Adoptation

February 12, 2010

Not Quite Ours

Filed under: Adoption, Home Study, Infertility, Newborn, Paperwork, Parentood — adoptation @ 9:48 pm

Among all the elation and contented feelings of sudden/at-long-last parenthood comes the occasional reminder that we are not quite done with the adoption process, and the baby is not quite ours.

The state from which we adopted requires a 6-month finalization period; from now until then, we will be sending updates to the agency and will have a handful of follow-up home study visits. The first of those was today, and while it went perfectly fine, it brought up the single most annoying side of adoption: because we are not able to have a child the way so many other people do, we must prove (in ways those other people don’t have to) that we are fit to be parents.

It normally doesn’t get under my skin, but today it burrowed in a little just because we’ve been parenting the heck out of this kid for almost 3 weeks now. Not to pat myself too hard on the back, but so far my wife and I are a pretty good Mom/Dad team. But the fact is that, technically, my son is a ward of the adoption agency; technically, his name is not the one we’ve given him; technically, I do not have a sufficient relationship with him to get him a Social Security number. And all of that will continue to be true until sometime this summer.

Luckily, there is too much joy radiating off of this kid to get too down on it. But the pile of paperwork still to be done continues to be in sharp focus, even if it’s seen only out of the corner of my eye. He is my son, regardless of what it says on paper. That will have to do until that paper gets amended to say that he is entirely ours.

February 1, 2010

Selfishly Selfless

Filed under: Adoption, Birth mother, Infertility, Newborn — adoptation @ 10:07 pm

Because we’ve had to travel pretty far from home to adopt our son, my wife and I have been talking to a lot of people who don’t know much about us—waiters, nurses, people at various front desks, etc. Between our accents, clothes, and general affect, it’s fairly simple to tell we’re not from here, so people invariably ask where we’re from and why we’ve traveled so far.

When we tell them it’s to adopt a baby, the universal response has been to tell us what a good thing we’re doing. How great it is to take a baby and make him part of our family. How selfless we are.

Of course, the thing is that this entire exercise is born of selfishness: we couldn’t have exactly what we wanted the way we wanted, and as we moved along the list of ways to get what we wanted, adoption eventually became the means to our end. We wanted a baby, and this is how we got one.

Along the way, I’ve come to see how this is not 100% selfish, even if that wasn’t on purpose. Our son was going to be born, and the circumstance he was going to be born into (which was by no means terrible—his birth mom would have loved him like crazy and given it her all) is now, in one move, altered completely. We will love him and give him every opportunity available to us to give. We will learn (pretty quickly, I imagine) to put ourselves aside and be…well, be selfless for him. Not because we wanted to be the kind of heroic figures one local waitress seemed to suggest we are (we’re not!), but because the three of us just so happened to find each other through the adoption process.

I think the infertility path that leads people like us to that process gradually makes you think in different ways about how a baby comes into your life, and what being a parent to a child means. Today the baby’s birth mom told my wife, “I’ve never really been a big fan of ‘everything happens for a reason,’ but on this one, I believe it,” to which she replied, “It really does feel like he is the baby we were meant to have.”

January 25, 2010

Best Laid Plans

Filed under: Adoption, Birth mother, Infertility, Preparation — adoptation @ 9:49 pm

Something awesome happened on Friday: we had a conference call with the adoption-agency folks, and they laid out for us a well laid-out plan. The baby’s birth mom had elected for a scheduled induction, allowing us to plan the trip to her state, schedule a meet-up with her the day before, etc. It was about a month and a half out, and the endgame was sliding into place brilliantly. This was, in fact, pretty much the 1st thing in several years of our baby quest that was going smoothly and happily.

And like any of the best laid plans, it wasn’t in place for long.

On Saturday night, we got a call that the birth mom’s water had broken. Six weeks early.

She got to the hospital quickly, and the doctors gave her drugs to stop contractions. The baby is healthy and the right size & weight and all that…he’s just also early. The doctor wants him to cook for at least another week or two…but they’re also not going to medically stop him again. So for now he’s in place, resting comfortably in the womb. But the next time he decides he’s had enough of this womb thing, that he’s ready to meet everyone, he’s going to come out.

