Saturday, August 31, 2013

Surprise Utah Trip

For YEARS now Paul has planned a fly-fishing trip to Montana with his dad every August, only to have something come up that makes the trip impossible.  So I was glad that he was finally able to fulfill his ambition to get back to his favorite fly-fishing spot and spend a few days there on the river with his dad.  Paul took the nice camera with him so the only photos I have for this post (about my and Clara's adventures while daddy was off fishing - he will have to do a post of his own about his adventure) are from my iPhone. 
And just to forewarn you, there will be gratuitous photos (well, at least 2 or 3) of me in a bathing suit later on so you may want to either: A. Stop reading now and close the browser as the content of this post may be unsuitable for some viewers, or B. Rapidly scroll through the post to satisfy your curiosity, you naughty rascals, then come back and pay attention to the most important photos. 
Before we left, Paul spent a couple nights getting his "craft" on tying flies.  Paul impressed my dad and won my hand in marriage thanks to this skill alone. 

Before Clara and I left, we went to a local toystore to pick out the perfect Schleich animal figurines for cousin Lily for her 2nd birthday since we were going to be there to give them to her in person (her birthday was the 20th).  We got her the Asian male elephant and the male giraffe.  I LOVE the Schleich animals.  But they also make dinosaurs and knights and princesses and soldiers, etc.  Clara studied medieval battle tactics while she waited for me to check out.

My parents had NO clue that Clara and I were coming to Utah.  My mom knew for a long time that Paul was going and I hemmed and hawed about what I was going to do while he was gone - maybe go to Disneyland, maybe just stay home and sulk, etc.  Really, I didn't decide for sure to go until about a week before he left when I realized my friend who lives in Auburn was back from North Dakota and I could stay with her the first night and shorten my total driving time by 3 hours on the second day.  So when Clara and I rolled in Tuesday night and Clara ran into the garage where my dad was painting, it was a big surprise.  My mom was down at Jennie's (I told Jennie in advance so that she could come stay at my parents' house while we were there so that we could maximize our time together) and Jennie texted me when my mom left so we would know when to expect her home.  I am horrible about keeping secrets so it was a big deal that I pulled this off.  Basically, I didn't talk to my mom once I made the final decision to go because I knew I would spill the beans. 

Anyway, we did a lot of fun things during our short time there.  We took the girls to watch the dancing water fountain with lights and music at Farmington Station one night after dinner.  They enjoyed splashing together.

The girls also had fun painting together.

We went to the Layton wave pool, which freaked Clara out unless she was in the little inflatable raft that Jennie fortunately had stashed in the back of her minivan and was able to bring in.  Every time the buzzer sounded and the waves came on (for about 5 minutes on the half hour) Clara would start sobbing and cling to me.  It was sad and hilarious and I totally didn't expect that reaction out of our little daredevil who typically isn't afraid of much.  I love this picture of my mom walking in with all the girls holding hands.  They all clearly adore Grandma Cece.

At least Clara thought it was fun sharing the raft with Adelaide when the waves weren't going.

Afterwards we went to Café Rio for dinner, then stopped at the Sweet Tooth Fairy for birthday cupcakes for my mom and Lily.  I found a new favorite - the Raspberry Limeade cupcake - although I still LOVE the Salted Caramel cupcake too.

I texted this picture to Paul since I knew it would make him jealous.  He loves his grilled steak burrito enchilada style from Café Rio.  We petition the Café Rio Facebook page on a regular basis to open a restaurant in the Bay Area.

It was fun being there for my mom's birthday.  I made salmon and Jennie made a German chocolate cake and my grandparents and aunts came over.  The girls enjoyed helping grandma open her presents.

Then Lily, Clara, and Emma climbed up on Grandpa.  Somebody really should have held Adelaide up in this picture too.  I know I am biased, but aren't these the cutest cousins you have ever seen?  Everybody comments on how darling it is that we have a true redhead, a brunette, and a blonde in the mix, and it is looking like Adelaide will bridge the gap between Emma's color and Lily's color by being a true strawberry blonde like her mommy.

My aunt Renita read books to the girls before bedtime.

One day my sister Jessica had a bunch of her friends from Provo come up to the house for food, games, and swimming at Farmington Pond.  Jennie, my mom, the girls, and I all decided to go to the pond too.  We ALMOST didn't wear our swimsuits because pond-swimming? ew. but actually we were really glad we did.  The water was lovely and we had so much fun.

