I Call Bull***t

There seems to be a struggle to navigate adoption after infertility -especially in how it relates to a child’s self-worth. I understand the worry on this one. No one wants their children to think they’re second-class or a consolation prize. But the result of that worry is that sometimes parents’ long, tortuous, often silent journey with infertility kind of gets kicked to the curb and edited out of the family story.

And I call bull***t on that.

i call bull***t | sundriedtomatoe.com
This was a real thing from Cards Against Humanity. You can click on the picture for more info.

Adoption is hard as crap. Adoption requires that would-be parents endure a host of mental, emotional, legal, and psychological issues that challenge the very core of adulthood, parenthood, personhood. It’s lonely. It’s incredibly long – YEARS long. It involves multiple losses. IT’S HARD.

It’s freaking HARD.

The only reason ANYONE chooses adoption is because they have a highly compelling reason to endure that singular hardship. For the religious, its the notion of a higher calling, a way to Serve. For kinship adoptions, it’s family ties. And for a lot of people, it’s when infertility makes having biological kids impossible and they just want a family gosh-darnit.

What makes that truth so wrong, or unsharable? Why can’t kids know that infertility was a huge deal in their parents’ life?

I think it has something to do with conflating the process of getting kids with the process of raising kids. Well, guess what? They’re not the same.

It would be way easier to have biological kids, and if I could I totally would. And I’m pretty sure that the majority of kids will say that they’d prefer that their first parents don’t terminate parental rights. That being said, I do not give a rat’s patootie where our kids come from once we get them. It’s the getting that sucks, not the having. This is process and result, cause and effect – two different things. For adoptive families with infertile parents, adoption is the result of two crappy situations equaling one excellent situation. Two crappy “causes” (termination of first parent rights and infertility) equal one excellent “effect.” Two crappy valleys meet at one breathtaking peak.

The quality of the road going forward from that meeting has little to do with how the road looked in the past.

I guess all of this is to say that I would prefer to get kids via naturally occurring pregnancy. That hasn’t changed, and it won’t. If I had my choice, I’d want to get pregnant, have nine months of morning sickness and friendly commiseration with 80% of the adult female population on the planet, and then have a delivery event in a local hospital with my favorite doctor. I want that experience, I want the relative ease, and the collective social knowledge, and the positive support, and everyone telling me “you’ll do amazing!” and “only two more months!” and “try _____ it really worked when I had morning sickness.” I want everyone involved to be comfortable and familiar with the whole process.

I would prefer not to endure multiple months of radio silence from the people who can approve (or not) my ability to have a family. I’d like it if my ability to get kids didn’t depend on the preferences of one very fallible human being (who may or may not dislike multiple pets, people from out of state, adults who play video games, mono-lingual parents, non-Methodists, etc…) I would prefer not to undergo background checks in multiple states. I would prefer that my friends and family not endure reference checks. I would prefer not to attend mandatory training on basics like seatbelts and the effects of recreational drug use. I would prefer not to agonize over how to even begin preparing our home because we have no idea when a child will arrive, at what age, or with what needs. I would love it if all my friends and family didn’t have to learn (along with me) everything about this situation as we go, stumbling and bumbling along with no collective knowledge at all about how this works or what is appropriate or where the hurty parts are.

And that’s where my preference ends.

That set of wants is all about process. It’s all about my preference for how I get kids.

Know what else I want? I want to love a kid so hard it takes my breath away. I want to dry tears and induce kid belly laughs. I want to make quilts, sing songs, fingerpaint, agonize over first kisses and friend drama. I want my kids to meet their cousins and aunts and uncles and second cousins and grandparents and great-grandparents. I want to laugh so hard at some random surprising declaration that I almost pee my pants. I want to stay up all night with a sick kid. I want to pack lunches and chaperone field trips and cry at graduation. I want my kids to be as good friends with their cousins as I am with mine. I want to have birthday parties and playtime with other moms (and kids) at McDonalds. I want to ask those close to me for advice and council when parenting gets tough.

Know how much of those wants have to do with how I get my kid? ZERO.

I can’t have one set of wants. That’s my truth. I can have another. And the value of one is in no way dependent on the availability of the other.

