Saturday, March 21, 2009

Telling the Family—Part II

Due to the rapid decline and death of my grandmother and the traveling and burial details that followed, we delayed telling my side of the family our news until just this week. We wanted to be sure that our focus was first on Grammy and her life and passing, rather than on our adoption news.

The evening of Grammy's funeral, we were all together -- my parents and all six of my brothers and me. It seemed the perfect time to share our news with everyone in person. There were many questions and great excitement.

There is a silver lining in every cloud. Grammy's death from advanced Alzheimer's not only brought our entire family together for the first time in ten years, but it gave us the gift of being able to transmit our exciting adoption announcement to my parents and brothers in person. I could never have imagined we'd have that opportunity. We'll remember that always.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Telling the Family

We began telling our family members about our adoption news (the fact that we're in the queue awaiting an infant referral) tonight. We made it through Joe's immediate family members tonight. His mom and all eight siblings. Tomorrow night, we'll call my parents and my six brothers.

So this expecting-a-baby announcement was just so very different from the others. After all, there is no due date. Uncertainties regarding the specifics (birth time and place, for example) are complete unknowns. But considering we could, at least in theory, receive a baby referral any day, we figured we'd better begin letting the family know.

We had great fun making those calls! I'm smiling ear to ear as I type this...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

And We're Off!

Now it's official. We're in the Open Door system, and our life books are being shown to birth mothers, perhaps even as we speak.

Here is the word from Open Door that arrived by email today:

Your file is complete and life books are out to consultants. Now we just need a baby!

Sort of hard to remain calm and patiently wait, you know?

Formal Acceptance

Yesterday, we received our formal acceptance letter from Open Door placement agency in Georgia. How very exciting! We are praying for the birth mother and for our child who may already reside in her womb as we begin the wait.

Thank you so much for allowing your home study to be presented to our agency so that we might present your profile to An Open Door birth mothers. This letter is to let you know that your home study have been accepted into An Open Door Adoption Agency Minority Program.


Now you have reached the hardest part of all, the waiting. This time can be valuable to you if you use it to prepare for the birth of your baby. Just as you would prepare during the nine-month wait for your biological child, you can use this time to prepare for your adoptive child.

If you have any questions about the adoption process, please do not hesitate to call me. I truly look forward to talking with you and working together during this adoption process. Again, let me encourage you to be patient and remember that God's timing is perfect. When you place your birth mother in His hands, leave her there with Him knowing all will be well.

What beautiful words! I love this placement agency already.

Monday, March 2, 2009

And the Wait Begins

We just received this extremely exciting email from our Georgia placement agency today:

Your home study has arrived!!!!! I'll read it and send you an acceptance
letter. This means your books can be shown to birth mothers.

I can't begin to tell you the extent of our excitement (and butterflies). Now the wait officially begins. I wonder how long it will be?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Where We Are and Where We've Been

Today I am setting up a blog to chronicle the steps we've taken and the exciting path we're traveling as we head into the world of domestic infant adoption. I anticipate that this blog will serve someday as a bit of a "baby book" for the wee one who will someday call us family.

We currently have five wonderful biological children ranging in age from three to twelve. For a variety of reasons, we have decided to add to our family by adoption. We couldn't be more excited!

After considering both international and domestic adoption, we settled on a domestic infant adoption through Open Door placement agency in Georgia. We decided to apply to their African American infant adoption program. This means, as Caucasian parents, that we will be adopting trans-racially, God-willing. We do not plan to make a gender request.

The Adoption Chronology to Date
February 2008: We met for the first time with our chosen social worker, Julie Dahlen of Adoption Advocates. She walked us through the basic adoption questions and considerations and loaded us up with a plethora of information on both international and domestic adoption. At that time, we were leaning seriously toward international adoption, and we were looking into Ethiopia and India as possibilities. (We are considered too old or already parenting too many children for a number of the other countries.)

March 2008: We were surprised but overjoyed by the news of my pregnancy. We put our adoption plans on hold, and relished the thought of new little one arriving in nine months.

April 2008: We suffered our first miscarriage, and we laid our Baby Mary to rest in a beautiful ceremony. Little Mary had Trisomy 15 and only made it to Week 8 in utero. We are told that even if she would have made it to birth, she would likely not have lived long. Mary's remains rest in a beautiful hilltop cemetery on the grounds of an old Catholic church in Perry, Wisconsin.

