Tag Archives: Adoption Process

Baseboards and Tears

A lovely chat with someone recently reminded me of what it was like going through my home study in the summer of 2013.

I had started the adoption process about 5 months before; I had finished my PRIDE training. I had done my finger printing and turned in what seemed like dozens of forms. I had been assigned to a lovely Black social worker, who has a big heart and a kind face.

At the time, I was finishing my dissertation proposal, the first 3 chapters of what would eventually be a 6 chapter tome, and my first defense date was just a couple of weeks away. I was prepping for a major conference during which I had several presentations I would be making. I was finishing up a paper on my internship and had finished my last residency for my academic program. Did I mention I was also working full time?

I was wound up pretty tightly, really stressed and perpetually exhausted.

I started reading up on how people prepped for the home study. Folks were out here scrubbing baseboards and practically sterilizing their home. It all sounded insane and stressful. I remember just having mini-panic attacks thinking there was no friggin way I could manage any of that.

By nature, I’m a bit of a clutter bug. I’m not messy, but I’m not the neatest person either. I’m ok with a home that looks and feels lived in. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve intentionally cleaned my baseboards in the 18 years I’ve lived in my home. Yeah, that kind of thing isn’t *my* thing.

Besides, I was in the middle of my dissertation; there were literally piles of paper on my living room floor related to my literature review. And I really mean piles, reams of paper, reams, people!


I even studied on the floor back then; I was a mess.

So, I made the piles as need as I could, and scheduled the first visit of my home study with my social worker for a few days after my bi-monthly housekeeper visit.

What I forgot to do? Deal with my anxiety.

How about I cried through a good portion of my first home study visit.

I felt like I was unhinged. I could not keep it together. I was a nervous wreck. I wasn’t worried about an unkempt house; I was worried about coming across as somehow unfit.

The stress of it all—the dissertation, the schedule, being assessed for being an adoptive parent—it broke me that day.

I remember barely being able to keep it together and thinking that this would surely mean that I would never get a kid.

During my mini-cryfest, my social worker was kind. She saw past the tears and saw me. She comforted me and emphasized that she was there to help me get to motherhood and not to be a barrier, but to be an ally. She was empathic and compassionate.

And still I cried. I was a frigging disaster, and my dog, The Furry One, was all over the place trying to meet our guest on top of everything else. As he skittered around, jumping all over the furniture and skidding on my stacks of paper related to my research, the room became increasingly disheveled. So did I. I was nervous and anxious, and it spilled out all over the place.

In a word, day one of my home study visits was a mess.

A whole mess.

I was convinced that I had failed. That there is no way they would give this overextended and clearly a bit unstable woman a child who might’ve already survived a trip to hell and back. I was surely unsuitable. So, naturally, I was in a state of distraught after the social worker left.

Talk about undone.

We did our visits over a weekend due to both of our jam-packed schedules. So guess what? She came back the next day for a couple of hours to do it all over again.

Because who doesn’t want a repeat of that disaster, amirite?

Day two, I managed to pull myself together. I worked out, did some meditation, drank some tea and took a couple of Ativan for my anxiety.

I was much more confident and gathered this go ‘round. The house? Well, again, I’d straightened up my piles of paper and hid my dirty laundry in the closet.

By the time it was all over, and by over, I meant more than a year later having our last visit with the social worker, I had come to see her as the ally she really was. I’m grateful to her and thankful that she didn’t hold my anxiety about this process against me. I’m glad she saw my piles of paper as a visual indication of my grit and perseverance. I’m glad she listened to my story and saw the real me. I’m glad that she was such a comfort to me from beginning to end.

A few weeks after our visits, a draft of her narrative came to me for review. Thankfully, she didn’t mention my breakdown. All the things she mentioned though…well, it was so lovely. I was and am grateful for her. She remains in my and Hope’s universe.

So, newbies and hopefuls, you don’t have to clean your baseboards if you don’t want to, but you might want to take something to settle your nerves if you’re a crier like me.



The Birth Certificate

Grammy recently came up to visit me for my birthday. During our mother-daughter bonding time, we somehow got to talking about adoption documentation. It occurred to me that I had never shown her Hope’s post-adoption birth certificate.

