The View From Court With AOW : The High Point of the Judge’s Day

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Attorney Lynn Bodi and Executive Director Claire Schulz Bergman got to appear in court with a birth mother in another county, recently. It was one of the nicest hearings we’ve been to. This birth mother had made an adoption plan for her son. She was very clear in what she wanted for him. The hearing was lovely and the birth mother’s mother was also there to support her. At the hearing, the judge thanked everyone in the room for being the high point of his day.

We’re always interested in what people think of the court proceedings. After the hearing, Lynn had the opportunity to ask the birth mother a few questions about the experience:

 

Q) What did you find the most surprising about court?

A) There was really nothing that surprising. I felt like I was really well prepared.

 

Q) Was any part of court scary for you?

A) Just talking in public. [Her mom then pointed out that she’s a little shy.] But I knew what you were going to ask me. All of the information made sense.

 

Entering a courtroom can often seem daunting. At Adoptions of Wisconsin, we take pride in helping everyone involved in an adoption feel comfortable and well prepared.

The Perfect Fit - Kelly and Neil's Adoption Story

Kelly and Neil came to Adoptions of Wisconsin in early 2017 with the hopes of adopting an infant - as many families do. As the couple progressed through the inactive list and began the home study to become an active family, a situation was presented to them. This situation involved a sibling group of two little boys, ages 2 1/2 years and 11 months. Kelly graciously reflects on her and Neil's adoption journey in a touching narrative below.

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I keep wondering how it is possible to have a life so perfect, however one year ago I felt completely different.

My husband and I had waited and planned for the absolute perfect moment to start our family. We were married a few years, had traveled, completed graduate school, purchased a 3 bedroom home, and started a professional career that was conducive to having a family. I had spent years trying not to get pregnant, so I had never considered I might have troubles getting pregnant. After 6 months of “trying”, I began to realize it was not going to be so easy. I started to see specialist after specialist, I started a gluten-free/dairy-free diet, I lost 10% of my body weight, I took hormones and medication, yet my body still wasn’t working. I began to cry when people I knew would announce they were pregnant, family members kept asking “when we were going to start a family” and I felt hopeless. I spent most of 2016 in bed crying. My husband and my sisters would bring me food and try to comfort
me, but I felt hopeless.

We had always dreamed of growing our family through adoption, but the expense associated with adoption seemed overwhelming and for a young couple fresh out of graduate school it seemed improbable. My husband and I attended an infertility support group where a young woman shared she had completed 8 rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF) over a 5 year period and still did not have a baby in her arms. As we drove home from that group I decided we needed to shift our focus. I started to read blogs about how to make adoption happen. However, it seemed like a stretch, it was nearly half of our combined annual income.

We decided we were going to do everything we could to make our dream of adoption and growing our family a reality. When it came down to coming up with the funds, we were overwhelmed by the love and support we received from family, friends and even strangers. We had paint nights, bake sales, garage sales, salon days, friends selling homemade goods, and friends’ crowdfunding. We began to live on a very strict budget, my husband drove Uber during Badger games, and we dog sat for 6 months straight. We had everything planned to a T and with this plan in place we were on track to have the funds for our adoption in one year.

Many people told me over the past five years that having a family is something you can’t really plan for and that there is nothing that will fully prepare you for that exact right time. Our adoption waiting period went quite a bit faster than we had planned. Within 6 months of being on the inactive list, we had moved up the queue, and we’re ready to go active! Once active we were under the impression that we would likely wait some more, meet a few expecting mothers and eventually someone would pick us to parent their child. We had names picked out and I dreamt of doctors visits with the expecting mother where we would see our baby together.

However, the day we finished our home study and were asked if we would consider a sibling set? We were unsure if this was something we could handle. We had no idea what a sibling set even meant. Our social worker explained the situation and what exactly a “sibling set adoption” entailed. Later that day she emailed pictures of the “sibling set” and asked if we would like to have a profile shown to the birth parents. This was not what we had planned for, but over the years we’ve learned you can't plan for everything. So we decided we might as well give it a shot and see if she liked us.

A week later we met a courageous young woman, who wanted the best life for her boys. At this same visit we met two little boys- ages 11 months and 2 ½ that have forever changed our lives. It was love at first sight. After that visit we left and drove home not knowing if she had liked us, but knowing we were fully in love with all three of them.

Adoption is hypothetical during the preparation process---we thought about how we would parent, but we didn’t have any really practical experience. But when you meet the birth mother---and in our case, the kids too---the thing is real. These kids would actually be our family. How will they adjust? How will we? Lots of potential issues that we had dismissed or delayed suddenly became real. The scenario we had been mentally preparing for---taking home one newborn baby---was instantly totally different. We were mainly worried that they would not attach to us.

About two weeks after our initial meeting we took two little boys home to our semi-toddler proofed house and started our journey as parents.It turned out that, at least in terms of attachment, we had nothing to worry about. The boys were attached to us almost from the moment we brought them home. Both of them love us like we’ve been their parents from the beginning, and we love them the same way.

We have now had the boys nearly four months. Our house has become a home and we cannot imagine our lives without them. We feel like we were always meant to be together and we were always meant to love these boys. Our hearts are so full, we are forever grateful for the amazing
young people that created these beautiful babies and made this selfless decision. Every day we look at these beautiful boys we are so grateful. We are grateful for the opportunity to love these boys and to grow our family. Unconditional love is powerful. Unconditional love is true. Unconditional love makes a family.

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An Adoptive Father's Parenting Story

Ben and Nick adopted their two sons, Sawyer and Harrison, through Adoptions of Wisconsin in 2013 and 2015. Becoming a family of four has challenges in itself. Things that parents often focus on are adapting parenting styles to meet the needs of two children, communicating effectively as a couple and making time for themselves.

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Nick and Ben have had the added challenges of being a two-dad family. They opened up about what it's like to be asked, "So who's the mom?" and how they've responded to acquaintances reactions to their family and lifestyle. Written by Ben, he explains his own perspective about adoption, being a two-dad family and overcoming gender stereotypes.

