Monday, November 24, 2014

Tune My Heart

Man, this adoption stuff is not for the faint of heart. This has quite possibly been the longest week ever. The best way I can describe it would be the beta day that never ends. Imagine you wake up for your beta, believing that today, one way or another, you'll be put out of your misery... it'll either be positive with much rejoicing or negative with much weeping, but either way you'll know. Except, imagine that you wait all day long, but your phone never rings. You wake up the next day just knowing that your nurse will call any minute and the wait will finally be over. But the phone doesn't ring. You wait all day, but it never rings. No news at all. Now imagine that this scenario is on repeat, day after day, after day. That's what this week has felt like. I am emotionally exhausted and I've said on more than one occasion that I am not cut out for this. The wait makes me into a crazy person.

The wait can really start to alter your thoughts too. I started off reading the profile of this mother last Saturday feeling really sad for her. All of these scenarios are sad... many are really frustrating too, but they are all sad. I started off the week simply praying for the birth mom. I wanted her to find clarity and peace with her decision, whether that was to parent or place the child for adoption. Believe me, I'm not interested in adopting someone's baby if that person wants to parent... does that make sense?But as the days wore on, my thoughts slowly began to shift away from her and her needs to me and my needs. And then I read this:

And, oh, how my heart needs tuning! I forget His goodness. I forget there are “streams of mercy, never ceasing.” I forget that I’m already accepted, covered, held, known, beloved. And when I forget that I’m His cherished daughter, I start hustling for my worth. Grasping for “good” as if I don’t already have access to the Giver of every good thing. 
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. 
I’d never play a song with an out of tune guitar, but so often (too often) I am willing to live with a heart that is out of tune. Dissonant. Fearful. Discontent. Ashamed. All because I don’t take the time to restore my heart to its rightful place, to a place of gratitude for a Love that will never leave me.

I love She Reads Truth... It's not always the meatiest, but the commentary reads like a conversation between friends. It's typically spot on and really refreshing. This particular excerpt is from a devotional on the hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing". It hit me as I read this that this next phase of the adoption process is going to be about repeatedly tuning my heart, over and over and over again. 

It's easy to start with the best of intentions. That's exactly how I felt last Saturday. I remember reading through the profile and praying for that unborn baby and asking The Lord to provide THE BEST for this child... whether that be the birth mom, us, or another prospective adoptive couple. But after a few days, the anxiety, the fear, the hope, the dreams it started to affect my heart. By Thursday, I was in a different mindset. Anxiety over being rejected, fear of never being picked, hope of bringing home a baby, and dreams for our future pulled my heart away from wanting the absolute best for this birth mom and baby. Instead my focus turned inward to MY needs and MY future. It happened so fast. 

I'll tell you this, this part of adoption feels completely foreign from fertility treatments. When I was waiting for beta, I felt justified in some way for praying for life. God is good, and He is the creator of life, so it felt natural to ask for life for my womb. But this feels very different. This is a child, and a woman, and a man, and potentially other family members... It seems insane to ask that they not keep their family together. But in the midst of me and my sadness and anxiety it's easy to inch that direction. So yeah, this process is going to be one long, continuous tuning of my heart. This is certainly not all about me... my heart's got to remember that. 

We're still waiting to hear one way or another, but I'm feeling better today. The crazy anxiety left over the weekend. I'd definitely like to know one way or another, but I think I can give my keyboard a rest and only refresh my email once every 20-30 minutes now, verses every 2.4 seconds... it's progress friends. My heart is going to need continuous tuning, but I'll get there.

Monday, November 17, 2014

And So It Begins

I've been posting a good bit about adoption lately, but I haven't been posting about my adoption much. It wasn't intentional, no big secrets or anything. I guess the thing about the adoption journey is there's typically no news until there's NEWS, you know what I mean? We've been semi-patiently waiting for our final home study (read, not patiently at all) and frantically working to complete our profile book. As of Friday evening, both are officially done. We received an email pdf of the home study (paper copy should arrive today) and I ordered twelve copies of our profile. As soon as we have those in hand, we'll be ready to take our next step and apply with a couple of different agencies/attorneys.

For now we've decided to apply with two. It's a delicate balancing act. Obviously the more agencies or attorneys we apply with the more opportunities we will have, but the more money we will spend too. We are desperately trying to be good stewards of both our own money and the money that has so generously been gifted to us. It would be easy to apply for every scenario we see… we'd most likely be matched in no time, but we'd also watch this adoption climb north of 50 or 60 thousand dollars really fast. We're trying to be patient and wait and pray that the right opportunity will come.

