Category Archives: The Adoption Process

That Time Before & During My Search

I recently got a couple of follower inquiries about the emotions I felt about my agency during the adoption process as well as how I “knew” to say yes to Hope. I thought that in addition to trying to answer those inquiries personally, I’d share more broadly.

So, how did/do I feel about my agency? Did I ever get frustrated with the agency and the process?

I have had a great, fantastic relationship with my agency. There were times that I made choices that the agency was pretty adamant were not great, but I went with my gut and things worked out. The agency I worked with offers a lot of post adoption support that I’ve definitely utilized during the last four years. Did I ever become frustrated about my agency during the adoption process?

In short, no.

My adoption process went very, very fast. My daughter moved in 380 (1 year and 15) days after I dropped off my agency application to start the process. We finalized 135 days later, at my urging, because lingering around finalization did not provide my daughter with the stability she craved. It worked, and I’d like to think I was right.

Because my time was short, I didn’t have time to get super frustrated and I was green as grass naïve about this whole thing.

I wish I had known more, but if I had I would have been crazy. There never would’ve been enough information; I would’ve been backstroking in it. I don’t recommend going into the process as green as I was, but I do credit my ride or die willingness to commitment to my daughter in the face of some pretty incredible disclosures and striking mental health issues during out initial few weeks together all to be naivete! It never occurred to me to disrupt; I figured, it just wasn’t done.

So, I never even entertained that was never an option.

And that’s probably for the best; this is one of the few times in my life when I think being naïve and riding the wave worked in my favor. If I pursued adoption now, knowing what I know, I would do things very differently. I was fortunate to deal with an agency that prides itself in its ethical approach with a team of folks who genuinely seemed to want the best for my daughter and for me.

In a couple of words, I was lucky-blessed.

I know families who have had different experiences at my agency and others. I would say my feelings are probably a bit of an outlier because my process went quickly and I rolled right on with it. I would not characterize my experience as typical.

How did I know Hope was a good fit and other kids were not a good fit for me as a single mom?

I only received two profiles; my agency search was very brief. Hope’s profile the very first profile I received from my agency to consider.

I was at my office; I had just arrived. I still have the email from July 30, 2013 at 9:03am. My response was eager yet short; technically more search hadn’t even started. I asked about behaviors; I tied my question to something I’d recently read and asked to get my information about Hope. My daughter had been featured on one of those Wednesday Child spots on the local news, so I was able to see more than just a profile. I saw her moving around, trying her best to be charming and have fun and be on TV all the while having a shadow of sadness that all of this was *really* about her needing a family. I know now that she kind of hated that video.

There are hundreds of emails between me and Alex (the coordinator) about my now daughter, the process, the match meeting, the first visit.

The truth is that I just thought it was a fit when I saw that video. I was so done after I saw that video. Her challenges seemed manageable to me as a single mom and they have been. It’s been hard, but it’s been manageable.

My agency coached me well. When there were gaps in my questions, they helped me fill them. Alex was supportive and encouraging.

My saying yes to Hope was easy.

Saying no was not easy. I only had one opportunity and I’m glad. I’m glad that my search was so brief that I didn’t have to get numerous profiles only to say no they aren’t a good fit. Looking back I’m not sure I could’ve endured a process that required me to say no numerous times. The idea of that rejection is just too much for me.

I did say no to one child, and you can read about it here: The First No.

My heart still hurts that I had to say no.

I was open to kids who identify as LGBT+. Apparently that’s rare, or at least it was then. So many folks are quick to say that adolescents don’t understand their sexuality and they just are mistaken. Um, no. I knew in elementary school that I loved boys; I liked their energy, I thought they were cute, I was curious about them in ways I was not curious about girls. Straight folks take that for granted. #heteronormativity Kids who have same sex attractions know early and are often forced to make decisions about conforming to heteronormative behavior to keep the peace and stay safe. That conformity can last a few years or may years. As a part of my adoption process I knew that this wasn’t an issue for me and I was open to giving a kid who identified differently a chance at a stable, loving home.

I got a profile. The only part of it that matched my list of possibilities was that fact that she was LGBT. Everything else was so beyond what I thought I could handle behaviorally that I had to say no I knew I was not able to parent her.

I don’t regret the decision now that more time has passed, but I do think of that young woman ever so often. I hope that she was able to be matched with a loving family.

The need for loving, supporting parents for LGBT kids in the system is so great that her advocate reached out to us despite my obviously not being a good fit. That tells me that there is desperation in getting that kid a family and that breaks my heart.

What does a good match mean to me?

I was very specific about my desire to adopt an older child. Of course, I got all the icky commentary from a few people about how I should try to get a kid as young as possible since they wouldn’t be as “messed up” or I could train them (like a puppy) to not be messed up. #eyeroll

I knew that I wanted a child of color—though I labored over the race and ethnicity questions on the match form for about a week. I wanted to feel like it didn’t matter, but ultimately, I wanted us to be able to choose if/when we disclosed our adoption—we tend to be open about it. I wanted the ability to disappear as a same race family. I knew how our kids are overrepresented in the foster care system. I wanted to mother a black kid. #theend

I had dreamed about mothering a son; a daughter was my future.

