Open Adoption: For Better, For Worse

Defining what an “open adoption” is can be tricky.

It’s that little word “open” that seems to cause all the confusion. Does open mean both adoptive and birth parents share the care taking responsibilities of the child? Does it mean the birth family comes to all the child’s events—soccer games, birthday parties, and dance recitals? Does it mean the birth family is able to drop in on the adoptive family anytime they would like? Does it mean only that the child knows their adoption story and the names of their birth parents? Or is it somewhere in the midst of all these things?

The problem with definitions is that all too often definitions come with rules. For example, if open adoption for one family means the adoptive parents promise to send monthly updates and photos, as long as they are doing this, they believe they are upholding their end of the bargain. If the birth mother asks for a visit, the adoptive family may believe they are justified in denying this request because it is not what they agreed to do.

Maybe it would be more helpful to look at open adoption less as a definition and more as a relationship. And it’s not one relationship, it’s many relationships! There is the relationship you have with your child and the relationship your child has with you. There are the relationships you and your child have with extended family members. And also of great importance, there is the relationship between you and your child’s birth family.

All relationships that work well take time and effort to nurture.

The initial stages of a relationship are fueled by excitement and possibility. It’s as time goes on that prove if the relationship will survive the differences and troubles that are certain to come. That’s why traditional marriage vows include these familiar words, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.” What would happen if you gave the same consideration to your child’s birth parents? Could make similar promises?

As your relationship with your child’s birth family grows, you will want to celebrate the joys—the “betters”. And the worse will come along—maybe you will lose contact with your child’s birth family. Maybe you will remain in contact, but your child’s birth parents find themselves incarcerated or moving across the country.

Remember, your child’s birth parents chose adoption because at that moment in time, they did not believe they could give the care your child deserved to your child. Time will change. Your child’s birth family may encounter great successes and great setbacks. You may encounter great successes and great setbacks. As will your child!

Are you ready for an open adoption?

Are you ready to love a child for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health? And are you ready to love your child’s birth family in the same way…because they are also a part of your child?

If so—then welcome to adoption!


Livin’ on a Prayer

It’s quite common to hear people voicing their prayers, asking for prayers, and sending thoughts and prayers. Whether it’s from the pulpit of a church or a shared post on Facebook, it seems as though prayer is pervading every part of our lives. Those associated with the world of adoption hear prayer requests all the time. Even those who do not think of themselves as religious or even particularly spiritual seem to both seek and offer prayer when an adoption situation is mentioned.

So, if you are praying for an adoption situation, what exactly are you praying for?

(Or to keep the grammarians happy, for what are you praying?) As an adoptive couple, are you praying the woman who just gave birth will sign those papers so that you can take the baby home? Are you praying the baby is healthy? Is the prayer to keep away a family member who wants to take the baby home instead of you? Maybe your prayer is a little more personal. Maybe your prayer is a little more along the lines of “please don’t let me be hurt again. I can’t handle any more disappointments.”

But wait! Is there anything wrong with asking an adoption go smoothly? Is there anything wrong with praying for the birth parents to sign a consent, for a healthy baby, for the storybook ending? Maybe not. Yet maybe there is something truly limiting in this type of prayer.

What about prayers for the woman who has just given birth?

Even more challenging, what about prayers for the woman whose children just entered foster care? How about praying for the extended biological family of that baby who are losing their chance to be grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins? Where do the siblings of the baby fit in? Is a prayer for your happiness and ease all that matters?

It has been said that prayer is a conversation. There are always two parts to any conversation—speaking and listening. The speaking comes easily. The listening often takes more work. And in an emotionally charged situation, like adoption, the listening gets crowded out by our own wants, hopes, and dreams.

So here’s a challenge.

When you ask or are asked for prayers regarding an adoption, pray for strength and peace for the birth family, and for joy in the life of the baby. And then be prepared to listen—even if it’s an answer you don’t like. Listen to the voice inside that says you were meant a part of this other family’s story, for just a little bit. Listen to the voice that says you made this woman’s last part of pregnancy a little easier. Listen to the voice that says your example showed her children they have value and worth.

When you do get to bring your baby home, don’t let the prayer conversation end. Let the prayers you speak reflect gratitude. And let the prayers you hear result in actions that show the world that same gratitude.


Agency or Attorney?

Adoption is one of those topics about which everyone seems to have an opinion or story. If you mention that you are thinking about becoming an adoptive parent, you will likely hear those opinions or stories, whether you want to or not. Within that conversation, there is also a good chance you will hear the agency versus attorney debate. Should you trust this very important step in your life to an adoption agency or just use an attorney?

