Thursday, February 25, 2010

oa roundtable - success in open adoption

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. Click here to link to what other bloggers are writing about this topic.

If there's one thing we all might agree on, it's that we'd like our open adoptions to be successful. But what does "success" mean to you, when speaking about open adoption? Do you think it may mean something else to the others in your triad?

I've been sitting in front of the computer for the past 30 minutes trying to think of how to best articulate what success in an open adoption means to me. No discourse today. Just this...

Success means living in the joy and sorrow that exists in adoption. It is being able to fully acknowledge both the good and the bad. And then most importantly, to aptly function within this dichotomy.

Success means emotional health and stability for each triad member. This may look different, and be achieved differently for each member, but I hope for the same for each person. This would be my big picture success story. There are so many small picture successes that are running through my mind (I think this is what is stumping me from writing today) I can't even begin to list them here. So instead I go big. My hope is that in the end, no matter what, baby T, J, and us have sought and/or received amble support, and are emotionally healthy.

I guess ultimately my two success stories involve being able to live and function in the here and now as well as in the future.

Monday, February 22, 2010

there is little "for granted" in adoption

In general bio families take many things for granted that we in the adoption world can't or don't. Bio moms, if they should so choose, often take monthly pictures to show their swelling belly and these can be used one day to talk with their child about where baby grew. Bio children can look at these pictures and will someday be able to internalize that they are in that bump. Many take this for granted.

Bio families usually have an ultrasound appointment during which they can hear a baby's heartbeat, determine sex, and in the end choose to purchase the picture. I know many first time moms who do pay the exorbitant fee for that picture because of the keepsake it is for them and for baby. Many take this for granted.

When I was thinking through some of my "ideal" adoption scenarios they included a picture of our child's first mom pregnant as well as ultrasound pictures. Ideal, yes, but not impossible. When we were picked by A to adopt her son she had a c-section scheduled so we were able to fly out and meet her while still pregnant. We took so many pictures of all three (I guess four!) of us. A then invited us to her last doctor's appointment where we were able to hear the baby's heartbeat. A very emotional experience for us all. And right after we met A she hauled out a stack of ultrasound pictures and gave them to us.

An ideal situation.

Which did not turn out as expected.

When J picked us to parent her son we knew we would likely be unable to meet her while still pregnant. I asked J if it was possible to get someone to take a picture of her pregnant so we would have that to show baby someday. J agreed and her worker said she would gladly take some photos. When we arrived at the hospital to meet with J and baby, we first met with our agency worker and with J's. J's worker mentioned that she got some great shots of J pregnant as well as baby shortly after birth (it was 16 hrs after birth that we met J and baby). I was so excited about this news, but sort of distracted and ready to throw up due to nerves as we were about to meet J in person and her baby who may become our son. Honestly I didn't think about those pictures again during the two weeks we spent in the US before coming home. I trusted that J's worker would get the pictures to us, after all I couldn't have been the first prospective adoptive mom to make this request and I assumed she would look after it. Since arriving at home I have repeatedly contacted our agency asking about those pictures. J's worker has since resigned so I'm unable to speak directly with her. It took months but we just found out that the disposable camera that they were supposedly on is not the right camera. The agency thinks that camera went home by mistake with J. We have still been unable to re-establish communication with J, this we are definitely working on.

But in the meantime I am sad at the loss of those pictures. It's different to feel loss when you know it is something you will never have versus something that was within grasp and now is gone. I am also so mad at myself for not thinking more thoroughly through the process. I should know by now that you must be your own advocate in adoption. Why did I rely on someone else to follow through? Why did I put my trust in someone else with something that was so important to me? I should have asked for the camera and developed the photos on my own. I understand it is not healthy or helpful to play the shoulda, coulda, woulda game, but I can't help thinking back. I was just so darn distracted with a newborn baby in my arms!

J also mentioned after choosing us to parent her child that she had an ultrasound picture of baby that she wanted to give to us. Again, I wasn't thinking straight to ask J about it once meeting her and baby. She did not have to give us that picture, I would have even made a copy had she agreed to that. But I didn't even have the conversation with her to know if the offer was still on the table. I hope someday she can show baby T his ultrasound picture on her own. Now that would be ideal. But in the meantime I again kick myself about not following through with her initial offer.

