Posts tagged ‘adoption after cancer’

Birth Family Christmas

photo 3(1)Tonight we kicked off the first of our family Christmas gatherings. But it was unlike any others we’ll experience this week. A local BBQ restaurant made a great ‘neutral’ meeting place as we traveled across town to get together with people we met a little less than three years ago. A group who we see only a few times each year, yet consider them family. Our birth family.

When we initially began our adoption process we requested a semi-open arrangement. We were cool with exchanging first names and maybe state or city, but we didn’t think we wanted a lot of contact with the birth family. Mae’s adoption came along unexpectedly and detoured our plans. The situation created an open adoption by default. And now looking back over the past three years, I couldn’t be more thankful that our plans and preferences changed.

photo 2(1)I don’t talk about our open adoption a lot, nor have I ever specifically blogged about it. But coming off of a night like tonight, I felt I needed to share about how wonderful this arrangement can be, and how fortunate we’ve been to have a birth family enter our lives. Sure, it’s nice to have a direct connection to Mae’s birth mom for reasons most would assume – health history and knowing her story, etc. But more than that, it’s amazing to have a birth mom, birth uncle and cousin and birth grandparents in the picture for indescribable reasons. There’s something about continuing and nurturing the bond of family even if it looks a little different from the ‘norm’ that is powerful. Redemptive. And all around blessed.

We sat and laughed tonight (mostly at my energetic three-year-old.) We told stories and caught up on life. We exchanged Christmas gifts. And more than anything, we all gleamed an unspoken appreciation for one another yet again. It happens every time we get together. And as the years go on and our relationships deepen, I know it will only continue to grow.

photo 1(1)I recognize that not everyone in an open adoption has this kind of relationship with their birth family members. There are a lot of other stories out there that aren’t so ideal. We’re lucky to have a birth family that’s kind, considerate and amazing with boundaries. They’ve truly made this an incredible experience.

Open adoption might not be for everyone, but I’m glad that it was the right path for me. Our birth mom is the strongest person I know and she continues to amaze me. Her love for [our] daughter has taught me more about selflessness than anything on this side of heaven ever will. Knowing the family my daughter was born into gives me even more appreciation and understanding of her. That in and of itself is an amazing gift – especially at Christmas.

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December 23, 2013 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

ADOPTION AFTER CANCER: INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION

A little while ago I kicked off a new blog series with a social worker and to-be adoptive mama friend, Nikki.

We kicked off our first post – Adoption After Cancer: What Are My Options?

Today, we introduce our second post and talk specifically about international adoption. If you have ANY questions, leave us a comment or visit Nikki’s blog to get in touch with her directly!

INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION + CANCER

Nikki-desimone-pauls-msw

Nikki DeSimone Pauls, MSW

Questions answered by Nikki DeSimone Pauls, MSW – September 2013

1. Can I adopt from ANY country if I’ve had cancer? If not, which countries are closed to me? 

Countries open for cancer survivor adoptions depend on the type of cancer, length of time since the patient has been in remission, and again, that all important doctor letter. (See our first blog post.) The only country that was giving a firm “NO” to cancer survivors was Russia, but that’s not even an option for anyone now.

2. Are there any countries that cancer survivors have an “easier” time adopting from? What are some good options?

There are some countries that perhaps would be considered “easier” in terms of cancer survivors adopting. This includes most of the African countries and Haiti that generally have less stringent requirements of adoptive parents in general. However, if interested in adopting a special focus (aka. hard to place) child from China, agencies are having some success in getting “waivers” for their clients for all kinds of things, past history of cancer included.  Colombia also has been pretty good in giving approval to families with a cancer history who have a favorable doctor letter. I think Russia would have been the only country that would have been too big of a challenge.

3. Is my wait time extended in international adoption because of my cancer history?

Absolutely not. If you are approved for adoption, regardless of your past history, you are now in the waiting line just like everyone else. Most international adoptions are pretty organized and the countries process applications in the order they are received, so they are just processing one after the next, not skipping over people due to health history or background.

