Adoption

Adoption “What If’s”

So, what if I’m that guy who analyzes things too much?

what if

Adoption was not our “plan A” when it came to growing our family. Don’t get me wrong, I had the idealistic thoughts that many have, thinking that someday it would be nice to adopt. I viewed it as something that truly selfless people do to help humanity, but it was not necessarily for me.

Infertility changed all of that for me. It took some time to wrap my mind around the situation, but eventually it became a present reality. I realized that adopting would fill a need in ourselves and our family as well as give a child a good home. I didn’t come to this realization easily, here are some of the “what if’s” that crossed my mind, and some of the conclusions I’ve come to through my experiences.

-What if it is too expensive? This is a very valid question. Adoption can be very expensive and to some it seems impossible. We were blessed with the resources to make the adoptions happen and I have never regretted it. There is nothing that money could have bought that would bring more joy and happiness to me and my family.

-What if I’m not able to bond with the child? This question was one of the first I had. I had no idea if I would bond with an adopted child the same way as I had with our biological daughter. In my situation this is the easiest one to answer, the bonding happened immediately. From the first moment I saw each one of our adopted children, I was totally and completely in love. There was no hesitation or second thought.

-What if I feel like a babysitter? This question went back to the previous question of bonding. Like I stated earlier, from the beginning there was not question of the bond that immediately formed between us. Whenever my wife goes out with her friends, leaving me alone with the kids, she likes to tell me that it’s not “baby sitting” when they’re your own kids.

-What if the birth parents want the baby back?  We have all heard the horror stories of the birth parents who come back after two years, and after a long court battle regain custody of their child. While this does happen, it’s very rare. In my experience, the birth parent’s greatest motivator is the happiness of the child. Though difficult, they put their own needs aside for the child to have an intact home, and a better future than they can provide.

-What if the child grows up wishing they were with their birth parents? In visiting with adults that were adopted, I have found that the child does mourn the loss of his or her birth parents, but they all have expressed to me the gratitude they have for the birth parents that placed them for adoption as well as for their adoptive parents. A few have described difficulty in their teen years, but adolescence can be a very difficult time for anyone. We all try to identify who we are and who we want to be. Adoption is something that kids can blame their troubles on, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that is the root of the issue. While I am sure there are exceptions, adult adoptees that I have met are very well adjusted, happy people.

-What if I’m not a good enough Dad? This was the hardest question for me, and continues to be difficult. A birth mother places a lot of trust and hope in an adoptive couple. She wants her child to have a life that she can’t provide, and it rests on the shoulders of the adoptive parents to fulfill her dreams for that child. When I lose my temper or catch myself not being the best I can be, I feel like I’m letting that her down. We all have weaknesses and struggle at times, but I always try to remember the sacrifice of their birth mother and try harder to be the father she wanted for her children.

Don’t let the “what if’s” stop you if you are thinking about adoption. If nothing else, through my experiences I’ve realized that things have a way of working out. And even though they may not turn out the way we first planned or hoped, I can look back and say I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you have had experiences with adoption that you would like to share, please leave me a comment.

The Economics of Adoption: Using an Attorney vs. Private Adoption Agency

So I’m that guy that decided to go forward with a private adoption thinking it would be cheaper and easier than working with an adoption agency.

Adoption agreement

When we received the information that the birth mother of our first adopted son was once again pregnant, we had some mixed feelings. With our first son, we went through a private adoption agency and the cost was difficult for us to manage. We have no regrets at spending the $30,000 fee that the agency charged the first adoption, but we just didn’t feel that we would be able to afford another costly adoption so soon afterward. At the same moment, we wanted the baby and could not imagine telling our son that we couldn’t afford to bring his brother into our home when he was older. It seemed silly on one hand to quibble over the cost of adopting a half sibling, but on the other hand, it would put a serious financial burden on our family.

Upon further research, we were told by the adoption agency that their fees had gone up since our last adoption. The current fee would be $33,000 plus any medical expenses incurred during the birth. The medical costs could be anywhere between $7,000 and up to $10,000 if a c-section was necessary, and any costs associated with complications would be ours as well. That brought the cost to a range between $40,000 and $43,000.

Here is some un-professional tax advice for people looking to adopt. There are adoption tax credits available to adoptive families. In our situation there was up to $12,000 in non-refundable tax credits. Non-refundable means that you don’t get it back unless you owe taxes. If you owe taxes, the tax credit is a dollar for dollar reduction of your tax bill. It will usually make your refund larger, but you won’t necessarily get the money back in the first year. Consult your CPA for further information on this.

