Mommy Wars Are Real – Adoption.com

adoption educationParents are all too familiar with the phenomena called Mommy Wars. I was watching a Disney movie called Zapped with my older son the other day, and the main character accused her boy crush of pretending to be competitive with other boys in order to be friends with them. He turned the tables on her and said that girls pretend to be friends in order to be competitive. How many of us are guilty of that? We have the choices between organic or regular, formula or breast milk, stay-at-home or working mom, public or private school, and the list goes on and on. Every day people compete with one another in so many areas of life. Parenting is no exception. How far can we take it?

In the adoption community, just like anywhere else, people are often in competition.  How can we support one another and learn to not compare our adoption to the adoptions other people have?  Click here to continue reading the article at adoption.com.

The Right Foot

open adoption

Open Adoption, Open Heart

If I can give one piece of advice, it is that in all the training you will receive, you may not be taught that starting off the relationship on the right foot can never begin too early. When I say that, it means learning positive adoption language is a big deal. You may learn a few things like to use “created an adoption plan” over the dated version of “giving up for adoption”. There are many other situations though that choosing your words carefully can go a long way. But it really isn’t about just being politically correct, it’s about respect.  It’s about understanding people’s feelings.  It’s about willingness to learn.

Today with open adoption being the more normal route domestic adoptions are taking, starting that relationship off with respect is so important. As adoptive parents we are gaining something that we could not achieve on our own; a child. Imagine the heart ache and loss the expecting mother goes through every day leading up to placing her child and will likely feel every day after the placement. Respecting her as a human and the parent of that child shows you love not just her baby, but her as well. And don’t forget about the father, he may or may not be involved, but until you know otherwise, assume he is.

Remember, positive adoption language is not just about being politically correct, but respecting her. Moving forward in an open adoption requires respect. Respecting her for her decision and not just going after her baby and saying “all the right things” will create a lasting relationship that your future child can respect you for. There are many resources out there to ensure you understand positive adoption language. If it is not offered in your adoption training, seek it out for yourself, you’ll be happy you did.

Part of respecting her, is also respecting her story. Respecting that her story is also your future child’s story. People can be nosey when it comes to adoption. Some are genuinely curious about adoption, some just want to the juicy details. So decide how much you want to share with people and stick to it. People will ask all sorts of questions that you never dreamed of. IE. “Why is she giving him up?” “Is she on drugs?” “Does she know who the father is?” “Why doesn’t she want to keep him?” Etc. Keep in mind that what you share with people now, may get back to your child or give the inquisitive people less respect for the birth mother in the future. While you may have the best intentions of sharing the story with people, they may repeat it back at inconvenient times. If your open adoption ends up being like mine, we invite our son’s birth parents and other biological family over a few times a year for family gatherings. We want everyone to feel comfortable. They are all part of our extended family now. While a person may be at a low moment in life at the time of placement, often the reason for them creating an adoption plan is to not to just give their child a better life, but to also give them the ability to improve their own life.

I think that letting the expecting mother know that you will support her in any decision she makes is very important. It shows a great deal of respect. Yes, of course you want to be a parent and adoption is your goal in having this relationship with her, but her knowing that you will be ok if she decides to parent or picks another family over you, goes a long way in her trust in you as good people. But don’t just say it, MEAN IT! Get yourself in the right frame of mind before entering the relationship.  She is not there to make you a parent.  You are there to parent her child.

Starting off on the right foot with the expecting parents will help you in a lifelong respectful relationship that will be cherished by your child and all members of the adoption triad for years to come.

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Adoption Backlash

Borrowed from "Adoption Hate"

Borrowed from “Adoption Hate

Before starting the adoption process, did you have any idea that some people were negative toward adoption and assume all adoptions are unethical? I didn’t have a clue. I was in for an awakening when the more I tried to learn and advocate, it seemed the more flack I caught from the protesters. At first it really bothered me, now it inspires me to keep going forward in my journey. It is still hard to not take their comments, especially when directed at me, personal.

