Tuesday, December 24, 2013

We wish you a Merry Christmas!

Enjoying the holiday decorations at Disneyland
Christmas is almost here and it's time for another update. The last month has been very busy in many ways, but quiet as far as our adoption plans so there's not much to say about that. We're still waiting and looking forward to what 2014 may have in store for us. 

While it's not easy to continue to wait for a child to be placed in our home, we've made a choice to enjoy everything we can this holiday season. It's not always easy since we had hoped we be parents right now, but the joys of the season have won out. Despite Mitch's unusually busy work schedule this year, we've found time to decorate our tree and use our Disneyland passes to appreciate the holiday versions of the Haunted Mansion and It's a Small World. Disney does a great job with their decorations and we love going to see all the lights and fun holiday stuff.

We also had a bit of an adventure right after our last update. Susan usually takes beading classes at Brea Bead Works, which is not too far from where we live. It's rare that she takes classes elsewhere, but at the end of November she saw a beaded icicle class offered in San Diego. It seemed like a perfect class since Susan loves icicles and had recently learned the stitch used to create the icicle. The class was on the last weekend day that Mitch had off before the holiday chaos at work, so we headed down to Bead Gallery where the class was held. It was fun trip down there and Susan thoroughly enjoyed trying a class in a new setting. The project was an icicle made up of beads spiral stitched together and we think it came out really well. It's a nice addition to our Christmas tree.

Beaded icicle by Susan

The San Diego trip was so much fun that Mitch ended up going a second time. Susan had meant to purchase a cute pair of Christmas tree earrings at the store while we were there together, but we were on our way to another event after the class and she had forgotten to pick it up. We thought about having the store send the item to us, but Mitch decided he'd rather go in person so he headed back there for a special errand on weekday off. It was just the kind of really sweet thing he does sometimes. 

Appreciating the joys of the holiday season makes us happy. We are very fortunate after all. Of course we'd love the chance to become parents and have a family of our own, but life is good to us and we're lucky there are so many joys in our lives. We hope the holiday season finds you well wherever you are. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

2013 Adoption Bloggers Interview Project

This year has been a challenging year for us and we had been finding it very difficult to write for our blog. So when the 2013 Adoption Bloggers Interview Project came up in October, my first thought was no way. It might be good to read everyone's interviews, but what would I say? After all, we only had 2 posts for the whole year at that point. I wondered if our blog could even be part of the project since it was so sparse. Then my interview partner from last year asked me about it and encouraged me. So I reconsidered and signed up. And I'm glad I did. Not only did I get to meet someone new, but I also got back into writing for our blog.

This year I was paired with Cassandra Sines, mother of 3 adopted children with special needs. Her youngest is 3 years old and her oldest is 11. She started blogging about her experiences several years ago before she adopted her 3rd child. Her blog includes her journey to adopt her youngest son as well as the challenges, triumphs, disappointments, and joys she's experienced throughout her children's many tests, diagnoses, and treatments. The name of Cassandra's blog is Life with Three Special Needs Children


1. You've been blogging for a long time (since 2008). What prompted you to start your blog? What keeps you motivated to continue writing through the years and the many challenges your family has faced?

I started blogging as a way to write out my feelings with respect to as to what we were going through our children at the time, but also wanted to share with others what we were going through with hopes that it would help them if they were in similar situations. I really feel that God blessed Tony and I with special needs children for the purpose of sharing our struggle with other families to help them.

2. It must often be difficult to find time to write for your blog with all that do you for your family. Is there a particular time of day that works best for you to write? Any suggestions for making time to write?

Yes, it is difficult to find time to write. Usually when I do have something I want to write, I generally do it after the kids go to bed. I really do not have any specific suggestions about making time to write, as I haven’t really been putting the time into my blog that I would like. The last few years have been very chaotic and stressful for our family and it seems that there is not a lot of time to do a lot of things that that I want to do.

3. I noticed you began to review books on your blog a couple of years of ago. What inspired you to start reviewing books? Are there any books you'd really like to review, but haven't gotten the chance?

I started reviewing books to make myself find the time to read. Having three kids with special needs there isn’t a lot of time for “me” time. A lot of people kept stressing to me that I needed to find time for me. I really enjoy reading and had missed it. I had other friends that did reviews and figured that if I had “deadlines” that would force me to read I would be taking some time for me as well as adding content to my blog at the same time. I can’t say that there is anything that I have not had a chance to read that I haven’t because I am pretty selective as to what I review, based on the type of book and also based on the timing of when the review needs to be written and what is going on in our family at the time.

4. Knowing all that you know now, what would you go back and tell yourself when you were first learning that your oldest child had special needs? Do you have any advice for other parents first learning that their child has special needs?

Stay strong!!! And rely on God as He is not going to give me more than I can handle. I would also make sure I always find a way to take more time for me and make sure to take care of myself! I have always put everything I have into making sure my children’s needs were met, that I have not always taken care of myself. The one thing that I have realized just recently is that I cannot take care of my children effectively if I am not taking care of myself.

