Tag Archive: National Adoption Awareness Month

N.A.A.M. Guest Post: “The Unspoken Emotional Upheaval of Adoption”

I know that National Adoption Awareness Month is over, but I hope y’all don’t mind that I have a couple more adoption posts. 😉

My husband and I were done. I had given birth to 5 children in a 10 year span, our baby was almost 7 years old, and we were done growing our family. We were enjoying the luxury of sleeping all night, having a child who had a job and could drive, and we were counting the years until we could move out of our house and into a small condo.
One phone call changed everything.
On August 24, 2013 we were enjoying a family day out when the call came; a relative on the other side of the country had given birth to a little girl and the state was involved. My husband hung up the phone and apprised me of the situation. I spoke without thinking, simply saying “we can take her” and my husband nodded. We reached out to the foster care system in her state and quickly received a series of phone calls.
The first call was cryptic and contained a lot of unspoken information, it urged us to get involved. The second call confirmed our fears that baby girl was born into a very negative situation. The third call informed us that baby had initially been released to go home with her parents but after a few days she was removed from the home and was in bad condition. The fourth call asked us if we would be willing to raise a baby girl. The fifth call asked us if we would be willing to raise a baby girl with significant health problems and an unknown future. Our answer never wavered, it was always “yes”.
It took five months of uncertainties, red tape, unfulfilled reunification plans, and eventually complete abandonment for baby girl to become legally free to adopt. There was a short custody battle with another family who wished to adopt her. There was a lot of paperwork and home studies that asked intrusive and offensive questions. There was the rearranging of my children’s lives that we would never be asked to do if we were bringing a biological child into this world. But finally, in March of 2014 my husband boarded a plane at 6am and returned home at 11pm with our new daughter.
The law in the state in which she was born requires a child placed for adoption to live with their new parents for 6 months before the adoption can be finalized. For months we dealt with regularly scheduled and unannounced visits from the state. For months we negotiated the world of foster care, learned how to care for a special needs child, but mostly we spent those months falling in love all over every single day. She wasn’t ours yet but at the same time she was just as much our child as the ones to which I gave birth.
There is something you don’t hear about, though. Sometimes what should be a joyous occasion causes heartache, especially when you adopt a relative’s child. Sometimes the people you are closest to aren’t supportive at a time when you most need them to be.  We lost relationships with several family members, including my children’s grandmother and baby’s biological siblings, because they didn’t understand why the state would remove this child from their parents.
And the guilt, oh the guilt! I had dreams in which I met baby’s biological mother in public and she would cry that we stole her baby. Sometimes in the middle of the night while I was rocking a baby who was still feeling the effects of the toxins she was exposed to in utero, I questioned the decision that caused such upheaval in our children’s lives.
When the haze of sleepless nights and complicated medical terms wears off, however, I looked at that little girl and realize how lucky we were to have her. People told us that she was the lucky one but every day I became more convinced that we were the lucky ones.
Exactly 7 months after she arrived in our home we drove to the courthouse and it was declared that the child we referred to as our daughter was now truly, legally our daughter. We gave her a new name that means new beginnings and we went home a complete family, and we’re not looking back.
Meg Grooms lives in Central Florida with her husband, 6 kids, a dog, a cat, and a fish named Lucky Steve. Meg is a self-proclaimed Disney addict, frugalista, compulsive reader, and lover-of-all-the-foods. When she’s not busy raising her family and baking she can be found volunteering in the local homeschool community and blogging about it all at This Big HappyHomeschool Gameschool and Facebook.

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Hint:
It has recently come to my attention that not all of my readers can easily tell when I’m being sarcastic. That is truly unfortunate, so finding a solution was imperative. ^Obviously, the easiest answer is to assume that if something can be read with sarcasm, it should be;^; but that’s not really workable, I guess. After reviewing several options for a “sarcasm font”, I’ve come up up with my own system. Whenever you see italics inside carrots (^snark^), that is my “sarcasm font”.

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N.A.A.M. Guest Post: “The First Time I Met My Children”

I remember the first time I met my children as if it were yesterday. I didn’t know they were my children then. I just knew they were someone’s children. Someone’s children who were coming to my house to stay for a little while. Maybe a few days, maybe a month, maybe a year. The thought that they might stay forever hadn’t even crossed my mind.
I walked out to the minivan to meet them. The caseworker was holding the little girl in her arms. I was instantly surprised by how tiny she was. She was so much smaller then what I had pictured a one year old to look like. She looked at me and smiled a big gummy baby smile. I looked around for the 3 year old little boy. He had already made his way to the front steps and was ready to go inside. As I approached, he quickly opened the door for me. He didn’t make eye contact as he stood there with one hand in his mouth so that he could suck his thumb, and the other hand firmly holding the door. “Thank you!” I said to him as I passed, to which he starred down harder at his feet. I could sense his nervousness, and hoped he couldn’t sense mine.