I tried to focus less on diagnoses and more on presenting behaviors and whether I could handle them as a new single parent. I had some limitations on some mental health concerns.

I tried to ask questions about what behaviors looked like. It’s one thing to read descriptions; it’s entirely another thing to see video, hear descriptions, and ask pointed questions. And I asked lots of questions, there are seriously 270 emails from this period in my adoption. I did lots of Googling during this period.

My day job has honed my “read between the lines” skill—I leaned into that a lot during my match with Hope.

Weeks went by before Hope learned I existed. When she learned about me, my questions started all over again. I wanted Hope to feel like she was a part of the process and not just the subject of it. How did she feel about it? What felt good? How did she process a potential cross country move? With a previous placement that didn’t go all that great, what’s her confidence in this process like?

When you’re adopting an older child; you got to remember that they are more that just the subject of all this discussion. I was keen on Hope having a big say in our match. I wanted to learn how to make a transition better for her. I wanted her to feel like she had some agency.

A good match is one where all parties think this can work out. A good negotiation means everyone at the table has to stretch a little. There’s no perfect fit; there’s a “I can give this kid what they need” fit. There’s a “I can manage these behaviors and hopefully create an environment that promotes healing” fit. There’s a “I will respect this kid and their birth family (even one’s that screwed up royally) and commit to working this thing out” fit.

In the wise words of Project Runway’s Tim Gunn, “Make it work.”

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More Questions?

If you have questions like this drop me an email, reach me through the blog’s FB page or on Twitter. I’ll see what I can do! I appreciate the opportunity to reflect on my experience and consider what I might do differently. This is a journey, not a destination. My and Hope’s adoption was a chapter, an event. This life we are creating as mother and daughter is the destination.

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By Any Other Name

I had chosen names for the children I would never give birth to. I only chose what would be first or middle names so that they could be adapted to names desired by my would be husband/life partner.

Those names were so important to me; each had special meaning. Each were strong names on which my children could scaffold their identities.

And then, one day, the realization set in that I would not get to use any of those names for biological children.

Even now, writing this, the sting of quiet tears fill my eyes.

And then Hope came along.

Hope got her pseudonym from being my “Hope Kid.” When I started the blog, I had just received her profile. I remember sitting in my office, opening the email, reading the little bit of information attached and then opening the attachment to see her picture.

I immediately fell in love with her.

In my heart I felt like she was my daughter. I just knew, which was ridiculous because she was the first profile I received having just started the national search with my agency the week before.

I also knew that there were many steps to be made before she and I might be matched. I dubbed her my “Hope Kid.”

After we were matched, I started just calling her Hope in this space.

It’s turned out to be a good strong pseudonym for her. She and I are both so hopeful.

At 12, I never once thought about changing her name. Her in real life (IRL) name is unusual and lovely.

A few folks asked if I considered changing her first name.

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No. I mean, she was 12 and It. Is. Her. Name. And well, Hope had lost everything else, everything, why on earth would I take her name from her too?

And she’s feisty, why on earth would I want to start our life with a fight about changing her name?

As we neared the date of our finalization, I did have to make a decision about her last name.

Sounds like a no brainer, right?

I mean, she would just drop her given name and take my name.

No.

It was her given name. It was hers. It was given to her by her parents, who loved her even if they didn’t always love themselves.

I thought about all those adoptees who talked about their birth names and the surnames of their birth family.  How hard it was to find people when names changed. How challenging taking on a new identity could be.

Because Hope is an older adoptee, I had the luxury of having a real conversation with her about her name. I’d like to think that even if she had been younger, I might have come to the same conclusion because it works for us.

Hope had just assumed that I would make her change her name. She understood why I might do that. She has resolved that it was just the way of the world, or rather the way of her world. In Hope’s world, she rarely got to make decisions, she lost lots of things and well, she supposed she was just happy to be getting a forever family.

I asked her what she thought about a third option.

I asked her what she thought about just adding my last name to her existing name.

The first thing she did was write it all out and count the letters.

There were a total of 29 letters in this proposed name. Four names, two of them last names, no hyphens and 29 letters.

She asked if the name would fit on forms.

So, I cruised the internet and found a few forms that we would have to eventually fill out and printed them and let her practice filling them out.

It worked.

I asked her if taking my name would be hard for her; she said maybe. I told her that she could drop it she wanted, and just sign things with her birth name. The four-name thing would just be her “government name.” I explained the times when she would need to use it.

I asked her to think about it.

When I told folks that this third option was on the table…well, there were so many questions. So many.

Why couldn’t I just change it? Why didn’t I want her to be fully a part of the family? Wouldn’t this be confusing for her? How would this help her move on?

There was a lot of criticism.

I stayed focused on me and Hope during the whirlwind.

In the end, extending her name was our choice.

During our Facetime finalization, Hope exclaimed to the judge that her new name was 29 letters.

She continued to use her birth name for a while, and then one day, she didn’t.

I’m not sure exactly when she started using both last names, but I know that now she wouldn’t dare sign her name without both.

When her birth family found us, they were surprised that I didn’t drop their name. I think it brokered some trust with them; I had no intention of erasing her identity.

Again, I have the luxury of having an older child who is capable of telling me her feelings. I know that even during the worst of times she endured, she would leave me in a flash if she had the chance to be parented by her birth parents again.