May 2008: We enjoyed our spring and became acquainted with some new friends (I'll call them the Smiths, for the sake of privacy), a wonderful family who was well-into the process of a domestic infant adoption. Their friendship would prove transforming, and their inspiration would be the turning point in our adoption process.

Summer 2008: We became fast friends with the Smiths and shared in their joy as they adopted their infant son through Open Door's African American adoption program. With the adoption of their son, the Smiths created a blended (birth & biological) family, much like we hope to create for ourselves. What a beautiful family!

October 2008: Inspired by the Smiths, we re-initiated our meetings with Julie. During our first meeting of the fall, we were able to ask all our questions on the topic of domestic adoption. We took the paperwork home. It didn't take us long to determine that we wanted to move forward and to pursue a domestic infant adoption. We quickly found ourselves hip-deep in meetings and paperwork. We also learned that we would need to pick another agency -- a placement agency. Julie's agency, Adoption Advocates, would essentially serve as the requisite local home study agency, while the second agency would act as the placement agency. We began our placement agency search. Based on personal recommendations, we narrowed it down to two agencies: St. Joseph's Adoption Ministry in Kansas City and Open Door in Georgia.

November 2008: We completed the first wave of paperwork for our home study agency, Adoption Advocates, including the somewhat challenging "comfort level" worksheet.

December 2008: We received our second round of paperwork, met with social worker Julie numerous times, gathered necessary documents (birth certificates, marriage certificates, home and health insurance documentation, kids' immunization records, blah, blah, blah)and completed the required doctor appointments, blood tests, and fingerprinting.

We had our "home visit" just before Christmas. With the Christmas rush and home-study nerves, I can't say it was a completely stress-free experience, but Julie was wonderful, and we had a lovely meeting and visit. All went well.

We resolved to finish all the paperwork before the Christmas rush, which we did successfully. A mountain of paperwork, but so very worth it. It allowed us to enjoy Christmas without the home study paperwork hanging over our heads.

During December, we also finalized our decision to work with Open Door placement agency in Georgia. We chose Open Door for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the rave reviews of the Smiths. Open Door is a Christian agency which provides exceptional comfort, care, and support to birth mothers throughout the pregnancy and the relinquishment process. This was something extremely important to us as pro-life Catholics desiring to support and encourage mothers who have made the sacrifices necessary to give life to their children. We have also been told that there are no financial surprises with Open Door. Since money is not growing on trees in our vicinity, this is important to us. Open Door refers only Georgia infants for adoption, which means there is more certainty in terms of knowing the laws that will apply to our adoption situation. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the need for adoptive families of African American infants in Georgia is startlingly high; thus, the wait for a child is relatively short.

During the kids' Christmas vacation, we completed the paperwork for Open Door (a bit less intimidating than the paperwork required by our local home study agency) and also created a "life book." Our life book is a digitized scrapbook that provides a window into our family life for the birth mothers to view. By looking at photos of our family and by reading our birth mother letter and our profile, a birth mother can decide whether to choose us as adoptive parents. We used Shutterfly photo service to create our digitized life books, and we were pleased with the results. Promptly after mailing the completed paperwork and the life books (original, plus ten duplicates), we received from Open Door our "acceptance letter." Our first big milestone.

January 2009: We completed the remaining home study meetings with Julie. During these meetings, we discussed adoption in general, attachment and bonding, answering strangers' questions (or not), family dynamics, and becoming a distinctive bi-racial family. The meetings were extremely helpful and informative, allowing us to consider issues that may not have been obvious to us otherwise.

February 2009: Julie completed our home study and mailed it to Open Door in Georgia. The home study states, in no uncertain terms, that Julie at Adoption Advocates recommends us to Open Door for the adoption of an infant within their domestic program. Another milestone!

March 1, 2009: We created this blog today. We find ourselves in a holding pattern now, awaiting a call from Open Door alerting us that they have received our home study and that our file is therefore complete. I am expecting that news to come tomorrow (Monday), as the home study was mailed on Wednesday. At that point, Open Door will begin showing our life books to expectant mothers. And then we'll just wait. And pray. And talk about baby names...