Thursday, July 26, 2018

In their Own Words: Insecurities and Open Adoption

I have the honor of working with Kelly on our team of consultants at Christian Adoption Consultants. She is becoming a dear friend and I especially appreciate her insight as an adoptive mama. Raising twin toddlers who keep her on her toes and working as an adoption consultant, Kelly has a beautiful perspective of adoption. Recently she shared her thoughts on open adoption and honestly and transparently shares how it intersected with her own insecurities. I'm thrilled to be sharing Kelly's thoughts today on the blog!

In the initial stages of the adoption process the thought of having an open adoption with a birth mother evoked some concerns and fear in our mind. At the time, our perception was heavily influenced by the media, our lack of education and a few Lifetime movies. But now having some personal experience in this relationship and as an adoption consultant who walks with families through the process, I understand the benefits of an open adoption to all three parties of the adoption triad.  Recently, I wrote a post debunking five myths commonly associated with an open adoption. Myths such as “open adoption is co-parenting” or  “open adoption is only beneficial to the birth family.” Today I will be discussing how our insecurities can play a role in negatively shaping the way we view an open adoption.
Early on in the process, I realized these misconceptions surrounding an open adoption not only stemmed from lack of education, but also my own deep rooted insecurities that had been brewing for many years as we struggled with infertility. I thought that if we had an open line of communication with a birth mother it would make me feel like less of a mother and be a blatant reminder of my infertility and empty womb. Perhaps I also believed the lie that an open adoption would somehow undermine my role as a mother. I quickly discovered a connection between my insecurities and the initial fear I had regarding an open adoption.
Throughout our struggle with infertility, I allowed my barrenness to define me. Many days I felt broken and the odd one out among my friends. There was a time when I equated “being a woman” with a growing bump and a positive pregnancy test. But when the growing bump never came and hundred of negative pregnancy tests later, my definition of “womanhood” didn’t fit. It was a lie. “There has to be more than this,” I said to God one night through tears after throwing another negative pregnancy test straight into the trashcan along with what seemed at the time, my hopes and dreams.
Over the next year the Lord carefully and lovingly removed the false identity I had unknowingly placed on myself. I was reminded through reading the Word, my personal suffering and talking with other friends that my identity is solely and explicitly found in Christ. For those who are a child of God, nothing from this world can take away the fullness that is found in Jesus Christ-not even an empty womb.
I’m grateful I had this “break through” before we started the adoption process, as I continued to carry this truth with me. Even so, reminders of my “old way of thinking” sometimes crept back in. When our home study provider began describing examples of what an open adoption looked like practically bitterness, insecurity and jealously stirred back up again. “I could never do that,” I secretly thought to myself. But, as we received education from our adoption consultantread blog posts, listened to podcasts and heard stories from birth mothersadoptees and other adoptive families we came to realize the benefits of an open adoption far outweighed any fears we had. We knew an open adoption wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worth it.
Where and who we find our identity in has a profound effect on the way we interact with others and respond to circumstances. When our identity is found in Christ-we are free to love others and embrace the uncharted waters  we may encounter without fear. Because my identity is rooted in Christ, and not on my role as a parent, I can embrace the beautiful reality that the twins have two mothers, with distinct roles, who love them immensely. Their first mama lovingly carried them for 9 months, brought them into this life and chose adoption for them. Their birth mother made me a mother. She gave them life and I have the privilege of raising them.  She chose us to be their parents because she felt it was in the best interest of her children. Can you imagine that kind of love? A kind of love and strength that it takes to place the baby who you carried in your tummy for 9 months, the baby who you felt kick, the baby you heard cry for the very first time, the baby who has your nose and your eyes, into the arms of another woman who her child will one day call “mama?” That is a self-sacrificing kind of love; a love I want my children to know.
Research indicates that on going communication with birth parents allows adoptees to have a deeper understanding of identity and where they came from, access to important genetic and medical information and a distinct understanding of why adoption was chosen, which can decrease feelings of abandonment and increase feelings of belonging. And so I propose this question: How could we as adoptive parents, knowing this truth, not take the opportunity to have an open adoption with our child’s/children’s birth mother if that option is laid before us? I’ve spoken with adoptive families who wish they had the opportunity to have an open adoption with their child’s birth family. They would give any thing to be able to answer some of their child’s lingering questions about where they came from.
If you were like us, and struggled with the thought of having an open adoption with your child’s birth family, I encourage you to take a few moments and examine yours fears, insecurities and concerns. Birth mothers have given adoptive families a piece of their heart, one that they are entrusting them with forever. There is so much love in that decision. Not only do I want my children to hear about her unconditional love from us , I want them to know her personally. In our mind, the more love the better.