Yesterday on Twitter someone tagged me in two posts. The first one they said I was a baby snatcher or something along those lines and the second post, they said I lied to our son’s first mother about open adoptions not being legally enforceable and said I SHOULD feel guilt (referencing my recent blog entry). Obviously, this person was just trying to strike a nerve with me and has no clue what actually goes on in my adoption triad.

What things like this have you seen or been under attack for? How can we prepare ourselves for this and how can we respond in a positive manner that shows we are not baby hungry vultures?

These are questions I asked my online adoption forum.  The forum I moderate is composed of men and women across the globe that are either adoptive parents or hopeful adoptive parents.  They represent people from many types of adoption and are in different stages of their adoption process.  It is nice to get a variety of views and come together for insight and solutions.  It is also just a great place to know that we can talk freely and not be judged for asking questions and wanting to learn more.

Examples of how people have been attacked for their role in adoption were then brought up.  One such example is that we should take the money we have saved for adoption and give it to the expecting mother in order to keep the family intact.  This is unrealistic.  Good in theory, but if a baby only needed a little money and the rest is history, I am sure far less women would consider adoption.  The $15,000 we paid in adoption fees would not last long.  Surely not 18+ years to raise that child.

The people who speak out against adoption may come across poorly.  They may be hurt and angry.  And although they are offensive, we can still  learn from these people. Wading through the bitter words and attacks on our humanity can be difficult.  Setting our ego aside and listening to the injustice they have faced in their adoption story can help us reform adoption.  Do I think abolishing adoption is the answer? No.  And not just because I benefited from infant adoption myself.  But, because things aren’t black and white.  The downside of learning from these nay sayers, is whenever I have tried to reach out to them for clarity and have a sensible conversation with them, their repeated attacks to my family are so harsh, that I give up. I have so many times told them that more people would listen if they approached the subject with more respect, instead of scare tactics. They go for the shock value in their message instead of reasoning and solutions to the problems.

So while I choose to not engage them if they are not willing to have a healthy and productive conversation, I will not dismiss their concerns either as just angry rants from bitter people.  We can continue our education and fight for preservation of first families as well as rights for birth fathers, access to original birth certificates, open adoption and more.

A Look Back: Why were families so afraid to talk about adoption?

Cat-CatInBirthdayCakeYoureAdoptedI participated in a radio interview today and this question was one we weren’t able to get to, since we ran out of time.  I thought I would take it to the blog and address it here. I was a little worried about fumbling over my words in the interview on this question anyhow.

So, we’ve all seen the stories or had a friend or family member that didn’t know he/she was adopted until teen or adult years.  So the question is, why was the topic of adoption taboo?  I think this stems from a time of more closed adoptions. Adoption was a taboo subject for several reasons.

  • One of which is with infertility there is a bit of a stigma that is attached to it. Women have been placed in a role by society to have children. Men have a need to carry on the family name and lineage. With adoption their, so called, failure to do so is brought to attention.
  • Some people have the mindset that if God wanted someone to have children, He would grant that to them naturally, making it against God’s wishes.
  • Then there is the stigma of the child’s background. In closed adoptions, the adoptive parents were given very little to no information about the birth parents.  This lead to confusion or an inability to discuss the unknown.
  • Another reason adoption used to not be commonly talked about, was also the parent’s own insecurities of losing their status as “parents” to the child.  If their child ever questioned their biological roots, this may have made the adoptive parents feel inadequate or insecure and fear they may lose their child.  They may not have had many answers about the birth parents, so they avoided the subject all together. If or when the child learned of their adoption, then it was often awkward for all parties to discuss.
  • Often parents in closed adoptions also feared there was no “right time” to tell the child.  If the adoption wasn’t open, knowledge of the birth parents or a relationship with them wasn’t present, some parents may not have felt equipped to tell their child and answer the difficult questions, so they put it off.
  • Sometimes families adopted children from within the same family.  The adoption was kept a secret so there was not any confusion as to who the parent was.  The biological parent may have been a sister or close aunt or cousin.  So, while a relationship with the biological parent may have existed, the knowledge was withheld.

