Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Hospital Experience

I’ll pick up right where we left off last time: So there we were, waiting to hear that Mama J had gone into labor. We were about 3 weeks past when everyone (Mama J included) thought she would have delivered. We stayed pretty close to home those 3 weeks, only daring to venture about an hour away just in case we had to run to the hospital at a moment’s notice. Other than that, we tried to live our lives normally. Work, dogs, friends, dinners out, etc. We got snippets of news from our caseworker: a photograph here or there, reassurance that the delay was not because she had second thoughts, that sort of thing. We ran to Target at least once a week to pick up some baby item or another that we decided we needed. We organized daycare.

And then the call came. I was driving home from a work event on Sunday, March 26. It was about 9:30pm. “Mama J is in labor,” our caseworker said, followed by details about which hospital she was at and what to expect with the staff there. “Pack an overnight bag; I’ll call you when the baby is here and she’s ready for you guys.”

I raced home, calling Brian on the way. We packed a change of clothes in a bag and sat in the living room staring at one another. 10:00 became 11:00, which became midnight. Midnight became 1am, at which point the dogs lost interest in our late-night rush of activity and curled up to sleep. By 1:30, we decided to go to bed, that the call would come whether we waited up for it or not.

I’ve always laughed about Murphy's Law, but never put much stock in it. Wouldn’t you know, though, that as soon as we laid down, the phone rang. “She’s ready to see you guys.” So we jumped out of bed and rushed out the door. A quick stop at WalMart to pick up a small bouquet of flowers, then we were on our way.

We got to the hospital at 2:30am. After a brief discussion with the security officer at the front desk (we knew Mama J’s name, but were waiting on the security code to come from our agency), we were allowed into Mama J’s room. We knocked softly, and she told us to come in. She was holding Aiden, and whispered to him, just loud enough for us to hear, “There’s your mom and dad. They’ve been waiting to meet you!” before she handed him over to Brian, then me, to hold.

Most of he hospital staff was wonderfully accommodating. They gave us the room next to Mama J’s in the maternity ward. Aiden stayed in a bassinet in our room, with open visits in Mama J’s room too. We got to feed him, give him his first bath, and do lots of skin-to-skin time with him. The doctors and nurses were great. The hospital chaplain loved hearing our story. Even the cleaning crew was sweet and kind. To protect everyone’s privacy, on the board listing patients by the nurses’ station, we were listed as the BUFA Family (fairly common adoption lingo, BUFA stands for Baby Up For Adoption). The cafeteria staff was often confused about being asked to bring food up to a room that didn’t have “registered” patients in it (Aiden was formally tied to Mama J’s room), but they figured it out eventually.

There was only one staff member who didn’t seem to support the situation. Luckily, we had been trained by the agency to not only be Aiden’s advocates in the hospital, but Mama J’s as well.

The second day in the hospital, there was a knock at our door. “Can you tell me your first names?” a nurse asked through the opening. We told her. “Sorry, wrong room,” she apologized.

“No, that’s them,” we heard Mama J’s voice insist from the hallway.

“No, it’s not, you don’t need to go in there,” the nurse’s voice responded.

I jumped up and went to open the door. “She’s welcome in here,” I told the nurse, who scowled and huffed away.

We enjoyed several visits with Mama J and one of her friends in the hospital, got to video chat with some of our family members, and sent many happy texts and photos to others. Aiden was pronounced small but healthy by every doctor and nurse we encountered.

The morning of the third day in the hospital, the attorney showed up to sign the paperwork. He went to Mama J’s room first so she could do her part. The book the agency gave us said this could take anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours, that no one would rush her, that they would take all the time needed to ensure that she understood the papers. Having made adoption plans for previous children, Mama J didn’t have a lot of questions. About 5 minutes after the lawyers arrived, I got a text: “I’m all done, he’s on his way to you now.”

The attorney read through the custody paperwork, noting that nothing was final until we went to court, and outlining all of our rights and responsibilities as guardians. We signed the adoption agreement and the petition to adopt, he gave us the papers that allow us to carry Aiden on our insurance, and told us that cooperating with the social worker’s post-placement visits would ensure a quick turnaround time on the court date.