The only other advice I would have to give to any other parents who are learning of a special needs diagnosis, keep your marriage a priority!

5. You mention several times in your blog how much you hate waiting, and yet you've had to wait lots of times for various reasons over the years. There was the wait before matching with your older son's birthmother, waiting to finalize the adoption for your younger son, and of course lots of waiting for doctor's appointments and test results over the years. How do you manage all this waiting, what keeps you going?

Yes, I am not a very patient waiter. However, waiting is a necessary evil. What has kept me going is my faith in God and knowing that He has a purpose in the waiting and He is working things out for His good and perfect purpose. (Even if the answer is not what I want it to be!) But I also keep going because there is no other option. I cannot give up because ultimately I have to keep going for my kids and keep fighting for them to receive all the help that they essentially need.

6. I noticed that animals come up several times in your blog. There was an early post about a service dog for your older son and then there were posts about hippotherapy (therapy aided by a horse) for both of your sons. Where did you first learn about hippotherapy? Do animals continue to play a role in your children's lives?

I learned about hippotherapy through a support group at our church that my husband and I lead at our church. One of the members of our church contacted me to tell me about her hippotherapy organization that she runs at her home and came and shared at one of our meetings. My oldest started attending at the next session she offered. Then my youngest, when he was old enough (when he turned 2), he started attending and has been attending ever since. My youngest just completed his fourth session and is doing FABULOUS! It is amazing to watch him interact with the horse and how much more effective the occupational therapy he receives while on the horse is. Most of the time he doesn’t even realize that he is at therapy!!!! 

7. Parents' Hope Network was mentioned in one of your posts and I gather it's a project you were starting with your husband to help other families with special needs children. Have you continued this project and if so, could you tell us more about it?

Yes, Parents’ Hope Network is something my husband and I have started to help families with special needs children. One thing that we had a hard time finding was resources when our children were first diagnosed and we do not want other families to have that same difficulty. It is our desire to use this organization as a clearinghouse of resource information so that parents have a one-stop shop of information. However, with the difficulties we have had lately with our daughter, this endeavor has had to be placed on the backburner. We are hoping that things are able to get rolling again soon.

8. We know from your blog that you are devoted to your family and that you love cooking and reading. What other interests do you have? Would you ever blog about them?

Those are really my main interests. I would really love to volunteer either with a hospital or with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), which works with foster children. Just right now I do not have the time to be able to do that.

9. You and your husband used 2 different methods for adopting your 3 children, working with a private agency for the first and the foster care system for the second and third. What surprised you the most about each path?

What surprised me the most was how much easier adopting from foster care was. I’m not sure if it was because we had adopted previously and they were able to use our home study from our first adoption and just update it for our second, or if we knew what to expect, but adopting from the state foster care system seemed much easier and lot less stressful the first time. Our youngest’s adoption was a little more stressful, only because we had fostered him and there was a slight hiccup. Once we were able to overcome the hiccup, it was smooth sailing and we were able to finalize after the normal waiting and paperwork shuffle!

10. Are there any other blogs, websites, or resources you've found particularly helpful along your journey and would recommend to other families looking to adopt or families with children that have special needs?

When we first started our adoption process, blogs weren’t really active, it was more forums where I found most of my information. I used adoption.com mostly for support. After my two oldest were diagnosed, I spent a lot of time at the Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation’s (now Balanced Mind Foundation) website, where they also have online support groups, one group which is specifically for adoptive families.


If you're interested in the questions I was asked and my answers, then check out Cassandra's interview of me here

And now for some thank you's. The first thank you goes to Cassandra for participating as my partner for this year's project. I know she has a lot going on her in life with her 3 children and I'm grateful she found the time to participate as my partner for this project. It was good to have met her online and I appreciate hearing her perspective on adoption. 

A huge thank you goes to Heather Schade who once again organized over 100 bloggers into pairs for our interviews and kept us on track. This year had an extra layer of complexity in that participants were divided into 3 groups. The first two groups posted interviews on November 12th and November 19th. Cassandra and I are part of the last group posting today, November 26th

And I'd like to thank Melinda, my interview partner from last year's project. We've kept in touch since then and she's made waiting to adopt and blogging about it much easier to bear. I'm glad to know her and very much appreciate her encouraging me to participate in the project this year. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Opa! Celebrating family and love!

This has been a month filled with fun times, family get-togethers and a couple of anniversaries, and we haven’t even gotten to Thanksgiving yet! 

The first of those fun times was Halloween. Mitch had to work that evening, but Susan was able to visit with our cousin Beth and her three sons. While the twins were a little young to fully appreciate trick-or-treating, their big brother enjoyed going door to door, and Susan really liked being able to spend time with all of them on that special night. Hopefully next year, we’ll have our own little pumpkin to dress up with!

A few days later we celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary. Instead of going away for a few days, like we did last year, we decided to celebrate at our local happiest place on earth, and made a day of it at Disneyland. We didn’t get soaked on Grizzly River this time, but we did speed down the roads of Radiator Springs in Cars Land and then enjoyed a couple of mint juleps in New Orleans Square. This fun day was topped off with a visit to our favorite Indian restaurant for a romantic dinner for two. 