What other reasons can you think of that made the topic of adoption taboo or reasons why parents may have kept the adoptive status of their child a secret?

Sunday Morning Magazine Show

sunday morningI am so excited!  I am in Chicago this week visiting my husband with the kids while he works here for one of his clients.  He has been coming home on weekends, but since it’s Spring Break for Isaac, we decided to come to him and take in some of the city and things to do.  I have been trying to work on the blog here and there, but with also working and my boys coming down with colds, I haven’t posted.

A couple days ago I woke up and was checking my email, as I do every morning upon waking up, and I had an email from Rodney Lear at Q102 (WKRQ Cincinnati).  Mr. Lear was inviting me to be a guest on his radio show to talk about adoption!  After I read the email like 4 times, forwarded it to my husband, texted my husband saying READ YOUR EMAIL NOW, I responded that I would love to participate!

The interview segment is prerecorded, so I’ll be going into the studio on Thursday, April 10th.  He said he expects the interview will air on Sunday, April 13th.  I am sooooo nervous and yet, so excited!  Obviously adoption is something I am passionate about and I hope that this will really open some doors for people to understand adoption more!

For all you out-of-towners, don’t worry, the show is also streamed online.

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)

For everyone that can’t listen, I will do my best to get a link or file to upload to the blog as soon as I can after it airs.  Thank you so much for your support!

cincinnati

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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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I Deserve a Baby Too!

A mother's love smallIt is really easy to get caught up in our own pity party when we face infertility or have set backs in adoption.  We see women getting pregnant on accident, we stop watching the news because we can’t handle watching stories about abused children, we lash out at family members who are expecting a baby or complain about their kids being bad, and we cry at the sight of pregnant strangers in the grocery store.  Experiencing that grief makes us desperate and sometimes with desperation we lack reasoning skills.

Adoption is an emotional roller coaster all on it’s own, but then factor in the reasons you may have come to adoption; infertility, health, relationship status, sexuality, etc, and you may have extra emotions tied to the adoption journey.  While I have seen this many times lately in the adoption forums I go to, I am not going to claim I too wasn’t guilty of all the emotions that this entry is about.

Adoption isn’t easy for the expecting mother who made an adoption plan to place her child.  She is doing it for her own reasons.  She may struggle every day with her decision.  She may feel guilt that she cannot provide her child with the life she wants.  She may change her mind every day in the things she wants her child to have.  She may waiver on what she wants out of the adoption relationship.  But, let’s face it, it is her child.  It is her decision.  We have to just be willing recipients of the child with open arms.  And we need to know when it’s time to walk away from a match that is not going to work.

I know it’s really hard to do, but keep in mind this isn’t about what you are or are not deserving of… but it is about her and HER child. (Of course you deserve a child, it just might not be her child!) This is a super stressful situation for you when she begins questioning things in her adoption plan or her match with you. I experienced a disrupted match because the expecting mom second guessed all her choices when it came to us. We were matched very early on and as our friendship grew, so did her need to know things about me on a personal level and on a parenting level.  When an expecting mom chooses and adoptive family, she often romanticizes a life she envisions for her child as well as her future in your and her child’s life.  I could not live up to her expectations and the match dissolved.  It was devastating.  The expecting mother may be freaking out and the emotions she is going through are no less valid than yours. Even if she is second guessing some of the choices. She may have people in her other ear telling her she should have picked a stay at home mom or someone that lives closer or in a bigger house.  It my experience, the earlier in the pregnancy that she makes decisions, it seems the closer the time gets those decision start to waiver. (Obviously this isn’t the case for every early match.) I would much rather have a woman come to me with adoption as her choice and feel fully at peace, than trying to make the match happen because she thinks she’ll eventually be OK with it.

