Thursday, December 15, 2011

"I shall call the pebble Dare"

Today Cora and I drove about an hour north to meet with the owner of Angel Adoption--the organization we have been working with who had matched us with this last opportunity.  We had a good meeting, she was very open and had "been there" herself.  She had adopted three children but had just as many adoptions that had been unsuccessful.

She advised looking at every adoption opportunity as if it had only a 50% success rate.  She caveated her statement by saying when speaking with the birthparents, really try to be fully engaged and expect that it will work.  But privately, when talking with each other and others, employ the 50% rule and act as if it's just as likely it won't happen.  Don't go buy things for the baby, don't convert our guest room to Cora's new room so the baby can have the nursery.  All of these actions helped me convince myself that the baby coming to us was a reality when it can't be--not until the birthmother has held it in her arms and decided she still wishes to move forward with an adoption plan.  She needs to make that second adoption plan post-birth.

After discussing tonight at dinner, Bill and I decided that we definitely wanted to pursue adoption further, at least seeing out the balance of our current contract with Angel Adoption.  The contract is for two-years--we paid a set amount upfront for them to to match us over that period with their nationwide network.  Thus, we still have 18 months remaining on our contract--already paid.  In addition, they have a 96% success rate in matching within two years and this is very impressive--even unheard of--in adoption.

I shared with her how disappointed we had been with the social service agency who had provided our counseling.  She was disappointed as well with the examples I shared, yet she agreed with the decision we've made.  After weighing this carefully, we plan to continue to keep notes of where we've been dissatisfied but then wait until our adoption and post-placement is complete before sharing this with our social worker's superior.  Adoption social services isn't objective like processing a check at a bank, there are many subjective decisions that could go in our favor or not.  We don't want to risk getting on the bad side of our social worker who is in her first-year on the job.  If she doesn't take constructive feedback well, our next experience could be even more difficult.  However, when we are done, we do plan to meet and share our concerns with her supervisor.

The Angel Adoption head also pointed out that it is probable that we'll be matched in a state other than Illinois next time (I believe she said only 15% were in Illinois).  In this case, we would be the only ones working with our agency and the birthparents would be counseled by an agency in their state.

She also took a fresh look at our adoption profile and gave me some excellent feedback as to how to make it stronger and more attractive to birthparents.  We'll be making these changes in coming days and once it's updated, I'll post a link here in case you're interested.  They also recommend making a video of us and our home to introduce us to the birthparents.  She shared that this was a key differentiator and we plan to develop this soon as well.

I titled this blog post: "I shall call the pebble Dare."  This is a line from "By My Side" from the musical Godspell.  I've always loved the musical and this song is my favorite with the beautiful harmonies.  I was listening to it this past weekend and some of the lyrics really resonated with what I'm feeling right now. The "dare" we're taking after three adoption experiences that did not go as planned (Cora's was completed but there was still a difficult six-day delay). The "dare" we're taking as we open ourselves up to potentially experience this pain once again if an adoption doesn't succeed.  And then, the repeating chorus of "By my side, By my side" which I interpret to be God walking this uncertain walk with us and carrying us at times.  And, on a larger scale, our families and our friends--all of you who are sharing with us, caring for us, and praying with us on this journey. So we don't have to "dare" alone.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Emily's Birth Announcement or "It Really Is a Wonderful Life"

Tonight is the one-week anniversary of when I began to let go.  In my last blog post, I shared that last Friday I decided to no longer live in limbo and, instead, started to act as if the birthparents had decided to parent Emily.  It was a very hard night for me as a grieved the loss of a dream.  Bill found some support articles from our previous adoption agency as I'd asked our current agency and they didn't have anything.  I was in such pain when I called them and it upset me that they didn't even offer to try to find us support materials.

The materials Bill found from our former agency (The Cradle) were so very helpful to me.  I re-read them a couple times and really consider that my turning point in beginning to let go and starting to heal.

In fact, before going to bed that night, I checked facebook from my phone. A friend from my Mom's Group had posted that she was enjoying a favorite drink while she thought of all the people around her who had a bad week.  She then asked for someone to please send me some good news.  Many of her friends had already shared bits of good news. I found myself typing the following:
I'm sure I'm one of those near the top of the "bad week" list (especially since I arrived sobbing to the playgroup you hosted this week). But my life is full of blessings and good news including my amazing husband and daughter (who started saying "love you" to me today); my wonderfully supportive friends and family through all of this adoption uncertainty; and regardless of whether or not we end up adopting the baby, on Tuesday I saw a baby born and could coach and support the birthmom through the delivery. And the baby girl is healthy and beautiful. This waiting sucks but it was still a pretty amazing week.
I can't believe I wrote that so close to the time I was in so very much pain.  Yes, I had definitely begun to let go and see the blessings in my life. I woke up the next morning at 4 a.m., wide awake from the stress (as I'm so not a morning person).  Bill and I had been calling Emily "E" on facebook and hadn't shared any details of her birth other than that she was healthy.  Our hope had been to share her full name, her birth details, and her picture after the papers had been signed and we brought her home.