Ironically enough, that opportunity may have presented itself. Not twenty four hours after I ordered twelve copies of our profile book, I received an email from our adoption consultant. It's a very confusing process to explain, but essentially we can apply with several attorneys or agencies, but we also receive scenarios through our consultant. She is not the contact for the birth mothers, but rather she has contacts in the adoption community and she forwards these scenarios on to her clients when they come to her. We've seen approximately fifteen scenarios since we started working with our consultant. We've never applied for any of them before as a home study is typically required. We've used this time more to familiarize ourselves with the process, what information we will and won't receive, and to stretch our muscles of discernment as we review these cases.

Let me tell you, I can pretend all I want to, but it feels extremely different when you read a scenario that you know you can't apply for verses the real deal. I don't know what it was about Saturday… I don't know if the situation was just that good, or if the fact that the home study document was sitting in my inbox, but I suddenly felt anxious/nervous/excited… I'd say it was reminiscent of the IUI days. All those butterflies in my stomach while I waited for them to call me back with the wash results as I climbed on the table. I still feel that way.

Our original plan was to wait to put our names forward until we had $10,000. It was an arbitrary line as we still don't know exactly how much this adoption will cost, but we're trying to be wise and patient. We do not have 10K yet, but well, patience has never been and will never be my virtue. We've decided to put our names forward for this situation. Our very first time. It feels monumental in some ways, but I think I'll probably feel differently in a few days… after doing this ten or twenty times, I'm sure I'll be singing a different tune. I don't feel at liberty to share many of the details of the case on the blog… we're just presenting and very well may not make it beyond the mailing of our profile. But I will share this: baby is due SOON, like so soon my mind is both blown by amazement and terrified by the ten thousand lists I was supposed to get to make and check off before a baby ever crossed the threshold of my home.

I guess that's really the take away here… I've felt in control of this whole adoption thing. Thus far, it moved at my pace (for the most part); if I don't turn in paperwork we stall, but if I bust my butt we move forward. I'm in control of when and how often we're presented. I have final say, or so it felt... until now. It's all an illusion friends… this thing is so far out of my control. In my head, I know this is probably a one in a million shot. I have no idea how many other prospective adoptive parents we're up against, but my guess would be thirty... so a one in thirty chance of even being chosen. My head knows not to get too excited because this could be a long road of putting ourselves out there over and over and over again. My heart on the other hand, is a whimsical, sorry creature that simply will. not. learn. no matter how many times it is crushed and smooshed like a bug. If I had to describe my feelings right now, it would most closely align to the first IUI. That first IUI felt SO HUGE. I remember feeling like THIS COULD BE IT while waiting for the nurse to call us back. And then six minutes later I had been inseminated and it was over, please and thank you. But ohhhh the hope. My head knows not to get too excited, to reign the emotions in, to protect the heart, but truth be told, I feel like I just overnighted my heart in a little envelope.

And so it begins, my friends, and so it begins.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It's Rearely Ever Cheap

The month of November is Adoption Awareness. I always try to do my part during National Infertility Awareness Week, and as adoption has become a BIG part of our lives recently, I wanted to do my part and spread awareness for adoption too. My goal I guess is twofold. First, there are obviously many of my readers who are struggling with infertility and adoption is a family building choice. I'll never be the one to push adoption on anyone, as I think it's a very personal decision for each couple. But I do want everyone to know and understand more about adoption in case that becomes a potential family building option for any of my friends. The second goal is to spread general awareness to those outside of the infertility community. I think friends and family of infertile couples are typically well meaning and simply trying to help when they offer adoption as a solution to infertility. Again, it's my opinion that how any couple deals with infertility is entirely up to them. There have been LOTS of occasions over the last few years in which I would have chosen a different path forward than my friends, and they can probably say the same about me... any decision on how to deal with infertility is really, really personal. That being said, I hope I can open some eyes to why more couples aren't diving into adoption as soon as they hear the diagnosis. I don't want to scare anyone away from adoption... we think it's GREAT and we're really, really excited about our opportunity. I'm  also not looking for sympathy. We chose this path with eyes wide open to all of this stuff AND we feel blessed to even have this option. However, it's still good to look at the facts, and so far we've found that adoption is not that simple, it's never easy, and as we'll see today, it's rarely ever cheap.