The thing is, agencies and attorneys BOTH have a place in the world of adoption.

As an institution, adoption is a legal process that allows for the creation and expansion of a family. Because it allows for the creation and expansion of a family, it is also involves relationships. Opening your heart to adoption means you are opening yourself to new relationships. There is a relationship between you and your child, and there is a relationship between you and your child’s birth family. Your child will always have a relationship between themselves and you, and also will always have a relationship between themselves and their birth family. Yes—let’s repeat that one. Adoptees will always have a relationship between themselves and the family who created them and gave them life. They may not always have a day-to-day relationship with their birth family, but nothing can change the fact that the first relationship in their lives will be with those whom they share a genetic link.

Can you imagine how complicated this can all be?

And if it’s complicated for you, imagine how the children of adoption feel? That baby you are hoping for is going to grow into a toddler, then elementary school kid, and then teenager, and then into adulthood. Along the way, questions will be asked. Will you be ready to answer them?

An adoption agency can navigate all those relationships with you. The people working for adoption agencies see and understand the pieces of those relationships that go into adoption. You know—those things like unexpected pregnancies. Infertility. Physical needs. Emotional needs. They have experience in working through the good and the bad, ups and downs, joys and sorrows that are a part of adoption.

Where does the lawyer come into this? The goal of the lawyer in adoption is to represent either the person placing the baby or the person adopting the baby. The lawyer is there to make certain the legal process is understood and the rights of the party they are representing are upheld. If the lawyer is representing the adoptive parents, the goal is to make certain the adoption is finalized in a court of law and an adoption decree is issued.

Adoption is a lifelong commitment.

If you are going to make this commitment to a child, make certain you have the resources to do honor the commitment well. Know the resources available to you—both for legal support and for emotional support. The best of all worlds in adoption uses both an attorney and an agency. Let them help you create a happy story for your family.

To find out more about the history of our agency, click here.

 

 

 

 


Do You Have a Secret?

 

What happens if you have a secret? A secret that is so terrifying you know you can’t possibly share it with anyone? What if your secret literally has life or death consequences to any decision you make about that secret, and you just can’t imagine how to make any choice? If you put yourself in that place, it’s likely that all you can feel is fear. That fear is so deep it is paralyzing you.

For some women and girls, this fear and this secret are the realities of an unexpected or unplanned pregnancy. Whether the pregnancy is the result of what some would call carelessness and irresponsibility or the result of something tragic like rape, the emotional fall out can be devastating. To reveal the pregnancy may result in further trauma. What kind of trauma? Maybe the fear and likelihood of being kicked out of her home is a reason to keep the secret. Maybe the trauma is the fear and likelihood of being physically abused for “getting knocked up”. Pregnancy is not always met with joy and happiness.

If pregnancy is not always met with joy and happiness, especially if the pregnancy is kept a secret, the arrival of the baby just heightens the fear. Now instead of protecting only herself, the scared new mother must protect that baby. She must find a resolution to her dilemma.

Sadly, the “solution” she sometimes finds happens to tragically make the evening news. There are stories of babies found in dumpsters, in creeks, and in snowbanks. These babies do not survive. There is no ‘happily ever after’ for these children. And yet, can you imagine the guilt and shame the mother carries? While we all might want to point fingers and demonize her, not many of us have been in her place.

Thankfully, dumpsters and snowbanks do not have to be the solution. The Indiana Legislature and Governor Holcomb have authorized the use of “Baby Boxes” which expands the Indiana Safe Haven laws. Under Safe Haven laws, women are able to leave their babies in fire stations, police stations, and hospitals without fear of being prosecuted for neglect. If the fire station is equipped with a “Baby Box”, the baby can be placed completely anonymously and remain warm and safe until rescue personnel arrive.

Currently there are only two official “Baby Boxes” in Indiana. Hopefully the new 2018 legislation will encourage the placement of more boxes throughout the state. In the meantime—here’s to courage and compassion. Courage to find a fire station or police station to take care of the baby and protect the secret. Courage to allow a child to live. And compassion to allow the baby’s mother to heal and be loved for the courage she has shown.

If you find yourself in a unplanned pregnancy, we understand! You can always call or text someone from the Adoption Support Center to discuss your options. We are available 24 hours a day!
Call: 317-255-5916
Text: 317-560-4523
If you or someone you know needs immediate emergency help, fire stations, police stations and hospitals are trained to be a Safe Haven for your newborn when you just don’t know what else to do.
To reach the 24-hour Safe Haven Emergency Hotline, please call 866-99-BABY1

To read more about the Safe Haven Baby Boxes, click here.