This document drives me batty.

It drives me batty because it is a lie.

Hope’s post-adoption birth certificate reads as though I gave birth to her and chose not to name her father.

I pulled out the document and showed it to Grammy. She was shocked! She had a ton of questions about why I had a legal document for something that she and I both know never happened.

Yeah, me too, Grammy. Me too.

Grammy just kept exclaiming that the document is a lie. I have never given birth to a child. Frankly to suggest that I did is a painful reminder of how my body has failed me. I have muscled my way to all kinds of life achievements, but that act of carrying a child in my body to term and producing a living, breathing baby…well that will go down as one of my personal failures.

(I don’t ruminate on that as much as I used to, but know that the sting of infertility will always be there.)

But I have a document that says my body did just that. In fact, this legal document that will for the rest of my and my daughter’s days and beyond says that my body did do it and that I did not name a father for the child that I did not birth in the first place. It is a seriously perplexing one-page document characterizing my daughter’s entry into the world.

Seriously there are layers to this thing. Hope had biological parents, both parents were named. That document shows information about both of those parents. There was a legal document that marked her entry into the world. In the document I received after our finalization, it’s like those people never existed. They are erased. Just vanished into the void. As one of my daughter’s biological parents is deceased, this erasure feels especially harsh. It’s like the Bureau of Vital Statistics simply decided to erase him from her story.

It’s crazy enough when this all happens with infant adoption, but when you adopt an older child, they remember their people. It’s not just a psychic or metaphysical thing, Hope lived with her parents. She remembers them; their names, what they looked like, how much she loved them, dinners they made, gifts they gave her, adventures they had, bikes they rode, books they read, places they went…she remembers the life she had with them.

We have a document that suggests that never happened.









I listened patiently as Grammy worked through all of this in her head and outloud. We talked about whether the state thought that this approach to post-adoptive birth certificates was a holdover to the days when you weren’t supposed to talk about adoption or admit adoption. We talked about how it double downed on the shame that those of us who have experienced infertility feel by simply pretending we gave birth. We talked about how far things have come that single motherhood was generally less stigmatizing that admitting your family was created by adoption and how effed up that was. We also talked about how my characterization in the birth certificate made me seem like I *might* be a candidate for the Maury Povich show because I didn’t name my child’s father.


via giphy

Years from now, without an addendum, will some future genealogist wonder if I knew my child’s father or if he was married or if paternity was in question or some other thing that just wasn’t true.

Grammy concluded her vocal processing by folding up the document, handing it back to me and declaring that it’s just wrong.

No kidding.

This is one of those things they don’t tell you about in the adoption process—whether or how the post-adoption birth certificate will characterize how you created your family. They don’t tell you that the document that comes in the mail after finalization may simply be a lie, a legal one, but a lie nonetheless. They don’t tell you that because of privacy laws, this may be the only document that shows up 50 years from now on Ancestry when someone is trying to figure out who Aunt ABM and Cousin Hope are and how do they fit into the family. They don’t tell you that those privacy laws, for some adoptees, mean they will never have access to the original document that accurately documents their birth.

Of course, I have my and Hope’s adoption decree, but as she approaches adulthood, there is hardly any need to refer to that document. But you need access to your birth certificate throughout your lifetime. It’s one of a few documents that proves American citizenship—it states where you were born. It’s just not the same.

As readers know, the fact that Hope will be 18 in about 4 months hade been weighing on me emotionally.. After her birthday, provided her surviving birth parent hasn’t blocked release of the original birth certificate, Hope will legally be able to get that document for the price of some paperwork and $20. At least she doesn’t have to pay more for the OBC than the adoptive birth certificate.

I intend to help her order a copy. Her social worker was kind enough to have a non-official copy included in Hope’s disclosure records. I didn’t appreciate back then what a gift that was, to see what the original looked like, what it said. I do now. So even though we have a copy, I will help Hope order an official copy. What she does with it is her business; I just think it’s important for her to have an accurate document that documents her entry into the world.

