Posted tagged ‘Adoption’

20 Years Ago

November 18, 2013

Twenty years ago this month – which happens to be Adoption Month – my husband and I were finally on the same page at the same time in the same frame of mind and submitted an application to begin an international adoption.

Several weeks before we had attended an international adoption forum at a sort of local hotel where six different adoption agencies were represented.  It was a Monday night and the hubby was semi willing to  attend as long as I promised to leave in time for him to be home to get his weekly televised dose of WWF.  Of course I’d promised.

With fingers crossed behind my back.

It was crazy.  There was a table on a small stage lined with agency representatives.  The little room was almost full.  Full of families contemplating adoption…..families that had completed adoptions…..families in the process of adopting….and kids.

Kids of all sizes and ages, running around the room, dodging parental grips, snatching hugs, sharing toys, giggling, sipping juice boxes and just having fun.

About half way through the question and answer session, I nudged the hubby to ask if he was ready to go and he shushed me.  He was listening to what people were saying. He was hooked.

Line and sinker.

Sadly, albeit appropriately since the Baby Jessica and Baby Richard sagas had just played out in the local media, the biggest concern for the pre-adoptive families was the permanency of an international adoption. And how to fund the expensive process.

We talked on the way home.  It had been a bit of a journey for us to reach this point.  We’d experimented briefly with fertility drugs.  We’d toyed with the idea of just being satisfied with the exposure we had with his daughters.  We explored adoption through foster care, open adoption and family adoption.  Nothing felt right….until that night.

So we filled out the first of three applications that were to come.

We were requesting  a little girl from India.  A toddler….or an older child that needed us.  We felt led because we had watched a tv program that depicted the dire prospects for baby girls in India just a few weeks before.

And we began to think about…and prepare…to add a little girl to our lives.  Our hearts began to open and to flower and to ready themselves for that child.

Seriously.

But it would be three months before our child was even born.

And another three months until we were handed this:

Image

Our case file had been matched to a baby boy in South Korea.

It would be another six weeks until we were to hold him.  He would be four months old.

And it was seven months after submitting that first application to adopt.

Seven months of waiting and planning and preparation……and loving.

I have done a lot of reading over that past 20 years.  I understand that children who are adopted can sometimes feel a sense of abandonment.  That they may feel a sense of loss at being released for adoption by a birth parent.  I often wondered if mine ever wished for a different family.  Wished they had been matched with a family that could have given them more….or a different kind of life.

We have never talked about it…..and so I still wonder.

We have talked about their adoption situations however.  Shared what we know and the little bits of information that we have.  Told him how lucky he was that his mother knew very early that she wasn’t ready to raise a child on her own.  How grateful we were that she made the decision that brought him into our lives.

But there is another part of that story that I have neglected to share with them.

I have neglected to tell him (and her) how much they were loved even before we knew them or held them or hugged them.  How  our hearts were growing and getting ready from the day we filled out those early applications.

So while their birth parents were struggling and planning to leave them, on the other side of the world we were planning….and loving….and waiting to receive them.

Its a sad world in which adoption is needed.  But it would be a sadder one if it wasn’t available.

For everyone.

 

 

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HOW Did It Happen???

March 13, 2011

The Prince turned 17 a couple of weeks ago.

SEVENTEEN!

Which means he no longer has a ‘restricted’ driver’s license and can drive after midnight even though he may or may not be coming from or going to a real job.

Which means he is just a year and a half away from graduating from high school.

Which means he is only a year and a half away and a summer away from starting COLLEGE.

Which means he is going to be putting his big boy pants on and looking for a real job to help pay for a car/gas/books/food/date nights/whatever.

Which means he is only a year away from casting his vote and having a real say in what is going on in the world.

Which means he is actually going to have to make decisions about things more important than just what he should have for a snack before going to bed…..or which channel to watch on the television…..or which homework to let slide this week.

Which means he is no longer my baby boy.

Just HOW did that happen?

Just how did this:

……..evolve so mind boggling quickly into this???

Okay…..so I am having a problem with this.