It’s really scary for us adoptive parents to go through, but we just have to accept what God gives us and remember that it isn’t another woman’s job to make us mothers. She is giving us to her child… not her child to us.

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Selecting an Adoption Agency

Learning about adoption was overwhelming for me.  You are not alone in feeling that way! We contacted at least half a dozen agencies and read countless chosingarticles online trying to figure out where to start and what to expect.  We were not only in distress about how long we had been trying for a baby, but then we learned that we could have anywhere from three months to several years on the waiting list for an adopted baby too.  Then factor in the enormous price tag associated with agency adoption and we were dazed.  As we began to verbalize we were considering adoption to others; we got all kinds of input.  Some of it was amazing and helpful.  Others only shared horror stories of adoptions gone wrong or questions of why we weren’t doing IVF like their friend, sister, cousin, neighbor did.  We had to take some time and process this.  Was it really what we wanted?

Fast forward several months of just setting all the agencies paperwork aside and living life… we hopped back on the train to adoption and settled down and found the right agency for us.   But how do you pick the right agency for you?  The agency we picked was a small agency located in Ohio that only dealt with Ohio birth mothers and Ohio adoptive families.  Their cost was much lower than the national agencies and they had high placement rates with a wait time that averaged 18 months.  They were very upfront about their outlooks and what we could expect.   They made us feel like we COULD do this and we WOULD be parents again.

One of the top questions I get asked by people considering adoption is: “what agency did you use?” People like to know that they can trust the agency with the task of giving them the family they have dreamed of.  So that’s the first place to start.  If you know anyone who has adopted, ask them what agency they used.  Ask them if they liked the experience.  Ask them if there was anything they wish they would have known going in.  Some agencies are very commutative with their families while others don’t relay every bite of information as it comes in.  You need to decide what you are looking for.

Things you may want to look for in an agency:

  1. What services do they provide expectant mothers?
  2. Do they offer ongoing support to all members of the adoption triad?
  3. Do they discriminate against single, transracial or homosexual families?
  4. How long is their average wait?
  5. How many families do they work with at any given time?
  6. How many placements do they do a year?
  7. What is their fee structure?
  8. When are the fees due?
  9. How do they handle expecting mother living expenses?
  10. Do they have “waiting” support groups or resources for you?
  11. Do they charge different rates for non-Caucasian children? (I know, it sounds weird, but some do!)
  12. How do they advertise?  Check their website for how they talk to expecting women considering adoption.  Are they guiding her in her decision or supporting her no matter what her decision?
  13. Do they support open adoption?
  14. How well do they communicate if you email or call with questions?
  15. Go with your gut and don’t sign anything too quickly.
  16. How do they handle birth fathers?  Do they see them as an obstacle or include them in the process?

You are looking for a few things by asking these questions.  You need to know how they operate and what will be expected from you so there are no surprises, but you also will be able to learn if they are ethical in their practices.   You may be thinking something like, “well I am not gay, so that doesn’t apply to me.”  Or “I was planning to adopt an African American child anyhow, so that’s great that the fees are reduced.”  But these things do nothing to promote ethical adoption or getting children to their forever families.

All this information can be overwhelming.  Hopefully you have found some recommendations from friends or support groups that can help you narrow down your search to a few agencies.  Once you start collecting information, you may want to start some file folders to keep each agency separate and you can then go through your own personal checklist of things you like and dislike about each agency.  Ultimately, go with your gut.  If something feels off, don’t ignore that.  Remember they have marketing to keep them afloat and in the business of facilitating adoptions.  You have to see through their glitter and make sure they are ethical for everyone involved.

Good luck in your journey!