Even with the adoption tax credit, the price was so high that we felt we couldn’t move forward with the adoption because of the cost. The only other option we had was to work out a private adoption and work with birth mother directly. Believing this would cost less, while knowing it would be difficult to manage the situation, we chose to move forward without the adoption agency.

We contacted the birth mother and told her our situation would not allow us to go through the agency, but that we would like to handle it privately. She was hesitant at first, but she decided that she would cooperate in order to keep the kids together. My wife and I started making phone calls and doing research into the costs that we would have in doing an adoption privately. We interviewed lawyers and spoke with social workers and hospitals to pin down all the costs that we would be responsible for.

Our budget included an estimate of travel and living expenses to move the birth mother closer to us during the last two months of the pregnancy as that is what she had asked us to do. All together we estimated the cost of a private adoption at between $15,000 and $18,000. That was still a stretch for our finances, but we decided we would make it work one way or another.

The adoption turned out to be very difficult. The day to day events could fill a book and I don’t want to get into the difficult details of the situation. To put it concisely, when you are doing a private adoption, you take the roles of social worker, adoptive family, and financial provider on yourself at the same time. It puts you in a very tenuous position, and opens you up for manipulation. If you know going into the situation that you will be manipulated, be sure and be open and honest with your spouse on how much you are willing to be manipulated. We found it to be very difficult to refuse extravagant demands when she threatened to leave and not place with us. We would not only be devastated at losing the baby, but any money we had already spent in the adoption would be unrecoverable as well. In some states there are legal limitations on what can be provided to a birth mother who intends to place a baby, but unfortunately the laws in our state are very liberal in this area and have virtually no limitations.

With our willingness to bend, we were able to successfully complete the adoption. There were several points along the way that we were afraid we were going to lose the opportunity to adopt the baby and looking back, it is nothing short of miraculous that it all worked out the way it did. We realized in the end, the value of the adoption agency probably would have been worth the added expense. We did save money on the cost of the adoption, but it took an emotional toll on us and our family and required a lot of work that we had not planned on.

By the end of the adoption, our lawyer now had a new, “Most expensive adoption.” The fees added up as they helped us navigate the situations that we dealt with daily. Be aware that your lawyer is not your friend. When you call them up to chat about a situation, they are billing you.
Between the added legal expenses and the added living expenses for the birth mother, our do it yourself adoption ended up costing just a little over $30,000. Yes, we saved some money, but it was a far cry from the budget we had started with. In the end, we had an amazing outcome. We walked out of the hospital with a healthy baby boy that has been a source of joy in our family ever since. While we would change some aspects of it if we could, the outcome was well worth the struggle we went through to get him into our home.

Our First Adoption

adoption

So I’m that guy who woke up one morning with no idea that in 13 hours, he and his wife would be walking out of a room with their newly adopted son.

We had been “paper pregnant” for almost two years. In adoption vocabulary, that means that we had gone through the home study and approval process with an adoption agency and were waiting for the right situation to come along and to be selected by a birthmother to have a baby placed in our home. The major difference between paper pregnancy and normal pregnancy is that the latter has a definite end date. We were losing hope as the situation dragged on.

We were currently working with a faith-based agency and we decided that our chances might be better if we went forward with a private adoption agency that a friend had used. The private agency was substantially more expensive, but they did not collect fees until the placement was in process, so this didn’t seem like a huge obstacle when we signed up.

It took a few weeks to sign up and be approved by the new agency, but soon we had a second “paper pregnancy.” We were used to the notion that nothing happened quickly in the world of adoption, so we were stunned when we received a call from the private adoption agency a little over two weeks later.

I remember the events of the day so clearly and vividly, even four years later as I am writing this. It was about 1 o’clock in the afternoon and we were driving close to home when the adoption worker called me. I pulled into a parking lot to focus on the call. She said, “We have a birthmother with a 3-week-old baby boy. She will be here in about an hour and I would like to know if you would be fine with us showing her your profile.”

“Of course, that would be great,” I said. She told us a little more about the situation and explained the financial obligations associated with it, and the phone call was over.

My wife and I were very excited. We faced other possible adoptions previously, so we were cautious about getting our hopes up for fear of building up to a letdown, but this felt different and exciting.

We went about our day and at 3 o’clock, my phone rang again. It was the adoption worker again. “We showed your profile to the birthmother,” she said, “and she loves you guys. She would like to meet you. How soon can you come in? By the way, if this works out you will need to be able to stay in town for 1 to 2 weeks while you wait for the states to finish up necessary paperwork.”

