Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Adoption Blogger Interview Project, 2013

As I've started to shift from talking exclusively about Infertility to talking about adoption, I have begun to discover, just as I did with Infertility bloggers, that there is a whole wonderful world of amazing people out there writing about this from their own perspectives.  I have already found a lot of comfort and a lot of information via Open Adoption Bloggers, which is basically a network of people blogging about open adoption from a variety of perspectives.  This interview project pairs up interested bloggers, who may be writing from any side of adoption, and allows them to get to know each other and to ask questions.  You can view all of the Interview Project posts that went up this morning by going here.  

I was hesitant about jumping into this, as I'm so new to blogging about adoption at all, but I decided to give it a go,and was so pleased to be paired with Megan who blogs at Our Family's Fingerprints and who adopted her Baby Girl in 2012.  I had the honor, joy, and privilege of reading her entire blog at Our Family's Fingerprints.  It was such an open and honest look at her experiences with trying to adopt and with living in an open adoption and I just couldn't wait to get back to the end (where I had started) to see how amazing everything turned out.It felt like it was written for me, just to give me the hope I need.  She is a talented writer, which means I felt hopeful when she felt hopeful, frustrated when she felt frustrated, afraid when she felt afraid, and joyous when she felt joyous.

She is also incredibly generous in her answers to my questions.  I didn't lob any softballs at her, and she answered them all with great care and so much detail, I feel honored.  Her answers both allowed me to get to know her even better, and gave me an unbelievable amount of information that I know will help me so much over the next months.  I hope that you'll enjoy meeting Megan as much as I did.  I'm so happy to have her as part of this new community of mine.

(If you are also interested in reading my answers to Megan's great questions, you can find them on her blog here.)

1.  Would you, overall, recommend breastfeeding with adoption?

That's a hard question to answer.  I'll start out by saying my experience was challenging for multiple reasons.  I had a breast reduction in my early 20's, which likely would have impacted my ability to breastfeed had Baby Girl been biological.  I had not done the protocol for very long as I started the long program and had to switch to the short program when we got the call at the end of January.  I lost 15lbs which in and of itself probably didn't help with milk production, but my weight loss was in great part due to the stress of being 8 hours away and alone.  To top it all off I was discouraged from putting her directly to breast until she had a preliminary test for Hep C (nor was she all that interested in being directly to breast after a month in the hospital on the bottle).  My milk never really "came in" thus I never got all that much, and the breastpump was painful for me.

With that all said I loved it.  Breastfeeding was the one and only thing as an adoptive Mom I thought I'd regret not getting to do and I'm glad I didn't miss it.  When things were quiet and working well it was an amazing experience.  I'm a strong believer in the important qualities breastmilk provides a child and I'm glad I was able to give her a dribble now and then.  This experience though has taught me to be more sensitive about parenting choices because you never know the reason behind bottle vs breast or a host of other parenting choices.  I only once had a woman tell me I should be breastfeeding to which I responded that I was giving her breast milk in the bottle so - bug off!

For Baby2 I have my at breast supplementor.  I liked the Medella version best because it allows you to start and stop the flow easily so you dont end up wearing the milk.  I will fill it with formula and feed him/her at breast.  I will not pump and I wont induce lactation.

I may pursue the milk bank for Baby2.  I believe I could have qualified Baby Girl for milk from our New England milk bank due to her NICU stay.  I know of other adoptive parents who have used online sites to get milk from other lactating mothers.  I recently read an article from the New England Milk bank, which reported that this is not a reliable source of safe milk due to contamination and improper storage.

I have cheered a few adoptive and bio moms thru breastfeeding.  I also now have supported moms who have decided that for whatever reason bottle is best.

2.  It seems as if you struggled for a long time to balance being prepared to have a baby with being too prepared too early which could potentially just be sad reminders.  You clearly felt that you were
expecting a baby, but yet didn't know when to expect one.  How did you make decisions along the way about what to purchase when?  Do you feel like your choices were the right ones or do you regret some?  Was it hard to see baby items in your house during the wait? 

I picked up little things here and there for a while.  A Onsie, a pair of overalls, a book.  At one point I started a registry, and I maybe put 10 things on it.  I didn't feel like I knew what I needed so I dropped it.  At two months in we painted my office/future nursery green with brown accent stripe, because I knew painting would be impossible with a baby around.  I wanted to do a mural but that project went on hold until the following year. 