I was waiting for the belly shot of J before starting baby T's toddler version of his lifebook. I really wanted to have that picture in his book.

No picture.

Another disappointment and another reminder that there is very little that you can take for granted in adoption.

Friday, February 19, 2010

on children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

- Kahlil Gibran

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

honey...i went shopping for the kid

Blast those baby stores with all of their cute, fun, trendy, baby clothes!

Every time I walk into above said stores I experience great internal conflict. Due to the always rising cost of adoption services we are financially in quite a different place than we were one year ago. This is from which most of my struggle stems from.

Let me set the stage. Not only did we receive baby clothes as gifts, we have been given some second hand baby clothes which is so generous. Baby T certainly has enough clothes to get him through the summer, especially if we do a couple loads of laundry weekly.

The dilemma. I am finally in a place where I can look at and purchase baby clothes for MY BABY. Not someone else's. No longer do I feel that heart-hurting, longing feeling when passing a kids clothing store. I now get to go in the store and look at clothes for a REAL baby that is my own. I love that we have such generous friends and family and am so thankful for the clothes (and toys). Yet, I too want to pick out and buy new clothes for my child, not only use hand me downs. I want to choose some of the super cute outfits from Gymboree for T and not only use clothing from Old Navy.

But this is not very fiscally responsible of me.

Then I think about how T will likely be my only child. Why am I spending money on clothing that will never be used in my house again? But one could also argue that because he could be my only child this would be the one and only time I get to look at, oogle over, awww about, and purchase wee little clothes. Buying clothes for a 3 year old doesn't sound nearly as much fun.

Therein lies my internal conflict.

Today I purchased two cute outfits from Gymboree for T (at a pretty good price). Then I did an inventory of all his summer/fall clothing (it's all lying on the living room floor at the moment!). I called a very good friend who has 3 boys (2 through adoption) to talk about realistic summer needs for a one year old and vented about my dilemma.

And tomorrow...

I am going back to Gymboree to pick up two more outfits.

Monday, February 15, 2010

moms groups

I've been attending a parenting/moms group in my community area. This has been an interesting experience for many reasons.

A part of my job is to facilitate healthy baby groups in a different area of the city from where I live. When I entered the room of the parenting group in my area as a mom for the first time, I didn't feel like a mom, my role remained that of professional. I've been working in child and maternal health for a long time so I can quite easily slide into this role. I have been a mom for only 5 months and it still doesn't come "naturally" to me to view myself in this way.

I'm not sure if attending these moms groups is of benefit or detriment to my confidence in motherhood. The first time I went I was so nervous to take T out of the car seat. Not because I am embarrassed about him but because It is quite obvious that I did not birth this child. I was not pregnant, I did not labor and deliver, and I experienced the newborn post-partum period in a very different way. Moms groups just seem to ooze pregnancy and delivery, there is a specific aura to them that I can't quite explain. No one has outwardly made me feel awkward or unwelcome. But yet I just don't feel like I completely belong.

The second time I attended this group the topic was supposed to be on "stroller fitness" which I thought would be interesting and perhaps there would be a fun demo. After sitting down and getting baby T situated on the mat I looked at the topic board and saw "pre and post-natal fitness"....eek...I would not have attended this group had I known! At one point the speaker had everyone lie down on the mats so she could check for abdominal separation (diastasis recti) which can happen during pregnancy and impact activity post-natally. I quickly busied myself with T so that it wasn't awkward that I didn't participate.

I do have commonalities with all these moms considering we are all parenting. But for some reason that seems to evaporate for me as soon as I enter the door. Instead I anticipate the differences.

I just find it so interesting that I feel completely comfortable in my role as professional at parenting groups and I am easily able to interact and get to know the moms. Now that I have become one of "them" I am much more unsure of myself and my role - I wonder if I would feel different with a bio kid...maybe or maybe not.

Perhaps the moms group thing isn't my cup of tea. I'm not so nervous and unsure of myself when in public in general. Moms can be extremely cliquey. This is not who I want to be. I love to talk about T and how he has brought new meaning to my life but I am much more than that and do prefer to have conversations on differing topics as well. I initially thought a local area parenting group would be a good thing because the group is more structured with a speaker and this would decrease potential awkwardness at not knowing anyone. But maybe attending an unstructured group of women who I know and who know how baby T entered our family is better for me at the moment. I may feel more free to speak about our family and how some of my questions and concerns are different from moms raising bio children.

