Sunday, August 25, 2013

Trust the Process

Hey - I'm posting again! In the same week no less! Thank you to everyone who stuck with me through the last post - it was practically a book! Today's post will be decidedly less existential and a lot more practical. I am going to tell you everything you ever wanted to know (and, lets face it - probably way beyond) about the domestic newborn adoption process. Or, at least the process that applies to adoptions like ours and with our agency. ;) Randy and I have gotten a lot of questions from family and friends curious about the process, so I figure there will be enough interest to justify a blog post. And this way future posts about specific steps will make a lot more sense!

Okay. Are you ready? Take a deep breath, and lets get started. There are a LOT of steps. So many, in fact, that I made a binder (and like I said last post - binders mean business) and have spent several mornings and afternoons going through documents, manuals, books, and paperwork to get a handle on everything.

My lovely study spot in Devou Park near the river overlook

Agency Required Reading
Before we do anything, our agency requires that we read their manual. Its basically an overview of the process, an explanation of their specific policies and ways of work, and information about adoption, birth families, and adoptive parents in general. The manual is very detailed and quite informative. Both Randy and I have read it and plan to refer back to it throughout our process.

Adoption Plan
Once we've read the manual we are free to start making our adoption plan. This will include everything from the budget we set for our adoption costs to how open of an adoption we are comfortable with to what races of children we are open to parenting. It also includes considerations about birth parents family medical histories, and whether we are comfortable with special needs or with drug exposed newborns. Its a great tool (our agency provides it as an online questionnaire so we don't have to think up all these scenarios on our own) that helps to create matches that are less likely to disrupt. Having a plan and having discussed and considered everything before hand reduces the likelihood of having to make hard decisions on the spot or getting into situations that we aren't comfortable with or ready for. It forces us to really examine what will work best for our family and it helps the future birth parents to feel more comfortable that we are a good fit for their baby.

Home Study
The often dreaded and feared home study is a huge chunk of preparing for an adoption. It entails much more than just having a social worker tour your house looking for safety hazards. It involves gathering documents such as birth certificates, marriage license, and tax returns as well as getting background checks and FBI fingerprints. It means filling out pages and pages of questions about your marriage, child-rearing plans, your own childhood, and your mental health. It requires a trip to the doctor for certification that you are in good health and documentation of your financial standings, including a tallying up of your assets. It also involves interviews with the case specialist and finally, the tour of your home to ensure safety and cleanliness. I never thought I would be intimidated about the home study but the prospects of its approach are beginning to fray my nerves the slightest bit. Our adoption agency does home studies in certain states, but ours is not one of them so we are charged with signing on with a local agency to complete our study. We are also encouraged to start this as soon as possible, because this is the step that often takes the longest.

Adoptive Family Profile
Adoptions a few decades ago were handled much differently than they are today. They were mostly closed, meaning that the birth parents and adoptive families never met or knew anything about each other. The agency made the matches and the records were sealed. Today, birth parents have a primary role in choosing the adoptive family they want for their baby. Birth parents (usually mothers) are shown profiles of available families who the agency things might be a good fit considering all the variables in her situation. These profiles in the past and still at most agencies were/are basically scrapbooks in which the prospective adoptive parents place photos and stories about themselves to try and paint a picture for the birth mother of what their child's life would be like were she to choose them.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Long Time Coming

This post has been a long time coming in more ways than one! Obviously, its been ages since I updated anything around here (since March!) and while I could blame it on laziness, I think I'll go with a different defense. Deep down, subconsciously, I must have been waiting for something really exciting to post about. Wait...that won't work. Because in March I got a niece (Baby Claire Bear) - and that is super exciting. Okay fine, we'll go back to laziness. Anyway...the other reason this post is a long time coming is because it is to announce that we are finally, officially adopting!

The application for our agency right before we filled it out!
I guess if you want to get technical about it (and I always do) our adoption journey really started about 5 and a half years ago. Waaay back in 2008 on an exam table in a hospital during a routine fertility test called an HSG. The test revealed significant blockage in my fallopian tubes, which spells big trouble in baby-making land. The test also hurt. A lot. (It doesn't always - but since my tubes were blocked it presented complications.) And right on that table I decided that if this was what fertility treatments would be like, then I wanted NONE of it and would prefer to skip right to adoption. Randy agreed. We had both already been interested in adoption - me ever since I was a Brownie Girl Scout with a girl who had been adopted from Korea, and Randy because a large portion of his extended family was formed through adoption starting before he was even born. We decided we wouldn't waste the money, time, or heartache (not to mention other aches) on fertility treatments and instead work on getting our baby from across the ocean.

