Monday, February 28, 2011

Adoption conference

I've been meaning to write down my thoughts from the adoption conference we went to last weekend. Here are the main takeaway points we had.

1. Don't tell anyone what we may know about the birth parents. Obviously depending on the level of openness, the birth parents may reveal things themselves. But what we know about the circumstances around our child's birth belongs to our child. Once we tell some people, we no longer control the information. A social worker told a story of how she was at the dentist and told the dentist that she assists with adoptions. The dentist then proceeded to go into all these stories, one of which was a child that this social worker knew. Apparently someone in the adoptive family had told their dentist. And now their dentist is telling the world. There was some disagreement among the professionals about how to actually apply this lesson. One thought you could safely tell close relatives that you trust. But another cautioned that trusted, well meaning relatives (i.e., grandparents) may reveal to the child that you know more than you have told them yet. And this can cause trust issues with the child.

2. Never lie to your child. This includes lies of omission or "technical truths." You can provide information in an age appropriate way when they are younger, especially if there is some negative information about the circumstances of their birth/adoption. But by the age of 12, they can handle all the information and so you should tell everything you know then. This goes back to the trust issue. If kids learn later that you lied or withheld information, they will have trouble trusting you in the future.

3. Kids know more than you think they do. Refer to #2.

4. It is not your child's responsibility to ask about their adoption/birth parents. It is your responsibility to tell them. This came up a couple of times, but was most forcefully presented when one couple said they were not sure they wanted to tell their child he was adopted. He actually shares many physical traits, hasn't yet asked about his birth, and they don't see a real reason to. The message was basically that it is our responsibility to tell the child what we know, in an age appropriate way. Even if they don't ask about it, we should find a way to bring it up.

5. The adoptive mother sets the tone for how adoption/birth parents will be talked about. Children learn what questions they are not allowed to ask. Shutting down their questions, or never bringing it up, sends the message that adoption is shameful. And that the adoptive and birth mothers are in competition with each other. That puts the kid in a hard spot and makes him/her thinks it is disloyal to wonder about the birthmother.

6. Children go through stages when realizing what adoption is. First they gained a family (age 3-6), then they lost a family (age 7-9), then they were given away (age 9-12), then they were rejected (age 13-17). Kids may go "underground" with questions about their adoption during some of these stages, so it is our job to drop pebbles to remind them that it is OK to talk about their feelings and validate them.

7. WISE UP power. We should be prepared on how to handle inappropriate comments related to adoption (i.e., are they really siblings?) and also prepare our children to handle any inappropriate comments they receive. WISE up - Walk away, It's private, Share, Educate. Give them something they can do from each of these categories so they are prepared.

8. There are different ways to talk about adoption. Authoritarian (I won't talk about it, or because I said so); Chosen baby (you are so special and were chosen out of so many babies); glorifying (constant praise for birth parents); rational (find answers); and reflecting (communicate the feeling that is underneath a question). We talked about what we might find easiest to give as a response to various questions. But the best response is usually a combination of reflecting and rational. Validate their feelings and provide answers if you can. Don't make them feel like a chosen baby (b/c then they worry about doing something wrong to be unchosen). Don't glorify the birth parents (b/c then they feel the problem must have been with them).

Saturday, February 26, 2011


We are officially signed up with our agency. Our training weekends are scheduled and today the mail brought our first piece of the home study to complete- the fingerprints for background clearance. It's on.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Other announcements

Now that I have told my boss about our adoption, I am wondering how many other people or who else we should tell. We are not keeping it a secret, but then adoption is not something that comes up often in conversation. So when do I just bring it up?

And with this I hit a point where it is clear how the adoption journey is different from being pregnant. The people that I would want to hear from me personally if I was pregnant (with a few exceptions) know we are starting the adoption process. But I would guess after a while, you don't really tell people you are pregnant, they just see you and figure it out and ask. The latter part is what I don't know how to handle. For example, do I tell the people at work that I don't work with directly (so they wouldn't be impacted personally by my family leave). My book club? Acquaintances at church? Friends from my political group? These are all people that I would be happy to share our news with but yet don't know how to bring it up.

