Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project

Today, I'm thrilled to be part of the Adoption Bloggers Interview Project.  I was paired up with Meg from God Will Fill This Nest about a month ago and I was amazed at some of the similarities in our adoption stories.  She shares such lovely, poignant, and sometimes painful thoughts about open adoption that any of us who've been involved in the process have felt.  

I think this project is so beneficial on many levels.  It's beneficial to me, as an adoptive mom, because hearing other people's stories helps me know that my feelings, my joy, my victories, my doubts, my misgivings, my crazy thoughts......aren't so isolated.  All of us in the 'adoption club' share them.  I also think it's beneficial to those who are thinking about adoption because it presents a wide variety of adoption experiences; none are the same and yet there is so much to learn from each of them.  And finally,  I think it's crucial that adoption plays more of a 'center stage' role in our culture.  It's creeping up there.....but it still lingers in the shadows much of the time; especially domestic adoption.  But the more voices, like those that are starting to crop up all over this space, there are telling the truth about adoption and what it can mean for all parties involved, the more that culture of adoption will grow.  

We exchanged a set of questions and answered them for each other.  Some are the same, some are different.  We were both curious about some different aspects of our adoption stories.  You can find my interview over at her site.  In the mean-time check out her answers to my questions below.  Her answer to number five is my personal favorite!  It's just so cool to see how God writes our stories before we're even born.  And that's true about our kids whether they're adopted or not.

1. I notice you refer to your sons birth mom with only an initial.  What do you think are the boundary lines in blogging about adoption?

I started referring to Eli’s birthmom as “H” during our match process and waiting for rights to be terminated. Our agency was very specific that anything identifying about the birth family needed to be kept off the internet. I also used “E” or Baby E” to refer to Eli. We were cautioned against posting pictures of him until after the TPR hearing as well. We chose to wait until finalization just to be well within the boundaries. 

At this point, I know I could use H’s name. I know she wouldn’t care, I know she has said she doesn’t care if we post pictures of her on Facebook or anywhere else. But we don’t usually. Its different for every family and every situation, but I am more concerned about protecting her privacy and maybe shielding her from some negativity is the small-ish community of Western Pennsylvania that we live in. I am not sure that everyone in her life is okay with the adoption, and I know very little about birthfather and his family. I would hate for someone to stumble across my blog and use any of the information to be hurtful towards her, because I care about her very much. So its really just a personal choice.

As for the overall boundary of blogging about adoption, I think on many things each family decides for themselves. We met one family who has decided that all details about birthmom- name, age, city, etc- are things that they don’t share with anyone. I often tell people that H was a senior in high school when Eli was conceived, I don’t think that is a fact that I personally need to keep confidential. At the same time, I respect that family for preserving their child’s adoption story in the way they see fitting. 

I also think that sharing the exact specifics of the most tender moments with the child can be damaging. For example, I have blogged in the past about certain days with H, or moments in the hospital, etc. For whatever reason, it does not sit right with me to quote her, to quote the special words she said to us or to Eli, or the raw emotions that were present. Those are things I want to share with Eli first, stories I want to tell him as he grows that I don’t want out on the web. I talk more in generalities about “She felt this, or she expressed....” which I think is appropriate.

And lastly, I think we need to be cautious with blogging about some of the really tough and personal facts that our kids don’t know yet. There are parts of Eli’s story, as with any adoption story, that I think will be hard for him to hear and process. Those facts are for him first, and not the blogging community. We have shared them with CLOSE family, and with a few couples in a local adoption group as we get feedback on how to raise Eli with his story. The general categories that I think need to be handled carefully (I am not saying all or even any of these apply to Eli’s story this just applies to adoption in general)- substance use, rape, incest, incarceration, abuse. I think blogging should be transparent but not wide open. Think of how your kid will feel reading your blog when he/she is an adult. That’s my guideline. 

2. You write a lot about the unexpected grief you felt for your sons birth mom; a common feeling that I believe exists in many domestic adoptions.  How has this very real emotion changed the way you view your adoption and adoption in general?

That grief hit me line an unexpected wall of bricks. I was NOT prepared. The number one thing I say to waiting adoptive mom is to prepare themselves for that. That emotion, I think, has formed the basis for my relationship with H. I believe that without it, without allowing myself to process and deal with HER emotions, I would be very detached from her. I would see her as a means to an end, a path to a baby, rather than a living breathing HURTING human being. The day I got the call that both biological parents’ rights had been terminated, I bawled like a baby. Yes, a sense of relief for me that things were moving forward, but also such grief and loss as I pictured H being served with those court papers. 

I recently had lunch with an adoption professional that shared that she has also cried when she heard of a parent’s rights being terminated, even if it is for the best of the child. I wish there were more adoption professionals like that- that see the full circle of grief and joy, loss and gain. Even though Eli is the light of my life, and I can’t imagine a single day without him, adoption starts as a loss, and starts with grief. Our greatest blessing was another family’s greatest heartache. I think sometimes some adoptive parents try to sweep that under the rug, and not deal with it. It might work for a while, but grieving and caring for the woman who gave your child life is healthy and normal. In a culture where there is 1 adoption for every 300ish abortions, and where the majority of children are not raised in a two-parent household, H made a TOUGH decision based on her love for Eli. How could I ignore that?

