Adoptation

February 21, 2010

It’s Not Unusual

Filed under: Adoption, Birth mother, Newborn, Paperwork, Parentood — adoptation @ 9:33 pm

Today we opened the doors to family and friends on the occasion of the baby’s bris. Usually ritual circumcisions take place at 9 days (not 4 weeks), but nothing about this particular case has been the usual.

That said, the bris marked a major turning point in our family’s baby journey. Excepting the fact that he was a few weeks older than the typical bris candidate, the ceremony was an entirely normal baby thing. People ooohed and ahhhed at him, the mohel did the prayers & the cutting, food & drink were consumed, stories were told—and from start to finish, it was just like all other bris ceremonies. Sure, we took a photo of everyone together so that the birth mom could see how everyone had come together for the baby…but even that was just a group pic at a party. Nothing unusual going on here, people. Move along.

There are still a few small turns to come in the adoption, including the few reports we have to submit to the agency and the 6-month finalization, but other than that we’re just raising our son. It’s entirely new to us and wonderful and mysterious and all that, but also entirely ordinary. Which is not a complaint—at this point, I am very thankful for a little ordinary wherein the only surprises are good ones.

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February 14, 2010

We Three

Filed under: Adoption, Newborn, Paperwork, Parentood — adoptation @ 5:19 pm

While we were out of state waiting for our adoption paperwork to move forward, the guest list was rock steady: my son, my wife, and me. The nearest friend or family member was at least a time zone away, and seemed to be sated by my daily uploads of digital photos and videos.

Once we made it home, however, all bets were off—everyone wanted to see the baby, in person, now. One family member even went so far as to e-mail twice and call twice within a 36-hour period, barely giving us time to respond. And anyway, the response wasn’t what anyone wanted to hear: because our son was born quite premature, the doctor felt that his immune system might not be up to the bacteriological exposures of the outside world or the people who carried these bugs from place to place. In other words, we were back home, but not really accepting visitors.

Needless to say, this has been an extremely difficult discipline to maintain. Family members (especially those with school-age kids) who have already gotten a “please, not just yet” answer have re-asked for an audience with the baby. I don’t blame them—he is super cute and thoroughly awesome—but quite frankly, we didn’t wait several years for a baby just so we could put him and his underdeveloped immune system at risk right away. It’s been a daily exercise to try to graciously process everyone’s excitement about the kid while also kicking it down the road a week or two.

But there were two sets of people who would simply not wait: the grandparents. My wife and I understand where they’re coming from, so we’ve arranged to lift the veil a bit for these people—and these people only. And since my mother-in-law lives fairly far away…we consented to a weekend visit.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I like my mother-in-law. She’s very nice to me. She was and is a good mom to my wife. And she took good care of the baby while here. But you know those house guests who essentially take care of themselves, find what they need in your house, and blend into the environment seamlessly? That is not the kind of guest my mother-in-law is. She requires a lot of attention and guidance in our home, and does not always occupy herself very well.

So while it was nice to have her visit, fun to see her excitement about the baby, and awesome to have her babysit while we went out for dinner…by the time 48 hours had ticked off the clock, my wife and I were desperate to return to the We Three rhythm we’d quickly eked out since the adoption. (I think we hit bottom when my son was crying early in the morning, and she walked into our bedroom, without knocking, to check on him.) We’d spent so long chasing after the idyll of our little family unit, and it seemed like a sharp violation to have even a thoroughly benign intruder elbow into our little trio.

But I guess we need to get used to it. We both have lots of friends and family around, and I certainly can’t blame them for being psyched about the baby. After a couple of weeks, it’s going to be a stretch to keep the wall up around him, especially as he seems to be getting more robust and healthy by the day (though a clearance from his pediatrician would be AOK by me, too). I know that we should, and will, be grateful to have so many well-wishers for our newly/finally formed family…but I also can’t help but want to live inside a blissfully undisturbed We Three bubble for as long as we can.

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 4, 2010

Baby, I’m Yours

Filed under: Adoption, Newborn, Paperwork, Parentood — adoptation @ 5:13 pm

To my son,

Today your mom and I signed the papers that make you officially ours—but they’re really a formality, because we’d both become yours already.

Now I’m sitting in a hotel room, watching your mom feed you. Your first couple of weeks have already been a hell of an adventure, between your premature arrival, our long trip across the country to meet you, your startling progress in the hospital, and now the prospect of beginning to be your dad while living in a hotel room. I’m sure it won’t be long before you’re sick of hearing how the hotel had no cribs, so we converted an empty suitcase into a baby bed…but that’s the story, one of many I’ll enjoy telling about you.

I’m not going to pretend that we don’t all have some challenges ahead. You’re adopted, which means there are even more people who love you like crazy and want the best for you; but I’m also not naive enough to think it won’t be something you’ll have hard questions about. Hopefully my answers will be good ones.

In six months, we have to return to the state where you were born for a final hearing that wraps up the adoption process. The woman from the adoption agency says that the hearing mostly entails your mom and I swearing, under oath, to always love you as much as humanly possible. It’ll be easy to do, because it’s true right now, it’ll be true then, and it’ll be true as long as we’re all together in the family you helped make complete.

Love always,
Dad

February 3, 2010

Hotel Hopping

Filed under: Adoption, Newborn, Paperwork, Preparation — adoptation @ 10:10 pm

Today, my wife and I visited our week-old son and continued our now-standard three visits. Tomorrow, we will visit once, to check him out of the hospital, sign the adoption papers, and take him with us.