Once he left, Mama J came to our room to say goodbye. We took a photo of all of us together, and loosely planned a visit for late July. She left, having been discharged, and we waited for our discharge paperwork to process.

After birthmoms sign the adoption paperwork, we enter a weird legal limbo. We have physical custody of Aiden, but our agency has legal custody. As such, the discharge paperwork had to be signed by our caseworker, so that Aiden could be discharged to her care. While the papers were being signed, I got Aiden dressed to go home. Our friends had given us an adorable onesie that I thought would be perfect for his “coming home from the hospital” outfit: a white onesie, with a turtle on it, and the words “worth the wait.” The only problem was Aiden was far too tiny to fit into it! Brian ended up at the hospital gift shop, buying the only preemie outfit not adorned with pink bows. (Or so he says. It was a Purdue onesie. I'm still not convinced there weren't other options.) Even that was too big, as we ended up cuffing the arms and legs a few times.

We got him strapped into his car seat (another moment of realizing just how tiny he was: he almost came in under the weight our car seat is certified for), and the nurse walked us out the door. We drove home (the longest 20 minute car ride of my life), where adoring grandparents were waiting with flowers and balloons.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Meeting Mama J

It’s hard to believe that Aiden is already 6 weeks old! We haven’t updated this blog in quite some time, partly because we’ve been busy with Little Man, but mostly because we’ve been debating how much of what has happened over the last 12 weeks is our story to tell and how much is Aiden’s story to own and tell when he’s older. Over the next few posts, we’ll tell you how we came to learn about Aiden’s birth mother, meet her, and bring him home from the hospital. We’ll reflect on everything we’ve experienced in the last 3 years to build our family. But there are pieces of the story that do not belong to us. They belong to Aiden, and he’ll share those pieces when he’s ready to, with whomever he’s ready to.

There is a joke in some adoption communities that goes something like this: An adopted child and his cousin/friend/classmate/whatever were playing together and got into mischief. As their respective mothers were scolding them, and the kids pouted, the adopted child looks at the other child and says he know he won’t be in as much trouble because “my parents CHOSE me, your parents are stuck with you.”

The truth of the matter is that, at least for many domestic infant adoptions (i.e., the only kind I’ve experienced personally), the adoptive parents don’t choose the baby. In fact, it’s quite the other way around: the birth mother chooses the adoptive family. And being chosen was the most thrilling, humbling, exciting experience we’ve ever had. I don’t really have the right words to describe the feeling, and frankly, if you haven't experienced it, no words will suffice anyway.

On February 21, while at work, I got a call from one of our agency’s case workers. “I have a birthmom who is interested in meeting you,” she said. She went on to tell me a little bit about what she knew of the woman we now call Mama J. I feverishly scribbled notes and asked what I’m sure were not very intelligent questions. I hung up the phone and frantically called Brian at work. We chose a few dates that we were free for lunch, and set it up with the agency. We were going to meet our child’s birthmom.

We met about a week later for a late lunch. It was such a joy to get to meet this woman, who is smart, funny, caring, and outgoing. We were nervous going into the lunch. I told Brian I imagined this is how first dates must feel, times about 100. The only problem is that neither of us had been on a first date since we were 16! Luckily, our case worker was there to help when the conversation slowed. (Note: conversation rarely slows when Mama J is around…she’s great at keeping it going and made us feel comfortable from the beginning.) We left lunch with a hug and her noting that she felt bigger than any of her previous pregnancies, and that she thought she’d go into labor soon.

We held off on telling a lot of people about Mama J. Things can and do change suddenly in the world of adoption, and we wanted to be as sure as possible. We called our parents and siblings the day after we had lunch with her to let them know that baby would FINALLY be here…sometime soon. Our supervisors and work teams knew that we would be going on leave…sometime soon. And only a very few close friends knew that they were on call to take the dogs to the boarders…sometime soon.