February 16, 2011

She sat across the table with narrowed eyes as I explained the plan to her. 

 No, I was not going to allow her to stay after basketball practice after school and let her wait in the LGI room with the ‘two ladies from church’ who monitored homework and high schoolers who waited for a bus to drive them to church at 6 pm.  I was willing to pick her up from practice and bring her home to shower and change and maybe have some dinner.  Then I would drive her to the very same church (which happens to be right around the corner from our house) so she could participate in the high school mid week Bible study activities.  And then I would pick her up at the appropriate time and drive her home (which happens to be right around the corner from the church).  I am not willing to drive 20 minutes down the road to pick her up at school just so she can have the extra time with her friends on the bus.

The same narrowed eyes were probably shooting daggers through the cell phone….waves?…..when I text messaged earlier in the evening that Dad and I would be doing the 35 minute drive to the WAY out in the boon docks ‘away’ high school to pick her up after the JV basketball game – which was after her Freshman basketball game which had been too early in the evening for us to make it – in order to have her home at a reasonable hour on a school night.  No, she would not be staying for the Varsity basketball game just so she could ride the bus with the five other players who did not have a ride home. 

And I do know that head of hers had trouble wrapping itself around why I was so um….pissy…. to find out that she was actually at K’s house when she was supposed to be at L’s house and didn’t bother to text or call during the entire seven hours that she was gone.   Especially since it’s not the first time it’s happened.

And last summer…..when she was embarrassed and a little perturbed that I cruised by the beach where she had gone for the day……just to check  up on things?

Yes.  I do know that we are a boring old family that lacks the social luster and bluster of her friends at school.

Yes.  I do know that we are generally doing nothing at all at home in the evenings except dinner and dishes and homework and television and reading and working on the computer.

Yes.  I do know that she is supposed to be trying out her wings a bit….checking out the world on her own.

Okay….so I am having a problem with this ‘letting go’ thing. 

But hang in there. 

 The day will come when she will glad that I did…..and she will wish that letting go hadn’t happened at all.

Right?

A Big Freaking Deal

August 16, 2010

     This is my deeply Sleeping Beauty at about 11:15 this morning.  She is cuddled with a box of pastries from our favorite big city bakery, plugged into her i-pod and snoozing away.  He had dragged her out of bed at 5:30 in order to shower and dress so we could leave at 6:30 for the big city.  He tried to drag me out of bed even earlier and wasn’t so successful.  We had an 8:30 appointment and had given ourselves some time for traffic tangles.  He was frantically trying to stay on ‘schedule.’ .  But we were in the car by 6:45 and on the road by 6:55 am.  We got there on time.  In fact, we were even a bit early.

We were at the office of the United States Naturalization, Citizenship and Immigration Service.    We had an appointment for the Princess’ citizenship interview.

We had been here before.  Well, not at this particular office…..which is new and shiny and kind of intimidating. 

Thirteen years ago we stood in the office of the same immigration service – except at a satellite office several hours drive away – for the same reason with a three year old Prince.  He was cute and cuddly in a special red, white and blue sweater his Non had made for the occasion.  His appointment was all about ME answering questions and signing pictures and holding my hand up and pledging.  He  had no clue what was happening.  He was just busy checking things out and successfully charming every single person he met.

I have pictures to prove it.

I also have a very small  collection of letters for him.  One night – months before the big day – I put together a note explaining that he was three and that he was going to be a new citizen and that I wanted him to have something that would help him understand why that was such a big deal.  I sent it to every possible celebrity that I could think of.  Spielberg, Lucas, Oprah, Rosie, Albom and Clinton to name just a few.  There were  lots from every walk of life.

And his ‘collection’ consists of an autographed picture from former president Jimmy Carter, a beautifully written letter (and Crystal Cathedral tracts) from Robert Schuller, and note from actor Jimmy Stewart’s secretary saying that she was sure he would have wanted to write something but he was very ill at that time ( he died shortly after) and an exquisite letter from Eric Smith.  Smith is a local newscaster who was happily familiar to Prince because HE is the one who announced all the school snow days for our area.  Snow Days were exciting even then.   It meant staying home from daycare with Mom.