I’m hardly a saint and I’m judgmental as hell, but I’ve also had the luxury of having my birth family my whole life. I get it and I don’t blame her at all. If I had known them before, and known what I know now, I would’ve been rooting for them.

But our paths were different, and all I can do now is honor her family by supporting her in keeping the names she was given.

Our family is stronger for it.

And what have I really learned from this part of our journey?

I learned that I’m glad that we didn’t have to make a choice based on her safety and a desire not to be found. I think this would have been so much more difficult for her if that was necessary. For her to have to change her name, her identity, to remain safe, is a whole other level of trauma. We are fortunate that we were not faced with that situation.

I learned that even though I have replaced Hope’s birth parents in parenting her, I am additive in her life. For Hope, I didn’t just replace them. I am her mother, without question, but I am her second mother. I can never replace Hope’s birth parents; I can’t erase them. Even with a name change, that history, however brief, is still a real part of her life.

I learned that Hope’s name is her name. I am honored that my name has become a part of her name and a part of her story, but her story didn’t start with me. It won’t end with me either.

I imagine that her name will change again sometime in this lifetime.

And again, it will be Hope’s choice to shape her identity.

I learned that there are various ways to integrate a child into your family.

I learned that a last name can be more than enough of a connection to a new family.

I realized just how much power adoptive parents have…to change a child’s whole name…or just to get to name a child…it is a privilege that should be acknowledged as such.

I learned that the sting of not being able to have biological children rears its head more often than I care to admit. A discussion about changing a child’s name precipitates asking what might you change it to? And then your list of dream names springs to mind…and it drags that little bee sting with it.

I learned to treasure my own name even more. I love thinking about the origins of my name and the story my parents tell me about naming me.

I don’t know that at this point in my life I will change my name even if I get married. I’ve been with this name a mighty long time.

I do know that I’ll still be ABM whatever name I chose, and that Hope will always be my Hope and joy, no matter what her name evolves into during the course of her life.

 


Coping to Survive

We’ve had to make some drastic changes around Casa d’ABM recently in hopes of getting Hope back on track with a few things. It’s tough and painful, and it feels like all I do is pick on her and focus on the bad stuff.

But it’s not all bad stuff. I’m focusing on breaking bad habits and building skills that she desperately needs.

But I’m sure that for her, it feels like I’m picking on her.

Sigh…so in some ways, it’s kind of a short-term, no-win situation.

Damned if I help; damned if I don’t.

So…I’m back to throwing a bunch of interventions up in the air and trying to figure out which one fits, makes sense for us, and has the best chance at effectiveness.

Hope’s general outward response?

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My response to her response?

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Our joint response feels like it’s playing out like this:

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Yeah, it’s like that.

We recently had an interesting chat. Hope was sharing her frustrations about coping with a bunch of stuff.

I asked her to give me some examples.

She did.

I made some suggestions.

She rebuffed them and doubled down on how her approaches were foolproof.

I noted that clearly they weren’t, otherwise this would be a moot conversation.

“Oh yeah, right.”

So, I probed how and when she developed her ways of coping. I asked her to explain to me why they had historically worked for her.

My heart hurt. Most of her coping strategies involved swallowing her emotions, withdrawing, learning to be ok just being sad because that was apparently her lot in life. I interpreted so much of the coping to be a sad acceptance of tragedy, the desire to limit her emotional trauma by just not being emotionally involved at all, and straight up denial.

How does that work for anyone??? How can you live like that?

And then it dawned on me.

These coping strategies are right on target if your goal is to survive your situation. If your goal is to just get to the next day relatively unscathed, without much physical or emotional hurt, then if you just fold into yourself, you can survive.

But what if your life doesn’t call for those specific skills anymore? Are those skills transferable in a more stable life? If all of your basic Maslow’s needs are met, and theoretically you can focus on some of those more abstract life goals, do those survival skills still serve you well?

Spoiler alert: They don’t work. You need a different set of life skills if you are moving from dysfunction to function.

I began to understand my daughter’s frustrations. She was using the tools she had developed and refined for years to survive in an environment where they didn’t really help her.

Just imagine that you are a whiz with a power drill; I mean, amazing! And then you are asked to go do a car repair…with just your drill. Let me know how that works for you.

Without being critical, I began to try to explain to Hope that she was going to have to try something new, and that I knew that was weird and scary, but her old bag of tricks wasn’t going to serve her optimally in this chapter of her life. In fact, her survival skills were becoming a hindrance.

She didn’t buy it. It’s ok, it will take some time.

Our kids, they are brilliant in their resilience, but their transition to normalcy is so hard for them to wrap their brains around. It requires them to trust, and that’s something they don’t really do. Hope tells me that she trusts herself, and that’s about it.

She does trust me, but there are some hard limits, and I know where those limits are and I try to earn my way beyond them.

It’s not easy though. I’m fighting years and years of her expertise in living her life in a way that she gets to see tomorrow. In nearly 44 years; I’ve never had to work that hard. Not on my worst day have I had to work that hard to survive. I can’t imagine that much change in her world view after only 3 years; that expectation is not appropriate.

She’s changed some. Her expectations of me increase, and with them her belief that I’ll deliver and ability to meet those expectations increases. But it is very slow, very incremental change.