We didn’t know what “soon” meant, but our case worker told us she thought it would be “one to four weeks.” We got out our calendars and circled the day 4 weeks from the date we had lunch. Finally, we had something of a due date to work from. The only problem was that in that month, I had my biggest meeting of the year at work, another event to coordinate, and Brian was going out of town for a week of training in rural Virginia. Luckily, we have great supervisors and teams who were willing to pick up our slack if we had to abandon work at a moment’s notice.

We made it through Brian’s work trip and my craziness, and finally started to breathe easier. Now, the baby could come at any time and we were both more available. We spent weekends trolling Target and Babies R Us for any last-minute needs we could dream up. Our families and friend had been so generous at baby showers that there weren’t many. But now that we knew baby was coming sometime between Valentine’s Day and Easter, we could get some seasonal items we had been holding off on purchasing.

And we waited. Four weeks came and still we waited. We left work every day with a “hope I DON’T see you tomorrow!” Every time the phone rang, we jumped to see if it was our case worker. We tried to keep living our lives as normally as possible, but we also (perhaps subconsciously) never ventured more than an hour from home. We knew we had to be available to rush to the hospital whenever Mama J went into labor. The anticipation was nerve-wracking. Had something happened and she changed her mind? Was she just going longer with her pregnancy than anyone had thought?


And just to give you all a small taste of that anticipation, I’ll wrap up this post for now. Up next (and soon!): Getting the call that Mama J was in labor and our time in the hospital with her and Aiden.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

"Baby E"





Well, everyone, it’s been ages since we’ve updated this blog, mostly because there hasn’t been a lot to say. We’re in the super fun “wait and see” stage of the adoption process. We’re actively being shown to birthmoms, usually 2-4 at any given time; BUT we’re only allowed to check in on our activity once a month, so it’s kind of hard to tell if we’re at 2 moms one month and 2 the next: are they the same moms, different, or one the same?

But this post isn’t about waiting and seeing. It’s about embracing the process, and all the uncertainties, and all the craziness with a spirit of love and openness.

You see, about 3 weeks ago, we got an email from the agency that there was a special situation, and would we mind our profile being shown. Normally, they just show us; they’ve only asked permission one time before this for a “special situation.” This time, the special situation was that baby had been born at 28 weeks gestation and was in the NICU, with what looked like an extended stay there. Of course, we allowed our book to be shown. Our attitude with this whole process has been to be open to everything; we’ll get the child we’re meant to raise. Who are we to stand in the way of that?

Every day for about a week, we got a little more information from the agency about the baby’s condition. It trickled in slowly, as the hospital could only legally share bits and pieces since birthmom hadn’t yet finalized a placement with a couple. One day we learned how big baby was, the next day we learned about results from brain and kidney scans, and so on. Feverish phone calls with nurses we trust (topping the list: awesome soon-to-be Uncle Chris! and Brian's college friend Elizabeth-Boiler Up!) ensued to see what the results of these different tests and procedures meant. What did it mean that she was moved off a ventilator and onto a nasal cannula? What did it mean that she was weaned off TPN and now on donor milk? (Side note: Trust your friends/family in the medical profession. They are much wiser than Dr. Google.)

Then one day, we learned birthmom had named baby. To protect privacy, let’s call her Baby E. We didn’t tell many people. We gave vague information. It’s hard when you want so desperately to parent this child to not shout to the world that you need sent your way all the prayers, positive energy, kind thoughts, good juju…whatever it is your friends believe in. At the same time, we could only think it would be 10 times harder to call all the people we care about and give them disappointing news.

And disappointing news it was, for us. One of Baby E’s tests came back positive for higher levels of drug use than anyone thought they’d find. Because birthmom has 2 kiddos at home, a CPS case had to be opened for them. While we don’t know for sure what happened, we think birthmom may have chosen to place all 3 kids in the same foster home, rather than place the older kids in foster care and Baby E with an adoptive family.

Either way, we grieved the day we heard the news that she wasn’t ours. We asked each other if we should be this upset, never having met her or her birthmom. Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that it’s probably better to get excited and hopeful about potential matches and possibly get our hearts broken than to put up walls and guard our hearts so closely that we close ourselves off to our birthmom and child when we finally do get to meet them.

