Calls with Potential Birthmothers

It’s been just over a year since we first sent in our application to the adoption agency who performed our home study.  I’ve shared with you our ups and downs of the process since the beginning.  But, recently, I’ve been struggling with whether to share certain details of our journey, for example, phone calls with potential birth mothers.  Then, I realized the whole point my creating this blog was to help others who are on the same journey, to help provide information to those of you who are thinking about taking the path to adoption and to help others understand what is involved in the decision to adopt.  So, here goes.

Back in early spring, we finally had our first call with a birth mother – shortly followed by second and third calls with 2 additional birth mothers.  I don’t know whether the written word can express the complex feelings I experienced in anticipation of, during and after these calls – a strange mosaic of excitement, nervous fear, hesitant hope, and worry. I don’t think traditional life experience can truly ever prepare you for a call with a person you’ve never met who is trying to decide whether they want you to parent their child.  And I don’t think I need to mention how much pressure you can feel for the call to go well. It’s immense and could negatively impact your interaction, if you allow it.

Our first call was from a birth mother who found our profile on an adoption forum.  She had her decision narrowed down to 2 or 3 families, and we were among them. We had several calls and exchanged several emails. She was in her thirties with two children she and her husband were parenting.  They didn’t want to add another child into an already emotionally and financially strained household and were making an adoption plan. She was difficult to read emotionally and seemed distracted and disconnected most times. After a few weeks of contact, one day she shared that another family had come to their home offering them a huge sum of money, and they were very tempted to take the money in exchange for choosing them as adoptive parents to their child.  She said that the temptation they felt from this offer was something they didn’t expect, and ultimately, she said this feeling led them to decide to parent their child.  She said they didn’t want to feel like they gave their child away for money.  I have to say that I wondered why she told me the details about the cash offer.  I mean, why not just tell us they’d decided to parent the child and call it a day.  It made me wonder if this was an attempt to fish for a corresponding offer – not our style, nor is such a transaction ethical or legal.

The second call was random, received from a teenage birth mom who sounded nervous, fearful and emotional – so very different from the first birth mother I had spoken with.  I immediately wanted to help and protect her from fear or worry. We had a nice conversation and she even agreed to speak to a social worker at our agency to help her sort out her feelings and help her understand her decision. She was very early on in her pregnancy, and the birth father wanted her to have an abortion – something she did not want.  She had also been hoping to go to college in the fall and felt that with a baby, this would never happen. Her grandmother told her to look at and she had found us. We had a couple of conversations, and in the follow-up conversation, she mentioned the baby’s father was rethinking things and was going to try to find a job so he could help raise the child.  Her mother was also offering to raise the child for her til she could get on her feet. We have not spoken since then, so I have to assume that she is biding her time and will decide what to do when the time comes. I truly hope that all goes well for her in life, whatever path she chooses.

We had a brief exchange with a third “birth mother” who found us on a forum. We spoke briefly on the phone and she sent me a flurry of strange text message – my first  impression? She was quite distant, preoccupied with her own story and not very interested in the details about what kind of parents we would be – our first clue.  Turns out, a few days later, this very same birth mother was arrested – there were several charges – I don’t recall the particulars, but she had been scamming loads of hopeful adoptive parents, using a several personas, with images of herself when pregnant a few years back. She had doctored sonograms, and even invited these couples to visit her in her home state.  Sadly, families invested emotional energy, hope and hard-earned money they had saved for valid adoption expenses, flew out to meet her, only to learn from her mother that she was arrested for fraud and a number of other charges.  I am not sure what drives emotional scammers – some say it is the attention they crave, but I think it is more than that.  It is truly evil and mean-spirited to prey on the desperation of others.

I wanted to share some of things I took away from my experience with these calls:

  • Trust your instincts. Ask lots of questions and really listen to the answers.  Understand what is driving the adoption.
  • Try not to imagine a connection when there is none.  Unfortunately, we don’t see the lack of a real connection until we have experienced a true connection by comparison.  Nevertheless, step back and think about what makes the conversations and interactions you have with the birth mother “special” or is it just your hope that is coloring your view.  It is okay to be hopeful, just don’t let it block your true perception.
  • Allow yourself to be hopeful and optimistic. Don’t try to squeeze your size 10 foot fit into into a size 6 shoe.  Be honest and be yourself – and the right match will happen. When a connection comes along – and it will –  you will know because it will just feel RIGHT.

Rolling Up Your Sleeves

When we first began researching the steps we needed to take to start the adoption process, we consulted with an attorney.  She was very professional, candid and well-versed on all aspects of adoption and we were grateful for what we learned from our meeting. We decided to hold off on committing to an attorney for fear they wouldn’t have many avenues for direct contact with birth mothers.

