30 June 2009

So much...part one

What am I learning about adoption?

It's complicated.

More complicated than I could ever have imagined.

When I set out to write this blog, I thought I would be posting mostly about the process by which Chris and I would become Plus One...you know, "we sent in our application today" "the social worker came for her first visit" "things are moving more slowly than we would like" "we're so excited" etc.

But what I'm discovering - thanks in large part to the beast that is The Internet - is that there is SO much more to this world of adoption to consider than just timetables, applications, social worker visits, and our happiness. This process is about more than Chris, me and our Little One.

So much to consider.
So much to discuss.
So much about which to be mindful.

For our consideration:
  • the Birth-mother
  • the Birth-father if he is involved
  • will we meet the Birth parents? or not?
  • will the Birth-mother want us there for the birth? Or not want us there? would we even want to be there for the birth?
  • how will we feel knowing that our happiness is predicated on someone else's loss?
  • will the Birth-parents express their grief openly to us and how will we all move through that?
  • what kind of relationship - if any - will we have with the Birth-parents? how will we move through that relationship?
  • what level of "openness" do we want? do they want?
  • what are the implications for us, the Little One and the Birth-parents of a somewhat open adoption? of a very open adoption? of a more closed adoption?
More about this soon. It's late. I need to quiet my mind down before heading off to bed.

29 June 2009

A bit of sadness...

Sometimes I wish that I had never discovered the Internet and that I could just live my life in blissful ignorance.

No...not really.

But sometimes having access to so much information is not always a blessing.

I've been exploring a plethora adoption blogs - adoptive parents, birth mothers and adoptees.

My explorations have certainly been illuminating...

There is so much intense emotion expressed by the various adoption bloggers whose words have appeared on my computer screen over the last few weeks (especially this evening.) So much regret. So much determination to find out the truth. So much bitterness at not being able to find the truth or being rejected by one family member or another. So much fear. So much pain. So much anger. So much grief. So much loss.

So much.

So much.

So much.

I want to write more about this. I want to address some of the issues about which I've been reading. I want to question and to process, but the truth is that I'm feeling very sad and overwhelmed by much of what I've read this evening and not in a good place to be mindful/thoughtful/reflective/empathetic.

So I think that I will instead take myself to bed.

However, when I am in a better place emotionally I will revisit the so much-ness of this post.

24 June 2009

Why adoption?

Please describe your infertility problems.

The above sentence appears in one of the adoption applications that we have in the house. It is followed by the questions below:

Do you have a conclusive diagnosis of infertility?
Are you currently being treated for infertility?
Why do you wish to adopt a child? (Please explain in detail)

Here's the thing...We don't have an infertility problem...well, at least I don't think we do. We could be totally fertile or maybe we are infertile. Just don't know at this point because we've never actually attempted to conceive. And in that I guess Chris and I are likely quite different from many adoptive couples.

So, why adoption?

Why not try to conceive?

To start with - I'm 41, which automatically puts me into a higher-risk pregnancy category than a woman in her twenties or thirties. Even with the miracle of modern science and women having children well into their forties, there are more considerable risks for mother and child in these instances.

Additionally, I'm not exactly svelte. If I'm honest with myself I could stand to drop 40 or 50 pounds. I'd like to think that I'm "Rubenesque," but really I'm just overweight and as such my high-risk pregnancy status increases yet again.

Lastly, I take medication that is good for me, but would be not good for an unborn and/or nursing child. Taking myself off of my medication for the duration of a pregnancy and post-partum nursing period is certainly an option, but not a very good one. It would put me at risk for complications not only having to do with the pregnancy, but also as a result of the chronic condition for which I take the medication.

Any one of the above issues by itself is not insurmountable or a deal-breaker, but put the three together and...essentially what it comes down to is that trying to have a biological child is just not for me. There are too many risks and too many factors putting me in the very "high risk" category.

I'm not willing to put my own health nor that of an unborn child at risk. Period.

And here's the other thing ...my long-time secret...something that is not easily admitted by a woman in today's world...

As much as I want to have the experience of being a mom, I don't feel any particular or pressing need to have the experience of being pregnant.



As a result of wanting to adopt, I have encountered any number of adoption blogs where women bloggers describe in painful, gut wrenching detail their struggles with conception, infertility and miscarriages. It seems as if many of these women and their partners struggle for years and years to get pregnant and/or stay pregnant. From what I have read many of these folks spend thousands and thousands of dollars all the while dealing with multiple disappointments before finally turning to adoption as a means of becoming parents.

The sadness is overwhelming.

When I read the stories of these women struggling against infertility I am deeply saddened for their pain, loss and grief.

However, I am also somewhat in awe of the lengths to which they and their partners will go - emotionally, psychologically, physically and financially - to try to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term. The risks they have taken with their own health as a result the desperate desire to bear a biological child. It's kind of a mystery to me.

Please understand - I do not wish to diminish in any way the pain of any woman who wants to have her own biological child and who is dealing with infertility. It must be awful, awful, awful and my heart goes out to to them. I can only imagine how devastating it must be to want something so badly and to be disappointed time and time again.