When we got inside I felt lost as to what to do next. There were a few things the caseworker needed signed before she left so we sat down at the table. “Do you want a snack?” I asked the little boy. He didn’t look up from the ground, but walked over with his hand outreached. I placed a small container of goldfish in it. He put the other hand up. “You’re hungry for two? Okay.” I handed him a second container. He slunk away to the other side of the room and started feeding his baby sister. Ugh of course. He wanted to make sure she got a snack too.
The caseworker left. I spent a few minutes staring at the children as they sat in the corner motionless, surrounded by a pile of crushed goldfish. What was I supposed to do next? Why did I become a foster parent anyway? What was I doing? I was completely and totally overwhelmed. “What do I do with them?” I whispered to my boyfriend as if I had never interacted with a child before. “Um, they’re kids. Why don’t you try playing with them?” He suggested. Oh right. Kids. Toys. “Uhhh, do you guys want to play with
something?” I finally asked. No one responded. I took each ones hand and led them to the bedroom. The little boys face lit up the second we entered. He went straight for a Buzz Lightyear action figure.
Something he clearly recognized. “You like Toy Story?” I got a small almost imperceptible nod. “You do huh? Me too.”
The days started to go by. Slow at first as we got into our groove. And then with lightning speed. Soon a month had passed. Then a year. The shy little boy wasn’t so shy. The tiny baby girl wasn’t so tiny. Our caseworker came by one night to ask if we planned to adopt them, should the case go that way. My boyfriend and I weren’t originally planning to adopt. We were planning to be foster parents. 
But somewhere along the way, we had fallen in love with these two. We would support reunification if that was what happened, but if it didn’t, we were ready to officially be a family. I still think about that first time my children walked through the door. Two little people we had never met. Two little people who would change our lives. We had no idea that someday we would be their parents. 
And yet here we are, 6 years later, a family.

Erin is a former foster mom, but now just a regular mom (birth and adoption). She works in post productions and blogs about her transracial family’s journey through foster care, adoption, birth, and parenthood, at No BOHN’s About It (follow her on Facebook and Twitter).

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N.A.A.M. Guest Post: “An Interview with an Adoption Expert”

In honor of National Adoption Awareness Month, I interviewed an adoption expert that is very close to me. No, it’s not a social worker. No, it’s not another adoptive parent. Instead, it’s my son. Because in my opinion, if you want to bring awareness to adoption, it’s best to talk to an expert.

My son, TT, was adopted via the foster care system. He joined our family at birth. His situation is rather unique. He suffered no abuse or neglect. He wasn’t subjected to hurtful substances in utero. Rather, his biological parents made something of an adoption plan. I was told that they had planned on delivering TT at home and then they were going to take advantage of the Safe Haven laws in Iowa. However, after delivering in the hospital, they met with a social worker that explained to them that it would be better for TT if they formally relinquished their rights. As foster parents, we got a call the next day, and TT came home with us from the hospital.
Adoption is always built on loss. TT may not have suffered abuse or neglect, but he did suffer the loss of his first family. He struggles significantly with anxiety as a result. Our family continuing to do foster care compounded many of these anxious feelings. Still, TT has been an amazing foster brother and I’m very proud of him. 
The first question I asked TT about adoption was, “When do you think about adoption?

When I’m watching the news and hear things about kids running away, I think about adoption. Foster care stories make me think about it. Also, I think about adoption any time someone tells me I look like my brother.

TT is not biologically related to anyone in our house. He has a brother only 14.5 months younger than him. People (friends, neighbors and even strangers) want so much to see a resemblance in families. TT hears regularly that he looks like his brother – even though it’s not exactly true. TT is acutely aware of the differences.

When do you think about your mom?

I think about my mom a lot. And when I see pictures of the foster kids that used to live with us it makes me think of her. I wonder what she looks like.

When do you think about your dad?

I don’t really. I think of moms as someone you go to first. But I do wonder what he looks like.