It seems so simple…but it’s an enormously, terrifically big thing. While we have been acting as parents to the baby for the last week, he technically hasn’t been an official part of our family; and our total daily involvement with him could be measured in hours. Now, he’ll be our son on paper as well as in spirit, and we’ll be with him (and responsible for him!) 24/7.

[Gulp!]

I’m simultaneously excited and terrified. We’re not cleared to leave the state with the baby yet, so we’ll all be living in a hotel room for about a week. Which will be kind of nice (all of the cleaning & such will be taken care of for us, and we’ll have some uninterrupted time as a trio), but really I’m ready to bring the baby home. He’s got a room that’s his, family that wants to meet him, and a routine that we can all fall into. (Everyone here has been very nice and helpful…but there really is no place like home.)

First, though, we hop into the hotel, and dive headfirst into keeping him healthy, happy and safe. I’ll have to apologize to the hotel staff in advance for the condition of the towels once we start our short stint in residence!

January 31, 2010

Parenthood-ish

Filed under: Adoption, Newborn, NICU, Paperwork, Preparation — adoptation @ 8:25 pm

Today our son was moved from Intensive Care to Intermediate Care…which was a total surprise and thoroughly awesome to hear. We’ve even started doing some parenthood-ish stuff, getting to change and/or feed him (under supervision, of course) once or twice a day.

It’s kind of a nice transition: my wife and I get to sleep 10 hours a night, go out to dinner, watch movies uninterrupted, etc., all while also getting to stare at the baby, comment about how superior he is to every other baby ever, and not have to worry about his initial care. He’s in excellent hands, which are only occasionally ours.

But all of that will be coming to an end. The NICU staff told us he is improving rapidly enough that he may have less than a week left before being given a clean bill of health. We have to see how the final rounds of adoption paperwork are going (specifically, the part that allows us to take the baby across state lines), but it seems that in relatively short order he’ll either be bunking with us in our hotel room or heading to the airport to fly to his new home. And then the parenthood-ishness will be over and the real parenthood will be in full flight.

January 30, 2010

Signed, Sealed, (almost) Delivered

Filed under: Adoption, Birth Father, Birth mother, NICU, Paperwork — adoptation @ 2:48 pm

Just before dinner yesterday, we got a call from the adoption agency: the birth mother had signed her papers, and the baby was now formally and irrevocably ours.

(Well, technically he’s now a ward of the agency…they don’t formally transfer him to our custody until he’s released from the hospital. Since he’s still in the NICU, that’s still down the road, but that’s more of a technicality than anything.)

Needless to say, my wife and I were pretty thrilled—we finally, really have a newborn baby who is ours and part of our family. But we also had to acknowledge how that same moment must have been for the birth mom. She is obviously one seriously tough cookie; we’re glad our son came via this awesome woman.

Now our only real job is monitoring the kid’s progress in the NICU. We’ve been going twice a day for 4 days now…and the amazing this is how different each visit is. Yesterday he was in an incubator and under jaundice lights for one visit, and the other included the birth father among the visitors; today he was out of the incubator, in a bassinet, wearing a hat & onesie, and experimenting with bottle feeding (plus we had the birth mom’s mother with us, who wanted to visit the baby one more time). Who knows what surprises tonight’s & tomorrow’s visits will bring?

January 29, 2010

Meet and Greet

Filed under: Adoption, Birth Father, Birth mother, Newborn, NICU, Paperwork — adoptation @ 6:40 pm

Today was set to be a double meet and greet day, including lunch with the baby’s birth mom and a late-afternoon meetup with the biological father. We were looking forward to the 1st meet for sure (we continue to really dig the birth mom), and were a little disappointed when it got postponed; she’s not feeling 100%, which is totally understandable given the events of the last few days.

But the 2nd event was also pretty intriguing—we’d never communicated with the bio-dad in any way, shape or form. In fact, we knew the baby much better, and were curious to see if the other half of the equation was tall or short, what color hair he had, what sort of personality, etc. The picture had filled in a lot in the last month, but this was a whole ‘nother set of dots to connect.

My wife and I were both a bit nervous about meeting him…but it turned out we needn’t have worried. He was clearly much more nervous to meet us, to the point of being nearly overwhelmed, and he was also a total mensch about everything. Tall and good-looking (and without a doubt the source of the baby’s thick head of reddish/blondish hair), the bio-dad was soft-spoken, polite, sweet as can be, and holding on tight through the whirlwind experience of meeting us and visiting the baby in the NICU.

I basically just kept talking to him, asking a few quick questions, giving information about what was going on, and doing my best to paint a picture of this all as a pretty big deal—hoping to help confirm for him that he’d made the right decision (he’d already signed his papers waiving parental rights before this, so it was to comfort, not persuade). He was very emotional when seeing the baby in the NICU, and kept expressing how thankful he was that we were taking this baby and giving him a good life; he seemed almost surprised to learn that we were thankful in his direction, too. As I said to him in the NICU, “We couldn’t be doing this without you.”

Our plan was to ask to take his picture so we’d have it to show our son later on, but it was clear that whipping out the camera would have been an extra pressure that might have pushed him over the edge. So instead we just assured him that as the baby grew up and learned about the adoption dynamic, we’d tell him that we’d met his bio-dad, that he was a good guy, and that he’d done a good thing to ensure the baby had a good life. Then we shook his hand, watched him walk out of the NICU, and went back to spending some more time with our son—a cool little guy who comes from good stock.

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.

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