At the one year waiting mark my MIL, SIL and I went on a trip together.  It was in part to help them get excited and realize that a real baby was coming.  It had the same effect on me and got me thinking about the mural again.  The January she was born I finally got my act together and painted the mural.  The night she was born I posted a picture of the mural on FB.  A week later we got the phone call and room looked like a huge confusion.  My desk and dresser mish-mashed with a changing table and crib.  While we were at the hospital DH dumped all my stuff in his office and put the finishing touches on the nursery.  Since I didn't keep much baby stuff out until late in our wait (months 12-15) it didn't bother me rather it got me excited.  Every now and then I'd rock in the rocking chair alone and quiet.  Had we had to wait another 6 months I may have packed things back up.  I dont know.

I'm glad I got the essentials - crib, cloth diapers, changing table, a few clothes, sheets, and blankets.  We have two drawers of blankets some of them never used.  I have hardly bought clothes since we received so many "hand me downs".  So much of the stuff you "need" you never use.  I think having spent a month in the hospital makes you realize how little you really need for a baby: onesies, diapers, some was clothes, towels, a basin, diaper cream, swaddle blankets, and a swing.

3.  Do you feel that the whole process of preparing for adoption prepared you to parent better or differently than other parents?  In what ways?

I don't think I'm a better parent but I think my perspective is different.  Waiting gave me a lot of time to watch other parents as well as the lovely parenting "style" question for our home study forced me to think and talk with DH about our parenting "style."  One big thing I decided while we were waiting was I was never going to make my child say "please" or "I'm sorry."  I had this epiphany at dinner w family.  DH asked my aunt "can I have the beans?"  She passed him the beans.  Her neighbor who was 8 at the time asked for the butter.  My aunt responded "please."  The little girl said "please may I have the butter."  Both DH and the girl had nicely asked for what they wanted but my aunt demanded a please.  So instead I choose to say please and thank you to Baby Girl.  "Please give me your cup."  "Thank you for putting your toys away."  She says all three.  I don't know if I would have ever noticed the interaction at the table that evening had I not been waiting to become a parent.

Last I have already started to teach Baby Girl that life isn't fair.  She can't see her Birthbrother M.  She doesn't get to live with D.  You can't have chocolate whenever you want.  Life wasn't fair to me when I wanted a baby to grow in me and life wasn't fair when the Mom she grew in couldn't care for her.  We get to learn from those things and maybe still see that even though those things stink - life also is amazing.  We get to wake up in a warm house and put food in our belly's.  She has a Mom to give her kisses when she gets hurt.  I already know I can't protect her and as hard as it is to see- I let her fall sometimes, because life isn't fair.  Never has been and never will be.    

I think as a whole I'm a lot like other Moms though.  No one could pick me out of a crowd and say "She is the adoptive Mom."

4.  Have you found the process easier the second time around?  Do you anticipate the wait being just as stressful, or do you feel more ready for it (and more busy with Baby Girl around)?

Yes!  I think waiting will be far less stressful.  The first time I had this crescendo of emotions the baby itch that just kept itching.  Initially I thought it would be just as stressful, because I was under the impression that our update expired when our original home study would have expired at 5 years.  That would have only given us a year and a half to get a placement.  I just found out the other day that our update will be good for 5 years as long as we do the yearly updates.

We also are choosing to only be open to instate adoptions, which we know will likely dramatically increase our wait time.  Our agencies average wait time is 18 months-2 years.  I'm guessing ours will be 2-3 years.  It would be challenging to be open to out of state adoptions with Baby Girl being so young at this point.  We also want a more open adoption for Baby2 as distance inhibits our ability to visit with Baby Girls birthfamily.

5.   At one point you posted about your fears (http://ttababy.blogspot.com/2011/10/fear.html).  Do you feel that these fears have dissipated, increased or changed now that you are a mother?

I'll highlight the ones that jumped out at me.

