 PM

Today, we had a huge day! We finalized our adoption of Ezra. I had no idea what to expect. We got a letter from our agency with the court date (which was changed because our first judge retired) and it included a list of rules for court. Other than that, I didn’t have a clue what to expect.

In my mind, I expected a court room that looked like Judge Judy’s. I expected a very formal hearing with gavels and someone in the corner typing on a typewriter. I walked into a small room with three tables and a few chairs. Our lawyer and adoption agency director were waiting for us in the room. The lawyer left to let the judge know we had arrived and a few minutes later he entered. We stood and the judgee told us not to worry about standing. We shook his hand and introduced our family. The judge oodled at Ezra for a minute and talked to Isaac about starting football. He went to his table and asked our lawyer if all the paper work was in order. He then asked us if this adoption was what we wanted, of course we eagerly said yes with goofy smiles plastered across our faces. Even Isaac looked excited! He then just said “congratulations” and stood up and talked to the lawyer and then posed for pictures with us. Our lawyer left the room with him and a few minutes later came back with the Adoption Decree showing Ezra was now legally our baby.

We took more pictures in the small court room and chatted for a few minutes. It all went so quickly and still feels so surreal. There were no big speeches, no formal questions, no reviewing of our case paperwork, no doctor to make sure we were taking care of the baby, no probing us or the agency director that everything was done, no truth serum or lie detectors, no gavel. It was like we just met a new guy and he congratulated us on our beautiful, chubby baby.

But, we know what the day means. The day means that he IS our son. The day means that his last name is now ours. The day means that we will need to spend every day of his life protecting him, teaching him, loving him, nurturing him, etc. The day means that the blessing we received may be a bitter one for his birth parents. These people made a sacrifice for him and for their other children. They placed him for adoption out of a love that is unfathomable by many. We may be his parents and “parenting” him… but we aren’t the only parents he has. We aren’t the only parents that love him. They will always be a part of his life through an open adoption agreement. Denying him of his family is not an option for us. Why deny him more love? Why deny him his identity? Why deny these amazing birth parents the ability to see the beautiful boy his is. They gave us a lifelong gift… the greatest gifts are those that you can share in the recipients enjoyment. They can see how happy he makes us, which makes them happy. His original birth certificate may be official sealed after today, but his roots are not.

Thank you Teri and James, today wasn’t possible without you. We are forever in your debt.

Family Bonding

Family Bonding

Sarah Baker | July 01, 2013 | 02:45 PM

When adopting a child, the fear of bond is even greater than it is when it’s a biological child. I can remember when I was pregnant with Isaac and reading about women who failed to bond with their child after birth. That terrified me. If I had those fears with my biological son that I carried inside me for 9 months, how would it be with my adopted son? I feared it would take us longer to bond. That I couldn’t give him the maternal love he needed, that things would be “different”. The good news is… it was exactly the same. It was surreal, but it was the same. I saw that precious baby the moment he was born and was instantly in love with him. The first night we bonded so well that by the next day I knew him and he knew me. My husband was instantly smitten and I saw him cry just holding our newborn son.

With adoption it can be hard to bond with the unborn child. You bond with an idea of being a parent. You may have names picked out and a great relationship with the birth parents… but you still fear that adoption being disrupted. In our first match, we put ourselves fully into that match. When we saw family members treating us different from siblings that were also expecting; we were hurt. But, for them, the match wasn’t real. The baby wasn’t here yet, there was no guarantee. We wanted to celebrate our excitement, but they were afraid. We had to speak up. We now understand that it wasn’t their lack of excitement for us, but that they were protecting themselves in the chance it didn’t go through. Of course, our first match did fall through and we felt like that would just support their cause of not being excited if we got matched again. It’s like a miscarriage, in the sense that you don’t know what could happen. But should the “what if’s” cause you to avoid attachment? WHAT IF it does go through? Then you haven’t prepared or mentally bonded with that baby?

So when we did get matched again, we were terrified. But Ezra’s first mother knew about our first failed match, she understood my need to be up front about everything and clarify our expectations and us to understand her expectations so that the match could be a success. After we got that out of the way, I was able to cautiously bond. I was still scared, all the way up until he was born. But, I also was afraid for her. Afraid Ezra’s expecting mom was hurting. Afraid she would regret her decision. See, the beauty in bonding with Ezra before he was born, was that I also bonded with her. She is an amazing, strong woman that chose life for her son. She chose to be the best mom she could be to him and to her other 2 children by placing him for adoption. I am so glad I didn’t allow my first failed adoption to result in shutting my emotions down when we moved forward with trying again.

When Ezra was born, we stayed a couple days in the hospital with him and them. We did not invite family, but we were on the phone a lot, talking to family and texting pictures. When we got home, our immediate family came to visit in the days ahead. Those family members that struggled to bond and show excitement fell in love immediately. Their fear of the unknown vanished when they held our little 6 pounds of perfection.

