Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Tearful Goodbye to a Biological Child, It's Okay to Grieve

Infertillity is one of the most common reasons a couple or person may choose to pursue adoption. Some people look to adoption only after having gone through numerous fertility procedures (I personally know of one couple who completed eleven IVF cycles before deciding on surrogacy). For others, it only takes a doctor making a diagnosis for the exploration of adoption to start.

In either case, a prologed medical evaluation usually takes place. During these months the dream of having a family intensifies, and realizing your family may not grow by traditional methods (pregnancy) can be devestating for some people. Almost every person in this situation contemplates "what might have been" at some point in their journey. It is normal, it doesn't mean you will love your adopted child any less, in fact, some may feel a deeper bond because of it.

Reproduction is viewed as nature's given gift. A person always assumes they will be able to have children unless told otherwise. To have the doctor tell you "you are different" or infertile make make you feel set apart from others. Especially as you watch the others in your life adding to their families seemingly on a whim.

I would often think and picture my unborn child. What he/she would look like, what her eye color would be, or her hair color. Would she have curly hair like me, or bean straight hair like my husband? The questions in my mind were endless.

The switch to adoption was not hard for us. We started pursuing adoption after one failed IUI. However, this did not avoid a deep grieving process. The feelings of grieving did not involve the "its not fair" attitude (that was a different pity potty process) but rather a saying of goodbye to the child that I never knew. To prepare for having a child I had picked out my ob/gyn, visited hospitals and even bough maternity clothes in preparation. Even after I found out about our fertility problems I started to buy fertility books and practiced charting my cycles. When the depth of the medical problems became clear is when I started to grieve and began to "let go."

In my mind I pictured what my child would be (a girl). She would have the eyes of my husband, his coloring, my cheekbones, and my dark curly hair. I then began to say goodbye to that dream. Once I was able to let go of her I began to fantisize what my child, through the gift of adoption, would look like.

I was no longer bound by the characteristics of our family appeaarances. My child could have red hair, be darker skinned, a petite nose, or even a different race. I was free to accept the adoption process, the anticipation, and the joy. I have known people who write letters for farewell to their dream biological child, others have done a memorial of sorts (like planting a tree), something to allieviate the sense of a loss of control. Personally, I never did these things. Saying goodbye was enough, and I needed to fully embrace the future without being reminded of the physical and emotional I felt during those times.

No matter what actions are involved in your personal grieving process, rest assured that when you hold your new baby girl/boy for the first time the thought of any other child in your life at that moment will disappear, you will realize he/she was meant for your family. The adoption process you endured will fade away and you will be smitten with the new life entering your family and realize you wouldn't have wanted it to happened any other way.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The True Legal Definition of Open Adoption vs. Closed

When we started to look at adoption, the single most often quote we came across was "Open Adoption." We came to find out that the legal definition differs significantly with its' everyday use.

Basically, Open Adoption is when the parties (birthmother and adoptive family) exchange identifying information. In a Closed Adoption no identification is exchanged. So an open adoption with no contact after birth is still an open adoption.

To see how this is illustrated consider the following:
In agency adoptions: the birthmother signs custody over to the agency. The agency then assigns custody to the adoptive parent(s). Because the agency is the middle-man the birthmother may not have identifying information. This is a Closed Adoption.

In independant adoptions: in most states, independant adoptions allow the birthmother to assign custody directly to the adoptive parent(s). However, the paperwork required mandates that identifying information is exchanged. This is an Open Adoption.

Many people use the term "Open Adoption" to refer to situations where the birthmother is a continued presence in the life of the adoptive child. This may mean sending letters, presents, involvment with family, visits, etc. It is entirely possible to have an Open Adoption with no future contact with the birthmother. The parameters are decided upon by both parties, in many states even if the parties agree to visitation it may not be enforceable in the courts.