We live about 3 hours from the adoption agency’s office, so we told them we would be there at 7 o’clock that night. And the whirlwind began. We had 30 to 45 minutes to prepare our 5-year-old daughter and ourselves for a trip that would last at least a week. I went to work and tried to tie up all my loose ends there while my wife frantically packed bags for everyone. She also prepared for the event that we did adopt the baby and would need to care for him through that time period.

We were on the road in 45 minutes. The trip was filled with “what if” conversations. The most common centered around the question “What if this doesn’t work out?” But we also dwelt on the hopes and scenarios that would play out if it did work.

We arrived at the adoption agency’s office just after 7:00 that night. The adoption worker sat down with us and we spoke a little about the situation. She said that the birthmother wanted to wait to meet with us for about an hour so she could have some more time to say goodbye to the baby.

This brought about a whole new round of issues. We had packed and driven 3 hours with the thoughts that we would meet the birth mom that night and hoped that within the next few days we would get the baby. But with this new wrinkle, we were going to receive the baby in an hour. We had not been able to round up all the baby supplies we needed, so we took that hour to go to Target and pick up what we needed to take care of him through the night.

At 8 o’clock, we met the with the adoption worker again. It all seemed surreal as they walked us down the hall to the room where we would meet our baby for the first time. We walked into the room and there they were.

Our son’s birthmother was holding him and rose to meet us as we came in the door. She was a beautiful young woman. We sat down near her, and we began to talk. After a few moments, she asked my wife if she would like to hold the baby. That moment of her placing Max into my wife’s arms is burned into my memory. For the last 3 years I had been by my wife’s side through the tragedy of a miscarriage only to be followed by the hopelessness of infertility. I had tried to console her through the difficult times, but I felt powerless to take that pain from her. As I watched Max being placed into her arms, all that pain went away and I will never forget that moment.

We continued our conversations for another 15 minutes. We talked about the baby and how he had been developing over the last 3 weeks of his new life. We talked about what our communication would look like as we maintained a connection with the birth mother. The connection would be as much for her as it would be for him. The time went so fast, and when the social worker said it was time to go, we were shocked back to the reality of the situation.

My wife handed the baby back to the birthmother. She held him tightly as she stood bouncing him gently. Her heart was breaking as the moment had arrived that she had to say goodbye. She gave him one last hug, kissed him on the forehead and said to him, “Goodbye, little man. I love you.” My heart broke for her as I realized that this amazing experience that we were having was at the same time the most difficult thing she would ever do.

Then she placed the baby into my wife’s arms for the second time. This moment was so emotionally overwhelming. It was an act of pure love by the birthmother to place this beautiful baby into our arms, trusting that we would give him the life she dreamed he would have. For us, it was the end of a journey to grow our family through adoption. It had been a long, difficult time in our lives. That very morning we had woken with no idea that at the end of the day we would be holding our new son.

Words cannot describe how grateful we are to this young birthmother. This experience has continued to fill our lives with joy and happiness, and we will always be thankful. Looking back on it now, I know it couldn’t have been any more perfect. Every trial along our journey had prepared and directed us to the moment when our son was placed in our arms.

Miscarriage: Take One

So I’m that guy, sitting in the room with an ultrasound tech and his wife, anxiously looking for a heartbeat.

 

Kinderzimmer mit Wiege für Baby

 

This was our second pregnancy. Our daughter was 2 ½ years old. We had been trying for about 6 months to get pregnant, so we were excited when we found out we had become pregnant again. My wife was dealing with worse morning sickness than she had experienced before but there were really no other worries at that point. In the past everything had always gone perfectly normal throughout the pregnancy and we had no reason to expect anything different.

At about 11 weeks we went in for the first prenatal visit with our OBGYN. She was unable to locate a heartbeat with the Doppler so she scheduled for my wife to have an ultrasound the next day to measure the development of the baby.  We went to the ultrasound appointment really feeling like everything was fine. As the tech took more and more time, and we did not hear that tell-tale rhythmical beating of a baby’s heartbeat, we were more and more concerned.

The ultrasound tech, not knowing how to handle the situation, excused herself and went to get her supervisor. He came in and spent some time trying to find the heartbeat with no success.  At this point we knew that something was wrong, but we were still not prepared for what came next. He said to us, “I am sorry, but there is no heartbeat.”  He continued to explain that the baby had stopped developing at about 6-7 weeks into the pregnancy. I don’t remember anything that was said after that, as he left the room, I tried to process the situation we were in.

Taken by surprise, we really did not know how to react to this news. Time stopped for a moment with my wife still on the exam table and I was standing next to her.  She sat up, we hugged, and tears flowed as we realized our hopes for this new pregnancy were over. We knew these things happen, but we never expected it to happen to us.