Cheap is a relative term in the adoption world. Cheap is under $10,000, and I'm pretty sure few if any of us would call anything costing $10,000 cheap. That's uhh, approximately twice what my car is worth. That's more than both of of our vehicles combined. $10,000 is still a lot of money. Now of course there are certainly some adoption scenarios that are much less than $10,000. Do you remember our simplest adoption scenario from the first post in which the birth mother was put in touch with an adoptive couple simply by friends, family, or other contacts? Well like most things in life, the simplest is also often the cheapest. In this scenario, the adoptive parents pay attorney fees, and those fees can really run the gamut. You obviously want a good attorney who knows adoption laws and can get your paperwork processed correctly, but you also aren't necessarily interested in financing someone's new Bentley, right? Our consultant said she's got a few attorney contacts who she refers clients to in these situations who regularly charge $2,000 or less. If you have no travel fees, then the additional expenses would be for things like the home study. Definitely much cheaper. And of course foster to adopt or adoptions through the state are often free, the state covers any expenses. So yes, cheaper adoptions can happen.

But think for a minute: how often in your circles do you hear of women who want to place a child for adoption? It has literally never happened to me. Even if you spread the word and have friends and family passing along your info, how many scenarios do you think you'll find? That's where agencies and attorneys come in. They serves as the middle man to unite the birth mothers with potential adoptive parents, and vice versa. But as most things in life, the more people you add to a project, the more the price goes up. Now you're not only paying for an attorney to complete the adoption paperwork, but you're also paying the attorney or agency for things like finding the birth mother (advertisement fees), working with the birth mother during the pregnancy (often called agency or adoption fees), etc.

In some scenarios the adoptions are basically a flat fee. This is often the scenario for charitable organizations who can subsidize the actual costs of adoption with money raised from fundraisers and donors. For example, Bethany Christian Services claims that they work to cover 40% of the actual cost of an adoption, so that the adopting family pays only 60%... 60% is still a lot, but it's better than 100%, right? In other situations, it's more of a pay for what you get type of system. If your agency or attorney has to do more than the average amount of work to locate a birth father and get him to sign, you're going to pay additional fees. But, the reverse is true too. If your situation is pretty simple, then your fees will (hopefully reflect that). Adoptive Families' website claims the average cost for an adoption through an agency is $33,793 and through an attorney is $31,465. I'll mostly agree with those numbers as we've seen cases as low $27,000 and as high as $49,000.

Here's an example of fees, just so you can get an idea of how these giant totals come together:
Adoption Agency Fee: $8,500
Adoptive Parent Attorney: $7,500
Birth Mother Attorney: $2,500
Birth Father Attorney: $750*
Guardian ad Litem for Child: $750
Notice to Putative Father Publication: $300
Social/Medical History Intake: $300
District Court: $300
Counseling: $500*
Birth Mother Expenses: $7,950
  • Rent- [($550 x 5 months) + $500 deposit]- $3,250
  • Utilities- ($100 x 5 months)- $500
  • Cable/Phone Service- ($100 x 5 months)- $500
  • Groceries- ($75 x 25 weeks)- $2,750
  • Transportation- ($50 x 5 months)- $250
  • Clothing- $500
  • Miscellaneous- $200
Total: $29,350 (fees marked with asterisk on as needed basis) 
I'm not going to lie people, the cost of adoption is frustrating. If you remember I shared a statistic that said that 33% of people think about adoption, but only 2% actually adopt. Well, the study goes on to say that 79% of those who think about adoption are concerned about the cost and list finances as a major hurdle. If the difficult hurdles don't scare them away, the cost almost certainly will. And that's sad, there's no doubt about it. Believe me, I want to revolutionize the system, find ways of lowering the costs while still using ethical practices and ensuring that all parties get fair wages. But guys, I feel the same way about healthcare in the US. I want to find ways to lower the insane costs of healthcare and insurance while still ensuring that doctors actually have incentive to go to and through med school and residency and fellowships. I feel similarly about higher education. I want to find ways to lower the cost of higher education in this country so that young graduates aren't paralyzed by student loans that they have little to no hope of repaying. I want a lot of things, and lower adoption costs is just one of them. But just as I felt compelled to sign on the dotted line for student loans at the age of 18, I feel similarly stuck within the adoption world. It's a many pronged seesaw, I tell you. You want your adoption to be ethical, but also cheap, but also fast. Tip to far to the "cheap" range with one agency or attorney, and you've got to start looking at the ethics. Similarly, anyone promising a fast track to an adoption, especially in the international world, is probably practicing unethical practices.

So is the longest or most expensive route the most ethical? Maybe the longest, but certainly not the most expensive. Sam and I receive a small breakdown of the fees for each adoption scenario, and honestly this is the very first thing I look at. And it's not just the bottom line (though that's important too) but if we see really exorbitant numbers in the breakdown, I'm either saying no immediately or asking for clarification before we ever request that our profile gets sent. While we fully believe that all parties involved in the adoption process deserve to get paid for their services, we're also not interested in single-handedly funding their kids' college fund, you know?