One more recent example of cliquey moms. To get some exercise I recently started mall walking in the wee hours right after T gets up and before his first nap in the morning. I take the BOB stroller (which we absolutely LOVE!) and cruise around with my munchkin. I'm walking with mostly older folks but one morning I noticed a congregation of women and strollers. This, I assume, was a stroller walking group complete with a leader. They walked only parts of the mall loop and stopped at carpeted sections in front of the department stores to do stretches and lunges. Not once when passing these stroller toting moms did one look my way and smile or offer a nod of recognition that I too was stroller pushing. And there was really no way for them to see that baby T was brown skinned because no one even paused enough to glance over, so this could not have been the reason. Just another cliquey group of women!

I've decided that I will try attending the parenting group a few more times and see how it goes. I'm curious to see if and when someone asks me a question about my family. I'm positive everyone is thinking it. I don't need to explain our family but sometimes it is easier once it's out there.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

for real?

Oh, I just read this excellent post by Heather at Production Not Reproduction as she discusses this. I just don't understand the logic of some people. In the words of an old co-worker of mine..."I'm so tired of stupid people!"

And by the way, my tee-shirt today is a solid white.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

our last post-placement visit

Last week Thursday was our last visit with our social worker, our last post-placement report, and the last time we'll have to clean the house in that weird "we know it doesn't really matter but will she think we're better parents if everything looks put together..." kind of way.

The post-placement visits really haven't been that difficult. We mostly talk about how T is doing. The first time we chatted about the the whole adoption experience and our time in the US, as well as how we were adjusting to being parents, but since then it's all been about T and his development. Well at 4 1/2 months he weighed 18 lbs 3 oz so we all know he's growing! By now our social worker feels more like a family friend versus a VIP guest (although we do still madly clean the house before her visits!), due to the timing of her visit on Thursday we had her over for dinner while we completed our last report. She has seen us at our best and worst when it comes to adoption, it was really nice to end our time with her on a high note.

So now what, you might ask.

Our adoption of baby T will be finalized 6 months after we took custody of him. He has a court date in the US scheduled for March 9th, 2010.

Most of the time when we mention to people that the adoption will be final at the 6 month mark we observe a slightly confused and nervous manner in whomever has prompted such a response from us. I am quick to say that no decisions can be revoked because I can see the question formulating..."can his birth mom come back to take him?" I hate it when I hear this question. Not because I am concerned about her very important and much needed role in his life, but because of how it is asked. I know people are only thinking of us and their concern for us if they are thinking we might have to give him back. But to me that question just sounds so crass. It makes me think of all the poorly produced TV drama's showcasing legal battles between birth and adoptive families, of how first mothers are demoralized in society, and how more often than not people think negatively about first moms. It may not be right for me to jump in and answer the question before it is even asked - perhaps letting people know that T's first mom has legally relinquished her rights may say something about me that I am unaware of. I just don't want to be in the position of having to reassure someone that no one can take him away from us, it makes me feel like we don't have a valid family and that I am speaking badly about T's first mom.

Basically, the reason finalization occurs at 6 months is because the court requires 3 post-placement reports along with 3 medical reports and pictures to make sure that we are keeping up our end of our custody agreement and taking good care of him. If we were found to be unfit parents then our adoption of T wouldn't be finalized and he would be adopted by another family.

Due to some fancy footwork by our lawyer in the US, he is able to stand in as our proxy for our March 9th court date. This is a very good thing because cash flow is tight around here and a trip to the US is not in the current budget! Once the adoption is finalized we will receive documents which we can send to Canadian immigration so he can finally become a permanent resident. This is important because one's he's a resident then we can get him on our provincial medical card and can stop paying for all his doctor appointments! You sure realize what a fabulous benefit universal health care is when you don't have it!

We are planning a finalization party with family and some close friends in March. This is not to signify a "gotcha day" (I'm not really a fan of those) or anything else other than to mark the end to this part of our adoption journey. Most of the paperwork will then be finished (we'll still have the Canadian citizenship process to work though) as well as dealing with adoption agencies...and that alone is something to celebrate!