"So you are the mom?

That's a question I get asked a lot by fellow parents, friends, family and casual acquaintances. I used to laugh it off as something funny, but always felt it was brash and lacked tact frankly. I am a gay male who is also a parent to two adorable boys with another man. Does that, then, make it so one of us has to be the mother? It made me think of a few more questions I will dare to answer in this blog. Am I female? Am I trying to take a woman's place or roles? Am I trying to portray the stereotypical attributes of a motherly figure? Does society always feel the need to label or categorize?

First off, no I am not a female. I have never been a female nor do I ever have the desire to be one. I love women and respect them and many of my best friends are female. However, I am not a female. Repeat I am male and I love men. Totally love being a gay male.

Secondly, both my husband and I could never take the place of either of our children's birth mother or father for that matter. How could we? They conceived them and made the ultimate selfless sacrifice to give me the opportunity to parent their child. Not be a mother, but a parent. Obviously I want female role models and influences in my kids lives. They have experiences and knowledge that I certainly don't. Do women and men have to have set roles or responsibilities in parenting? Why? Do we still live in a society where men cannot cook and clean and women can work and have no interest in house work or shopping? I certainly hope we do and that these people aren’t seen as abnormal or “modern day families.” Furthermore, if all males and females and everyone else all were treated equally and didn't come with societal baggage or discrimination would it be as necessary to categorize their roles or choices in parenting? I don't know. That dream is sadly way far off.

Third, we certainly have societal views of what a woman's role in parenting is. A lot of this ties in with my response to question number 2. If by being compassionate, nurturing, loving, and affectionate with my kids that makes me a mom then I hope all parents are moms. Or if that means cooking, cleaning, driving my kids to and from practices or endless doctor's appointments then again I hope all parents are moms.

I know by this point this may seem like a lot of ranting and maybe it is. However, that is because I do feel like society likes to label or categorize us. In order for the majority of society to make sense of same sex parenting one person has to fill a certain role or expectation in people's minds. Society does the same thing to single parents or lesbian parents or any set of parenting situations. Not all of society is a heterosexual married couple living in suburbia with a cat and dog and 2.5 kids. Most of society isn't. Let's stop placing labels on people and just let them be what they want to be. I'm just trying to parent the best that I can. Let's leave it at that."

At Adoptions of Wisconsin, we support LGBTQ+ families in joining our agency programs. We feel that everyone should have the opportunity to parent if that is their desire. We are focused on providing the best adoption services possible and are hopeful that more families like Nick, Ben, Sawyer and Harrison will be created with our assistance. Thank you, Nick and Ben, for reaching out about your experiences and your willingness to help others in similar situations.

An Adoptive Mom's Reflection: Contested TPR

An AOW adoptive mom wrote up an inspiring blog post about her real-life experience with a contested Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) hearing. We thank her for her open heart, kindness and willingness to share with others.

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"What does it mean to have a contested Termination of Parental Rights (TPR)?  This is a rare situation, but it can happen and every family that chooses adoption should know that it is a possibility.  In a brief way, it means that one of the birth parents are fighting for custody or their parental rights.  It is a hard, hard thing to go through… so, let me tell you briefly about our story, what it felt like, and how grateful we are for our sweet girl.

When you first bring your child home, whether from the hospital or from a different setting, your only thought is about how much you already love the child.  You don’t think about the things that could go wrong with the adoption process, you don’t spend time looking up Wisconsin state adoption laws, and you certainly don’t think that it will take close to a year for finalization.

We brought home our baby girl and had our first court hearing about one and a half months later.  This was supposed to be a brief court hearing and it turned out to be our 2nd worst fear.  The birth father showed up to court to contest his rights.  He has the right to do this, it was just totally unexpected.  Getting the phone call from the attorney to tell us this was nothing but a blur.  Did I understand her right? Did she hear me sobbing like crazy on the other side of the phone?  Did she hear my anger? How am I going to call my husband and tell him this at work?  All of these thoughts and so many more were racing through my head while comprehending NOTHING that she was saying.

Through our own drive to learn, we started to do our own research.  We wanted to know the laws, what the process was from here, and try to understand the terms that are used in conversation.  Throughout a few more court dates, it was determined that our case was going to a jury trial.  Holy crap, right?  Since when was this possible.  Well, it is.  Throughout infertility, it is difficult to not ask yourself ‘Why us?’… well, here we were again saying ‘why us?!’  To make a long story short, there are several steps to a contested TPR.  Thankfully, we had an attorney and social worker that led us through the entire process.  Do not ever, ever, ever be afraid to ask them questions.  We don’t want to get into much detail about our story, but we want you to know that it all worked out!  Our sweet, smiley, adorable little girl is ours and continues to be our whole world.

How did it feel to go through a TPR? Horrible. Not good. Shocking and appalling.  There was nothing easy about it.  It consumed our daily lives, we talked about it daily between our families, and made us cherish our time with our girl even more.  It felt like time moved so slow.  It felt like our dreams were being shattered.  Not many people understand what the process is like.  We had to spend time educating our family and friends as they were trying to comprehend this process too.  But, through it all, we knew that we were going 150% through this entire process.  We were NOT stopping to fight.  We were not going to change our outlook on life.  And lastly, the financial burden that a contested TPR puts on adoptive families was not going to stop us.  We would do whatever it takes.

How did we get through a contested TPR?  Just looking at our princess was enough to make us smile many times a day, cry tears of happiness, and reiterate that our purpose in life was her.  When she went to bed was our time to chat.  We spent time together communicating, communicating, and more communicating.  Between the two of us, we talked about how we were feeling every day.  We understood that we would have different good/bad days, different emotions to every step of the way, and that any emotion was okay to have.  We leaned on our friends and family very frequently.  People are normally scared to ask questions or talk about bad things, but we encouraged our friends and family to ask any questions and that we wanted to talk about the adoption.  We would often get texts from our best friends that would say, “just checking in to see how you are doing.”  Knowing the amount of support that we had and still have is heart-warming.  The continual support from each other, our families, and our friends is what got us through this process.