And that is exactly what we did. For a while. We researched, we read books, we met with adoption professionals. We even made up a BINDER of information - you know its serious when a binder is involved. But in the mean time my OBGYN had sent my test results to a Reproductive Endocrinologist and urged us to meet with him just to go over options. So we did. And we decided that while we pursued adoption research we'd go ahead and try out the lower-end treatments (i.e. minimally invasive and relatively cheap) like IUI (formerly known as artificial insemination). These treatments happened and failed. The next step would be IVF - and we weren't on board. Crazy intramuscular injections with monster needles, general anesthesia for egg retrieval - it was all too much. Until...... a coworker going through IVF with my very doctor clued me in that my information about the procedure was outdated. The needles are now tiny and twilight sleep has replaced general anesthesia. And so, we decided - after realizing that we'd always wonder what would have happened if we didn't try - to give IFV a go.

After one failed IVF attempt we decided to join the fertility clinic's shared risk program, which would entail at least 4 rounds (it ended up being 6 for us) of IFV accompanied by a money-back guarantee if the rounds all failed to produce a live birth. And gradually, somewhere along the way we grew attached to the idea of a mini-me child who combined the best of both of us- a concept that we thought we were above back in the adoption only days. How were we to know that we'd get pregnant three times only to lose all three (or up to six, since there were always two embryos transferred) babies? Or that we'd be among the unlucky 20% of people who never achieve a live birth after multiple rounds of IVF?

We made a commitment to ourselves that we would exhaust all of the IVF possibilities within our shared risk program and then, if that failed, quit all medical intervention for good and begin pursuing parenthood through adoption. No moving on to donor sperm, egg or embryo, or surrogacy for us. The allure of just one more IFV try, the latest breakthrough treatmeht or a new drug protocol is too tempting for many patients - sucking them in for more more more medical intervention - sometimes producing a successful pregnancy. But we were spent, emotionally and physically, and knew where our stopping point had to be. We realized that we had spent years fighting this disease and being medical patients above every other aspect of our lives. We wanted time to find out who we were again and to be normal for a while. To enjoy a regular life rather than being in crisis mode all the time. So after our last round of IVF (which also happened to be our last miscarriage) we decided to take that summer to remember how to live lives not ruled by the disease.

Surprisingly for me, I ended up sort of floundering during this "living life" summer (which turned into autumn, and then winter, and eventually two years had gone by) rather than moving immediatly and too quickly to start the adoption process. I tend to be an "I want it yesterday" sort of person and to languish, adrift in a sea of uncertainty and ambivalence was uncharacteristic. But I guess grief doesn't move at anyone's timetable. That combined with what seemed like an Everest sized mountain to move in order to make adoption happen ate up the better part of two years. I'm not sure what finally pushed us over the edge and into action - we started healing enough start thinking about it again, of course. But I think the real spark that got me off my butt was starting to feel old and worrying that if I didn't get going I'd be ancient by the time I ever got my baby! I've mentioned this to family and friends who all scoff at the idea that I am old - but the fact is, most of my contemporaries have already started their families, I'm much older than I had ever planned to be when starting a family, and the adoption process can take a long time - especially if your match fails and you have to start all over again. In the grand scheme of things, Randy and I are on the young end of the pool of families seeking to adopt. But we aren't getting any younger, and that's as good a motivation as any to get us into action.

After a lot of research, discussion, mind-changing, and more research and discussion we have decided that a good fit for us is domestic newborn adoption. We have found a national agency that gets good reviews, has an A+ rating with the BBB, and has been very helpful, informative, and professional with us. So we took the plunge and officially applied with them. Though there are countless steps still to undertake (creating a family profile, completing a home study, and securing funding to name just a few), this first one feels important. It feels like we're really doing it now. Not at all like when we were pursuing IVF - that always felt like a gamble - like we were walking on eggshells and couldn't even talk about our future baby because it was so tenuous. This adoption will happen. We will get our baby. It might take a while and matches might fall through, but in the end we will have a baby and we are "expecting" parents. It feels so good.

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