We then met with a local non-profit adoption agency to hear what they had to say. We ultimately knew we needed to get our home study done by an agency, and we really liked the people we met with there, so we sent in the modest application fee and also began our home study process. Approved back in July 2010, we had hopes for a quick match – that has yet to present itself.

Back in the fall, we were told, along with several other hopeful families, that we could potentially improve our wait time by networking to find a birth mother ourselves.  Now, many people I have mentioned this to have said, “Why do you need to do all of this stuff yourselves?!” The thing is, we don’t have an agency that we are committed to financially. We’d be happy to  work with the agency that did our home study, if that is what the birth mother is comfortable with, as they are super caring and trustworthy.

While this can be great if you like being a free-agent, as we are discovering, the drawback is that they don’t have a huge budget for advertising and marketing, so throngs of birth mothers aren’t knocking on their doors. So, what they do is offer you advice that can hopefully help to shorten your wait.  They recommended tactics that included creating and posting flyers, emailing friends and family, telling neighbors, doctors, dentists, hairdressers that you’re adopting. They even went so far as to recommend other agencies or attorneys willing to, without a retainer, show your profile to the birth mothers they’re working with. The idea is that you never know who will hear about an adoption situation during the course of their day. And if and when they do, they will think of you and share your info with the birth mom!  So, we rolled up our sleeves and took lots of action. Here’s a list of what we’ve done so far…not for the faint-hearted…

  • Created and sent out our profile books
  • Created our Website/blog
  • Created and placed adoption flyers in various locations
  • Created and shared Pass along cards ( business cards for hopeful adoptive families)
  • Created and activated our online Parent Profile
  • Emailed friends, family and acquaintances
  • Included notes in our Christmas cards
  • Sent stacks of our profile books to an attorney and other agencies
  • Written Facebook posts, built a Facebook page, and purchased Facebook ads
  • Began Google AdWords campaign
  • Joined online adoption forums and became part of the community, making connections, helping others, and giving and receiving advice
  • Told everyone and anyone we’d who’d listen

Clearly, trying to find a birth mother and hoping she chooses you as adoptive parents requires great fortitude, dedication, perseverance, thoughtful planning and attention to detail, and boatloads of patience. But, most importantly it requires a deep seated faith that the baby meant to be with you will find their way into your heart and home very soon.

We would love to hear if any of you have tried any of the above, if things worked well or didn’t, and whether you would do things differently if you could. Any and all recommendations are welcome!

Buy One Get One Free Photobooks at Snapfish! is running a “Buy One Get One Free” promotion on their photobooks. This is a great way to stock up on adoption photobooks or life books while you have the chance.  If you buy one 8″ x 11″ Custom Cover or Classic Photo Book, they will give you a second one free. Just use coupon code SPRING2FOR1 by March 14, 2011. Enjoy!

To buy or not to buy…that is the question

When you are hopeful adoptive parents with no definite date for a placement, there comes a time when you are at a crossroads.  Do you go out and buy a bunch of baby items, just a few, or hold off entirely, waiting until you are placed with a child. This is a common question I have been hearing about quite a bit lately, and one I have been asking myself for some time.

In our case, months before we even began the home study process, Eric painted the room that will become our baby’s nursery – it’s a soft, peaceful, beautiful color we love.  But now that we have been approved since July, I am beginning to think about other things that we will need when we are placed with a baby.  But, like many expectant adoptive moms, I worry about jinxing our situation – which I know is completely ridiculous, but nevertheless, a worry.

Part of me feels we should purchase a few of the things we know we’ll need right away, and wait on the rest. I think doing so might be good for us emotionally.  And it is a known fact that creative visualization of a situation you are dreaming of may very well help bring them to fruition. Perhaps doing a little shopping could shake things up in a good way.  Then there’s the the fear many of us have in the back of our minds – looking on a fully decorated nursery with longing while it remains empty.

It can be so difficult to manage your hopes and expectations when you’re an expectant adoptive mom. When you are unmatched and waiting, you have no idea when, or in fact, whether, an adoption will take place.  You run the line between incredible excitement and hopeful joy at the thought of realizing your dream to become the best mom ever and love your child unconditionally, to absolute fear of  never being able to realize that dream.

For now, we are saving extra funds in a special account for some of the items we would need to purchase right away when a child is placed with us – so that feels good.  We’re also doing research to learn which models of this or that are recommended.  I bought one item a couple of years ago – a really beautiful Santa cookie plate.  It was something I saw and right away knew it would become a keepsake that would one day play a recurring part in our child’s life.  Are there things you have seen that you couldn’t resist buying? How do you feel about this issue and how did you handle it during your wait? We’d love to know!