Having this be our first adoption and going through a contested TPR, it is interesting to look back on the last year.  It went SUPER fast.  We still ask ‘why us?!’ but have come to reason with it.  We want others to know more about the possibility of a contested TPR than we did.  We want others to go into the process knowing that a contested TPR could happen.  We will never say that any of this was easy, it was extremely hard.  But, WE DID IT and we did it together… as a family of three!

If you find yourself in a situation of a contested TPR, our advice to you, is to lean on your family and friends.  You may have to educate them on the process, but it will be so worth it.  Find a new hobby with your new addition or do an activity together to keep busy.  You WILL get through it if you communicate, show each other love, give your new addition to the family extra hugs & kisses, and remember your purpose."

AOW Adoptive Mom, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Interview with a Birth Mother

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Mandy* placed her son (Justin*) for adoption 11 years ago. She was 17 years old at the time of Justin’s birth and developed a strong relationship with Social Worker, Claire Schulz Bergman throughout the adoption process. Mandy has stayed in contact with Claire over the years for support, to check in about Justin and share interesting news about her life. She is currently parenting two beautiful children. Mandy agreed to speak with Claire about the impact that adoption has had on her life and to share what she learned about herself by going through the adoption process.

 

Q: First off, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for this blog post. I can’t believe it’s been 11 years since Justin was born! How often do you think of him?

A: I think about him every day. I wonder how he is, if he is healthy and how he is doing in school. I chose a semi-open adoption where I had contact with him the first year and then occasional pictures and letter updates about him after that. This is fine for me. I honestly don’t know if I could handle any more than that right now because I’m busy trying to parent my other children. I am open to him reaching out to me if he is interested in knowing more about me in the future, though.

Q: I know you wrote him a letter last year for the first time since he was born. What prompted you to do this?

A: I tried to write him a letter each year on his birthday since he was born, but I struggled with what to say. I would write a letter and then not send it because I didn’t know what to tell him. Last year I learned some information about my other children that I thought he should know and so I finally decided to send the letter I wrote. I also wanted him to know that I love him and hope that he is happy.

Q: Do you ever imagine what he thinks about you?

A: Yes. I wonder if he hates me. When I really think about it, I’m sure he doesn’t. I was able to get to know his parents before he was born and I was able to tell them my reasons for choosing adoption. I was 17 when he was born; I wasn’t ready to be a parent. His parents know that I did adoption because I wanted the best for him. I believe this is what they tell him if he asks.

Q: What did you learn about yourself by going through the adoption process?

A: How strong I was …am. I am proud of myself that I was actually able to do all the things I’ve done since Justin was born. Everybody thought that I was going to drop out of high school, but I graduated. I sunk into a depression after Justin’s birth for a lot of reasons: I was post-partum, my mom got divorced, my housing was unstable, but I had the strength to push through and the willingness to move forward. I’m really proud of that.

I really feel that doing adoption was a positive experience. In hindsight, I realize that the struggle and self-doubt that came after placing him was important for me to go through because it changed me as a person. I have more confidence in myself now and I know I can do hard things, because I already did one of the hardest things in my life.

Q: What was the most helpful thing for you during your pregnancy and Justin’s adoption?

A: The support from my mom and grandmother. They supported me through everything, especially my grandmother. I could call and talk to her about anything. They would check in with me to make sure I was still doing what I thought was best and I knew that they would support me with whatever my decision was. They were also there for me after he was born, when I was so sad. They really helped me through that hard time.

It also helped to get to know Justin’s parents. They’re really nice and I felt good about him going with them. You also helped a lot. You were there whenever I had questions and you never pushed me to do adoption.

Q: What advice would you give to other expectant parents considering adoption?

A: Follow your gut. Ask questions. Seek help. Find someone who has gone through this before and talk to her. Chances are, whatever you’re feeling is normal and hearing someone say “yeah, me too” will help you feel better.

 

*names have been changed for confidentiality

An Interview With Birth Parents

Background: Jessica is 5 months pregnant and due in January. She and Michael are making this adoption plan together. They are already parenting two small children and decided that they can’t afford to take care of any more children. They are matched. Adoptions of Wisconsin's Claire Schulz Bergman sat down with Jessica and Michael to interview them about the adoption process.

Q: What surprised you about the adoption process so far?

A (Jessica): The process was easier than I thought. I expected a lot of paperwork and to have to meet a lot of people. All I wanted was a loving couple for my baby. I wanted a family without kids who was financially stable and had steady jobs. I looked through the profiles that you gave me and decided to meet two couples. Both were great, we just connected with one more than the other.

(Michael): I felt “relief” when we matched because we didn’t have to worry anymore. We didn’t have to worry that we wouldn’t find anybody and end up having to care for a child we couldn’t afford. We wanted people who were honest and genuine to take care of our baby and we really think we’ve found them.

Q: Why did you feel more connected to the couple you chose?

A (Michael): They were more “like us.” They were really easy to talk to and made us feel at ease.

Q: You have spent some time with and communicated with the couple you chose since you initially met them. What has it been like for you to have contact via phone/text and spend time together with them?

A (Jessica): This really helped us because it feels like they are who they say they are. We feel like we can trust them and share in their excitement of becoming new parents. We went to a park with them to introduce our other kids to them and it was great watching them interact with our kids. They jumped right in and started playing with them. It showed us what they’d be like with this baby (that they are going to adopt). We want to have visits in the future because we want our kids to know this baby and getting together with them was a glimpse of what it would be like in the future when we get together for a play date.

We also went to the ultrasound together and found out what the sex of the baby is. It was really fun watching them see the baby for the first time. This is their first baby and they’ve never been through an ultrasound before.