Jessica showed me how it was done on the rope swing.  It didn't look so hard but when I got up there, it totally freaked me out.  Mostly because I was afraid I wouldn't have the arm strength to hold on to the rope long enough to swing out to where the water was deep enough for me to drop in without fear of breaking my leg or anything. 

So first I bided my time letting other people have turns at the swing while I took pictures on my phone and played with the girls, swimming them out into the middle of the lake by turns while they sat in the inflatable pool toy.

Grandma even waded in so we could take a picture with ALL the girls (minus Adelaide again, who was asleep in her carseat on the bank).

Finally I decided I had stalled long enough and decided to attempt the rope swing.  My first jump from the base of the tree was not scary at all.  I actually climbed to the higher spot first and froze up, so Jessica told me to try the lower level first to get the jitters out since that is what she had done.

The problem with starting so low is that I couldn't reach high enough on the rope so I basically dragged through the water.  It wasn't at all graceful and I hope I didn't embarrass Jessica too badly in front of all her friends.

But I immediately got right back up and climbed to the higher spot, which I am guessing was maybe 12 feet high? and jumped right away before I could think about it.

And I was pretty proud of myself for doing it.  Feel free to have a good laugh at my expense for posting this picture.  It was SO much fun though.

When it was time to go, Jennie and I swam the little girls across the lake in the little toy raft since we had parked on the opposite side and trekked in and didn't feel like trekking back.  It wasn't far, but the girls liked being ferried across and Emma threw a fit that she only got one crossing.

After cleaning up, Emma did my hair for me.  She was very serious about it too and when Clara took over Emma patiently explained multiple times to start brushing at the top and then go down (something that Clara still hadn't grasped).  Thanks to Emma's tutelage, I am looking forward to fewer split ends and snarls from Clara's vigorous brushing of my hair in the wrong direction.  I read books to Emma to prolong the pampering. 

I'm very sad that this is the only picture I have of little almost four-month-old Adelaide from this trip.  She is SUCH a cute and happy little gal but she only likes catnaps during the day.  One time she woke up from a snooze and I held her because Jennie was getting ready.  After not too long of me bouncing her, she fell back asleep in my arms.  You guys, there not a whole lot in the world that gets better than this.  Little Lady (my nickname for Adelaide - well, not mine alone, but the one I like to use) is such a snuggler and she liked nuzzling her head right up under my chin.  So sweet.

My mom was awesome and did the 12 hour drive home with me on Sunday so that she could go to Clara's gymnastics class on Monday.  I had forgotten that I had ordered a 40 lb. box of pears that got delivered while we were gone so she also got roped into helping me bottle pears, something I had never done on my own before.

It was a whirlwind trip and we are glad we got to see my side of the family while we were there.  But we are also glad to be back home with Paul.  I'll see if I can talk him into doing a write-up of his exploits on Rock Creek in Montana next.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Adoption 101 - the financial aspect

We often get asked questions about various aspects of adoption.  And there is a LOT to learn when it comes to adopting a baby - about yourself, about the process, about creating an open adoption relationship, etc.  I have decided to write an occasional post on here that is sort of more specifically geared toward answering some of the questions we have had ourselves going through the process or that others have asked us.

Today's topic:  How much does it cost to adopt? 

It largely depends on the agency and even then it depends on the specific adoption situation.  The normal range is between $25,000 and $35,000, although adoptions (and I am only referring to domestic adoption - babies born in the U.S. only and adopted by U.S. couples) can regularly be up around the $45,000 to $55,000 range.  Anything over that and from my perspective the agency or lawyer facilitating the adoption is probably unethical.  But I have heard of adoptions costing around $75,000 (but again, that has got to be with an unethical agency or lawyer).

I know my jaw dropped when I first learned just how much adoption costs.  Some adoptive couples take out loans to cover the fees or borrow from family.  There is an adoption tax credit that can help out some families who qualify.  Lots of adoptive families try to do fundraisers (Paul and I have done garage sales combined with bake sales, and I have done family photography where we earmark the money we've earned specifically for adoption.  I might have to do a post about other fundraiser ideas in the future.)  But the reality is that adoption is very expensive.

And that is just the cost of the agency/lawyer/adoption facilitator.  There are often costs associated with traveling to the birthmom's location and staying there for a week or two or three while waiting for ICPC clearance (government permission to move a child from one state to another after a birthmom signs relinquishment papers) goes through.  Plane tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, and lots of eating out don't come cheap, especially when those are usually last minute reservations based on when a baby decides to be born.