For me... I just can't quite wrap my head around subjecting myself and Chris to that kind of trauma because I don't seem to have that inherent desire to experience pregnancy.

For a long time I really thought that there was something wrong with me. I would write things in my journal like:

Why don't I want to be pregnant?
Why do I not have that whatever it is that other women have when they get so excited about the prospect of having a baby?
How can I deny Chris the experience of becoming a father to his own biological child?
What's wrong with me?

Not a very happy place to be in my own mind.

As I get older (and maybe a little more wise?) I find myself getting less uncomfortable with this part of me that does not have the desire to bear a child. I have even come to believe that perhaps the answer is that I knew all along (albeit at a subconscious level) I wasn't a good candidate for child bearing and so I simply never allowed myself that particular desire knowing that it would come with high risk and potential heartbreak.

Or...maybe I'm just selfish.

I don't know.

What I do know is that pursuing adoption feels like the right path to parenthood and that there is a child out there somewhere waiting to be born who is meant to be our child.

22 June 2009

Putting some skin in the game...my version

After two months of discussions, online searches, research, and more, we're putting some skin in the game and officially getting things rolling.

The above is part of a post left by Chris on his blog 150 Steps...an Adoption Journey.

While we have been discussing and planning and worrying and breathing and not breathing and laughing...now we're getting serious. We're moving ahead. Committing to action.

We're sending in the application for our Home Study!

This all suddenly feels real. It's going to happen. An application completed, references sought, a check written....

And awwwaaaaaayyyyy we go...

19 June 2009

Becoming a mom...for Sarah

I was surprised today when I discovered a rather lengthy and serious comment left Thursday night on my May 28 post "Becoming a mom...a new idea"

Thank you so much, Sarah, for leaving such heartfelt thoughts. I'm honored that you felt safe enough to share your worries here. You didn't leave a way to contact you so I'm just going to hope that you return to "In the present moment..." and I'm writing this post for you.

Please know that I am (obviously) no expert. I'm just a woman trying to sort through the journey I'm on with my husband and the prospect of becoming a mother.

Please also know that I hear you and I can empathize. In fact, it was odd reading your words because so much of what you shared sounded exactly like journal entries I've written over the years! You shared your fears about: being home all day, being lonely and bored, the pain of child birth and the fear of post-partum depression, not being able to travel, not being a good mother, your relationship suffering as a result of the stress of raising children, and money issues.

In spite of your fears, it seems to me that you are doing great things for yourself as you contemplate the prospect of motherhood - like looking online to see what other women are thinking/feeling/fearing/hoping, looking closely at your own fears and motivations, seeking books to help educate yourself and work through some of your fears, and best of all you are seeing a therapist. While I don't feel it's my place to give out advice, I would encourage you to continue doing the things you're doing - especially working with a therapist if he/she is someone with whom you feel comfortable.

You asked if I know of any books about would help a woman who fears motherhood...I have not read any that deal with the specific topic of fear and motherhood. Instead, I have focused on working through fear/doubt/anxiety in general - by working closely with a wonderful therapist who is helping me to address and understand my issues as a human being.

There are resources from which I have drawn incredible comfort, solace, inspiration and learning and they are mainly focused on mindfulness...Some of my favorite books:

Inner Wisdom by Louise Hay

The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and John Kabat-Zinn

Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

Instructions to the Cook: A Zen Master's Lessons in Living a Life That Matters by Bernie Glassman

Additionally, I have found that listening to Buddhist teacher, Gil Fronsdal, on my commute to and from work has been a source of great peace and learning for me. I downloaded Dharma Talks by Gil Fronsdal and have found the following talks to be of special interest and use in my life:
  1. The Five Hindrances: Doubt (11/24/08)
  2. Mindfulness of Thinking (weeks 1-4 given 8/13 - 9/3/07)
  3. What is Mindfulness? (4/13/08)
The other resources that have proven to be the most incredibly helpful and inspirational are, of course, the many wonderful people in my life: my husband, parents, friends, colleagues, therapist, and folks like you that I am meeting online. It's truly amazing how willing everyone has been and continues to be to share their stories, advice and wisdom. The more I share my concerns, the more kind and generous people make their way to me to help me in this adventure. I am so grateful and blessed.

What will work best for you, Sarah? I don't know. But you appear to be seriously exploring the possibility of motherhood and I imagine that if you continue on this path that the resources you need will find their way to you just as what I needed found its way to me.

As I said before, I am by no means any kind of expert, but I will always try to share what is happening on this journey to parenthood.

I wish the very best as you sort through your own journey, Sarah - whether you choose to pursue motherhood or decide that perhaps it is not quite for you. If you feel comfortable, I hope you'll keep in touch and share where you are in your process.

18 June 2009

An adoptive dad's point of view...

My husband is a fantastic human being.

And, as I mentioned in a previous post, I just know he's going to be a great dad.