As our Year of the Try comes to a close, I’m pondering next year’s family theme. I’m thinking the development of life skills is probably something we might give some focus in 2017.


New Car, New Chapter

Yesterday I bought an SUV.

Other than the exterior color, it’s really amazing. It’s fully loaded and pretty lux. But the truth is that while I am happy about the new car, and new car smell and all of that, I kinda hate my new car.

Or rather, I hate what it represents, which is another piece of pre-Hope identity kicked to the wayside.

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In recent months I’ve really embraced motherhood and really tried to meet Hope where she is. We both have benefited from this effort.

But there’s something about this car purchase that sits on me like a giant thud.

Yesterday morning I was the owner (free and clear by the way) of an adorable little red Mini Cooper that I called, the Chili Pepper. “Chili” was my dream car. I’d wanted a Mini for years, but really never thought I’d get one. I’d had a sports car right out of college and then I had a cute sporty wagon. So when I started my doctoral program, I took the plunge and headed to the Mini dealership, where I fell in love with Chili.

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I loved that car. Me and Chili had seen a good chunk of the east coast. Like all of my previous cars she was a stick shift. and I loved the handling and the power this little car channeled. She was distinctive with her little personalized plates. People would walk by Chili and  smile. People would ride in Chili and marvel at just how awesome she was. When Hope moved here, my ownership of Chili was definitely an indicator of my potential “coolness.” She was different.  Did I mention that I loved her?

I owned Chili for 5 years, almost to the day. Her warranties were just about up and repairs and upkeep can be pricey on Minis.  She’d just endured a repair that would’ve been about $6K but for the fact that it was covered under the warranty.

Then there was Hope’s instrument; she plays a tenor sax. The dang thing took up the whole boot trunk. If I ever offered another band kid a ride they couldn’t be from the low brass or percussion sections, that’s for sure. And Hope plans to take guitar lessons this year so there’s really a need for more room.

Finally, there’s the trip to Boston and Martha’s Vineyard of 2015. I had to get a roof bag to accommodate all of the luggage. We stayed at the sexy Boston W hotel for a few days, and when we drove up, we looked like the Beverly Hillbillies traveling in a clown car. It worked, but it was clear that it wasn’t optimal and that something was going to have to change. I was simply too cute to look like a traveling vagabond on vacation. The faces of the uber hot valets when they saw up pull up invoked all kinds of shame.

Sigh.

So yesterday, I cleaned Chili out and sold her out for an SUV—a Nissan Rogue. It’s gray, which I hate, but it is what it is since the deal was just something I couldn’t walk away from.

So, what’s the rub?

Losing Chili for a much needed family car is another way my life has changed since becoming a mom. It was the end of another chapter. It was another thing I gave up for the good of my family.

Love-and-Other-Drugs

I don’t regret it, but I’m so sad, so so sad. I’m all in my feels. Cause I’m a wee bit selfish and petty.

I knew trading Chili in would be hard for me, but I teared up as I stood in CarMax, looking at her one last time, reminiscing about our good times and how I was sad to close this chapter on my pre-Hope single, footloose and fancy free life.

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Since then, I’ll admit that I’ve had two all out snot-riddled sobbing sessions since coming home with the new car.

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Grief is a beeotch and it hits you in the worst ways at the worst times.

I know it’s not about the car; it really is about what the car represents.

Now, instead of this distinctive cute car, I’ve got a great car that is just like everyone else’s great and reasonable car. . Heck I’ve already tried to break into two other cars like it while shopping ,and it’s not been quite 24 hours since I signed the papers.

I always knew where Chili was in a parking lot. <snif>

And did I mention that Hope is unimpressed?  The source of disinterest in part stems from the fact that I deviated from my intended purchase plan.  In essence, she’s salty because I didn’t buy the car I originally intended to test drive and purchase and plan changes generally don’t make her feel safe. So, there’s all that drama left to unpack too.

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The new car is new and different in a cool way, but it’s another change, it’s another accommodation required of this life, that frankly I didn’t give a lot of thought about until about 6 months ago. Another naive parenting pothole for me, I guess.

I will fall in love with the new car. It will get a name and develop a personality, and I will learn to find her in the parking lot.  In time the new car will allow me to cart Hope and some friends around, take her to summer band camp and maybe even take her away to college. This will be a great chapter. I know it will.

And in time, I will be able to remember Chili and our time together and not be sad. I’ll remember it for what it is—a chapter in this life—and I will think about when I’ll be able to get another Mini. It will happen, and we’ll all be happy.

Until then, I’m a bit sappy about this required change.


Thoughts on Celebrating Adoption

Fellow blogger Tao, on TheAdoptedOnes, penned a interesting post on why she can’t celebrate adoption recently.  I love Tao–don’t know if she knows I hold her in such high esteem, but yeah, Tao, ABM loves you!  I have learned so much about adoptees and the adoptee voice from reading her posts; it’s made me think critically about what kind of adoptive mom I want/need to be and what kind of support I must provide my daughter.

Tao starts off this thoughtful post by measuring her words; she knows what she’s about to say might rock some folks’ boat a bit. The recent post challenged me on celebrating my and Hope’s adoption. I was intrigued about the distinction between thankfulness and celebration–being thankful for adoption when necessary but not celebrating its necessity.