This is the short and the skinny on the terms Open vs. Closed. Most agencies allow the birthmother to view and select potential adoptive families, however, if the borthmother wishes she may hand the selection of parent(s) to the agency.

There are many books available discussing the benefits of open adoption. Personally, we were overjoyed to be able to meet our birthmother. We liked her, a lot. By her decision she is not involved in our daughters life, not because of her lack of love, but because of its' abundance.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How to Write the Universal Perfect "Dear Birth Mother" Letter

Let me just say this right off the bat, there is no such letter. God didn't make unicorns, and prospective adoptive parents don't make universally perfect Dear Birthmother letters.

Starting the letter (or profile) was my first challenge. Almost universally prospective adoptive parents thank the birthmother for reading their profile and for considering their family for placement. After this beginning I stopped cold. Where could I go from here? "Umm, my name is Alexa, we would make great parents, we really want a child to love, and we would really be ecstatic if you picked us for a match"? So I sat down and attacked it like I would any problem, I tried to organize it.

First, I started off with me "All About Alexa". It contained a little about my background, my immediate family and my activities. Then my husband was introduced with his information. Finally we got to the meat of the letter with a section on him and me together. It was in this last section that I described our numerous pets, education philosophies, etc. At the end we included a blurb on close friends. I also added two pages of additional photos: of the house, parties, our street, our pets, and the like.

We started with independent adoption and finished with a hybrid of independent/agency open adoption. Most attorneys, agencies, etc. use the "Dear Birth Mother" letters for the prospective birth mothers to choose their match. Many of the larger organizations have the birth mother select three prospective families (prioritized) out of the stack they are sent. In our case, our birth mother was sent over forty (yes 40!) letters to choose from. Talk about feeling like a needle in a haystack!

Our adoption professional had sent us "samples" to look at, to give us ideas. Well, my first thought when we received those samples was, "So this is the competition." Make no mistake, no matter what the name, if it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck and swims on water, it is a duck. The same is true for the "Dear Birth Mother" letter. The letter could be more aptly renamed to the "Dear Birth Mother" brochure. Yes, brochure. Why? Because you are selling yourself, with lots of competition waiting in the wings.

After reviewing the letters sent to us, and others I found online, I realized that they all began to blend together. How someone could read forty separate profiles and not get them jumbled in their head baffled me, I couldn't do it. In the end, our birth mother told us that what first caught her eye was the fact she and us had both named our dog Zoe, a common bond. Because of that fact, she moved our letter to the "further consideration" pile. After I found that out, I remember thinking of the fight my husband and I had when I came home with from the pound with the puppy. To think that if I hadn't stood my ground on a third dog, we might not have our daughter today. Amazing!

So in short, the letter is your marketing tool, you won't appeal to everyone, even a simple common bond can somehow move your profile to the "further consideration" pile, and an individual birth mother will almost certainly think of you as the "perfect match."

Learn Adoption Lingo

Navigating the web is common trait among prospective adoptive parents.  Some do it with gusto,  others are more moderate, but ALL do it.  If you are a newbie, the lingo can be confusing.  Here are some common terms:

AP - Adoptive Parents
PAP - Potential Adoptive Partent(s)
BF - Birth Father
BM - Birth Mother (please note that most consider this disrespectful, for obvious reasons, and choose to it spell out)
TTC - Trying To Conceive

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Why Have a Blog About Adopting a Child or Newborn?

People consider adoption for many varied reason: infertillity, same sex-couples, single persons, genetic predispositions, or individual motivations. Regardless of the basis that starts the pursuit of adding an adopted child to your family, the journey it entails is a foundation to which all adoptive families can relate.

When I first started researching adoption I was disappointed to see a lack of information from the viewpoint of the adopting parents. There are plenty of books with topics addressing "How to Adopt" or "Steps in Adoption" but not a lot out there on individual experiences. So, in short, this blog is here to help you make sense of a daunting and intimidationg journey ,and hopefully, to also reassure you that you are not alone.