And then of course there is FB. I don't even know what to do about that. Once we are approved, I will want everyone to know in case they happen to hear of somebody's cousin or whatever who is thinking about making an adoption plan. But do I have to go there now? I am worried about the reaction I would get there and how it might make me feel, or especially not having any reaction. Given the way things tend to go on FB, that wouldn't be unexpected, but since any pregnancy post gets about 27 comments, I would want the same.

There are a few people I still feel like I should tell personally. Although I am hoping we can make it a little farther down the road to really open up. For example, people that I work with directly, like my assistant and co-workers who will take some of the burden of me being gone for two months. My assistant is already giving me looks every time I am feeling less than 100%. I am sure if it was not for the coffee I always have in my hand she would be crocheting baby booties for me on the side.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I told my boss about our adoption plans today. She was pretty supportive and even a little excited. She has no knowledge of what the process is like, but is willing to work around it. Big relief here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tax update

Well, after tracing down every last receipt and calculating every mile driven to the doctor, deducting our medical expenses (mostly the IUIs, but a few other things as well) saved a total of $14 off our taxes. I guess that is better than nothing.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My doctor

I'd like to tell you about my doctor. No, not the one that has been the source of all my recent RE visits. My primary care doctor. The way my insurance works, it is financially beneficial if I see a doctor in a particular set of clinics. When I obtained my current job I set up a new patient appointment the first doctor that was available in this clinic. It took about 6 weeks to get that appointment. They promised once I was established as a patient, then I could make day-of appointments. My appointment was at 2:30. I show up at 2:25 and check in. At 3:15, I am called to the back (finally!) and the nurse takes my vitals and puts me in the exam room. I am reading a magazine and lose track of time. About 30 minutes pass and I leave the room to ask the nurse when the doctor would see me. She says the doctor is running a little late and will be right there. Another 20 minutes pass. I go out again and ask about the doctor. Finally, at around 4:15, in comes Dr. LateResident. Fresh out of medical school, Dr. LR tries to apply the knowledge that she is supposed to have a good bedside manner and chit chat with us to make us feel comfortable. At one point I said, "you know my appointment was at 2:30 so if we could hurry this along, that would be great." She appears a little flustered and does apologize and say it is not usually like this. Just when I think the exam is coming to a close, she says she has to call in her residency supervisor (Dr. Supervisor) to check that the appointment went well. After several more minutes waiting, Dr LR and Dr Supervisor come in together. DR LR fills in Dr Supervisor on me and my health. As part of the details, she mentions that I recently moved to the area. After asking a few questions about some questions in my medical history, Dr Supervisor asks how long I've been here. My reply? "2.5 hours!" She was like, oh no, I meant how long have you lived in this area.

Eventually I was able to escape. Dr LR has come in handy since that fateful appointment. She was the one to give me a reference to an RE that smoothed things over with my insurance. I should also add that the practice that includes Dr LR and Dr Supervisor sees both adults and children. I thought that was kind of odd since doctors usually specialize in one or the other, but whatever.

But let's fast forward to 2 summers ago. I had been very sick for a few days. Massive headache, some vomiting, etc. I did visit the ER at one point and they did a CT scan since at that point a headache was my major symptom. The ER doctor mentioned a "really terrible (temporary) disease," but since I have been sick for 3 days I probably have a non-deadly form and the only thing to do is wait it out. They discharged me with directions that if I got worse I should come back to the ER and if I stayed the same in a few days I should see my primary care doctor. Well a few days passed and I was the same. So in I went. Dr LR was not available that day, so I had an appointment with Dr Supervisor. At this point my husband is taking me b/c I couldn't drive. Or even really sit up. I think this time my appointment was at 3pm. We show up and are taken to the back at 3:15ish. Still a little late, but not as bad as last time. Dr Supervisor finally comes in a little after 3:30. She asks some questions and says I am dehydrated and gives me some juice to drink and leaves. She comes back about 30 minutes later to see if I am better. Um, not really, but thanks for the juice. She says I do have the "really terrible disease." The problem is that this really terrible disease comes in two forms. One form is not really treatable, but they can give me medicine to manage the symptoms and it runs its course in about 10 days. So I would just need to wait it out. The other form will kill you in 2-3 days if not treated. I need a "very painful procedure" to determine which form I have. But since it is now almost 5pm and the office is closing, I will need to go down to the ER to have that done. I am thinking, well if you got started when I first came in maybe it wouldn't be so late and I wouldn't have the insane cost of another ER visit. But I didn't want to die obviously, so down to the ER we went.