For a lot of couples the price tag is a giant, flashing stop sign. And I get that. It was for us for a long time. At every single junction in the infertility treatment journey, assisted reproductive technology proved the cheaper option for us. And you've all heard me whine for a quite a few years now about the cost of infertility treatments, so you know those aren't cheap either. It's hard to chose the more expensive option. Even for us, a couple who was for adoption, who intended to adopt one day, even for us it was hard. Think about it like this: IVF is, let's use a nice round number, $15,000. Everyone hopes that the $15,000 will yield baby number one and brother or sister on ice. Adoption is, let's average it out and say $30,000. That's for one baby, no future siblings in that deal. When you're looking at building every. single. piece of your family at a substantial price tag, you start to look at the price tag a little more closely. Buy one, get one starts to look better and better... I'm just being honest here, folks. So yes, adoption is beautiful. Yes, adoption is a very valid choice. Yes, adoption is worth the money. Adoption is all of those things, but it's often not the cheapest family building choice, so it's easy to see why many infertile couples choose to toss the dice with infertility treatments rather than change gears and switch into an entirely different world that's neither simple, nor easy, nor cheap.

Thanks for diving in with me everyone. I hope this little series helped to answer at least one of your questions about adoption. I know I've been neck deep in the adoption world for a few months now and I still have tons of questions. It really is a whole new world and I'm still learning something new everyday.

Friday, November 7, 2014

It's Never Easy

November is Adoption Awareness month and as such I'm using the blog to shine a light on some topics in adoption that we all have questions about. Last time I discussed just a very, very few of the reasons that adoption isn't simple. We all want adoption to be simple, and in its most basic principle it is: a family wants and has the means to care for a child. A child needs a loving, forever family. Move the two together and you should have instant happiness. But like most things in the world, it's just not that simple. There are SO many things that complicate the situation, things that many of us are unaware of, so I hope the first post helped to open our eyes to what can make adoption anything but simple.

Adoption is also not easy. The process of adoption is certainly not easy; I can attest to that. But I think many of my friends who are adoptive parents would also say that the after is hard too. Everything doesn't magically become easy the moment the judge bangs the gavel and declares the child forever yours.... the hard stuff continues. If you think about it from a Biblical perspective, Jesus instructs us to look after and care for widows and orphans... it wouldn't be a command if it was easy and natural. A recent study said that around 33% of Americans think about or consider adoption at some point... less than 2%  actually adopt. That's obviously a very small percentage, so what happens to the other 31%? Why do they stop at just thinking? Many families that are interested in adoption turn away, and many are scared away because of the difficult process. So let's take a look at what about adopting and adoption is hard.

Adoption is always about brokenness and loss. Every day something reminds me of this truth again and again. A child who was once the oldest is now the middle child. The family birth order is broken. A child who once spoke the same language as everyone around him suddenly finds himself in a new town with people who look and sound nothing like him and no one speaks his language. The child experiences loss of everyone and everywhere he knew. When a child leaves a broken home where one or both of his parents have died or are unable to parent her, she is placed into a new home where everyone and everything is different and they call it family. Gah... that's crazy hard. Even infants experience loss. There's been a push for additional research lately into maternal separation and how the initial loss of the one person the child innately recognizes by sound and smell affects the child going forward. In the earliest moments of life, that baby knows loss. That's tough to even comprehend.  And parenting kids who have experiences with brokenness and loss is hard. If you want to read an often hilarious and witty post about parenting internationally adopted children after the airport, read this post from Jen Hatmaker's blog. Or better yet, look around you, find an adoptive mama, and ask her what is hard for her right now... I bet it boils down to brokenness and loss. Every single adoption scenario is surrounded by the theme of brokenness and loss, and that is anything but easy.

Adoptions fail. Ughh. I kind of want to vomit just typing that sentence. It's true and we all know it, but that doesn't make it less terrifying. In fact, for adoptive or potential adoptive parents, it makes it more. Studies suggest that, historically, anywhere between 10 and 25 percent of adoptions "disrupt" which specifically covers scenarios in which a child is placed with a family and then is removed prior to the finalization of the adoption. This does not include adoptions in which the birth mother changes her mind and chooses to parent prior to the placement of the child. To bring it a little closer to home, our consultant shared that she's seen about 10% of matches that occur in the last 12 weeks of pregnancy fail. That's not east to swallow and it's certainly not easy to prepare for.