4. What kind of physicals are needed to adopt?

This depends on what country you are adopting from.  Some are pretty easy, such as Ethiopia, that is just a quick letter from the doctor that says “I have examined (name) and find her/him to be in good health and free of communicable diseases.”  Some other countries, such as China, have more significant forms where doctors fill in blanks about health history, current issues, medications, and require tests for HIV and TB. Any cancer survivor should expect to prepare an additional letter from his/her oncologist about the cancer, treatment, length of time in remission, and likelihood of recurrence.

5. What types of documentation do I need to provide to internationally adopt as a cancer survivor?

You will have to comply with the medical form or letter as required by the country, and then will also need to provide a supplemental medical letter, as summarized in our last post about adoption after cancer.

6. Would you recommend me look into international vs. domestic — or does cancer history impact that at all?

This comes down to where you feel more of a connection. It’s nice that we have a choice in this day and age on where and how we can complete an adoption and a cancer history does not prevent a person from one or the other.

caption

We think adoption is SUPER!

7. Do cancer survivors have an “easier” time adopting one method over another?

I would say that perhaps domestic adoption would be “easier” for folks with a history of cancer because they are being chosen by the birth parents.  An individual with a cancer history adopting internationally might have to gather more medical letters or documents to present to the country for approval, or get a medical waiver, whereas, if a birth parent domestically choses the family, she/he may not be concerned about the health history. All this to say, I certainly would not rule out international adoption, it just may result in more hoops to jump through.

8. Do other countries understand cancer like the U.S.? Anything we can do in a home study to help the process go smoother?

I think with medical advancements in other countries, we are all starting to understand cancer better. However, there are some developing nations that still do not understand quite as well as we would like.  It is through people adopting from these countries that we can advocate for our cancer survivors and teach these countries the great medical advancements and successes we have in 2013!

9. Does it cost more to adopt internationally if I’ve had cancer?

Absolutely not! When you begin an adoption process, your agency should provide you with a fee agreement and nothing should deviate from that. The only potential additional cost to a cancer survivor would be if you have a doctor who charges you $25 or $50 to write this supplemental letter. Some doctors offices charge extra for letters or paperwork processing. But, regardless, you will not be paying extra money to the agency or country due to your health history.

10. What if my cancer returns when I’m in the middle of an international adoption? What if I’m doing post-placements?

This is a tricker question and has three variables.

1) If the cancer occurs again while you are waiting for the adoption, my advice would be to put your status on hold and focus 100% on your treatment. If you are a cancer survivor and reading this, you understand better than I do how important it is to keep your “head in the game” with your treatment.  Focus on getting rest, eating right, keeping your strength up, praying and giving what you can to your work and your families. To put an adoption in the middle of that…I would say that’s the variable that can wait and the responsible thing for everyone involved is for you to put your application on hold.

2) If you are in the post-adoption phase of your journey, God bless you! You are then running around after a toddler, trying to bond with your new child, in between chemo, getting drained and trying to get some rest. Bless your heart. Your mom or best friend is going to be more helpful in this time than your social worker will be! But seriously, other than you dealing with your health and crazy life situation, your adoption should not be affected as it has been finalized and that child now is just like a biological child.

3) If you are in the post-placement phase of your journey (meaning the adoption has not yet been finalized) I can’t venture a guess how the judge or commissioner in your municipality would handle this. This is going to be a question for your legal counsel. I once went to court for an adoption finalization with a family who disclosed, under oath, in court that the reason the mom didn’t travel to adopt the child is because she found out about her breast cancer about eight weeks before she was set to get on a plane to adopt internationally. Her husband went by himself and she blamed her staying home on her hectic work schedule. I believe the perfect “0” my mouth made for a solid 30 seconds showed the judge my complete and legitimate surprise when the mom made this disclosure during the hearing! The judge approved the adoption, but he was not happy. However, he felt that removing the child would do more harm to the child who had been in this couple’s home for six months. Which, is absolutely true and of course, agreed. So that’s just one example, but certainly not exhaustive of all the possibilities. Consulting your attorney is going to be key if this situation presents itself.

11. Are there any groups or agencies that are “cancer survivor friendly” in regards to international adoption?

Again, for most international adoptions, getting a waiver is going to be necessary. When you are researching agencies, ask them their thoughts about how likely it would be that they could get you a waiver. Most ethical and compassionate agencies will process this for you before you have even applied with them or paid a penny. It is a fine request for you to ask this of them before you start paying.