3.  Open adoptions are amazing, period.  But if you were to be 150% honest, what, if anything, still scares you a little bit about having an open adoption?

I guess that I will find out one day that H totally 100% regrets her decision to place. She is very vocal that she thinks she made the right decision and continues to tell us that she thinks it was “meant to be” that we all found each other...however, I know that’s not always the case.  

One day I stumbled across what I would call some “angry birthmother blogs.” Its totally fine and acceptable that people blog about whatever they feel like; that’s freedom of speech. When some of those bloggers attack my blog in the comments, I don’t think that is necessarily very mature. But whatever, I guess if I am putting my thoughts out there they are open to criticism. However, I do have a fear one day that I will stumble across a “angry” blog written by H, or find out that her decision to place Eli wrecked her life. 

I know there are women out there who feel like that, and they are entitled to it. I just think that Eli will have enough grief and loss to deal with about his adoption. To find out that H placed him so that BOTH of them could have a better life- a noble and selfless action-  then to find out it ruined her forever and she resented us would add heartache. 

I see some birth parent sites that call adoptive parents coercive, liars, baby snatchers, “desperate for a womb wet baby” is one particular one that stuck with me.  How does that affect the children they placed to find out that their biological moms spent the next twenty years spewing hate on the Internet about their parents? That’s insult to injury. Maybe, I guess, if you feel that way, talk to a therapist but protect your biological child by keeping it out of their realm until they are old enough to handle it. 

I know that in times past, many moms did not have a choice about adoption. And I know today that circumstances and hardships can also eliminate the feeling of having a “choice” to parent. But in our state, H had 30 days to revoke her consent to the adoption, and 60 days to petition a judge if we had coerced her. There were options for public housing, WIC, food stamps, ministries. There were options to parent. We were not allowed to even give her flowers at the hospital or pay for lunch the first time we met. No coercion there. So while she has never voiced that the adoption wrecked her life or that she completely regrets it, it's a fear of mine. 

I worry someday that Eli will feel that first his conception was a tragedy, then her placing him with us was a tragedy. Like his whole existence ruined her chance of happiness, whether he stayed or went. She has goals of college and career and family. I hope one day he can talk with her and she can affirm that she did what she felt was best, and while extremely hard, she doesn’t regret it. 

4. How do you work through that fear?  At the end of the day, what tells you, "It's really going to be okay."

I trust in a sovereign God who has His hand on everything. I do not believe that God make H pregnant for our purposes. I believe in free will, and her choice of adoption. I do believe though that when we were praying to partner with a birth family, and step in and help them in the midst of their need (while also obviously meeting our desire to have children), I believe God honored that. 

I think that while being as open and honest with H as I can, and asking her how she is doing, she won’t ever feel like she has been abandoned by us after we “got what we wanted.”  I believe that God saw each page in Eli’s life book when he knit him together in her womb. I believe that we are all children of God and He loves us all infinitely. I think that the openness is a salve on the wound felt by both Eli and H. 

There does seem to be a common theme on the anti-adoption sites...promises of open adoption that were broken once the baby came home. Not that there are not ever legitimate reasons to end openness, but sometimes it seems that adoptive parents close the adoption just because they don’t want to be bothered. Those seem to be the most hurt and angry birth parents, with good cause. Aside from our legally binding Post Adoption Contact Agreements in Pennsylvania, we would never just walk away. Even if choices were being made that we felt were harmful to Eli, that doesn’t mean WE need to completely cut off contact, ourselves, or that we should ever quit praying. 

5. What are the God moments you can specifically put your finger on in your adoption?  Those little things that you can say, "A ha--that little thing right there?  That was totally God?"

Eli’s adoption story contains the single most amazing “Aha!” God moment of my life...So right around December 2010/January 2011 we were deciding if we were going to adopt or continue on with trying to get pregnant. We had already been to a meeting at Bethany Christian Services in October, and had been working on filling out the application, but I felt split. 

I had wanted to adopt, always, but everyone was saying we should give IVF a chance, don’t “give up” etc. So some girls in my women’s Bible Study decided they were going to do a fast from the book of Daniel the first 3 weeks of January to try to get some clarity on some issues in their life. The fast eliminated many things, the main ones being yeast, sugar, and meat. Google “Daniel Fast” and there are a million sites. 

Anyways, I had never done anything like that and wasn’t sure if it would make me feel close to God or just annoyed. But I decided to try it, and to focus on our decision of how to move forward with our family. My husband agreed to do it with me.  I prayed a lot during that time, every time I felt a hunger pang or a craving I tried to focus on God and His love of me and desire to fulfill the desires of my heart. 

During those 3 weeks I received a referral from my doctor to a new infertility specialist at Magee Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. I took no action at that point, and waited for the fast to be up. At the end of those 3 weeks I felt so strongly and so clearly that we should adopt. We moved forward and never looked back.  I never called Magee. We began to plow through the paperwork of our home study and had no sense of “giving up” as people implied- this was an exciting journey! 