Adoptions are always analyzed. Always. And anytime problems arise, the solution is a new policy or law. Those policies or laws complicate the process. They are not necessarily or inherently bad, in fact, when you think about it, most are good, or at least started with good intentions, but few if any are in place to make adoption easier. Let's look at an example: ICPC also known as the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children is a law in the US within all fifty states that requires both the state where the child is born and the state where the adoptive parents are returning to give approval before the child is moved. At first glance that sounds dumb. "It's my baby and I can go wherever I want with it," right? No one polices the movements of families after they leave the hospital if they gave birth to the child. But prior to the creation of this law, if a family left one state and entered another, they simply fell off the radar. The sending state felt it was no longer its responsibility to follow up and the receiving state had no knowledge that a family had crossed state lines with an adopted child. ICPC makes the two states communicate for the safety of the child. I would venture to say that we want ICPC and most other laws and policies to exist in order to protect our children, but those laws and policies rarely make it easier to adopt and often make it more expensive. Continuing with the ICPC example, Sam and I will most likely adopt from out of state (statistically speaking there are more scenarios outside of Georgia than within) but that will require an extended stay in another state, typically anywhere from 10 to 14 days. The policies and laws certainly don't make things easy.

Adoption is slow. And waiting is hard. Can I get an amen? My infertile sisters know this first hand. Waiting is hard. You can consider yourself a patient person, but when months turn into years, everyone's patience begins to run out. Lifeline Children's Services provides an estimated timeline for their international programs, ranging from twelve months to eight years depending on the country and the specifications for the child. Nightlight Christian Adoptions suggests that an average wait for a domestic infant adoption is one to two years. Years people. Adoptions often take years. And that's hard for anyone.

While you wait, things can change. This typically affects international adoption, but it happens in domestic adoption too. Policies are constantly being put into affect and cancelled. Everyone heard about it when Vladimir Putin, Russia's President, signed a bill closing Russian adoption to the US. You may not have heard about the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since September of 2013, the DRC will not grant the children exit visas, so there are currently hundreds of children who have been legally adopted, yet cannot leave the country and join their new families. If you're looking closer to home, policies and bills are constantly put forth within a state or nationally that can affect the adoption process. Take for example the Adoption Tax Credit, in the years 2010 and 2011 it was a refundable credit. However if your adoption became delayed and finalized in 2012, the credit was no longer refundable. When things change, our expectations are often unmet, and that is never easy.

Adoption is not easy. I think that most of us agree about that. In fact, I think fear is what drives many people from considering adoption. On one hand that makes me sad, but on the other, I think a healthy fear of a situation is often good. Painting a situation to be something it's not will never help anyone. Everyone needs to know what they are stepping into before they get there. However, I'll add this: adoption isn't easy, but I truly believe it's worth it. Ask Erika how she feels right now, actually don't worry about it, she already wrote it earlier this week: She writes, "I'm constantly overwhelmed by how incredibly worth it she is. Every negative pregnancy test, every pillow sopping wet with tears, every prayer that felt unanswered, every miserable Mother's Day, every dollar wasted on doctors and surgeries, every tear, every tear, every tear. Every tear was worth it."

Whether you're thinking about adoption because of struggles with infertility or because you have a heart for orphans or because you'd like to add to your family, you probably know it's not going to be easy. We all hope we're the lucky ones that magically get a push through the bureaucracy, we want to be the ones who get fast tracked to the front of the lines, but all too often adoption stories aren't about that. They are about years of waiting, they are about failed adoptions, they are about sad situations of abuse or corruption. We hope our situation will be different, somehow easier than the one we heard about last moth, but ultimately we know adoption is hard. I have about 15 friends who have adopted and I'd put money that even on their worst day, they'd say the road to adoption and the journey after is certainly not easy, bit it is all worth it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It's Not That Simple

November is Adoption Awareness month. I thought I was aware. I thought I understood. I mean what's so hard to understand? Internationally there are an estimated 153 million orphans. Domestically, there are birth families that are unwilling or unable to care for their children. Those two things combined means we have a lot of children in the world who need parents. I thought I understood. It seems so simple: just move the children around the world from the orphanages, state homes, and foster homes into permanent, loving, forever families. It's not a hard concept, but it's not that simple.

Let me be the first to tell you, nothing about adoption is simple... not one thing. It seems like it should be, but it's not. It's why so many well-meaning people offer adoption as an end to the pain of infertility. "Have you thought about adoption?" they ask, as if thinking about adoption for half a second gets you from point A to point B in a snap. Often times it seems so simple for these people: there are children who need families. You have a family and need a child. Unite the two and, voilĂ ... you kill two birds with one stone, right? Let me tell you, I've thought about adoption. I've thought and I've thought. I've read and then I've read some more. It's no clearer today than yesterday or last year; in fact, the more I learn, the more murky the entire topic becomes.