But none of the cost mentioned above goes to the child's birthmom.  It is illegal for a birthmom to receive any compensation for a child she places for adoption.  Sometimes a part of the adoption fees can be used by the agency or facilitator to pay for her housing, food, or medical care during the pregnancy, but that's pretty much it. 

Every agency breaks down adoption costs differently and it is hard to get a good grasp of exactly where the costs go, but it pays for homestudies, background checks, court costs, getting certified copies of all paperwork, marketing, post-placement supervision, birth parent counseling, etc.  But I think that a big part of the cost is typically just an agency fee (i.e., profit to the agency) because they facilitated the connection between a birthmom and an adoptive couple. 

The agency we used for Clara's adoption is largely subsidized by our church, which makes adoption much more financially feasible for couples who are hoping to adopt because they recognize that there are a lot of really great couples who have infertility issues that make pregnancy impossible but simply can't afford $25-50k for an adoption.  LDS Family Services (our agency) does a sliding scale approach based on the couple's gross income but the cost is between $4,000 and $10,000.  But due to the high number of couples who would like to adopt and the low number of babies placed for adoption, LDSFS has policies that only allow couples to use their services until they have two children, regardless of whether those children were adopted through LDSFS, some other agency, or the couple was able to have a child biologically.  So we can use them for our next adoption, but after that we will have to pursue other avenues for adoption if we want to try to adopt a third child.

There are a number of downsides to using LDSFS though.  Yes, the cost is much more manageable, but LDSFS doesn't "market" to birthmoms like a lot of private agencies do.  My understanding is that usually birthmoms who go through LDSFS are directed there by word of mouth or because they are also members of our church.  Another thing with LDSFS is that Paul and I don't move up a list of couples who get "priority" or anything like that whereas with some agencies, a couple essentially takes a place in line and knows that a match is likely to happen within a certain time-frame.  I recently emailed with another adoptive mom who told me that with their first adoption, their agency charged a $54,000 adoption fee and they were told that they could expect a 6-9 month wait for a child.  With LDSFS we could literally wait for years without ever having a successful adoption until we decide to pursue a different avenue. 

The two other main paths to adoption are foster care and international adoption.  I will probably do separate posts on each of them in the future because they are so different from domestic adoption, which is what we are familiar with.  But cost-wise, foster care is the most "economical" option because in many cases the financial cost to adopt is almost nothing.  And international adoption costs vary greatly depending not just on the agency used by also on the country of the adoption. 

Some people are shocked or outraged when they learn about how much it costs.  It is always mildly uncomfortable to talk about because we don't want to be perceived as "buying" a baby (because we certainly don't perceive it that way although there is a very large anti-adoption community online that does).  I hope this post de-mystifies some of the financial aspects of adoption.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Gilroy Gardens

About 40 minutes south of us is a small-ish theme park called Gilroy Gardens.  We have known about it for a while but lately I have had a number of friends tell me that I really ought to take Clara there because she would love it.  I finally made it happen this week and I am so glad we checked it out.  We actually even bought a membership that is good for the rest of this year and through next year too for just $35 more than what our ticket cost for the day and it includes parking and a bunch of guest passes and everything so we are looking forward to lots more days at Gilroy Gardens in the future!
There is a miniature carousel that had tiny horses just Clara's size.  Clara likes to designate things by "size" these days.  Things are "Clara-size" or "mommy-size" or "baby Piper (or Carter or Adelaide or Graham - these are the babies she knows, although Piper tends to be the most common reference)-size". 

Gilroy is known for produce and farming (particularly garlic -  it has a garlic festival every year) so most of the rides at Gilroy Gardens are produce based like the strawberry swings.

There was a "mommy-size" carousel that Clara rode on too.  This girl LOVES carousels.

A couple of the rides are for tiny tots and Clara enjoyed these fish that went up and down and around and around.  I got motion sickness just watching but she squealed and laughed.  The third time she rode this she put her hands in the air (at my prompting) and kept them there for the entire ride while squealing the whole time.

But easily her favorite ride was called "tubs-o-fun" which was a lot like the teacups at Disneyland.  Thank goodness adults weren't allowed on the ride because it would have done me in with motion sickness.  Clara laughed and laughed and laughed and even tried turning her cart around by pulling on the wheel a few times.  I sense that the next time we go to Disneyland I am going to have to man-up and take some Dramamine so I can ride the teacups with her.

The hot air balloon ride was really cool.  Kind of like the giant swings except you are in a big basket. 