Really? Wow. So just in case the journey wasn’t complex enough, now we’re throwing a premature birth into the mix. The general thought is that he won’t be too premature; 5 or 6 weeks early is early, but not dangerously so. But it does complicate the hospital stay (some length of time in the NICU), the plan for the birth mom to have some time with him in her room, and then his ability to hop a plane to come back with us. Looks like we’re gonna be staying in the hotel longer than we thought.

It feels a little unfair—like being happy and relaxed for almost a month had been more than we were entitled to—but also exciting, because this thing is happening. Soon. We won’t be there for the birth anymore, and we’ll have more difficulties to deal with…but on the other hand, who better than an infertility-battle-hardened couple like us to deal with them? We’re tough, and we know how to deal with the best laid plans getting unplanned in an instant. The baby will be born, he’ll be healthy, and he’s clearly just as eager to join our family as we are eager to have him come aboard.

January 21, 2010

In the Mail

Filed under: Adoption, Infertility, Paperwork, Preparation — adoptation @ 7:54 pm

On the day my wife and I officially “went active” with the adoption agency, I joked with the guy on the phone, “So I guess now we just wait for our baby to show up in the mail?” There was an uncomfortable silence, followed by a short, nervous bit of laughter. I guess they don’t joke much about adoption over there.

But that’s not to say that nothing is coming in the mail. In addition to the constant flow of paperwork in and out of our mailbox, today a small carton of complimentary Similac formula showed up in the mail. We didn’t order it or sign up with anyone for it; it just arrived, no doubt courtesy of some mailing list we’re now on thanks to our Target baby registry or something like that.

I smiled when it arrived, but not because it was a free box of something we’re really going to need in a few weeks. Actually, this is the second free box of formula we’ve received. The first came more than three years ago. We had just started trying to conceive, assuming that the lack of success was just the normal couple of misses that come on the road to a direct hit. My wife and I both got a little chuckle out of the unsolicited breast-milk substitute, and she brought it into work for a colleague who had just had a baby.

We never heard from the free-formula people again, but I never entirely forgot about it. It was the first in a long, long line of many, many little (and big) reminders that society does not make allowances for infertility. You are expected to be able to reproduce; if you can’t, no one really wants to hear about it. There’s no such thing as a TV show’s infertility plotline that doesn’t resolve with a pregnancy—if the show reflected how long many people really have to wait, it would exceed people’s patience. Some of our friends, and many of our family members, expressed concern and support initially…but pretty quickly didn’t want to hear about it anymore. Their lives had too many positive plotlines and too much fun on offer to want to be dragged down with a story that has no foreseeable end point.

That makes our currently foreseeable end point all the more relieving. Our copy of Heading Home With Your Newborn showed up in the mail today, too, and I’m looking forward to more happy arrivals. The baby isn’t showing up in the mail, but all evidence still points to the baby showing up soon, and I’m ready for the happy plotlines that come along with that.

January 16, 2010

It’s the Economy, Stupid

Filed under: Adoption, Birth mother, Home Study, Infertility, Paperwork — adoptation @ 9:31 pm

Ever since my wife and I began the adoption process—and especially since we’ve been matched—there’s been a steady background hum of worry. Things continue to seem to be going well, yes, but we know that a decent number of adoptions end in disruption near the end…and that our babymaking quest has seen us continually ending up on the wrong side of the odds, no matter how short or long.

This week, we felt a little air come out of the balloon. No, it was nothing bad with the baby, or the baby’s birth mom, or the adoption agency, or any of the many possible worries they spell out in the little booklets they’ve given us. No, as Bill Clinton would say: It was the economy, stupid. The stupid, stupid economy.

At the end of last week, my wife’s company had significant layoffs and her hours were drastically reduced. She didn’t lose her job entirely, thank goodness; while it does mean reduced income and a need for some quick belt-tightening, it doesn’t mean we’re in any sort of serious fiscal trouble. And while we do need to update a bunch of our paperwork (specifically the home study), it doesn’t negatively impact the adoption. It’s bad, but not tragic.

