Difficult Roads Often Lead to Beautiful Destinations

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It is said that “difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations” and for many considering adoption this is true. This can be even more true when your past is less than perfect. Adoption can be a scary process for many. There are so many unknowns and the future can seem uncertain. Often, the process to arriving at adoption hasn’t been easy either. For people with a not so perfect past this process seem even more intimidating, overwhelming, and uncertain. However, what I’ve learned is that path to parenthood isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely worth it.

As a woman in my mid-thirties my ovaries were screaming for a baby, however this was not the case in my early twenties and I felt I was being punished for my poor judgment in my younger years. My story is complicated. As a married woman, with a master’s degree, a great job, beautiful home, and a loving husband my life looked picture perfect to most. But this life wasn’t handed to me, I had to work for it. My story starts as a young girl, born to two parents in their mid-twenties. My mother came from a normal, working-class family and my father came from a family that had struggled with alcoholism for decades. My father got sober when I was 5 years old, so my memories growing up were of a sober man. In my teenage years I began to experiment with marijuana and alcohol. I remember clearly thinking that my parents, especially my dad, would not be happy if they found out, but that this was a rite of passage and that alcoholism wasn’t really a disease, that was just something people in AA said to make themselves feel better. For the next ten years I continued to believe that.

By the time I was 26 I had been arrested for Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) numerous times and these arrests came with time spent in jail and on house arrest. I always attributed everything in my life to bad luck, including my arrest record. Following my last OWI, a Drug and Alcohol Assessment was mandated and from there I was sent to rehab. While in rehab I realized that I was not choosing the life I had wanted to live. I realized that my alcoholism was a disease and that for many people this disease was passed down to them and there wasn’t much choice in the matter. I realized the only choice I had was to quit drinking and that I was an alcoholic.

Once I quit drinking my life began to get better almost immediately, which is was led to the present day “picture perfect” life. The only thing missing from my perfect life was a baby I was longing to love. I had always loved the idea of adoption, but I figured with my past there was no chance in adopting a baby. Before contacting Adoptions of Wisconsin, I would Google search for stories of alcoholic women that had adopted, but all I would find would be threads of women discussing how their husband had been arrested once or twice and they were still able to adopt a baby. I couldn’t find any stories of mothers, the so-called “care takers”, with a not so perfect past like mine. During this time of uncertainty, guilt, remorse and reflection, my husband tried to assure me that my past was far behind me (as I was 8 years sober at the time) and that people would look beyond that. I was not so sure. I remember contacting Adoptions of Wisconsin, going in for our initial consultation and within minutes I was balling and telling Hollie that I was a recovering alcoholic and I wasn’t sure if we would be able to adopt. I remember these intense feelings of guilt and remorse. Hollie assured me that the agency had guidelines on this and that everything would be okay. My past was not the end all be all, and that a future as a mother would be possible.

As we continued the adoption process I was forced to relive and discuss my past at many times. We had background checks, fingerprints and in-depth details of my past with our social worker during our home study. Once we had finished our home study I felt a sign of relief. I thought it was all uphill from there, and for the most part, it was.

Shortly after going “active” we were matched with our birth mother. She was perfect. We loved her, she loved us, things couldn’t get better. During placement we continued our monthly visits with Megan and we stated to discuss finalization. A few weeks before finalization we received a notice that the judge had appointed a Guardian Ad Litem to represent our babies during finalization, which doesn’t always happen. This was something we were not expecting. We had loved and cared for these babies for six months, and now someone we just met was going to represent them in court. My stomach instantly became sick; I knew it was my fault, I knew this was because of my past, I instantly started to cry and called Megan. Megan shared that similar to the termination of parental rights (TPR) hearing, the Guardian Ad Litem would be contacting us to ask us some questions. A few days later I received a call, I answered some questions, explained my story and he told me he looked forward to meeting at court. One of the first things brought up at our hearing was my background and history of alcoholism. The judge asked the Guardian Ad Litem if he felt I was fit to be a mother and he gave the most genuine reply as I hugged my babies. He said he couldn’t imagine a more open, honest, loving family for these babies; that I had taken to steps to repair my wrongs, and I was absolutely fit to be a mother. This was one of the greatest moments of my life. I was officially a mother.