Assessing risk when considering an adoption situation

You never know when your first adoption situation will present itself and what form it might take. We all dream of an ideal situation – and that ideal can certainly take a variety of shapes, depending on who’s doing the dreaming.

This week, we received our first call from an adoption attorney we’d contacted recently. A birth mother needed substantial financial help right now, and significant monthly financial assistance for the length of her pregnancy (she was only 9 weeks along), came to the attorney’s office seeking an adoptive couple without a child. While the attorney’s office had a list of waiting families, none of them were childless, and while we were not yet on their waiting family list, they remembered our networking call and immediately contacted us. Tag – we were it. I guess networking really does have a tendency to work. We called back immediately – all excitement, hope and nerves — and a healthy dose of self-protective skepticism.

But every adoption situation is different, from what a birth mother might be going through that brings her to consider such an important and life-changing decision, to the level of risk a prospective adoptive couple is willing to accept. There are a number of risk factors adoptive parents must consider, you need to sit with them to determine what you are truly ready and able to withstand during the roller-coaster ride.

Risks could involve drug and/or alcohol exposure, health problems associated with age or genetics, the length of time remaining in the pregnancy, the amount of financial assistance required and the ever present worry — the likelihood of a failed adoption plan.

Adoption expenses are a fact of life in most adoption situations. The funds are not payment for a baby, no matter what some opponents might say. There is significant work and time involved for agencies and attorneys to help ensure all parties are protected in an adoption situation. And the combination of legal expenses, counseling fees, agency fees and birth mother expenses can potentially add up to a large sum, indeed. That said, as adoptive parents, you need to be able to know what you can handle financially, and weigh that commitment with the risks you are comfortable taking in the birth situation presented to you. How much money do you have, and, if this adoption falls through, will you have funds left when the next adoption situation presents itself?

The adoption situation we were presented with involved an older birth mother with a history of problems that prevented her from being able to work – and thus required significant financial assistance for the remaining 7 months of her pregnancy, as well as a previous failed adoption – she changed her mind – two years earlier.

Ultimately, we decided the risks in this situation were too much for us and let this situation go to another family that might be more comfortable with the situation. It was a hard decision, because you worry about when and if the next situation will present itself, and if you turned down “the one.”

Have you been in this situation before and if so, how do you personally deal with the decision? Do you have any other advice concerning acceptance of an adoption situation? Please feel free to share!

We’re adopting, but how do we get the word out?

Adoption is one of the most important decisions you will make in your entire life, whether you are pregnant and thinking about making an adoption plan, or are going through the process to become an adoptive parent.  The decision to become an adoptive parent is also something that feels like it should be kept private.  But, from what we have learned, if you want to find a birth mom you’ve got to get out there and tell everyone you know (and hope they tell everyone they know, too. )  Even though this very public approach can feel awkward at times, it can only help shorten your wait. So, we are trying to think “outside the box” and come up with unconventional ways to get the word out.  One social worker told us about a waiting family that just recently took out a billboard near a busy outlet mall during the pre-Christmas rush – good timing, but pretty costly  – the verdict is still out as to whether it was successful or not – I sure hope  it was.

There’s also the thought and research that must go in to the creation of a flier and a classified ad:  what should the flier say and what pictures should we use? do we provide out number, a toll-free number or the agency number? where are the best places to put up our flier?  what should our ad say? how do we determine the circulation for the papers figure out whether the ad cost is a worthwhile investment? will the right people see our ad? will the paper even allow an adoption classified ad?

Then there are other ideas, like including a note in your holiday card in the hopes of reminding your family and  friends that you are adopting and trying to find a birth mom.  How about taking an unconventional approach, like using social networks Facebook and Twitter, and joining forums and message boards?  There are quite a few subscription-based services where you can place your adoption profile, one of the big ones is Parent Profiles, but these services can also be quite costly. Whatever approaches you decide on, take the time to think about what you’re personally comfortable with and what you can afford to do. Sadly, there are alot of people out there trying to take advantage and make a buck off of waiting adoptive families, so do your research and choose wisely and thoughtfully – and then jump on in.

If you have heard of other unconventional ways to network, please feel free to share them here.

Photo Books 50% off at Snapfish!

I just wanted share with those interested that Snapfish is running a 50% off special on all of their photo books. Just use the coupon code 1211MERRY at checkout by 11:59 p.m. PST on Friday, December 17 and get your books at half price. This is a great savings for if you want to create your profile photo book or order some more (we just ordered 10 more!) It is also great for those of you who are thinking about creating a life book! Enjoy!