Susan received her partner assignment for this year’s Open Adoption Blogger Interview Project, and spent some time reading her partner’s blog and coming up with a list of questions for her. We will have that interview here in just a few days, so keep an eye out for it!

Last weekend, we had the chance to get together with a big part of our extended family. Mitch’s aunt and uncle who live nearby were having a visit from one of their sons and his wife and daughters. Since they live in Europe and don’t visit that often, a giant family brunch was organized, bringing together three generations of our family in one place. The good times (and the mimosas) flowed as about 30 of us gathered on a sunny Sunday morning by the sea. It was wonderful to be part of such a happy time and to see so many young members of the family playing together. It wasn’t Thanksgiving yet, but we felt that kind of love and connection, and we are very thankful that we are part of such a community of loving people. That is what we want to share with a child someday.

At the beginning of this post, I said there were a couple of anniversaries this month. Our wedding anniversary was the first and happier one. The second is the monthly anniversary of our wait. It's now officially 31 months that we have been waiting to adopt and unlike our wedding anniversary, it's not cause for celebration. It isn’t an anniversary we ever thought we’d have to face. We keep working hard to get our message out there, and we’re still hoping for the best, but 31 months is a long time. We want to stop waiting and start being parents. This month has reminded us how much love there is in our family. Now we want to share it w
ith our child.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

An Even Longer Haul

A year ago we wrote a post titled The Long Haul about what then seemed like a long wait to adopt a baby. In that post we said, "We've been traveling on a much longer road then we could have possibly imagined." A year later we're still traveling on that same road. It's clear that the road is even longer than it was then and our imaginations are stretched to visualize just how long this road could possibly be. This road has go someplace, right? 

That's a tricky question. We often hear that everyone who's qualified will eventually adopt, even if it takes a long time. We hear that we just have to hang in there. Our agency has told us this many times as have many other people. And yet, we know from the experiences of others that the wait can stretch beyond what works for them. So they end their adoption journey and make a choice to take their lives in a different direction. 

We recently heard that a couple adopted a baby after waiting almost 9 years. They're a real couple, we've met them. And yes, you read right, that's 9 years!!! It's awesome that things finally worked out for them, but waiting for 9 years? That's a long time and it scares us that our own road might stretch out into the distance that long. I'll grant that most people don't wait almost 9 years, either because they have far better luck or they don't possess the incredible patience and tenacity it takes to hope and wait for so long. That said, many waits to adopt do stretch on for 3, 4, or more years. And after all, for us waiting 9 years would mean waiting another 6.5 years and not starting our family until 2019!!! Just imagine all the things that will be different in all our lives by then!

I go back and look that post I wrote a year ago, trying to remember exactly where I was in our journey when I wrote it. I'm trying to remember if I really considered that we might still be waiting a year later and I don't believe I did. I don't know if it occurred to me or not, but I'm sure I thought things would be different by now, either because we had adopted or because we had significantly changed our direction. It didn't seem possible that we would be on the same flat, endless stretch of highway that we've traveled on for miles and miles.

Of course we did hit a very curvy stretch of road for a while there when we matched and then unmatched. We could see our destination right in front of us when we matched, though we knew it was in the distance and we had a bit more traveling to do. And then it vanished when our match failed. Our destination is still out there, but it's really hard to see right now. In fact, it's been a while since we've caught sight of it. Waiting sucks, we said this last year and we'll say it again because it does. 

Much of 2013 has been about our weariness as travelers on this road. Sure, we distract ourselves with trips to Disneyland and other fun places and enjoy our time together as much as we can. Despite all our best efforts, we know we're waiting and it still sucks. Even harder, some of the changes this year have been difficult as all the rest of life goes on around us. Looking back on that post from last year, I see we shared some really good tips and we'd share them again because they have helped us.

The advice from #3 about budgeting and saving money helped us greatly when it came time to redo our adoption letter early this year and pay for more printing. It also helped when we matched and found ourselves paying a non-refundable match fee and some of M from Florida's living expenses.  The good news is that the match fee is only paid once so we don't have to pay it next time we match, but it's almost time to print more letters and incur some other expenses in order to continue our journey. The path we chose to travel certainly has not been cheap. That's something we wish we had realized and accepted before we set off, but that's a topic for another post.

I'm also particularly struck by our advice from #5 and #7. It's been a real struggle to stay engaged with life since our failed match, but it is sound advice and is slowly starting to help. While it still feels strange after our failed match, it no longer feels like we are taking baby steps when we get ourselves out there. Engaging with the world has helped, and though we wanted to disappear after that failed match, I'm glad we didn't. And supporting each other has made all the difference. As Winnie the Pooh says, "It's so much friendlier with two." We've always agreed and the long journey we're on proves it all the more. I couldn't do all this without Mitch by my side and I know he feels the same way. We're so lucky to have each other and travel this life together, especially when the road stretches out in front of us for miles with no end in sight. None of us knows what the future holds, but Mitch and I can say that we made the best decision of our lives when we got married. We'll be celebrating that decision with our 6th anniversary this weekend!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Turning 30

LOL, we're not really turning 30. That was a while ago as most of you know, but we have now been waiting for 30 months.