So we file Baby E into the same group as “Erin’s” baby about a year and a half ago. (revisit that here) We’re praying hard for her, for her birthmom, for her siblings, and for her family, whether they are adoptive or foster. And we continue to wait…

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Adopting Without Debt

We did it! We have officially hit the point in our adoption journey where we will be able to adopt without (long term) debt! This is such a huge accomplishment for us, and we are so excited! 

(Can you read my excitement from all the exclamation points in the paragraph above?)

One of the most common questions we get asked is "how much does adoption cost?" or "why does it cost so much?" or some other variation. So, I apologize ahead of time for those of you who don't like to talk about money, but here we go:

Our expenses for the adoption have been/will be the following:

$3,700 Registration fee, activation fee, and homestudy fee. This money signed us up and helped us get to a point where we were legally able to adopt a child in the state of Indiana.

$4,000 Advertising fee. This money pays for our profile book to be put together pays for the time that the agency spends doing outreach on our behalf to find our birth mother.

$2,500 Birth mother coordination fee. This money pays for the time that the women at our agency spend with the birth mothers, including some counseling for the birth mother.

$1,000 Assorted fees related to getting the homestudy final. This included copays at our doctors' offices for physicals, vaccines, and blood work; paying for finger prints and background checks; etc.

$10,000 Placement fee. Due 10 days before the baby is due (or immediately upon birth, in the case of a fall-in-your-lap placement), this money covers the cost for the agency to place the child in our home.

$3,000 Birth mother living expenses. This is money that our birth mother can use to help defray her cost of living pre-delivery and for up to 12 weeks postpartum.

$4,000 Estimated legal fees. Exactly what it sounds like, this is what we pay the attorney who will draft the paperwork for her to sign and for the attorney's time in court the day we finalize.

All told, just under $30,000. That's assuming our birth mother has health insurance or Medicaid. If she doesn't, we will have to pay the medical bills related to her pregnancy and birth.

To date, we've either paid or saved $24,000. The last $5,000 or so we're hoping to save before the baby comes, but even if we don't, we're counting on Target's $5,000 adoption reimbursement program to help us out. So, even if Little Laskey came tomorrow, we'd use a zero-interest bank loan for that amount until we were reimbursed. We have 3 adoption grants that are ready to be mailed out, and we're hoping something positive happens with at least one of them. We're also planning another no-spend month to ramp up our own savings one more time.

So how did we do it? How did we get to a point where we were able to afford this without incurring long term debt? The short answer is: YOU! There is no way we could have done this without each and every one of you helping us along the way. While we've pinched pennies, and socked away bonuses and raises, and sold some of our stuff to make extra money, it would never have been enough without all your support.
There is never anything we can do to repay all of you for your exceeding generosity, kindness, and support during this time. Please know that anyone who donated to keep that atrocious awesome beard, came to enjoy a meal at Brunchie's, ordered a Santa letter, or bought a football square has our undying gratitude. Everyone who donated items to the garage sale or shared a Facebook status is appreciated more than they know. And anyone who prayed, kept a good thought, or put out good juju for us during this time will always be in our thoughts and in our hearts.

More than anything, though, we want Little Laskey to know how many people came together to help bring our baby home. So, we're going to ask for your help one more time. We've contacted a local artist, and she's working with us to create a piece of wall art for the nursery, something similar to the picture above. Inside the heart, we'd like to include pictures of the families of everyone who has helped us along the way. So, if you're reading this and you've done anything to help us bring Litte Laskey home, please email a photo of your family to laskeyfam717@gmail.com so you can be sure to be included in this. We want our child to know how much we appreciate and love every one of you!


Monday, July 11, 2016

Nesting

Everyone tells you that waiting is the hardest part. To be fair, they're right, it is. I think the hardest part about the wait is that you don't know when the wait will end. We could have a baby tomorrow, or in a month, or in a year. We just don't know. It's hard to prepare for something when you don't have a timeline. So after everyone tells you that waiting is the hardest part, they tell you to not let the wait bother you, to keep busy, to live your life.

So we are.

