National Adoption Awareness month is the perfect month for a collaboration on the topic of adoption!
I participated this year in the Adoption Blogger Interview Project. This year over 100 bloggers were matched up to interview each other about adoption. I interviewed Erin of the blog Connected Through Love.
Her post Do Not Pass Go: Going Straight to Adoption provides helpful advice to infertile couples who wish to skip IVF and go straight to adoption. I particularly liked her emphasis that the decision is a personal one. I know some people who advocate only for domestic or only for international adoption. I know some who advocate just for open and some just for closed. Erin said it well: “It’s not a matter of good-better-best. It comes down to what is right for you and your partner. . .”
The Post Adoption Probation Period
1. Like you we experienced a probationary period. What kind of fears did you have (if any) during the 6-month probation period after you brought your daughter home? Did the probation period affect you and your husband’s ability to bond/attach with your daughter?
Our biggest fear was that the birth mom was going to have a change of heart. We live in Illinois and the law states that the birth moms must wait a minimum of 72 hours after giving birth before she can sign legal documents (they can take as long as they want, but can’t do it any sooner than 72 hours).
We developed a strong relationship with the birth mom during the last 4 months of her pregnancy. She repeatedly told us that she was going to go through with the adoption plan and that we shouldn’t worry about her backing out. She even invited us to be at the hospital for the birth and asked us to take the baby home with us from the hospital. We knew this was a huge risk because she’d most likely be discharged after 48 hours but couldn’t sign surrenders until at least 72 hours. If we took the baby home and then the birth mom changed her mind, the social worker would have to come and take the baby away from us. It was a huge emotional risk for us, but we decided to trust our instincts and put our faith in God that things would work out the way they were supposed to.
Her birth mom canceled and rescheduled her meeting to sign surrenders several times, and each time was like a knife in our hearts. We thought we were going to have to return the baby to her, so we really struggled emotionally because we were so attached. People were telling us to consider the baby as someone we were babysitting, not adopting (yeah, right – that is NOT easy). Our social worker said we could place the baby with a temporary foster care family until papers were signed or a decision was made, but we ultimately decided we wanted to spend as much time with her as possible, even if we weren’t meant to be her parents. Almost a week later, our social worker called us and said the papers were signed. The birth mom called a few minutes later to tell us she signed, and in her words, “you’re officially a mommy now.” I will never forget that day – it was my 35th birthday and I was so overjoyed to finally be a mother (even though we still had to wait for finalization), but I remember feeling so sad for her that she wasn’t able to raise her daughter.
Dealing with Loss, Grief, and Setbacks
2. You wrote about two heartbreaking losses prior to adopting your daughter (a premature delivery and a stillborn delivery). As a biological mom, I realize that birth moms who carried and lost their babies have a physical and emotional loss to deal with. As an adoptive mom who faced several closed doors during our decade-long journey to adopting our daughter, I know the reality of the depth of loss adoptive parents experience. What were helpful things you did to recognize and get through the grief and loss? Also, do you commemorate the anniversary of those losses (and if so, how)? What can friends/family of adopting parents say/do (or not say/do) to adoptive parents experiencing similar losses or setback?
During the adoption process we were told over and over that many birth moms have a change of heart after the baby is born and they choose to parent. We knew that was a very real possibility with any situation, so we tried to mentally prepare for that. However, nothing in our training ever mentioned infant or pregnancy loss – we honestly didn’t even consider that as a possibility and we were completely unprepared to deal with it. When our first match ended after the birth mom delivered just past 21 weeks, we were devastated. We spent a lot of time crying and talking to the birth mom trying to help support her (we’re still friends). We eventually accepted it and moved on. To celebrate this baby girl, my mom had a brick engraved at church that recognized the baby’s birth date (they were building a new path to the chapel) so that’s a nice permanent reminder of this child’s short life.
The second time, the birth mom made it full term but the baby was stillborn. Those next few days are a blur to me – I remember wailing and literally being so hysterical I couldn’t even stand up, breathe or function properly. My parents came over immediately and just sat and cried with us. We were shocked that our second match ended in loss, too. What are the chances of this happening twice? This one was much harder to deal with and we really weren’t sure if we could continue the adoption path.
I recognized that I needed grief counseling, so I used my company’s employee assistance program and found a therapist near my house. I highly recommend this to anyone experiencing grief or loss; I started seeing him once a week (my husband eventually joined me) and it helped me tremendously to hear that my feelings of extreme sadness, uncontrolled crying, grief, and even rage, were normal and that it was okay to feel that way. A wonderful friend I met on Twitter made me a beautiful bracelet with an angel wing charm on it to recognize this baby, and I wear it often.
Our friends, families and coworkers had no idea how to handle these situations. I think the best thing was for people to say “I don’t know what to say, but I’m here to support you in any way you need.” The ones who told me that God must not have wanted us to parent those babies, or who said things happen for a reason, they just angered me. I know those people meant well, but to me, those phrases did not make me feel any better – they actually made me feel worse.
Also, it helped SO much that many of my friends sent cards, emails or text messages. I could go back and read them as often as I needed to and I didn’t have to talk to them if I wasn’t ready. It took a while before I was ready to talk on the phone or see people in person.
3. You write about being in an open adoption. Name 1-3 things readers who are birth parents/grandparents can do to make open adoption a positive experience. Name 1-3 things prospective adoptive parents need to be ready to handle concerning the ins and outs of open adoption.
A few things birth families can do to help make open adoption a positive experience include:
- Don’t always wait for the adoptive family to contact you. If you want to say hello, drop us an email or give us a call! I know our daughter will love to look back at her scrapbooks and see the emails and texts I’ve saved from her birth family writing just to see how she’s doing and asking us to give her a hug from them.
- Share stories! We love learning about our daughter’s birth family, even simple things like their favorite foods or tv shows. I know my daughter will appreciate having so much insight into her biological family as she gets older.
A few things I think prospective adoptive parents need to be ready to handle concerning open adoption include:
- The frequency of communication may change drastically. Our daughter’s birth family was texting, emailing and calling a lot at first, but it eventually slowed down quite a bit. Now we’re in a good rhythm, but it may change again down the road.
- Sometimes birth families don’t get along, and you may feel stuck in the middle. When our daughter’s birth parents are fighting or not speaking, I hear about it. My goal is always to make sure she is safe so I will do what’s best for her, not necessarily for them (as far as visits are concerned, etc.)
Thank you, Erin, for participating in the Adoption Interview.
Please check out Erin’s blog Connected Through Love to read her interview with me. Also check out the blog Production, Not Reproduction which hosted the Adoption Interview for links to other great interviews with those who blog about adoption.
–Delana H. Stewart
And on a fellow blogger’s blog, see:
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