He's also a wonderful writer. Apparently, reading my blog for the last few weeks, and wanting to share some of his own thoughts has inspired him to start recording our adoption journey on his own blog. If you'd like to check out the point of view from an adoptive father-to-be, you can visit Chris at:

150 Steps...an Adoption Journey

subtitled... The ruminations of a prospective adoptive father as my wife and set out to add a child to our family.

17 June 2009

I'm fine...really

One of my colleagues approached me today to check in with me about how I'm doing. She's been following this blog and is apparently a bit worried about me.

"I've been reading your blog," she says to me, "and I've meant to respond to you, but haven't gotten to it. I just keep reading what you're writing and thinking, 'Oh, please don't worry so much! You'll be fine! You'll be fine!'"

I laugh.

"I remember that I felt just like you," she continues, "but you read everything - like Dr. Spock and the Dr. Ferber method - and you'll be just fine. Don't spend so much time worrying about everything. I mean, I was so worried that I'd be just like my mother, who was a total loon! But I wasn't," she pauses and then says, "Of course, I brought my own kind of craziness to being a mother and you probably will, too. Now my daughter thinks I'm a total loon."

I laugh again and ask, "And do you say to her, 'You're just lucky you didn't grow up with MY mother!'?"

My colleague laughs. We talk a little more and I reassure her that I'm just fine. She provides more very lovely words of wisdom. I hope she knows that I so appreciate her concern for me and for taking the time to check in.

And if anyone else out there in the blogosphere is concerned...

I'm fine....really.

The thing of it is that, although I am not physically pregnant, I am "expecting" - in the sense that I am waiting for the arrival of our baby. And like any first-time expectant mom, I have concerns and worries.

I just happen to be sorting through my concerns and worries in this very public blog.

It helps to write things down.

Often I am not able to articulate verbally what's going on in my head and so am not able to have a conversation about my concerns and worries. Nor am I particularly good at sorting things out in my head....the thoughts instead buzz round and around in my mind driving me a bit batty.

The very act of writing out my thoughts, questions, worries and concerns helps me to bring order to them...to give voice to them...to name them...to relieve them of the power they might have if they stay in my head and become negatively and dangerously repetitive.

I truly do not want to think "What if I'm not good enough?" 500 times. Now that I've written about that particular worry in this blog, I can continue the process of releasing it and replacing it (hopefully!) with a more positive thought. That's really it - I'm processing.

So, if my recent posts have had you worried or concerned....Thank you. I really do appreciate all of the concern, but I'm fine...really.

What's next?

Although I've been posting regularly, family and friends are still asking, "So, where are you in the process? What's next?"

So my thoughts about becoming a mother, while perhaps interest to some... were apparently not informative enough.

So here's a very quick update:

  1. We're fairly certain that we've found the agency that we'd like to have conduct our home study. Our next step is to send in our application to this agency.
  2. Still in the process of researching adoption/placement agencies. Would like to interview a few more before making any final decision, although at this point I wouldn't be surprised if we went with the law center that we interviewed with a few weeks ago.
  3. Would like to speak with adoptive parents who have utilized the various adoption agencies that we're looking at so as we move forward we'll be asking for references and making some calls.
  4. Need to determine if we're going to pursue a domestic or an international adoption. Right now we're both leaning very much in favor of domestic.
  5. Banking my salary from now on to pay the incredible adoption fees needed to adopt an infant and need to really make a household budget to see if we can live successfully on one salary (we'll continue to bank mine as savings in the future...kids cost money!)
I think after our experience with the law center interview, Chris and I unconsciously took a little break from all things adoption. I obviously used the time to reflect upon impending motherhood... Now that we've had a little break, we're hopping back on the merry-go-round and will be doing more research/interviews/etc.

So that's where we are.

As Chris said the other day to a friend who was asking the "So, where are you? What's the next step?" question...

"If there are 150 steps in the adoption process, we're on Step 6."

15 June 2009

The Good Mother...thinking about my thinking

I think...therefore I am.


Because here's what I've been thinking for the last few days:

"What if I'm not good enough?"..."Maybe I'm not good enough."

These are not the thoughts that I want to be if I am indeed who I am because of my thinking!

Like some tiny, vicious winged insects that keep buzzing around my head and that I keep shooing away...they just keep coming back.

Over and over and over again.

Buzz buzz buzz...

Gil Fronsdal, Buddhist Vipassana teacher at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood, CA, had the following to say about thinking and repetitive thoughts in a wonderful talk entitled "The Mindfulness of Thinking":

It's amazing...it's awesome...it's awful how repetitive our thinking can be - at least mine can be. Probably some of you also. You can think the same thing 3 or 4 times, right? 10 or 20 times? 50 or 100 times? 500 times? With slight variations [each time]...just thinking over and over and over again. If someone walked next to us and talked to us as incessantly and repetitively as we talk to ourselves, we would think they were crazy. We would probably want them institutionalized...please!...we'd bribe them to be quiet. Anything!

He continues:

The world of thinking [is] really marvelous and wonderful and something to be marveled at and it's also something awful. It's something frightening. It's amazing the amount of suffering and damage that can come through the world of our thinking. So an important part of any spiritual life and certainly in a mindful life is to have some handle on the whole domain of thinking - the world of our thinking.

