A Story of Reunion

It’s always interesting to me when a new family comes to us for assistance with adoption and we ask what they know about adoption, and what they want in an adoption. There are families who have heard all of the horror stories of birth families and there are families who have read every book on Open Adoption and want a full blown relationship with mom because that’s what’s best for child. End of the line is Family is Family, Birth, Adoptive, Step, By Marriage and like everything in life these relationships cannot be controlled. What may start out one way – ends up another.

We have four children by adoption, each with a different level of openness. This weekend we had a reunion after 21 yrs with our twins birth mom. I have been talking with her for over a year now on Facebook. She had a daughter that was 4 when the boys were placed with us that we reunited with a few years ago and this daughter has come and stayed at our home. I have been in contact with their birth father and he was ok with just that and nothing else. There are some paternal siblings that myself and the boys have been in virtual contact. Twenty one years ago next month we were chosen within a 48 hrs period to parent these boys. We knew nothing about them except that they had been born prematurely.  We didn’t care, we were presented and chosen and rented a van to go pick them up 3 hours away. We met with mom for the first time, saw the boys and went to a park to talk. We had lunch at Red Robin’s and drove home just a few hours later with the boys. They were 4 months old.

There was about 6 months to a year of contact after that. We helped her find stable housing, she got a new job. Her first child at the time was living between her and her ex husband. We received cards and letters from her. By two to three years the communication stopped. Phone numbers get disconnected, there are no forwarding addresses. Life happens. Fast forward to now, we met again at a park. We drove 3 hrs to meet with her, she was late and I was worried for my sons that she was not going to show. An hour and a half later than the time we arranged I was able to get in touch with her, drove to her apt and picked her up. This reunion for me was much different than our oldest sons birth mom. I don’t know if it has been life’s circumstances or age (maturity) or just personalities. I felt like we have known each other for years. I did not feel uncomfortable at all. She was very nervous, I could not tell this, it was what she shared with me.  The visit went well, one son did more talking than the other (the quiet one did not initially want to go, he decided at the last min) the one that did most of the talking is the son struggling with addiction, something his birth mother has struggled with for 23 years. She was able to share this with him. She was able to share why she decided on adoption, that it wasn’t an easy decision but it wasn’t hard either knowing that she wasn’t going to have any support from family members even though they told her she would. She was able to tell them that she did feel shame, but never regret and that when people ask family and debbieher how many children she had , she always said 3. She told them that she was happy for them, that they had a family who loves them, and most powerfully that if she hadn’t made the decision for adoption that she knows they would have ended up in the foster care system and she would never know what happened to them. They learned about their family medical history and they were able to ask her questions that they pondered with over the years..Reno point blank no holding back asked her “why did you drink while you were pregnant?”

I could see in their birth mom’s eyes that she was tired, I imagine I would have been exhausted too. She was afraid initially that the boys would be angry with her. They aren’t- not for choosing adoption. I’m not sure what the future brings, I’m not sure who will stay in contact with who. I do know that it was the right time for everyone. I do know that I love this woman for trusting me with her boys. I do know that I love my sons and feel grateful for the opportunity to raise them, and I do know that I am very proud of them for fighting to live that day that they were born even though it was 13 weeks too early.

 

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Do You Really Want to Adopt?

Today is one of my favorite little boys first birthdays..he is the son of one of my favorite families and one of my favorite birth moms. He is cute, bright, healthy and one of the luckiest boys on earth. He has so many people that love him. He is supposed to be here and one day I’m sure will share with us why.

