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Archive for the ‘Adopting’ Category

I don’t have a specific agenda today.  I just wanted to show up, in part because I was struck this morning–for no particular reason–by my die-hard readers who show up themselves from time to time just in case I’ve written anything, even if I haven’t written in a long time.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given my own habits (I STILL click on AfrindieMum at least once a month) but I’m still a little surprised that someone would bother for this particular blog.  So that makes me feel good, and it makes me want to show up once in a while.  Here I am!

Re: adoption…there isn’t much to write right now.  It still bothers me that we can’t adopt right now and won’t be able to for quite some time, but I’ve been able to find some peace about that.  Partly it’s because we have so much to do with raising the one we have and finishing school so we can actually get jobs that adoption gets crowded out on a regular basis.  But my heart still melts when I see babies, like it did last night at the Snapper’s early birthday party, and I pretty much cannot watch any adoption shows on Mommy channels.  They remind me that I have a huge adoption-sized hole in my heart.  I’ve stopped researching specific avenues, because I think we have to see where we’re going to settle first, and that will have to wait until we get jobs.  Between the economy and the tightness (tightitude?) of my field, it would be foolish to put more strictures on a search.  The right thing to do, the only thing to do, really, is to see what kind of home and community we will be working with and choose a mode of adoption based on those circumstances.

Otherwise, I’m still baking bread and loving it, the Snapper is alternately delightful and tantrummy, I have too many friends to count here (so grateful…), the first snow is flying…

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Advice needed

If anyone’s still reading–

I’d like to nurse the Snapper as long as he’s interested, but I’d also like to sustain lactation until we adopt our next child (probably 2-3 years from now, and the Snapper turns 1 next month).  I’ve googled the heck out of the topic but can’t find out how long after weaning one can sustain a milk supply from pumping alone.  Anybody know the answer or where I can find out?  I don’t mind pumping and would donate the milk in the meantime.

Thanks.

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The verdict is in: we are not going to adopt this year. We just can’t do it.

But we’re OK. In fact, I feel better today than I have in months. It’s hard to make that narrative shift, but it’s finally happening. After some hard mourning (which I’m sure will return in waves from time to time), we have accepted that our adoption isn’t going to happen for probably a couple more years.  CLARIFICATION: I am not saying that we’re not adopting in Iowa–just that to start over in Iowa means we’re going to lose a lot of time.  The process can take two years or more, even when you’re adopting a child of any race.

Here’s why it’s OK: we can plan long-term now. We know exactly what adoption entails and we can spend the next few years saving and rearranging so that we will be in a much better position once the time comes. This weekend, for instance, we bought a cute little hatchback that’s safe and reliable (unlike our other piece of crap car) and that will help us repair some credit damage. This move will hopefully make a mortgage a more attainable goal. I believe you can parent well in an apartment or rental, but I also know that home ownership adds a bit more stability, and we could sure use some of that.

Clearing out the baby’s room and turning it back into my office was the best thing I could have done for the healing process. It was so, so hard, but it forced me to actively mourn. It forced me to literally reverse the process of preparing for a baby (unscrewing the crib, for instance) and in doing so honor the losses we’ve sustained. Now that I’ve been using the room for a few days I am thrilled with how much work I’m getting done. I took a weekend break after my exams–I have so much energy for my Prospectus that I didn’t need any more than that.

Look, life isn’t easy now and I don’t expect it ever to be. But sometimes it is alright. I intend to celebrate feeling good every bit as much as I make myself face the misery that comes my way.