The best part is seeing our older son, Isaac, with Ezra. When Ezra was about 2 or 3 months old, I was talking to Isaac and I said “I can’t believe he’s ours. He really feels like he is OURS.” Isaac said “duh, that’s because he is. He’s my brother.”

Follow Up to TV Premier

Follow Up to TV Premier

“I’m Having Their Baby”

Sarah Baker | June 25, 2013 | 03:02 PM

tvshow sonogram picI don’t even know where to begin. An hour long show (43 minutes with commercials) is hardly enough time to accurately portray a 7 month long relationship during a pregnancy with the many ups and downs and emotions that go with adoption. The show title “I’m Having Their Baby”, implies something entirely different than what it is. It sounds like a show about surrogacy… or that these expecting mothers are required to place their child for adoption to the couple they have chosen.

Obviously that’s not what happened in our story. If you haven’t watched, here is the link to our episode: http://im-having-their-baby.oxygen.com/blogs/premiere-full-episode . If you did watch, here’s the recap: Mike, the father, was against the adoption, but developed a close bond with us, the adoption fell apart (we did not back out as the show implies), Tory picked another family, then Tory decided after delivering to parent her baby girl, now she and Mike are engaged.

It was very painful to watch the show and relive those emotions… but what started as pain, turned to anger while watching. We agreed to do the show because we wanted to support Tory in her decision to film her story. She decided to do it to show women the beauty of adoption, opposed to choosing abortion. We wanted to share our journey with her and show our friendship and the ups and downs of adoption in hopes that other adoptive families could learn from our experience. Unfortunately, the show had to make cuts and edit scenes down. What we didn’t anticipate though that those edits would tell the portion of the story they wanted to be told. It was not accurate in telling the truth of our journey. It focused primarily on the birth father wanting to keep the baby and the pain we all were putting him through. It didn’t focus at all on the friendship we had with him, other than a small glimpse when he and my husband Joe had a good man to man talk about the adoption.

We were thrilled though that it did show a small glimpse of our happy ending in the recap at the end. Seeing our precious boy make his big TV debut was fun! There will be a follow up of us during the season finale and how happy our life is with baby Ezra!

I am going to try to move on from this experience and not focus on all the things that could have been shown differently… but if you have any questions about our episode, the adoption process or anything at all… please use the comment section below. I will try to answer with the best I am able to do.

Adoption TV Shows

Adoption TV Shows

“I’m Having Their Baby”

Sarah Baker | June 12, 2013 | 09:30 AM

It seems in the adoption community there are mixed feelings about shows portraying adoption. When we decided to add to our family through adoption we welcomed any resource we could find to help us understand the process and cope with the emotions. Television was one of those ways. Whether a documentary on adoptees and birth parents being reunited or shows featuring the adoption process, we watched. However, I guess some feel that adoption shows shed a negative light on adoption or make adoption trendy.

One night while talking to our first birth mother over text, I was also watching a movie on the Oxygen Network. A commercial came on for “I’m Having Their Baby”. I told her how a new adoption show was coming out and we should watch it together each week. It featured two expecting mothers considering adoption and often also followed the adoptive parents the mother picked. Our birth mother thought it would be a great idea to watch together weekly (over the phone) so we could understand the emotions and gain insight the other person was feeling since those emotions are hard to communicate. I wasn’t expecting what happened next… she signed us up for the show.

What are the chances we’d get picked? The first episode hadn’t even aired yet. She started getting calls about her application and soon the media group was sending out producers and psychologists to meet with her to learn more about our adoption story so they could decide if we would be a good fit for the docu-series. It wasn’t long before they told us they wanted to film our journey. They found our friendship and match to be unique. Add in the fact that the birth father was involved and did NOT want to do the adoption and I guess it made for good TV.

Our episode airs tonight and I am terrified! The show has posted several sneak peeks of our episode on the web. I learned the hard way that although the media group shoots and produces the shows, the Oxygen Network can take the footage to make the clips any way they like. The first clip showed me in a horrible light. I cried the entire preview and was a ball of stress for days. I looked like a baby hungry vulture, circling the expecting parents to take their unborn child in the clip. What it doesn’t show is full conversations and the bond we had with the birth parents. Yes, the birth father was struggling with the adoption, so was the birth mother. It was hard to watch. So tonight when the whole episode airs, I have no idea what to expect. How can a 7 month long bond during the pregnancy be shown fully during 30 minutes of television? How can our journey be fully documented? I fear they will focus on the emotions at their highest and leave out the casual and fun times. I am nervous how I personally will look to others. Why do I care? I know, I shouldn’t care what strangers think… but fact is, I do.

It doesn’t help the situation that my family and I are on vacation. Our rental condo does not get the Oxygen Network. We have not seen the episode. So, it seems the rest of the world, our friends and family, will see the episode before we do. That feels like a nightmare to me! I have a feeling tonight my phone and Facebook will blow up.