Last month, we said that fall was a time for cooler weather and lots of opportunities for fun. Well, we were right about the fun, but the cooler weather has mostly held off. This was a good thing for a recent trip to Disneyland, when we found out just how much fun it can be plunging down a raging river. But let’s start at the beginning.

Just a few days after we reached the 29 month mark in our wait to become parents, we found out that Mitch was the winner of one of the prizes from the 2013 Bead Shop Hop. Even better, it was from our “home store”, Brea Bead Works, a shop we’ve been visiting since they opened 11 years ago. Susan has taken many fun classes there, and while she had put those classes on hold while we were waiting to adopt, she has recently started up again. If you read our post on the lessons we learned from our failed match, you know why.

Yay! Mitch won a prize on the 2013 Bead Shop Hop!

A few days later, we spent the day at Disneyland and California Adventure. With our annual passes, and Disneyland being so close, we had gotten into the habit of taking shorter trips to the Magic Kingdom, but this time, we decided to make a whole day of it. It’s a good thing we did, too, because it took all day to dry off from the thorough soaking we got on our new favorite ride, Grizzly River Run. This exciting tumble down roaring rapids proved to be so much fun, we rode it twice, laughing all the way down. Later, we found ourselves some new headwear for a visit to Fantasyland, and we ended the day with a great view of the fireworks as we headed back to the car.

Enjoying a great day at Disneyland!

We went to see Nia Vardalos again when she spoke in Mission Viejo about her journey to parenthood through adoption. You might remember that we saw her at the LA Times Festival of Books back in April, just as her book Instant Mom was being published. This time, Susan had had the chance to read the book, and when we went up to the signing table to say hello to Nia and to thank her for sharing her story, she autographed our book again! She agreed with our hope that the next we time see her, it would be as parents rather than a waiting couple.

Nia Vardalos was so sweet and signed our copy of her book, twice!

A few days later, Susan's 2012 Open Adoption Blogger Interview Project interview partner encouraged her to participate in this year’s project. At first Susan was reluctant since we have not blogged very much this year, but she quickly remembered how great last year's project was. She signed up for the 2013 project and is happy to be participating again. Details are being sorted out right now and interviews will be posted over 3 weekends. Look for her post in November!

Remember that prize basket that Mitch won? It included a beginner’s level leather bracelet kit, and while he had only done a few little make-and-takes on the Bead Shop Hops in years past, this time Mitch decided to tag along with Susan to Brea’s BYOP (Bring Your Own Project) night. We had such a good time working on our craft projects side by side that we will definitely do it again when the opportunity presents itself. Mitch even picked up another kit to make on his own.

Finally, we came to the 30 month mark with a pair of blog posts detailing our matching and unmatching earlier this year, and some of the things we are taking with us as we move forward.

We have been waiting 30 months to become parents through open adoption. The wait is tough, but this month we found some new ways to have fun with old favorites. Whether it was riding a new ride, sharing an activity that used to be just for one of us, or finding new lessons in what was a very difficult experience, this last month has been a time for finding the joy in what we have while still looking toward to the future.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Growing from our experience

Our last post ended as abruptly as our failed match and didn't leave things on a positive note which is unusual for us. If you read the whole post, then we appreciate you hanging in there with us. It was long and shared a lot of our pain.