I met his birth mom when she was 5 months pregnant. She was in jail, had been for a month or so and would be for another month. I remember talking with her… sassy, honest and I immediately liked her. It doesn’t matter what the charges were, but I think they were drug related. D had a history of many years of drug use (addiction). She has a daughter who was being raised by another relative but she still had contact with. By the time I met D she had some sobriety under her belt and knew why she needed to do an adoption plan with this baby. I never know for sure how an adoption plan will turn out. I can only use my assessment skills and the “calling” that I feel I have been given. In the end, I am not God. But with D I always felt strongly that she would place. She said it all when she told me ” I don’t know how to love myself right now..how can I possibly care for another human being” She also did not want to risk making the same mistakes she felt she had made with her daughter. Now that she was sober, she wanted to regain some of her trust and respect. She wanted to provide this son with a family who straight out of the box could provide for him unconditionally.
D was open to all types of families, which we thought would make it easy to find for her. What the next few weeks brought though were frustration and made D feel like maybe she wasn’t supposed to follow through with an adoption plan. I think it’s important at this time to disclose the fact that D is a Caucasian woman under 40, we also knew that the father although not involved was also Caucasian. She had a history of methamphetamine use during the first few months of pregnancy but had been testing clean since month 3. Her expenses were low and the adoption costs over all were within budget for most families waiting to adopt.
We initially found a “traditional” couple, no children..who were provided with all of the information about D and her prenatal history. We provided them with our contract and the attorney who would be representing D contract. No surprises, she choose them and that weekend we received communication from them that they had taken the attorneys contract to someone else and felt there were “red flags” in it, could we take D away from that attorney and do the adoption without them? When we responded NO, that D had chosen that attorney, it would be unethical to do such a thing, they posted on a National Adoption Magazine website that the situation may be a scam, that they had matched with this mom and that we would not do anything to help them. Of note on this too is that we had not been contracted by them, we had presented them upfront with no fees involved and that to manipulate a client away from someone they have trusted to help them with one of the most important decisions in a lifetime, would be immoral, unethical and just downright deceitful..was not something we wanted to be part of. That conversation was a good indicator to me that this was not the right family for D or her baby. By the way, there are no “RED FLAGS” in this attorneys contract, and we have done many many successful adoptions with them.
The second family we were to match with D were a same sex male couple who had adopted before. We had matched them with two moms previously who decided to parent, so I can understand some hesitation on their part. Again D chose them and was ready to move forward in the adoption plan..when they decided to withdraw. Their reason….they felt it was too expensive given that she had a drug history. No comment from me….. ok some comment, babies are not priced in adoption. Adoption professional collect fees for services provided – period.
The third couple again was a same sex couple no children both female. All information was provided up front with no application fees, couple was presented and chosen, there was a phone call and then the family decided to back out..it just didn’t feel right to them.
After putting D through the disappointment of choosing three families and having each one of them back out, I turned to a family I knew had wanted to adopt. They were living in a state that I knew as a facilitator I could not work with BUT I also knew how important it was for D to find a family for her son, she had worked so hard on her sobriety and loved this little boy, I had grown to love her. I approached this family and told them about the situation. I knew this family held adoption in their hearts and would want this baby boy, regardless. We talked…I referred them to D’s attorney and they matched. We stepped away as a professional and remained only as a friend.
I watched this family learn to love each other and anticipate the arrival of a brand new life. Last year today he was born. We cried, we cried and we cried. He is beautiful..no flaws.
D has continued to be in recovery since she decided in jail she was going to reclaim her life. This is a completely Open Adoption and D and the adoptive family talk regularly and share pictures on facebook.
Three families backed out on this adoption plan…I know that one year later two of them still have not adopted. We see this daily, people passing on situations because of one thing or another. So I question, are you adopting because you want a family? Because you want to raise children?
Adoption is not about shopping for the best situation, there is no best situation..even those of you who are waiting for the college student who just wants to get on with her life. Because adoption is always a risk, we never know if the placement is going to be successful. We never know if mom is going to go to her appointments, if she will follow through with drug testing, if she is telling us the truth about anything or everything. Adoption is a risk, just like IVF is a risk. You don’t get back the medical fees if it doesn’t work. Adoption is not the same as surrogacy, we can’t make a mom do something, her pregnancy is not for you..adoption is about being gifted a child for whom you get to love and take responsibility for raising, for guiding through life..
Happy Birthday J..we are so grateful you found YOUR family and we are so grateful that we were allowed to be part of it!