What it does mean, however, is that our long-held game plan—for me to quit my job after the baby is born and be a full-time, stay-at-home dad—just went kaput. Temporarily kaput, I think, but kaput nonetheless.

My wife is the breadwinner, and while we can make due on just her salary and maybe a little freelance income from me, it can’t and won’t work the other way around. And now I’m the only one with employer-funded health insurance…which both my wife (now) and the baby (soon) will need to join.

Since it still seems pretty likely that the adoption will work out and that we’ll have a newborn in the house in a couple of months(!), my wife can’t really look for a new full-time job until after the birth…which means I’m staying put for the time being. I don’t hate my job or anything like that, not by a long shot; but I was fully prepped & ready for my new job, one that I’ve been looking forward to for several years now. And in one partial swing of the stupid economic axe, that’s all over & done…at least for awhile.

This is, to be sure, not the biggest problem we’ve faced in this process. It’s just another disappointment, another moment to think, “I haven’t done anything wrong. Why can’t I have what I want?” But I guess the thing I really want is to be a dad, to be a family that extends in another, exciting direction. And I’m fairly confident that we’ll get back on track sooner rather than later, so I’m trying to keep a good attitude about the latest twist in the story.

January 12, 2010

Opening the Closed Door

Filed under: Adoption, Birth mother, Infertility, Preparation — adoptation @ 8:38 pm

When my wife and I were stranded in some of the lowest depths of our infertility struggle, I used RESOLVE to find a local therapist who specialized in fertility issues. During one of our sessions, she used the term “The Closed-Door Room.” We both sat up bolt-straight when we heard it.

The therapist didn’t need to tell us what The Closed-Door Room was. We knew, because we had one.

It’s a room every infertile couple has, the one you’d started out calling The Nursery. But soon you stopped calling it that, then you stopped going into it, then tried not to look in when you walked by, and finally you closed the door and kept it closed.

We’d even had fights about it. TCDR had been one of the places that, during the move-in to our house (the one we’d bought for the baby we were sure was coming so, so soon…) we plopped a lot of boxes and stray furniture. Stuff that didn’t have a place and/or for which there was no hurry to put anywhere. Eventually, my wife wanted to clear out this moving day detritus from TCDR…but as much as it pained me to know that this was no longer The Nursery, I couldn’t quite cope with the idea of the room being completely and absolutely empty. Every few months she’d want to clean it up; every time, I’d get angry and despondent at the thought.

So the door stayed mainly closed for a couple of years. It’s near the top of the stairs, and there’s no getting around the fact that we both needed to walk by it several times a day. But we didn’t go in very often, and at least we didn’t have to look into this space that had not yet stopped—and after awhile felt like it may never stop—being TCDR.

Then we got The Call. And then we had contact with the baby’s birth mom. And then, fairly quickly, it started to seem real.

And then we opened the door.

My wife has almost finished painting the walls and touching up the trim. We’ve ordered some furniture, measured the spaces and laid out where the crib would go, where the changing table would be, how we would keep the diaper bin from being too terribly close to where the baby would sleep. We saw how it could be, and believed it. We even started calling it The Nursery again.

And even if, for some reason, this adoption is disrupted, this experience has made us both believe that it will happen for us, and sooner rather than later. I think we’ll be able to keep the door open, walk by it every day, look in, and feel good about our chances of closing it again with a baby asleep on the other side.

January 11, 2010

Baby Stuff

Filed under: Adoption, Birth mother, Infertility, Paperwork, Preparation — adoptation @ 9:01 pm

With only about 2 months to go until the baby’s birth mother is due, my wife and I are having to get serious about our preparations for the adoption. We’re now officially beyond paperwork (well, not entirely…there’s still plenty of paperwork to do!) and have to do stuff like pick out a car seat, get some baby clothes, and generally figure out how to start taking care of this baby the minute he’s put into our arms.