Monica Kelsey and the town of Woodburn, Indiana, dedicated the first Safe Haven Baby Box of its kind on Tuesday, April 26, 2016, at the Woodburn Volunteer Fire Department. The box, which is temperature controlled and has a padded inside, is electronically monitored and sounds an alarm to the fire station whenever the door is opened.

 

 

 

 


I’m Not a Quitter

Ever since I started talking about adoption, people have been giving me all kinds of grief.

The most common thing I hear is “how can you give up your baby?” Just because I’m considering an adoption plan, doesn’t mean I’m giving her up. It’s not like I’m throwing her up into the air and just waiting for her to be caught by some nameless, faceless, and soulless stranger out there!

The thing is, right now my life looks overwhelming. I have two toddlers—and I love them—but when one gets sick and can’t go to daycare, I can’t go to work. My boss says she understands, but she’s written me up twice for being late when my car died. I’m literally one write up away from being fired. My ex is no help and right now he’s living with his new girlfriend. I’m not a priority, and he says he doesn’t care about the baby I’m carrying. He’s not even sure she’s his.

So I’m planning. I’m thinking.

I’m working things through in my head. I love this baby—like I love all my babies. The two at home need me to be strong and to get them fed and get them to bed at night. They need me to be able to read their bedtime stories. They need me to get them ready to go to the sitter’s and play in the park on the way home. I can’t give them a father. But I know they deserve the best of me that they can get!

So I’m making a plan. I’ve been talking to Alli, an adoption coordinator at the Adoption Support Center. She’s introduced me to this family and we had lunch together. I can’t put it into words, exactly, but it’s like I’ve known them forever. My baby is not going to be put up for random people to become parents! I’m not going to just “adopt her out”.

I’m making a plan. Right now, that plan includes adoption. I may follow through on that plan. I may not follow through on that plan. Whatever I decide, it will be what is best for this baby, my kids at home, and me. I’m not going to quit being a parent, even if I do place my baby with the family I met. I’ll be her parent in a different way, but I’ll always be connected to her.

I am not a quitter.

The Ties that Bind

“Your son would have brought much honor to your family.”

There’s something about a pregnant belly that invites commentary, advice, judgment, and opinion. Suddenly, everywhere you turn, there are people wanting to tell you their own pregnancy story, their friends’ pregnancy stories, and the latest rumor on the web about which celebrity is pregnant. And after the stories and rumors comes the questions. “When are you due?” “Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?” “Do you have names picked out?”

Taylor remembers having this conversation with the nail tech while getting a pedicure. The woman was thrilled to hear she was having a boy. She exclaimed, “Your son will bring much honor to your family.” And then in the interest of honesty, Taylor confided her adoption plans to this woman. As Taylor said, “It just felt like a lie to let her think I was bringing this baby home.” The woman’s response was less than thrilled. She became more quiet and then said “your son would have brought much honor to your family.”

Let’s face it. Adoption sounds wonderful from the adoptive parents’ point of view. All their friends and family members get to be excited about a new child coming into their lives. But from your side? You are much more likely to get “How can you do that? How can you give your baby away?” Taylor also heard such comments as “just give your baby to me!”, and “I know you. You won’t be able to actually go through with it”. She had family members tell her that her baby was her “blood” and she had no business “giving it away”.

So how do you respond? First of all, you are never under any obligation to talk about your pregnancy—big belly or not. Random nosy people at the store or park or nail salon may be well intentioned, but they do not have the right to know your story. Taylor says in looking back she wished she had simply answered the questions about boy or girl and due date, and then simply said “thank you” to the part of bringing honor to her family.

Of course, to have people in your life that you know and trust is a blessing. They may not understand or agree with your decision to place the baby. Family pressure to parent is often real and very strong. Taylor says her answer to the question “How could you do that?” became “How could I not?” She goes on to tell it like this: “Good parents put the needs of their children before their own needs and desires. My choice is no different. I am just in a different circumstance.” She adds, “I want the very best for my son, but I am not able to provide that for him at this point. I didn’t feel right about dragging my son along for the struggle.”

Whatever your circumstances, your reasons, or feelings, the choices you make for your child belong to you! Whether you become the every day mommy or the mommy who loves your child in a different way, there is no breaking the bond you have with your baby. The people who know and love you will come to understand your decision. Still struggling with how to tell and who to tell? The ladies of the Adoption Support Center are ready to help you find the words.