The ER doctor (different from the previous ER) examined me and agreed with Dr Supervisor that I have this really terrible disease. And he agreed that the only way to tell what form I had was through a very painful procedure. But then he said, "You've been sick for over 5 days?" I confirmed and he replied that if I have the deadly kind, I would have already been dead. So he thought we could rule that out without the very painful procedure. He gave me prescriptions to manage the symptoms and about a week later I was healthy again.

You are probably wondering why I am going into detail on my less than pleasant experiences with my doctor (to put it mildly). Well, I have been dreading the physical exams that are required as part of the homestudy. We are generally healthy, so I am not worried about the outcome of the exam, but just the length of time that the appointment will take. Also, as I've been looking into adoption, I realize that we will need to find a pediatrician. It crossed my mind that I could use my primary care doctor since they see both adults and children. And my reaction was, NO WAY! Besides, I was advised that we should find someone who knows how things may be different with adoption.

And then yesterday comes along. My husband and I signed up for an all day conference on being successful as an adoptive parent. I'll go into more detail on everything that was covered later. But let me just mention what happened towards the end of the afternoon. They had a panel with various professionals (agencies, legal and medical professionals) to talk about some logistics or things we need to think about and prepare for. One guess who the medical professional was? Yep, Dr Supervisor is apparently the best in the area for domestic adoptions. She is an adoptive mother herself and knows the developmental signs that a doctor should pay a little extra attention to if the child was adopted and has an unknown prenatal and family medical history. She is also willing to talk with us about specific situations of drug/alcohol exposure. I couldn't believe it. The one doctor that I would want to avoid the most is the best in the area!


For those interested in her overall perspective on drugs/alcohol exposure, she said that for children adopted as newborns, aggressive parenting can help overcome many of the disadvantages brought on by pre-natal conditions. So you want a doctor who is going to take concerns that your child is not developing on the normal schedule seriously, rather than dismiss them as saying that babies develop at different rates. While that is true, you want to have early intervention b/c that is the best way to overcome developmental delays. If something seems awry at 4 months, you want to take action then and not wait to see if the baby catches up by her/himself at 6 months.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I spent part of Sunday going over our finances and felt really good about where we were in terms of saving for the adoption. Even started looking into options for increasing our retirement savings. Monday I did our taxes. Ugh. There goes our savings account. My last hope is that by my rough calculations, we should be able to deduct some medical expenses from all our fertility treatments in 2010. I am starting the process now of going through all our receipts and figuring out how much we can actually document. We tried to keep all documents, but some was reimbursed by our FSA and so there are many pieces of paper to go through. And it has been a year, so some things could have been misplaced. Double ugh.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Telling your boss

Now that we have chosen an agency, we are starting on their initial application and I need advice from those who have already gone through this process.

When do you tell your boss? My initial plan was to wait until we were home study approved. I don't think it would go over so well with the circumstances of my job. Here's the thing. I work at a college. Mostly I do research and my job next year will involve a great deal of travel. Which of course would need to be reconsidered if I have maternity leave and even when I go back to work I don't want to leave a 3 month old for an entire week. I also teach some classes, which has its own complications when thinking about having a baby. How do I get someone to cover my class? Is it possible to maybe miss one or two classes around the time of birth and placement and then continue teaching a class that meets once a week (while stopping other work responsibilities)? There have been a few men in my department who did that, but no woman has had a child since I've been there.

The uncertainty of adoption makes this conversation even harder. We are making decisions now about who will teach what class next fall. I don't want to not teach a class in hopes of going on leave in the fall, but then not get a placement for a year.

But the first step of the home study process is getting references. And they want work references. So I think I need to have this discussion soon.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Slowing down and divine intervention

As you can probably tell from my recent posts, I've been feeling pretty overwhelmed with everything going on in my life. Adoption can be overwhelming by itself, but together with a crazy life at work right now, it has added to my stress. The two together has meant that I have not been sleeping and no time to recharge because I would get home from a busy day at work and then immediately start researching adoption agencies. I reached my breaking point this week. Here's how that came about and the resolution we found.