Foster Series: 2

It’s been awhile since I have posted anything relating to foster to adopt.  I have reached out to some of my adoption community members and asked for assistance in this area.  Today’s post is brought to you by a “soon to be” adoptive mother, through the foster care avenue.  Erin brings a lot of insight from her experience with fostering children, infertility and the way she has looked at parenthood through her tenure.  Thank you for taking the time to read her story.  I think it’s a great addition to the Grew In My Heart blog.  – Sarah

Foster to Adopt  by Erin Connell

Paper chain family protected in cupped handsThis post is for those of you that are stuck between trying to conceive, treatments and contemplating adoption and/or foster care. Or for those of you who are just interested in foster care, but have biological children either living at home or are already grown up. And this post also tells my husband’s and my story to parenting, plus a small snippet of our life as foster parents.

Despite some of the more difficult things about adoption and foster care, my recommendation to you wondering what to do next is… if you really want to parent then do it! Stop trying to conceive (or at least simultaneously along with IVF/IUI) and move on to adoption. Adoption offers so many wonderful and challenging things, but the good far outweighs the bad. Foster care is wonderful too, (again challenges) but being a foster parent is the happiest thing that I’ve ever done, at least this time around. We weren’t ready the first time (3 yrs ago pre-IVF). Now instead of pouring my heart and soul into horrendous shots and procedures, I get to pour my heart and soul into children’s lives. It is rewarding and it takes away the time spent just wondering and willing myself to be a parent. I am no longer stuck waiting. I am just parenting. It may not be official, but I am finally a MOM! Some days are hard with 2 babies under 1. But at the end of the day, I can look back and say that I made a difference today. My kids are 9-month-old, James and 5-month-old, Riley. Both came to us at birth.

We were initially attracted to foster care because my in-laws fostered several children for about 6 or so years. They adopted a young lady at 12. She came to them at 10 and she is now 17. She is still learning and growing, but it is amazing the story she has to tell and the growth she has shown over the last several years. We were very involved with my in-laws kids and wanted to help children as well as start a family. All of their biological children were married and grown when they decided to foster. We were just starting our family. The cases they took were very challenging. They were a treatment home. We decided to foster babies. There are many different paths to take as well as many different types/ages of kids to help.

We had a brief stint with fostering in 2010 when we fostered twin 4-month-old babies. These babies are no longer with us and after that placement we closed our license and decided to pursue fertility treatments. They are now in a loving adoptive home, but their case took 3 years to get to that point.

It took a lot to get us to foster again. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and we may not always understand those reasons while we are suffering and even sometimes after the clouds have lifted. I believe in God and I believe in Jesus as my Savior and I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. They are the driving force in my life for why I do what I do. I would not be a foster parent or any kind of parent without them. To get to where we are now was a process. We needed the IVF process to strengthen our marriage and prepare our hearts to love children that may end up back with their birth families.

John and I will be married for 10 years this March. Three years ago was when we really decided that we wanted a family. John wanted one right away, but I wasn’t ready. I knew the responsibility of children was great and I wanted to make sure that it was something that I really wanted. We tried to conceive on our own for a while but nothing happened.  Throughout our marriage we never really used protection to stop a surprise pregnancy. I knew something was wrong, but never wanted to admit it. Then we got tested. I had blocked tubes from a surgery I had as a kid. It caused a lot of scar tissue around my tubes. I also have endometriosis. My husband had low testosterone and 0% morphology. After one IUI, we did a laparoscopy and decided to proceed straight to IVF. We spent a great deal of money and emotion and heartbreak on IVF. We did 4 tries, 2 pregnancies, and 2 miscarriages when we decided to call it quits. It was hard on my body, it was hard on our careers, and it was hard on our emotional state. It would have been all worth it if we took home a baby. Now I know we needed it to get to where we are today, but it is still painful looking back. We moved on to infant domestic adoption and were matched right away with a birth mom through an attorney. She ended up changing her mind 5 weeks before her due date. Our almost daughter turned 1 last month.