A good percentage of our suffering can be traced back to our thinking... for some people thinking becomes the medium through which the channels of suffering get expressed or get actualized or get felt. So if we want to become free from our suffering or get a handle on our suffering it helps a lot if we can get a handle on our thinking. And so it takes some time to look at our thoughts to understand what's happening there. The advantage of it - of learning about our thinking - is that then also we can appreciate when our thinking is not causing our suffering, but instead adds to the richness of our life.

From another Gil Fronsdal Dharma talk on "The Mindfulness of Thinking":

Many people don't realize how caught they are in the world of their thoughts...We might not even see that there is a problem or an issue...But then there can be this moment when there is a shift in the mind and the mind separates itself from being so closely tied or velcroed to our thinking. There's a kind of pulling away - a separation - and you say, "Ohhhh...there's thinking that's going on." There's a very clear recognition - "There is thinking."...To step back and realize "Oh, I am thinking" ... with the right kind of perspective - it can lead to a sense of freedom or a sense of ease or a sense of, "Wow, I'm not so caught in that world."

So apparently the annoying vicious little doubt-filled thoughts buzzing around in my mind are just one small part of the wonderful, marvelous, awful and sometimes frightening world of my thinking.

Buzz buzz buzz...

And it would seem that because I've allowed myself to get caught by these horrible thoughts about doubting my ability to be a mother -

"What if I'm not good enough?"

"Maybe I'm not good enough"

- I am causing my own suffering!

So, perhaps
  • by "getting a handle on my thinking,"
  • by not allowing myself to get so caught up in the world of my thinking,
  • by taking a step back from thinking, and recognizing and identifying "Ohhh. This is just thinking"
  • and by recognizing that I am not my thoughts...
then I can free myself from my self-induced, thought-caused suffering.

Or am I just thinking about this way too much?

11 June 2009

The Good Father...

Chris is going to be a great dad.

Of this, I am certain.

Not only does he love kids, but he's great with them. Last weekend when E & J were visiting with their kids F and A, my husband was at his finest.

He and 9 year-old F grab the badminton rackets/birdies and commence attempting to keep up a string of unbroken volleys. Chris counts out loud with each hit of the birdie. F laughs and giggles each time that she and Chris keep the birdie aloft and laughs even more at his mock cries of distress when one of them misses.

"Seven...Eight...Nine....Ten...Eleven...OH NO! We were doing so great! Let's try again!...One... two...three..."

4 year-old A watches from the safety of our hammock, laughing also at Chris when he lets out a cry at a dropped birdie. E, J and I watch from the deck and share in the laughter as well. The game goes on and on and on with neither player - adult or kid - showing any signs of tiring. They eventually put together an impressive string of 28 unbroken volleys.

I fall just that much more in love with Chris while watching him interact so naturally with the kids.

He has so much patience and kindness in him. Our Little One will be so lucky to have him as a Dad.

But, of course, I wonder a little...underneath that confident and caring exterior, does Chris have the same worries that I do?

Does he wonder if he's good enough to be a father?

Are all fathers assailed by doubt?

Post Script

This morning before we leave for work I mention to Chris that I have written a post about him. He is syncing his iPod to his computer and so makes a quick foray to "In the present moment..."

Upon reading this post he turns to me and says, "Thank you."

I ask him, "So, are you worried about being a dad? Do you have doubts?"

"No," he replies, "I don't have any worries about being with our kid or anything to do with being a dad that way. The stuff I worry about is the money and if our house is big enough - you know - the practicalities. That's the stuff I worry about."

Do all Dads worry about the practicalities?

10 June 2009

The Good Mother...

My father-in-law, upon learning the news that we are planning to adopt, says to Chris "It's the most important thing you'll ever do." Of this, I'm certain. However, I do - even in the midst of the joy I'm feeling now that we're on the road to being Plus One - have that one really niggling worry...

What if I'm not good enough?

For a lot of years (more than I'd care to recollect or admit) I had no confidence in myself - professionally or personally. The story I told myself over and over:

I'm not good enough.

I was (and sadly sometimes still am) plagued by fear, doubt and a rather unfortunate tendency toward perfectionism... not an ideal combination of qualities because they most often seem to result in the "If I can't do it well, I just won't do it at all" syndrome. Over the years I turned down several promotions, ran from relationships, sabotaged myself in grad school (twice), and certainly didn't take the kinds of risks that could have and would have greatly enriched my life...

like becoming a mother...

All because I convinced myself that I wasn't "good enough" to either engage successfully (or perfectly) in those professional/educational/personal activities. And I'm sure that a big part of me simply didn't believe or accept that I was "good enough" to deserve good things in my life.

Thankfully I didn't run from Chris (8 years of marriage and counting!) and even more thankfully I am opening myself up to motherhood.

But what does it mean to be a "good" mother?

Are all mothers assailed by doubt?