I was so terrified that D would change her mind once she met us.  I remember repeating this to DH as we drove down.  D has never seen our profile book.  As soon as I met D I realized that she likely had a million and one fears just like I did.  The fear never left me though until we left PA.  I told DH numerous times- if she lets us leave the state I think she is set in her decision.  It was a long emotional month.

I have some fear of Baby Girl feeling like I wasn't honest with her.  I was really careful when I wrote her adoption story to be truthful yet age appropriate.  In addition I had to choose wording that was protective of her privacy in case someone picked up the book.  When I explained her hospitalization I didn't write that she was drug addicted I wrote that "she needed medicine that only nurses could give." That statement is truthful, yet simplistic.  As she gets older I plan to explain that further but for now thats what I think is best as well as honest.

Baby Girls heritage is very similar to mine so I'm equipped to expose her to her cultural heritage.  Baby Girl I'm told looks a lot like DH ironically.  I have started to take the info I have gotten from D and J and used ancestry websites to get as much information about her ancestors as I can.  Its been so very interesting!  (I need to blog more about this)  I think this fear has morphed into will Baby2 feel different and disconnected if his/her heritage is drastically different than ours.  

I giggled at the fear of confronting people about being her "real mom."  My BIL stumbled and turned red when he accidently said "real mom" when he was recently asking about D.  I'm not fanatical about it, but for those that are family/close friends- they know better.

We never caught up financially and probably never will- but I have a perfect family.

My daughter had a rough first winter and I kick myself for not getting tubes earlier.  That was a huge parenting mistake.  She can hear again and is caught up with her language so I didn't ruin her.  Most parenting mistakes can be undone.

I never dropped her though she did nearly tumble off the toilet head first yesterday.

I slept thru her cries once when DH left the fan on and the bedroom door closed.  I felt horrible, but she was safe in her crib, a little wet and very mad.  Chalk it up to a life lesson for both of us.  Normally I not only woke up to her cries, but also any noise she made so I had to nix the baby monitor.  So much for that fear.

Her first fever was miserable but she had a winter of them so I'm a pro.  I learned bath tub trick doesn't work for all children.  My dear Baby Girl spikes a higher fever after getting into the tub.  Nothing says I love you more then holding a child when they throw up on you and you hold them tighter and tell them that its going to be "OK."

One thing I think bio parents get at the hospital that us adoptive parents never get are those one day or evening classes on parenting.  In some ways I was fortunate that Baby Girl was in the hospital for a month because I learned how to give a bath, take a temperature under the arm, and swaddle while I was there.  Over these past two years I have learned:  I'm not perfect; tomorrow is another day; I have to be willing to tell my daughter I'm sorry when I make a mistake and telling her I don't know is OK.

6.   Do you feel now that you are able to "just be mom" (http://ttababy.blogspot.com/2012/08/blog.html) or do you still feel like adoption is an every day part of your life as a mom?  Do you still struggle with the wounds of Infertility?

Adoption will always be a part of our life.  I am also just a Mom.  I think adoption within our home is much more frequent then adoption in the community.  What I mean by that is because Baby Girl looks like me no one makes stupid comments in the grocery store.  As far as the clerk is concerned- I am just Mom.  On the flip side to that it would be easy to become complacent to the idea of just being Mom.  We talk about adoption often.  Today Baby Girl was playing with the bear D gave her when she was in the hospital.  I made a comment about the bear being from D.  If something makes me think about anyone in her birthfamily I make a point of verbalizing it.

I do struggle with the wounds of infertility.  You mentioned PTSD of infertility treatments.  When we went for a second opinion recently I had to collect all of my medical records.  One office made me come in to fill out the form since there wasn't enough time for them to mail me the form and for me to mail it back.  Just walking to the front counter made me want out.  I felt panicked.  I no longer go to my OBGYN for my GYN needs.  I can't expect women to stop getting pregnant because I can't, but I do at times wish for greater sensitivity.  I however also realize that I can't expect someone to understand my pain who has never been there.

7. What are your most favorite things about your baby girl?

Thats like asking me to write a dissertation on love!  I love her strong personality and how smart she is.  She teaches me things about myself all of the time.  She also notices things that I have overlooked because I'm focused on the big picture and she is focused on every minute detail.  She makes me aware of the little things in life be it the pop music at Subway or the cat that is in the corner of a photograph.  She has the best blue eyes.  I love putting her to bed.  When I close her door and she yells "I LOVE YOU!" one last time in an attempt to get me to come back for one more kiss.