FYI - you CAN adopt if you've had cancer.

FYI – you CAN adopt if you’ve had cancer.

12. Why do some groups have a waiting limit on how far into remission cancer survivors must be before they can apply?

I think that’s to do with our thoughts as social workers and adoption professionals about safety for the family. Adoption and parenting are hard enough in and of themselves. Battling cancer is hard enough in and of itself. Trying to make all that happen together is almost unimaginable.  Trying to bond with your new child, while dealing with cancer treatment, or being in-and-out of the hospital during those formative months of attachment certainly add an extra layer that we would all prefer not be there. With sufficient time and a strong letter from the doctor, it shows the family is more set up for success out of the gate.

The bottom line is, you can see there is a lot of gray in this area. But talking with your agency, being honest, and having a cooperative oncologist are going to be key.

Cancer is very common now and everyone is becoming more knowledgeable about it. It is no longer the firm “no” that perhaps it once was in the past.

Stay Tuned…

Have a question we didn’t answer? Leave us a comment! And stay tuned for our next post – adopting domestically after cancer!

October 21, 2013 at 6:28 am 1 comment

ADOPTION AFTER CANCER: WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?

mae-danielle-cancer-survivor-adopt

Me & Mae (domestic adoption at 4 mo.)

As an adoptive mama with a cancer history, I’m often asked about the adoption journey for cancer survivors. Our friend Nikki who works as an adoption social worker sat down with me many moons ago as I researched my adoption options.

That coffee date has always stuck with me as it provided great insight.

So – it’s with complete joy that I bring you some Q&As with Nikki – one of the best adoption social workers out there. (And she just so happens to be going through her own adoption process right now, too!)

Nikki’s answering some of the most commonly asked questions I hear from cancer survivors who want to adopt.

Enjoy our first post & stay tuned for more to come!

ADOPTION AFTER CANCER:  WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?

Nikki-desimone-pauls-msw

Meet Nikki, licensed social worker

Questions answered by Nikki DeSimone Pauls, MSW – August 2013

Q:  What are the types of adoption I can consider if I’ve had cancer?

A:  The only type of adoption that may be completely closed to certain cancer survivors is embryo adoption, based on what treatments they had and if those treatments rendered the individual infertile. Everything else is a possibility:  domestic adoption (both private and through the state) as well as international adoption.

Q: Are there any adoption paths/options NOT open to me as a cancer survivor?

A:  I don’t see any options that are not available on the whole. Most types of domestic adoption will be options, as will quite a few international options. Foster care, or adoption through the state, would generally yield even more flexible options.

Q:  What does a social worker look for in a couple who’s ready to adopt?

A:  Being a social worker who has written favorable home studies for cancer survivors, the thing I look for most is their oncologist’s report and supplemental medical letter. I also talk with the client for more information.

One recent example:
A prospective adoptive mom found out she had breast cancer the day I sent her the draft of the home study. A few days later she was scheduled for surgery and then had to reply to my request for her to submit changes needed to their home study. Boy, did she have a big change to submit! I did write a favorable home study; however, it was conditional based on the outcome of her surgery and treatment. As soon as the home study was done, the couple effectively went on hold. The surgery went well, treatment even better, and when she had been over one-year cancer free, she got a fantastic note from her oncologist. I did a home study update and they were placed with a baby a couple of months later. I had a lengthy note from the doctor so I was able to make the assessment that her prognosis was excellent, so I basically used that information in the home study and it went just fine.
This is clearly best case scenario, I know they can’t all be this great, but for example-sake, this was a good one.

Q:  Will having cancer impact eligibility to adopt in any way?

A:  A person who is currently undergoing cancer treatment should be 100% focused on their health and treatment and not focusing on adoption. But after cancer, and with a good prognosis, there are very few limitations for a cancer survivor.

Q:  Is there special documentation is needed for a cancer survivor to adopt?

oncologist-letter-for-adoption-homestudy

My oncologist Dr. Rosen wrote a great letter for us when we adopted Mae.