We don’t have an open adoption with TT’s first family. I was too young and naive to ask for one when TT was placed with us. I have personally tried to find both parents online. I located his mom on FB. I have shown TT pictures. But really, I think that whole “appearance thing” haunts most adoptees all the time. After all, TT is regularly being told that he looks like us and he’s scientific enough to know that anything anyone is seeing is just a coincidence.
I asked TT if he had any advice for adoptive parents. Immediately he blurted out, “Don’t lie.” He recommends that you talk about adoption a lot with your kids. He admits that he thinks about it a lot and it’s better knowing that he can talk about it. TT says it’s hard to talk about adoption most of the time. And then he said it again, “Don’t lie. Tell your kid why they are adopted and don’t lie.
TT is eleven years old. He doesn’t want to be the face of adoption. I couldn’t get him to say much as I asked him questions. Coming up with answers to share with the world was very difficult for him. In fact, I can guarantee you that I triggered a sense of loss and abandonment just asking TT questions. He doesn’t think being adopted is special. In fact, most of the time he’ll say “it sucks”. I’m OK with him saying that. I simply can’t expect him to be thrilled to death with losing his entire first family. There’s a quote going ‘round the web that says, 

“Adoption Loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful” – The Reverend Keith C. Griffith, MBE.

And that about sums things up. I just read this piece to TT. (I assured him when I asked him the questions that he would have the final say in anything I write like this.) As I read that quote he responded, “That’s cool. That’s really cool.” And then he took off to go ride his rollerblades outside.
I don’t dwell on the topic of adoption at our house all the time. But I think it’s important to make sure TT knows that he really can talk about it. Adoption is a conversation that must be had with TT because he has a lot of things in his life that are affected by the fact that he’s adopted. I tell him that any feelings he has about being adopted are normal and OK. He loves all of us and he misses his first family in a profound way. I think that’s the reality for many adopted individuals. TT isn’t angry. TT isn’t grateful. TT is just TT. Adoption is part of who he is but it certainly isn’t his entire identity. And as his mom I’m just try to help him handle his feelings, all of them, around this delicate subject.
Cherub Mamma is a forever mamma to three amazing boys ages 17, 11 and 9. While working from home she juggles all the needs of the members of the house while drinking copious amounts of caffeine and trying to not eat too much chocolate. Along the parenting journey she and her husband have had the privilege of parenting foster children as well. She blogs about foster care and adoption at Cherub MammaShe also spends entirely too much time on Facebook.

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N.A.A.M. Guest Post: “Their Other Mothers”

I am the forever mother of three amazing young people. My children have all come to me in different ways through the foster care system, but the one thing they all have in common is that I am not their only mother. It sometimes surprises me how many times a day I find myself thinking of my children’s first moms and the different emotions those thoughts can trigger in me. While feelings of anger and frustration sometimes come to the surface when I think of the circumstances that ultimately brought my children to me, the most frequent emotions that I feel when thinking of my children’s first mothers are gratitude and sorrow. I have such gratitude that they chose life for their children – plain and simple, but so unbelievably monumental. I also feel sorrow for my kids, sorrow for their birthmothers, and an overall sadness that my children don’t have the kind of relationships with their first moms that they were meant to have.

I think the passing of my oldest son’s birthmother late last year has made me even more cognizant of the connections that my children have to their first mothers whether they ever had a relationship with them or not. I love my children with everything that I am, and I want more than anything for them to be able to have healthy, safe, loving relationships with the women who gave them life. The knowledge that my son no longer has that chance breaks my heart. I witnessed firsthand how much his mother loved him. I saw her struggle to fight addictions, illness, and depression. I saw her overcome. I saw her relapse. But through it all, I saw her love her baby, even if it was from afar.

I think of my children’s first moms every time they do something that makes me laugh. I think of their other mothers as I rock my boys to sleep or have deep, late night conversations with my daughter. I think of the women who gave my children life every time they meet a milestone, every time I nurse them through an illness, every time they come to me for advice or comfort. I think of those women every time I hear one of my kids call me “Mama,” Mommy,” or “Mom,” and the bittersweet feelings of gratitude mixed with sorrow bubble up within me once again.

I recently wrote a letter to my youngest son’s birthmother in prison. I have never met the woman who gave birth to my little boy, and she hasn’t seen him since he was two months old so I really didn’t know what to expect. I had heard from several different sources over the past year and a half that led me to believe that despite everything that happened early in his life and the choices that she made, she loves her son very much. The fact that she voluntarily relinquished her parental rights and added for the record that she knew that he was in a good and loving home and would have the life that she wants for him with me gave me the added push to reach out to her when Jacob’s adoption became finalized.

I had no idea what to say or where to begin. What exactly do you say to the woman who gave your son life, but made terrible choices that ultimately ended in her losing her child? I decided to start by explaining who I was and letting her know that I was writing because I wanted to tell her about our son. I knew that she had a general idea of who he was with after speaking to his caseworker during the year he was in foster care, but I was never allowed to contact her directly while Jacob was a ward of the state. As soon as his adoption was finalized, I wanted to do what I thought was right for my son and reach out to the woman who loved him first.