It's a busy summer around here. It's a good summer to have to wait. There's a lot to keep us occupied: two graduation parties, a bridal shower, a wedding, a work trip, a baby shower. Not to mention those concert tickets that were a Christmas gift, and the Reds tickets that we won at a silent auction, and those other concert tickets that we bought on Groupon. Add on a visit from the in-laws, and don't forget the trip to Michigan for round 2 of what will surely go down in history as the world's largest garage sale.

That's just the list of "events" that we have going on. Then there's the never-ending to-do list to prepare for Little Laskey's arrival. We have a chalkboard on the side of the fridge where we keep track of what still needs to be done. See, the thing with adoption is that you spend the first few months rushing to get the paperwork done, the home visit scheduled, the house deep-cleaned. Then the paperwork is approved. And you just wait. So in an effort to not "just wait" we have The List. The List includes fun things like painting the nursery and assembling the furniture. (I'm not sure Brian would consider assembling the furniture fun, but we only had one small moment of tension in a whole day of work, so we'll go with that as a good description.) The List also includes practical things like arranging child care, finding a pediatrician, and arranging boarding for the dogs if we have to be away from home to pick up the baby. The List includes not-so-fun things like drafting our wills. Apparently, we need wills to protect a child we don't even have yet. There's a weird legal time between placement of the child in our home and finalization of the adoption (about 4 months) where, if anything were to happen to us, the guardianship of our child could be contested by several different parties and no one really knows where the baby would end up.

The thing is, though, that I have much less motivation to tackle The List than I have to clean the house from top to bottom and bottom to top again. I've been bitten by the nesting bug...bitten hard. I'm currently in the process of clearing out the office closet, which was home to our holiday decorations. I toss one Rubbermaid tub in the trunk of my car every day as I head out for work, stopping at our garage to unload it.  All so that I can move the few items (a graduation gown, a bridesmaid's dress, my wedding veil) that were being stored in the nursery closet out so that baby's closet is completely empty.

I'm working off a List that lives in my head, not on the chalkboard on the fridge. On some days, it seems to be an instinctual List. I never know when I wake up in the morning what cleaning or organizational project I'll tackle that day. Organize the wrapping paper. Clean out the cabinet under the sink in the half bath. Might as well tackle the under-the-sink cabinet in the guest bathroom while I'm at it. Those fabric bins in that 9-cube bookcase in the living room? Time to sort through them to see what we really use. That stack of mail that normally lives in the corner of the coffee table? Pay the bills, put the wedding and grad party invites on the fridge, trash the rest. 

I'm driving Brian crazy, I know I have to be. He tolerates it well, though. He doesn't even question me anymore when I announce on a Tuesday night that we HAVE to go to Target to get yet another plastic tote because the china dishes need to move out of the storage ottoman and into a closet. He didn't even bat an eye when, this Saturday morning, he woke up and found me sorting through and organizing the Christmas gifts that we have already purchased. (Yes, I have some already. I buy them on sale and store them until Christmas!)

Apparently adoption nesting is a real thing. Go on, Google it. And while you do, if you'll excuse me, the Tubberware cabinet needs a little attention...

Monday, May 30, 2016

Managing Details

Last week's post was an attempt to answer some of the most common questions we've gotten throughout this entire process, but especially now that we've become active with our agency. After reading through it several times, neither of us could think of many questions that we left out. After thinking about this all some more, though, I think we missed one. A big one. An important one. You see, we are asked fairly frequently why it costs so much to adopt a child. 

I understand the curiosity, I do. I especially understand it when it seems like every other day there are news stories of foster children sleeping in DCS offices across the country for lack of a home, or babies being abandoned (hopefully using their state's Safe Haven Laws), or babies and children being abused. The shortest, easiest answer I can provide is that those children will be adopted through the foster care system. When a family adopts a child through the foster care system, they should not face financial expenses. Of course, we have seen families go far above and beyond the stipend provided for fostering a child, thus incurring expenses that they "choose" to incur. Case in point, paying for a foster child to play soccer on their high school team may be beyond the monthly allowance that a couple receives for taking that child into their home. We've seen friends pay for this (and more) for their foster kids, and are constantly in awe of the courage and grace that it takes to welcome a foster child into their home.