A:  Yes, the oncologist’s letter is paramount. Ideally, the letter will include:

  • what type of cancer
  • what stage it was caught
  • treatment plan
  • expected prognosis
  • percentage of recurrence (if that information is able to be stated)
  • if the physician would recommend the patient for adoptive parenting

The social worker will use this in making his/her favorable determination for adoption and may also pull quotations out of it for the home study (as home studies become legal documents.) So, getting a letter as favorable as possible is helpful.

In the above example that I gave about the gal who found out about her breast cancer on the day of the home study finalization, her doctor’s letter was so favorable that due to the early time period of catching it, aggressive surgery and treatment (double mastectomy, hysterectomy, chemo, and radiation), the percentage chance of her cancer recurrence became less than me getting breast cancer in the future. So being able to summarize that in the home study was compelling and the judge had absolutely no problem with it.

Q:  Do I need to be in remission for a certain amount of time before I can pursue adoption? How long?

A:  In talking with others about this, and after taking my own personal opinion into effect, we all believe that at least one year in remission is a good amount of time. In addition to the toll it takes on the survivor’s body, possible hormone imbalances, stress on the marriage and family, financial stress, time off work, etc., may all add up after a cancer diagnosis. One year out seems to be a good amount of time. That’s really the case in anything adoption though!

We social workers like to see a year after a life-changing event regardless of if the event is happy, sad, or scary, so this is no different. Some international countries will have additional requirements, such as needing someone to be 5-years in remission, and some agencies have their own requirements, others of them 3-years in remission, but that is all on a case-by-case basis.

Q:  What are some good resources for cancer survivors to look into when researching adoption adoptions?

A:  I think just talking with social workers and adoption agencies about the possibilities for adoption is a great place to start. We can help with some of the basic information and research anything that is unknown. Things are so conditional when it comes to this topic, nothing is black and white, and talking with someone is a great idea for gathering accurate information specific to your case.

For example, I would be a lot more inclined to approve a family similar to the one I’ve been referencing here throughout, rather than someone who just had the one breast removed, no hysterectomy, and tested positive for the BRCA 1 or 2 genes.

Additionally, no two adoption agencies or social workers are going to react the same way, too. I’m more on the cautious side, but I also place a lot of emphasis on the oncologist’s letter. Whereas, someone who has never worked with a cancer survivor before, and has some negative family history (e.g., mom died two years ago from cancer), might not be as willing to consider the prospect.

FertileAction.org has a helpful resource page for cancer survivors. I also recommend calling an adoption consulting agency to talk to experts about your particular case. Consulting agencies network with a lot of adoption agencies and are advocates for those wanting to adopt. They can steer you clear from agencies that are not flexible when it comes to cancer survivors adopting and point you toward agencies who are more friendly toward the issue. A great group who would love to be an adoption resource for cancer survivors is Christian Adoption Consultants.

BOTTOM LINE:

It’s Danielle again —

So as you can see, Nikki is a WEALTH of knowledge and there is HOPE for the cancer survivor who wants to adopt!

Stay tuned – we’ll have Nikki’s advice specifically for cancer survivors who want to internationally adopt and domestic adoption for cancer survivors coming up.

And – if you have a question for us, please leave a comment and we’ll address it in a future post!

-danielle

August 22, 2013 at 6:18 am 7 comments

January 31 – Mae Day | Mae’s Adotion Journey

The big day had finally arrived. I hadn’t had a stomach full of butterflies like this since my wedding day. Except a white dress and borrowed veil weren’t part of today’s show. Today was something special all in itself.

For three weeks, time had flown. We’d gone from thinking we might be parents within the year just 30 days before to waking up and preparing ourselves to be in family court, adopting a 4-month-old baby girl in just a few hours. “The Lord works in mysterious ways” didn’t even begin to cover it.

Once the day for court arrived, time couldn’t have gone any slower. Our court date was scheduled for the afternoon so we tried to stay busy with cleaning the house and watching TV. Weather warnings continued to flash; ice and snow were about to hit. We prayed that everyone would make it to court on time and safely. Luckily, the courts stayed open and cancelled only their evening cases.

Adoption Court

After a long morning of lounging, we finally got dressed and headed downtown. Not knowing if we needed to dress formally or casually we decided to look nice to hopefully make a good impression with the judge. We left the house very early, not wanting to get lost or held up in the process. Once we located the right building, we got coffee. Two swirled hearts in our cups by the barista sealed the deal. This was a day of love.