All of the past attempts to start a family were so emotionally draining; yet I still felt God pulling us into foster care. My husband wasn’t fully on board yet due to us having to complete all of the training again. 36 pre-service hours and then another home study. We had a friend who had 3 foster sons who needed to be adopted: twin 4 year olds and a 6-year-old older brother. They are really adorable kids. The older one looked so much like my husband and they were fun and we were smitten at first. We quickly realized that they had too many needs for us to handle being first time parents. Something we could have done, but they would be our only children and I still desired to start our family from infancy. We were also looking to adopt them alongside the baby girl and knew that it was too much to start out with so we ended up not adopting them, which put us back at square one.

Those boys gave us a gift. They allowed us the strength to do the training process to foster again. We did it for them. Once it was completed and we had already made our decision to not adopt them, we decided we might as well be open to receiving other calls to foster and/or adopt another child(ren). I owe those boys everything; they brought us to our James. (They are now transitioning in another adoptive home).

We were officially licensed on May 3, 2013. We got the call for our first placement on May 6th. After about 2 hours of pondering whether to accept the placement, we accepted. Two kids showed up on May 8th, a cute, blonde, 8-year-old and a teeny tiny, 10-day-old baby boy. When I first met James he was wearing only a white onesie and was sound asleep as the social worker placed him in my arms. It was a rather difficult adjustment because it was our first time back as foster parents. It was this little girl’s first time in care (We will call her K). Everything was new for all of us. It was hard to balance the needs of a newborn with all night feedings, alongside driving her to school 45 minutes away. It was the last 2 weeks of school and we wanted her to finish the year at her familiar school.

After one week, where I don’t believe I slept at all, K went to live with her great aunt. Guilty, I was a bit relieved. She was a very sweet kid, but I don’t think I was quite ready for the sass that comes with an 8-year-old. I have bonded with her now and she is welcome here anytime. We thought both kids were leaving, but it turned out that our James got to stay.

I had a long conversation with the aunt over the phone and ended up telling her our reasons to foster and also about our infertility. She always tells us what amazing people we are. She too, is amazing to take in her niece when her niece needs her the most. We hit it off and she has been our biggest advocate towards adoption of James. At that time, we didn’t know the future we would have with him. We were getting very attached and at the same time preparing our hearts to have him leave us at some point – most likely when he turned one. I didn’t think I could love him a whole year, have him call me mommy and we grow to love one another and then he would leave us. My husband once told me that if he didn’t parent “all in” then he didn’t know another way to parent. So that is what we did. We treated him as if he were our biological son. He felt like he was anyway.

There were times early on in our placement with James that I still wanted to conceive a biological child; one who matched my husband’s and mine mixed DNA. I wanted to play guess the gene game. I wanted to name my kids myself. Most importantly, I wanted to not have to drop him off to visit his birth mother and feel my heart get ripped out of my chest while I waited the 2 hours to pick him up. Everyday he felt like mine and then once a week I remembered he wasn’t.

Today and onwards, I want my foster son more than any biological child I could ever dream up if GOD was allowing me to choose. I may not have a biological connection through genetics or pregnancy, but my son is 100% mine regardless. Love is absolutely not dependent on biology. I love my husband, yet I share no DNA with him. James is ours and he will share many of our mannerisms, habits, and traits. He even looks like us, not that it matters. In other ways he will be uniquely himself. Isn’t that what we all should hope for our kids anyway? I want him to be unique and independent. (Adapted from Creating a Family’s web site.)

I also read on Creating a Family’s web site: “It’s interesting why we idealize the idea of falling rather than growing in love. When I think of falling, I think of something quick and painful. I much prefer the image of growing in love. Growth implies depth, roots, and the ability to withstand the forces of life.”

I did not fall in love with my foster son and daughter; I grew in love with them and now cannot imagine life without them both. I actually was worried that it would take more time to grow in love. I worried that I wouldn’t immediately have a connection with my child through biology and IVF or adoption. I worried that I would want my easy old life back. But I do NOT. I want my foster son to be MY son and my foster daughter to be MY daughter and I want more kids too! Funny how time and age matures me!