For me, denying that adoption was hard and that it became an option because of the long journey with infertility will be dishonest. So I’m not going to deny it. I’m not 100% sure exactly how we will frame our story when the time comes to share it with our kids but I do know that it will be honest – infertility will be included. Their story about how they came to us matters; our story about how we came to them matters, too.

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Learn With Me: Adoption Options

I read a sentence last night that stuck with me; it went something like this: “It sometimes occurs to me that those around me aren’t doing the feverish reading and research we are in preparation for adoption. It’s a good reminder that I should be sharing what I know with family and friends rather than just assume they have the same knowledge base.”

I haven’t been communicative about what I’ve been learning. This is a personality thing with me – when things are tough or challenging I tend to hunker down. So I figured I’d share some of the things I am learning about and working through. Hopefully this is interesting information for those who know me personally, and perhaps also interesting to readers from Other Places.

I’m making the choice to use “I” and “me” pronouns because it’s easier when I’m writing. Note that Hubs is part of all this learning and decision making – many of the “I” and “me” pronouns are actually “us” and “we.”

Today, a brief overview of the three basic options available for adoption – international, private-domestic, and public. This includes my thoughts on each and why foster-to-adopt is where I’m at right now.

International Adoption

learn with me: adoption options | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
from http://www.cafdn.org/adopt

INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION is any adoption outside the US. It can be as close as Canada or Mexico, and as far as Russia or China.

This option was wildly popular in the 70s and 80s, at the height of the “closed adoption” movement, and is still going strong today. Specific characteristics of this option include a closed adoption – meaning there’s zero contact with first parents – and children who are (usually) ethnically different from their adopted parents.

One of the major “pluses” of this option from an adopter’s point of view is the finality of this type of adoption. Once a child is on US soil and paperwork is rolling on the States side, it is almost unheard of that a child is removed from their adopted home.

One of the major “minuses” of this option from an adopter’s point of view is that this option is heavy with bureaucracy and expensive. It’s usually the most paperwork-y and expensive of all three major adoption options. Adopters are dealing with termination of parental rights and citizenship issues in TWO countries. This often means waiting years, and jumping through a lot of weird international hoops.

Why it’s not for me:

1 | It’s expensive. Plain and simple, the money for it doesn’t exist in my life right now. After the IVF cycle in Feb-Mar 2014 there was a conscious decision to avoid all major debt for several years. Gotta’ get that bottom line out of red and into black. A $40,000 price tag is not feasible.

2 | I’ve read countless articles and blogs that talk about adoption, especially international adoption, as a “ministry” to the “poor” and “disenfranchised.” Personally, I’m trying to avoid the mindset that I’m rescuing anybody. (I feel like this is a subject big enough for a whole post of its own.) Basically, I’m not comfortable with the “feed the hungry” approach to adoption and that’s a common approach for international adoptions from the US.

3 | I’m not interested in waiting years to be a parent. Been there, done that. Done waiting.

Private Domestic Adoption

learn with me: adoption options | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
from http://msw.usc.edu/ – view the complete infographic here: http://msw.usc.edu/mswusc-blog/adoption-infographic/

PRIVATE DOMESTIC ADOPTION is commonly referred to as domestic adoption or private adoption. This is adoption within the United States through any avenue other than state-sponsored systems. Usually, this is adoption through a domestic agency that matches pregnant mothers with adoptive parents. On rare occasions, a domestic adoption will be an adoption that doesn’t involve an agency as the intermediary (usually someone who is pregnant already knows someone they want to adopt their child) – this is sometimes called an “independent” adoption.

The major “plus” of private domestic adoption, and the reason it is so popular, is because it allows adopters to parent from infancy (sometimes from a newborn’s first moments). I could go into detail about all the reasons this is a positive for parents, but I think you can probably figure it out. And I’m pretty sure I’ll be touching on it in future posts.

Used to be that domestic adoptions were closed, meaning once children were adopted they and all parents were completely cut off from each other. The US did some extreme things to keep adoptions closed, including sealing all records (sometimes in perpetuity) and creating “new” birth certificates for adopted infants. There’s been a move toward open adoption in the last two decades which seems better for everyone involved.