The rest of the day is a blur. We went to the doctor again and she advised us to have a D&C rather than waiting for the pregnancy to end on its own.  We spent the rest of that day in the hospital and at home as my wife recovered from the surgery.

This was one of those experiences that kicks you in the teeth and makes you realize bad things really can happen, just that easily. I struggled with at the time, and still have the “what if” thoughts that naturally occur with such a loss.  It was probably the first real tragic event that had occurred in my life and it took me time to work through it.

As hard as it was for me, I think it was probably 10 times worse for my wife to deal with. When my wife finds out she is pregnant, she immediately plans the next year of her life. I think a mother has an instant bond to the baby as soon as the test comes out positive. That is what kept her going as she suffered through two months of morning sickness, and all the other difficulties associated with the first trimester of the pregnancy.

What hurt me most was watching that bond taken from her. It seemed like there were reminders every day.  Someone was always announcing they were pregnant.  There were friends and  family members who were pregnant and had babies when ours should have been born. Even to this day there are reminders of that horrible day when everything fell apart. If I had the power to take that pain from her, I would do it in a heartbeat.

It was impossible to understand at the time, but looking back at that tragedy in our lives, we can see that it was a pivotal turning point in our lives. It was not the end of the struggles and difficulty.  In fact it was the beginning of an ongoing battle with infertility that has not allowed us to have any more biological children.  But had it not been for that first step, we never would have started down the path to adopt the three beautiful children that have filled our home since that day.

Father and Son Outing

So I’m that guy, mostly enjoying every minute of his Son’s first Fathers and Sons camping trip, realizing that his family is a miracle.

Camping

My family has this tradition. In the beginning of the summer, our church has what are called “Father and Sons camp outs”. I have memories of these events from the age of about five years old. In Idaho, the first part of the summer can either be a little hot or very cold and most of my memories involve the very cold.

One year, I think I was about eight years old. I woke up in our tent at midnight with a fever. It was raining outside and very cold. My Dad ended up leaving my brother with a friend and driving me home in the rain. I remember the trip home with the heater on high the whole way. I remember it being a great feeling to be warm again.

I have memories of sitting around the campfires, listening to stories. Whether they were funny or scary, I liked them all. The food was always good, and there were always friends to play with.

I have memories of many motorcycle rides on these outings. Large groups of friends and neighbors exploring the local mountain trails and having a good time.

All in all, some of my favorite memories came from these trips with my Dad and brothers. I have always looked forward to the day when I could bring my own son on a Father and Sons campout. Many years, as my wife and I struggled with infertility, this was one of my perceived losses.

The day finally arrived, last week I was able to take my four year old son on the camping trip. Although, for us it is not really a “camping trip,” we would rather spend the night in a warm hotel room. Remember, all my negative memories of the trips involved the actual camping aspect. There is a hotel near the usual site for the outing, so we opted to enjoy all the parts we like and sleep in a comfortable, warm room.

Four years old is too young to recognize the grandeur that is, “The great outdoors.” Max wasn’t very impressed at first and went into a wailing fit when he accidentally stepped in water and got his shoes wet. I watched as the other boys, who were obviously “farm kids,” ran around in their cowboy boots, wranglers, and snap front western shirts, running circles around my boy. They would fall down and bounce back up ready to do it all again. Then there was my boy, who wearing the Crocs his mom had bought him, was obviously at a disadvantage. Although he loves to run and play, he can be a little sensitive to impacts with the ground and does not tend to react with the same enthusiasm the other boys had when they fell. I was also a little conscious of the fact that I was the only father watching the pack of boys as they ran to and from each point of interest.

After about two hours of running, jumping, fishing, sliding, falling, and playing, my son had had enough. It was an hour past his dinner time and the food would not be ready anytime soon. He was grumpy and tired and not in the mood to wait around for dinner. Once again I decided to forgo tradition. I loaded him and his 8 year old cousin into the truck and drove 5 miles to a roadside pizza restaurant.

It was one of the high points of the trip, as I sat across the table with them eating pizza. We talked and joked around and had a great time. The pizza and soda pops did the trick. After a few minutes everyone was in a better mood and ready to go back to the campsite and finish out the evening.

That night in the hotel room my son could not stop talking, he was so excited to be “camping.” He finally talked himself to sleep and I was able to get some sleep too.

When I woke up in the morning, I had a few minutes to just look at him before he woke up. His face was so perfect and peaceful. I thought about how five years ago I had no hope of ever having a son to take on the Fathers and Sons outing. After dealing with infertility and spending so much time waiting for an adoption opportunity, it seemed hopeless that we would be able to grow our family. But there he was, quietly sleeping next to me. He is truly a miracle.