As for me, when we make the request, I’ll also be writing letters on simply having an OBC that has a adoption notation to increase the accuracy of this important legal document. I’ll include that my daughter having access to a document that describes her birth should not be withheld from her. She shouldn’t have to Hope anyone else thought to block access to a document about her. Yes, the document is about other people as well, but there should be some transparency there for everyone. It’s only right.

So, yeah, I have a document that reminds me of my body’s failures and advances a lie about my daughter’s birth. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to parent Hope, but some of the stuff that goes on within Adoptionland is just weird.

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.”

make it work pop tv GIF by Nightcap-downsized

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.

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.


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.


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.


Take Your Time, We’ll Wait – Add Water and Stir!

The Podcast!

The Podcast!

Join us for the next episode of Add Water and Stir with Mimi from ComplicatedMelodi and ABM from AdoptiveBlackMom on Thursday, August 20 on Google+ at 10pm EST/9pm CST! As usual we’ll be catching up on life and talking shop. This will be a special episode of Add Water as we feature our very first guest, Future Adopter! Be sure to peep her blog, A Sista’s Guide to Adoption and find out how she’s doing as she preps to dive into the adoption process.

On Thursday we will talk about all the waiting that takes place throughout the adoption process. You wait until the “right” time; you wait to get the paperwork done; you wait for the home study and licensing. You wait during the matching process. It just seems like you are waiting for ever! Mimi, ABM and Future Adopter will chat about the emotions, things we did and are doing to keep our sanity throughout the process.

And of course we’ll also talk about pop culture in our wrap up segment playfully named “The Wine Down” by Future Adopter (Yeah, we’re keeping that FA!).

Don’t forget to Tweet us (@mimicomplex and @adoptiveblkmom) at #addwater and #TreatYoSelf!

RSVP to join us live!

Podcasts are available on YouTube and on our podcast page!

Three Months Deep

Yesterday, Hope and I celebrated 3 months post-placement, and by celebrate I mean we dined out at a pizza buffet and I let her watch a Netflix movie on my tablet—in her room. Yeah, admittedly Netflix’ing in her room with an HDMI cord is my new reward system that rewards us both! #giftsthatkeepgiving #alonetime

These last couple of weeks have been rough for me. I know they’ve been rough for Hope too. They weren’t the roughest weeks we’ve endured during the last 90 days, but I struggled with issues in our relationship, in my relationship with family members, and at work. I was losing the capacity to have much patience; I was snippy. I parented in ways that I’m not particularly proud of sometimes. I got cussed out. I wanted to cuss out a whole mess of folks. I got things tossed at me. I got hurtful notes. Hope huffed and puffed like the Big Bad Wolf at least once daily. I felt like everyone had an opinion or “helpful” word that they were oh to happy to share when I really just wanted to crawl in a hole and cry, then maybe sleep. There were days when as much as I wanted to be honest with some folks in my life, the truth about the emotional mayhem going on at Casa de ABM was just too much to share. I came to believe that some folks just wouldn’t believe it anyway. The decisions that needed to be made to protect us were at times painful and offensive to others, but critical to helping us press forward. Some days, most probably, I was my own worst enemy as I was plagued with self-doubt, self-criticism, sentiments of failure and worthlessness. It’s been a weary couple of weeks.

It was nothing but grace that got us through the last 90 days, especially since these last few weeks weren’t even the worst of it.

It certainly hasn’t been all rough. There were days, even a couple of weeks when we finally settled into our routine and I would breathe silently each night with a smile, “Yeah, that’s what’s up.” There have been friends and family who’ve checked in on us; patiently given us space or just allowed me to vent, cry and fall apart on the phone, by text, by skype, by email, over coffee. There’ve been fellow bloggers and other adoptive parents who have let me know that all of this messiness is normal, or at least normal for us, as we help our children get settled and begin healing.   I’ve had a lot of positive support and encouragement from my agency and my social worker; the encouraging words helped keep me going on some hitsay days. #piglatin

I saw grace in those moments too.

