Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Home Study

The process has begun! Shortly after my conversation with T from CFS, we received a stack of paperwork in the mail. The first thing we had to send in was our permission for the release of our criminal records, including child and sexual abuse records. Along with that, we sent our marriage license, birth certificates, verification of income, payment agreement, autobiographies and directions to our home. Whew! That’s a lot of information, but that’s not even close to the end of it!

Currently we’re working on our financial statement (basically a copy of our budget), insurance information, medical reports on each of us, transracial/transcultural forms, adoptive parent profile, degree of openness, references, and our portfolio. We are also taking an online course on transracial adoption. I think now you can see why a home study takes two months or more to complete!

We are scheduled to have our first home visit from our social worker, H, on Tuesday. I am excited to meet her as we’ve had many pleasant conversations with her over the past couple of months. The home visit makes this all seem so much more real! Woo Hoo! It’s happening!

Boys, you can check out here. ☺ Girls, I have a question for all you scrapbookers out there. Our portfolio is basically a picture story of our lives. I am not into cutsie things like hearts. But, I do want to have some kind of consistency throughout the album to tie it together rather than having just a bunch of random pictures and stories. I know most of you don’t have experience with adoption portfolios, but I thought I’d put a call out for suggestions in case you have any. The agency workers will take a stack of portfolios of waiting families to the birthmother and she will look through them to decide who she wants to parent her child. So, ours needs to stand out in some way if possible.

A Child of Our Own

I’m sure you’ve heard stories or know someone who adopted and then got pregnant right away. Since we’ve started the adoption process, the most common response we get from others is, “I bet you’re going to get pregnant now!” People have been genuinely excited for us to add to our family through adoption, but often the conversation turns to the baby we could possibly have after we adopt.

Since the doctors have found nothing medically wrong with Andy or me, it is easy for me to believe this could happen. All along I’ve thought of infertility as God’s way of getting couples to consider opening their homes and hearts to children who need a mommy and daddy. The incredibly large number of women who have gotten pregnant shortly after adopting supports this idea. But, I can’t allow myself to think that way for several reasons.

1. It might not happen. Maybe that sounds hopeless to you, but it’s a reality that I have faced and must continue to remember throughout this process. There are no guarantees.
2. I don’t want to take the focus or attention off of the baby that God will bring into our family through adoption.
3. I don’t want our adopted child to ever think that he/she is less “ours” than a biological child would be.

I’ve read about families who have both biological and adopted children being approached by acquaintances or strangers who ask, “Now, which ones are yours and which ones are adopted?” Since we are pursuing adoption of an African American or bi-racial child, that question will likely not be necessary for Andy and I. ☺ But, I don’t ever want anyone to think an adopted child would be less “ours” than a biological child would be. And, if God decides to bless us with a biological child, he/she will be considered our second born, loved equally with the first.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Conversations with CFS

So, you wait for 2-3 weeks for a post and then you get 4! Be sure to read the other posts below. All of these things float around in my head everyday, but I don’t always have time to get them down. This post is an update.

In “What’s Happening Now,” I told you that we sent in an application to Christian Family Services in Fort Mill. That was a Monday. On Tuesday I got a call from CFS letting us know that they got our application and were “thrilled” to be working with us! I talked to the administrator of the agency for 40 minutes. We had the most pleasant conversation and hashed through some details so that we can get our homestudy started. It turns out that the director of the agency goes to the parent church that planted our church!

Basically, we’ve expressed an interest in adopting an infant of any race or gender. Because we are willing to adopt an African American or Bi-racial child, we are considered to be pursuing a “special needs” adoption. This lowers our cost and requirements significantly. This also means that we will VERY likely have a baby within one year from the date the homestudy is complete!

The homestudy takes about two months, so it should be completed by the end of November or early December. During that time we will be putting together a portfolio (or scrapbook) about our family. Once we have been proven competent enough to be parents, the agency will begin showing our portfolio to birth moms. The agency will show the portfolios of all adoptive couples who are willing to take the kind of child being born. The birth mom then selects the parents of her child based on what she sees in the portfolios. At that point, the agency calls the adoptive couple selected and describes the expected child. They will explain any medical problems the child may be predisposed to according to family history, the race and gender of the child. The adoptive couple then has 24 hours to pray and make a decision about whether or not this is the child for them.

We requested the social worker that each of us has spoken to on previous occasions to work our case. Last week we were notified that she has accepted our case! She is very kind and helpful, so we are happy that we will get to work with her.

So, this is pretty exciting! I’ve been saying, “Andy, we’re going to be parents!” and “I’m gonna be a mama!” I can’t believe it!!

Allowed to Dream Again

I went to a baby shower the other day for another teacher in my school. I’ve been to many baby showers in my five plus years of infertility, but something was different about this one. I felt different. I sat at a table with some teacher friends of mine. While we snacked on the cake with the little pink baby booties on top I told them that we had begun the adoption process. Some of them had struggled through fertility treatments themselves before getting pregnant, and they were genuinely excited for me. One of them said, “This means we’ll be giving you a baby shower before too long!” What? Me? YES! ME!!

I hadn’t realized how much I had suppressed the pain of infertility until now. Now that there is a pinhole of light coming through the dark cloud of infertility, I can see that I wasn’t as OK with being around pregnant women, babies and children as I thought I was. I fooled even myself into thinking I was OK. Hearing the news of another friend’s pregnancy, going to a baby shower, holding a new baby, watching families together…over the past five years I can hear the voice in my head saying, “I’m OK with this. See. Look at me. I’m not upset in the least! I can handle this!” I had convinced myself. After going to that baby shower last week, I knew I had been lying to myself all this time.

