Wednesday, March 01, 2006

We must love while these moments are still called today

That's a line from an old Indigo Girls song, "History of Us." And that's what I'm really giving today. Here's why.

Over at Mormon Mommy Wars, Heather O. is contemplating moving on from infertility treatment to adoption. I wrote a response about what that was like for me. Maria, another commenter, is exhausted from her treatments but afraid to adopt because of some negative personal experiences. I'm just hoping to provide a little balance. So, on with the story.

In April of 1994 I was 20 years old and had been married for 8 months. My parents announced that they would be moving to Utah that summer. My husband and I decided that since they would be there to support us, it would be a good time to start trying to conceive. One month passed, then another and another, with no pregnancy. Before we knew it a year had gone by. I went to the doctor and was told how to chart and promptly dismissed. After all, why should a 21 year old be worried about never having babies? But I had such a foreboding feeling -- it was very scary for me.

After another year I convinced G to get evaluated. There was our answer -- severe male factor IF. The news came during my last few weeks at BYU. It had not been a good semester; looking back, I think I was depressed.

Another full year went by and then he finally saw a urologist and had a varicocelectomy in August 1997. Then we got on the waiting list to see a reproductive endocrinologist that our insurance would cover for diagnostic work. Our first appointment with him was in June 1998. The surgery had helped enough that this doctor was willing to try some IUIs, which we started in August 1998. But by the time we had done 3 of these, we were emotionally exhausted. It had been 4.5 years since we started TTC and I could not take the roller coaster any more. We stepped off the ride and felt enormous relief.

We signed up with LDSFS. Their adoptive parent classes were very helpful and really changed our minds about openness with birthparents (we lost our fear), transracial adoption, and other topics. We went to these classes at the Salt Lake agency and made some great friends through them. We keep in touch with some of the other families to this day, and it is so wonderful to see families grow on what we all thought, at one point, was hopelessly barren ground.

We learned our file was approved on my 25th birthday, April 26, 1999. However I do not think they showed our file, because they knew we were planning to move that summer. I was reading the adoption boards on a lot by this time and one day in late June a fellow Utahn posted about a baby available in Chicago through an agency someone she knew had used, Global Adoptions. We felt so strongly about this situation, only to find after we made a decision over Independence Day weekend that the birthmom had decided to parent. It was confusing, but we were okay. Global called us again a couple of weeks later with two little girls in Utah, ages 3 and 5. They had some problems. We felt a bit blindsided; we'd never considered older-child adoption. But we decided to have LDSFS send our file. This situation was not matched with us, either, but because of it, our file was available when Sam's birthmom was ready to make her choice.

Global Adoptions called us on July 28 with the news that T had chosen us. At the time we thought they were going to induce labor on July 30 so we went into a frenzy of trying to prepare. In actuality, it took until August 19 and that was a killer time! In addition, Global Adoptions really dropped the ball. We later learned they were not in fact a licensed agency; their license had been revoked. They had misrepresented themselves. They also provided no services, only facilitation. They didn't even coordinate our services. Obviously not what I expected since I thought I was working with a licensed adoption agency. I was left doing that all myself during the stress of waiting and what came next. Not to mention, the adoption still cost us nearly $18K. Global later ended up in some legal trouble. Other people had experiences similar to ours and did not even end up with a baby ... so all things considered, we were very lucky/blessed.

When Sam was finally born we were in the middle of moving, plus we had not really understood what it meant to accept a risk placement and so we had said we would not do that. I think that if we had stuck with one agency we would have had better guidance. But it's water under the bridge, now. So he went into short term foster care in Milwaukee where he was born.

I went to stay with a friend in Milwaukee while DH moved our stuff from Salt Lake to St. Paul, MN, so I could meet Sam. I showed up on the foster family's doorstep with wet hair -- that's how excited I was to meet this babe. Eventually the foster family, devout Lutherans with three children and a lovely home in the Milwaukee suburbs, invited me to stay with them. They were just wonderful; their support meant the world to me at that time. I slept on the floor by Sam's crib for ten days.

T's termination of parental rights court hearing was scheduled for Sept. 22, so that was the day we thought we would take Sam home. She did not show up that day and I was very upset, very afraid that she was going to the foster family's home to pick him up and take him home, which she would have been well within her rights to do. But she didn't do that. She really just needed more time to make her choice and be sure of it.

A very sad story I learned later was that her family had not been aware of her pregnancy, contrary to what she had told her counselors. Just a few days before our rescheduled court hearing in October, T asked Sam's foster mother to bring him for a visit to her (T's) mother's home. When the foster mother showed up with this beautiful baby, T's mother, M, was completely surprised. But she could see right away that he was T's son. He is her spit and image to this day. M held him, rocked him, cried and said she wished she could keep him. But she couldn't. She was already rearing T's oldest son, who had been born when T was only 18. Three other boys were in the Wisconsin state foster care system, and T was raising her two year old daughter. There was such abundance of tragedy in this poor urban Black family.

We had a rescheduled court hearing on Oct 12 and that became Sam's gotcha day. What a tremendous relief! From that point there were no obstacles in our path. We finalized his adoption in Utah, where we had returned to live, and took him to be sealed to us in the Salt Lake Temple the following spring. Looking back, I think we thought we were going to the Midwest so DH could get a Ph.D. But in reality we were there for our oldest boy. All the schools he was considering that fall would have been within a day's drive of Milwaukee. We were able to spend every weekend there during the eight weeks he was in foster care. To this day he asks me to tell him the history of the fleece blanket and the stuffed plush puffin I brought him as his first gifts when he was four days old. I think that time we had during the first weeks of his life was really important.