Then Tuesday, on the eve of our month-a-versary and in the middle of family therapy, I saw Hope through a different lens and consequently saw us through a new lens too. Yesterday, Hope finally decided to participate in our therapy session. Actually she dominated it. She prattled nervously, but made conversation, shared dark things, things that I didn’t know, things I knew all too well and things that just surprised me. As I sat and listened, making eye contact with our shrink and my daughter, I thought, well *now* we’re getting somewhere. Hot therapist would make eye contact back with a subtle nod, “Yeah, we are getting somewhere!”

At one point Hope brought up something from the Easter sermon at church, applied it to the topic of the moment in an appropriate but hilarious way. I nearly cried; I did audibly gasp. I remember the second week when she whined about having to go to church and now she talking about what she learned and what it means. She smiled when she saw my reaction. I learned about how a woman who briefly was in her life years ago reached out to her on social media and how she rebuffed her attempts to connect, saying I have a great mom now, I don’t want you around, and I don’t like how you treated me. I heard her coming into a self-awareness that wasn’t there three months ago. I heard the grip of fear loosening in her life. I heard her trust in me. I heard her making plans for her life here. It was so beautiful to see my girl’s progress in a 50 minute session.

On the way home, I got stung by some kind of insect and Hope sprang into action, insisting that she take care of me. She made me tea, prepped an ice bath for my swollen hand, got the Benadryl and put it in one of the Dixie cups that I use to dole out medications. Then she fixed herself a cup of tea and sat with me, timing how long my hand was in the ice bath and fetching a second dose of antihistamine for me an hour later. Hope clucked about whether or not I needed to go to Patient First and if she needed to get our neighbor to come help. It was a little sting and yes, my hand was swollen like the dickens but after 20 minutes I knew I wasn’t going to die and besides I have some epi-pens in the house. But her care and concern was so earnest, so genuine that I let her fret over me for nearly two hours while we snuggled on the couch watching Swamp People.

It was a beautiful way to spend an hour on our 89th day together. It was us turning another corner together.

Hope is my daughter. I am hers, and she is mine. And it’s kind of cool to think, hey, I had a hand in getting her to this emotional space that allows her to be a bit more tolerant of therapeutic treatment of emotional grief and trauma. Monday night had me high-fiving the Holy Homeboy during my evening prayer. Good stuff.

Her social worker told me to today that they were moving forward to get the adoption finalized. Hope will be mine forever before her birthday in June.

I cling to moments like these. It’s hard for some people to understand that regressive behaviors are a part of the very normal, yet painful process for us. I know that we will continue to wrestle with things. If our pattern holds true, then the shoe will drop by week’s end. Maybe we’ll start a new pattern, who knows. I know that the grief that pervades her life continues to crush a part of her spirit even as she can say that living with me and being my daughter is a good thing. There’s still a strong need to test it by sabotage. She grieves the life she should’ve had with her parents; she’s angry that they failed her, that they didn’t put her first. The nicer I am to her, the more it hurts her some days because she knows that this should all be happening with her biological parents, but it never did, and it never will. It’s hard for a young girl to bear that reality in the face of a new life. She is starting to show gratitude, not for being adopted but just because she’s beginning to appreciate the kindness shown to her. Most people won’t get the subtle distinction, just assuming that our add-water-and-stir family should gel easily because we’re all so happy to be here. The path to permanency for my daughter sucked arse big time. No child should endure what she has.

And yet we are such a different pair than we were 3 months ago. She told me she doesn’t even remember her first two weeks here. It was an overwhelming blur. She remembers my birthday about two weeks after she arrived, but it happened to be on Super Bowl Sunday and it was hard to forget that! It’s like not remembering what happened when you were a toddler; emotionally, she was starting all over again. I can see how she was so overwhelmed now. I was overwhelmed too.

I look forward to seeing where this year takes us. We have grown so much over the last three months. We have so much more growing to do as we continue on our journey.

Onward and upward.

Visitation Reflections

It’s hard to believe that two weeks have passed and Hope’s visit with me has ended.  We’ve both got mixed emotions about this next part of our journey—waiting for paperwork.   She needs time to say goodbye, and I need time to “dissertate” and get the rest of our support team set up.  It’s a lot.  The therapists I’ve reached out to haven’t returned my calls.  There’s some additional room decorating that needs to happen.  And let’s not forget that I’ve got a mess of work to catch up on—including one journal article that needs to be revised in less than a week so I can meet the next deadline.