We got the call for our foster daughter when James was 4-months-old. She is from a different birth family than James. Some may say we were nuts to take another baby when we already had a baby. Doing the infant stage back to back was tough. I do believe she was meant to be ours – if you believe in that sort of thing. Her history is a bit scary, but we decided to take the placement anyway. She has surprised us in so many ways and is happy and developmentally on target. If either of them have learning disabilities in the future we will take those one day at time, but as of right now they are both very intelligent and delightful children. In regards to fears on loving children with disabilities, a good friend of mine told me, and it spoke straight to my heart:

“We know that the lifestyles these parents are living and the way in which they show the effects of those lifestyles doesn’t have to be repeated in our/their babies. A life of love and well-adjusted emotions do a lot of good for changing the outcome. I understand that some issues cannot be ‘loved’ away and they will be very real and lasting. In that   instance,

I would remember that you have prayed about babies and that God would bring the right ones at the right time. If you feel that she belongs with    you and that you could love her forever then it doesn’t matter what    they tell you or what future diagnoses could be faced. You can do anything!!! The struggles you have already had to plow through show  that you are tougher and that your God is more near to you than any obstacle you could ever face. Don’t let diagnosis, story, hypothesis or worker comment scare you or change your mind. Do what    God is  telling you and be tough… you can do it!”

During the tough days, I remember these words and thank my friend for them.

James will be officially adopted (Feb. or March 2014). I am happy to say that I am a foster parent to a wonderful, perfect (I can’t imagine a more perfect) little boy who I love so deeply it hurts. It hurts because I can’t imagine the thought of ever losing him. I can’t imagine the devastation that it would bring my husband who if you watch him he is so enamored by this little guy. And he is an extraordinary father! We feel the same way towards our daughter.

It will always be a little hard to share him with his birth family, but I always will because I love him and I know that is what will allow him to grow up in a secure relationship with my husband and me.

His birth parents are wonderful people who love him very much and are just working through some things in their life right now. I want them to get better. I want them to have a healthy relationship with me someday. I want them to get healthy for their 2 daughters who are old enough to understand what is happening. They are very supportive of us and asked us to adopt their son. They wanted him to have a better life. They are working towards reunification of the girls. They signed their rights away at court in November 2013. It was very emotional for his birth mom and us. She wrote me a beautiful letter and gave me a disc with photos from his birth.

Usually a case takes at least a year before the county will discuss permanency, whether that is with the birth family, a kinship family or an adoptive family. The county will give the birth parents this time to work a case plan that usually requires them to get counseling, take parenting classes, take drug tests, and take substance abuse classes. Sometimes they need to get a job or move. The goal is to become clean from their addictions and into a safe environment for themselves and their children. Some cases are simple like James’ and others are more complicated like Riley’s. We got her from the hospital and the goal for her was 99% adoption, but legally they still have to give her mother the year to follow her case plan.

Adoption and foster care are hard. Adoption and foster care are wonderful too. It is possible to have two conflicting emotions at once. I can despair what I do not have yet (in regards to fostering with no real answers to whether these kids will stay or go) and despair the challenges that adoption and foster care bring. And love what I get to be in these children’s lives and the other children we will hopefully bless as they will bless us. With adoption and especially foster care, it is challenging to strike a good balance between being respectful to the biological parents’ rights and feelings as well as showing them how much you love their/your child and being compassionate to them as well. You will have to decide how much openness you want to have with your child’s family whether fostered or adopted. These kids will always have two sets of parents, sometimes more. She is his/her mother in a way I will never know and I am his/her mother in a way she will never know, but together we are motherhood.

