Thursday, July 30, 2009

Now We're Rocking

Goofballs that we are, we're attempting to exploit various "new media." If you'd like, please check out our You*Tube slide show, and pass it along to friends. You never know when someone you know, knows someone who, you know...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable #4: They Don't Call the Wait a Rollercoaster for Nothin'!

This week’s prompt over at ProductionNotReproduction is to write about a small moment that open adoption made possible. It might be about something that happened during an interaction or conversation if you have face-to-face contact. Or a moment centered on a letter or picture, if you don't. Just a single, small moment that could not have happened if the adoption were not open.”

The assignment has elicited many lovely responses from adoptive parents describing their first moments with their new children, birthparents relating especially meaningful interactions with the children they’ve place, and such. As a whole, these entries are powerfully beautiful and encouraging, and they reinforce our decision to pursue open adoption to build our family.

…which is why I feel a little awkward submitting my contribution. First of all, we’re not in an open adoption yet. We’re just waiting – and waiting – for a match. Second of all, the scenario I’ve elected to describe is kind of “woe-is-me” and a downer. But, it’s where I’m at right now. And I think it is a genuine, revealing slice of a brief period on our path to parenthood, one that exists because we hope to have a strong relationship with our child's birthfamily.

Friday, 5:30 p.m.
We receive an email from our adoption coordinator that another counselor is working with an expectant mother (“S”) who has expressed interest in us (UP!),

but that subsequently she hasn’t returned phone calls. (DOWN)

Sunday, 4:00 p.m.
I happen to turn on my cell phone and retrieve a message from the counselor telling us a little more about the situation (UP) but it is from last Wednesday, despite the fact that I’ve asked the agency to remove my cell number from the database, because I never use the phone. (DOWN)

Monday, 11:30 a.m.
The counselor returns my call from earlier in the morning, in which I reported that I’d just received her message and inquired about the situation at this point. She says that she did receive a call from S over the weekend, so she is back on the radar. (UP)

The counselor tells me more about the situation and it sounds encouraging. I ask her to let S know we’d be excited to speak with her. (UP, UP)

Monday, 12 noon.
The counselor calls me back and lets me know she’s talked with S again and she’s very interested in us. In fact, she tried to call us this morning. Counselor advised her to call after 5 p.m. our time, when we’d be off work. (UP!)

Monday afternoon
Unable to accomplish any real work, (DOWN) I spend all kinds of nervous time rehearsing our first conversation in my mind and Goog*ling S’s home town, even researching extended stay hotels…(JUST SILLY)

Monday, 5:10 p.m.
I race home and hope to find M on the phone already. He isn’t. (DOWN) He says he’s been listening for a call and is trying not to get too excited. (UP)

Monday, 5:30 p.m.
I flop on the bed, feeling a bit nauseous. (DOWN)

Monday, 5:50 p.m.
Still flopping, and trying not to let the sting beneath my eyes escape. (DOWN)

Monday, 6:15 p.m.
I decide to go for a run. (UP and DOWN)

Tuesday, 6:00 p.m.
No further developments. (DEFINITELY DOWN)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Song In My Heart

Hey Music Connoisseurs,

I have a favor to ask of you…Can you help us figure out a great “soundtrack” for our adoption slide show?

As I've written before, a bit (and rather uncomfortable part) of the process in domestic open adoption is “marketing” ourselves to prospective birthmothers. We’ve already got a web site. Now we’d like to try to make a video slide show to post on YouTube and elsewhere. It will feature photos of us, some of our adventures, family and friends, etc.

Of course, a big part of what makes such slide shows attractive is the soundtrack. We’re stumped, and would be grateful for any suggestions you might have!

We’d like to find something that is upbeat, has broad appeal - especially to young women, and that conveys in some subtle way that we are caring people who will not only love this child, but its birthfamily as well. (I’ve been inspired in this project by one of my new internet buddies who's given me permission to link to their adoption video. It features the Plain White T’s’ 1-2-3, which works really well, in my opinion.)