It was at that moment I came to a conclusion. Even though these outings don’t always turn out the way we think they should, the important part is spending time one on one with these kids. The rest of the day was cold and we went home early, but it was a great experience for my son. It was his first of many memories to come through spending time with his dad. I can’t wait for the next one.

My thoughts on birth mothers

So I’m that guy, who after adopting three children from the same birthmother, respects and appreciates the strength and sacrifice it took for her the give them and us a gift beyond measure.

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First, to be clear, as a man and a father I can’t and won’t ever fully understand the bond that is created between mother and baby during those first nine months of a child’s development. In the same respect, I, as an adoptive father, will never fully know the struggles that a mother goes through in placing her child for adoption. With that being said, after adopting three children from the same birthmother, I feel like I do have a unique perspective to share about our experience that I hope can help people.

We get many different types of reactions when we tell our story of adoption. We know it’s unique and that it interests people, but it is amazing to hear the variety of reactions from people. When we explain that we have three adopted children who are half siblings, I can only imagine the thoughts that go through people’s heads. I am given insight when sometimes they choose to share those thoughts.

I believe the appropriate response is, “Wow that is amazing. What a blessing to you and your family.” That truly is the response of many people and it gives us the opportunity to explain all the ways our family has been blessed through this process.

Other responses that we get are somewhat different. I cannot say they are bad or wrong, because if I were in their shoes, I would possibly react in the same way.

Here are some samples of things other have said that have caused me to write this article. “Does she do this to make a living?” “How many more will she have?” “Those kids are so lucky.” “Will you adopt another child if she has one?” I think my personal favorite is, “Does she know where babies come from?” The one I dislike the most is, “How can she give a baby up for adoption?”

I will address the worst one first. A birth mom does not “give a baby up for adoption.” A birth mom CHOOSES to “place a baby for adoption.” This small change in wording speaks volumes. The choice our birth mom made has had a tremendous impact on our lives and the lives of our children. It breaks my heart to know that our happiness and the future of these children have come at such a great personal price to her.

When people say, “Those kids are so lucky,” I can’t help but think that we are so lucky. Infertility was a dark period in our lives. After having a biological daughter and wanting to have more children, we felt completely powerless to grow our family. We are lucky to have three more beautiful children in our home.

When people say, “Does she make a living with this?” I think, “That sure would be a hard way to make money.” Ask any mother what the most difficult experience she has had in life, and without fail in the top responses you will find, “giving birth.” Couple that with the added emotional pain of knowing that you will not be able to care for that baby throughout its life and you have a very traumatic experience. How much should a person be paid for that? We all know that adoption is expensive, but at best the birth mother will have a period of time where an agency or adoptive family will help with living expenses and medical costs. In some cases there is a small amount of money available to help her get back on her feet after the delivery. But in reality, the bulk of adoption expenses go to pay the lawyers, adoption agencies, and doctors. The answer to the question above, based on our experience is, “no she does not make a living as a birth mother.”

When people have asked us, “Will you adopt another baby if she has one?” it always makes us think. In our mind we do not expect that she will have another baby to place with our family. But we thought the same thing after the first and after the second. We cannot look at either of them and say there was not a doubt in our mind that they were meant to be in our family. We had a strong feeling to move forward with each adoption. We also feel strongly about keeping them together as much as possible. The answer to that question is, “Of course we would adopt another baby if we were in the situation and felt that same feeling prompting us to do it.” Our true hope is that if or when our birthmother does have another one, she has pulled her life together to be able to raise that baby in a secure home and enjoy the blessings of having a child.

Finally we have arrived at my favorite question. “Does she know where babies come from?” Surprisingly I have heard this one multiple times. I am pretty sure that the answer to this question is, “Yes. Yes she does know where babies come from.”
The birth mother of our children is the one of the strongest people I know. She loves these children so much and sacrificed her own feelings to place them in a situation where they could thrive. She grew up in very difficult circumstances and instead of continuing the pattern with her children, she broke the cycle and gave them a different future. I have tremendous respect for her resolve to do that.

As the adoptive father, her sacrifice leaves me in awe. I feel a great responsibility to guide these children toward the life that she dreamed they would have. I pray every day that the faith she had in me and my family is rewarded as she watches these children grow.

When she put our first boy into my wife’s arms, simultaneously her heart was breaking and ours were being filled. At the same time our hearts broke for her. Adoption brings about a flood of different emotions, and it is far from easy for either party. I hope my story conveys my respect for birth mothers. As I stated to begin with, I don’t pretend to know how they feel when faced with such a difficult experience. But I can say that their sacrifice changes lives for generations to come.