I got home last night around 6:30 carrying two bags of Fazoli's - which is only ironic if you know that Ryan and I spent 4 solid road trip hours back in 2004 discussing baby names. We decided to combine all of the things we liked best in the world and came up with Santa Oreo Fazoli's Westhoff (because nobody is going to pick on Santa. Way too risky).
I walked in the kitchen with salad, breadsticks, spaghetti and a twice-baked lasagna (and enough for the next 3 days' leftovers) and there it was on the kitchen counter. A big maroon packet of info from the adoption agency. It was like Christmas! Ryan and I fixed our little dinner plates and immediately sat down to pour through it. We read every single word. Home visits. The application process. Myths. Realities. Tips for writing our "Dear Birthmother" letter. Everything we needed to hear in order to feel 100% confident in the adoption agency we'd chosen (completely by accident).
They put a DVD in our packet, so we watched that too. Couple after couple showed up on our TV, talking honestly about their experience and how wonderful it was. I admit I laughed. I cried. And I deeply judged the furniture, outfits and hairdos of every single one of them. But mostly, I felt even more confident that we would soon be holding a precious little baby, thanks to this company and the people dedicated to our introduction.
ANLC specializes in domestic adoption (because they can't guarantee a healthy baby in a foreign country where the laws and restrictions are all different.) They match about 300 families per year. They have a very low turn-over rate (because the birthmothers are given excellent care and counseling - focused on their future goals and dreams).
There was also a letter from a girl who gave up her baby for adoption last year. She talked about her struggle to tell anyone about her pregnancy, her appointments at the abortion clinic that she cancelled 8 times, the bus ride to her final appointment when she watched a mom and daughter laughing/playing, and the moment she decided she could not terminate the pregnancy. She talked about how grateful she was to find ANLC and how wonderful the support was. They gave her a place to live, introduced her to the family that would eventually adopt her baby girl, and gave her the tools she would need to go back to college, finish school and get a good job. She said, "I realized I could create a life and a family all in one day. Instead of being sad or ashamed, I felt really proud of myself. I made the right choice for me and my baby."
We cried a lot and then filled out our application form. NINE PAGES of questions!! Emergency contact info, general physical descriptions of ourselves, our hobbies, our lifestyle, our religion, our ethnicity, our countries of origin, do we plan to be stay-at-home parents, our pets, our education, our criminal history, our personal mental/medical history, a brief description of our infertility problems, the reason we wish to adopt. Then we got to the tough stuff:
Ethnicity Preference of child to be adopted, in order of preference with 1 = most preferred. Will we accept birthparent(s) with any of the following: alcohol/drug use, STDs, schizophrenia, learning disabilities, manic-depression/bi-polar disorder, down syndrome, epilepsy, diabetes, cigarette smoking, twins.
Will we adopt a child born with any of the following: club foot, cleft palate/lip, down syndrome, blindness, deafness, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, diabetes, congenital heart defect, correctable handicaps, non-correctable handicaps, a child exposed to drugs and/or alcohol, a child conceived as a result of rape and/or incest. (gulp)
Would we be open to a "baby born" situation (the baby is about to be born and the birthmother wants to place the baby for adoption with very little information about the birthparents.) A non-infant? (child under the age of 3.) If the baby is a boy, would we want a hospital circumcision? (seriously never thought about it) Would we be willing to share photos/letters of our child with the birth parent(s)? Would we be open to post-placement visits with birth parent(s)? once or twice a year? maybe more?
Then there was a whole page of financial information. Our financial situation (gross annual income; life insurance; real estate equity; aggregate savings and securities; total net worth; market value of our home; monthly mortgage payments; and something called equity value.)
At this point, it became obvious to us that we were in a unique situation. If we'd been able to conceive a child naturally, nobody would be knocking on our door to evaluate our home environment, look up our financial history or interview our friends as to whether we'd be good parents (we would, by the way) but here we were - essentially filling out a resume for the ultimate job...The Parents of the future Baby Westhoff.
The last page basically explained financial support for the birthmother. We had a few options. Option 1: create a trust fund through the attorneys to assist with her living expenses during the last 4-5 months of pregnancy. (anywhere from $500 - $3,000 per month)
Option 2: if the birthmother lives in California, she can request housing through ANLC's housing program in lieu of a monthly amount. Average cost of housing in California is $2,100 per month.
The fascinating part: birthmother can also SEE this information and pick the family she wants based on this number - like if she's deciding between two potential families, she might just go with the one who offered more money. No pressure.
Ryan was like, "Can she just come live with us? We'll support her and give her food and make sure she goes to her doctor's appointments." At which point, I really wanted to watch Juno and pretend like our birthmother would be just as smart and funny and cute as Ellen Page.
So that's basically it. We have our phone interview tonight at 6:30 and we have a list of questions we'd like to ask. :) I didn't sleep much last night. TOO excited. TOO much information to process. READY! NOW!