Hope and I have finally, in the last few days, settled into a delightful kind of normal.  There’s a comfort with each other; there are really challenging moments but we’re in a good place as we head back to the West Coast.  The last 4 days have been delightfully—gasp!—fun.  They’ve been a mom and her daughter just kicking it.   So, here’s my lessons/observations/whatever as I reflect on the last couple of weeks.

10.  Lots of things are just not that serious.

Sometimes Hope plays in the floor like she is a 5 year old.  Truth be told, I hate it, but really, I love hearing her giggle more than I hate it.  She’s laying in the floor, playing with the dog, she’s giggling, she’s being a kid.  She’s being a kid.

I want her to be a kid.  So, I just need to chillax and let some things just go.  It’s really not that serious.

There are way more parking lots in this life than in my previous single with no kid life.  I realize that I have a lot of single girl hang ups about food and space and exercise and clothes and… you name it.  In two weeks, I’ve learned I need to go into parking lot rehab.  Most of it is really just not that serious.

9. Timing is everything.

I’m growing accustomed to living my life in 20-30 minute increments.  Hope does not do well with sudden changes.  Sudden change equals life upheaval; so we need to avoid all of that.  Having been childless the ability to change my mind at a moment’s notice never affected anyone else.  I can’t live like that now.  In fact, I need to announce what the next day’s schedule is, remind her and set timers.  I never thought that my adoption registry for my upcoming shower would include a timer, but yeah, I need timers all over the place.

I use them to have a timekeeper for electronic screen time (in addition to parental apps).  I use them to say we need to be dressed to leave by a certain time.  I use them for everything!  Life is much more manageable with the timers.  Thank you Jesus for timers.

8. Speaking of Jesus…

I am Christian, but I’m not, nor have I ever been particularly preachy or proselytizing of my faith.  I don’t hide it, but for the most part, it’s one of the areas of my life that I tend to not talk about with folks other than close family and friends.   I mentioned in an earlier post that one of my mountains with Hope is my insistence that we go to church.  I don’t have an expectation that she necessarily join or that she even get *saved.*  I hope she comes to those choices, but they are choices.  Despite becoming a believer at 7 and being raised in the Baptist church, I can’t say I took my faith as bedrock until the last 10, maybe 15 years of my life.  And even then, I identify as a progressive, liberal Christian and ideologically, I am increasingly finding it hard to fit and to find a place where I fit.  The current Christian landscape in the US is kinda creepy to me.

Anyhoo, Hope asked me about being saved and baptism and just some basic theological questions that at her age I took for granted because I had always been around the Christian church.  I was delighted by her questions because I could explain things with ease and confidence and the moment lived up to visions I’d had in my head about spending time with my daughter through this particular lens.

Church was great (you know when that message is really YOUR message—yeah, today was that sermon) and I cried because I was just so happy with my life—the ups, the downs, this amazing kid sitting next to me and the blind and nearly deaf dog we have at home.

I don’t know if Christianity is for everyone; I know that I do my own thing and have found a church that works for me.  I will say that whatever your faith, this adoption thing is a beast and I know that you have to lean into whatever it is you believe in.  You will need to lean in hard, dang near perpendicular!  The grounding in something beyond yourself, something supernatural, is necessary.   One of the things the speaker reminded the congregation about this morning:  faith is not grown on the best days; it’s grown on the worst.   If you’re traveling this path, you need to believe in something.   Jesus happens to be my homeboy; he might be a good homeboy for you too.

And that’s pretty much my annual quota of religious proselytizing.   <shrug>

7.  Mountains are worth the effort.

The great Dr. Seuss 10pm bedtime standoff from last week was clearly our turning point.  OMG!!  I am still so proud of myself for standing my ground, clicking the lights and hunkering down in that power struggle.  I’m most proud that once she caved and went to bed that I was able to go in, kiss her good night and tell her I loved her.  We haven’t had a serious bedtime issue or major meltdown since.

I’m a natural stubborn debater.  I like to be right.   I like to win.  I’m reminded with Hope that the need for humble grace after having won is really what makes you hit the summit of the mountain.  It’s not about winning the power struggle, it’s about loving after the struggle is over.