Once inside the court building we filed through the security checks and made our way to the large waiting room that sat outside of several doors leading to small courtrooms holding family court cases. It was nothing like we’d seen on TV. It wasn’t fancy or fun, just stale white walls and old ticking clocks. And lots of chairs and people sitting around.

Over the next hour, everyone managed to arrive on time and things went just as planned. We all had separate meetings with the judge and were pleased when our time went very quickly. We even had the baby in the courtroom with us. She sat perfectly in her car seat, charming the entire room. We were granted temporary custody and were instructed to return in six months to make the adoption final. Anything the judge or our lawyer said after that was history. She was all ours.

Announcing “It’s Final!”

We snapped a few pictures and carefully made our way back to the car, trying not to slip on the slick sidewalks. A slow, careful drive home gave me plenty of time to text our friends and family that “Mae Brooke Burgess” was on her way home. Finally we shared the name we’d chosen for her. Finally she could come home. It was time to celebrate.

Even with the bad weather, all of the grandparents were ready to come see the baby. We had an hour together as a family of three. Mike and I showed her around the house, introduced her to the dogs and spent time in her room. Once everyone arrived, a night full of snuggling and pictures followed. Everyone was full of love for our new addition.

When Mae began to get tired, the grandparents headed home. It was just the three of us once again. We took Mae up to her room and changed her into her PJs, starting her first bedtime routine. Because we wanted her to feel as comfortable as possible, we laid her in her pack-in-play bed from Uncle Nick’s house. Daddy snapped a picture. I leaned down and gave her a kiss. And with that, we said goodnight to our daughter for the first time.

Read Last Year’s “Mae Day” post.

A Year Later….

Thank you to everyone who’s been following Mae’s Adoption Journey over the past month. What a joy it’s been to re-live the story of one of the biggest miracles in our life. I still shake my head that we became parents in three weeks.

This year has been the highlight of our lives. Mae is a beautiful, charming little girl who has a charisma to her that I stand in awe of each day. She’s naturally joyful, smiling all the time, and brings a smile to my face just about every minute of each day.

I didn’t know what the future had for me eleven years ago when I found out I couldn’t have my own children due to my colon cancer. And while the road to get to this place certainly wasn’t easy or “speed-bump” free, I do praise the Lord for the grace He’s given us, and for bringing this angel into our world.

My prayer is that our story shows hope that the Lord’s plans are good (and they often look differently than our own.) He can bring hope to ANY situation. If you trust in Him and follow His leading, He will have amazing plans headed your way. You too will have your own personal “Mae Day.”

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

Psalm 19:7

January 31, 2012 at 11:57 pm 3 comments

January 17 – Registering | Mae’s Adoption Journey

We were on cloud nine after spending a whole evening with the baby girl who would soon be ours. We couldn’t wait to bring her home and begin a new life together. We’d been in contact with our adoption agency who kept giving us updates on what the process looked like. They’d assigned us a lawyer, gotten everything in line for the birth mom, and expected us to be in court by the upcoming Friday if everything fell into place … meaning in four days we’d be coming home with a baby!

Baby Names

We sent out a quick email update again late afternoon letting our friends and family know what our process was looking like. We also told them that we’d not be disclosing the baby’s name. We’d been asked repeatedly about her name, and chose to keep that confidential. It was a sensitive issue, and we wanted to approach it cautiously.

Even before we’d married, we had always had the name of a little girl picked out. It had stuck with us in our dating days and grown to mean so much more to us over the years. However, as we thought through baby names, we’d never expected that our baby would already come with a name. We figured we’d be bringing home an infant from the hospital and the name we chose would be the only name he/she would ever have. We didn’t quite factor in adopting a 4-month-old who’d gone by a previous name for several months.

I struggled with the thought of changing her name, not wanting to show any disrespect to her birth family. However, deep down inside of me I knew it needed to happen. God brought example after example of Biblical stories where names were changed when a transformation occurred. From Sarah & Abraham in Genesis to Paul in Acts – we had a Biblical mandate to change her name. So after prayer and conviction, we proceeded with the plan to change this baby girl’s name to one that God had already put on our hearts. One that would officially make her part of our family.