So what was different? Lately, since the adoption process has begun, I’ve caught myself daydreaming again. I can see Andy holding our new baby. I can see myself cuddling and nuzzling a little one, even changing dirty diapers. I think about getting up in the middle of the night and looking like a zombie everyday. As I drive, I imagine a car seat with a crying baby in the back seat. When we go shopping, I try to imagine what it will be like trying to get through the store with a baby. I crave the moments when the baby lights up at the sight of me or the sound of my voice. I dreamed these kinds of dreams when we first started trying, but had to stop after a while. These kinds of thoughts are torturous when you’re not sure if you’ll ever hold your own baby in your arms. Now that we’re involved with an agency, I can allow myself to dream again. And, being around pregnant women, going to baby showers, holding babies, and seeing families together brings me excitement. Because, now I know my day will come too. I’m gonna be a mama!!!

"What do you mean, "She's expecting?'"

At church last Sunday, a precious friend of mine walked up to me and said, “So, I hear you’re expecting.” Then she gave me this sweet smile and hugged me. Two nights before, she had attended a cookout where Andy had shared the news that we have begun the adoption process. She has no idea how much her words meant to me.

I’ve discovered that people don’t really know how to treat someone who is “unable” to have children of their own, someone who is in the process of adopting. How do you talk to someone who is going to raise a baby that didn’t come from her body?

After reading my post “Get In My Belly!” a dear childhood friend of mine (whose mother was adopted) wrote me an e-mail. She prefaced her thoughts by saying that she realized what she was about to say would probably sound crazy, but it didn’t sound crazy to me at all.

When Emilee read where Andy said, “I don’t care about the money anymore. It’s time to move forward [with adoption],” she felt like that was the moment our baby was conceived. She went on to compare our journey of waiting for a child to that of a pregnant woman in waiting for her little one to arrive. Neither an adoptive mom nor a birth mom can see the baby before it’s born. Both wonder what he/she will look like. Both worry about the development of the baby. Both worry about the safety of the baby during delivery. Both prepare for the baby’s arrival. Both worry that they won’t know what to do when they bring baby home. Both experience pain (physical and/or emotional) but when the baby arrives, the pain is forgotten. “The end result is the same—you have a precious baby or child!”

Emilee went on to say, “You many never have a huge belly, but your heart will keep getting bigger and bigger and pretty soon you’ll feel/see things start to move and change—maybe not a significant change, but a little something to let you know it’s on the way. You love that child right now, even though you have no idea who this person is…then you’ll have that first time you ever saw him or her moment.”

It is such a blessing to have friends that think of adoption that way. I’ve read advice from other adoptive parents that say family and friends should treat an adoptive couple as if they are pregnant. We want people to be as excited for us to adopt as they would be if we were pregnant. As the time gets closer and a birth mom selects us to be the parents of her child, and we have a due date, we will be excited to talk about baby showers, strollers, cribs, etc. We’re thankful to have so many supportive people to share the excitement with.

Moses Had Identity Issues

Through my adoption research, one topic that comes up repeatedly is identity. Adoptees (people who have been adopted) struggle for a large part of their lives with knowing who they are. Many adoptees seek out their birth parents at some point to find out what characteristics they got from their birth parents. Some need to find their birthparents to learn about the medical history of those in their bloodline. This is one reason families have turned to open adoption (more on that in a future post).

I have been reading through Exodus in my morning quiet time, and this week it hit me, even Moses had identity issues. Moses is the first known adoptee in the Bible. The people of Israel were slaves in Egypt when Pharaoh demanded that all male babies be put to death as a way of controlling the Israelite population. In order to save her son, Moses’ birth mom put him in a basket and watched her baby float away down the Nile. She sent his older sister to watch after him and see what came of him.

Pharaoh’s daughter who was bathing in the Nile found the baby. Eventually she adopted him as her son. But, after he grew up and saw the oppression of his birth family, Israel, he took pity on them to the point of killing an Egyptian to avenge them. When Pharaoh learned of the murder he sought to kill Moses, so Moses ran from Egypt.

Moses settled in a foreign land and married a girl who was neither Israelite nor Egyptian. He stayed there until God came to him in the burning bush and told him to return to Egypt to free the children of Israel. Moses’ reaction to God’s calling was, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11) Never mind that he is the grandson of Pharaoh born of an Israelite. But what struck me even more was Moses’ question to God in Exodus 6:12 & 30. “How then shall Pharaoh listen to me, for I am of uncircumcised lips?” Moses was insecure about his identity even after God had proven His power through him.

Moses showed signs of having identity issues in many ways: by not knowing which nation of people he should be loyal to, by leaving Egypt (where both his birth and adoptive families were) and marrying a foreigner, by expressing his concern that no one would listen to him because he didn’t belong to either nation of people. But, the beauty in the story is the redemption of Moses.

God chose to use Moses to bring affliction on the nation of Egypt to redeem his people, Israel. (Exodus 7:1) Did God need Moses to do that? No. He had already proven that in Genesis 12:10-20 when He brought affliction and plagues on Egypt (without the use of a man) after an earlier Pharaoh took Sarai as a wife. But, in his mercy and grace, He redeemed Moses and set him above both the Egyptians and the children of Israel. And, his redemption did not end with the Exodus from Egypt. Later, God allowed his commandments to come to His chosen people through Moses. God fully redeemed Moses and made him a respected and revered leader of his people, Israel.

Moses is a biblical example of God’s grace and mercy on adoptees who struggle through identity issues. God’s redemption is greater than we could hope or imagine.