One thing I’m staunchly against doing is buying a lot of stuff. Not because I don’t think we’ll need or want stuff—I just know that family & friends are going to want to buy gifts and help out and such and, well, they’re certainly welcome to do so! So I’m getting a Target registry together for the baby.

But since, again, we really don’t know all that much about babies and their baby stuff, my wife thought it would be good to go to our local Target and explore the wide world of baby bedding, figure out what exactly “receiving blankets” looked like, and get a general feel for the baby-stuff scene.

And wow, did we ever have fun!

We had fun looking at stuff that we wanted our baby to have (cute, but not too cute, onesies). We had fun mocking the stuff we wanted no part of (Diaper Genie? No thanks). We had fun being horrified by some of the stuff (a gadget that lets you listen to, record, and e-mail pre-natal sounds). We had fun picking up some stuff we’d really need (car seats are not all alike). We had fun imagining this stuff in our house and the baby in our life.

But the biggest shock was realizing that we were having fun. Doing baby stuff.

That hadn’t really happened before; certainly not in a long, long time. Any baby stuff (ie, infertility stuff) we did tended to involve negative emotions that ranged from nervousness and tension to disappointment and crippling heartbreak. The rest of what we did, including for the adoption, was generally paperwork stuff. And imagining life with a baby was way, way too outside of what felt safe to think about or discuss; being in the baby aisle of Target would have just meant hours of my wife crying while I tried to comfort us both.

But there we were, showing each other funny bibs and talking about why some onesies had mittens. We were just enjoying ourselves amongst the baby stuff, and starting for the first time to get a genuine, real feeling of what it might be like to arrive at the place we’ve been trying to get to for so long.

January 8, 2010

Flashback: The Adoption Train

Filed under: Adoption, Birth mother, Infertility, Miscarriage, Uncategorized — adoptation @ 10:54 pm

A flashback to an earlier, much less happy stop on our adoption journey:

The train station was only about 30, maybe 40 yards away. I could see it clearly, nothing obstructing my view, and trains were moving in and out of the station every few minutes. If not for the fact of the window, the two-story drop to the street, and the fact that this orientation session for international child adoption had at least another hour to go, it would be easy to not be here.

But we were here, boarding the adoption train, and there was no way to disembark. The other people in the room didn’t look like us—many were older,  several were fatter, there were receding hairlines every few seats, and enough ethnic diversity to make for the saddest Benetton ad ever. But they all had that same look in their eyes, the 100-yard-stare that comes from the peculiar genre of internal and external combat of infertility. Everyone here wanted to start a family, to continue the family line they’d come from, and everyone had run into the 10-ton granite wall of failure to accomplish what seemed so simple on after-school specials.

We’d been so jazzed about coming to the session. It seemed like the first concrete solution to our problems that we’d had in a long, long time. How long had it been since we started trying to get pregnant? I guess it technically wasn’t all that long (some of the more shell-shocked couples in the room seemed to have been at it longer), but it had dragged us through ages. In just two short years (particularly long years, really), we’d seen our best-laid plans crumble, we’d dumped thousands of dollars into treatments and appointments and consultations and medications, we’d had the heartbreak of miscarrying babies for whom we’d already reserved family names, we’d seen serious fractures in our relationships with our own families, and we’d stared at each other too many times with the question, “Why?” going unanswered.

We’d reached the end of the fertility rope. But this, this was going to make it happen for us, right? International adoption took out the Juno narratives from the adoption process, right? No birth mothers to pitch yourselves to (and be crushed by when they changed their minds) and no nosy adoption agencies who were scrutinizing us, forcing us to prove that we deserved to have what everyone else was entitled to gratis. We’d lost a lot already, but the losses ended here.

Except that they didn’t—they were piling up. No countries allowed adoption of a brand-new, fresh-from-the-hospital baby. In the best scenarios, we’d get a baby who was almost a year old, and who had spent time in an orphanage and/or with foster parents. If we were lucky, we’d get photos of our son/daughter being raised by other people; if we were unlucky (and this seemed likely), we’d have little or no access to information about the birth parents, how much pre-natal care there’d been, and whether pre-natal alcohol, drug and tobacco intake had gone on. And the bright-red caboose of this adoption train was this: based on the strict rules that each country had for who could adopt from its citizens, there was only one country that we’d qualify for…and that would only be if we lied about my wife taking anti-depressants and didn’t get caught in the lie. (Apparently, South Korea only arranges adoptions with people who are perfectly happy with their infertility.)