Clara liked the "pretty pink flower boats" that floated along a lazy river with topiaries shaped like various animals.

At the end of the day I got a swirled soft-serve cone for us to share but put most of the ice cream in a cup since I knew it would be easier for Clara to eat that way.  I should have kept more ice cream on the cone for myself because Clara did NOT want to share and when I asked for a taste she would block me from sticking my spoon in and declare "MINE!" (her new favorite word). 

Us with the Gilroy Garden mascots. 

We were there from about 11:30 until almost 5:00 and Clara was asleep before we even left the parking lot. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Oakland Temple & Ice Cream at Fenton's

Saturday was our stake temple day.  Somebody had the genius idea to send around a sign-up list the week before during Relief Society meeting asking if anybody needed babysitting or would be interested in volunteering to babysit.  There is a huge stake center on temple grounds and our ward reserved a room for the kids to stay in during the temple session and it worked out perfectly for us because it meant that we were able to drive to the temple and spend some time on temple grounds together before dropping Clara off to play with toys, eat her snacks, and watch a movie while Paul and I did a temple session together with other members of our stake.  There were four other kids besides Clara and two of them are her little friends Silas & Liesel from around the corner, and the babysitters were a girl who lives a couple houses down from us who is home from college and one of the young women in the ward.  We snapped a quick family photo before going into the temple for the session.

I posted this photo of Clara on Instagram.  She loves looking at the fountain in front of the temple and we played here for a few minutes.  She was so happy to be wearing her "pretty church dress" which she usually only gets to wear on Sunday to church. 

The session was wonderful.  I felt so happy and it was the fullest session I have attended in a long time, which makes my heart swell.  The new version of the temple film was absolutely beautiful.  I loved it and learned so, so much and had so many insights that I had never had before.  I can't wait to go back again soon.

Afterwards, we went to Fenton's Creamery for dinner (but really for dessert).  Fenton's is mentioned in the movie "Up" and I think I have blogged about it before.  Fenton's is 119 years old and was founded in 1894 in Oakland.  Clara was VERY excited to be going for ice cream. 

Clara and I split a cheeseburger while Paul had a crispy chicken salad.  We were trying to save room so we could split a junior size banana split (which despite its name is actually enormous - how anyone eats a full size banana split is beyond me). 

The kids get little paper hats to wear.  Clara kept hers on for all of five seconds to pose for this picture with me but then wanted nothing to do with it.

Our friends, the Fischlis.  We enjoy hanging out with these guys.  We were told that the wait for a party of 7 was over 45 minutes but if we split into two groups it was only a 15 minute wait.  But we were lucky that we were seated as separate parties right next to each other so we could just pull our tables together.  Way to beat the system, right?

I meant to take a photo of us (and our banana split) before we started eating it and completely forgot!  Once somebody sets a giant dish of ice cream in front of you with hot fudge dripping off the sides and nuts across the top it is practically impossible to resist digging right in.  We always modify our banana split and get the hot fudge on the vanilla ice cream and marshmallow topping on the chocolate ice cream even though traditionally the vanilla is topped with pinapple topping.  I love it this way.  Oh, and I love that Clara couldn't be bothered to put her spoon down for the photo.  She just kept going at the ice cream. 

I tried to take a picture of what was left of our banana split at the midway point.  Clara had her spoon in the strawberry and Paul had his spoon in the chocolate, surprise, surprise.  I had to take the picture quick and get back in on the action before it was all gone.

We didn't make it home until 9:45 p.m. but Clara stayed awake for the entire drive.  It was the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon and evening.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

It all falls apart (post #6 of 6)

This is part of a series of posts about our most recent failed adoption.  The first post is here and the second post is here, the third post is here, the fourth post is here, and the fifth post (I know, this is getting to be overkill - sorry, this post is the last one) is here, in case you want to start from the beginning.

M and B wanted to start making plans.  What were we going to name him?  They would make sure the hospital knew that we were to be allowed full access to the baby in the hospital and that they wanted us in the delivery room! They couldn't wait for us to get there! 

We settled on a first name.  It absolutely kills me to admit this but we were going to use the name Truman.  The same name we wanted to give to the baby from adoption failure #1.  We worried about it being taboo but decided to have faith and go for it.  Truman was the very first name we ever decided on for any of our children and we have held it close to our hearts for almost our entire marriage.  (On a sidenote, we have decided to scrap all names we have ever mentioned liking, especially the name Truman, and start over completely new should any future adoption possibilities present themselves.  Clearly, we jinxed ourselves and tempted fate by telling B and M we wanted to name this baby Truman.)  We asked them for suggestions for a middle name because we really wanted their input.  B wrote back with a few different possibilities, one of which was perfect because it was a family name on her side and both of our sides.  But interestingly, B also mentioned M's middle name as a possibility. 

