Monday, August 15, 2011

Change of Adoption Plans

      Well, it's August 15th, and I am long overdue for a blog entry. So much has changed since our last blog, and my emotions have been all over the place. I will try to recap in chronological order the events of the past month.
July 10 - Homestudy
      We were so nervous for the homestudy that we bought new outfits, majorly spruced up the house, completed outdoor projects, etc. When our social worker, JoAnn, arrived we were pleased to find her very down to Earth and supportive of our adoption efforts. I think we approached it more like a job interview, but she made us feel like future parents and kept saying "when you get your baby" not "if you get your baby". That Sunday night she stayed for 4 hours teaching us the ins and outs of international adoption. We also had individual interviews with her. I went first and I'm sure I sounded so gushy and emotional. I could feel myself talking with my hands and if I could have taken my heart out and laid it on the table, I would have. Then Craig had his interview, and I went back to the office. Of course, I kept the door cracked and listened to every word. He, of course, was cool and collected, saying all the smart things I didn't think of. Listening to him reinforced my belief that he will be an amazing father. Everyday, I fall more in love and if there were a husband lottery, I'd say I surely won.
      JoAnn left at about 9:30 that evening and left us homework. We had to write a letter of intent to adopt from Ethiopia as well as take two (out of ten) online classes about adoption, particularly international. The first one was called The Conspicuous Family. It was about dealing with issues visibly adoptive families face and how to respond to remarks made by people both insensitively/cruelly or simply motivated by curiousity. The second class was called "Attachment" and explained the importance and process of attachment. For adopted children, there is a break in attachment first from biological parents, then from the foster home or orphanage. Ignorantly, I thought we'd start bonding from day one, but in reality, we'd just be strangers to our little one who has seen face after face care for her and then leave. It takes time and great committment/patience to form those bonds.
      The next morning, JoAnn came back for a few hours to finish up and help us reflect on the videos. She asked us why we wanted to adopt from Ethiopia and asked if we'd ever considered adopting domestically. I told her again about living in Africa and how we feel connected to African culture and because based on our research, that was the easiest place to get a healthy young "infant" (1 year old or less), plus it was the least expensive option, even less than domestic. She said, "I'm really going out on a limb here because I usually don't try to sway people one way or the other, but I really feel like Gladney's ABC program would be a better fit for you. When I hear you talk, it's clear you want a baby. And that's ok, you've never had one, but you won't get that from Ethiopia." She went on to tell us about the recent delays in Ethiopia and how our wait would be significantly longer than 12 months. This is something I had learned about soon after we committed to the Ethiopia program, but I was so hopeful the delays would only be temporary. With international adoption, there is always political stuff that can lengthen wait times, and over the last 4 months, Ethiopia went from processing 40 adoptions per day to just 5. That's not 5 per agency; that's 5 period. So, our approx. 1 year wait could turn into 8 years. Gladney didn't feel that would be the case, but they had no way to determine our new expected wait time. Plus, our social worker told me that many agencies aren't even taking families for Ethiopia because it wasn't looking good. We also learned from Gladney that several orphanages had recently closed in Ethiopia due to funding.
      I was heartbroken when she first brought this up because not only would our wait most likely be years instead of months, but the children would also have to wait in Ethiopia a lot longer after referrel than just a few months like we expected. So, we could get a referrel for a 10 month old baby and possibly not be able to bring her home until she was 18 months old. That would kill me! Then that got me thinking about all the attachment issues we would face, and the whole scenario seemed less than ideal.
      I had a lot of reservations about domestic adoption which I will discuss in a future blog, but I asked about a million questions to JoAnn. She was especially great because she has 2 internationally adopted children herself, plus one domestically adopted child. She was an expert in both field and life. She put at ease many of my concerns about domestic adoptions, and then actually got me excited about bonding from day one of my child's life. She said about half of birthmothers choose for the adoptive mother to be in the room when the baby is born. When she asked the mothers why they choose this, they unanimously say so they can see the look on the adoptive mother's face to make sure they made the right choice. Gulp.
      So, Craig and I talked all night and all the next day. JoAnn said we could take as much time as we needed. Craig called his parents and I talked to my family. We had to ask ourselves, what is most important to us? What has been most important from day one as we started this adoption process? The answer - to get the youngest, healthiest baby we can as soon as possible. When we considered that and after talking with JoAnn, we decided to apply for the ABC program with Gladney. You have to apply because African American birth mothers tend to choose black families first, followed by bi-racial couples. Caucasian parents are chosen, just not as often, so they can't take on too many at a time. We chose the ABC program because it is less expensive than regular agency assisted adoptions and because we really feel we have a lot to offer a child of African American heritage. Plus, JoAnn said she would be surprised if we didn't have a referrel in 6 months!
      We found out on July 22nd (our 5 year anniversary) that we were accepted into the program, and we could not be happier. We have all the paperwork completed, so all we had to do was register for the mandatory orientation on August 19th in Fort Worth. We were planning to spend all of August in Houston anyway, so it worked out just perfectly.
      And that's where we are now. It's Monday now and our orientation is Friday. It's from 8:30 to 4 and we are thrilled to be able to meet all the Gladney people who have helped us along the way. We will learn how to put together a profile that will be shown to birthmothers. After the oriention, we will have completed everything required to be officially approved. We did see a draft of the homestudy, which was wonderful, so we're just waiting to cross the last T's and dot the final I's.
      As far as the referrel process, we will be matched with a birthmother in her third trimester and we cannot specify gender. I am praying for a healthy pregnancy and lots of family support for our birthmother. I am hoping she will allow us to be a part of the journey but will respect her comfort level along the way.
      I did grieve again for my little African daughter, and this hiccup in our journey first felt like an adoption miscarriage. Another child to have loved and been so excited about and then lost. Desperate and down, I asked Craig, "Do you think this is a sign? Is the universe trying to tell me something?"
      He replied, "It might be. It might be trying to tell us that our African child is actually African American.  And that she's Texan, like her daddy."
"She said she cried at least once each day not because she was sad, but because life was so beautiful and life was so short."
- Brian Andreas