In the fall of 2000, we started a file again with LDSFS. We figured there was no way our second adoption could move as quickly as our first -- less than 6 months from approval to adoption day. Little did we know!Around Christmas time I heard about a situation in Louisiana I wanted to be considered for, so I asked LDSFS to rush our approval. They were very kind to do so. They also seemed to realize a sense of urgency about this adoption and sent our file to all the places where they do the most transracial placements -- Louisiana, Detroit, Chicago, Texas and North Carolina. And there it was in NC just a couple of months later that Abe's birthmom, another "T" saw our file and knew right away that we were the family for her baby.The night before we found out we were matched with Abe, I had a dream that I should call our SW and give him my cell phone number. Slightly puzzled, I left him a message the next morning. That afternoon he called on my cell while I was online to read me a letter from T telling us she had chosen us. Just a little miracle, but a miracle to me!

Abe was born May 30, 2001 -- 5 months from the approval of our file. T placed him with us at the local church just after her release from the hospital. It was a very special and spiritual time for us. We were blown away at how smoothly this adoption went and how firm the birthmother's convictions were that she really needed to choose adoption for this little guy. It was a little more mysterious, because for several days I felt like I was holding a little stranger, where with Sam the bonding had been intense and immediate. I think with Sam I had so much mother-energy in reserve that it just rushed out of me and it was easy to jump into that role as his mother. With Abe I was a little more aware of how deep a bond could grow over years, and not feeling it yet was strange. But it grew very strong over several weeks.

Abe has always been an easygoing and sweet child. Sometimes I say that if he were my only one I would probably think I was the best mother in the world. He really is just eager to please and loves to be good. I love it. Sam has a little more spice -- something I didn't realize until I saw the contrast between him and his younger brother.

We have gone through some frustrating times -- we saw a child psychiatrist the winter Sam was 2 and Abe was a baby, because I just had no idea how to cope with a child as demanding and defiant as Sam while still caring for this vulnerable little baby who was learning to crawl, getting into his brother's toys, and bringing down some pretty heavy 2yo wrath. The psychiatrist helped, pronouncing Sam "exceptionally challenging, but exceptionally intelligent and loving." How I clung to those words! Because of his birthmother's situation, there are some things we will probably never know -- about prenatal substance exposure, for instance. In the fall of 2004 he was diagnosed with ADHD. Medication for that disorder has been a godsend for the mood of our family and for Sam's self esteem. He is now excelling academically, enjoying his friends, and doing great in general. He definitely still has spirit, and it can be tricky, but I love how independent and persistent he is, and I think those traits will serve him well in the future.

Abe's challenges, if you can call them that, have been nothing more than recurrent ear infections. He had surgery yesterday to put in some tubes and take out his big adenoids and tonsils, which his birthmom says she has, too. Abe is such a pleaser that I worry a bit about his teenage years. But he loves the right, and so I don't worry too much.

Sam's birthmom does not maintain contact with us, but I do e-mail her sister sometimes. We understand she (Sam's birthmom) is now in Arkansas. Abe's birthmom has become a dear friend. We visited with her when she went to Utah in October 2004.

Both our adoptions are transracial, which presents its own set of challenges. But this is getting out of control. I'll have to do transracial adoption another day.


Frog Legs said...

Thank you for this.. I hopped over after seeing your replies on MMW's. We are just going the adoption route... I'm exhausted and... just sad over everything right now- but I need as much information as I can get before I put myself through another emotional roller coaster ride. :)

SalGal said...

You've never shared this part of you with me before, and I'm so glad I got to hear it today. Thank you for sharing Ana.

Bek said...

Your story is so similar to mine. I think that if I ever have advice for people considering adoption it is to RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH!! Find out how many agencies will let you have your profile w/ them and not charge till you get a placement, find out what level of openness you want and be strong, find out what states cap birth mother expenses, birth father laws, etc.

We made similar mistakes (that are very costly) and would have avoided many of them if we had been a little bit more realistic about what to expect. I would avoid lawyers or faciliators at all cost..even if you want a white baby. That is very risky. Etc.

I just wanted to thank you for your story. We are an out loud family too. We chose not to do the fertility thing b/c I KNEW I couldn't deal with that emotion. Adoption has not been a walk in the park, but what is? I look at my children today and I cannot imagine having anyone else here. I know the right children find there homes.

If anyone else has questions about adoption (or transracial familes) feel free to pop on by my way too. We are adopting from Africa this time (I have had enough of domestic for now, but that is a result of my situation which is so very different then the norm it isn't worth sharing). There is so much good to share about it, but the other side needs to be represented too. If you aren't blindsided by it, it's not so bad. I wish more people didn't feel like adoption was settling or "throwing in the towel". Adoption is something that happens once, just like birth. After that, you are a family and you take the rest as it comes, I think.

Love your blog. I live not too far from you and think you should move near the Mt. View Google office!! (we would be neighbors).

Selwyn said...

Thanks Ana - it's good to get a little extra info and life experience through someone else's eyes and heart!