We left everyone in anticipation and decided not to share until everything was final. We approached the name issue with sensitivity, realizing handling it poorly could jeopardize the situation and relationships. So, we kept everyone guessing on the name, but at least threw them a bone. We went and registered.

Registering for Baby

Now we’d been married for almost six years so we were a little out of practice when it came to registering for gifts. However, once we grasped that Target gun in hand, we were on our way. And it took us very little time to remember how to use it.

Aisle after aisle, we added baby items to our list. Not even knowing what half of them did, we added them anyway. I’d babysat for enough kiddos to know some of the essentials. And then other things just looked really fun.

Bottles, socks, toys – you name it, we added it. It just felt awesome to be “doing” something after a long week of waiting and stalling. We wrapped up our registry list and sent out the news that it was live. It didn’t take long for the gifts to begin pouring in. After all, we had a baby coming – and most likely she’d be moving in by Friday.

January 17, 2012 at 1:25 pm Leave a comment

January 13 – Agency Calls | Mae’s Adoption Journey

Once again, my head was spinning. This wasn’t a new occurrence though. In less than a week there had been several days where the room was spinning. It started with a text and then a meeting. Then it really started spinning after a decision. But after I hung up with our adoption agency the morning after meeting Uncle Nick, I knew this was all for real.

You Ready to Proceed With Adoption?

The previous night, we left meeting Uncle Nick with unsettled feelings. Excited, yet uncertain. The situation called for several more meetings and several more phone calls. Part of me dropped some hope once I realized the “this person needs to call that person” web that was to come. I figured something was bound to fall through. Yet the next day when I recognized the phone number of the adoption agency calling my phone, I new we’d made some progress.

Yet once again, blood surged through my veins. Nick had talked to his sister and she knew that adoption would be the best thing for her precious girl. It didn’t take much convincing, she was already there. She wanted what was best for her, as did Nick. He let her know about us. And she trusted him. So much so that by the next morning, she had already called our adoption agency and set up a meeting with them. They were calling us before noon to fill us in on the morning’s activities.

“Hi Danielle, we’ve already talked with the birth mom and she’s ready to move forward if you are. Are you wanting to move forward in this process and adopt this baby?

I shouldn’t have been surprised at the question. It was one that I’d been asking myself all week. Yet something about having our adoption agency ask it put it in the major leagues. This was the real deal now.

“Yes, we will move forward.”

And with that, we were on our way. I quickly called Mike. He was in the middle of eating lunch with co-workers between classes. I had always tried to avoid calling him during school hours, not wanting to interrupt his teaching. But luckily I caught him at a good time. Making she he knew we had agreed to adopt a kid was sort of big news. Mike’s response was the same as mine. Surprised everything had moved quickly. Still in agreement to move forward. Happy. And probably more than anything, dumbfounded.

Time to Spread the Word A Bit

Granted, I was in shock that this was all real and happening. But I’d had five or six days to know it was coming. It hit me that Mike and I would be becoming parents very quickly, we had a daughter out there … and yet none of our parents knew any of this. So, although I hadn’t quite processed everything yet – I picked up the phone and called my mom. We needed to start telling our parents.

Telling Mom

My mom has always been able to take my phone calls at her job. Working in a school gives her the flexibility to put her kids first, even if we are, ahem, nearing 30. So, I called her school and asked the receptionist to find her. I needed to talk to her. In a grand opening statement where I stumbled over my words and such, I basically got out the gist of it: something’s been going on, everything is moving fast, there’s this baby, we’ve been put in line to adopt her, and as of this morning it’s real and looks like it’s happening. Mom’s response gave me a little comfort knowing that my reactions all week didn’t come from nowhere. She was excited, yet quiet, and mostly in shock. I could tell the room was spinning for her, too.