I get it.  I totally get it.  And Tao spells it out easy peasy and compellingly.

I have written a lot about all of the people in Hope’s memories who live with us; it really is a case of the good, the bad and the ugly.  Certainly, I wish her birth family had been able to care for her.  I wonder how her mother feels about losing her.  I wonder whether there will be any reconciliation between Hope and her mother or even her extended family.  There’s a lot of messy there, which, of course, is how Hope found herself in need of a home.

I wish she didn’t need me.  Hope herself has said as much; in a perfect world she would have grown up happy and healthy with her parents.

All of that is true.

The path of loss that brought me to adoption is also very real and true. In that parallel perfect universe, I would’ve married the love of my life, birthed some babies, completed my family through adoption and lived a long and happy life.

But none of that had happened when I slid into 40 with a prediction that I’d need a school of engineering to help me conceive and that it was still unlikely I could carry a child to term; oh and a couple of loves in sheep’s clothing had run past and nothing had turned out as I had hoped.

It was only recently that I realized just how much I mourn the loss of the life that never was.  I mourn it deeply.

Yeah, I wish that creating my family through adoption was unnecessary. It wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.

What I’ve learned on this journey is that lots and lots and LOTS of emotions can be felt all at the same time. For much of my life I think I experienced or maybe just acknowledged a dominant emotion at any given time.  But now, two- plus years into this adoption journey, I know that emotions are messy as hell and you can feel dozens of them simultaneously.

I feel devastated about Hope’s life before me.

I feel angry about Hope’s life before me.

I seethe about Hope’s life before me.

I worry about the effects of Hope’s life before me.

I worry about Hope’s future.

I grieve for Hope’s loss.

I grieve for my own loss.

I am furious about my own loss.

I am confused by how things turned out.

I feel betrayed by my body.

I feel feel fury for wasting precious biological time with several jerks I dated for too long.

I feel scared that I won’t ever have the life I desired the way I desire it.

I feel terror that I won’t ever be enough to Hope.

I feel joy that adoption gave me a chance.

I am thankful that Hope and I got each other in the deal.

I feel the struggle of being a single parent.

I feel the struggle of raising a Black child.

I feel the challenge of sorting the the messiness that was Hope’s life before me.

I could go on and on and on and on about my feelings.

I also celebrate adoption.

I celebrate my and Hope’s adoption.

I hate saying I adopted Hope.  The phrase makes it seem like I acquired her when it was so much more than that.  It’s one of the reasons why we like “Gotcha;” Hope and I have concluded that WE got each other in this deal.  We know that the phrase isn’t used that way typically, but we have interpreted in a way that fits us.

I don’t know if we will have a full on celebration on our finalization anniversary in a couple of months. I know we will acknowledge it, likely privately since it’s our thing.

But I know I will celebrate it in my heart. I’m ok with that being an incredibly selfish thing to do and say.  I will also be sad that it was necessary for me and Hope and for Hope’s family.  In that perfect world, our adoption would never have happened.

But here we are.  And we feel all of it, both of us.

And even though Hope is on the other side of our hotel room right now, no doubt watching inappropriate vine videos (based on her cackles of laughter) and my not so secretly wishing she might go to bed early tonight, you know like at 4pm 9pm, I am so enormously thankful to be given the chance to raise her and to be a mom. I am just ok enough with my selfishness to celebrate while still feeling all the burden of the other emotions.

This isn’t at all a swipe at what my fellow blogger was saying; not at all.  I don’t expect Tao, or Hope to feel the way I do.  I also acknowledge the privilege always afforded the adoptive parents’ voice in constructing the adoption narrative.  I get that too.

This triad and its attendant emotions is hard.  There isn’t really a clean reconciliation of all of the feelings. We all just muddle through, sifting through lots of emotions and lots of truth.

So, I totally get where Tao is coming from, and I feel that too.  But I can still warmly celebrate that something wonderful emerged from resounding losses. For me, that’s been a good, if not challenging, thing.


My Voice on Adoption

I came to this journey with my own story, and Hope came with hers.  My story has some loss; her story has a lot of loss. I like to say we found each other.  We’re well suited as a mother-daughter pair.

I know my place as her adoptive mom.  I know what happened with her parents.  She needed a home, and I wanted a home.  I didn’t exactly pray for her, and I know that her family feels her loss.  I know that she deeply feels the loss of her family.  They have all told me, and I have listened.

I catch all the hell that spills out from that deep loss.  I regularly express some of my own emotion related to my loss and hers.

I love her so very much. I believe she loves me too.

I can honestly say that I don’t know anything about international or infant adoption.  Nothing.  I don’t know anything.  I can’t speak to it, and I won’t try to. Heck I’m not an adoption expert on anything but my and Hope’s adoption.

I know that there many, many children in the foster care system.  Sure we can have loads of conversations about how we could have/should have preserved families.  We can talk about how to better support families, women and children especially. We can talk at length about corruption in the adoption world.

And still there would be children needing permanent homes.  And I hope that there are families who have homes to share.

Adoption is a tragic, yet beautifully, complicated process.  It is imperfect.  It can be flawed. Its very need is predicated on individual and familial loss and disasters of all kinds. The process is populated with all kinds of folks.  And like any institution it can be mired in practices and policies that are baffling, disruptive and even unethical.