Any guidance you can provide will be much appreciated. Thanks for your help!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Worth the Wait

There was a long and painful period in my life when I began to believe, and then slowly accept, that I’d never find a partner. With each disappointing date or new rejection, I felt a bit of my vision for the rest of my life slip further away.

I spent many miserable Saturday evenings trolling the aisles of BlockBuster in search of a movie that was entertaining, but wouldn’t make me feel too lonely watching it on my couch at home in my sweatpants.

So many good friends fell in love and committed themselves to another, I wondered why it wasn’t happening for me. As months and years dragged on, I became more and more filled with self-doubt. Were my standards too high? Was there something wrong with me? Could I be happy and fulfilled if I never met “Mr. Right?”

I worked hard to build a satisfying life lived solo – more education, good work, exciting travel, close connections with friends and family. But I knew there was a hole in my heart that could only be filled by a deep and abiding love with one other. So I also worked hard to put myself out there, to be available and attractive.

When I did connect with those elusive “eligible bachelors,” I struggled to find a balance between not wearing my heart on my sleeve and staying open-hearted enough that if someone had the key, it could be opened. I worried that I was becoming too cynical or that in desperation, I might settle for the wrong relationship.

And then I met M.

There wasn’t a bolt of lightning, and no violins played in the background. But slowly, slowly we fell in love. Our lives became enmeshed. Our dreams for the future became entwined.

I can tell you now, more than eight years after our first date, our partnership is better than I could have imagined. My love for him is deeper and more powerful than I knew to hope for. There are still no violins playing in the background, but he is such a special person, I feel honored every day (even the days that I’m annoyed that the socks are still on the floor) that I get to share my life with him. I don’t know why it took me so long to “find” M., and I know that the delay has had both positive and negative impacts on my life. But now that hole in my heart has been filled to bursting.

When I feel discouraged – as I do more and more lately – about our adoption wait, I think about this: M. was SO worth the wait, and I have faith that our child will be too.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable: Wish List

One of my favorite bloggers is Heather at Production, Not Reproduction. She’s coordinating an Open Adoption Roundtable, and you can head there to see what other bloggers are writing about on the same topic.

This week, she is prompting is us to "Share your wish list for your open adoption(s). Your list can be tempered by reality or packed with hopeful ideals.” As she anticipated, there is already some very enlightening exchange between various representatives within the adoption triad. (For the uninitiated, that's the birthparents, adoptive parents, and adoptees).

Here’s my first contribution to the Roundtable. Of course, it is very much “packed with hopeful ideals,” since we are waiting to make our match and to actually be in an open adoption!

My Open Adoption Relationship Wish List

The open adoption match is frequently compared to dating, and I think it is an analogy that often works well to describe the “get to know ya” phase of the relationship. And I suppose that placement is somewhat like a wedding, in that it requires a huge leap of faith that entwines at least two families forever.

As part of our homestudy, M. and I had to reflect a bit on our ideal open adoption situation. After some reading and talking, M. shared something that I think is so wise. He said that he’s come to believe that what’s needed for a good open adoption is what’s needed for all good, long lasting relationships.

So for this Roundtable Forum, I started by thinking about what I believe are the key ingredients to my strong marriage. Sure ’nuf, I think the list could be applied to other family relationships and close friendships. Here’s my wish list, with specific reflections related to open adoption.

What first drew M. and I together was our shared interests, and what drew us closer was our shared values. In my ideal open adoption, our birthmom will be attracted to us because she likes doing some of the same things we do and has some similar outlooks on the world. It is so much easier to build and maintain a relationship with someone when we can, for example, gab about the same books or movies, and when we don’t have to avoid a flippant comment (say, about our last
president) because we fear it will offend.

Honesty. I want our birthfamily to know that M. and I have and will continue to represent ourselves honestly – warts and all. When we say we want an open adoption with continuing contact, we mean it. When we match, she should feel confident that she is basing her decision on authentic information and genuine intention. We’d like to have the same confidence in her and all members of the birthfamily.

And, our hope is that we will be able to continue to be honest with each other throughout our lives together, and especially with the child that we share. We don’t want to keep any of our child’s story hidden from him or her, and will work hard to make sure s/he knows it well (in an age appropriate way, of course).