So I sing to myself the song that nearly brought us to tears at the Railroad Earth concert last night:

soft thunder from across the meadow
rain buckets on the kitchen floor
no letter & the coffers empty
but all these storms i know we’ll weather
all these storms we’ll ride together

i never thought that it would be so hard girl
never saved up for a rainy day
never dreamed that we might howl & shiver
but all these storms i know we’ll weather
all these storms we’ll ride together

pick up your heart my love
pick up your branch & dove
jammin’ in the name of the lord
-we’ve got a hole to mend
-we’ve got a fire to tend
we won’t let these troubles grind us
we’ve got friends & prayers to mind us
we’ve got seven years behind us

long rumble comin’ ‘cross the meadow
rain pourin’ & the buckets full
sky crackin’ & the whole house shakin’
but all these storms i know we’ll weather
all these storms we’ll ride together

pick up your heart my love
pick up your branch & dove
jammin’ in the name of the lord
-my lady look alive!
-our ride will soon arrive!

lift up your eyes my dear
we need some light in here
jammin’ ‘til the jammin’s through
-we’ve got a hole to mend
-we’ve got a fire to tend
we won’t let these troubles grind us
we’ve got prayers on the road behind us
we’ve got heaven’s horses bridled

let it rain . . . we’ll let it rain . .
i love you girl . . let’s get this fire goin’

–“Storms”

***

I hope you all are well. And if you’re not, just know that you’re not alone.

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Sad Afternoon

For the next few weeks I’m working on schoolwork until 2 in the afternoon and taking the rest of the day for maintaining home life. This afternoon I found myself bored and a little under-stimulated. I always have cleaning to do, but it didn’t appeal. We cleaned the house from stem to stern on Saturday so it wasn’t pressing.

I decided that I was ready to pack up the baby’s room. I had a bunch of energy and I felt that it was time to transition back to focusing on my other baby, the dissertation. Before the room had a crib and a dresser full of little outfits it was my office. I’ve been severely cramped since then with my desk in the dining room and the computer in the laundry room. I was looking forward to getting my work space back again.

Then I went to Home Depot to purchase some plastic bins and I nearly lost it. Right there in front of the wall ‘o plastic, I was listening to Chris Isaak’s “There She Goes” on the PA system and it hit me. I was in Home Depot buying storage containers for the stuff not-Boomer will never wear. The clothes will go on a different baby, and I’m not sure anymore when that baby will arrive. Though we are happy with finding a good agency in Iowa, we are out enough money from the agency here that we will have to miraculously come up with several thousand dollars more to start over. It’s money we just don’t have. So we may not be adopting for a while. We don’t know–we’re still planning to keep it open. Adoption is in our hearts, but it may not happen the way we had envisioned. And that hurts. I wish I could think, “oh, these clothes will be used by next year.” But I can’t.
When I got home I started stacking the clothes in the bins. Halfway through I realized I was gently lowering them into the containers. I was handling them like they were the baby–I was saying goodbye to the baby again. When I noticed what was happening I started to talk to not-Boomer. “These were the clothes we were going to put you in, little boy. We were so excited for your arrival. Here is the little bag we packed with your coming-home outfit and some tiny newborn diapers. Here is the blanket Meg sent us, and here is the one Ali knitted. I hope your mama is taking good care of you and that you are safe. We never held you, but you will always be the one that made us parents.”

I realized then that we have to have children. Our hearts changed irrevocably when we opened them to not-Boomer. Fortunately adoption is unlike doing it the old-fashioned way in that eventually you do get to parent. Sometimes not in the timeframe or the fashion you planned, but almost no one goes through it without coming out the other end with a child someday. So we will keep on working on it, even though we are feeling rather defeated at the moment.

I packed all the little stuff (the crib will have to be taken apart, and we are giving away one bassinette) and went to bed. I was too sad to stay awake.

Later I was crying, which was better. Tomorrow I’m going to finish the job and get my office back.