Of course we've had to keep going over the last few months. It's been quite a mix of emotions and experiences. Part of the journey has been sorting out what we can take from our failed match. So we've put together some observations. 
  • We had heard about many matching experiences and thought we had a good idea of what it would be like to be matched, both in terms of responsibilities and feelings. We had heard that it could be just as complex and chaotic as waiting, but hearing and reading about the stories of others isn't the same as going through an experience yourself. Our failed match definitely gave us a better idea of what matching looks like now that we've seen it from the inside and we have a much better idea of what to expect and how to prepare for next time.
  • It feels like we matched too soon. There's really no way to know if that's true, but when we got that call asking if we wanted to match, we went with our good feelings, rather than thinking things though.  We were so excited to have met M and so thrilled at the prospect of becoming parents at last, that we didn't do what we needed to take care of ourselves. Even at the time, it felt like we hadn't learned very much about M and neither of us had spoken to her on the phone. 
  • I was fortunate in that I spoke with M a few times on the phone before we unmatched, but Mitch never got a chance to talk to her. This left us with very different feelings about M, especially when we unmatched. At first this made it more difficult for us to support each other. We were both sad, but I was also missing the relationship I had started to cultivate with M. It was harder for Mitch to miss her since he hadn't had the chance to speak with her. Next time we would do everything possible to make sure he is on the phone at least once. Of course, meeting up in person would be even better.
  • Being matched is an awesome feeling. It amazed me just how quickly all the anxieties and pains of the wait melted away after we matched. We felt like we could truly move into planning for the rest of our lives rather continuing to spin our wheels while waiting.
  • It's one thing to know a fact and another to live it. As waiting families know, the baby you plan to adopt belongs to the biological parents until after he or she is born and they make the final choice to place him or her with you. When we matched it was a mix of talking about and planning for "our" baby, while also respecting the fact that M had quite a while to change her mind and anything could happen. During the time we matched M wanted to share details about her pregnancy and ultrasound pictures. She asked us about baby names and our plans after we came home with the baby. Sometimes these conversations felt very natural and there were days when it felt like we would be parents after M placed her baby with us. Other days it didn't feel real and almost seemed like we were living someone else's life. It was hard to know how excited to be or how much to guard our hearts.
  • We had heard that unmatching is very painful, but we weren't prepared for how much we would hurt or for the tidal wave of emotions that would overwhelm us. I was fortunate only once to get pregnant in the 5 years since we decided to start a family and that ended in miscarriage. The pain I felt after unmatching felt a lot like the pain I experienced after my miscarriage, minus the physical pain. I knew it would hurt, but not as much as it did.
  • You aren't always going to feel comfortable when you're matched. Again, this is something we knew from the experiences of other couples, but we weren't prepared for just how uncomfortable some things were. We were asked to do things in ways that we didn't like, such as providing expenses in a way that seemed risky to us. Many decisions had to be made quickly, and didn't allow for us to think things through or discuss them with each other as we usually do. We now have a much better idea of what to consider and we're more prepared now to make these snap decisions the next time we match.
  • While growth often means that you're not always going to be comfortable, this experience was a fierce reminder that we have to go with our gut feeling and remember that we know what's best for us more than anyone else, even our agency. There may be pressures from others to make decisions quickly or with a particular outcome, but we have live with those decisions. And we need to stand up for ourselves, whether it's sticking to a particular choice or asking for more time to decide, even if it might put the match at risk. After all, while going against our gut feeling might be what saves the match, there's also a good chance that our gut feeling is because the match isn't as solid as we thought. 
  • One of the things that saved us from drowning in our sadness and despair after the matched failed were the Pink Martini tickets we bought at the end of April. At the time, I had thought we were nuts to buy them. After all, we had no idea if we'd be parents or not and if we'd even want to go. We decided to buy them knowing we'd give them to a friend if the adoption happened before the concert. When we matched, we were pleased to have such a nice treat as we hunkered down to planning for our baby and tightening up our budget. The match failed just a few days before the concert. At first we felt there was no way we were up for going. Our friend pushed us to go anyway and it was really hard. As much as we wanted to enjoy the show at the Hollywood Bowl, we were very unhappy. It was hard to stay that way though. Pink Martini's enthusiasm got to us pretty quickly and we were glad we went. It was a tiny step to rejoining the world and getting back on our journey, but it helped immensely as did a trip we had planned for the end of July. We had thought about not going on that trip after our match failed, yet realized we desperately needed some time away. Next time we match we'll be sure to have similar activities planned. They are important no matter how things turn out.
  • A very positive thing was that we remembered very quickly after we matched that being parents would change everything and that we better live the last of our child-free days as fully as possible. It sounds odd to say that since we've been waiting for so long, but there are things we keep putting off. Among other things, I realized that I probably wouldn't be taking any bead classes for a while after the baby arrived. I was ok with that, but it seemed a shame to miss out on classes before then. So I pulled out the class schedule at my favorite bead store and signed up for several classes through September. I'm so glad I did because reviving my interest in this hobby has kept me going. I met a very talented new instructor and spent more time in my favorite place to bead with people I've known for years. It also inspired us to plan and complete the 2013 Bead Shop Hop which turned out to be another very welcome distraction and so much fun this year.
I had hoped this would be a list of what we learned, but many of these observations are really more us being reminded of what we already knew. Unmatching has been very difficult and painful, but we have grown and are stronger for our experience. Every match is different, but we will certainly keep these things in mind when we are lucky enough to match again. Hopefully that will be soon!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

It's October 16th

Ok, saying it's October 16th is just about one of the most obvious things we can say. So on the surface the title to this post doesn't seem to mean much of anything. But for us, today marks 5 months since we met M, the woman we had matched with in early June, and marks 3 months since we unmatched on July 16th. There's nothing particularly notable about any of that, except that it feels like it's time to tell our story about what happened.

We haven't tried to tell our story until now. For a while we simply couldn't, except to a few very close people in our lives. And then it seemed that there was no way to share things from our point of view without compromising M's privacy or our own. Now it feels like it's time to try. I'm not sure how writing about our failed match is going to work out, but we'll see how it goes.

May 16th was a Thursday 5 months ago and it wound up being a very busy day. It was one of those crazy days at work and after months of not hearing from anyone who might be looking to place their child with us, we heard from 3 people, yes 3! Just as I was due to have a meeting with a new employee at work, my cell phone rang. A friend was calling with a potential situation for us. It was a very exciting possibility and needless to say I was on the phone for a while getting as many details as I could. Luckily I managed to send my new co-worker a quick email that I was delayed.