Where’s My Maybe Family?

“And then I found a couple who seemed like my favorite parts of myself in two people. If I wasn’t going to raise her, I knew they would be most similar to how I would have done it.”

How do you find the perfect family? How do you not open your heart to every story from every family that has wanted to have a baby and couldn’t? Who wanted to have a baby but health issues stood in the way? Who already have a baby but felt like their family was not complete and is looking to someone just like you who can make their dreams come true?

Taylor recalls this struggle. After meeting a maybe family on the advice of a “close, trusted friend”, she thought her choice had been made. She wrote in her journal, “I met this great family today. They are so sweet! I feel like we could be friends. We have so much in common.” After telling them her good news, Taylor said, “We are all so happy! I can finally take a deep breath and know that everything is going to be ok.”

Fast forward two weeks. Taylor’s journal tells a different story. “They called today. They are backing out. No reason. No explanation. Just no. What am I going to do? I thought my plan was in place. I am devastated. How could I have been so wrong?”

Taylor picked up the phone and called a friend who worked for the Adoption Support Center. Taylor began looking through profiles of families who were truly committed to adoption. She looked for a family who did not already have children, who had a strong sense of spirituality, and valued education. Those were the things important to Taylor. Eventually she found the family who jumped off the page and into her heart.

Taylor then continued her story by saying, “I am choosing to place my daughter through ASC because I know I will have constant, unwavering support. The rest of my life can’t offer that. I know that any of the women at ASC will hold me up if I struggle.”

The adoption of Taylor’s daughter went exactly as she hoped. Her “maybe family” became “my daughter’s family”. Taylor is confident she made the right decision and says her daughter’s family is “exactly who they said they were. They have never lied or left me in the cold.”

Taylor found a safe place with the women at the Adoption Support Center. Before her daughter was born, Taylor wrote, “I believe the women at ASC are who they say they are. They have had warm, kind words when the world seemed harsh.” After her daughter was born Taylor said of her daughter’s family and the women of ASC “They were exactly what I didn’t know I needed.“


This Is Kind of a Big Deal…I Need a Maybe Family!

“My mom’s mad, the father doesn’t believe the baby is his, and life is falling apart. Maybe I can do this, but maybe it’s time to look into adoption.”

Jessica remembers writing this in her journal. She remembers the feeling of being completely and totally overwhelmed. She called herself “dumb” (she’s not!) and wondered what to do.

Sometimes when you decide to look into adoption, a “maybe family” jumps into your mind. Or falls into your lap. Your second cousin once removed has a friend who knows of a family trying to adopt. You’ve talked to your second cousin once removed a few times and trust him up to a point. You agree to talk with the cousin’s friend who puts you in touch with the family trying to adopt. They tell you they have been trying to adopt for years, that birth mothers have scammed them and taken lots of money from them and they want you to sign something RIGHT NOW that will guarantee you will hand over your baby to them. Your heart goes out to them, and you WANT to help them.

But that feeling in the pit of your stomach is letting you know that this doesn’t feel quite right. There’s something about that signing anything RIGHT NOW that doesn’t sit well. So you start looking through Facebook. And Instagram. You google “adoption”. And you see countless pictures of smiling families from all over. Some have other kids. Some have dogs. Some are single. Some are paired up and seem cute and sweet. That overwhelming feeling starts to take over. They all promise to love your child. They all promise to provide your child an education, vacations, and holiday traditions. All those smiling people promise they will stay in touch with you long after the adoption is over. Letters. Pictures. Texts. Facebook posts. Visits. “But will they?” you wonder to yourself. And that feeling in the pit of your stomach is back.

Adoption does not have to be that way. You have control. You have the right to learn all you can about the maybe family that tells you they would love to adopt your baby. You can make choices for yourself and your baby. Now is the time to find an expert…someone who knows about adoption. Someone who knows about the laws that are about adoption. Someone who has completely checked out the maybe family, and knows that they are truly safe and stable. Think about letting a licensed, reputable adoption agency or an adoption attorney do some of the hard work of checking out the maybe family.

This is the time you are looking for an expert. To say an adoption attorney is an attorney who does adoptions sounds silly, but an adoption attorney is one who really has specialized in this field, and really gets how important this decision is for you and your baby. Now is not the time to use the lawyer who got your brother’s girlfriend out of her drunk driving charge. Licensed agencies know how to dig deep into the maybe parents’ world and check them out. This means the families they are working with are secure, safe and stable. A good agency also understands that adoption involves relationships—relationships between you and the maybe family, you and your baby, and the maybe family and the baby. That agency also knows that relationships change over the years, and they will be around for the long haul.

