Monday, July 7, 2014

Our First Meeting

Annabel fell asleep in the car on the way to our very first meeting at the adoption agency. She almost always wakes up happy even if she’s still exhausted so although we felt badly waking her up, we weren’t worried about her being crazy as a result. As I pulled open the door to the building, Annabel asked in her tiny, tired voice if we would “bring the baby home with us today.”

“No, baby girl. It will take a long time to get a baby and maybe we won’t even get one, but it will all be okay.” I believe that so sincerely.

We brought the kids to the first meeting not as any statement of family unity, but rather, because we like having them with us. Plus, there was really no harm in bringing them along. Teddy loves feeling included, particularly in things he knows are important, and I wanted this to all seem as natural to him as possible.

A few weeks ago, when Brian had the kids in the car without me, Teddy asked Brian out of nowhere, “Daddy, why can’t Mommy have any more babies?” I had already told him why and he never forgets a thing, but he had every right to hear it from someone else, too.

“Because she takes a medicine that makes it so that she can’t have babies,” Brian explained just like I had. Brian said he seemed satisfied. I was surprised, because when Teddy and I had the impromptu conversation a few weeks earlier, he had pushed me a bit.

“When do you finish taking the medicine?” he had asked me.

“In nine years,” I answered.

“So could you just have a baby then?”

“Maybe, but in nine years, you will be 15 years old and wouldn’t it be more fun for you to have a little brother or sister now when you’re young, too?”

“Yeah,” he answered, still thinking about it. Clearly he has picked up that adoption isn't the traditional route, but I love that he's getting comfortable with it, nonetheless.

* * *

Our meeting last week at the adoption agency was wonderfully smooth. “Sue,” the coordinator for parents hoping to adopt domestically, was lovely, and we had a hockey connection so we knew some of the same people.

We had come to decide on domestic adoption because we heard from several sources that international adoption with a cancer diagnosis is next to impossible. We hadn’t anticipated that (in fact, I had assumed just the opposite), but when it came down to it, domestic or international didn’t make much of a difference to us, so we easily shifted to the domestic path.

As the kids colored, played, and asked for water, Sue explained to us the process for domestic adoption. First, we fill out an application. We did that as the rain poured down on July 4th, and it was nothing more than basic demographics and a few bigger decisions (Would you consider adopting a child with special needs? Would you consider adopting a sibling group or twins?) The applicable fee is just about $300, and that gets us in the system.

Next, we will be matched with a social worker who will help us through the “home study.” I had a vision of a home study being just that – a study of our home to determine if we were qualified to be parents. But Sue explained that it’s not “a white glove test.” She explained that the social worker will walk around the whole house but not in order to find something wrong with it. Rather, she will see if our house is prepared for children and if for some reason it wasn’t, she would coach us as to what to do. The home study process takes several months, and five or six meetings with the social worker, some of which will include members of our extended family.

During the home study, we will also fill out massive amounts of paper work. Brian and I will each need to write an “autobiography” about ourselves so that the social worker can more easily get to know us. Then we will do everything from fingerprints to FBI clearances. Sue explained it as time consuming but not difficult. It's how the agency gets to know us so they can find the best match possible with a birth mother.

If our home study is “approved,” we enter into the phase where Sue will conduct “outreach” in order to get our family’s profile out to birth mothers in states where the agency has professional relationships. Apparently in the Southern states, birth mothers who are contemplating adoption visit attorney’s offices, while up here, birth mothers go through adoption agencies. The agency has relationships in several states all over the country so that they can try to introduce us to women who have decided to put their unborn baby up for adoption.

What I liked most about the agency is that they have birth mother liaisons who provide support to the birth mothers during and after their pregnancy. It means a lot to me that birth mothers are cared for by the agency to the extent that it’s possible. I honestly think that any woman who chooses to have a baby and put it up for adoption is strong and brave beyond words.

Sue also explained that birth mothers will get to know our family through a “profile” that we will create. Basically, this is a photo book about our family, our house, our hobbies, and what we have to offer a child. We literally make this book, run color copies off at Kinkos, and hope that a birth mother picks it up and wants to give her baby to us. It’s nuts, and incredible, all at the same time.

If Sue finds us a potential “match,” she will call and give us basic information about the mother and the unborn baby—perhaps the mother’s age, race, state of residency, and due date. Brian and I decide if it sounds like a good fit for us and if so, we agree to have our profile presented to birth mother, or if she has already seen it, then we agree to learn more. And so the “match” goes.

Of course, there was the lingering question...

My friend, “Jane,” who adopted her third child after beating breast cancer the first time (she more recently beat it again), had already told me about the cancer piece of this puzzle so I wasn’t all that worried. Still, I wanted to hear it straight from Sue. When Teddy was out of the room getting water, I asked her.  “How would my cancer affect this process?”

Sue’s answer was just as Jane had prepped me. I will need a note from my oncologist stating that I have a “normal life expectancy.” Normal life expectancy.

There sure is a whole lot of a whole lot packed into those three words.

To be continued…

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