I had tried finding out more about M independently during periods when we were specifically worried about B being a scammer but going off only his name and B having a private Facebook profile, had been unsuccessful.  But with a first AND middle name in hand, I was able to locate a match on Facebook with an open profile who wad mutual friends with B, graduated at the right time from the right school, and lo and behold, matched each of the pictures B had sent us of M, including a picture of M with his parents.  I had found him. 

And it started us to worry all over again.  Because M was posting things from North Carolina when he was supposedly in Florida with B.  And M as not going to the medical school B had told us he was going to - at least, not according to numerous posts of his on FB page.  It was SUPER worrying but B was oblivious to the fact that we had this information and I didn't really want to raise it at such a late juncture when we were going to be heading to Florida in just about a week for the baby's birth.  If anything has helped us get through all this heartache, it was this nagging doubt about B's validity through practically the entire pregnancy, so in hindsight, I guess I'm grateful we kept having this little flags come up because they made us tap the brakes emotionally and kept us from getting any more caught up in the excitement of being second-time parents than we already were.

We tried to make sure the adoption paperwork was sorted out on B's end because she had told us she had been working with a lawyer.  Then she started saying that her lawyer had stopped returning her calls and she had found out he hadn't done anything on her case so she was going to go to a different lawyer.  We tried numerous times to get her to just use the lawyer our agency had recommended - someone who practices only adoption law and who we knew would get everything taken care of - but B and M felt like they wanted to find somebody on their own.  So they met with another lawyer for an "introductory meeting".  And met with her again the next day.  And were told she (the lawyer) would think about taking on their paperwork over the weekend. 

At this point we were less than a week from due date and when the lawyer (predictably since we knew she had to be just some random attorney who didn't specialize in adoptions) told B on Monday afternoon (the Monday after her Saturday due date - so two days overdue) that she wouldn't be taking her on as a client, B finally agreed to contact the lawyer we had recommended all along.  Her doctor kept saying that there were zero signs of the baby coming anytime soon and that B wouldn't be induced until Monday, August 5th, so we tried not to stress out as best we could.  We breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that once B met with the lawyer, these lingering concerns about being scammed would be cleared up and all the paperwork would be taken care of and there would be nothing left to worry about but the birth.  We came this close to booking our tickets for Saturday but decided to just wait for confirmation from the lawyer that this was all real.

Except the next contact we had from B was an email saying that after a wonderful date with M of going to lunch and going to a movie, they had had a big fight because M told her out of the blue that he wanted to parent.

The last few days leading up to the birth were confusing.  B did finally email the attorney and explained the situation with M and how he had changed his mind and was saying he wouldn't sign relinquishment forms.  This act has ultimately made us feel like B probably was pregnant all along.  We understand her scamming us, but would she really reach out to a lawyer about it if the whole thing was a huge lie?  There WAS a solution for M's change of heart and the adoption still could have taken place - Paul talked with the lawyer about it and was told that if B would just answer one of the emails or phone calls the lawyer had sent back to her they could figure it all out.  But B's adoption plan seemingly just ... fizzled.  She gave up.  M's parents said that they would help him parent.  B said M wouldn't answer he texts or calls and told her to just text him when she was in labor. 

B's final communications were super confusing.  She was induced late Monday (the 5th) afternoon.  She emailed us on Wednesday but didn't say anything about the birth or the baby or who has him or what their plan is, other than that she is heartbroken because she doesn't know if she will ever see the baby again and has only been told to expect pictures.  So it doesn't sound like she is going to parent and we can only assume this means that M's parents are going to raise the baby and that they won't let her see him or know him.  But even that doesn't make sense to us because B would still have had to relinquish her parental rights for that to take place and I can't see how that would have occurred by Wednesday.  By way of explanation for the outcome, B professed her love for M and said she decided she couldn't force him to prove his ability to parent this baby (he would have had 30 days under Florida law to show that he could provide for the child in order to retain his parental rights had B decided to go through with the adoption) and that M was adamant that he didn't want to place the baby for adoption and his parents supported him in that.