6. Physical touch is healing.

Hope has some issues with being touched in certain ways.  Fortunately she can’t seem to get enough of hugs.  I hug her and kiss her forehead 50 times during the course of a day, even when she is being a real pill.  Midweek she just really started spontaneously hugging me on her own.  We held hands in church.  She kisses my cheek.  This physical affection is so meaningful for both of us.  It heals what’s ailing us, even if it’s a temporary salvo right now.  I’m going to miss hugging her for the next couple of weeks.  The Furry One is going to get hugged a lot more as a result.   We humans need physical touch.

5.  I’m a little worried about going back to work. 

For the first time in years, my focus is completely devoted to something else in my life.  This new identity business is really a BFD!  I’ve got a mess of stuff going on and I know that people will have the same expectations of me as they did before, but 1) I don’t really have a desire to work the way I did pre-Hope, at least not right now; 2) I don’t care about being defined by my professional identity right now.  I know it will all shake out in time.  I’m near the top of my own personal professional game right now.  I have a job that I love; one that I thought I’d have a hard time walking away from ever.  Today, well, hmmmm, I could.

I guess like I have to figure out what Hope’s and my normal will be, normal will also have to be redefined in my professional life too.

4.  This culture undermines parents. 

I can only imagine and apologize for some of the utterly silly things I may have said to the folks around me who are parents over the years.  Please forgive me. It really is pervasive though.

In the last two weeks I have had folks attempt to shame me for some of the early decisions I’ve made concerning how I intend to raise my daughter.

Do you think it’s wise to force her to go to church?

She really should have a cell phone; I don’t think you’re being realistic, everyone’s doing it.

Oh hot chocolate?  You know, she would probably be fine with decaf coffee.

Oh, this is the light stuff.  Everyone has an opinion, but so few bother to filter them or think about how they affect conversations that should happen at home.  Most things are innocuous, but, ugh…let’s just say, I had no idea how challenging this culture is with respect to raising a kid.  In my happily single, childless haze, I just had no idea that my big mouthed ideas should probably be left to myself.


3. Kathryn Purvis is changing my life.

About a month ago, I finally picked up Purvis’ book The Connected Child.  I’m still wondering why no one at my agency recommended this book to me as I was wading the paperwork.  A few chapters in and it just made sense.  I tried to use it to help educate my family about things to expect with Hope.  There’s a great website (http://empoweredtoconnect.org/) and a Youtube channel with short videos as well.  I’ve got to practice the techniques more diligently, but Purvis’ work is extraordinary and will have a meaningful impact on me and Hope.

I’ve read several books and scanned a dozen more on adoption and older child adoption topics; The Connected Child seemed to provide me one stop shopping for information and resources.

2. I’m still in paperwork hell.

All I want for Christmas is Hope.

Whether Hope and I get each other for Christmas is dependent on the ICPC paperwork being completed in the next 15 calendar days, 11 business days.

Waiting still sucks.

1. Happiness is a by-product.

Last week Hope told Grammy that my job was to make her happy.  Grammy corrected her and told her that my job was to make sure was safe, had what she needed and loved her in healthy affirming ways.  The result of my doing these things is her being happy.  This was a great lesson.  Lots of people chase happiness, but don’t chase given their life meaning.  The latter is what ultimately will bring you much closer to your desired state.

Hope coming into my life has made me very, very happy.

Tomorrow I head back East for a long day of travel and possibly several weeks of waiting.  It’s all good though, I’m happy!

Needed: An Origami Coach


This dreadful jet lag had me up at 4:30 local time this morning.  I’m starting to wonder if this great coffee city has enough java to keep me powered during this visit. Despite the fact that I know I’ll pay for it later, I’m relishing in the quiet solitude of the morning.  I adore the kid that’s sleeping in the next room, but good Lord I am tired.

Hope is a chatterbox.  Now this is the point where some of my friends and family who follow my blog run off to get tissues to dab their eyes because the belly laughs they are enjoying have become just too much for them.  Yeah, the irony is not lost on this wordy girl that Hope is chattier than I ever have been in my life, and that’s saying something.  My God, I can’t even know how many people I must’ve exhausted in this lifetime.