I was so elated after that call. The situation she told me about seemed ideal in so many ways and I thought we might get to match at last. That same day a young woman from the Northwest also sent us an email telling us about her pregnancy and yet another woman from Florida sent us a message through our profile on Adoptimist. The woman from Florida was M and her first message simply asked if closed adoption was an option. That day we thought for sure that the pregnant woman our friend told us about was the match for us, but I went ahead and responded to the other two women anyway.

Our friend sent more details to us about the pregnant woman she knew and over the next few days we sorted through everything. There was another agency already involved with her case and it quickly became clear that the situation was very complex and would ultimately be very expensive, requiring substantial fees paid to the 2nd agency along with high living expenses for the pregnant woman. Unfortunately it was much more than we could afford. So with great sadness we had to say no. We never heard again from the woman in the Northwest, but things continued to develop with M and we were cautiously optimistic that we might become parents at last. 

M's original message to us asked about closed adoption. It was an interesting question. While we were ok with this, the very act of M contacting us meant it would never truly be a closed adoption since we were already in contact. So we started to wonder what she really meant by this . We got our agency involved as things progressed. We learned that it's not unusual for a pregnant woman to ask about closed adoption when she first explores adoption for her child, but then wants things more open as she learns more and a relationship starts to grow with the family she is thinking about.

Things moved very quickly with M as we exchanged several emails over the next couple of weeks. We learned that some of her background was very similar to Mitch's and this seemed to be a sign that there was a good connection. We also discovered that she lived within just a few hours of Mitch's aunt, which seemed perfect given that M wanted a closed adoption. If she chose us and wanted little or no contact after she gave birth, then we could stay with Mitch's aunt instead of on our own in a hotel until we received permission to leave the state with the baby. Everything seemed ideal. We were very excited about the possibility of matching with M and Mitch's aunt was excited too. 

There were many things we liked about M. One of the things we really liked about her was that when she'd tell us that she was going to do something, she did it as quickly as she could. She volunteered to contact our agency soon after our first contact and she did. They asked her to complete a couple of tasks such as getting proof of her pregnancy from her doctor and she got them done as soon as she could. It seemed like she really wanted to move forward with matching. We were unsure what the timing would be and our agency let us know that it's up to the pregnant woman to decide when she's ready to match. The counselor we were working with thought it would be soon and things happened even sooner than we expected. Just a few days later we got a call from the counselor on Monday, June 3rd, not quite 3 weeks after we met M, letting us know that M picked us, yes us! We had 24 hours to decide, but we didn't need this time. Mitch and I had already talked about matching with M so I told our agency yes and we excitedly accepted the match.

We were a bundle of happiness, excitement, relief, and nerves now that we were matched. I include nerves in this bundle because after all, we had never been matched before and it was uncharted territory for us. We had no idea how to navigate it and very little idea of what to expect, especially since M had expressed interest in closed adoption. Her baby wasn't due until the end of October. This gave us plenty of time to sort out details and develop a relationship M if she wanted, but also a lot of time to make mistakes, say or do the wrong things, etc. Our relationship with M was so new and seemed so fragile that we were afraid we'd mess it up. We wanted to keep exchanging messages with her and learn more about her, but we didn't want to pester her with contact she didn't want. 

Things during the first week after we matched were very encouraging. We wanted to announce our match on Facebook and a dear friend reminded me we should ask M first. She was quite right and I'm glad she reminded us of what we knew before we posted anything. We sent M an email to ask her. The response we received was so touching and sweet. She was happy we matched and wanted this to be our experience. We hadn't talked on the phone before we matched. Luckily things worked out for M and I to talk a couple of days after we matched and it was amazing. I was so nervous during our short call, but this was quickly replaced with my joy and M's enthusiasm as we talked. Later that week we heard from our local counselor that M was very happy about our call and our match. She was even talking about us meeting her in Florida before the baby was born and having me in the delivery room so I could start bonding with the baby right away. This was all great news and very promising, though definitely not what we expected given M's interest in closed adoption!

The next step was a match meeting where many details are sorted out including a plan for the hospital when the baby is born. We always thought the match meeting happened before we matched with a pregnant woman, but we were mistaken about this. It was agreed that the best form for our match meeting would be 2-3 conference calls given the 3000 mile distance between M and us. A call was set for June 19th which was 1 month, 3 days after our first contact with M. Mitch hadn't gotten to speak to M on the phone yet so it would be his first chance to talk to her and there were so many important things to talk about and agree on during these calls, including a possible visit to Florida before October. We were very excited and also very nervous about this call. We told ourselves we could do it and picked up the phone when it rang, but M wasn't there.

We didn't see that coming. While we hadn't received any more emails from M, she had followed through on everything until then and was so happy for us. It was a big shock to find that it was just the counselor on other end of the phone. We feared the worst, but our counselor was encouraging. She told us that M had let her know right before the call that she couldn't make it, which was much better than skipping the meeting without telling anyone. We spent a long time on the phone with our counselor talking about the next steps and learning about what M needed for the rest of her pregnancy. We also found out that M's computer was broken which was why we had not received any emails. Our counselor was confident the match was good and thought everything would work out, including meeting M before the birth. She thought M just needed some space, that slowing everything down would help. 