I wanted to share my story because I want people to know that your past doesn’t dictate your future. I want other women like myself to know that a not so perfect past does not mean you don’t get a perfect future! My life is by no means “perfect,” but in my mind, being a mother is the most beautiful opportunity I’ve ever had and that makes my life perfect.

- Written by an AOW adoptive mom

A Mom-To-Be's Mindset and Advice: Laura

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Mother’s Day can be a real bear if you want to be a mom and aren’t. It starts in April every year: store ads, radio commercials, social media content, memes, and even watercooler talk. It snowballs into the one weekend when it feels like everyone is celebrating except you. It can be a lonely, sad place.

Maybe you feel that way too. And if you do, you’re not alone. So many of us have a hard time with Mother’s Day—it’s an emotional day for lots of people, though you might not know it if you didn’t have a pass into this unsought club.

My husband and I always wanted kids. When we learned that becoming parents was going to be far tougher than we ever realized, Mother’s Day became a day on the calendar day that I wanted to erase. Not because I don’t care about my mom—far from it, she’s great and absolutely worth celebrating – but because it just was too painful to feel like I was sitting out on the sidelines of some sport that I didn’t have a permission slip to join. It wasn’t a great place to be.

Starting the wild ride of the adoption process and being on the waiting family list has added another dimension to this upcoming holiday. I’ll admit it is still hard; however, instead of just the familiar stinging heartache, there is also a calm realization that we might be closer to this dream than we ever have been. Grief and sadness are being eclipsed by a feeling of hopeful gratitude.  Perhaps someone might recognize in us what I’ve known all along- that we have what it takes to be a really good, caring, and fun parents. I’m still waiting for that moment, but the thought that it will happen makes the month of May brighter.

One of the things that led to this journey was that an adoptive mom told me that her grueling, unsuccessful fertility treatments and losses, her heart was made whole after adopting her children. I too dream of finding those pieces and feeling that peace. I’m also thunderstruck by the understanding that, to become what I want to be, someone else has to make the decision not to become a parent, which is a humbling concept.

Maybe you feel like I have about this day for any number of reasons, or maybe you have a friend or family member who does. Over the years I have learned a couple lessons that have made it easier.

If you are wanting to be a mom and aren’t one yet, please go easy on yourself. Do what makes you feel best to get through that day. Remember that it’s one day of the year- there are lots of other good ones if this one feels bad or hard. Do something to feed your mind, your body, and your soul: some good food, a walk, a bath and a fun face mask, or a good book. Do something that will make you laugh, or play with a pet, or go see a movie. Go to a family event if you want to, but be prepared in case you need to leave early, and know that it’s perfectly fine to do so. Consider using social media sparingly, unless you’ve figured out better settings than me (in which case, please teach me!).

If it feels like the right thing, maybe take some steps toward fulfilling your dream, whatever it may be. The one thing that helped me the most was when we decided to adopt and started the process. We began our journey right before Mother’s Day last year and it made the holiday much more pleasant.

If you are a friend or family member of someone who wants to be a mom but isn’t yet, please be patient and kind to them on Mother’s Day. Respect their feelings and their wishes. If they can’t make it to a celebration that day, be understanding. If they need a laugh, help them find humor. If they need a shoulder to cry on, please be there without judgment or clichés. I’d suggest that you not tell your friend that their pets count as children or that you’ll give your kids to them because they are so naughty. Don’t tell them how much money they are saving by not having kids, or over-sympathize (For instance, sending a text that says “I think of you every year on this day and how awful it must be” – that sort of thing doesn’t inspire many great moments). And please don’t complain about how lame your family’s presents were (um, hello, we’d love that dandelion bouquet and that drawing of what might be a stick person and/or a cat!).

There are a lot of us in this club who struggle through Mother’s Day. I’ll be thinking of you and hoping that your future contains all the things you are wishing for and peace for your heart.

Written By AOW Waiting Mom, Laura

A Waiting Mother's Perspective: Jess

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“Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits bestowed upon us.”- Sheri L. Dew

Mother’s Day has taken on a number of meanings throughout the changing seasons in my life. As a child, I distinctly remember the sheer thrill of presenting my mother with a bouquet of dandelions and hand-written cards with backwards letters; it was a time to rejoice in the beauty of spring and the continued budding of the relationship formed between mother and daughter.  