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Scheduling Grief

A friend of mine with whom I have many experiences in common has talked about having to schedule time to cry or to feel sadness over a loss or painful experience. I know exactly what she’s talking about. The other night I was working through a really excellent book of poetry in preparation for my exams (Ciaran Carson’s Belfast Confetti) and working very hard to ignore the tightness in my chest and pain in my eyes. Because of the failed adoption and other difficult circumstances that I will not discuss here, February was a hellish, painful mess and I am glad that it is over. Unfortunately the stressors of February are still ongoing, even if they aren’t tied to specific events. So for instance, while we don’t anticipate any further upsets regarding adoption any time in the next few months (that’s what happens when you take yourself out of the process), we’re still feeling the effects of Daisy’s decision and also the loss of the dream to parent a baby in this house in this town with these friends and this family nearby.

Now that my celebratory sugar high from the Cold Stone Creamery in Squirrel Hill is wearing off, I find myself free to feel sad about February. I am very, very sad. I am so sad that I can feel it in my body and that is a little scary. Now that exams are over, and my headspace is no longer needed in order to be fresh for an academic ordeal (there is work to be done, but with much less pressure to perform), I am almost howling for feeling so sad.

So. The other day I decided that every healthy person needs a little guidance now and then, so I’ve gone and hired myself a counselor to help me navigate my losses and come up with some coping strategies. If nothing else, it will give me one hour every week or two during which I can safely explore my recent losses and hardships without mucking up my daily responsibilities.

There is one good thing in all of this, and it is a very big good thing: now I know I can do it. Parenting while dissertating? Yeah. Losing a parent and still being able to work and take care of a family? Not looking forward to it, but OK. Surviving another adoption disappointment? It’s survivable. It’s all survivable. I emerged from my exams today almost surprised that I hadn’t dropped dead. Really. It turns out that without saying it out loud I actually thought I wasn’t going to survive this month. And it also turns out that this kind of thing doesn’t kill you. It ages you, but you can live through it. Sometimes you can even live through it and come out the other side of it that much closer to a PhD candidacy.

So? I’m still here, intact. I still love my life and everybody in it, even the ones who hurt me from time to time.

It’s OK.

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The Change

Alright.  NOW I can write about our decision.  I was just waiting to hear back from our social worker.  As it turns out, she merely said, “yep, OK” to herself when receiving my email and didn’t see any need to respond.  I contacted her by phone and she knows so now you can know.

There are two problems with the situation we find ourselves in right now regarding the adoption process.  One, we are becoming increasingly uncomfortable working with our agency.  For some reason all of our situations, and all of the ones we’ve heard about from other people, are going through a social worker in another part of the state.  This other social worker is incompetent at best, unethical at worst.  Unfortunately our social worker persists in working with her despite how she’s bungled several situations from both birthparent and adoptive parent perspectives.  We don’t anticipate her working with any local situations in the near future, so the likelihood that we’d have to work with this other social worker is quite high.  We’re to the point where we can’t be sure whether or not our next situation will be handled capably and ethically.  So we’ve decided that we’re not willing to compromise on our standards for an ethical adoption just so we can be parents sooner.

Second, we’re tired.  The failed placement has taken a lot out of us and has affected other parts of our lives that need some serious attention at the moment.  It would do us a world of good to take a few months’ break before plunging back into the hell of waiting.

What we’ve decided to do, then, is to leave our agency and look for a new one in Iowa.  By the time we arrive we’d like to have everything transferred and be working directly with an Iowa agency.  Towards the end of our time in PA (we’re moving at the end of July) we’ll release our profile for anyone due after our arrival in Iowa.

I’m not happy that we’re back to square one with agencies, but this year we are MUCH more informed and have a better idea of what we want.  I don’t think our agency has a contract with the devil or anything, but now I’m looking for different things.  Specifically, I want an agency that has some built-in barriers to agency coercion and a bonafide plan to inform potential birthparents as well as possible about their parenting options.