Telling Dad

Next up, I needed to tell my dad. Since his office is less than a mile from my house and his birthday had been the previous day, I thought it would be fun to somehow surprise him with a late birthday gift. I waited for Mike to get home from work and we slipped by his office. I’m sure when we walked in he thought we needed to talk about our cars or life insurance or something. But rather, we sat down across from him at his desk and proceeded to give him a gift wrapped frame. And then we began to explain to him that he could put his granddaughter’s photo in there. His eyebrows shot up. We started sharing the story again. Since I’d already had a first run with Mom, this one wasn’t as rough. Plus, Mike chimed in to help. Yet it was still stop-and-go and shocking. My dad is usually pretty calm and collected about everything … well except my colon cancer. So in his usual fashion he sat there, legs crossed (and shaking), hands clasped rested in his lap, head nodding as he took in our story. At first I thought he wasn’t surprised. But then I realized he was just processing. And at the end of our story, he got a big smile on his face. “I’m gonna be a grandpa!”

Telling Mike’s Mom & Dad

Last up, we wanted to tell Mike’s mom & dad together. Since we also lived just down the road from them, we decided to stop by once we knew Mike’s dad would be home from work. We knew this would probably already tip them off that something was going on. Years before we’d had a similar “drop by” experience when we told them we were planning to move to LA. We’d set this scenario up the same way, so they were excited to see us yet anxious to hear the “news” we had for them. I could tell they were hoping it was good. We didn’t mess around – we got right down to it. We began to share the story again about how a few days earlier, we’d received a text and had a few meetings and well – as of this morning – we’d agreed to adopt a baby girl. Reactions were the same. Excitement. Surprise. Little bit of shock. The super fun part was sharing that this little gal was just shy of two weeks younger than my niece. “They can grow up together!” I jumped at the thought. The reality had hit me once again in a whole new way. Holy cow, this was real.

Letting the News Soak In

After a long emotional day, we headed home to recover. We wanted to share our news with so many others, yet were exhausted and drained. We were glad all of our parents knew. We’d told just a handful of friends. We just needed to rest.

Before my eyes took their last blink, I reflected back on the day’s events. All of our parents responded differently (in a good way), yet they were all very similar. Cautiously excited. Surprised and shocked at the timing. Unsure exactly of how to react. Yet happy. And if we were being honest, Mike & I felt the same way.

It hit me once again that the journey of adoption is unique and different. There’s not one way it will ever be done. And most of the process is uncertain and requires great faith. There’s a typical pattern of responses when it comes to pregnancy or birth announcements. Even if they’re a total shock, most of us get what came before (that’s assumed) and what will come after. But with adoption, and especially our journey, there were no assumptions. We had no idea what had come before (only bits and pieces we’d managed to piece together) – and we especially had no idea what would come after. Nothing about adoption was familiar to us. And even if it would have been, each story has its own twists and turns and details to work out. And while I wasn’t saddened nor scared about the unfamiliarity of this process, I was just praying that I felt everything I needed to feel, and that this was right.

All we knew was that our lives were about to change. We handed the legal stuff and the details over to our agency. We asked our closest friends and family to be praying. And with that, we called it a night.

January 13, 2012 at 11:39 pm Leave a comment

January 12 – Meeting Uncle Nick | Mae’s Adoption Journey

I have to admit that having a slow day that wasn’t full of texts, secret meetings, and big decisions was kind of nice. But after what seemed like a slight pause in a crazy fast race, we were back on the path. A baby was up for adoption. We were first in line to be her parents. And a meeting needed to happen.

We had agreed to meet the uncle, Nick, a few days earlier when we got Scott’s call that adoption was underway. What we couldn’t decide was if we were comfortable meeting the baby yet.

Part of us wanted him to bring her. Something about meeting her in person would make everything feel real.
Yet at the same time, we weren’t ready for that and wanted to wait.
What if this still fell through?
What if we didn’t “hit it off” when we met the uncle?
What if he didn’t like us?

So, fitting our typical pattern – we initially said no, we didn’t want the baby to be at the meeting.
And then we changed our minds, and said OK.
We wanted to meet her.

Trying to Make it Through the Workday

There’s nothing like trying to stay focused with a big meeting planned for the afternoon. And this wasn’t just any meeting. I mean I’d worked in advertising and was used to anticipated afternoon pitches. But this was in a whole new league. This wasn’t a potential client at hand. It was the possibility of a new family. And my opportunity to be a mother.

