Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Cost of Adoption

from our most recent invoice
We got an invoice from our adoption lawyer in the mail recently (see picture).  As you can see, we were charged for "receipt of family pictures; save to file".  Now, it does say "$25 no charge" an I'm not sure if that's what it's referring to, as we still incurred a charge on this bill.  But, remind me
not to send them cute pictures of our family any more!  They request them from time to time to stay current on our family, but I didn't realize we were getting charged for them to "save to file".  But, I am not complaining.  This lawyer has been great, and I know it's just the way it works these days.  But, it made me think about what it costs to adopt.  What it costs to give a home to a child who would otherwise not have one.  What it costs to provide a home for a child that would otherwise become a ward of the state and cost us, as a people, in tax money (and in so many other ways) to support.  Foster children have a much, much higher risk of needing social programs throughout their lives.  Did you know that 70% of people in prison in California were foster children at one point?  They are at much higher risk for needing all kinds of public assistance.  And I don't mean just as foster kids.  I mean way beyond into adulthood.  So, it just seems like it would help the whole situation if the whole adoption process was much less costly.  I have friends who became legal guardians to THEIR OWN grandchildren after their daughter passed away from cancer, and they had to do paperwork and pay $900!  I mean, it's a drop in the bucket compared to a regular adoption, but still ridiculous!

When I sat down to write about this, I thought about ALL the costs of adoption.  When all is done, S's adoption will wind up costing us about $10,000.  That includes social workers, a home study through the county (that costs $4500 alone!), lawyers, travel expenses back and forth to the hospital and little things here and there that nobody thinks about.  And $10,000 is getting off easy.  Most adoptions will cost much, much more, especially if you adopt internationally.  And there's the cost of the craziness it brings, the stress between spouses as you try to decide if this baby is for you, or if the situation is too risky and might result in a failed adoption, or the cost of the major life change it brings about, often with hardly any notice.  There is the cost of adding another child to your family and wondering how it's going to affect the child you already have.  There is the cost of having a child with a history and a family that you now need to figure out how to mesh with yours.  There is the cost of knowing that your child will always have a desire to know about his or her past and will most likely want some contact in some form with the birth parents or birth family, if possible.  There is the cost of your young child asking you why his parents didn't want him, or why they don't want to see him, or why was she so sick that she couldn't take care of me (because at four, we have chosen the word "sick" to describe her drug condition....we will tell him the truth later when he is able to understand what drugs are). There is the cost of those teenage years, when most adopted children go through a heightened identity crisis.  And I'm sure there are costs I don't even know about right now.

So, with so many costs, why adopt?  It's just like anything else you save up and pay a lot of money for.  Because it's absolutely worth it.  A new car, a European vacation, a new home....all those things have a cost attached, but what you get from it is so worth it.  Don't think I am comparing a child to a car or a vacation.  It's an analogy.  The experience you get on that vacation will last a lifetime.  You will make memories.  You will take pictures.  You will see and taste and touch things you never could have before.  And it will make the stress of saving that money and pinching pennies a very distant memory.  All you will remember is how amazing it was.  And that's how adopting is.  Every single one of those costs will never be more important than every single amazing moment of having a child, or of being a mom.  And not that every moment of being a mom is amazing....but you will look back and remember the good.  When my son, out of the blue says "Mom, I love you" or "am I your sweet baby?" or "come snuggle with me" or "will you read this to me?" or "will you play monster trucks with me?", the costs we incurred adopting him will just not matter.  In fact, S's adoption isn't even final yet, and it already doesn't matter, because I love these boys more than life itself, and you can't put a price on that.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Fear and Self-Loathing….Why Sometimes Not Having a Biological Connection to your Child is a Bonus.

I was reminded again this week that my insecurities are still a much bigger part of me than I had hoped they would be in my forties.  I won’t go into the sordid details, because frankly, they’re not THAT sordid, and most would say, just get over it!  But, here is my point as it actually pertains to adoption.  I have realized that there are benefits to not having a biological connection to my child.

