I am not a very "keep-it-to-myself" kind of person when it comes to sharing things about my life. Some people are very private and reserved about everything, which is cool - maybe even admirable - but I am not one of them. But about this one thing I have held back for a long, long time.
See, it is hard for me to talk about adoption. Even with my family, it is not a natural, easy discussion. I think it is because no one in my family has much experience with it. And so our conversations about adoption feel awkward and clouded with lack of information and uncertainty about what the future holds and what it really means to adopt a child. I think that everyone worries about what it will be like. I don't really have those worries myself - I already love our as-yet-non-existent children so much that sometimes it hurts and I just can't wait to meet them and I feel really awed and slightly strange admitting that on our blog but it is true - but I understand why others might have those worries. I think that because I have held back on really sharing my thoughts and feelings about adoption in the way I would share my thoughts and feelings about any other topic, if there is such a taboo around the topic of adoption then it is my fault and I want to break that barrier now.
So here goes - the news is that we are actively preparing to adopt a child. Before you get too excited, you should know that this process is going to be long. As in, it may be three more years before we actually have a kid. But I'm really excited and I feel like I should let that excitement take me as far along in the adoption process as it can so that when we are faced with months and possibly years of waiting for a birth mother to choose us that I can draw upon this time in the adoption process when I am so hopeful despite the scariness of uncertainty about what our path to parenthood will be like.
This is something that Paul and I have been planning for a long, long time. I have known since I was 15 that I wouldn't be able to get pregnant. I told Paul within two weeks of dating after I got home from my mission that I couldn't have children. We knew before we got married that we would be adopting. We discussed timing during law school, especially toward the end when we knew what our job situations would be like. And all this year, but especially this summer, adoption has weighed heavily on my mind. The plan really was to wait until January 2011 and then get started. But back in August, I just knew that we shouldn't wait any longer. So I called LDS family services and got in touch with our case worker (her name is Heather). She explained that in California, it typically takes about 6 months to get qualified to adopt. So we've actually been moving forward with our adoption plans for a couple of months now and we are hoping to be qualified sometime early next year - maybe February or March.
My guess is that most of you will have a lot of questions for us about this process, so I plan to share a lot of what is required of us to adopt and what the process of adoption is like. We are using LDS family services, so the process will be specific to them. The first thing Heather did was to send us three different forms requiring our signatures to get the process rolling. One was a general authorization type form. The other two were reference forms - one where we were asked to list our bishop's contact information and one where we were asked to list four non-family references with their contact information. We filled those out and sent them back to Heather the next day. Then Heather mailed forms to all of these people to fill out with questions about us that asked things like "What are Paul and Amy's strengths and weaknesses?" or "From your perspective, please describe Paul and Amy's relationship." Once Heather had all the forms back (it took two months because our bishop was out of town and then Heather was out of town, etc., which has already pushed the approval process out longer than the 6 months Heather originally told me), then Heather called us to set up our first actual discussion about adoption and to give us the real paperwork.
We met with Heather this past Monday for about 45 minutes at her office. Basically she just explained the process that we will be going through - filling out paperwork, getting physicals, getting CPR certified for infant, child, and adult CPR, writing a letter to birth parents, collecting photos of ourselves, getting fingerprinted, attending parenting education classes and child abuse education classes, etc. The main reason it takes so long to get approved in California (compared to other states where the process is less arduous) is that in California we actually first have to become certified foster parents so there are all these extra requirements like the child abuse education classes. The fingerprinting takes the longest though, according to Heather, because it has to work its way through the machinery of the State.
So, that is pretty much where we are at: we have all the information and now we just have to start gathering documents and checking things off our list. I imagine we will be mostly done with the work we need to do by Christmas and then will just be waiting for our fingerprints to be approved through the state.
I am not going to lie - I have already had some feelings of anger and frustration about this process, not about adoption itself or anything, but more about the questions that are being asked of us and of our friends. As wonderful as our friends who agreed to be references are, it was frankly embarassing to feel like we had to get permission to have a kid when all of them could just do it on their own without talking to anybody about it first. I understand and am grateful that adoption agencies want to make sure they aren't getting wackos trying to adopt, but I guess it was just the first reality-check for me that this process, while wonderful, probably isn't going to be all fun and happy and perky all the time.
Well, there is a LOT more I have to say about all this and I am still trying to gather my thoughts and all, but we have a couple days off work and Paul and I are literally about to head out the door to drive to Yosemite. Quickly though, I just wanted to tell everybody who reads our blog that we really appreciate your friendship and we will be asking for your help as we go through this journey. At some point as we get closer to being approved, we will ask that you help us find our child by talking to people in your ward about listening for an unwed mother who might be trying to decide what to do about the child that she is carrying. We might ask you to talk to your own moms and ask them to talk to their friends about it (the mom network is one of the best ways that adoptions go through apparently). We will probably start an adoption blog and provide a button that you can add to your own blog. We may even do pass-along cards with our information that we will send to you to post in your church buildings or wherever (apparently that is a totally normal thing that a lot of adoptive couples do). But for right now, your love and prayers and support are enough.
In the meantime, here is a link to an amazing blog by a family that adopted their two children. Her post sums up a lot of what I have been thinking and feeling and have worried about or hoped for as Paul and I have been preparing for this.
We love you guys.