Trust. So important, yet so slippery! One of my greatest open adoption-related hopes is that we will be able to easily earn – and then keep – our birthmom’s trust. In my experience, there are two important parts of trust in a relationship: trustworthiness and trusting. To have a good open adoption, everyone involved will have to behave honorably (see “honesty” above) so that they can be trusted by the others to do what they say and say what they do. This won’t be difficult for M. or me. But being able to trust someone else, in my opinion, often has more to do with the “truster” than the “trustee.” Past experiences, early observations, and/or natural proclivities can influence a person’s ability (willingness?) to trust another, regardless of true trustworthiness. Trusting is sometimes hard for me, and I know I will have to push myself to assume the best of a person or situation.

Placing a child with another family must be the ultimate act of trust. It will be critically important for us all to know in our bones that the others have our child’s very best interest at heart. I’ve come to understand that the biggest fear – and a common disappointment, I am afraid – for birthfamilies is not having the level of contact with the child that they desire. This makes me so sad. I suspect that trust – or rather, lack of it – is at fault in many of these cases. What I wish for our open adoption is that our birthfamily will trust that we will follow through on our oath to stay in touch to whatever extent they are comfortable…and that M. and I trust our birthfamily enough to continue to believe that their ready presence in our child’s life is what’s best for him or her.

Good Communication. I think that at the root of trust and honesty (and affinity, for that matter) is good communication. And conversely, trust and honesty are essential elements in communicating well. To have a strong open adoption, we must be open. We all will have to risk sharing what we think and feel – assuming we know what we think and feel – in ways that are fair and compassionate but direct. And we must especially work to listen.

Acceptance. I dream that as our child grows, so will awareness and appreciation for adoption and with that, new laws that protect all members of the triad and new practices that support us. I wish that when the time comes for our little one to do the "family tree" exercise at school, there will be no raised eyebrows or difficult questions.

Hand in hand with broader societal acceptance is, of course, individual acceptance. I hope that our birthmother can always feel proud of her decision, M. and I and our extended family can always feel confident about how our family was formed, and our child can always feel good that s/he is different and yet no different than the kids next door.

Respect. Like trust, this must be both earned and given. Respect means understanding and feeling okay with boundaries (we won’t need to know everything about our birthparents’ lives), reaching beyond our comfort zones in a effort to ease someone else’s, recognizing that our child’s story is his or hers – not ours – to tell, and understanding that, like all relationships, there will likely be ebbs and flows, peaks and vallies in our open adoption but that persistence is important. I suspect that in open adoption, birth and adoptive parents must sometimes stretch to understand that although their lives might be quite different, they are equally deserving of respect.

It should go without saying that our birthmom will have our deepest respect – and gratitude – for her adoption decision and placing her child with us.


Looking over this little list and my notes, it strikes me that they are mostly wishes for our relationship with a birthmother and her family, which perhaps minimizes the most important member of the adoption triad: the child. Suffice it to say, even when I don’t explicitly allude to it, I believe these things will be critically important in both our and our birthfamily’s relationship with the kid at every stage of life.

I want to give a special shout out to Ginger at Puzzle Pieces: Adoption. Her Roundtable contribution is so astute, and it obviously shaped a lot of my own thinking and writing on the topic. (Thanks again for sharing, Ginger!)

I fear that in open adoption – as in all relationships – preaching these values is easier than practicing them. Still, I think it is helpful to envision perfection, so that I have something recognizable to work toward. Besides, at this point, so much of our adoption experience is about dreaming and wishing. And as I’ve been known to say, “If wishes were horses…I might be trampled by the stampede.”

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What's In A Name?

Apparently, quite a bit. We have learned anecdotally that birthmothers often ask before or during a match what the adoptive parents intend to name the child. This makes sense to me, as names can be such an important part of an individual’s identity. I suspect that knowing what a child will be called helps to fill in a vision of his or her future.

...Which makes the question of what M. and I will name our child all the more troubling. What will a potential birthparent think if she asks and learns that we not only don’t know our kid’s first name, we don’t know his or her last name either?!