My handsome D.
First, let me let you in on a little secret.  I have self-esteem issues.  Yes.  It’s true.  And those of you who know me really well are not at all surprised by this declaration.  Those of you who know me on a little more superficial basis are probably somewhat surprised.  Exhibit A.  The title of this blog.  As I went back to research it a little more, I realized that the phrase comes from a novel entitled “Fear and Loathing in Vegas.”  I would, of course, be the one to add in the “self” part.  I have had that phrase stuck in my head for a long time, “Fear and Self-Loathing” and it’s not even correct!  But, I’m digressing a bit.

Here’s the thing.  I have realized that because I have some unaddressed issues that keep me from feeling as confident and self-assured as I would like to feel, I have a really hard time feeling that confidence about anything I do, whether it’s artwork or writing or anything I have had a hand in creating.  Like children.  But, I’ve realized, that since I didn’t have a hand in creating these children, that I find they are exempt from this.  I used to pine away over not being able to get pregnant.  But, I’ve realized that maybe that was one of the greatest blessings.  Not just for me, but for them, too.  They will never have to suffer me coming down on them because they represent something I never was.  To me, they are even more beautiful and more amazing partly because they came from somebody else.  I feel perfectly justified in bragging about them and in telling them, or others, how handsome they are, because there is no part of me that feels they are beautiful because they carry any of my genes.  I am removed from them in a good way.  They will never carry my baggage.  I will never feel to cut short a compliment because, in some roundabout way, I might feel I am bragging about myself.  Or worse, YOU might feel that I am bragging about myself.

My beautiful S.

Maybe this is all just a little twisted.  And yes, I’m sure I need therapy.  And I am not saying that others withhold because of these reasons.  I am speaking to me and my case alone.  Contrary to what this might portray, I am a silver lining kind of a girl.  And this is one of the unexpected silver linings to adoption.  I love these boys partly because they are NOT a part of my gene pool.  I shower them with compliments.  I tell others (probably to an annoying, nauseating degree) how beautiful these boys are.  How amazing and talented they are.  How funny and smart and thoughtful they are.  How athletic and bound-for-the-Olympics they are.  And, even though I know some of that comes from how they are parented, I truly believe that a lot of it came with them when they were born.  I love these boys more than I thought I would be capable of.  And maybe, when I truly feel that love for myself more, I will be capable of even greater love for them, too.  I hope to get there someday.  But for now, I know I am released from any boundaries that would inhibit feeling and expressing my love for them, because they are released from representing any part of me that I don’t love.  And that is a great thing.

P.S.  PLEASE don’t see this as a call for compliments and reassurances that I am just so wonderful.  It won’t change me.  I have to be the one to change myself, and I am truly working on it.  It only makes me think you don’t know me so well!  :)

(photos by the amazingly talented

Friday, February 7, 2014

Somewhere Between Saviourhood and Depression

There are two comments I, as an adoptive parent, really get tired of hearing.  Take note, because I can guarantee if you know someone who has adopted a child, they feel the same way.

My boys.  Challenging and amazing.
This first is some version of "you are so great to adopt these children!"  And when I respond something like "oh, well we are really blessed to have them," I usually get some form of "well there are so many kids out there that need good homes, and you are so great to take in these kids and give them a good life."  Does anyone else see what is wrong with this?  I'm forty-two years old.  The first time I went on fertility medication, I was twenty-one.  My oldest child is four and a half.  I know you can do the math.  Let's just say I spent many, many years trying to have a child.  Praying, begging, crying, pleading with God to let me have that blessing.  I am not a savior.  I didn't go into it with some altruistic goal of saving some poor child out there.  I didn't set out to save anyone, except maybe myself.  Not only is it uncomfortable to be spoken to as if I had done some great unselfish act for the sole purpose of being unselfish, it's almost offensive.  I am a girl who grew up wanting to have a family.  I am not a charitable organization.  And it's even worse when this kind of comment is made in front of my child.  He is not the receiver of a charitable act for which he needs to consistently show gratitude.  He is a child.  He is my child.  He has a mom, just like your children do.  And he doesn't need to be reminded how lucky he is that someone took pity on him and was kind enough to give him a pillow on which to lay his little orphaned head.  He needs to be reminded that he is loved, like any other child in any other family.  And his childhood should be just about that--childhood.