I am not sure what the citizenship thing really means to him.  I think – like many of us – he tends to take our freedoms and our rights and our responsibilities for granted.  And so does she.

Teenagers.

They learned all about the Bill of Rights and a smidgen of American history in school.  They stand at attention and know the Pledge of Allegiance by heart.  I am not so sure about The Star Spangled Banner.  They obey the traffic laws and the safety rules and respect everything about the officers in the cars with the flashing lights on top.  They even know about courtrooms and judges (okay…so I dragged them along on a ‘field trip’ when I had to appear in court for a traffic ticket) and where to go to pay a parking fine.  The interview was very serious and very intimidating.  And we have to go back in a month for a Citizenship swearing in ceremony.  A serious oath to be spoken and flags to be waved.

But Citizenship and the freedoms we enjoy are so much more than all of that.  I need to figure out a way to explain it to her.  To make it real.

This is the kid that learned to count with the flags we saw flying everywhere after 9/11 after all.  She was in Kindergarten at the time and there were 177  flags along the route from our house to her school.

‘What’s the big, freaking deal?’ she muttered on the way home this morning before snuggling down in the back seat with the pastry box and the i-pod….and her sweet, sweet dreams of  being well fed, safe…..and free.

I am not sure what to tell her.

What IS the big, freaking deal?

Open or Closed?

August 12, 2010

Adoption is beginning to rear its bright, beautiful  little head in our family again.  Not that it hasn’t in the past.  WE have mulled it over on rare occasions of parental happiness and so has my youngest step-daughter.  But it is the oldest that is taking steps….actually taking STEPS….baby steps…..to add to her family with an adoption.

I remember being at this point.  You think the biggest decision is MAKING the decision to adopt.  Everything after that should be a piece of cake, right?  You want a baby/child so you know there are lots of  parent-less children available and you fill out paperwork and voila!  Instant family member.

It should be so easy.

But there are lots of decisions that come at the beginning of this journey.  International or domestic?  Which agency to use? What kind of funding resources  are available?   What kind of an adoption are you comfortable with?  How long can you wait?

HRH and I were able to make most of those decisions in unison at the very start of our journey.  (We now allude that most of these ‘decisions’ were completely out of our hands.)  The press in our area had been following the Baby Jessica case quite rabidly in those days so an international adoption was much more appealing than a presumably precarious domestic one.  We attended an adoption forum and were able to consider six local agencies at once before settling on the one we decided to use.  We began setting money aside in a special savings account and the right amount always seemed to be there when we needed it. Or the resources opened up.  We asked for a little girl from India and were matched with an infant boy from South Korea.

We know now – that God was totally in charge of our adoption – from the start.  The same was very true of our second adoption.  We were never really faced with the kinds of decisions that my step and her husband are mulling.

The biggest one is whether they would prefer an Open or a Closed adoption.

If you are aware of adoption issues at all, then you know that an Open Adoption is one that allows the birth parents to maintain contact with the child and the adoptive family in some way.  A Closed Adoption is one in which the adoption records are sealed and neither party is aware of the other’s whereabouts….unless there is an agreement to open them at some point and make that information available.

Reality television has given us so many ‘pictures’ of both situations.  We see families that have been split up and adopted by different families and suddenly finding each other on the news.  One reality show – ‘Pregnant at 16′ – has followed several teens as they carried through their pregnancies and made plans for their unborn children and subsequent lives.  One of them chose adoption for her daughter.    ’60 Minutes’, ’20/20′ and ‘Dateline’  have all done exposes on the adoption process from every possible angle.  We have seen tiny little children refer to young women next to them as their ‘birth Mommy.’   We have seen college students studying pictures received from the adoptive family of the babies they never can see.  We have seen the anguish of an adult facing a birth parent wanting answers for their feeling of abandonment.  We have seen adoptive parents thanking birth parents for allowing them to raise a baby.  (My favorite of that was an Oprah segment in which an adoptive mom told a birth mom that the adult daughter they shared had a dimple where she had been kissed immediately after birth.  Aww.)  And then there are the celebrities..both adopted and adoptive.  (Bet there aren’t many that remember the actress – who went on to captain the Enterprise later in her career – that very quietly gave her child up for adoption for real while starring in an afternoon drama.)