The Adoption Support Center is one of those licensed, reputable agencies that has done the hard work of checking out people who want to adopt. The women who work there passionately care about what happens to you and to your baby. Let the Adoption Support Center help you get rid of that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. Contact them anytime—no question is too big or too small. Remember, you have options and you are in control!


I’m Telling!

The shock has worn off. You’ve taken a minute (or two or ten or a week!) to try to absorb what this will mean. You’ve decided there is no abortion in your future and this baby will someday be a part of this world.

Suddenly a world full of decisions presents itself. Who is going to help you navigate the next few months? Who should you tell? What are people going to say? Are they going to be happy for you or disappointed in you? Who should you tell first? The baby’s father? Your parents? Your best friend? Maybe it feels more comfortable sit with this a little while longer, and not tell anyone.

Some women find a sense of relief once they let others in. Sometimes the only way through a situation is just through it. Leah remembers telling her parents after holding on to the knowledge she was pregnant for just a few days. She says she was afraid to disappoint them, but it was worth the telling because she knew they were on her side.

Telling other people about your pregnancy is guaranteed to bring a wide variety of responses and reactions. Even though this is YOUR pregnancy, it’s likely everyone in your world will have an opinion—whether it is good or bad. Even people you don’t know are likely to have an opinion! The bottom line is this pregnancy is yours. Yours to experience, yours to talk about and yours to decide how things will go. And at the end of the pregnancy, the baby is yours—you are the mother. So the opinion that matters the most is your own.

This does not mean you have to go through the next few months alone. Tell the people who are going to stand by your side—even if they do not always agree with you and your decisions. Tell the people who love you, who know you and know your situation. Don’t be afraid to share your emotions. It often seems that things are not as scary or overwhelming when you have someone to help you through them.

If you would like to tell someone about your pregnancy and feelings about having a baby, but can’t quite bring yourself to tell your family or friends, reach out to a caring place that is familiar with unintended pregnancies and all the decisions that come with it. The Adoption Support Center has caring, compassionate women willing to listen and help navigate the relationships around you. Remember, you are definitely not alone!


Thinking the Unthinkable

So you’re pregnant. Not too far along…just a few weeks. But trying to think ahead is confusing, overwhelming…and let’s face it. The early physical parts of pregnancy may make you feel that you’ve got an alien inside you trying to completely take over your body.

At this point in time, you may not be able to picture a real baby. You might be caught in the now…just trying to get through the next few hours, days and weeks.

Early in the pregnancy, you might start to consider the possibility that you might not raise your baby yourself. It’s just a hint of an idea, but it sits in the back of your mind. But if you don’t raise this baby, what will happen? How does this just go away?

If you are still in your first trimester (up to twelve weeks pregnant), you can choose to end your pregnancy with an abortion. You can travel out of state if you are farther along to end your pregnancy. You may be thinking this is the best way to make the problem go away. You may not be thinking of what is going on inside you as a baby. And who is going to know if you don’t tell them?

Well, you will know. And while you may just feel a sense of relief, it’s likely you will always remember the experience. There is a good chance that you may regret it. And who can you talk to about it? If you don’t feel good about your decision, you may become depressed.

Once an abortion is done, it can’t be undone. There will be no baby.

So if abortion is not for you, yet down deep in your heart you believe that you are not ready to be a mom, what is for you? If you believe that you can’t give your baby the life you want for yourself or for another life, what do you do? Maybe this is where you can start to think about adoption.

In adoption, you can choose to give a baby a life, and give that baby the life you dream of. You have time…time to make a plan. Time to dream of the future. Time to get the basics of life in line…a place to live, a way to provide for yourself and the baby, and time to work on your relationships to others.

All this gets really confusing. But here is what a woman who placed her baby for adoption had to say about this difference between abortion and adoption.

“I would never be able to live with the guilt and grief of abortion. I know there is grief that comes with adoption as well, but I knew I would have peace knowing that I gave him life. I love my son and I know his adoptive parents do too and are glad that I chose life for him. Some people told me that I “could have gone the easy way out” and gotten an abortion but that never crossed my mind while I was pregnant.”

If you’re looking for someone to talk this through, just reach out. The Adoption Support Center is ready to talk about all of this…without judgment, pressure or expectation. We’re ready to listen.