So we reminded the counselor that M could text us instead of email. Over the next couple of weeks we settled down to getting M's expenses sorted out. It was tough because we were very unsettled that there hadn't been a match meeting yet, Mitch still hadn't gotten to talk to M, and we were a little suspicious about some of the details involved in paying M's expenses. The good news was that communication opened up again once we loaded M's cell phone with minutes and we exchanged several texts. She also called a couple times and we chatted about her appointments, baby names, and more. She volunteered to send ultrasound pictures and followed through with sending them right away. We also received more emails once her computer was fixed. 

We settled into enjoying summer and making plans for the big change coming our way at the end of October. Mitch's birthday was right before the summer blackout period on our Disney passes. It was very hot and very crowded that day, but we had a great time at Disneyland and exchanged several messages with M as we made our way around the park. The next week was 4th of July and we enjoyed trading emails with M about our plans. M ended up being called into work that day and it rained in Florida so her kids didn't go out for the fireworks, but everyone was happy with the way their days worked out.

And then it stopped. We went on an overnight trip the Friday after 4th of July. M sent a chatty email that night and a text on the Sunday, but we never received replies to the messages we sent back to her. Our counselor had a hard time reaching M after the holiday weekend and we went for several days not hearing from anyone. It was stressful. We didn't know what to think, especially since we really hoped to get our match meeting sorted out and solidify plans to see M in Florida if she still wanted that before the baby was born. We had planned to load M's phone with more minutes and she knew of our plan, but we weren't sure what to do since we hadn't heard from her. We added more minutes thinking she might have run out, but still didn't hear from her.

Finally, we found out why on the morning of July 16th. I was in the shower and heard pounding on the door. For a second I was irritated, but then immediately realized it had to be something big and it was. Mitch said the counselor needed to talk to us, NOW. So I took the phone even though I had shampoo in my hair and was dripping wet and he went for the other phone. And then we learned we were unmatched, 2 months to the day after we our first contact with M. 

M never talked to anyone about her decision. She simply left a message on our agency's voice mail in the middle of the night. While we didn't hear the message, our understanding is that her family offered to help her so she decided to keep her baby. Our agency reached out to her, but she didn't return their calls or emails. I sent an email saying we understood and wished her the best, but we never got a reply to that email either. 

The ultrasound pictures she had sent were in a prominent place in our home. They caught my eye several times after we unmatched. I'd see them, not knowing what to do with these pictures. We'd never know this baby or her mother. I knew it would be too painful for us to keep them, but I also knew it felt wrong to throw them out or shred them. Finally after wrestling with this for a few days, I found a plain envelope, addressed it to M, put the pictures in with no note, and mailed them back to her. That was our last contact.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

29 Months, Believe It or Not

It's been a while since you've heard from us, almost 7 months in fact. We've decided to try something new and post at least an update each month, if not more. So here goes...

As of this weekend we've been waiting 29 months to adopt. It was a pretty tough summer for us. Some of you may know that back in June, we matched with a potential birthmother (let’s call her M). After more than 2 years, it felt like we were finally coming to the end of our wait and the beginning of our life as parents. After 6 weeks filled with both the joy of matching and some pre-parenthood jitters, we suddenly learned that M changed her mind and had decided to parent, and that we were no longer matched.
We always wanted the best for everybody involved, and we absolutely and totally respect M’s decision. But knowing that she had made what for her was the best choice, didn’t make it any easier for us to face the fact that we were not going to be parents after all. We both felt a lot of disappointment, some frustration with the system, and even a bit of anger. The unmatching really took the wind out of our sails. Before we matched with M, we had worked very hard to get the word out about our adoption plans to as many people as possible and stay positive along the way. We struggled to sustain the pace of our efforts and keep our spirits up even before we matched. Matching was a blessing in so many ways, including that we finally had a break from all our efforts. When our match ended, we had a terribly difficult time bringing ourselves back to the workbench. The events of June and July had been so emotionally overwhelming that it took everything we had just to keep going. That said, we know that if we are going to be parents, it’s going to be a result of our own hard work and emotional investment.
So in September, we have begun to get back into the swing of things again. Friends and long-time followers of this blog and our Facebook page know that September is when we go on the Bead Shop Hop. We did it again this year, following a new route, trying some new strategies, and having a genuinely good time. We have some photos over on Facebook, and you can read about our adventures in 2012 and 2011.
We wrapped up this year’s hop with a trip to Disneyland on Friday the 13th, just in time to see the unveiling of the Haunted Mansion’s Nightmare Before Christmas decorations. It was crowded and chaotic, but fun too.
We have seen some things end recently, but with endings come beginnings. Fall is here, bringing cooler weather and lots of opportunities for fun. Maybe we’ll have a treat for Halloween, and someone to give thanks for this Thanksgiving.  We’ll see, and we’ll keep you posted here. In the meantime, thanks always for reading our posts and your support. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Where's Susan & Mitch?