Open or Closed.

Our adoptions are decidedly closed.  Internationally closed.  It seemed like a good thing at the time.  We liked our privacy.  We like the finality of it all.  But now with my daughter’s questions about her birth parents and wanting to see their pictures and wondering what they are like or what happened to them, I sometimes wonder if  ‘closed’  is such a good thing.  These are questions we will never have answers for.  Would being able to share pictures and stories and medical facts with her be such a bad thing?

Fear is what guides us in this decisions sometimes.  I think.  Fear that a birth parent is going to come swooping in to reclaim the child or its affections.  Fear that there is someone out there MORE invested in your child and its well being.

I have lived with that fear.  I sometimes wonder when we are embroiled in some teenage angsty moment if my children are thinking that there is a birth parent out there that would be less demanding, happier with their minimal efforts on school projects or more accepting of their needs….and wants.  I wonder if when they are not listening to a raving, ranting me , if they are wishing for that mystical birth parent who would SURELY love them more.   

Its an emotionally scary, scarring thing to have in the back of your mind.

And I came kind of close to facing those fears one early fall day several years ago.  Our adoption agency has a picnic every year and we received a letter stating that the foster mother that had taken care of our son in Seoul was going to be present.  My ultra quiet and shy son was – surprisingly – excited about seeing her.  We put together a little photo album and a quilted pillow with pictures he picked out on it.  I will never forget the way her eyes lit up when this squat Korean woman was reintroduced to the child she had once cared for.  Nor will I ever forget the look on my child’s face when she hugged him, whipped off the carefully selected tee shirt he was wearing and replaced it with a light blue shirt she had brought with her from Korea.  With a collar…..and buttons.  He wore it for the next three hours.

Without complaining.  How did she DO that?

Someone invested in my child’s well being.  It was a little….. exciting….and touching…. and surreal….. and a little threatening.  Sort of. 

I was musing about the whole birth parent/adoptive parent thing for the entire day.  Worried about it, in fact.

But the truth is that YOU are the one they come to with a problem, the one they expect to cuddle away night fears and to make that outrageously embarrassing appearance at some high school event.  You are the one that nixes an oufit, rants about sun screen/ toothpaste/general hygiene and library book fines.  You are the one that sees that they have all of the ‘right’ school supplies and tennis shoes.  You are the one that sees that they are on time for the bus and the practices and the games.  You are the one that knows their favorite restaurant, the spot on their feet that draws the most giggles and the right thing to say when their heart is breaking. 

 Would I like an Open Adoption as opposed to the Closed Adoptions that we have?? 

I would like to have pictures to show my children….and I would like to have someone else that is invested in their well being to share THEIR pictures with.  I would like medical information to share with them.  I would like a little history to share with them.  But I am still mulling over the rest.

Ask me when they are older.

And actually LIKE me again.

There are just some things……

August 8, 2010

When you adopt a child who is a foundling, there are just some things  you can’t give them.  You can give them a loving home, consistent  discipline and unflagging support.  You can give them clothes and toys and cell phones and new soccer shoes and…a computer.  You can take them on trips and build memories as a family.  You can sit in the stands and cheer them to goals….or baskets….or home runs.   You can argue about curfews and friends and choices in clothing.  You can giggle through jokes and share stories of the day and listen to apprehensions and fears.  You can do most everything.

But you can’t give them a birth date.  And sometimes that breaks my heart.

When my daughter was found by police at a bus stop in Russia, she was examined by doctors and others for the developmental milestones of a young child.  They asked her what her name was and she told them.  Ah….verbal communication.  I imagine they had her walking and playing with items to check her dexterity and mobility.  They decided that she was approximately 21 months of age and assigned her a birthdate in early August.