I love her voice and am amused by her conversations, but I am admitting on this here blog, that I did not fight to go back to sleep this morning because the solitude was so enticing.   I’ve read enough Facebook statuses to know I should not feel guilty about being up before dawn, just soaking in the quiet.

Ok, I’m also trying to upload the last batch of dissertation interviews for transcription on this slow arse internet at this hotel.  I got the first batch back, and my dissertation director is reading an early draft of my quantitative analysis this weekend.  The dissertation grind just doesn’t let up.

Anyhoo, yesterday Hope and I did a few tourist trap outings and a little shopping.  We ran across this little Japanese store at the mall that had all kinds of interesting goodies.  Hope loves origami.  I suck at origami.  I bought us a bunch of paper and a few books.  The beginner book makes me feel so very lame; my ego is suffering something terrible here.  I did manage to make a cute frog who does hop; it was my greatest origami achievement yesterday.  All the while I was grunting over pretty paper, Hope made a fortune teller, some cool pinwheel thing, and a bunch of other cool little contraptions.

I learned more about my daughter yesterday.  She’s at the age when a cute boy crossing the street results in a moment of complete and utter distraction, much like when a hunting dog sees a much sought-after squirrel.  Never take her into one of those brain teaser stores if you want to spend the next hour doing something else, because it is not going to be a short walk through.  She ignores you when she doesn’t want to do something.  She hates waste, not because she’s a conservationist at heart but because she’s had so little that she had to save what she had and ration it.  She admits to being a bit disruptive in school; where do folks learn all this “You have to respect me before I respect you” foolishness.  No little girl, get in your lane.  I sense having more than one conversation at a school conference on this subject in my future.   She has a strong need to be right [family and friends just hush!].  She is surprisingly honest about her life and what she thinks about things up until this point.  I’ve learned about things that were never in her profile but seem pretty stinking important in my quest to be a good, thoughtful and sensitive parent.

Over dinner last night at one of the special places she requested, she had a moment.  She sighed and said, “I call you ABM, but I feel like I want to call you something else.”

Hmmm, ok, I’m thinking this conversation just got serious, as I nosh on this tasteless Spaghetti Factory pasta without benefit of a red wine accoutrement.  I was so proud when she announced at the end of the meal that she was not impressed; the girl likes good food and this wasn’t really good at all.   I know; I digress.

“Ok, so what do you think you want to call me?”

“I don’t know…” She wrinkled her face up and said, “Mom?  But maybe not, because that sounds so weird… I don’t know.  I’ve never called anyone that before.”

Wait, is she mulling over calling me Mom?   Holy bat-poop!  That’s pretty awesome!  OMG…ABM, think fast, think fast and whatever you do, don’t cry.   I really could’ve used a glass of cabernet right then.

“Well, Hope you can keep calling me ABM until you figure out what you’d like to call me.  Mom sounds nice, but you’ll know if and when that’s what you want to call me when you’re ready.  I figure one day you’ll just call me something and it will stick and we’ll both be ok with it.  And it will be cool, ok?”


Hey where’d that come from?  I think I did ok.  Earlier in the day we discussed a nickname for her.  The beginnings of our names are similar, and her nickname is actually a sweet name my granny used to call me.  Interestingly, it was not really chosen by us, but more confirmed.  Someone earlier in her life also called her by this pet name and it brought back pleasant memories; she was delighted that I shared the pet name, so it seemed like a great fit.  No doubt my mom, Grammy, will put this down as more proof that Hope is supposed to be my kid.

Ok, so here are my highlight lessons of the day!