We text frequently and I am able to ease my worries by telling them what I would do if I was going to care for him (like, buying footed pjs, recommending formula that worked for my other kids, etc.). It helps me feel like I can also prepare for his arrival and get excited with them.

Q: Are you starting to feel attached to your baby?

A (Jessica): Yes. How could I not be attached, he’s growing inside me! I love him and am doing adoption because I know I can’t provide for him and they can. I know he will be taken care of and getting to know them [the APs] better helps me really know this.

(Michael): I’m getting more attached than I probably should be. But, I know that doing adoption will be better for our other kids, too, and open adoption will allow our other kids to know this one.

Q: Do you have any fears about the adoption process?

A (Jessica): The usual parent worries, I just want to make sure that the APs are prepared.

Q: What advice would you give to others considering placing their child for adoption?

A (Jessica): Think of the baby. Meet as many families as you need to so that you can find the best one. Have enough time so that you can build a relationship with the adoptive parents before your baby is born. Have a few questions that you know you want the answer to at the first meeting, but don’t be overly structured about it.

(Michael): Have an open heart and an open mind. Keep the baby’s best interest first. Be honest with yourself, what is best for the child?

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A (Jessica): The APs have become an extension of our family. Since we’re getting to know them, they aren’t just people who are going to take care of our baby, they are like extended family members. This is what we wanted and I really believe that this is how it’s going to be.

(later Jessica texted this to me): I was thinking back on our first meeting with you and you made it really easy and pleasant. When I first made the call to the agency and was going to meet with you, I was kind of nervous that you would be someone like a case worker… up tight and straight corners… but you weren’t. Meeting you and having someone like you for this process has made it a lot easier in this whole thing.

 

*Not their real names

Beating the Adoption Waiting Game

Relaxing up north

Relaxing up north

It is never an easy time for adoptive parents while waiting to be chosen by a birth parent. It can seem more manageable when you are busy completing education requirements, creating your profile or finishing the home study - at least then it feels like you're doing something! There is often a period of time between becoming home study approved, moving into the active program and becoming matched with a birth parent. The wait time is often uneventful and frustrating, but it is something that all adoptive parents go through and can identify with.

The key to keeping positive thoughts flowing about your adoption plan is to keep yourselves busy! One of our waiting families, Michelle and Jamie, are doing just that by getting outside and enjoying the summer sunshine.

Michelle and Jamie love visiting up north with family and friends at their cabin. The family of three takes a trip up north at least once a summer. They love swimming in the lake, going fishing and playing games together. This summer they are lucky enough to be traveling there twice; once with their friends and neighbors and once with their siblings and families. They also enjoy warm bonfires at night-which we hope includes roasting some delicious s'mores! Michelle and Jamie would love to bring another child with them on their next summer trip.

Although the waiting period is hard for adoptive families, there are ways to make it go a little faster. It is important to remember why you started this journey and to imagine where it will take you. Our agency is here to guide and provide assistance to adoptive parents during these stressful moments.

Family celebration!

Family celebration!

Father's Day celebration at the Union in Madison

Father's Day celebration at the Union in Madison

Fishing with Mom and Braden

Fishing with Mom and Braden

Mini golfing "dangers"!

Mini golfing "dangers"!

Jamie participates in Thursday evening fishing league

Jamie participates in Thursday evening fishing league

In On It: What Adoptive Parents Would Like You to Know About Adoption

"In on it: What adoptive parents would like you to know about adoption" is a book written by an adoptive parent and is a book AOW highly recommends to those who are going through the adoption process. One grandma recently read In on it and wrote the following:

Quite some time ago we met our son and his beautiful wife for lunch—they wanted to talk to us.

We quickly moved to “might they be pregnant? Or moving? Changing jobs? Going back to school?” On our way to meet them we discussed all of these choices, secretly hoping that they might be expanding their family.

The first words out of our son’s mouth were “we’re not pregnant” and then he excitedly told us that they had decided to adopt and had chosen an agency.  Both of them were so excited and we shared their joy.  Adoption was part of our family already as my brother had grown his family through adoption many years ago.

I began reading. A lot. And yet, nothing prepared me for the insensitive questions that my friends brought forward when I shared this new chapter in my life.  The questions seemed personal, inappropriate, even rude.  This reality sent me on a new search for information for the extended family and friends of the adoptive parents.  That is when I found IN ON IT: WHAT ADOPTIVE PARENTS WOULD LIKE YOU TO KNOW ABOUT ADOPTION – A GUIDE FOR RELATIVES AND FRIENDS by Elisabeth O’Toole.

I promptly ordered my own copy of this book. It proved to be an excellent source of inspiration, education and insight for those that are part of the adoptive family but outside of the adoption triad of birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptee.  I found myself looking at certain chapters over again to understand the patience, excitement and stress of my loved ones and in the process I learned appropriate language, appropriate topics of conversation with them and appropriate ways to address comments that were directed at me.

The humor and honesty of Elisabeth O’Toole has equipped me to be honest in educating others when I am told “how lucky” our grandchild is – or when I am asked “where did he come from?” or “what happened to his real mother”.

Really? Why do people lose their filter when being told that someone is adopting? IN ON IT helped me to understand that I was not alone in navigating these choppy waters – losing a filter is pretty normal and we are all IN ON IT enough to educate others.

I see this book as a ‘must read’ for everyone seeking to understand the adoption story and their role in the adoption circle.

We have had the joy of welcoming grandchildren into our lives – biologically and through careful adoption planning.  In our eyes, they are all our grandchildren. They are loving cousins to each other, and they all are the start of a new generation in our extended family.

We are blessed.