I had transitioned jobs a few years earlier and worked for our church which allowed me the freedom to process everything happening while “on the clock.” I dabbled in getting a few tasks done but most of the morning was spent talking to my coworkers Jeff and Orion, and getting them caught up with what all had happened the previous three days. It was the first time out of many I would see eyes open wide and jaws drop at the timing and craziness of the story.

Perfect Timing for Activation Papers

The morning actually seemed to go pretty fast and just a few hours before our scheduled meeting time I noticed an email come through from our adoption agency. I hadn’t heard from them in a few weeks and last I knew all of our papers were being processed and we were waiting to go “active.”

Well, as luck would have it, those activation papers arrived just a few hours before our meeting with the uncle. As I opened the email and realized what had just happened, I couldn’t help but laugh. “Good timing, God. Wouldn’t you know that we’d get these papers just hours before we would be meeting a baby who needed a home.” I still wasn’t sure if this was a sign that things would or wouldn’t work out, but I huffed at the irony.

A Memorable First Meeting

Scott & Patti offered up their house as a neutral meeting place. We wanted them there to introduce us to their friend. As I left work, I confirmed with Scott about the meeting and he informed me the baby wouldn’t be there. She had a cold and Nick didn’t want to drag her out into the snow. Slightly bummed initially, I soon became relieved. It was probably best. Emotions from seeing a little baby wouldn’t get in the way of getting some important facts.

Luckily for us, Uncle Nick also tended to run late. Even to life-changing meetings like this one. Mike was coming straight from work, so he arrived as soon as he could. I blamed my getting lost and missing the exit on my uneasiness, yet arrived in time to hug Mike and gather my thoughts before Nick got there.

I heard the rumbles of a big SUV pull up and soon Nick and his daughter were stomping off snow and standing in Scott & Patti’s entryway. His daughter ran off to play with the Simmons’ son, and we were left to begin the awkward introductions. We didn’t leave much time for small talk. Nick slid an ottoman to the middle of the living room and sat right in front of Mike and I who were seated on a love seat, trying to appear madly in love and desperate to be parents. As Scott & Patti tiptoed to the back of the room, we got down to business.

Nick began to tell us about the baby and that he’d been taking care of her for several weeks. He loved her with all of his heart but he knew adoption was going to be the best option for her. He assured us she had been well taken care of and loved since the day she was born.

Although it ran the risk of feeling like a sales pitch, the compassion in Nick’s eyes let us know that this was for real. Scott had already told Nick about us before the meeting so after Nick explained the situation, he asked if we had any questions. And finally I was able to ask about the birth mom.

Big Questions, Surprising Answers

I didn’t waste any time and immediately asked about guardianship and legal custody. Nick explained that his sister (the birth mom) was unable to care for the baby and wanted her to be with Nick. And while he loved this little girl, he knew it wasn’t ultimately best for her, nor for him. He was convinced that she needed an adoptive family. And while he needed to have a conversation with his sister to see if she agreed, he was confident that it would all work out.

Signal: Tires Screech Sound

Have a conversation with her?” That changed up the game a bit.

Up until this point, we didn’t realize that Nick really didn’t have any legal say-so in the baby’s adoption. Sure, he thought his sister would agree with him and be okay with it – but that didn’t guarantee anything. Suddenly this story had taken a twist.

Although relieved to understand the full picture, I began to dread that once again we’d headed down a road that would ultimately lead in disappointment, just like the other opportunities in the past. And part of me wondered if we should close it all down now and head home to sign the activation papers with our agency waiting for us in my inbox.

Staying Tuned…

As we slipped on our coats and scarves, Nick asked if we wanted to see more pictures of the baby. I was so torn, see more pictures of a kid that could or could not be mine? At this point I was so emotionally overwhelmed, I had no idea what I thought. But, not wanting to be rude, I leaned over to see a few more photos of a beautiful baby girl.

Mike and I weren’t sure what to think after this meeting. It hadn’t exactly gone as planned, yet not in a bad way. We realized that the final decision to put this baby up for adoption hadn’t yet been made. The decision maker hadn’t met us, she didn’t even really know about us. And although we were tempted to pass it up before we got too attached and keep things “safe,” we decided to hold out and wait to see what happened with an upcoming conversation Nick was about to have with his sister.

January 12, 2012 at 12:17 am 1 comment

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