The one thing you'll learn quickly about adoption is this: things aren't always as they appear. Set even one tiny toe into the adoption and foster care world and you'll learn really quickly that there are two (or more), typically very good arguments, for every single facet. In light of the recent election, think of it like Democrats and Republicans... both say that they are for the US government. Neither party runs on platforms purporting to ruin or overthrow the government. Both groups want to help the US citizens, but if you talk to an extreme leftist about the right, holy moly, right? And it's exactly the same with the other side. It's kind of similar in the adoption world. On every topic, you've got opposing view points. Neither group is hoping for anything but the best for all children in need of loving homes, but they often have very different views about what that means, how to achieve it, etc.

Now please, don't for one second think we're not moving forward with adoption. We are plowing through and pushing forward, while also holding onto everything as loosely as possible. We want a baby and it is our complete desire to adopt a baby, but that doesn't make it is simple or easy or cheap. And that's frustrating. So lets take a moment and look into why adoption is not any of those things.

Adoption is not simple. It's not, not at all. I would say the easiest adoption scenario imaginable would be this: A family is looking to adopt. They get in touch with a woman who is looking to put her child up for adoption due to financial or educational reasons. The birth father is in the picture, but also uninterested in parenting. Both biological parents sign. There is no drug or alcohol use. All parties are of the same race. Oh and, the birth mother requests no aid of any kind during or after the adoption... that would be the easiest, simplest adoption. Why? Well, any time any one of those things changes, you've got a entire group with very strong opinions about what should be done in that scenario.

How about a few examples?

Example 1: The birth mother is willing, but the birth father is not, or at least not willing to sign. This is mostly a domestic adoption issue, but it's a common one and the scenario is different every time. A lot depends on the birth mother's state. Which is weird... in one state birth dad has no rights and in another the adoption can't go forward without his signature. Some states require males to list sexual partners on a registry in case they are ever listed as a birth father. Some states care only about financial contribution during the pregnancy. There are different rules for every scenario and just as many opinions on what rights a birth father should or should not have... and lets be clear: no one set of rules will work for every scenario. Sometimes the biological father is unknown, sometimes the biological father is missing, sometimes the biological father is refusing to sign because he would like to parent, sometimes he is refusing our of malice (a she hurt him, now he'll hurt her scenario)... the list goes on and on. It is anything but simple.

Example 2: Lets say one or two parties involved is of a different race. There are wildly different opinions on this topic, and I'm not even getting in to all of that here any more than to say this: Racism is real and still prevalent in our world. It is universal in the US and abroad. We think of racism as black and white here in the US, and that is obviously still a huge part of it, but racism exists in hundreds of other scenarios too. And parties on both sides of the disputes recognize that racism still exists to some degree or another, but they have very different opinions about how adoption plays into that. Some would say take the neediest child, and if that child is of a different race, then so be it. He/she has a need and now it's met by loving parents who just happen to be of a different race. Others would say if your dining room table of friends and family isn't as diverse as your child, you have no business adopting a child of a different race. Those two statements probably offended a whole slew of people... believe me, somehow both offend me at different times. My point isn't to argue, but just to say this: any time you add race into the picture it becomes messy, even if by "adding race" you're excluding race. Some will call you racist for choosing not to bring an African American baby or a baby from China into your family, while others will applaud you for not subjecting a child to a life with people who do not look similar, share history, understand the culture. Race and racism makes adoption the opposite of simple.

Example 3: The birth mother has financial need. This issue varies wildly based on whether it's an international or domestic adoption. In an international situation, you may wonder why there is a birth mother at all... aren't we talking about orphans after all? Well, remember things aren't always as they appear. The Christian Alliance for Orphans suggests that while 153 million children are considered orphans by UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund) 17.8 million of those are what we call "double orphans" meaning both parents are deceased. In 101 million of those 153 million children's lives, there is a living mother who for various reasons, is unable or unwilling to provide for her child, and so the child ends up in orphanage or state home. So you see, the issue of birth mother expenses is very real in both domestic and international adoptions. "What's the problem?" you might ask? Let's look at both independently.