Adoption

Adoption has to be made an option for women. I know that most non profits, agencies and treatment facilities feel that parenting and reunification is the best and only option for women, that’s it’s best for families to stay together, but at whose expense and what cost to the children? In treatment or child welfare..more often than not I hear professionals say that these women need their children so that they can get better, to make recovery more attainable. The burden is then placed on the child for recovery and reunification. It works for some but not all, and personally – I think those women were going to make it anyway. What if we looked at it from the child’s point of view? What if we asked..Instead of assuming that keeping this family together is the right and only thing to do for THIS child? Where would that take us? What if we didn’t make adoption the last option? What if we changed society’s view of adoption, and made it a positive thing? Would more women be willing to make the choice? Would more women feel better about making the choice? Would more people support this choice? Would children have a better sense of belonging and sense of self?
We have a sibling here this weekend of two of our children. She was born 4 years before the boys. At the time of their adoption she was living with her father. She was actually raised by his brothers and sisters. She doesn’t have a relationship with her mother, only anger. When I asked her if it bothered her that her brothers were chosen to have an adoption plan and she wasn’t ..her reply was that basically she was given away. It wasn’t a formal adoption, but if not for her dad’s brothers and sisters she would not have had anyone. She loves her uncles for taking care of her and appreciates their love and understanding but I see she feels alone. Each of our children’s birth-mothers have a similar history. Each family states their gratitude for adoption, knowing that these women could not have or can not now take care of their children, in a way that children need to be taken care of. I’m not talking about wealth of possessions but basic warmth and nurturing. So why do we as a society feel like everyone should have these instincts? Why do we as an evolved species feel the need to force women into taking care of children because we think they should? My hope is that these questions can generate some discussions. Family preservation is important and should always be a priority – but why not include adoption into the equation? We marry and become a family that is not made of blood. Why can’t two families come together through adoption and make the child the reason, the focus, the priority?

So Grateful

We had a delivery on Monday. The Birth Mom labored for 24 hours. She handled labor and delivery like she’d done it a hundred times. It was her first. She pushed for an hour and a half and delivered a beautiful baby girl. Perfect – ten fingers, ten toes. Her mom was with her, a good friend of the family and me. I’m so grateful to be able to be a part of this part of life. Grandma held her, mom held her. This I am grateful for because they didn’t think they were going to be able to do this during adoption planning. The adoptive family came in about an hour or so after delivery, they had been traveling from another state to get here. The birth mom and the adoptive mom meet for the first time in the delivery room. For this I am grateful – the birth mom didn’t think she wanted to know who they were. The birth mom invited the adoptive mom to stay overnight with her and care and feed their daughter. For this I am grateful, birth mom didn’t think she even wanted to stay on the postpartum floor let alone room in. Yesterday birth mom and baby were discharged from the hospital, birth moms mom and brothers came to the hospital, met the adoptive parents, held their niece and grand daughter and took pictures. For this I am grateful, the birth family had initially wanted a closed adoption. Yesterday was a very emotional day, birth mom and her mom both feeling the pain of separating, both feeling the pain of knowing that they were making the right decision yet wondering whether they were making the right decision. I feel so very grateful that families allow us to be part of all of this, that I get to spend time with our expectant moms and their families before delivery, that I get to be part of the beginning of life, that I get to help another family hold the baby they have been hoping and waiting for. I feel so very grateful to be a part of these bitter sweet moments. The adoptive family will be back in December and the birth family will get together with them then..for this I am grateful, a new family has been made. There are more people to love this little girl then she knows right now….for this I am grateful.