So, hopefully you can tune in tonight and watch our episode. I hope that it portrays the real story well and helps anyone in our situation know they are not alone and maybe help them through the emotions and figure out solutions to the problems that come up. We are so happy that our story has a happy ending. Our little guy will be featured in the show’s season finale as well. The show crew came back and did a follow up with us when Ezra was 3 months old.

http://im-having-their-baby.oxygen.com/

“I’m Having Their Baby” Oxygen Network Wednesday June 12th @10PM/9Central

Continued Training

Continued Training

Sarah Baker | May 30, 2013 | 01:36 PM

Once your adopted child is home with you, the adoption doesn’t stop there. While your heart may love the child as if he is your own, the fact remains, that biologically he is not. As mothers we want to protect them. So when people ask me if I plan to tell Ezra that he is adopted, the answer is, “I already tell him”. Ok, so he’s not even 5 months old, but it’s never too early to start building his identity. An important part of who he is is that he is adopted and that he has more than one family that loves him.

Every family is different, but one thing we cannot do is be afraid to discuss with him where he came from and how he came to us. I would never want him to think his birth parents didn’t love him and that they “gave him away”. Can you imagine the pain that would cause a person going through life, feeling unwanted by someone so important? Obviously they love him; they chose life when the easy way “out” is readily available abortion. The worst thing I could do for myself would be to try to hide his story from him. He would resent me in the future. Kids have enough reasons to “hate” their parents as they get into their teens, I am not going to fuel that fire.

Not all adoptions are as open as mine, with having an ongoing relationship with the birth parents. But, if you are considering adoption, I really do encourage you to try to have an open adoption. Ezra’s birth mother initially wanted a closed adoption. We would know who she was, but she wasn’t sure she wanted contact after placement. She thought it would hurt too much. I told her how important I thought it was for both her and for him to remain in contact. I am glad she changed her mind. Information you can provide your child about his biological family will help him understand who he is and feel more confident in life. Parenting is hard enough when the child is biologically yours, but add adoption to the mix and you have a whole new set of things to think about. This is why continuing to learn about adoption is something I take very seriously. There will be questions I don’t think of. Problems I never heard about. Emotions I don’t know how to handle.

There are local support groups I have joined. I can connect with other adoptive families and hear what they are going through and share anything I may have going on. There are thousands of online resources with training, tutorials, guides, tips and social networking communities. There are books. There are counselors. Building a foundation of support is a good thing. It would be too easy to just forget that a child is adopted and keep on trucking along. But, in that child’s mind, he knows, he will fantasize about life with his birth family, he will have questions. Creating a Life Book for your child will be something he will cherish. It is a story about his life, not your adoption of him.

So, don’t be afraid. Do your research and keep learning. I think it’s much easier to address things if you see them coming than if you aren’t prepared.

Post Placement Visits

Post Placement Visits

Sarah Baker | May 26, 2013 | 08:50 PM

You have the baby home with you, you are sleep deprived, covered in spit up and the house is a mess… AND now the social worker is going to come check in on you. Ahhhhhhh! In an agency facilitated adoption, there are post placement visits done by a social worker employed through the agency. These post placement visits occur monthly and document the adoption for the court prior to finalization. In Ohio, where our adoption is taking place, the finalization of the adoption takes place 6 months after the surrender. (We finalize with Ezra on July 22nd!!!!! YAY)

I really wasn’t sure what these post placement visits were all about and we were a little nervous going into them. Luckily, the same social worker that did our home study and was with us through the whole process was the social worker that would be doing our post placement visits as well. She put us at ease and explained to us that these visits were just to check in on us and the baby to make sure we were all bonding and progressing well with the adoption.

Each month our social worker visits our home. We fill out a small form that helps her build a report that will be given to the court when our finalization paperwork is filed. The form asks simple questions about who is present at the meeting and milestones Ezra is achieving. We also include 3-5 pictures with the form that we have taken that month. We were excited that this past month we could include pictures of him with his birth family!

The post placement visit isn’t to monitor your parenting skills or anything like that, but to protect you and the child. Some adoptions don’t go as planned. Sometimes the parents or the baby are unable to form a proper bond. It is very important for a child to bond with his/her caregiver as early as possible. When a bond fails to form, a child can develop Reactive Attachment Disorder. RAD* is more common in children with absent or abusive parents or babies in orphanages. This disorder will lead to lifelong problems of social impairment. It is better to find out as early as possible if there are any problems with the adoption not working well for a family and for the baby. For us, obviously, Ezra is our precious miracle. He is the child we have longed for. He is the brother Isaac has always wanted. He is a perfect fit and we couldn’t imagine our life without him. He is ours! While uncommon, not every placement goes so smoothly.

So, don’t be afraid of the formalities of the adoption process. Everything is done to protect you, but more so, to protect that sweet baby. We as adopting women want to be mothers, but remember those babies need more than what we want, so putting them first is always the top priority.

(Each agency likely has differing methods for how an adoption is managed. It is best to inquire in advance the procedures required by the agency and the state the adoption is taking place in.)

*If you have adopted a child or are fostering a child showing signs of RAD, there are many resources for you available. Locally, a place called Positive Pathways helps families deal with this disorder.