In domestic US adoptions, once again, every state has different rules and regulations. Some states offer a list of services or items that can and cannot be purchased or given to a birth mother. So money for counseling is okay, but a car is not. In some states, there is a cap on the amount. For example, Florida says that no more than $5,000 worth of goods can be given to a birth mom... except when there is exceptional need at which point the agency or attorney can petition the court for a larger allowance. Some of you may think these numbers are outrageous and some think it should be more... once again, the issues divide us even if we all want the same things. There are certainly ethical issues involved here making this murky territory. Where is the line drawn between a need and a bribe, and is that line even a permanent thing? What one birth mother may legitimately need, may look like a bribe when given to another birth mother. It's hard. No one is suggesting that babies should become a commodity that is bought and sold. No one is a proponent of offering so much incentive that women become pregnant just to get an apartment for six months, healthcare, food or clothes. But no one wants to force pregnant women out on the street either. It's all just hard. Really, really hard stuff. It's definitely not simple.

International is similarly difficult, but for different reasons. In many of the countries participating in international adoption, there is little or no government regulation... corruption is possible at every turn. And that's not to say that the countries with lots of government oversight don't involve just as much corruption. No one wants to go through international adoption only to learn that a birth mother placed her child for adoption out of monetary incentive, but it happens. And tracking when and how often and why it happens is really hard. Some people are quick to say shut such countries down, they are selling babies. I'll offer you a hypothetical situation to drive the point home:
A birth mother, living on the streets has three children and her daughter has no means of helping the family other than the sex trade industry. She wants a better life for the daughter and she and all of her children are starving, so she approaches a state home and says she'd like to relinquish her daughter. The worker looks on the mother with pity, decides to take the daughter even though she has a living parent, and because the mother is obviously struggling slips the mother $500 for food and a means to get her other children off the street temporarily. 
Is this bribery? Should the mother have been forced to leave and directed towards aid that helps her keep all members of her family? Should the daughter have been accepted, and no money or aid offered to the mother? Or is it okay to offer the starving, homeless mother aid as she was going to place her daughter for adoption anyway? These scenarios are never simple.

This blog has never shied away from the hard topics, and these issues and deep thoughts have been swirling around in my head for years, but obviously even more so now. So in light of November's spotlight on adoption, I'm diving in. I hope you'll dive with me. I did a similar series last year on fertility treatments, the ethical and faith based concerns, and why it's often not as simple as it appears. As you can see these topics on adoption are hard, and murky in similar ways and it makes for loooooong reads. So I'm breaking this into a few different posts that I'll put up throughout November. My hope is not to scare anyone away from adoption... the Lord knows it's scary enough without adding to the fear factor. My goal is simply to educate and shine a light on adoption and the issues surrounding it. My hope is that everyone would become more aware of adoption... more aware of the options, yes, but also more aware of the hard questions that we all want answers to like, "why does adoption take so long?" and "why is adoption so expensive?". So dive in with me. Even if you know for a fact that adoption isn't in the cards for your family, you may know someone who is going through adoption or you may simply find that you care for orphans and adopted children and want to help in other ways.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Holidays are Here Again

It's November. I think people say this every year, and it's proably a sign of age, but really, this year has gone by SO fast. In a lot of ways last November feels like only a few weeks ago. Sometimes I have to remind myself that we actually already did IVF; I somehow forget we're not waiting for it to finally get her. I know we've done a lot this year: IVF in January, FET in March, bought a house in May, started the adoption process in September... maybe that's why this year has gone by particularly fast. I don't know why exactly, but waking up on Saturday, November 1st was depressing. I'm not ready for another holiday season.

For a lot of infertile couples, Halloween is hard. There are SO many pictures of cute kids all over Facebook and Instagram. The commercials on TV are all about candy, costumes, and fun family stuff. And then the actual day of Halloween arrives and you have to smile while handing out candy to everyone else's kid. For one reason or another Halloween never really gets me down though, and this year was no different. I'm not sure if that's because Halloween was the least celebrated holiday in my family growing up. Or maybe because I don't hand out candy but rather opt to hide in the house with a frantic dog with a bucket of candy on the porch. Or maybe it's because everyone kept posting these hilarious photos of their kids having meltdowns in their costumes. But for whatever reason, I wasn't sad, or weepy, or whiny on Friday. Well, except for the fact that it was 60 degrees in my house... wahhhhh! Sam and I quietly worked on our puzzle for the adoption fundraiser while singing loudly every time we heard kids in our pathetic attempt to distract Sterling. It was a pleasant (cold) evening and I was fine.

Saturday morning however, I looked at my phone and saw the date. How is it November, already? And then I was suddenly sad. It's the holiday season again, and once again we will celebrate sans children. That pretty much feels like a sucker punch straight to the gut. Especially in light of the fact that even with infertility factored into the equation, I should have a two and a half year old and a new baby to celebrate the holidays with. I can honestly say I'm looking forward to the holidays the least amount I ever have before, and for someone who LOVES Christmas, that's quite a change.