Birth Mother Stories: Deja's story

Birth Mother Stories: Deja's Story

My name is Deja. I am 21 years old and I was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. I placed my son Elijah up for adoption in October of 2016 and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made thus far in my life. When I was 4 months pregnant I found out that I was expecting. My first thought was to get an abortion. I thought I had my mind set so I started the process. I went to my first appointment where they gave me an assessment and asked various questions about why I wanted to do abortion. After the two hour appointment I made my next appointment which would be the abortion. I did all the paperwork, I took the dilation pills and then it was time to get the ultrasound to see the placement of the baby. When they put the probe on my belly I got anxious. Then I looked at the computer screen and I saw a baby. A baby with a heartbeat. A baby that was moving, kicking, and sucking its fingers. My heart dropped into my stomach. I couldn't do it. I started crying and saw that I bleeding and thought I was losing this baby but I got up, put my clothes on and left. I remember speeding out of the parking lot, almost hitting a sign and I kept going without looking back. I stopped at the PDQ gas station and parked. I thought, “What am I going to do now? I can’t take care of another baby. I already have two kids I’m struggling with. God help me”. I wondered and cried about what I was going to do next and I still didn't know.

Three days after that, I looked on the internet for adoption agencies and that is where I found Adoptions of Wisconsin. I gave them a call to set up an appointment. I knew that I couldn't parent this innocent child and that he didn't deserve to be taken off this earth because it wasn't his fault he was here. That is where my journey began. I met a woman by the name of Megan. She was a pretty, young, educated woman whom I was drawn to at first sight. I knew she would be there with me through it all and she has been, even after my parental rights were terminated. I had the jitters in my belly. I was scared and anxious about this whole thing but I began to open up and explain to her why I wanted to choose adoption. She then gave me a folder with lots and lots of beautiful different families inside of it. I looked that over for about a week and saw a couple that I thought would be perfect. I called Megan and told her, and from there she set up our first meeting with each other.

We met at a little cafe in Sun Prairie. Boy was I scared and had knots in my stomach. I thought “What if they don't like me? What if they don't want an African American baby? What if they don't want a baby boy? Are they nice?” Then as I saw them walk into the back of the café, my face lit up and conversation flowed so easily. I knew they were the right parents for my son Elijah! And that's how I chose them! From then on I was set on them parenting my child and that I was going to go through with this. I always had the thoughts in the back of my mind – “What if I wanted to parent my baby? How I would be able to have this child I’d been carrying and hand it over to stranger? What would my baby think of me? Would he hate me? Would he think I didn't love him?”

On October 4th of 2016 I got to the doctor’s office and they said they wanted to do the c section that day because Elijah was not gaining weight inside of me. Megan raced to the hospital and sat with me and comforted me while we waited. I was so scared. We then called the adoptive parents. I was so nervous because they weren't answering. Shortly after, they returned the calls and were so shocked this was all happening that day. They rushed right over to Meriter hospital where I was. The adoptive mom was in the room with me the whole time during the c section. I felt so safe and so much love and support with her just being there but I was scared to be going through yet another c section. Didn't take long until we heard this little mouse like cry and it was Elijah who weighed 4 lbs 4 ounces! I cried tears of joy as they took him and cleaned him up and rolled him out to see his parents. His dad got to even cut his umbilical cord! I was in the hospital for a few days to recover.

I had initially decided I didn’t want to spend much time with him. It felt too dangerous for me to get my heart too attached to this fragile baby that I knew I couldn’t care for. But I was already attached. I love Elijah so much and decided that I did want to hold him and get some pictures with him. I held Elijah maybe twice and took one picture with him and his new family. My family came and so did the adoptive parent’s family. Everyone came to meet this new bundle of joy who had so many people who loved him. Elijah spent most of his first days in the hospital with his adoptive parents which made me both happy and sad, but I knew what I had to do. When I was leaving, I went in to say goodbye to them and to my now, few days old baby boy Elijah. That was the hardest thing I think I ever had to do in my life. I cried and cried and told the adoptive parents, “Thank you and I love you guys and please take good care of our baby boy!” Megan was there and we went back into my hospital room where I cried even more. Then I left. I was so torn up but I knew this was right for me and for my baby boy.

Now after all of this, I’m close with the adoptive parents and they genuinely love me and love Elijah. All the worries I had went out the window.  I still get those “what if” moments and sometimes it is hard but I still know I wouldn't have had it any other way! I recently saw him and got to spend time with him. He is now 3 months old and getting so big! Such a handsome little man with amazing parents. All of this wouldn’t have been possible without open adoption. Thank you to Megan for making this the most comfortable and life changing experience and for being there through it all. Thank you to the adoptive parents for being in my life and parenting my son Elijah. He will always know he has two mommies and two families that love him with all of their hearts. And thank you Adoptions of Wisconsin you have really forever changed my life in the most amazing ways.

Deja

Not Enough Words - Birth Mom Poem

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A birth mom poem written by an AOW birth mom:

Not Enough Words

12/13/16

My heart stopped the first time I heard yours beat,

You have no clue my love, how many struggles we over came

It was a great feat.

You gave me courage and hope when I had none,

Everything that I can claim,

You helped me over come!

At night I’d sing to you and you’d sing back,

The prayers I couldn’t pray,

You held the faith that I lacked.

Maybe you were my Guardian Angel, my Shepard through the dark and the pain,

I don’t think I’ll ever lose you,

Inside of me you’ll always remain.

I may not get to see you grow or see your first step,

I may not come to birthdays or be there when you’re upset,

However, my heart and mind and spirit will be with you every single day

Just like I was guiding you in every single way.

The hardest thing I ever did was having to give you away

And the second hardest thing was not being able to tell you all I had to say.

I will always love you.

Birth Mother Stories: A Child is a Marvelous Gift - For Emerson

For Emerson, because a child is a marvelous gift.

The life carried to term by a mother has limitless hope and potential. If born healthy, the only bounds to that life are the conditions into which he is born. This magnificent gift, if received at the wrong time, can experience a life that is much more difficult and fraught with challenge than he would have under different circumstances.

This was the case with my son.