8.  Did you and your DH have an easy time coming to agreements along the way about all the decisions you had to make re: infertility and adoption?  If you didn't instinctively agree, how did you work through your disagreements?  How do you feel this has been on your relationship?

There are two areas we didn't fully agree on.  We agreed we would never do IVF before we got married- essentially I said I'd never do it and DH agreed since it was my body.  Once we were given the concrete information that the only way we would get pregnant was with IVF I could tell DH was considering it.  That is when I wrote the post about IVF.  In the end DH came back to his original conclusion which was "it was my body."  Tonight I asked him if he wishes we had done IVF and he responded "I thought about it again after we talked about it.  The more I think about it the more I think it wasn't for us."  DH is a silent thinker.  Often he will out of the blue give his opinion on something we have not talked about in weeks.

The other thing we don't fully agree on is foster care.  Similar to IVF I can understand why DH does not want to grow our family with foster care.  He has agreed that we can do respite care down the road when our children are older.

Both of these agreements came after long discussions and debates.  I think we both challenged the others way of thinking.  I also think both of us at least attempted to see if from the other vantage point.  I think we have had our fair share of opportunities to overcome challenges in 6 year of marriage.

On the preference checklist we were almost 100% in agreement.  Mostly I had to convince DH that his perceptions about disabilities were not accurate as so much is changing.  Also its not possible to skip some check marks because at one week of age there is no way of knowing for example: autism. Another disability DH didn't want to check was Deaf for a disability.  I was able to convince him that we were not expected to know sign language.  Also so much has changed in education of deaf children as well as technology that we would be able to learn with the child as they learned about the world.

9. If you could offer advice to someone at the beginning of the open adoption process, what would you tell them?

I was hoping you wouldn't ask me that question!  :)

I think my biggest regret was not getting excited.  I blogged about my reconciliation of this for Baby2.  I wish I had been excited, because it would have allowed those around me to get excited.  Now that Baby Girl is here and I'm excited about our trips to PA and open adoption those around me are too.  There are the nay sayers but I just ignore them.  Baby Girls birth family is our family's joy and I'm going to get excited about them.  If it makes you uncomfortable then too bad.  Most people are excited.  You will get stupid comments, but I think its worth it for the love/support.

Read.  Invite your friends/family to read.  You Can Adopt is a good easy read and up to date.  I think my favorite read was: Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother.  My favorite adoption blog is:  100 Letters to You.  I recommend reading the First Mothers Forum which has helped me do my best at being supportive of birthmothers as well educated me on questionable practices in adoptions in the past and unfortunately even today.

Ask questions!  Dont assume.  I thought I understood some of the practices of our agency then we were placed using an out of state agency.  I was lost.  I didn't like what I saw.  Unfortunately it was too late before I figured things out.  I.e. the out of state agency doesn't provide post adoption counseling for their birthmothers.  One of the reasons we used our agency was because they provided amazing support for expectant mothers and then later birth mothers.  I assumed that our agency would only use other agencies that had the same services.  This is another reason we are only doing in state adoptions for Baby2.  

As for openness.  Know your heart will be guarded.  Do your best to let that guard down.  You are starting a relationship that will last a lifetime.  Be honest and open but also know feel comfortable verbalizing your boundaries.  We still have not nor plan on sharing our last name.  I didn't dodge the question when D asked.  I told her I didn't feel comfortable sharing that information.  Having uncomfortable conversations isn't easy but I think we built trust in being forward with her vs. dodging or ignoring the question.  Be prepared to do whatever it is you agree to.  Legally no you are not bound to your agreement but some day you will have to answer to your child.  There is no judge scarier to me then my grown children asking me why I didn't uphold my contract.  

Baby Girls family is an extension of ours.  I care about them as I do my own extended family.  I worry about D regularly.  I get excited when I learn of gains M (Baby Girls Birthbrother) has made in his language.  I can't wait for Di (Baby Girls Birthsister) to graduate college in two years.  I was honored that we were invited to Di's birthday party.  There is no way to really understand it until you live it, but its an exceptional amazing privilege to have them in our lives.