Thus, posting the following "birth announcement" on facebook was another sign of surrender:
Received a few texts from the birthmom last night and I believe we may find out today whether they chose to parent or place the baby. They were weighing their options last night and are speaking with their social worker today but my feeling is they are going to parent. So Bill and I have decided to share this now. 
At 2:49 p.m. this past Tuesday, November 29th, we were blessed to witness the birth of Emily June* Audrina. She is 19 inches and six pounds, three ounces. She came into this world surrounded by the love of two couples who care for her deeply. And she is beautiful. ♥
I followed up this post with additional information in the comments:
We love the name Emily. ♥

*June is a family name on my maternal grandmother's side of the family. My mom's middle name is June, my great aunt's first name was Mary June, and it is a surname in generations past.

The birthparents chose Audrina the first time we met them in person. We shared with them that we favored Emily June and invited them to choose a second middle name.

Cora's full name is Corinne Joy Diana. She spent the first ten weeks of her life at The Cradle nursery as Diana--the name her birthmom had chosen. Thus, it was never a question to us that Diana would be part of her name.

We wanted Emily to also have a middle name chosen by her birthparents. ♥
Later that morning, I read the comments on my post.  A couple of friends were defending us saying that Bill and I were in a better position to parent and that Emily belonged with us. I knew they were supporting us but I wanted to share a alternate viewpoint: 
I really appreciate all the support, thank you. I also think it's natural for some of you who care about me to be upset with the birthparents. But I am not. Really. Bill and I consider the birthparents friends, we respect them, have spent hours with them, and have no doubt that pre-birth they truly planned to complete the adoption.
Of course we wish they realized they wanted to parent in mid-September but birthparents need to make that decision once again after birth. Nor due I believe that a child should go to the family better able to provide for her.
A fellow adoptive mom told me last night that she'd heard that birthparents change their mind after birth in one third of adoptions. It's much more common than I thought. So there is an inherent risk and Bill and I were aware of that--we just didn't believe it would happen in our case.
The facebook birth announcement was a casual one.  But in the weeks prior to birth, I had carefully reviewed dozens of formal, mailed birth announcement designs and had decided upon the perfect one.  We'd planned to use a picture of Cora and Emily and include Emily's birth details.  

Here is the design I'd chosen (the photo and text are the artist's):

While we're not entering the holiday season with a new baby and while I still have hard days where I cry...more than once; I am blessed with a strong faith and amazing family and friends.  And I still very much believe that "it really is a wonderful life."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My First Sad Day

Briefly, before I get into the post, I wanted to mention that I've begun to slowly fill-in the main areas of the blog.  I've added a pic to the blog and filled out the Welcome section.  However, it remains under construction as I plan to add another pic of our family including Bill, move some of the longish "Welcome" section to the "About Me" section, and transfer over back posts from facebook for history. I also added a button that lets you subscribe to get posts sent to your e-mail if that's easier for you.

Last week was so very hard as we waited for the birthparents to decide whether or not they would continue with their plan to place Emily for adoption.  Although hearing their final decision to parent ("keep") her was difficult, the days in between when we were waiting for a decision were extremely hard.  The birthmom sent me a text message Friday evening apologizing and saying she felt guilty for the stress this was causing us and our family. She sent another text saying that couldn't allow us to pay their rent due this week while they were making their decision.

Based on those texts, I decided at that moment to "act as if" she had made the decision and get out of the limbo we were living in.  I cried a lot, got angry at the situation, and grieved.  But then I moved on and was able to essentially enjoy the rest of the weekend.  I felt so supported by family, friends, and our church community.  I felt especially close to God this weekend and kept being reminded of his presence through people or coincidences (really God moments).

We learned of the birthmom's decision on Sunday afternoon and I didn't cry--actually felt relieved to just know.  I was able to attend a fun mom's group dinner that evening where I laughed (as well as have a brief cry on a friend's shoulder).  I was in a similar upbeatish mood on Monday and a friend commented that she was worried as I sounded "too happy."  I wasn't worried as I had been acknowledging and dealing with my feelings and I knew that I would have sad days in the future.  So I was enjoying feeling as good as I could given the situation.