Not a groundhog, but we saw prairie dogs at the LA Zoo. This one even saw his shadow!

We're still here, just not blogging as much as we'd like! While February is only a few days shorter than the other months, it sure seemed to go by quickly. And went by without any posts from us until today. Somehow we've gotten out of the habit of blogging regularly and we'll be working on that in March. 

Here's a quick update with what we've been up to.  It took us a while to get back up to speed after a tough January, and we’ve been extra busy working on the adoption letter rewrite and taking a few new photos for it. Maybe that’s why the month just flew by.

That’s not to say that we haven’t had some fun, too. Early in the month we went to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena to see the Van Gogh self-portrait that was on loan from another museum. We also had a fun trip to see the tigers and prairie dogs (among others) at the LA Zoo with our cousin Beth and her son Jake. Then, we capped off the last weekend of February with an impromptu visit to Disneyland with some friends.

We have more to do, but we'll keep you posted as we do new things and have new adventures. See you in March!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

January's Quiet Chaos

A bit of wintry landscape in Montague, Massachusetts

We didn’t intend for so much time to pass before we posted here again, but January has been a tough month for us.

We knew there was going to be one big project this month; we are redesigning the letter about us that our agency shows to women who are considering placing a child for adoption. We’ve had the same one in play since we went live almost 2 years ago, and this was an opportunity to refresh the text, the photos, and the layout to better reflect who we are and what we are like. Obviously, this would take lots of time and effort to get just right, but with so much riding on it, we knew it would be worth it.

Susan took the lead in laying out the pages. We both looked at photos and went over the text, making changes where we found better ways of saying things. We submitted drafts of the letter to the staff at the agency, and Susan had a Skype conference with an advisor at America Adopts who had looked over the latest draft of the letter and had some suggestions.

Then, while all this was going on, we got a phone call. It was from our coordinator at our agency. There was a young woman a few hours from where we live who had just given birth to a little boy. She intended to place her child for adoption, but had not made an adoption plan or matched with anyone yet. Our coordinator wanted to know if we would we be interested in having our information shared with this young woman. Of course we said yes. The initial call came on a Saturday evening. The decision would be made, and the child placed in the arms of his adoptive parents, the next day, Sunday.

We spent that night hoping we would be chosen (there were several other couples who were also being shown to this young woman) and nervous that we would be. There was a chance that we would wake up as waiting prospective parents and go to bed as the parents of a little boy. We were told that we would get a call either way in the late morning or early afternoon.

Susan had a bead class that day, and Mitch had the day off. The call came at noon, to Susan’s cell phone. The birthmother had chosen another couple who lived closed to her. We would have to continue to wait for a match.

At almost the same time, a call came in to the house phone. Mitch answered, thinking it was the agency. Instead, it was his mom in Massachusetts. His grandmother had fallen ill, and had been admitted to the hospital. Her condition was serious, but no one knew what was going to happen. She could recover, as she had before, or she might not.

That was a very tough week to get through. We were not bringing home a child, as we hoped we would, and a beloved member of our family was in the hospital. We talked about what we were feeling and comforted each other.

We continued to work on the adoption letter that week while we waited for updates from Massachusetts. Some days Mitch’s grandma seemed to rally. Other days, she didn’t. We hoped for the best, even as two of Mitch’s aunts traveled to be with his mom at the hospital and to spend time with their mother.

The following Saturday morning, a week after we learned that we hadn’t been picked to be the adoptive parents of that little boy, we got a call from Mitch’s mom. His grandmother had passed away in the hospital the night before.  Susan immediately started making travel arrangements, booking flights, a rental car, and a hotel. We flew on a red-eye from Los Angeles to Hartford by way of Chicago that Tuesday night.

The wake was on Wednesday. It was hard for both of us. We loved Gram so much, and we took comfort in knowing that she loved us too. Other relatives flew and drove in for the wake, and we met many of the people Gram had known and made a positive impact on. She was surrounded by beautiful flowers, and she looked like she was at peace.

The funeral was on Thursday. It was a beautiful service, conducted by a new, young priest who had just come to know Gram and a seasoned priest who had known her for over 50 years. He delivered a wonderful, moving eulogy as we said our goodbyes.

We spent the next couple of days in Massachusetts visiting some of the places Mitch and Gram had enjoyed when he was growing up. We were able to create some nice memories to take with us, and to relive some of the good times we both remembered.

And so here we are, at the end of a busy, difficult January. We’re still working on the letter rewrite, although we hope to have that finished, approved and printed before too long. We’re saddened by the passing of Mitch’s grandmother, but we’re usually able to think of the happy times instead of the sad ones. We wish we could have adopted by now so that Gram was here to meet our little one. Gram's heart was full of love and we know she would have been delighted to welcome a new baby into the family. 

We’re trying to stay positive that we will be chosen to be parents soon. Even in the worst of times, there is a little glimmer of hope that keeps us going. We're looking forward to starting a new month tomorrow. May it bring some new opportunities!