When M. and I began contemplating a life-long partnership, I brought up the question of changing my last name to his. I was somewhat surprised by our respective positions. Here I was - a proud feminist who emphasized in her undergrad thesis the importance of women retaining their family names in marriage to preserve independence – sharing that I’d be willing to take his last name as my own if it was important to him. And here he was - the only male descendant of his generation - indicating that he always assumed his wife would keep her name and that his family name would die with him. (Another example of why I love him.)

Fortunately, neither of us is so attached to our names – or was overly concerned about what our own families would think – that it became a big, contentious issue. But, we both do like our last names, particularly because they are evidence of our own dim cultural heritages.

So, when we made it official and got hitched, we didn’t do anything. We both happily (read: lazily) retained our own last names and chuckled (okay, sometimes we ground our teeth) when mail would arrive addressed to Mr. and Mrs. HisLastName.

Of course, the topic raised its head again as soon as we began planning to have a child. I expressed the preference that our nuclear family all share the same last name, to which M. concurred. We debated hyphenating, and also agreed that it isn’t ideal, as it usually just defers the naming dilemma to the next generation. We debated determining in advance that, say, if our child is female, she have M.’s last name, and if he’s male, he have mine, or vice versa. But then there’d be one person left out of our "family" name.

The solution that now seems most attractive to us is to create a whole new, original last name that we all could share. But which? I know of one couple that selected the name of the National Park where they met as their new last name. Unfortunately, just doesn’t work as well for us as Yellowstone did for them. The idea we like best at the moment is to combine the first syllable of his last name and the last syllable of mine. It makes a nice sounding last name that works pretty well with both of our first names. Truth be told, though, we are both a bit intimidated by the idea of announcing this change to our professional colleagues, not to mention the rigmarole of legalizing it.

So, we’ve got to come up with a good way of explaining all of this to a prospective birthmother without scaring her off. Any suggestions?

And then there is the issue of first names. This is something I spend more time thinking about than I probably should. It’s fun (most likely for the same reason it is a common question asked by birthmothers). When I hear of a name I hadn’t considered, I squirrel it away on a little list and wait to bring it up with M. after he’s had a glass of wine and seems in the mood to dream a bit about this child who is so late to arrive in our arms.

Fortunately, we are on very similar pages on this one. Matt expressed an early preference for avoiding: trendy names (like Ava), names that are spelled cr8tvleigh, and “made up Irish names like McKenzie and Declan.” I agreed…although I’ve noticed what we each think is too trendy hasn’t always matched, and some of the names he thinks fit into the last category, I think would be a nice tribute to his heritage, like using his very nice middle name: Quinn.

I suspect that if we had to this week (and I really wish we did!!), we could narrow our list to a half-dozen names for either gender that would be acceptable to both of us.

But then what? Should the birthfamily have any input? What if a birthmother is REALLY attached to a particular name, and we hate it? What if she just can’t stand any of our top contenders? And if we see names as a way to pay tribute to heritage, and birth heritage is an important part of an adopted child’s identity, how should the birthparents’ culture(s) influence our child’s name? Would it be just too weird to name our little Black son Lars, for example?

In most cases, birthparents determine the names that will go on the child’s original birth certificate, and adoptive parents determine the names that will go on a child’s amended birth certificate. I know of a few families, however, in which naming was well negotiated in advance, and everyone was happy about what name would go on the first document. That sounds really ideal.

I can tell you that if the names are determined and agreed upon before our baby arrives, they will NOT be widely shared until our kid is home with us. I know I’ve wrinkled my own nose reflexively too often upon learning a name of a loved one’s anticipated bundle of joy to risk the disappointment in opinions that advanced scrutiny might bring.

At least there is one (seemingly) simple part of this whole complex naming issue for our kid: we’ve determined the middle name! If it’s a girl, it will be Marie, like M.’s sisters’ middle name. If it is a boy, it will be Martin, as my mother and father both oddly share this middle name

….I’m glad I can’t see you wrinkling your nose.