The other comment I get tired of hearing is, oddly enough, on the other end of the spectrum.  If I am having a difficult day with one of my kids, for whatever reason---maybe one is being a pill, or one is fussy because of teething, or one is sick, or one is just not sleeping much and I'm exhausted--I don't need to be reminded that this is what I asked for so I need to be more grateful.  Or as someone stated just the other day, "yes, but this is what you signed up for." Yes.  You are right.  This is what I prayed, begged, cried and plead for.  I am well aware of that.  I don't need your gentle reminder.  But, you need to understand that I deal with the same parenting issues that everyone else does.  I have hard days.  I get tired.  I get frustrated.  I seek out help with issues my children are having.  And, I need your love and support, especially if you have walked the path of parenthood before me.  Believe me, I am completely grateful to be dealing with these issues, because it means I have children.  It means I am a mom.  It means I am enjoying this long-awaited dream.  I know this.  So please just take it as an unspoken fact that I am more grateful than you will ever know.  I love being a mom more than you could possibly comprehend, unless you also had to fight seventeen years before you were blessed with a child.  And I love these boys more than I ever thought possible.

Like most moms, I ride somewhere in the middle between Saviourhood and depression.  I rarely get close to either extreme.  I ride in the middle, recognizing that even on the most difficult days, life is still so beautiful.  And the best days don't come because I was just so overly righteous that day.  They come and go just like they do for every other mom out there trying to do her best.  They ebb and flow mostly near the middle of the river between perfection and disaster, rarely nearing either shore. And I'm okay with that.  In fact, it is what I consider a successful day.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Our Second Little Miracle

It’s been nine months since my last blog entry, and eight months since our little world changed again. I have been meaning to sit down and write the story of our second adoption, but the whirlwind and subsequent day to day life of raising two little boys has somehow prevented that from happening.  Until now.  I thought it was time to sit down and finally tell the story of this second little miracle.  I am going to try to keep it as brief as possible, and touch on other aspects of it down the road.  Today, I just want to tell you how it all came to be.  It is such a little miracle.

If you haven’t already read my last entry, written just weeks before this second baby came,  “ComeWhat May and Love It” was about accepting and embracing the fact that I might only ever have one child, and that I was okay with that.  Haha!  I think God has a way of waiting until you have truly given in, before giving you the thing you desired in the first place.  And, after years and years of fighting it, I had truly gotten to that place.  And then…..bam!
aby came into our lives, you should read it.

I think the timeline is kind of funny, so I will share it with you.  My friend, who adopted three children from the same birth mother, messaged me Facebook.  Here is how the conversation went:

May 13
MY FRIEND: Hi Susan. I know u haven't heard from me for a long time, but would u mind giving me your number so I can call you?
ME:  Sure!
MY FRIEND: Hi Susan. I'll call u at around 2pm. If you're not available then, I'll try again later. Not to be mysterious or anything. Just want to talk to you about adoption.

We had a phone conversation, in which she told me that the birth mother of her three children was expecting any day now, and they just couldn’t take a fifth child and would we be interested.  Now, let me tell you that a lot of people might have been super excited.  But, I honestly had no idea that this would really go through.  I mean, the birth mother didn’t even know us.  And, considering our past experience with a failed adoption, and knowing that people had approached us before about “a sure thing” and we had never heard from them again, I did not even think twice about it.  I said yes, we would be interested, and then I thought I would cross that bridge when a paper had been signed.  The mother didn’t have a due date since there had been no prenatal doctor visits since very early on in the pregnancy. 