All of that is true. And yet, still there are children who need permanent homes, and good people who want to and can provide them.

I am glad that I chose this path; I knew early on that adoption would be a part of my journey.  I didn’t think it would quite be like this, but it is what it is. I love this daughter that I share with someone out there.  She is without question or hesitation the most amazing, challenging person in my life and our little family is the happiest, crappiest, best thing I’ve ever been a part of.

I am not naive that she will have her own voice, her own narrative and that it will be drastically different than my own.  It’s ok.  It’s hers, and this is mine.

I want children to have families.  I would love for children to stay with their own families, but I know that that is not always possible.  I am glad I have a home for Hope.  I am unapologetic in going through this process with her, with her becoming my daughter and me becoming her mom.

I love her more than anything. She has been a blessing to me.  I hope I have been good for her.

I would hope that there are other voices like mine who can embrace the various truths about adoption that exist.  I am unapologetic in promoting adoption, particularly of older children (because that’s what I know).  I hope that more people of color will consider adoption.  I hope that more families are preserved, and when that isn’t possible that families will be created for children who need them.

So, with that I am committed to acknowledging National Adoption Awareness Month and National Adoption Day this weekend.  Adoption has been a beautifully, complicated journey for me, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to create my family through this process.


Add Water & Stir: Old Holidays, New Traditions

Every family has traditions and rituals that provide a rich source of family values and shared memories.  These rituals are particularly important for adoptive families as they help to give children a sense of belonging, family unity, predictability and security. However, developing traditions that incorporate everyone’s expectations can be challenging, particularly when considering older child or multi-cultural adoptions.

cat-christmas-tree-climbing-fail

Join ComplicatedMelodi’s Mimi and AdoptiveBlackMom’s ABM as we chat about our thoughts on creating new traditions in our families and our plans to celebrate the holidays. Of course, we will have the Wine Down with some interesting pop culture observations and offer our recommendations.

Note:  Schedule Change for this week!  Catch us live on Google+ on Sunday, October 19 at 6:00pm CST/7:00pm EST.  If you can’t make it, you can always watch the rerun on our Google+ page, Youtube or download the podcast from iTunes or Stitcher.


About that Post-Finalization Life

On Friday, our hearing by Facetime lasted only about 6 minutes (#DougEFresh). The video seems corrupted so the event will only have to be viewed in our minds. We were sworn in, the phone was panned around so we could see this ginormous stuffed animal that will be sent to Hope. I was asked to give my government name, she was asked to give her new government name and her date of birth. Then there were hugs and tears and it was all over. I’m glad I chose to “appear;” there was something important about the ceremonial marking of the occasion. I’ve been Hope’s mom since last fall, certainly since Christmas Eve, when she first decided to call me mom.

Not appearing seemed to reduce this major event into just a paperwork thing, and it’s so much more than that.

We had barbeque and a special cake that had an obscene amount of frosting (some of which was blue and I managed to get it in my hair). We spent time with family. At times she withdrew into her electronic devices just to have a few moments to cope with being a little overwhelmed. Then she invited her young cousin to watch movies in her room. Peeping in on them snuggled together on her bed, laughing and giggling was probably the second best view of the day—the first being the judge declaring us a legal family.

Hope and I’ve laid low since finalization, just trying to soak in the begininngs of our new chapter—That Post-Placement Life. Everything leading up to those 6 minutes exhausted us. We cleaned up after the party was over, and went to bed early. We lounged by the pool on Saturday; I had a night out and Sunday was our usual routine of church.

I did summersaults inside as she filled out her church offering envelope, signing her new name. We both played it off, but it was a nice, non-verbal moment for us.

There is a peacefulness that cloaked us after those 6 minutes. I know that it may not last forever or even very long. But I know for me, this was the first weekend in 4 years when I didn’t have something school or adoption-related going on. We relished this time together.

Hope is mine, and that’s that.

And I’m hers. We got each other last Friday. That’s pretty cool.

I can only report my observations, but it seems that permanence has had an immediate effect on her. Much more patience. Calling herself “Fappy” —a combination of fat and happy. She’s laughing and laughing from her belly this week. She feels good. I can actually see this.

I’m also ‘fappy.’

Totally worth it!


Gotcha’s Eve

Tomorrow is the big day, and I’m so happy that we’ve stumbled back into a positive groove. I seem to forget that whenever we have an extended period in the car, we tend to hit an upswing. Something about our car talks…we get honest, we talk about challenging stuff, we bond, we laugh. I really need to drive Hope around more for longer periods of time.

Anyhoo, last night I hit my agency’s older child adoption support group that meets once a month. Participating in the group always puts me in an especially reflective mood. So here are some of the things I talked about or thought about or dreamt about…

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­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Long adoption waits sound awful, unless yours happened at breakneck speed. There are things that I struggle with when I go to support groups. I totally get the long, long waits that many families endure as they wait for a match or a placement. It sounds painful to wait for years for the dream to come true. I go to group, and I’m asked to  tell my story:

  • Sent my additional agency application January 7, 2013.
  • Finished PRIDE training at the beginning of April.
  • Full application submitted end of April.
  • Home study done in June.
  • Matching starts in mid-July.
  • Receive Hope’s profile as the first profile on July 30th.
  • Hope and I were matched on August 29th.
  • Visits in October, November and December.
  • Placement on January 22, 2014 – 1 year and 2 weeks after I initiated the process.
  • Finalizing on June 6 – 1 year and about 135 days after I started.