We are not adopting from foster care, however. We are pursuing a private domestic infant adoption, meaning that our birth mother will terminate her parental rights around 48 hours postpartum, the birth father will terminate his rights no more than 30 days postpartum (hopefully, he'll terminate while she's still pregnant), and we will take the baby home from the hospital. We'll be legal guardians for 4-5 months, until we go to court to finalize the adoption. We have many reasons for pursuing this type of adoption instead of foster-to-adopt, but that's a topic for another post. In this post, I want to give you all a glimpse of why we are happy to pay our agency for the incredible work they do. These women work hard for the babies, birth parents, and adoptive parents they see, and we are happy to pay for their services.

When we posted the blog last week, I mentioned in the Facebook post that we knew that our profile book was out to one birth mother. We were super excited to hear that, but that knowledge also brought with it a slew of anxiety. Every beep or buzz of our cells made us jump. What if that was “the call?” What if it was our Adoption Coordinator on the other end saying that this birth mom wanted to choose us? It’s now been a week, and our phones have only been buzzing with normal activity, so we’ve calmed down a lot, but it’s good to know that we’re being shown.

We’re allowed to check in with the agency once a month to see what our “activity” is. At first, we thought that meant they would be able to tell us how many times our profile book had been shown to different women. In reality, all we’ll be able to know how many women have copies of our profile book at the moment that we ask. It’s an incredibly complicated, but fascinating, process. The agency representative explains it like this:

We update our active birthmother list once a week. Within that week a lot can change! We add new women and take women off. We typically add about 3-7 women every week from new birthmother intakes. Women can get taken off the list due to placing their child for adoption, choosing to parent, birthfather risk has stopped the adoption, no phone minutes on her phone leading to extended period of no contact, or family steps in to save the day and help. These same women that we take off the list cold go back on due to losing her job so parenting is not a solid option any longer, birthfather is not so much a risk any longer (for many reasons), family broke promises again and aren't helping after all, or simply getting minutes back on her phone. Women that get taken off the list one week could be added back on the very next week or even several months down the line. So when you check in for an update I will only be able to let you know how many women you are out to in that given week. That will not mean that you have only ever gone out to 1 woman since activation, again, it is just this week. That doesn't mean that last week you were out to different women, it could have been all the same, or maybe 1 of the same, etc. This also doesn't account for when a coordinator is in the field and shows or shares your bio to a new woman that she was just popping in to say hello to.

I can't even begin to imagine the level of detail that her job entails with updating this list and all the varied reasons women jump on and off the list at any given time. That's what we're paying for when we fork over our checks to this agency. That, and so much more! We're paying for the social worker's time as she evaluates our home and paperwork to make sure that we're able to provide for this little one. We're paying for the director's time as she explains the process to us in our meetings and (13 hour!) home study class. We're paying for the Adoption Coordinators' time as they take calls from women at 3am in a crisis situation. Perhaps most importantly, we're paying for counseling and support for our birth mother, as she prepares to make a decision that takes a level of strength and courage that I cannot even fathom. It's so fascinating to me to get even a small glimpse into these women's lives. I hope that these little glimpses can help us to better empathize with whomever is on the other end of the line when we do get "the call."

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

FAQ Round 2

Well, we’ve been officially “active” in our agency for a month. That means that we’ve been up on their website for a month and that any birth mothers who are potential matches have been shown our profile book. We thought we’d take a minute and answer some FAQs that we’ve been getting over the last month, so that you all know what’s happening:

How much longer?

The short answer to this is: we have no idea, but we hope not long. The longer answer is much more complicated. One key piece of paperwork in the mountain of forms that we filled out was what I’ve been affectionately describing as something similar to an online dating profile. We listed out different things we were open to, in regards to how open this adoption will be, levels of alcohol/tobacco/drug use during pregnancy, and various health issues that we’re able to accept. When a birth mother comes to the agency, she’ll fill out similar paperwork. The agency staff matches her needs to our needs, and she’s shows profile books of hopeful parents who may be a good fit. On average, she’ll see 3-5 books. She can then ask to meet any of those people who she wants to get to know further. Once that happens, you hope to build a relationship with her spanning the remainder of her pregnancy, and ideally, beyond birth.