Kelly Todd is a pastor’s wife living outside of Atlanta, Georgia. She's a twin mama of the sweetest little blessings, and works for Christian Adoption Consultants as an adoption consultant. She considers it a joy to help guide families through their own adoptive journey since CAC was an integral part of her own family's adoption story. You can find Kelly's original post here and follow her at Something Beautiful Here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Adoption Story: Justin and Nicole

Like so many hopeful adoptive parents, Justin and Nicole had plans about how they would start their family. After they were surprised with infertility, they started down the road to adoption. But that didn't come without unexpected detours and roadblocks. Today Nicole shares their journey through adoption and to their son.

From the beginning, God had been preparing us for this journey and it is a God-written story. 

We had struggled with infertility for about three years before we started the adoption process. When we first started our journey, I thought I had it all planned out and knew exactly how everything was going to go. However, I was so wrong. When we started our home study, initially it went well but we were soon overwhelmed with all of the paperwork that went into it. When we eventually applied to the agency we had chosen, we were denied and I was devastated.  

After that speed bump, we discovered Susan and Christian Adoption Services. Susan was so helpful in explaining all of the details of adoption: everything from the profile to agencies and beyond. We got everything together and were ready by the end of January 2016 to be matched with an expectant mom. We started seeing possible situations from Susan; expectant parents looking for an adoptive family for their baby. We began to put our "yes" on the table, but only heard "no" in return. We presented to so many we eventually lost count. We could always reach out to Susan who was always encouraging and said the right words to help us keep moving forward. We started getting our nursery together to give us something to keep our minds busy during this time of waiting. 

Coming up on the end of 2016, we were discouraged because we hoped to have a baby in our arms before the end of the year. We started renewing our home study, and about the time we were finishing it we began to see situations from a new agency we were beginning to work with. But once again we heard a "no." 

Just two weeks later, we heard about another situation: an expectant mama who wanted to make an adoption plan for her baby. As we heard about her, this situation felt different. I knew this one was special because it was everything we wanted. A little boy, due in March. A healthy expectant mother who wanted a closed adoption. I immediately called Justin and we both agreed that we wanted to present to this mother. After a phone call with the expectant mom, we learned later that she chose us to raise her son. Words can't describe our feelings the moment we heard that first and final "yes": feelings of hope, relief, joy, happiness, and much more. It turns out all of those "no's" we had heard previously were just "not yets."

Just a few weeks later, almost a month to the day, we got a call that the expectant mom was having labor pains. She planned to head to the hospital in the morning, but a few hours later, Justin answered the phone and and all I heard was "8 pounds, 8 ounces, healthy and a head full of black hair." We were so excited; we called our families and let them know he was here, and started making travel plans as soon as we could. There were no more flights out that night so we we had to wait until morning.  

When we walked into the room and met “K” for the first time the next day, it was so humbling. We got to spend the day with her and we also met our son's birth father and biological sister. The next day we said our final goodbyes, and it was one of the hardest things to watch "K" hold her son and tell him goodbye. When she handed him back to me, she told me just by seeing us for a few days she knew he was going to be well taken care of and she was confident she had made the right decision. 

God wrote a perfect story, as He always does. He knew exactly what we needed and He answered our prayers for a healthy baby. We were even able to adopt debt-free with God's incredible provision for our family. Everything fell into place in Gods timing. He wrote this story from the beginning to the end and gave us the greatest blessing we could have ever received. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Rethinking a Failed Adoption

Failed adoption.

There aren't two other words that can strike as much fear and anxiety into the heart of hopeful adoptive parents. And the fact that these words are common with domestic infant adoption can be even more terrifying. Although these statistics are hard to track since there's not a common bureau collecting data, most professionals acknowledge the rates are as high as 40-60% of adoptions in the U.S. end in failures (although note that working with certain adoption professionals can significantly reduce these numbers).

When we talk about an adoption failing, it means that the adoption process was not completed. (A disrupted adoption notes when an adoption falls through after the child has been placed with the adoptive family and before finalization. A dissolution is when the legal relationship between an adoptive parent and child is severed after the adoption had been finalized.) There can be many reasons that an adoption fails, the most common being the expectant/birth parent(s) decide to parent. 