Jaws drop every time. Waiting families say how lucky I am. This kind of thing never happens. Yeah, I know.

The reality is that I thought it would take a much longer time, but it didn’t. I suppose the Holy Homeboy thought I was ready, even when I woefully thought I wasn’t. I’m not saying families who wait aren’t ready, but I have come to believe that their kids may not be ready for them. Hope is mine because we were both ready at the same time.

That said, the rate at which this process has occurred doesn’t feel enviable; it feels crazy overwhelming. It wasn’t supposed to be so fast, but it has been. I have no regrets, but OY! There was no honeymoon. There was not much time to get ready. There was just change at breakneck speed all the time. If you wish your process was faster, just know that it’s great to be speedy, but the grass isn’t necessarily greener.  This process is just hard, no matter how fast or how slow. I feel like I’ve had all the experiences just crammed into a shorter period of time and that has been rough.

I didn’t think my love life would exist for a very long time.  I hadn’t given up, but I just thought that whole part of my life would be put in a cryogenic state for who knows how long. Well, ha, the Holy Homebody apparently chuckled at that notion as well. Just weeks after placement and weeks before the lowest point of my whole life and of this process, He placed someone in my life for this season, and man, it’s pretty stunning and pretty awesome. And I fought him; I mean really, this was the worst time ever to meet someone and try to date, right?  But dude never flinched at the messiness that surrounds me. And I finally just gave in to it. And there is a joyfulness alongside the mayhem that this process brings that was/is completely unexpected. I smile in the midst of it all a lot more thanks to this development.

I have no idea where things might go, but it’s nice to know that there’s a life out there to be living as a new single adoptive mom.

I also recognize that the all the bravado that some of us single, independent, successful gals spout about not needing anyone to take care of us is well, right now, for me, a bunch of BS. God has seen fit to break me all the way down during these last few months to really teach me that I needed someone to show me what it’s like to be taken care of by someone who can go deep during the best and the worst of times. And you know what? I’m sold. It’s decadent to just be taken care of. Like I said, I have no idea where things might go, but these last few months will be a new gold standard.

So single adoptive moms: there’s hope on the other side.

And that’s all I have to say about that <grin>.

I was wrong in my original desires to adopt a much younger child. I originally thought I wanted that 5 or 6 year old, you know, school aged but young enough that I could “handle” them. I mean really how hard could it be to raise the little one? My agency really emphasized that with older child adoption, be open to the 10 and up crowd. After looking on websites before matching started, I realized they were probably right, so I pivoted and said 8-12ish.  Hope was at the very top of my age range, but she’s a perfect fit.

It’s taken me months to really buy into the neuroscience of trauma. Last month I really shifted my reading focus to explore issues of brain development and the impact of emotional and physical trauma to young children. Things clicked and I started understanding that many of Hope’s more annoying and challenging behaviors are really related to brain development. There just some developmental things that didn’t happen that need the support to develop. We have to backtrack a bit. She’ll get there; she just needs time and the environment to grow. My job isn’t to heal her; my job is to create the environment in which she can heal. Learning the difference opened a new well of patience and understanding.  It’s helping me grow into becoming a therapeutic parent.

Hope is old enough and developed enough to be able to try to explain why she wants/needs/demands to do some of the things she does. I realized during the last two weeks, especially, that this is a blessing by itself.

So what does this have to do with the original plans to adopt a much younger child? Well, a much younger child wouldn’t have Hope’s self-awareness. A much younger child wouldn’t have Hope’s coping skills. I don’t think a younger child would have the words to help me understand why his/her emotional upheavals were so easily triggered. The healing struggle for us both would be so much harder.  I didn’t start out with a level of patience that would work with that kind of situation.

I’m woman enough to know I couldn’t handle adopting a much younger child. Such a placement would’ve been far riskier for me, for us.

I’m glad I changed my age range, and in hindsight, I’m glad I now understand why I needed to.

I wish that I had gone to more support group meetings before placement.  Maybe someone would have told me some of the things that I now share in group. Things like how my relationships with friends and family change, how tired I would be, how I should’ve stocked up on tissues, handkerchiefs, and red solo cups for all the tears and drinking. How I should’ve started anti-depressants earlier; how I might’ve avoided the event that threatened to disrupt us. How I would go through periods of anger and resentment; how contagious trauma is, how I might cause emotional harm to some folks around me just because I was so tapped out and didn’t have the support systems I desperately needed and wanted. How I needed better plans for self-care going into my placement; how to navigate Medicaid. How it was ok to be sad and happy, to laugh and to cry, to occasionally cry in my tumbler of shiraz, while sincerely wondering how I would make it.

If I had heard these things, known that it was “normal,” known that I wasn’t alone for parts of this journey, maybe things would’ve been a tiny bit different. Or maybe my outlook might’ve been different because I knew more…I don’t know. But I do know that the support group meetings earlier on might’ve helped me in some small or big way.