So, our wait time is really twofold: we wait until we have a good lead on a birth mother, and then we’ll wait out the remainder of her pregnancy. Some of the women come to the agency after their first positive pregnancy test, some come later during their pregnancy, and others wait to call the agency until they have given birth. All of these are distinct possibilities that we have to prepare for. On average, we can expect to wait 9 months from date of activation to date of birth. Our agency’s goal is 12 months maximum, but a lot of that depends on how many birth mothers walk through the door. For those keeping count, we activated in April, so 9 months puts us around a January birthday. Of course, nothing is guaranteed!

So, you’re just…waiting?

Well, yes and no. We’re waiting for a good lead and a match with a birth mother, and then we’ll wait out whatever remains of her pregnancy. But we’re not just sitting idly by. The first few months of working with the agency were so filled with activity and movement that it’s hard to imagine just sitting still now. We have a list of baby prep things to keep us busy while we wait. There are pediatricians to interview, daycare options to tour, grants to apply for, wills to set up, parenting books to read, and many other things. We’re slowly crossing things off that list.
We are also still living our lives! We can’t put our entire lives on hold while we wait. We went on vacation earlier this month, and we’ll be spending a LOT of time in Michigan this summer with our families. We get to celebrate a bridal shower, wedding, and two graduation parties this year. We have concert and baseball game tickets for this summer, plans with friends, and weekends to go to the farmer’s market with the dogs. It’s hard to plan around an unknown time frame, so we’ll just make plans as best we can for the time being.

Where will the baby be from? How old will your child be?

Our agency is based in Indiana and works with women mostly from Indiana. They get a few birth mothers from towns on the border of other states, but that’s pretty rare. It’s also a lot harder in those cases, because you have to balance the laws between Indiana and whatever neighboring state you’re working with. Yes, each of the 50 states has different laws surrounding adoption.

Our agency also works almost exclusively with expectant mothers, meaning that we will more than likely take our child home from the hospital a few days after they are born. Sometimes the agency will get sibling groups, and even more rarely will they get an older child being placed, but these situations almost never happen, since most older children are placed for adoption through the foster care system, not through a private agency.

What will your relationship with the birth mother look like?

In an ideal world, we’ll share letters and photos pretty frequently with our child’s birth mother. We’d even visit a few times a year. I know this sounds scary. It took us a long time to really discover how we felt about this level of openness. When you think about it, though, it’s really what’s best for everyone in the long term. Our child will know where they come from, we’ll have access to as much medical and social history as possible, and our birth mother will get to see her biological child thriving and happy. Eliminating the mystery helps to reduce adolescent rebellion (“you’re not my REAL parents”) and keeping in touch helps her heal from her grief.

That said, it’s really up to her how much interaction we have with her after all the papers are signed. Some birth mothers send cards and letters monthly, others visit yearly, and still others fade away after a few years, especially if we or she moves out of Indiana. We will set limits based on our family’s needs, but we hope that she is an active part of our child’s life. After all, the more people loving this little kid, the better!

I think it’s so important to note here that openness in adoption is not the same thing as co-parenting. When I think of co-parenting, I think of a couple who has divorced or separated, but are working together to raise their children. Both parties in a co-parenting relationship have some level of say in the day-to-day lives of the kids. This is not at all what happens in open adoption. Once the papers are signed in the hospital (24-48 hours postpartum), the birth mother has no legal rights to the child. We will be our child’s parents in everything except DNA.

And last, but not least, the most common question we’ve been asked over the last month:

Are you getting a boy or a girl?

We don’t know! We don’t get to choose the baby’s sex (really, what parents do?), and we’re matched with a birth mother, not her baby. She is making the decision to place her child with us because she feels we are the best people to care for this child. Let that sink in for a minute, and experience just how humbling this whole process is for us!