Emerson came into existence by an act of love. He was never unwanted by his mother or me. Of course, he came to us a point where everything was unstable. Our relationship, our location, and our jobs were not defined. His mother and I were just starting out again after a rough breakup with each other. We didn’t know if it would work out. She had just graduated and was about to start a new job in a new city, half a country away from me. She hadn’t even moved in to her new apartment when she had taken the pregnancy test. Suffice it to say, her career was just starting – and she planned to take a drastic career shift again in a few years anyway. I had a year left of college, and without this degree, I would have zilch earning potential. Hadn’t even started on my career ladder. Adding to it all, her father detested me and my mother shunned her.

Emerson wasn’t to blame for any of this. He, like the rest of us, didn’t choose to be conceived when he was and to whom he was. So, there we were, at a crossroads. The mother and I were both afraid of being trapped; we had seen the consequences of wedlock marriages, and we were both wary of becoming resentful of each other – and at worst – our child.

On the other hand, we both had been privileged. We had family members who would be willing to help take care of Emerson, we were both capable of working good jobs, and her father had offered plenty of financial support for the child. I immediately knew that perhaps the only responsible thing to do was to man up, sacrifice, and make it work. For Emerson.

Then, I decided to think about it. What kind of a man would intentionally expose his child to instability, uncertainty, and guaranteed hardship? What man would bring his child into a situation where that blameless life would be worse off, at least initially, than he himself had been? I had never prepared for being a parent, and I knew that I could not provide Emerson everything he needed from a father to be as happy and fulfilled as I have been in life. I found it unconscionable to choose to raise him, when there was another option. For Emerson, I wanted to give him the best of life and what it had to offer.

Who am I to deny a better life to my son?

My parents had been wanting and preparing for a child for years when they had me. They were thus vastly more able to appreciate the gift of life, and less likely to take it for granted. I knew that there were other couples out there who, for whatever reason, could not receive that gift and desperately wanted it. The mother and I agreed on this point, and she decided to start searching for these couples.

Months later, she called me and told me that she found them. A perfect fit. Dedicated, generous, willing parents who only lacked one person to make themselves whole. I flew out to meet them and make our final decision.

Of course, I felt anxiety before the meeting. Who were these two that Emerson might call Mom and Dad? Did they have security? Did they love each other enough? Were they ready? Would this couple sacrifice what I could not for a child that none of us had yet met?

I knew within minutes.

With the gracious assistance of our wonderful Adoptions of Wisconsin counselor, Megan, the first conversation I had with the adoptive parents puts all my fears to rest. They expressed everything I wanted – selflessness, hope, joviality, affection, dedication, and preparedness – and expressed it all both explicitly and subtly. They radiated authenticity in addition to, most importantly, a comfortable love for one another. I could tell immediately that this couple would be there for Emerson, through thick and thin.

The adoptive parents were everything I wanted to be for my son, but knew I couldn’t. And that’s why, minutes after finishing the meeting, I gave my blessing.

Although I didn’t know anything about it, I quickly found that the adoption process itself was painless. The only suffering Emerson’s mother and I had was emotional. It is greatly painful to give up someone you love, even to capable hands. The adoption social worker was magnanimous throughout, and the adoptive parents were eminently supportive and reassuring. But, to be honest, Emerson’s mother was my biggest pillar during the ensuing months. We helped one another through difficult moments, rejoiced at good ones, and took care of each other. Rather than tearing our relationship apart, as I may once have feared, the decision to put our son up for adoption brought us much closer. Even after putting up a child for adoption we survive as a strong couple to this day.

The remainder of her pregnancy was basically a get-to-know period with the adoptive parents. They welcomed us into their home and addressed truthfully any questions or concerns we may have had. As time wore on, we all become more comfortable with each other and more confident that this was the right decision for Emerson. We celebrated milestones as a group, from the ultrasounds and first kicks to the harried preparations for labor. We got to know and understand how the adoptive parents would approach parenting in the future, and what role the mother and I would play in Emerson’s life. Altogether, we made sure that Emerson would start his life in the best condition we could provide.

And then, nine months after the decision was made, he arrived. I had given birth to a child.

My son, a child, a living boy. A bundle of happiness and curiosity. Potential and possibly incarnate. A biological miracle; the sum of generations of humanity. All our cumulative laughter, and joy, and wonder. The best and worst traits of all my ancestors lay nude before me. His mother was overjoyed, and the adoptive parents were enchanted. The room was magic. But. . . after the unpreventable bliss at seeing a new life begin, a great sadness took hold. I realized that I could not take care of my son. I had failed him already. I was not going to be his father. Then I realized something that simultaneously erased the sadness and restored my joy. He wasn’t just my son.

Our son. He was our son. Emerson has a bigger family than most everyone else. His mother and I weren’t going to abandon him. What we gave him, and it was perhaps our greatest gift, was two more people that will love him unconditionally. Emerson will have a life with perpetual support and acceptance, in addition to stability and security. If this child is to know one feeling, that feeling is to be loved. We have four people (and many more) to make sure of that. Open adoption has allowed us to all be a part of his life.

So, while there is sadness and pain at the separation, there is an uplifting solace in knowing we made the best decision. And more than making the best decision, we made the right decision. For us, in our current situation, and for the adoptive parents. And most importantly:

For Emerson.

Getting Caught Up in the "Me, Me, Me"

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As adoptive parents it's easy to get caught up in "me, me, me" but we learned from you how to honor these women and their families.

Kind words from an adoptive parent:

Sitting down to write you a few words of thanks feels bittersweet. You've helped us know the sweetest thing, parenthood! But we feel sad at the same time, we've grown to feel that you are a part of our lives and it seems strange that we won't talk or see you as often.

We cannot speak more highly of what you do! You provide dignity and respect to all of the expectant families you work with. As adoptive parents it's easy to get caught up in "me, me, me" but we learned from you how to honor these women and their families. To try to understand a small part of what this experience is like for them.