When I study my sister-in-law as she navigates the waters of motherhood I'm always amazed by the vast amount of patience she seems to have for her little girls. She rarely seems phased... Disgusting dirty diaper? Whatever. Screaming 4 year-old? No problem. Toys all over the house and piles of laundry yet to fold? Hey, it is what it is.

My sister-in-law has settled into motherhood with a lovely kind of grace - like it's what she was always meant to do. My nieces are for the most part very happy little girls - the oldest a story teller and artist who chatters away and the baby a smiley little thing who has a wonderful disposition.

It's the same way with my friend E and her two Little Ones - daughter F & son A. I have yet to hear E raise her voice when F and A are bickering or getting out of hand. Nor have I ever heard her treat her children with any less respect than she would another adult. Because she has always treated her children like adults they are incredibly articulate, respectful, mindful and truly amazing little people.

I look at my mom, at my mother-in-law and at my father-in-law's lovely wife and marvel at the their skills, talents and patience as mothers and human beings. And I realize that I have so many resources from which to draw strength, inspiration and support. These are the women who are good mothers.

Today I happened to be in Whole Foods Market and had to make a trip to the ladies room. Upon opening the door I came upon the following scene: A mom on her knees in front of a little girl (obviously her daughter - maybe 5 years old) who has a her pants down and is crying a little. The mom looks at me and in a very calm voice says, "We spilled some hot soup" as if she has to explain this to me.

"Oh, dear," I reply.

The little girl snuffles a little as her mother applies to the reddened area of the girl's leg a paper towel that she has soaked in cool water. "OK," the mom still in a nice calm voice, "that's nice and cool isn't it?"

The little girl nods. Snuffles a little more.

"This is going to make that hot feeling go away," says the mom. "And you know what?"

"What?" asks the little girl.

"They have some really nice lotion here and we'll put that on your leg after it's all cooled off so it will feel just like new."

A nod from the little girl. Then she looks down and says something too quiet to hear.

"What was that, Sweetie?"

"I spilled the soup on the bench," she says just a little louder.

"Well, that's OK. That should be pretty easy to clean up," says the mom in her very calm voice as she continues with a new cold compress.

"And," says the little girl, "I spilled all over the table, too."

She looks embarrassed.

"You know what, Sweetie? People spill here all of the time so they make the tables really easy to clean. It's not a problem at all."

After I finish my business in the ladies room, I leave the mom and her daughter behind to finish cleaning the jeans of soup stains.

I think to myself, "That lady is a good mom."

09 June 2009

Morning grumpies...

I woke up feeling kind of grumpy this morning (oh, my lucky husband!) Went to bed too late last evening and had strange dreams all night. So I awoke feeling somewhat more tired than when I went to bed.

Morning Grumpies.

I have them when I don't sleep well or long enough or when I hit the sack too late or when my sleep is interrupted by a howling cat.

Yes, we have a really old, barf-prone, howling-prone kitty. Annabel is turning 19 in just a few short months and we think that she has a bit of kitty-dementia. 3:30 in the morning apparently seems like a s good time to her to wake up to demand food and attention. Argh.

It occurs to me this a.m. as I am working through my Morning Grumpies that I will not be able to indulge in my Morning Grumpies for much longer. I can't be grumpy with The Kid when she arrives. Our Little One should see only cheerful faces in the morning - faces full of love and happiness. Not a scowling face full of the Morning Grumpies.

I'm going to have to deal with mornings minus the Grumpies.

Is it realistic of me to think that I'll be able to be happy every morning and greet our Little One with smiles and a chipper attitude? Probably not (especially if the Little One and the Annabel don't sleep through the night!), but I'd like to try.

Morning Grumpies are something of a luxury that I allow myself from time to time, but something that I don't necessarily want to inflict on our child (Chris is, however, a different story!...He just laughs at my Morning Grumpies and makes fun of me...like today. I say to him from the comfort of our bed, "I'm really grumpy" to which he replies with a grin, "I know. Why do you think I'm leaving the room?" and with a swirl of blue plaid bathrobe he is out the bedroom door to retrieve laundry.)

My Morning Grumpies have subsided (they never usually last that long) so I suppose I ought to head upstairs to take care of ironing our clothes for the day.

08 June 2009

Words of wisdom...

"I know you're not supposed to say this," says my friend J yesterday over the remains of burgers and hotdogs on our deck, "but every once in a while I can totally understand the concept of child abuse."

He shoots me a wry grin.

I laugh.

We watch his children - daughter F (age 9) and son A (age 4) - play badminton with Chris in the backyard.

He continues, "Sometimes they'll just aggravate you SO much you just want to pick them up and shake them really, really hard. But, of course, you can't DO that," he pauses while his wife E laughs and nods in agreement, "but then they'll come up, do something really cute and sweet, or put their little arms around you and give you kisses and tell you that they love you and it's all worth it."

Good to know.

07 June 2009

Too much sharing?