There are certain safeguards you can take to lower the risk of a failed adoption. Working with ethical agencies and attorneys and ensuring all of the legal steps to an adoption are taken are critical steps. One of the most critical safeguards is to make sure the expectant/birth parents have access to care and counseling, both pre-birth and long after. This allows an expectant/birth parent to have the time, education, and support needed to truly make the best decision for them and their baby (whether that's to parent or make an adoption plan). Partnering with an adoption professional can help you do all you can to ensure a safer, lower risk adoption.

But even if you do everything possible to reduce the risk of an adoption failure, ultimately the human heart is fickle and there are no guarantees in adoption. A mother and father not only have an ability to change their mind; they have the right to decide if they want to parent and decide what they feel is best for their child.

So what if you've done all you can to protect yourself and you still face a failed adoption?

Rethink the idea of failure

Sometimes a shift in perspective changes everything. Adoption is about finding parents for babies, not the other way around. Most hopeful adoptive parents desperately want to help where there's a need. Of course they want to be parents, but more than that, they want to provide an option to a birth family and a loving home to a child. 

Adoption is an incredibly unique space for a hopeful adoptive family to offer their time, resources, and love to a birth family in need. They are a resource for expectant families if they choose to sign a termination of parental rights and lovingly place their child into another families arms. When the focus is on being a resource: a safe space where the expectant family can feel confident about the possibility of entrusting a hopeful couple with their child, the perspective shifts. There's no ownership, but open-handedness. There's an acknowledgment that everyone is here for the good of this expectant family and baby, that plans can sometimes change, and that ultimately the expectant/birth family has the right to decide what that is. What if we shifted our perspective so much that sometimes, instead of a failed adoption, we thought of is as a successful decision to parent? 

At the heart of adoption is an open-handed decision to love big, love well, and love without reserve or selfishness. We talk about this often in terms of a birth mother making the courageous decision to make an adoption plan for her child. But I think there are times when hopeful adoptive families can be just as courageous to love a mother (and father) considering adoption, regardless of the outcome.

Rethink the grieving process

There's no doubt that going though a failed placement is a tremendous loss. It's a heartbreaking experience that often comes without any warning and can be devastating. In many ways, a failed adoption can feel like the death of a dream (of that particular child to be a part of your family). There's often confusion, unanswered questions, and very rarely any closure. This kind of grief is termed "ambiguous loss" and can can be incredibly difficult to work through. A failed adoption can leave you searching for answers which can delay the grieving process. 

While many friends and family can understand other losses (like infertility, death, or a terminal diagnosis), it's rare to find others in your support system who can truly empathize with what you're going through. Grief can take on many unique forms; so giving yourself the grace and the space to heal is important. Take the time to grieve like you would any significant loss. Don't discount it and do what you need to care for your heart (and your spouse's). Be patient as you think about possible next steps on your adoption journey.

Rethink what you know about happy endings

Happy endings don't write themselves like a typical fairy tale in adoption. In the end, it was inevitable that someone would leave the hospital brokenhearted. Whether it's a brokenhearted birth mother who made an adoption plan, or a hopeful adoptive family when she decided to parent, adoption in it's fullness isn't without hardship. In adoption there is no lack of the tension of loss and gain; bitter and sweet. 

Maybe in the end, nothing failed. Maybe you were meant to love and care for that birth mama and that baby for that season; over those months and in that hospital room. Maybe you were meant to pray over that expectant family and plead with God for their health and welfare. Maybe you were meant wrap them both in love in that sacred space and show up when no one else did. Maybe, in the end, you were a part of the story of a beautiful family, just not the way you imagined it.

Maybe, God is doing something so much bigger than you can see at this moment.

In the end, adoption is never without risks. When we put our "yes" on the table, unreservedly, it is fraught with unknowns. It's easy, especially after walking through a failed adoption, to want to snatch that "yes" right up, or give God your list of requirements before placing it down again. But loving big, selflessly, and unconditionally is not just a way to step into adoption, it's a way to live out the gospel.

God wants to do so much more through an adoption than "get a couple a baby." Adoption is about restoration and redemption. Sometimes it unfolds the way we anticipate. But more often, God is writing a story that includes plot twists we didn't see coming; faith we never thought would stretch us, love we didn't think would almost break us, and a front row seat to God's goodness and faithfulness. In the end He promises that all things work for our good and His glory. 

Keep moving forward. Keep loving big. Keep walking in faith. God promises when we do it's always worth it.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. 
- Ephesians 3: 20-21

Want to read more about how God can work through the brokenness of failed adoptions? Here's a few families stories that might encourage your heart:

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