We are so fortunate to have worked with you and have been able to be part of this process of creating a family with AOW. Thank you will never be enough.

Why We Chose to Work With AOW: An Adoptive Parent's Perspective

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Deciding to adopt a child is a very personal decision to make.  Every family has their own reasons or circumstances that lead to adoption, for us it was secondary infertility.

Once our decision to adopt was made, we began our journey to find an adoption agency.  As most people do, we started our search online.  The moment you enter any search about ‘adopting a baby’ the national agencies appear on the top of the list.  We quickly learned there are both local and national agencies out there and we learned we had a ton more research to do.  After looking at several websites and doing lots of reading, we decided on two local agencies and one national agency to consult with.

Our first meeting was with Adoptions of Wisconsin (AOW), who is also ultimately who we choose to work with.  The tone of the meeting was exactly as the website stated.  This agency is about honoring the birth parents right to choose us.  We were informed that the journey is long and could take years before the right match and placement would occur.  We were provided much information on how AOW social workers work with mothers to ensure an adoption plan is what is best for them and the child, with the focus always remaining on the child.  There were no promises provided to us aside from the promise to have open and honest communication throughout the journey.  We were provided a list of costs associated with the agency and lots of reading materials about how a home study works, writing a family profile, adoption education and a copy of the application form that would not be required until there was an opening on the waiting list.

The next consultation was a two hour phone call with a national agency.  Prior to taking our call we were required to complete a seven page application that asked us about everything from our personal appearance to all the assets we own.  We were required to email them this completed form along with a picture of our family before they would schedule our call.

During the phone call we were made several promises.  A good-looking family like us could have a baby of our choosing in three months.  They bragged about how they come up first on all the web searches related to adoption because they pay big money to ensure they always appear to birthmothers first.  When a pregnant woman contacts them they ‘find’ a local social worker who will meet with the birthmother and then contract with the social worker to assist in the placement of the child.  If the birthmother starts to get cold feet they had a new weapon in their arsenal, a woman who placed her child for adoption years ago who will call the birthmother and talk them back into the adoption plan.  They found that she was 97% effective in ensuring placements.  They then mailed us a shiny brochure on how to contact a local professional photographer to get the best shots of our family and a DVD on how to make the best video to plead for a child.  The icing on the cake is when they gave us their prices.  They wanted $16,800 upfront to spend on marketing!  This money would not be used on legal fees or expenses for the mother, those were an additional cost.  This was simply how they would guarantee a fast placement through marketing.  We were even given advice on how to take out a 2nd mortgage or apply for tax credits to pay for everything.

After this call my head was spinning for days.  Of course the lure of a quick placement was attractive to a family who was unsuccessfully trying to have a baby for a number of years.  We just couldn’t get past how wrong the entire approach felt.  Adopting a baby is not about speed of placement, it is about making a lifelong commitment to a child and their birth family.  This is a journey not a sprint.  My heart was breaking for all the mothers out there who were being lured into the promises I can only imagine being made to them that I was sure would somehow be broken.  How can you promise an open adoption with annual visits to a woman on the other side of the country?  I know that is a false promise I could never make but wondered how many people would.

For our family, the decision became crystal clear.  We needed to work with an agency that had the best interest of all parties in mind.  This process was not all about us, it was only partially about our family and how it would change and grow through the miracle of adoption.  It was about opening our lives to not only the baby but the birth parents if that was their choice as well.  It is about keeping the promises we make and ensuring we had an agency that could support us no matter what those promises look like.  It is about the long term benefits of our family, this new baby, and the glorious mother who would place the child in our arms.

 

We believe that is only possible by using a local agency that is dedicated to the care and well-being of the birthmother and honoring her choice of us to parent her child.  We also know that the journey doesn’t end with placement; it is a lifetime commitment we are all making together.  It is about the mother, the child, our family and the lifelong support of the agency that brought us together.

Waiting for a match: An honest answer from an adoptive mom

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I was 42 and my husband 51 when we decided that adoption was the right thing for our family of two. I had always known that I wanted to adopt a child, to me it was a beautiful way to create a family. I had been thinking about becoming a parent since my twenties but life didn’t work out to build a family until I was past 40. In essence, I’d been dreaming about becoming a parent for twenty years!  My husband and I were on the same page: adoption….open adoption from Wisconsin…infant.  It was finally happening, this life event that had eluded me for two decades, we were going to be parents and have our own family!

Initially the waiting was fun, I was always doing something for the adoption process.  I’m a doer, so working on our homestudy was something very satisfying.  I found the list of things I needed to make, prepare and fill out very rewarding.  I was actively working towards being a parent and the more I completed on the homestudy checklists the closer I was to making the reality of being a parent come true.  From taking parenting classes together, working on several birth family introduction letters/books to filling out and turning in all the paper work… this process lasted us nine months, nine months of active busyness that I genuinely enjoyed!

I remember the day when our homestudy was complete, I secretly thought, “We are going to be different then the multitudes of other adoptive parents who have gone before us, a birth family is going to see our profile in the next few weeks and we’ll be parents soon, I can feel it!”.  Then three months went by and then five and then our first Christmas in silent waiting.  We’d been shown to many birth families but no one had asked to meet with us.   The rejection started to creep in.  I would call our social worker asking, “Is there something more we could do?  Should we take new pictures?  Post different pictures on our adoption page?  Are we too old?  Do we not have the right interests/hobbies/jobs?”. I was embarrassed to tell people, even my husband, how often I was thinking about adoption and becoming a parent.  If I was honest with myself, I was thinking about it many times a day for months on end.  However, when friends or family would ask how things were going I would put on a happy, positive expression and tell them that we were certainly learning a lot about patience and the right baby would come when it was time.  I could say these words out loud but I was not able to trust in them to bring myself relief.