I told her all about his personality, his likes and dislikes, shared a couple of funny stories, and sent a few recent photos. I acknowledged that I understood how difficult it was for her to relinquish and to be apart from him. I ended by opening the door for contact with me and told her that I understood if that would be too difficult. I didn’t specifically say “thank you for giving me my son” – just acknowledged her feelings and put the ball in her court for correspondence with me. “My hope is that you would like to keep in contact and that Jacob will have the opportunity to meet you and know you when he’s older.”

After mailing that letter, I immediately wondered whether or not I had done the right thing. I told myself that any decision that I make out of love for my child is most definitely the “right” decision, so I sat with baited breath and waited to see if his birthmother would respond.

Two weeks later, I woke up with a gnawing feeling that I needed to check Jacob’s post office box. I had set up the box under his birth name so his first family could maintain contact with him and we could maintain our anonymity. His maternal grandmother was given the address last fall, but the box had continued to sit unused. Until that day!

I drove to the post office at lunch, and inside our box was a package that contained the book “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney, a CD, and a form letter from the director of the volunteer organization that helps incarcerated mothers connect with their children by giving them the opportunity to read a book to their child. I immediately put the CD in my car’s CD player and was able to hear the voice of the young woman who gave birth to my son as she read the book that she had chosen especially for him.

Several people have asked me how I can be so invested in my children’s birth families. Why does it matter so much to me that my children have some sort of connection to the people who gave them life when they failed them time and time again? For me, the answer is simple. I have three forever children whose birthmothers have all battled addictions and demons that they just haven’t been able to overcome. They love their children, but addiction often has such an incredible stronghold over a person that someone without a strong support system simply can’t escape it. I love my children more than words can say, and I feel like I owe it to them to extend a piece of that love to the women who gave birth to them – to show them compassion and grace.

Jacob’s birthmother may never be able to overcome her addictions or heal to the point where she can have an ongoing relationship with him, but as of that day my son will be able to hear the voice of his first mommy telling him that he “is more loved than he will ever know.” And that, my friends, is worth the risk.

I am the forever mom of three amazing young people, but I am not their only mother. I pray every day that I am mindful of that and of the connection that my children will always have with their first moms.

Tammy (a.k.a Mimi) has been fostering as a single parent for the past six years. She has a deep love for her children and their families and has been fortunate to have maintained close relationships with all of her long-term placements after they returned home. She finalized the adoption of her youngest son earlier this year, and is looking forward to seeing what the future holds. Tammy blogs at I Must Be Trippin’ (follow her on Facebook).

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N.A.A.M. Guest Post: “Storytime Adoption”

Each night when my youngest goes to bed we read a story as part of our bedtime routine. We have plenty of stories of her favorite cartoon characters, princesses and talking animals to choose from, but it’s the adoption books she loves best.

I bought ten children’s books on adoption for my daughter’s 2nd birthday. I wanted her to grow up surrounded by books that spoke to her experience and put into words what she went through. They are lovely books that deal with many of the themes of her adoption: being an adopted Chinese girl, why she was adopted, why she was relinquished at birth, who are her Chinese parents and what it means to be part of a blended family.

The adoption books don’t just provide an informative bedtime story for my daughter, but it also teaches me how to talk to her about adoption. The stories have made it comfortable and almost normal to bring up her biological parents and introduce the thought that she has two sets of parents: her biological one and her adoptive ones. The stories have also helped to introduce the idea that her biological parents loved her very much but, for whatever reason, were unable to care for her and so they placed her up for adoption to give her the best opportunities possible.

The books have given way to many conversations about my daughter’s adoption and have normalize her adoption experience. She asks about her Chinese mommy and if one day she will be able to meet her. I have replied that her Chinese mommy loves her very much and we will try and find her one day. I have promised her that when she is older we will try and contact the adoption agency to see if they have any information about her biological parents. My daughter accepts this and looks forward to this day.

Another great subject that these children’s books address is the possibility that an adopted child won’t look like her adoptive parents. In my Caucasian family my Chinese daughter does not look like the rest of us. We read that this is OK and that there are a lot of families out there that don’t all look alike. For now, my daughter accepts this and is proud of her black hair and black eyes.

I’m so grateful for these books and the dialogue they produce. My hope is that having read these books as a child that my daughter’s adoption identity is made more comfortable and normal for her. For the time being, talking about adoption is a natural and easy thing to do.

Melissa is a stay-at-home mom to four beautiful, spirited, rambunctious, loud and energetic children from the ages of 5 to 10. When she’s not chauffering, disciplining or entertaining my kids, she can be found reading at the local coffee shop drinking copious amounts of coffee. She has a love-hate relationship with yoga, though currently yoga finds itself is in the “love” column  For fun, Melissa likes going out to dinner with friends, watching movies in bed and reading the latest New York Times bestselling fiction. She blogs at Three Ways to Baby (follow her on Facebook and Twitter).

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