I like open adoption. It seems like a good idea. Tough, but good.

Why private-domestic adoption is not for me: A few reasons. Kind of a few and a half.

1/2 | I’d be 100% gung-ho to do an independent adoption. I’d get three jobs to fund it. The thing is that there’s no one out there (that I know of) who is with child, doesn’t want to parent, and wants me to parent instead. And, you know, I don’t think I’m really going to find that. Ever. Most women who are pregnant want to parent. The vast majority of those who don’t want to (or can’t) parent get an abortion. The few who do go to term have a family member take over parenting. A very small number go through an agency. Of that very small number, I know none personally. And I probably won’t. So it’s not really a real option.

But if you know someone who is pregnant, doesn’t want to parent, and hasn’t already hooked up with an agency, let me know because I’m all over that.

1 | Though not quite as expensive as international adoption, domestic adoption is still prohibitively expensive. It includes legal fees, medical fees, “finder’s” fees for agencies, and a host of ancillary expenses. We’re talking $20-$30,000 here. I don’t have that and I’m not gonna’ have it anytime soon.

2 | The intermediary role of agencies troubles me. I have some extended family members who chose adoption and I picked up on some less-than-positive impressions of agencies. So when I first started investigating adoption options for myself I made a point to click over to the “are you pregnant?!” areas of adoption agency sites. Many of those sites have one thing in common – the rhetoric for expectant mothers has a clear agenda; it’s designed to be highly persuasive.

That kind of got the hairs on my neck raised. I then actively searched first-hand accounts of first mothers and adoptees. Negative accounts from first mothers usually involve the perception of coercionFor me the mere possibility that a mother might want to parent and be coerced not to is a deal-breaker. I’m still too close to that desperate desire to be a mother and being unable to. That I might possibly be the cause of that for some other woman is too much to process.

I realize that coercion is not a universal first-mother experience by any stretch, but I can’t handle even the remote possibility. Not right now.

3 | First parents change their minds. They can seriously consider multiple potential adopting families and will eventually choose only one family, essentially rejecting other adoptive parents. Even after first parents have chosen their adopting family and surrendered their child, the overwhelming joy of a newly adopted child can swiftly change to deep loss. Most states have a “waiting period” for private adoptions – this is a time for first parents to consider their decision and allows them to change their minds. In short, an adoptive family can lose their child after placement.

I’ve been through multiple miscarriages; I’m not emotionally able to deal with the possibility of losing another child. Not right now.

Public Adoption

PUBLIC ADOPTION is also a type of domestic adoption, technically, but it is through state systems. In the first draft of this post I started explaining the whole process of public adoption but it was really long. So check in tomorrow; I’ll post a bunch of details on public adoption.

Why public adoption is for me:

1 | State subsidized system, meaning the state absorbs (almost) all associated costs.

2 | Children who want parents as much (or more) than I want to be a parent.

3 | First parents have ample opportunity to remain parents – in fact the state system is heavily skewed in favor of first parents keeping their kids (ie: no coercion).

4 | It’s a relatively open system. Even after we adopt we can still maintain contact with first families.

5 | Immediate placement.

Right now it’s the best option. I’ve been through more than enough to convince me that I shouldn’t depend on public adoption being the best option forever. But for today, for now, for where I am, I’ve chosen this direction.

Thanks for reading. More tomorrow. Please feel free to ask questions or drop a word of encouragement.

New Year, Old Me

I like the clarity a new year promotes – an opportunity to look ahead and say “here’s what I would like this year to look like.” (For me) it’s difficult to separate everyday happenings from my perspective and have that kind of regular foresight into my future. So I enjoy the opportunity to think about resolutions but more generally, I like the chance to consider what part I might play in shaping the next year of my life.

2015 resolution | from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com

Since this blog has been around for a while, I thought I’d review previous years’ posts.

2014 –  “rules” for 2014, which are interesting to look back on now that I’ve quit my job and wholly embraced my introvert tendencies

2013 – I listed three “classical” resolutions then four things that were realistic accomplishments for the year. Interestingly, the four “realistic” things really happened.

2012 – all about school. It was the year of the Comp Exam and my mind was firmly fixed on getting that degree done.