  • I really suck at origami, I mean really suck.  I’ve mis-folded countless pieces of pretty paper in the last day.
  • Never buy an umbrella at a tourist trap.   Twenty-five dollars for an umbrella…I know better, but ugh, the rain was so heavy.
  • My cute new trench coat makes me look like a small tan whale.  Will be counting calories and making time to get my fanny to the gym on the regular when I get back to town.  I miss my pre-grad school curves.  I can’t even say this is baby weight, unless I just name my dissertation and call it another kid.  The PhD-15.
  • The parenting 5-countdown thing really does work.  I had to use it several times yesterday.  By the third time I had it down pat, and she was more compliant with the desired behavior.  Good times.
  • Hope has a potty mouth, that I’m sure is reserved for school and not the grownups who surround her.   She does enough “kiddie cursing” (heck, dang, etc) for me to know that the unfiltered version is probably like a Lil’ Wayne song in the school halls.  I know, because I like bad words (thank you George Carlin), but we’ll be tapping down on all of that and boosting more appropriate vocabulary as time drags on.
  • I’m super blessed in more ways than I ever understood.  I’m grateful for parents who were able to provide me with such great upbringing and foundational life experiences.  I adored them before, but now I know that parenting and doing your best on that journey is truly a life’s work.

Now, I’m going to snooze a bit.  We’re Skyping Grammy and Gramps in a couple of hours,  and I want to savor this morning a little longer.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…No it’s Hope!

I arrived minutes before she did.  I had barely taken a seat on the oversized sofa, when she came in.  She had on a hoodie with the hood pulled low.  She peeped out and slid the hood back and slowly smiled.  I saw tears in her eyes and I started to tear up.  I said hello and asked if I could hug her.  She stretched her arms, and I stretched mine.

That hug was like finding a piece of me that I never knew I was supposed to have but being so happy that I found it.

We both admitted to being nervous, especially with everyone standing/sitting around grinning at us and watching every little first that we had.  We made plans, and the team said, why don’t you take her tonight?  A day early?

Oh yeah!

We picked up a weekend bag for her; picked up a few grocery snacks, got a takeout pizza and a red box movie.  The movie sucked but we had a nice low key first evening.

I gave her some yummy smelling things from Bath and Body Works and as I draft this blog post I think I’ve heard her spritz her new body spray no less than 28 times.  She just denied it.  The whole hotel suite smells like Moonlit Path, and all I can do is sit here, grin and pop some more allergy meds.

I’ve learned a lot about my daughter today.  She frets about money in ways that seem like she’s never had any financial security.  She misses her father, but thinks he would be happy about this adoption.  She has too many friends who are also waiting for forever families.  She likes green apples, green grapes and hates blue cheese unless it is paired with contrasting flavors.  She has a palate that is eager to be expanded.

I am deliriously exhausted, barely blinking my way through Scandal, which I swore last season would be my last Gladiator chasing set of months.  Two hours of sleep last night and a cat nap on the flight.  I am tired.

But I just tucked Hope in and kissed her forehead before retiring to my sofa bed.

Yeah, super, super day.

It’s About to Go Down!

OhhhEmmmGeeeeee!  Tomorrow the meet and greet is happening!

I’ve been on pins and needles all week because I didn’t have a schedule for this visit.  Hope has been antsy because the lack of detail affected our countdown-to-meeting numbers.  I am also a bit of a control freak, so the lack of detail has been driving me crazy.

So, in less than 12 hours I hop a flight for 7 hours of travel.  A few hours after touching down, I’ll go to a meeting with Hope and her therapist.  I have no earthly idea what will happen.  I believe it’s going to be awesome.

I’m not nervous, maybe a little anxious, but really just eager.  I am wearing a casual dress; I decided I needed my security blanket for this meeting.  I don’t know what to expect.  It’s not like seeing a newborn.  We will both see each other and react.  What an amazing, yet odd, thing, right?

Will we recklessly eyeball each other across a conference table in silence?  Will she be as chatty as she’s been since our first phone call?  Will I be able to hold back tears because it’s all so amazingly overwhelming (I’m such a crier)?  What will we talk about first?  Just how many Justin Bieber songs will I listen to this weekend (she’s got a thing for him; thank God she also appreciates good music like Earth, Wind and Fire too…softens the Bieber-blow a little, but I digress).




Claiming tomorrow as the new Best. Day. Ever! before it even happens.

Tomorrow marks another point is this new life chapter.

But now, this fuzzy mop on my head demands my attention, as does the rest of the stuff that needs to go in this duffel bag!

Stay tuned!

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