Bipolar 101

Bipolar disorder is a condition in which people go back and forth between periods of a very good or irritable mood and depression. The “mood swings” between mania and depression can be very quick.
Bipolar disorder affects men and women equally. It usually starts between ages 15 – 25. The exact cause is unknown, but it occurs more often in relatives of people with bipolar disorder. Chances of offspring developing bipolar are around 5 – 14 percent and can go up to 30 percent if both parents are bipolar
Types of bipolar disorder:
Bipolar disorder type I : have had at least one manic episode and periods of major depression. In the past, bipolar disorder type I was called manic depression.
Bipolar disorder type II : have never had full mania. Instead they experience periods of high energy levels and impulsiveness that are not as extreme as mania (called hypomania). These periods alternate with episodes of depression.
Cyclothymia involves less severe mood swings. People with this form alternate between hypomania and mild depression. People with bipolar disorder type II or cyclothymia may be wrongly diagnosed as having depression.
In most people with bipolar disorder, there is no clear cause for the manic or depressive episodes. The following may trigger a manic episode in people with bipolar disorder: Life changes such as childbirth, Medications such as antidepressants or steroids, periods of sleeplessness, or recreational drug use.
Mania may last from days to months. Symptoms of mania: easily distracted, little need for sleep, poor judgment ,reckless behavior and lack of self control, binge eating, drinking, and/or drug use, poor judgment , sex with many partners (promiscuity), spending sprees, very elevated mood, excess activity (hyperactivity), increased energy, racing thoughts, talking a lot, very high self-esteem (false beliefs about self or abilities),very involved in activities, very upset (agitated or irritated)
The depressed phase of both types of bipolar disorder includes the following symptoms: Daily low mood or sadness, difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions, eating problems, loss of appetite and weight loss overeating and weight gain,fatigue or lack of energy, feeling worthless, hopeless, or guilty,loss of pleasure in activities once enjoyed, loss of self-esteem, thoughts of death and suicide, trouble getting to sleep or sleeping too much, pulling away from friends or activities that were once enjoyed.
There is a high risk of suicide with bipolar disorder. Patients may abuse alcohol or other substances, which can make the symptoms and suicide risk worse.
Diagnosing bipolar disorder: Obtaining family history, asking about recent mood swings, lab tests to rule out other medical possibilities such as thyroid problems, or drug use

Treatment: Many people with bipolar disease live “normal” productive lives. Most important is that they recognize their symptoms and continue to take medication even when feeling well. Eating well and getting enough sleep.
People with Bipolar:
The following people are thought to have suffered from bipolar disorder:

Abraham Lincoln (leader) Adam Ant (musician) Agatha Christie (writer) Axl Rose (musician) Buzz Aldrin (other) Drew Carey (actor) Carrie Fisher (actor) Edgar Poe (writer) Gordon Sumner (Sting) (musician) Hans Christian Andersen (writer) Heinz Prechter (entrepreneurs) Isaac Newton (other) Jane Pauley (other) Jean-Claude Van Damme (actor) Jim Carey (actor) Jimi Hendrix (musician) John Dally (sporting stars) Jonathan Hay (sporting stars) Kay Redfield Jamison (other, writer) Kurt Cobain (musician) Liz Taylor (actor) Ludwig Boltzmann (other) Ludwig Van Beethoven (musician) Marilyn Monroe (actor) Mark Twain (writer) Maurice Benard (actor) Mel Gibson (actor) Micheal Slater (sporting stars) Napoleon Bonaparte (leader) Ozzy Osbourne (musician) Patricia Cornwell (writer) Patrick Joseph Kennedy (leader) Patty Duke (actor) Plato (other) Ralph Waldo Emerson (writer) Rene Rivkin (entrepreneurs) Robert Sinead O’Connor (musician) Sophie Anderton (other) Stephen Fry (actor) Ted Turner (entrepreneurs) Tim Burton (writer, other) Vincent Van Gogh (other) Virginia Woolf (writer) Winston Chruchill (leader)Wolfgang Armadeus Mozart (musician)

And many more. With treatment, those affected by bipolar disease go to college and become Drs. And attorneys. Bipolar is not a life sentence. Like any other medical problem it can be treated and individuals can lead healthy life’s with the same expectations as others.