2011 – No real post. I think that year was just kind of a “survive” kinda year.

2010 – difficult to review because it was a recap of 2009 and ended up being almost a letter to my future self. We had a rough year in 2009.

2009 – I might actually recycle most of 2009’s resolution list. I kind of love reading posts from this time. It was before the Ectopic (note the capital E) which, in retrospect, significantly changed my outlook on my entire life. Interesting that it’s taken six years to get back to the same kind of mental space…

I’ve got a one-word resolution for 2015. I plan on using it as my north star, as a way to make decisions, overcome obstacles, and let go of the things that plague me in the wee hours of the morning.

parent | from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com

The word is PARENT.

I want to see the close of 2015 with Hubs and I as parents. Whether we are parenting foster kids, adopted kids, or miracle babies, PARENT is the name of the game this year. It’s been a terrible long road and I expect it will continue to be incredibly difficult. But that’s my goal, that’s my guiding principle, and that’s the thing I’m going to spend emotion on. I’m going positive, full-bore, meaningful.

Wish me luck. I’ll keep you posted.

Better to Love and Lose

Tennyson’s “better to have loved and lost…” quote always bugged me, because I always assumed it had to do with unrequited adult love. Which is stupid. Any adult who leaves after extreme love is a total jerk and not worthy in the first place.

But lately we’ve had to grapple with the reality of that quote as we venture into foster-care waters. We WILL lose a child we love; this is all but certain. And part of our reason for being so hesitant about the whole process had to do with that fact. Not that it’s not a possiblity in other types of adoption situations, but it is a sure thing in foster-to-adopt.

We will love a kid, and they will leave us.

This post, from the Jason Johnson blog, deals with a lot of the same issues. I haven’t read the whole blog, but a few things in that one specific post jumped out at me, mainly because we have reached the same conclusions.

We choose love. And loss. We are willing to lose BECAUSE we have never loved at all. We know that other end of the equation. The one that goes “…than never to have loved at all.” We know what that means. And we know the quote is right on the money.

We want to love on a kid. We discovered that that’s what we care about most, and above all else. Whether that child stays or goes, is awesome or terrible, outgoing or shy, here for a day or here for life, we want to love them. We want to parent. We want a family.

better to have loved | a post from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
This is me wearing a “Love Always Wins” shirt from a friend’s adoption fundraiser.

I’m going to love so hard, and then I’m going to cry so hard.

And I’m glad.

For the first time in my life, that Tennyson quote makes sense.

Soooo… Adoption

Next step in the journey – meaningfully pursuing adoption. There’s been a lot of reading and thinking and long conversations in this house lately. One of the results is that we are looking into foster/adopting from the state system. We recently attended the initial information session for our area of Texas and are now working our way through an impressive pile of initial paperwork.

Good timing, as November is National Adoption Month. We have a lot of positive reinforcement as we start down this road.

sooo... adoption | a post from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
image from https://www.davethomasfoundation.org/

Lots of things to think about as we move along this path. Fostering and adopting from the State system means we’ll be parenting kids taken from bad situations. Fostering means some kids we parent will return to their first-parents rather than staying with us. Adopting means years of paperwork and court appearances. We are limited in who we can parents because we live in an area with limited medical care and a homogeneous racial makeup. Plus, neither of us actually have any idea what we’re doing…

We have a lot of studying and training to do, a lot of decisions to make, still have a bit of soul-searching left. Already, we are prepping for difficulty and heartbreak that seem inherent in this approach, even when we know there’s no way to really adequately prepare for what’s ahead. Hope is an incredible thing, though, as is the potential for some hard-earned Joy.

The prospect of being parents, something we’ve wanted for  a long time, is both exciting and frightening. I’m aprehensive about parenting someone else’s child for months or years before that child is ours. I’m scared about falling in love and then being separated (pretty much a guarantee with the route we’re going) because a child’s first parents get their act together. At the same time, I’m relieved to put infertility behind us. I don’t really have adequate words for how relieved I am. And ultimately, I’m excited because we are on the path to being PARENTS.

Holy smokes. Even writing that is awesome.

I’ll keep you posted.