A few of my colleagues and I were in a meeting and chatting about the strange world in which we now live - the world of sharing one's every thought and activity with "the world" via blog, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. (Please note that I am SO not cool enough to send out Tweets via Twitter...I have opted instead to blog, which is apparently SO over....according to a New York Times article Blogs Falling in an Empty Forest...only 7.4 million blogs of the 133 million blogs tracked by Technorati were updated in the last 120 days....)

One of my colleagues expressed confusion about Twitter, "I don't really understand what it is," he says.

Another colleagues pipes up, "It's like micro-blogging. You get 160 characters and you send those out into the world. If you want to follow someone's Twittering you can choose to have it viewed on your computer or sent directly to your cell phone."

"So, what exactly do you do on Twitter?" asks the first colleague.

"Well, it's like people share their most immediate thoughts or activities and it creates usually really stupid dialogues like, 'Oh, I have to go to the bathroom' and then someone else Tweet's back, 'Really, I just went to the bathroom like 10 minutes ago!'"

Everyone laughs.

"It's so WEIRD that people want to share that stuff with the world!" exclaims another colleague in our meeting.

Are we sharing too much?

For me there isn't much draw in Tweeting via Twitter (in part because "Tweet" and "Twitter" just sound so...stupid) because I can't express enough in just 160 characters. I opted to blog at first simply to provide friends, family and colleagues regular updates about our adoption experience. However, since writing comes about as naturally to me as breathing this format seems to be working well for me.

But am I sharing too much?

I am a LONG-TIME journal keeper - since I was 13 and now I'm 41. When I write about my life and experiences in my private journals, obviously I don't hold back. This blog has certainly, at least for the time being, replaced my private journals and I find myself sharing quite a bit with "the world." Should I be holding back here? I mean - people with whom I work are reading this.

In our conversation on Friday, some of my colleagues and I questioned whether it's a good idea to post crazy or exceptionally personal things on places like Facebook or in a blog.

"A lot of employers," says one of my colleagues, "actually go to Facebook pages to check out prospective employees. I mean, if you've posted a photo of yourself drunk and stupid on your Facebook page, is that what you want your future employer to be seeing?"

Do my colleagues need to know my inner-most thoughts and fears about becoming a mom? Will it make them uncomfortable when they see me around the office?

This same colleague went on to describe the case of a young teacher who was denied her teaching certification because of a photo she posted on her Facebook page showing her wearing a pirate hat, holding what looked like a mug of beer, and captioned "Drunken Pirate." The young teacher apparently appealed the decision and was ultimately granted her certification.

What if I leave this job eventually and as I'm searching for another job my prospective future employer Googles me and encounters this blog? Will I have shared too much and will that person be turned off to me? Will I lose out on a job because I have shared too much?

Why DO we feel so compelled in today's world to share so much of our private lives? Whether it's reporting on your bathroom trips via Twitter or your Drunken Pirate party experience on Facebook or your experience of becoming an adoptive parent as reported on BlogSpot.com?

I can't answer for anyone else, but for me...I like to read people's personal stories. I can't say that I would particularly care to read about everyone's need to head to the loo, but somehow I find that reading other people's stories about motherhood, their professional lives, their spiritual lives, etc. helps me to order my own world. I so appreciate that these folks are willing to share - to be brave and put their thoughts out there.

It's kind of like the way I prefer to read fiction narratives to non-fiction or biographies. I relate better to a story when I understand what the character is thinking via inner monologues and the dialogue of that character with other characters in the book. I recently finished reading March by Geraldine Brooks (a fantastic read if you need a new book!) and learned more about the Civil War than I ever did during the history classes I was forced to take in high school (history classes in which I had to attempt to digest the most dry, boring history text books in the world) because the characters were so compelling and I felt that I was living just a little bit of that experience through their tales.

A true personal story or a fictionalized account of a person experiencing an historical event simply resonates with me and stays with me.

And so I read blogs to learn about how other people are coping with their lives. What they're thinking and feeling and doig about those thoughts and feelings. And this helps me to bring order to my own thoughts and my own life. It is comforting to know that other really bright, intelligent men and women struggle with the same issues that crop up in my own life (not that I wish struggles on anyone!) Reading about how these bloggers work through those struggles is often quite inspiring.

And sometimes I leave a comment or two - maybe something that might help them even a little in working through whatever it is they need to work through or even just to remind them when they're struggling that there are other folks out there who can empathize. A comment that says, "I hear you."

For me - blogs represent shared human experience. Perhaps I am hoping that by sharing my experience with people "out there" in the blogosphere that something in my story may help them make some order of their own experiences. Maybe someone will hear me, too and leave me that little comment that makes all the difference.

And so my plan is to continue to share my inner-most thoughts about this adoption journey and, most likely, to continue sharing about my experience of motherhood once the Little One arrives and we become Plus One.

Have I shared too much here?

06 June 2009

Never forget...adoption is a business

Chris recently wrote a post on his blog Walks in the Marsh about baseball being a business. As much as we fans love to think it's America's Game or just a game or our favorite game...it is a business and it's not only about winning, but it's about money.