Openness is a thing that will take time and you will grow in a relationship with the families as time moves on. We started out with a safe distance and gradually got to know them more over time. We are pretty close with James’ sister and her aunt. We feel like extended family to them. I feel like an aunt to K. I also feel like an aunt to the other sister who is with her biological father. You will learn that these relationships can be complicated, but also beneficial to the well being of your future child/adopted child. In Ohio, open adoption is not mandatory it is a verbal agreement between you and the birth family. In regards to domestic infant adoption that openness usually is respected. In foster care you have to do what is best for your child. If the parents are abusing alcohol or drugs or in an unsafe living environment around people that are unhealthy and unsafe you may not allow your child to see his biological parents once adopted. During foster care they do see them at court appointed meetings usually for 2 hours supervised by a licensed social worker. Once adopted there is a goodbye visit where they will see their birth parents for the last time and then it will be up to the adoptive family to make decisions on what is best for their new child.

Three years ago we would never have seen ourselves being so open with the birth families. Time and God changed our hearts. My husband wanted no contact with the birth families at all and now he enjoys hanging out with James’ family. With our daughter, we have not had the same openness. I do not know what the future will be like for her in regards to her and her relationship with her birth family. We will take it one day at a time.

Whatever place you are in right now in the parenting journey, I would love it if everyone would consider foster care. There are tough kids and tough placements. These kids are hurting because they have been abandoned. They need good families to step up and intervene and sometimes save them from themselves. The older ones will test your commitment to them. If you make it through the testing phase the outcomes are so worth it! I won’t say it is easy because all parenting is hard. But parenting is worth it! There are stereotypes too and not all children from foster care fit into that mold. Many are newborns and adopted before ever going back to their birth families. All of us in humanity are working through something or have been hurt by someone. These kids are mostly just like all of us. The foster care journey has a lot of unknowns, but not unlike any other way to parenting. Fertility treatments bring a risk. Will it work? Will I miscarry? How much will I have to spend? Even getting pregnant the first time you try brings risks. Will I have a healthy child? Adoption. Will the birth parents change their mind? And then foster care. Will I parent a child that is just going to leave? Will I parent a child that just doesn’t fit into my family? Will we get along? Will my foster child have major mental or medical needs? To all these questions the answers could be hard to hear and ultimately handle. My advice and encouragement to you if you are just contemplating this journey… open your hearts to love. I don’t want fear of all the unknowns to rob you of the biggest blessing and joy of your life. We want to be parents, right? If you are struggling with infertility or not, these kids need homes and the foster care world needs willing hearts! They will bless your life as much as you will bless theirs. There will be amazing times and hard times. This is what we call LIFE.

To learn more about Erin and to read her blog, please visit fallopianfailure.blogspot.com

Milestones

walkingIt seems time has gotten away from me and it’s been awhile since my last post.  The life of having a one year old is not what I remember when Isaac was this age.  Granted I didn’t have a career back then.  I didn’t serve on the PTA as a chairperson.  I didn’t write a blog.  I don’t even remember having this many chores; laundry is never ending, the dish washer is full every day, there are toys that scatter my house, not to mention all this SNOW!  I just pretty much sat around playing with my baby.

The best part of having a one year old again, is watching him grow. One of the biggest reasons we chose domestic infant adoption was, although I had a biological child, Joe became a step dad when Isaac was 6 years old.  He was not there for the milestones that come with a baby.  I wanted him to experience the joys of being called dad and understanding the kind of love you get when you bring a baby home from the hospital and are present for every first.

Ezra just started walking.  That was a milestone I was so excited for, yet so sad when it happened!  My little baby, likely our last child, was growing up.  It’s like the ultimate transitional milestone from being a baby to a toddler/kid.  I was so excited when he lifted his head the first time, or smiled the first time, that first laugh, first bite of cereal, first roll, first crawl, first word, first stand… but first WALK!?!

Experiencing milestones gives me so much joy.  It’s when I see him the most as MY son.  My beaming pride, the look of adoration on my husband’s face, the clapping and cheering that comes from my older son, Isaac; it is all part of parenting and being a family.

When a couple faces infertility or enters the realm of adoption, milestones may be something they fear they will never get to experience.   I guarantee no matter if you adopt an infant or through foster care, there will be a lifetime of firsts that bring smiles and tears.