Days before Christmas 2014, nine months after our homestudy was complete, I had received a text from a friend saying that she wanted me to know that she’d been praying for our adoption.  Up until this point I had not let anyone know of my deepening sadness over our wait, not even my husband.  I had never shed a tear or a said a negative word, I was always the picture of positivity.  The beautiful text my friend sent and Christmas being days away I realized I had again set a timeframe in my mind without knowing it, that we’d for sure have a baby by Christmas.   And now this season was here, with all of it’s glitter and emphasis on children and we did not have a child, in fact we had had no interest from birth families at all.  I broke down.  I cried for days.  My husband had no idea what to think of my outburst, I finally told him about my silent grief.  I expressed my concern that there was no place for grief in the celebration of Christmas, how was I going to function at the very soon coming family celebrations?  I fell deep into depression for three days.  I was scared what would happen when Christmas Eve arrived, how could I possibly put on a happy face?   What if someone asked about the adoption process and how it was going? I didn’t want to cry in front of family.  I needed to allow myself to grieve, something I had not outwardly ever done, so I let myself grieve and cry, it felt like a death.  And then as quickly as it had come, this outward sadness, it seemed that I could manage and I somehow enjoyed the holiday.

Within a few months of Christmas we experienced the absolute joy of being matched with a birth family and the planning to become parents was in full swing!   And then a few months later the match dissolved, the birth family decided to parent the baby that was expected.  This news was devastating, I struggled with what I was to do with myself each day.  The past few months I was preparing for a baby and now I didn’t know how to fill my time, what was I doing, who was I?  I was dealing with accepting that we might never become parents.  I began to wonder if we weren’t supposed to be parents, had we made a mistake to pursue adoption?

By summer I was sinking, struggling somedays to function.  I had started seeing a life coach about a year prior to work on my emotions and to put into perspective my expectations of the process of adoption.   It was hard work, I often felt that it was getting harder than easier as I needed to dig deeply into why waiting for a child engulfed my emotions.  In the end, I am not sure that I did a good job with the waiting, it was hard, but I can say that I worked very hard at “waiting well”.

Listed below are a few things that I did to try to “wait well”:

  • Prayer - I am a doer, so if I want something I just figure out how to get it, work hard and reach the goal. With adoption I could not use this method to get to the end result.  I had to trust, be patient, others were in control and this was tremendously hard for me.  I am a Christian and found that time in prayer, persistent prayer was really a way for me to be still and accept that I was not in control and that I could trust in the process.  It was a calming tool that I used daily.
  • Be thankful for all that I already have. One day I started writing a list of everything I was thankful for in my life and I listed 74 things. 74!!!  When I was having a difficult day I would reread this list and it would bring me hope and peace in knowing that my life was pretty amazing and having a baby come home was not the only good thing in our life.
  • Prepare - In the waiting I could be preparing. I had tons of time to prepare for being a parent.  Taking time to travel, read, take parenting classes, researching the best things to buy for baby, visiting family, preparing the nursery, learning more about open adoption, spending time with my spouse.
  • Keep perspective….when it’s time for our baby to come home, our baby will come home. I needed to trust in this truth and had to remind myself of this daily.
  • Press On! Keep moving ahead.  There are things to be done today…ways to grow, serve others and learn new things that are always right in front of us but we can easily miss them or ignore them as we are worrying about tomorrow.  The question I posed to myself is how can you grow right where you stand right now?  Don’t waste your wait!

August 2015 brought great blessing as we welcomed a daughter into our family!  The perfect little girl and the perfect birth family.  It would be easy now to say that the wait was worth it and went by fast.  Well, the wait was worth it!  But it did not go by fast and it wasn’t easy.  There is value in waiting; it builds patience and the capacity to endure.  Times of waiting for something else in the future will be inevitable, our hope is that we will not waste the wait and wait well.

A birth parent asks, "How do I manage the grief associated with making an adoption plan?"

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The adoption process is one that intrinsically involves grief and loss.  When birth parents decide to relinquish their newborn for adoption, they will often go through a grief process not unlike what a person experiences when a loved one passes. The grief stages are the same (denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance); birth parents do not move through them in any nice neat order or set period of time, nor should they be expected to. Grief associated with making an adoption plan is complicated for birth parents because of the ambiguous nature of the loss.

An example of how the grief process can get complicated is that feelings such as numbness, confusion and denial may cause a birth mother to fail to recall significant details such as the date and time of the birth and her child’s birth weight.  The inability to recall such details can complicate the normal grieving process by causing guilt and feelings of shame for not being able to remember specific details.

When numbness and denial subside, often birth mothers experience an eruption of feelings such as anger, sadness, shame and guilt.  Opportunities to express these feelings in a natural and supported way are important for validating the loss and coping with the grief associated with an adoptive placement.  For birth mothers who have kept their pregnancy and adoption plan secret, the secrecy, shame and lack of public acknowledgment means that opportunities to release these difficult feelings don’t exist.  When natural means of releasing these feelings are not available, the feelings often get stifled, ignored or are manifested in unhealthy ways.

It is helpful if there is a friend, family member or counselor with whom a birth mother can share her feelings, pregnancy and adoption plan.  This person’s role is to listen, validate her grief and loss and allow for healthy ways to express difficult feelings.  This support person can also be present at the birth to record important details which she may want to remember at a later date.  It can also be helpful to journal any memories of the birth and hospital stay as soon as possible before those memories fade.  Mementos such as foot prints, crib cards and pictures can also be very helpful in having something tangible to hold onto during especially difficult times.

Giving birth to a baby and placing the baby with adoptive parents are very significant life events.  During times of grief, it is helpful to remember the time prior to the loss and the person for whom one is grieving.  Being able to call to mind details, read journal entries or hold onto mementos are helpful ways of validating the significance of the loss and can lead to positive management of the grief process.  Our compassionate adoption social workers are trained to help birth parents move through the grief process in a healthy way. We understand the special circumstances surrounding birth parent grief and are here to be a support person to birth parents (and their families) in an effort to help eliminate any barriers to healthy grieving.