When we were going over court papers before finalizing her adoption there was a discrepancy in the birth date we had been given.  Some of the paper work gave August 5th as her birth date and some said August 8th.   I asked our interpreter which one it was and she looked at me kind of funny.

“Which one do you want?”

So, in a sense, we gave our daughter her birthdate just as other parents do. 

But is it the ‘real one’?? 

That is something we will never know.  And it breaks my heart.

We have, however,  given her other memorable dates in her life. 

Her ‘Gotcha Day.’

Her adoption date.

The date she first stepped foot on American soil.

The date she started Kindergarten….and finished middle school.

The future holds even more.  There will be her first day of high school, her graduation, the date she first drives a car on her own and the date she starts her first official job.  No doubt she will remember her first kiss….her first break up…..her engagement and her wedding.   She says that she is not going to have kids.  That she is going to get them from Russia.  So there may be other adoption days in her future. 

The United States immigration office has given her August 16th.  That is the day she takes  her Oath of Citizenship and receives her ‘official’ American paperwork.

But today is the 8th and we are celebrating her birthday….the one people who studied her developmental milestones assigned to her.  The one we  gave her. 

Some things we can give her…..and some things we can’t.

Something as basic as knowing the exact day that she was born…is impossible.

And that breaks my heart.

Happy 15th birthday, Kiddo!

Love, Mom and Dad

The Kid and his Clothes

June 29, 2010

Last spring, Prince was invited to a party.  It was a Sweet Sixteen party for a friend at school.  It was a very formal, Black and White kind of deal.  A soccer fiend who is at his most comfortable in athletic shorts and a tee shirt, Prince is also very particular about his clothes.  Shopping trips with him are horrendous because of that.

Slacks, shirts, shoes….socks…..it doesn’t matter.

I guess I should have realized what I was creating when I insisted – from an early age – that his clothes at least….match.  What he was wearing never seemed to bother him except when it came to socks.

He gave me fits about socks.

He didn’t like the seam at the end of the toes so we searched and searched to find some without seams.  And that was back in the olden days before manufacturers began catching on to his fetish.

It went on for years.

And then around mid elementary school he started having opinions about everything he wore.  The fabric had to feel right.  The colors had to be nondescript.  The neck had to be plain.  The length had to be just so.  The brand had to be the right one.  He drove  drives me nuts.

It hasn’t changed.

So since he didn’t have anything that was appropriate for the party, I wasn’t looking forward to a shopping trip to remedy the situation.  Neither was his Dad.  Neither was he.  But one evening  just before the big event we stopped in at my  favorite clothing store (and my only charge account) to ‘just look.’

He had nixed the idea of a jacket or suit right from the get go.  Slacks were on sale.  We found a black pair that he liked rather quickly.  Moved on to the shirts.  We had decided that a black shirt with a white tie would be the ultimate of cool.  White tie?  Check.  Since he was feeling so good about finding slacks and a tie so quickly, I snatched up a couple of black shirts and sent him off to the dressing room to try them on before he had a chance to say ‘not now.’  His dad and I waited outside. 

A shirt came out.  A very nice, silkish black shirt.  ‘Put it back.  Its too…black.’

A second shirt came out.  A heavier, cottony shirt.  “Put it back. It doesn’t feel right.”

HRH and I were rolling our eyes and shaking our heads and…almost….snickering about the dilemma.  We were never going to get out of there.

Meanwhile, the Princess, who is generally bored and disinterested on shopping trips that don’t involve pet stores or sporting good stores or skateboard anythings, meandered through the mens wear by the dressing rooms and asked, ‘why are we buying clothes for him?’  She stopped dead in her tracks when we said he had been invited to a party.

‘Someone invited him to a party?’

‘Wait….someone invited him to a party?’

Another shooper was standing by and covertly keeping an amused eye on my daughter’s obvious confusion.  I thought she would lose it when the Princess’  eyes got even wider as I reminded her about the  formal sweet sixteen party for his friend.

‘Wait……a GIRL asked him to a party?  Now why would she do that?’

Honestly, Princess, you can’t figure it out?