As I've written about before, I have struggled with the idea the large placement fees with adoption amount to buying a baby. I have even seen some agencies where they describe the situations currently available, and each one has a dollar amount attached to it. I feel strongly that the decisions we make with this adoption need to be ones where we can tell our future child about them and not make them feel uncomfortable or angry about the circumstances. I don't want the birth parents to be pressured into making an adoption plan. I don't want to make a baby seem like a commodity.

We feel more secure using an agency rather than going an entirely independent route. Partly it is our desire to avoid making this process seem like a sale (once you start thinking about finding a private placement, people start using terms like marketing). And partly it is security for us because there are people out there who want to take advantage of adoptive parents. Another factor is that we feel like we need some education, both to help us get through this process, and to be good parents to a child who will have to deal with unique circumstances of having been adopted. Only the local agencies appear to have plans to educate us. The problem? We've only been able to identify two agencies that we feel comfortable with. And they both scheduled their home study groups at times that were impossible for us.

OK, not quite impossible, but very very unlikely. One scheduled their group for the day of my husband's graduation. I mean, he is not going to be denied his degree just because he doesn't go to the graduation ceremony, but he has worked so hard for this degree, he needs to go. The other agency scheduled their training for two weekends that both conflict with important things we have going on. My husband was able to confirm that he could move the conflict he had for the second weekend. But the bigger problem was always my conflict with the first weekend. I have a major event at work that overlaps. The next opportunity to work with this agency would not happen until October and we effectively be putting off our adoption process for almost a year. That is unacceptable. Even the training for this agency in April that seemed impossible for us to make is such a long ways off.

So that's where we were on Wednesday. The only options that appeared morally acceptable seemed impossible logistically. We had a meeting at a church and planned to ask our pastor for advice after our meeting that night. But he had to zip out right afterwards and we never got a chance to talk about it. I didn't sleep that night. And I was upset, anxious, depressed, stressed, etc. As I was going through the motions at work, I kept thinking that time was slipping away and I didn't know what to do. I keep using the phrase overwhelmed because I don't have a better term. I just wasn't coping well.

And then suddenly it hit me that we need to slow down. There are too many decisions to make and we can't rush through this. Maybe waiting until April isn't such a long wait after all. While I was still thinking that April was impossible anyway, the notion that we need to slow down and I don't need to make these life altering decisions this week made me feel a bit better.

And then around lunch the impossible happened. Something changed with my work conflict where a sliver of opportunity opened up. I may have to jet to off to a different city the day after our training, but I think I will be able to attend both weekends. I am not usually the type to describe events in my life as having divine intervention. I tend to think that God has many important things to think about than messing around with my little life. But if there is anything where I feel God is pointing the way for us, this is it.

So I called the agency and secured us a spot in their April group. We are slowing down. And I feel at peace.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hillary Clinton

I was surprised to read recently that Hillary Clinton had endometriosis and the Clintons experienced infertility and wanted more kids other than Chelsea. She even admitted to thinking of ways to expand their family while they were in the White House! Could you imagine a caseworker showing up in the WH for a home study? Or what about being a birthmother and going through profiles only to see the president and first lady?! Now I think the Obamas are doing the best they can with small kids, but that is not exactly the best situation in which to raise a child.

Also, I voted for Obama in both the primary and the general election and am glad we had some major health insurance reform, but it did make me wonder how a President Hillary Clinton might have inserted IF coverage in there.

And since we are on the topic of health care reform, the recent court ruling has me concerned. One, I don't want to see the law overturned. But more importantly to my own self interest, the extension of the adoption tax credit was in the health care law. So if the whole thing is overturned, what does that do to the tax credit?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Another sad FB day

Today my future sister-in-law posted on FB that she is excited and has only four months to go. That made sense to me and made me smile because she is marrying my brother in four months. But then all her friends started asking her if she was pregnant. Hello? Don't you know your supposed friend is getting married soon and might be excited about that?

But then she responded and clarified that, no, she is not pregnant...yet. Ugh. I love my nieces and nephews and would of course be happy for my brother and SIL, but can't my baby brother wait just a little bit until he starts reproducing?
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