Friday, February 26, 2010

we're getting there!

For the last week, I have been carrying two notebooks with me everywhere I go. The first is our HomeStudy Packet.

(notice all of the colorful tabs? these make me so happy.)

The entire notebook is filled out, minus the information marked by a pink post-it note...because I'm a freak. Normally these notebooks take about a month to complete. We've done ours in a little over 1 week.

The other notebook I've been carrying around is a binder I created to hold ALL of the adoption information we have received (including emails I printed off) from Adoption Network Law Center. (I don't have a photo of that because it's not as pretty. No colorful tabs or pink post-it notes.)

We have been writing informational paragraphs, Dear Birthmother letters, and answers to questions like, "When you close your eyes and see yourself holding your precious baby in your arms what are your thoughts regarding the birthmother?" which isn't even the most time-consuming part of this whole process. The thing I thought would be easy for me - collecting photos - is actually proving quite difficult.

I've been taking photos since 1981. I have thousands of prints and digital files, all catalogued and filed away - either in photo albums or burned to CDs (with extremely detailed notes about what's on each disk). So it shouldn't have been a problem. Right?

Problem #1: Our photos must be 1-3 years old (so our favorite wedding pics, our professional engagement photos and our favorite "couple's pics" prior to 2007 won't work).

Problem #2: Our hairstyles must be the same in all of our photos. (and if you've ever met me, you will know that my hair changes monthly.)

Problem #3: We need 10 "action" shots of just me - doing the things I love. (and I'm always taking the photos so I'm rarely in them.)

Problem #4: Our photos cannot include any children - so as not to confuse the birthmothers in to believing these children belong to us (so all of my favorite pictures of me and Delaney or me playing with my cousin's kids won't work either...and if you really want to know how I enjoy spending my time, it's hanging out with those kids!)

So it's been a challenge to come up with all of our marketing materials. Before we can turn in any of our letters or statements, we have to complete this list:

• 20 close-up photos of both of us
• 10 action photos of both of us
• 10 action photos of just me
• 10 action photos of just Ryan
• 5 photos of the house
• 5 photos of the dogs
• 10 photos of us (fun, silly, big smiles) for Adoption Spacebook website

I was really trying not to do a "photo-shoot" since those never look natural, but we had to do it. Here are a few of our recent pics to fill in the blanks - hopefully they look slightly more natural than they felt at the time):

(the house held *really* still for this shot...)

I still think I'm going to try to get a picture of me baking a cake this weekend. All of the wedding, birthday, anniversary, and baby shower cakes I've made - we don't have a SINGLE picture of me actually decorating or holding one.

So that's about it. Not a thrilling update, but an update nonetheless. Tonight is an Adoption Group class (required by our HomeStudy) but we're pretty excited about it (should be lots of good information and nice people involved). If you're curious what the rest of the weekend holds for us - there's a good chance it involves a laptop and only a tiny bit of "are we done yet? are we done yet? are we done yet?"

OH!! And if anyone wants a SelectComfort bed (the kind with the remote control that inflates/deflates the mattress) please let us know!! We need to get the bed and the computer out of that room so we can make it in to a nursery!! Stu, we were actually thinking you might want it...but let us know. It's in great shape. It just needs a good home!

Happy Friday!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

change of attitude

Turns out, I've had the wrong attitude from the start. I've been defensive and (to be quite honest) a little irritated that I had to "prove" to someone that I was worthy of being a mom. Haven't I been through enough? Would the endless blood tests and the painful shots to the stomach and the numerous trips to see specialists and the hours spent in doctor's offices and the thousands of dollars spent on acupuncture and the thousands of dollars spent on inseminations leave any doubt in anyone's mind that we desired a baby? Did 4 years of trying (and failing) and watching else everyone around us produce gorgeous little miracles wash away any of our resolve? Absolutely not. And now that we are so close to actually getting a baby, we have to endure a HomeStudy??? NOT FAIR!! We have to show someone our house and our living conditions before they let us bring home a baby; they have to administer background checks and make us go to classes...who are they? Nobody ELSE has to do this stuff! If we'd gotten pregnant on our own, nobody would ask how many fire extinguishers we had in our kitchen.

But WOW...was my attitude changed on February 18th. After the meeting with our HomeStudy advisor, I felt like slapping myself in the face. Why in the world did I not see the BENEFIT to having someone PREPARE me for this? There are so many unknowns...I think every new mom would agree. You have no idea what you're in for when you bring that baby home. Nobody really prepares you for the lack of sleep, the constipation from anesthesia, the scabby nipples from breast-feeding, the acne from hormone changes. And every woman is different. Some women can recover from childbirth like Olympic champions. Some women endure varying levels of post-partum depression. You have no idea until it's YOU, so it's not like anyone can tell you step-by-step how it's gonna go. But with adoption, there are a certain number of "known" factors. And the entire purpose of a HomeStudy is to prepare you for those. Instead of being a total brat, I should have been incredibly grateful this whole time.