Even though I swore I'd never do Christmas with all of the family again after Christmas 2012, we powered through last year because: IVF, and hope, and all those warm feelings made me semi numb to the holiday season. In November we were frantically dotting the Is and crossing the Ts for our trip to Jacksonville. In December, I was packing and double checking all of my medications and worrying about keeping everything at the optimal temperature. There was just a lot of stuff to take my mind off of all the holiday stuff. This year however, I'm expecting that we'll enter the waiting period right around the Thanksgiving holidays. The home study will be over, the profile books will be ordered (and hopefully mailed)... we'll just be waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

I honestly don't know if I have it in me to do this again. To smile. To laugh. To sit quietly while 20 kids run though the house. To pretend I'm not in pain. There is a huge part of me that simply wants to run away for the holidays. I want to find some cabin in the woods and settle in with my husband and enjoy the holiday the only way I know how (alone). Or as it appears we've already skipped Fall in Georgia and gone straight to winter, maybe a nice tropical vacation. I hear Jamaica is nice this time of year. But let's get real, that's not going to happen. We're saving for a freaking adoption, not long weekends in the mountains or island vacations. The only free holiday is at my mom's, so that's where we'll be. It's time to man up, put on the big girl panties, and find things that I still enjoy about the holidays. Now is not forever... I just need to keep reminding myself over and over and over again.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

This Community

Every single day I am thankful for this community. I have no idea how anyone lives through infertility alone... simply can't imagine. This community of women from different cities, different states, different countries, all come together to support one another during the hardest years of our lives. It's a really beautiful thing. No matter where you are in the journey, you can find someone to walk alongside you. If you're pursuing an egg donor, you're in good company. If you're on your third round of IVF, you're not alone. If your choosing to forgo treatments in hope of a miracle or because you're choosing to live child free, you are guaranteed to find someone who feels just like you. This community is absolutely, hands down, the best part about infertility.

I'm so thankful every day for the connections, the friendships, the stories. When days are good, it's wonderful to have a group of people cheering for you, supporting you, and encouraging you. When things go terribly wrong, this community becomes vital in the blink of an eye. When the rest of the world doesn't know what to do or what to say, our sisters do. We know how to rally. We know how to love. I'm thankful everyday for this blog, that by some small miracle led me to each of you. I don't take that for granted in anyway. Infertility has affected every single part of my life, and most of the time those effects feel negative, but the one thing I can say without a doubt is this: the friendships I've formed here are so positive. These friendships are life breathing in some of the darkest of days. I'm so thankful for the infertility community and all that it brings every day, but today I am particularly thankful.

In case you haven't heard, Jessah's egg donor is Suzanne's gestational carrier... how crazy awesome it that?!? When you hear the stories, you've simply got to stop and say wow. The fact that two blogs from two women on opposite ends of the country walking different journeys ended up at the same clinic on the same day for very different procedures and that somehow that led us to today is mind blowing!

I remember when Jessah first posted about finding her donor, I sobbed, What an incredible gift! What a beautiful opportunity! What a selfless woman, K must be to offer the gift of her eggs! I was so happy for her. But around the same time, everything was falling apart for Suzanne. After the wildest, longest, hardest journey to the transfer, her FET using donor eggs failed. Life isn't supposed to be that hard, people. Suzanne and I discussed surrogacy. And we discussed the cost... and I almost vomited. Renting uterus space and time is expensive. I wanted so badly to find a solution for Suzanne and her husband, but wanting to solve a problem doesn't make you a ready made solution. But then, because of this community, because of the connections we form, because of that one meeting in Colorado, because of the generosity of one woman, Suzanne suddenly had a possible match.

It's been a very long road to today, and there is more road to travel for both of these ladies. Jessah's about half way through her pregnancy and Suzanne is still setting up and finalizing the details for her transfer. But you guys, if these stories don't give you goosebumps and a BIG goofy grin on your face, I don't know what will. Jessah explains in her post that it was meeting Suzanne and hearing her speak about egg donation that gave her and her husband the courage and desire to move forward with egg donation when her cycles at CCRM failed... that in and of itself is a beautiful testimony to this community. Our stories help each other. Our experiences help our friends. When you add in Suzanne's part to the story and you learn how she found K... wow! You guys, this place is so special.

My heart is simply bursting with happiness! Suzanne and her husband signed the contract with K and her husband over the weekend. It's real people! It's going to happen. Two of the longest, hardest journey's among us are going to end well, and not just well, but beautifully! This community just makes me so happy and so thankful! This is a beautiful place made up of beautiful people!