Though, the "sad days in the future" came sooner that I expected.  Yesterday was a really hard day for me.  Cora woke up a 2 AM crying.  She's 21 months and usually sleeps through the night.  On the very rare occasions when she does wake up, I rock her while she drinks some milk and she goes right back down.  In the wee hours of yesterday morn she was up for almost an hour.  I rocked her and sang to her and enjoyed our cuddle time (aside from me being tired from only two hours of sleep).  However, rocking her like that reminded me of when she was a baby and it made me a bit sad as I had expected that this week I'd be up a few times a night, rocking and giving a bottle to Emily.

After she fell back asleep around 3 AM, I realized that at about that time exactly one week prior, we had received a pre-dawn call from the birthfather to come to hospital.  I remember how excited we were as we packed the car, our bags, and woke Cora (my parents met us at the hospital and took her home with them).  It made me really sad and I continued for the rest of the day yesterday to think (actually dwell on) "what were we doing right now a week ago."  

This was especially hard at 2:49 PM--the time of her birth.  I'd planned to attend the nurse-facilitated mom's group sponsored by the local hospital from 1-3.  We don't often attend as it's targeted more towards babies but I still had friends in the group as well as the facilitator and knew we'd be welcome there.  However, Cora decided to take a REALLY long nap and I wouldn't have had time to feed her a late lunch and make it there.  But we did o.k. on our own and a said a little prayer for Emily and the birthparents as the clock turned to 2:49.

During Cora's nap, I started sorting through some of the clothes I bought Emily seeing what could be returned and what I'd planned to do with the rest.  Given how the day was going, it may not have been the best choice to tackle that then but I was attending a women's Advent dinner at church and thought I could bring a 3-6 month outfit or two to a friend who had a baby girl a couple months ago.

I came across the personalized Big/Little Sister shirt/onesie that I'd special ordered for the girls.  I loved the monkey design and the designer was so friendly and shipped them quickly.

Finding these made me sad as I couldn't think of a scenario where they'd be worn again.  If we decide to adopt again, Cora will surely outgrow the tee before a baby is born. The onesie would fit a future baby but only if we adopted a girl and we chose to use the name again (not sure if we would although I do love the name). 

So that continued my melancholy day.  Then I glanced at e-mail and saw the BabyCenter 40-week baby update letting me know my baby would be here any day now and I lost it again.  I immediately went to unsubscribe and got the "sure you want to remove this child" message (click on hyperlink for yesterday's post).  I was disappointed that the time I took to correspond with them last February to make it easier for future prospective parents needing to "remove" their child was for naught.  The final message I had received from them indicated that they would change it.  I plan to follow up again in a few weeks but not one of my top priorities now.

There were bright spots to yesterday: baking pumpkin muffins with Cora to bring to the Advent dinner.  Also, enjoying dinner with my church friends who truly care about me. 

I have a call into a counselor that I worked with sometime back helping to me to better deal with all the adoption uncertainty.  I plan to start seeing her again as soon as she can take me.  The articles I've read with advice as how to deal with a "change of heart" are to attend grief support groups for those who have lost children at/close to birth.  My sister has invited me to attend her grief support group later this month (she lost a baby--our Goddaughter Molly--just after birth).  And someone in my Mom's group referred me to a local group.  I'm sure these, too, will help.

Prior to to the adoption, I had been contracting 10-15 hours a week (while a sitter stayed with Cora).  I enjoyed this as it allowed me to still be a stay-at-home mom but work that other part of my brain that I used for 20 years prior to being a mom.  This morning I sent out notes to two companies who had contacted me recently for part-time contract work, letting them know I'd be available in early January.  It think this will also help.  Lastly, I plan to start taking better care of my health.  Making exercise a priority 5-6 days a week and eating healthier.  Both of these should help me sleep better which I know impacts my mood.

Lastly, I am truly delighting in Cora these days.  She is at such a fun age!  I plan to take her swimming this afternoon which should be fun for both of us! :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Are you sure you want to remove this child or pregnancy from your profile?"

This is the question BabyCenter asks if you've lost a baby and no longer wish to receive their weekly baby development updates.

Last February, we learned that Cora's birthmom had a miscarriage. She was carrying Cora's full sibling and had asked us to adopt the baby. Back then, I had also subscribed to the Baby Center updates. I remember having a hard time with the opt-out screen language then as I did today when I "removed" Emily from my profile. I feel like yelling at the screen: "NO!! I AM NOT SURE. I WANT TO KEEP HER!!"

I contacted BabyCenter last February with a suggestion that they wish to consider tweaking the language a bit as anyone reading the words on this screen has lost a baby. To someone who has lost a baby, the specific words used (e.g. "are you SURE you WANT to REMOVE") do matter. I suggested that there could be more caring language that could be used or simply a box to uncheck and the rep I corresponded with agreed with me. But apparently, they didn't follow through on the suggestion. So I'm having a few tears as I "remove" a baby from my profile once again. And, no I am NOT sure, and I do NOT want to REMOVE the baby. :(