I now look forward to the camaraderie that comes with sharing war stories and triumphs. I try to share what I’m learning about this journey and myself.

Individual therapy keeps me on the rails. Going to talk to a therapist is just not something that a lot of Black folks do. I’ve often heard that *that* is a White folks activity; we just don’t go around telling our business like that. Well, I write a pretty transparent blog, so maybe you’ve guessed that I’m all about being willing to go to therapy. I’ve gone to therapy off and on since I was in college. I’ve often said it is one of the most delightfully selfish, narcissistic activities I could possibly engage in—paying someone to listen to me talk about my ish for an hour every week or so. My selfish reptilian brain loves going to therapy.

I realize that the investment in myself all these years has helped me muddle through this process and these last few months, especially. I also realize that it’s time to dive back in regularly, making that time and resuming that investment (of course my therapist passively hipped me to the notion that I needed to resume regular visits by saying, “So, I’ll see you in about two weeks?”). It is the safest place on earth for me to talk uncensored about my life, other than prayer.  Now I do individual therapy for me, and I do it for Hope. She deserves my very best and there’s just some stuff that I need to work through in order to be able to always try to give her my best. It’s a process of pursuing improvement, just like everything else.

If I had to give some folks early in the process some advice, going to therapy to just give yourself some time and space to work on your own stuff would probably be it. It’s ok to be selfish when it comes to mental health and well-being. Invest in yourself. Investing in yourself is probably in your kid’s best interest.

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So, it’s late. Actually it’s no longer Gotcha’s Eve; it’s past midnight. Hope will be my legal daughter in about 13 hours or so. That is so ridiculously crazy! I can’t wait. She’s been my daughter for months, but now we’re really all in. I’m ready to celebrate, even if I haven’t a clue what comes next. I just want to savor these special moments for a good long while.


Fear Still Rules the Day

Up until last evening, I wasn’t sure that we would finalize this week. We had one document that required my signature and the signature of some higher up in CPS. My attorney confirmed the date yesterday. Friday is Gotcha Day.

I told Hope last week that we would be finalizing soon. But I was nervous to tell Hope that it was happening this coming Friday. It will all be official in three short days. I just didn’t know how she would react.

I told her over dinner. She sat there stunned. Then she changed the subject and pretended like I never said anything about it.

She does this sometimes in therapy too. She was just avoidant. I decided to just let it go.

But of course it can’t be the simple. It’s never that simple.

Twenty minutes later she picked a mini-battle over a myriad of little dinner-related things. And then there’s the blow-up, followed by the stomping to the room, followed by the concert of badly sung Justin Bieber covers (done for the express purpose of annoying me), door slamming, muttering and other self-soothing behaviors.

I let her be, interrupting her only to tell her to ready herself for bed and to refill her water bottle.

She was still grumpy when I came in to tuck her in, hesitating about whether she wanted me to read her a story.

Of course she wanted a story, and I deliberately chose a longer one to read last night just to be close to her a few minutes longer.

Then when I kissed her good night, she huffed and she puffed, and she screeched at me to close her closet door. Then she bid me goodnight back.

Fear is wicked.

She’s been through this adoption thing before. It never got this far, but someone else tried to tell her that it was forever. It wasn’t. She’s been through this before. It’s terrifying to think that something awful could happen before Friday that would cancel forever. So, the best option is to try to trigger the worst possible scenario before it can happen on its own.

Finalization, for all its celebratory notions, is also a reminder of things that she doesn’t want to be reminded of: all the reasons why she even needs to be adopted at all. And that sucks. It really, really sucks. And when stuff sucks, everything around here sucks, at least or a while. It doesn’t suck quite as long as it used to, but yeah, it sucks for a while. Attitudes, short tempers, tantrums and tears, push/pull behaviors, fight picking, and sometimes, mercifully, the silent treatment. I don’t really like the silent treatment when she retreats into her own little world, but honestly of the choices, it’s the one that is easiest for me to face and for me to overcome.

And even though somewhere in there she’s happy, maybe even ecstatic, it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter that I’m planning a family party. It doesn’t matter that there will be cake. It doesn’t matter that she’s been practicing signing her new name for the last week and a half. None of that really matters.

All that matters is whether Friday is really going to happen. Hell, she’s having a daily meltdown at school and having the school staff call me daily to see whether I’m really picking her up or whether I’m going to be home if she takes the bus because she swears I’m going to abandon her.

This is happening every day. She was telling me that they were making her call. When I met with the staff today to discuss how the calls were heightening her anxiety, I realized that it had nothing to do with the school at all. She just wanted to know if I was going to be there.

Right now, all that matters is whether or not Friday is really going to happen. Will Friday be the beginning of forever?

Yeah, and after it happens, the all that will matter is what happens after Friday.

It’s a new chapter, and neither of us knows what the hell we’re doing or what to expect next.

It will be fine. We will muddle through. Someday we might even thrive. Hopefully, we will do more than survive. We will be fine.

But right now, we are a slave to Hope’s fear right up until the court’s declaration. Sadly, fear will still rule the next few days. I’m praying that the chains of fear will be broken before Friday.

This is my reality of getting me and Hope to permanence, and it continues to be the other side of happy.


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