As the last hour dragged on, I’d tuned out, leaving my wife to take notes and pay attention. I had already disembarked. I wasn’t shutting myself off from the adoption option, but we were going to have to find another way to take this ride.

January 7, 2010

Manual Override

Filed under: Adoption, Birth mother, Infertility, Preparation, Ultrasound — adoptation @ 8:17 pm

Things continue to be going smoothly with the baby’s birthmom, and my wife and I are finding we can actually turn our thoughts to something we’d never gotten to during the infertility years: being parents.

By which I mean that we’d gotten so stuck in the loop of trying (and failing, and failing…) to create a baby that we never got to talk too much about having a baby in our house and in our lives. At first I guess it seemed like tempting fate to speak aloud of such matters, and eventually it didn’t even make sense to be thinking those kinds of thoughts. We were totally about the baby making, not the baby raising.

Well, it may still be a fate-tempting risk, but this adoption feels real. We’ve even seen an ultrasound that clearly shows the baby—which again caught me by surprise, because I’d forgotten that ultrasounds could show something other than a dot-sized embryo or an empty void.

As I started really, actually thinking about having to care for a real, actual infant, it hit me: we don’t know all that much about it. Pregnant couples invariably get tips from friends, relatives and birthing classes; our friends and relatives knew to steer clear of “the topic” around us, and we certainly never got anywhere near a birthing class. Heck, we even stopped watching TV shows with baby-based storylines. So on a lot of the basics, we’re way behind.

Do babies come with an operator’s manual? Something tells me they don’t…so I just ordered one.

I picked Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality. The description sounds like it’s just what we need (basically, an overview of what you need to know for the first few months, with diagrams), plus the title really appealed to me; Heading Home seems like a good fit for the adoption process, since the first real thing we’ll be doing as parents is just that. Buying a book like this feels like a huge, immeasurable step…and confirms for me that this time, for the first time, I really believe that this is going to have a good ending.

January 5, 2010

Yours, Mine, Ours

Filed under: Adoption, Birth mother, Infertility, Paperwork — adoptation @ 9:08 pm

In short order, this blog has gotten a decent readership—which is a pleasant surprise, considering that I wasn’t entirely clear to whom I was writing when I fired this up.

I certainly don’t know as much about adoption as a lot of my fellow adoption bloggers do. My wife and I are still fairly new in this world—we begin the paperwork and initial preparations during our final round of fertility treatments, which isn’t exactly recommended, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Then the paperwork and agency stuff and initial match all happened so quickly…well, I feel like we’re simultaneously taking our hesitant first steps and barreling down the highway at 90 miles an hour.

Which brings me to an interesting note I received from one of this blog’s readers. She clearly sensed my rookie-dom here and offered an observation that had never occurred to me: that some might object to my use of the phrase “our birthmother” and other possessive-pronoun phrases (she also sent this link).

I definitely see the point here…but I kind of don’t know how else to refer to this woman (one of the most cosmically generous I’ve ever know, btw…). In other instances, the use of “our” or “my” doesn’t indicate any sort of entitled feeling ownership: you’d say, “my boss” or “our Senator” without it being about possession. They’re just people who are connected to us, and the possessive indicates that there is a relationship…right?

Am I just being naive here? We’re definitely developing genuine feelings for our the birthmother, and not just viewing her as a holding company for the baby we’re hoping to adopt. But I also recognize that this is a transactional relationship…which almost all relationships are, but this one perhaps more tangibly so. I’ll have to think on a better way to refer to her (maybe just something like: M), but this is a good reminder that both my wife and I will need to look even more deeply at the lifelong relationship we’re entering into…not just with the child, but with the baby’s biological mother.

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