As I'm sadly discovering - it's much the same with adoption. As much as we want to be excited and thrilled and overjoyed and all gooey and mushy by the prospect of increasing our family to Plus One and to hope that the people who are going to work with us through this process will feel the same way - ultimately, to them it is a business.

One of my colleagues mentioned this to me in one of my very first conversations about adoption (conversations with someone other than Chris...) She says, "I didn't go the adoption route to make lifelong friends with the adoption people and don't think that you will either. For them this is a business. You can't ever forget that."

And after yesterday...I see exactly what she means.

Chris and I had a phone conference with a law center that specializes in adoptive services. The conversation, while certainly pleasant enough, really drove home the fact that this is a business.

The consultant on the other end of the line was extremely pleasant, but also very business like in explaining all of the ins and outs and fees and processes associated with working with her company. We were referred to as "the clients" throughout the process and she made it perfectly clear that we are the priority in this process - not the birth mother. She talked about aggressive marketing and creation of profile web pages and being able to work in all fifty states because the center is not a non-profit and thus not limited by the same legal/financial restraints placed on non-profits. She mentioned that her center finalized 300 adoptions last year, compared to most non-profit agencies that can do maybe 15-30 adoptions in the same span of time. The fee "phases" were described in detail (and amazingly neither Chris nor I passed out at the amounts presented to us...)

It was a bit disconcerting.

If we choose to work with this law center, I have no doubt that they will be very efficient and we will become Plus One in short order. The consultant assured us that the average wait time is less than 8 months and if we opt for a child of any race that we could have our Little One in as little as 2-4 months.

And I'm confident that everything will be legal and very above board. There was much in the discussion about the legal packet they will prepare to make sure that we are in compliance with all of the adoption laws in both our home state and the state in which the adoption will take place.

And I'm absolutely certain that these folks will very happily take the large amounts of money from us that it apparently costs to add an infant to our family. ($5,800 if we want to specify gender!)

It feels kind of yucky to think about it that way, but for us to move forward with any kind of success I realize now that I'm going to have to adjust my thinking and just deal with it.

It is what it is...and what it is is a business.

02 June 2009

International vs. domestic

International adoptions - we discovered quickly - are immediately final. There is almost no chance that a birth mother will arrive on the scene when the child is three claiming to have changed her mind and want the child back. So I'm not surprised that quite a few people opt for this type of adoption and the accompanying security of knowing that the child they have spent so much time and money to adopt is theirs. Period. No questions asked. Done deal.

When Chris and I first started this journey a while back, we were leaning heavily toward an international adoption for this very reason and because quite a few people we know have successfully gone this route. What we've discovered along the way is that international adoptions certainly have their share of difficulties including, but not limited to: travel expenses on top of adoption fees, travel visas, "gifts" for the in-country contacts and officials, out and out bribes in some countries, your trip being extended from 7 days to 17 days because of problems with the government or your paperwork or that the child you thought you were getting is not the child with which you've been presented, the government collapses when you arrive, a sudden change in adoption law while you are in-country, etc.

One of the social workers with whom we met described how a couple went all the way to Kazakhstan only to encounter what turned out to be an insurmountable obstacle, "When they arrived, they had to go further in-country to the village where the orphanage was located," she tells us, "and to do that they had to fly on a World War II era plane that had no seat belts and no pressurization. The father couldn't do it. He refused to get on the plane and they came back home with no baby."

(This is the same social worker who described Kazakhstan as "The Wild West" of adoptions.)

If the social workers wanted to scare us out of considering international adoption, they did a pretty good job.

The other issue that we discovered in our inquiries regarding international adoption is that there are still very lingering affects of the Bush administration in the world of adoptions. Ecuador, Guatemala and Viet Nam are just a few of the countries that have closed their doors to American adoptive couples as a result of 8 years of paranoia and rudeness from the Bush administration.

"Yeah," says one social worker, "there are a lot of people around the world who still don't like us very much."

This same social worker is hoping that Guatemala will re-open its borders to American adoptive parents and soon because she described their adoption process as easy/smooth and the people in-country as being very nice to work with.

The other consequence of the Bush era and adoptions according to some of the books we have and the social workers with whom we've talked is that the processes in most countries are now much more difficult and lengthier for American prospective parents. If you would like to adopt a baby from China - the wait is currently 2-5 years. A couple that wanted to adopt from Russia 7 years ago used to have to make one trip to secure their child. Now that same couple has to make three visits.

Thank you Dubyuh for making everything more difficult for the rest of us.

I was feeling pretty low once we learned of the numerous challenges facing us if we chose to pursue an international adoption. So we started to make some inquiries about the challenges and benefits of domestic adoption. When we had dinner with our friends K and D who adopted two little girls via domestic adoption and our outlook changed considerably toward that process.

K & D spoke of the benefits of knowing your child's health history and family background - something not often available in the realm of international adoption. They also mentioned that often the birth mothers get better health/pre-natal care in the U.S. and that domestic adoptions can be much faster than international. Since I'm 41 and Chris is 40, expediency is definitely appealing as we move along. K & D also confirmed what we had heard from the social workers and in some of the literature that we've bee reading - that the incidence of birth parents trying to reclaim their children after an adoption has been finalized (usually 9-12 months after the birth parents have relinquished their parental rights) is very low.