So now I have a new attitude. A completely new perspective. Our HomeStudy advisor said, "We are not looking for reasons to NOT give you a baby. We are simply preparing you for the day when you bring one home." Brilliant. Why did I not see this?

For all of the times I snarled my lip at the long list of "requirements", I am sorry. For all of the times I expressed my frustration with this process, I am sorry. For all of the times I felt sorry for myself or desired some form of sympathy from anyone, I am deeply sorry. The truth is, without a check-list or a certain degree of preparation, it's entirely possible that I could fall apart. I could hold that baby in my arms and suddenly freak out because we don't have an escape plan or a fire ladder or CPR training. But now we will. Along with some really good advice about how to talk to our child about the fact that he/she was adopted. And we will have a subscription to a magazine that focuses on Adoptive Families. And we will have a support group of friends with adopted kids who know exactly what "the phonecall" feels like.

It's as if someone offered to clean my windshield. I could have driven with a dirty windshield and arrived at my destination just fine, but now I can truly see. Everything is all sparkly and fresh and clean. And it changes everything.

Monday, February 15, 2010

side-effects may include nausea, dry-mouth and constipation...

We're still in the phase of adoption where we get to guide the pace, but not for long. We are expecting a phone call on Wednesday night from the Marketing Advisor at our Agency in California - the woman tasked with designing our brochures and websites, which markets us to the birth mothers. On Thursday, we have an appointment with our Home Study advisor (local) to receive our notebook of required paperwork. It's up to us to fill out and provide all of the paperwork in that notebook. After that, we need to complete our Home Study (tour of the house) and FBI background checks (hoping I might be able to call in a few favors to speed that along). Once we get those marketing materials together and write our "Dear Birthmother" letters, we will go live on the websites.

At that point, the most exciting part of the journey definitely becomes the most excruciating. I was never great at waiting to be chosen for team sports, and that was just half an hour of my life in gym class. Of course, I'm totally getting ahead of myself. Right now, I just need to focus on Wednesday. (and these exciting Winter Olympics!)

Monday, February 8, 2010

the next step

We sent in our paperwork last week (along with a hefty check that only slightly made me pee my pants) and I got a call on Friday that the paperwork was being processed. Hooray!! (slightly more pee)

In the meantime, our adoption advisor sent us the names of two social workers in our area who could conduct our home study. The first place (I won't call it out by name but the first word is "Adoption" and the second word rhymes with "Adoption") was one of the agencies we considered to facilitate the entire adoption. Even though they're local, we decided not to go with them because they have a policy AGAINST working with couples who are still fertile and trying (not sure how you prove you're "not trying" but they evidently have a way).

And while I understand that it might be frustrating to start working with a couple who is interested in adoption and then "Oops! Turns out we CAN have babies!" I still don't understand how it was such a rampant problem that they decided to make it a company policy. Were they truly just sick of the extra paperwork?

I called the next place (Adoption & Beyond) at 5:00 on Friday and I left a message (I know. I thought it was strange that they weren't there too). A girl named Steffany called me back on Monday and quickly explained the process of going through a home study (takes about 6 weeks total, depending on how quickly we turn in our paperwork). She also described where we could find the application on their website to make an appointment.

An application. To make an appointment.

At our appointment, Steffany will give us a notebook that we are required to complete (like a big scavenger hunt!) We need to find things like: our marriage certificate, proof of our U.S. citizenship, proof that we aren't sex offenders, proof that we know CPR, our monthly household budget, letters of recommendation, etc) and when we're done with that, they'll schedule a home visit and several interviews with us (individually at the office; together at the house; individually at the house; together at the office while wearing hats...)

Once they get the home study done and our paperwork turned in, they'll write up the report, send it to us to proofread, and then send it to our agency in California. I can only imagine how much I'll throw up while waiting to read that report. I'll stay awake every night, wondering why I went on and on about how much I love the baby furniture at IKEA because what if they think IKEA furniture is cheap and poorly made and everybody knows that it has the potential to break and kill your baby because it's not made in the USA and oh my god they think I hate America!

"Why doesn't everybody have to take CPR classes and provide a household budget?" I asked Ryan one night at a totally reasonable volume. Ryan answered with his trademark logic and maturity, "if everybody had to prove they'd be good parents, there wouldn't be any babies out there to adopt."

And that (gentle readers) is why he's going to be the father of my children (just as soon as we whip up that document that could be interpreted as something close to a household budget).

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I agree

You have to ignore all of the wind-blown hair and attempts to sound like Celine Dion, but this song pretty much sums it up. Check it out (and try not to get chills):