As a young adult I began to wonder what it might be like to be celebrating another changing role—Me as a mother. I couldn’t wait to be on the receiving end of precious hand-written cards and other homemade assortments; to pay forward the beauty of the mother-daughter relationship I have been fortunate to develop throughout my life. I reflected on this experience with loving anticipation and excitement of what might be—a daughter, whose smile and dimples reflected my own.

Time raced on, as it does, and life threw me a curve ball in the form of fertility struggles in my late twenties. After a failed round of fertility treatments and a negative pregnancy test on Mother’s Day; it became clear that achieving parenthood was going to be an emotionally and physically draining obstacle course. Just as the seasons change, the second Sunday in May again took on a new meaning-- this time filled with the unique and raw pain that comes from preparing a place in your heart for a child that may never come.

Now, in my early thirties, I am a prospective adoptive mama and the meaning of Mother’s Day has yet again morphed. I have learned that this day of celebration takes on the meaning you give it. It is within my own power to focus on the positive. As I wait, I move forward with a grateful heart; I yearn to meet my child’s first mother--to know her, respect her, and honor her.  After all, without her, my vision of this special day, could never come to fruition.

To my future child, whom I already love with every cell in my body, know that as I anticipate receiving bouquets of dandelions and handcrafted macaroni necklaces, I do so patiently, with a joyful heart. I promise to find wonder in the wait and look forward to the changing definition of Mother’s Day your presence will bring.

Written By AOW Waiting Mom, Jess.

Anna and Avery

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Jeri Lynn and Michael have been the proud parents of twin girls, Anna and Avery, since their birth on June 14, 2018. Anna and Avery were born a few weeks early and spent some time gaining weight and strength in the hospital before being discharged directly into the care of Jeri Lynn and Michael. The girls are healthy and happy and their parents are enjoying every minute with them!

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When we asked Jeri Lynn about their time as a family and the girl’s developing personalities, she had this to say about her daughters, “Avery and Anna started out as tiny peanuts but have grown beautifully. Their personalities are quite different. Anna is silly, adventurous and brave. Avery is more cautious, reserved and silly. They love cuddling with their Mama and Daddy, peek a boo, bath time and playing with their cousins.”  

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The couple hopes to finalize Anna and Avery’s adoption in the next couple months and is looking forward to starting more traditions as a family. They spent their first holiday season together as a family of four and Anna and Avery couldn’t be more adorable in their matching outfits!

Thank you to Jeri Lynn and Michael for sharing some of their journey with us and we are so happy for you and your family!

Welcome to the World, Reese!

Welcome to the world, Reese! This happy baby girl was born on August 13, 2018 and weighed 8 pounds 1 ounce. Her parents, Kayla and Nate, have enjoyed getting to know Reese’s birth mother over the last few months of her pregnancy and after birth.

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Kayla and Nate have been Reese’s sole caregivers since her discharge from the hospital, a little over 6 weeks ago. Reese has been thriving in their care and is a super happy baby! Kayla and Nate are overjoyed to have their baby girl in their lives.

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Even the family dog, Macy, is loving having a new baby at home!

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Kayla and Nate have been gushing over their daughter and their daughter’s birth mother since they day they were matched. When we asked them how the first weeks of parenting have gone for them, the couple said, “Our first 6 weeks with Reese have been such a dream! From the moment we laid eyes on her we were forever in love and in awe of her. She is such a good baby and has made being first time parents very easy on us! Her favorite thing to do at the moment is sit or lay by the big window in our breakfast nook and look outside. She also loves her play mat and is just able to grab the hanging toys. Waking her up for her bottle in the mornings is our favorite time. She giggles and coos - we think she is going to be a morning person for sure! It amazes us how fast she is growing and how smart she is already. Her personality is developing quickly and we love it so much. We are just so grateful to Reese’s birth mother and birth family for choosing us. It really just feels like a perfect match - so meant to be!”

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Thank you, Kayla and Nate, for sharing your story with us. We are so excited for your future with Reese and can’t wait to share more photos of her as she grows!