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.