A week passed and I got this message on Facebook:

May 20th
MY FRIEND:  Hi Susan. Just wanted to update u. I still haven't heard anything from ####, the Birth mom. I spoke to ####'s mom this morning and she hasn't heard anything as well. Sorry for the delay of information. Hope all is well for you.

ME:  No problem. Like I said before, we are used to things not coming through so we aren't holding our breath! But, thanks for thinking of us. I talked to our adoption social worker and she said it would be a private adoption, so we would have to figure out how to pay for it. But we will cross that bridge when we come to it. Thanks!
Just as I suspected.  It wasn’t going to pan out.  Glad I didn’t spend any time looking at baby clothes!

Four days later, on Friday afternoon, May 24th, I was at the park with D and I got a call from my friend.  She said the birth mom had spoken to the social worker and had given her our names.  Okay, now it was a little more serious, but still… me when someone has signed a piece of paper and when a baby has been born!  I hung up the phone a little more anxious, but still not getting my hopes up.  I thought about the whole possibility for a few minutes, when the phone rang again.  It was 4:30 in the afternoon.  This time it was the social worker, Christine.  She told me that the birth parents had spoken with her and given her our names and they were sure they wanted to place the baby with us.  Okay…this was even more serious.  But, she hadn’t been able to get a meeting with them to get papers signed.  It was Memorial Day weekend, and she said she would try to get it all in place this weekend and update me next week.  I hung up and started thinking that this really could happen.  However, still….call me when someone has signed a dang piece of paper!  I went home and told John and we chatted about it for a minute, but knew nothing was set in stone, so off to bed we went.

Saturday morning, May 25th, 8:00 a.m.  I was getting dressed for work when the phone rang.  It was Christine.  The birth mom was in labor and on her way to the hospital.  Long story short, she had to get an adoption plan in place and signed by them before the baby was born.  They suspected the baby would be born positive for drugs, and the county would take it away if an adoption plan wasn’t already in place.  If the county took the baby, the birth parents wouldn’t have a say in where it was placed.  But, we also had to have a lawyer’s signature.  God steps in on these little miracles, I know He does.  Christine just happened to be in the process of adopting a baby herself, and because of the circumstances, even though she was a social worker, she needed an adoption attorney.  She said “the only lawyer I have in my phone that will answer my call at 8:30 on a Saturday morning is the one we are using.”  I said I trust that an adoption social worker knows how to hire a good adoptions attorney and that I trusted her judgment.  She said the only other hang up could be if the county social worker decided this adoption plan hadn’t been put in place soon enough, then she would have the right to take the baby, if and when it was born positive for drugs.  She called back thirty minutes later and said everything was in place.   The lawyer was on board and the county social worker said she was fine with the plan and had no intention of disrupting it.  One hour later, he was born.
I didn’t know about him until 12:30 that afternoon.  I was at work with butterflies in my stomach.  I was texting and calling family and friends and the lawyer and the social worker and my friend.  At 12:30, Christine called and said the father had called her and said he had been born at 9:33 a.m., 22 inches long, 12 pounds and ready for school!  Haha!  He was huge!


And the kicker?  He was born on my son’s birthday.  D and baby S share the same birthday.  Isn’t that amazing?  I had decided to have D’s birthday party the previous Wednesday, and I don’t know why.  His birthday was on a Saturday, and that would have been easy to do.  But, I had chosen not to.  And now I know why.  D was born at 7:33 a.m. four years earlier, and S was born that morning at 9:33 a.m.  It was, and continues to be a miracle.  I got to drive up to Anaheim that night with a friend, and see this little miracle ten hours after he had been born.  A baby I had no idea was going to actually come into my life just the day before, and I was sitting in the hospital nursery holding him.  He was beautiful and huge and precious and mine.  There is more to the rest of the story, but I will save that for another post.  Just know that I know that God knows each of us.  He knows us personally.  He answers our prayers, and sometimes that answer is “no.”  And sometimes the answer is “not right now.”  And sometimes the answer is “yes.”  And all the “no” answers and all the “not right now” answers make that “yes” answer just that much more precious.