Right now we’re considering Luthern Family Services.  They can do an update of our PA homestudy so we won’t have to pay for a whole new one.  Here’s what I like best though: when a woman comes in with an interest in adoption, their first move is to set her up with counseling.  They work with her to come up with both parenting and adoption plans.  That means that even if she says she is serious about adoption, they stress that the decision is not truly made until she meets her baby at birth.  If she decides to parent even after planning to place, she won’t have to scramble for parenting resources; she’ll have a plan in place for her and her baby.  Once the woman has talked through her options and is “serious” (I don’t know how they determine this), they show her profiles.  She’s encouraged to pick and meet as many families as possible.  They also strongly encourage mothers to spend time with their babies after birth before making the final decision.  They sound very mother-centered.

We’re of course looking at other agencies but this is the one we like so far.  If anyone has experience with them please let me know!  I don’t want to just take their word.

I feel simultaneously sad and relieved about our decision.  On the one hand, it is consistent with how we feel about adoption and will also free us up to concentrate on some other things for a while.  On the other hand, we’ve already been waiting a year and it is absolutely breaking my heart that we will now probably wait another year or longer.  One adoption professional from Iowa said that people are waiting a long time right now.  We’ll see.  But that the room we set aside here for our baby is going to stay empty is so hard.  I can’t bring myself to dismantle the crib yet or put the clothes in boxes.
We won’t have a baby the same age as my sisters-in-law’s babies, and we won’t get to baptize our baby at St. Benedict’s.  We will be far away from grandparents when he or she arrives.  Our narrative has been shattered and it is heartbreaking.

But I still think we’ll be parents someday.  Just not in the way we had envisioned.  And isn’t that always the way?

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I had another crash last night and I think I figured something out. On some level I feel like I’m not authorized to feel that I lost a child when in reality that child was never mine. We were merely waiting in the wings to parent him should his mother decide that was best for him. Part of it is my own framing of our relationship with Daisy: since we don’t believe in ‘matches,’ as a mother is not a birthmother until she signs the papers, and that too much matching business can lead to coercion, we set ourselves up to be nothing until those papers were signed. Now all of the sudden it’s everything to us, and I just can’t seem to reconcile those two sets of feelings.

What we want is an explanation from Daisy for why she changed her mind. Was it meeting her son? Did she decide herself to see him or did a nurse unaware of the adoption plan bring him in? Did she talk to her baby’s father? Did an orderly cluck and say, “I could never give up my baby!” Did she think about how hurt her other children would be, or how they might never understand why she placed?

And we want to know how he’s doing. Is he getting what he needs? Is he happy? Is he safe?

But we have no official right to these things. It is as if we never happened. It was a phantom relationship we had with this child and his family, but it doesn’t feel that way—it feels for all the world like we were his parents for 20 hours.

I’m not trying to universalize our experience. Ethically I still believe we were right to assume no official role until Daisy decided what that role would be. I am not suggesting any reform based on our ordeal.

What helps is that our loss is being recognized by the people around us in really amazing ways. That keeps me from saying “I don’t deserve to feel this way.”

***

Another thought I’ve had is how important it is for us to deal with this loss in a way that will strengthen us. Years ago I was watching some TV special on people who had made it to 100 years old or more. They were going through the obligatory list characteristics common to people who outlive their peers. One of them was the ability to deal with recurrent loss. Because really, if you make it to 100 you’ve gone through more than a few breakups and the loss of supple skin. You’ve probably lost a spouse, friends, your home, even possibly some of your children. So how I deal with what’s happening to us now will be, if I choose to make it thus, a model for how I deal with future losses.
What’s been amazing is how our marriage has taken this particular event. We’re doing so well with each other. Attic Man and I scrap a great deal on a day-to-day basis but when we’re up against the wall we’re a mighty force. It’s incredible. I’m wondering if the daily scrapping has something to do with it—a lot of it is us standing up for ourselves and working out how we’d like to be treated. So I guess some really foundational things are already settled by the time we come to face an external threat. Want to have a partner in times of adversity? Then go pick a fight! There’s always something. I don’t know that the little fights are what do it but whatever it is we are doing well with each other. It makes a world of difference.

But fuck, it still hurts like nothing else.

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