Here is the Crazy Aha! God moment though---later, talking with Eli’s birthmom, he was conceived the last day of our fast. During the hours that God turned my heart fully towards adoption and took away any desire for a family by birth. He was knitting together Eli’s sweet soul. That gives me goosebumps just to type that. There were other moments in the journey that I felt God’s hand move, of course, but that was the most poignant. Eli was the first baby we heard about in our adoption process, and H was the only expectant mom to look at our profile. I feel like God ushered us into the adoption process quicker than most people expected because He had a specific plan in pairing up our two families to raise and love Eli together. 

6. You live in a state with legally enforceable open adoptions.  What are the pros and cons to that?

Overall, for Pennsylvania’s PACA’s (Post Adoption Contact Agreements) I see pro’s. I am a supporter of legally enforceable open adoptions in all states, despite some controversy over them. And here is my reasoning: they do more good than harm. The way that Pennsylvania has it set up, I don’t see a lot of merit to some of the concerns that are raised. When we started the adoption process, PA had covenant agreements only- nothing enforceable. The PACA’s came into effect in the middle of our home study. For us, it changed nothing. If we were signing a Christian covenant with our agency and a birth family, that carried MORE weight for us than a legal document, in our hearts. I am glad though that the PACA existed for Eli’s birthparents. It  gave them peace and security in their decision to place; yes, they needed to trust us, but they had an added safety net that they could always find out how Eli was doing.

There is no one monitoring our PACA- it's between our two families. The court doesn’t check in every year and make sure we met our quota. Only if one side contacted the courts would they get involved again. This is why I think they will work in PA. We have a minimum of three visits a year and twelve updates with H. This is the “ground floor” as they put it; we have seen her and updated her much more. If she decides she needs some space or a break for awhile, I am not going to take her to court over the PACA. I will give her that space, no pressure and no judgement. Likewise, if Eli gets to an age where visits are hard for him, because we have taken time to build a trusting relationship with her, I believe that we could ask for a break for him and she would not take us to court. She loves him and wants what’s best for him. 

Some people have asked about dangerous birthparent situations, or situations where visitation becomes extremely hard and detrimental. A PACA can be changed.  We could petition to stop visitation if we had grounds to. Eli himself can petition to change it once he is 14. I don’t believe a birthparent can petition for MORE visits, is how our lawyer explained it. The three is the maximum that can be enforced with H. We are welcome to see her weekly if we want, but the legal number won’t go above three.  We could argue for less if it was detrimental to the child. 

Again, though, I see bringing the court back in as a last-ditch desperate effort if things got really bad between a birth family and adoptive family. In most cases I don’t think families will need to bring a judge back in. We also have a PACA with Eli’s birthfather, whom we have never met. That is an example right there- he hasn’t acted on the details outlined in the PACA, and no one will force him to if he chooses not to. But it is there for him at some point in the future if he would like. 

Birth parents also have the right to waive a PACA if they don’t want one. Adoptive parents cannot waive the option if the birthparents want one, however. We had some legality issues with getting all of our PACA documents notarized and filed. I am glad that H trusted us and maybe didn’t see the PACA as so important, but I wanted it in there to protect her, especially if something happens to us at some point.

The main benefit I see to the PACA is that it gives birth parents a sense of security in placement. I think there will be more successful placements if the potential birth parents feel their rights are protected. There are a few blogs I stopped reading because I felt like the adoptive parents were using visits as “bait” for the birth parents, or some blogs that stopped contact altogether over reasons like “travel was too much.” There are times when there are legitimate reasons to close an adoption, but that's not a decision to be made lightly. 

I like that in our state, a judge would be involved in that decision. I also see a lot of birth moms on the Facebook adoption pages who have not received promised pictures and letters in the mail for YEARS. That’s just not right, in 99.9 percent of cases. Even if a birth parent is incarcerated, using drugs, doing really harmful things, that was still their child. I don’t think taking time out to send a few pictures will cause harm. It might be the thing that motivates them to try again. Obviously I can’t speak for every situation, but I just think often adoptions are closed without much thought given by the adoptive parents. 

Some who argue against PACA’s believe that they will put too much pressure on all parties involved, and can take away the natural trust-building and forming of a familial relationship with the birth family. I think how this plays out relies on the adoptive family. Yes, we have a piece of paper in our safe stating the basic grounds for our relationship with H. But I rarely think about it and never look at it. It’s a safety net that is there for her, and for Eli. It doesn’t change our day-to-day interactions with our son, or with his birth family. So while I believe that for the majority of open adoptions it's not necessary, I think it's great that the PACA exists for the situations that it needs to. 


  1. Loved this interview and excited to find another blogger with a similar story and beliefs as us!

    1. I love your blog too! I love connecting with our families on this journey...its so heartwarming :)

  2. I love the post Maggie! Thanks for putting it together so beautifully :) It was so great getting to know you and swap questions/stories!

  3. sounds very familiar...beautiful! :)


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