K described being in the delivery room to watch her eldest daughter being born - at once an incredibly awkward and moving experience. K and D's younger daughter came to them when she was just four weeks old after another adoptive couple decided that they didn't want her because she cried too much (she was born with thrush...) K & D told us of the adventures they had putting together their profile - a huge scrapbook of their lives really - and being chosen by their eldest daughter's birth-mom. They also described how for the first few years they were in touch with the birth parents via conference calls, letters and photos, but the interest on both sides eventually waned as the birth parents moved on with their lives (one of the social workers indicated that this is fairly common.)

This isn't to say that domestic adoption isn't without its challenges. K spoke with some sadness of the time that they arrived at the hospital to pick up the child that was to have been their second adopted child only to discover that the birth mother had changed her mind. They were devastated, but luckily the call for the child that would become their youngest daughter came just a few days after that sad time in the hospital.

It's a strange thing knowing that our family and future happiness is predicated on someone else's loss. While it might be nice to have the security an ocean between my adopted daughter and her birth-parents, for me I feel instead that I'd like to (if at all possible) meet the birth-mom and birth-dad.

I like the idea that the birth parents might choose Chris and me above all of the prospective parents they'll see via the adoption profiles... that they'll see our photos and read our life stories and decide that we are the very people to whom they will entrust their baby...what an honor and a privilege. And meeting them - letting them see us and know who we are while having the opportunity to assure them that we will cherish and care for the child that for whatever reasons they can't or have chosen not to keep...well, that feels right, too. I only hope that our Little One's birth-parents will know how much we want her and will love her and strive to make the best possible home and family for her.

01 June 2009

Timetables...waiting, waiting, waiting

So...what Chris and I have done so far to get us that much closer to expanding our family to Plus One:

1. Made the decision to adopt
2. Talked with friends, family and colleagues who have been through the adoption process
3. Met with a social worker from a homestudy agency in MA
4. Met with a social worker from an international adoption agency in RI
5. Searched on-line for other adoption agencies and sent away for informational packets
6. Set up an appointment via conference call with an adoption agency based in CA that specializes in domestic adoptions
7. Started this blog
8. Solicited more advice from friends, family and colleagues
9. Continue to have long conversations about domestic adoption vs. international (we're leaning toward domestic)
10. Started banking all of my salary to use for adoption fees and kid-related stuff

And even though we've done all of the above (which feels like a lot already!) we've barely skimmed the surface of the process. Oy vay! By all accounts from friends, colleagues and the adoption professionals with whom we've talked so far, the rest of this process is relatively tedious, complicated and time consuming.

"It's pretty much a full time job for a while when you're pulling together all of your paper work," one of our friends says to us.

Our next step is to select an organization to help us complete The Home Study. This part of the adoption process is apparently quite the adventure (or ordeal/trial...depending on your attitude...) involving five to six visits from the social worker - a visit/interview with both Chris and I, individual interviews with each of us, followed by another joint interview and an actual home inspection. Both of the adoption professionals with whom we've met assured us that the vast majority of couples looking to adopt pass the home study with mostly flying colors.

"I only had one couple that I didn't think would do very well," says one of the social workers to us, "I walked into their home and they had white couches, whites chairs and a glass and steel coffee table that didn't have a single finger print on it. All I could think was, 'Oh my, what's going to happen when there's a little person with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in this room???'"

Since our entire house is designed to deal with the cat barf from three old and barf-prone cats (slip-covered futon furniture), I feel strongly that we're prepared to deal with kid barf and peanut butter and jelly smears. Thus I'm hoping that we'll at least pass the home inspection.

While we're completing the homestudy there is apparently a myriad of paperwork that will need to be completed/collected/submitted - financial statements, marriage certificates, proof of employment, character references, photos of ourselves and our families, fingerprints, etc.

We even have to write individual autobiographies.

All of this is going to take time. Lots of time.

This is one of the hardest parts of the adoptions process.

When you're pregnant and someone asks you about your due date you can say, "Oh, the baby will arrive in September." With adoption...who knows?

There are no guaranteed timetables in Adoption Land.

We could complete the homestudy in record time get all of our ducks in a row and a baby might still not be available for some time. Or we could get hung up in the home study and paper work phase. Or any number of things could happen. We'll just have to be positive and move forward. We can't necessarily say when, but hopefully the waiting and wondering and paper gathering and home studying will not dampen our enthusiasm for becoming Plus One.

Chris and I mentioned one night at dinner that we are leaning toward pursuing a domestic adoption. Toward the end of dinner, my mother-in-law had a sort of funny, serious look on her face so we asked what she was thinking.

"If you guys are doing a domestic adoption," she says with a suddenly huge grin, "your baby could be in-utero right now!!!"

Indeed... Our Little One may very well be out there right now, growing and getting ready to join the world and our family. We're waiting for you, Little One!