Honestly, I have a lot of emotions about everything that we have gone through with B since February.  But the biggest one I am feeling right now is relief that it is finally over.  No, it didn't end the way we had hoped and that is an awful feeling.  But the rollercoaster of emotions and drama and vagaries of whether B was actually pregnant and if she was whether she was going to choose us and if she did whether she was going to follow through with a placement are all finally over with and we can finally move on. 

Thanks for letting me share what happened.  I'm sorry if it came off overly dramatic or pathetic or anything.  I know it was incredibly self-indulgent to hash all this out for everybody to see and some people may feel like I shouldn't have shared all of it - that it is a matter best kept private - but I felt like I have friends and family who should know about this and I don't want to tell it 20 separate times.  And I hope that it will benefit other adoptive couples who go through similar things to know they are not alone.  I know it helps me to read their stories.

Amazingly, we don't have hard feelings towards B.  Not exactly, at least.  Mostly we just feel very sad for her.  At least we have each other and Clara and small though we are, we are incredibly, eternally grateful for our little family.  And for our extended families and friends who have been incredibly loving and supportive during this ordeal. 

The End.

I promise I will try to get some posts up soon that are more cheery than these past few have been. 

Another couple and the answer we had been waiting for (post #5 of 6)

This is part of a series of posts about our most recent failed adoption.  The first post is here and the second post is here, the third post is here, and the fourth post is here, in case you want to start from the beginning.  I know this is getting onerous but I think one more post and it will be done.

We had been emailing almost 4 months at this point (it was early June - around the 5th or 6th I think) and for her to ask us whether we would go see her for a face-to-face visit and how we felt about being in the delivery room set off all sorts of bells in our minds.  She was choosing us! We were going to have a son!  What else could that possibly mean?! 

We shouldn't have gotten our hopes up. 

We wrote back immediately offering any number of weekends to come visit but specifically asking if the 5-8th of July would work since Paul had extra time off work and M (the birthfather) was supposedly going to be in Florida for the entire month of July.  Yes, we knew it would easily cost $2k-3k just for the face-to-face and we would have to turn around and fly back a few weeks later for the birth, but it was worth it to us because when you want an open adoption, you know how important that interaction is.  We got to do this kind of visit with Kayli before Clara was born and it was amazing and we were so thrilled that we would have this kind of opportunity again for our second birthmom and child. 

But B didn't respond at all about the idea of a visit in any of her emails for a week until finally I prompted her.  Very, VERY long story short, she had simultaneously invited the other couple out and they told her the only possible weekend they could do was the 5th-7th of July and she told them okay, they could have it, but didn't tell us that weekend was out and to go with one of the alternatives we had offered.  After learning this, we essentially offered every single weekend to her, all of which she declined because one weekend she had a family reunion she couldn't miss and the next weekend she had a wedding she couldn't miss, etc.  We offered to split the weekend of the 5th-7th with the other couple and she said she would check with them to see what they thought.  She kept putting off giving us an answer though.

Thoughts of her being a scammer resurfaced.  She didn't want us to visit because she wasn't pregnant after all.

But even if she WAS pregnant, to us, the writing was on the wall:  if she wants to see the other couple in person and won't find a way to see us in person, it is obvious what her decision will be.  And I told her as much in an email, analogizing to "The Bachelor" and if it comes down to two people and one doesn't get a hometown date or a fantasy suite date and the other does, the audience knows who the bachelor is going to choose.  She wrote back and said that analogy offended her because it wasn't like that at all and if she had to choose a couple right then and there (like if she went into labor early) she would be calling us and not the other couple.  She told us she had basically made her decision and just wanted to meet them for "closure".  So weird and backwards, right?  A caseworker could have helped her work through this and come up with a much better approach, but she was adamant about her plan.  So we came up with a last minute trip through Northern California for the 4th of July weekend to keep us distracted from the fact that she and the birthfather were visiting with the other couple during those days.  We tried really hard not to think too much about that fact while we were driving and hiking but it wasn't exactly easy.

We never heard anything about how the visit went or whether the other couple even came or not.  But there was lots more about M from this point on.  She sent us a few pictures of him, including one of the two of them at a school dance the previous fall.  She talked about how they were going on dates and to the movies and out to eat.  How M didn't like either name we had been considering and how B only liked one of them.  How M was golfing everyday in Florida and how he got accepted to medical school.  Eventually she told us that this trial had brought them closer together and they were going to give their relationship another chance but that adoption was still the plan because of their ages and stages in life with her going on study abroad and doing an internship next year and him having med school just beginning. 

The emails got more and more intense and B kept saying that they were getting "so close" to making their final decision but wanted to be 100% sure.  Finally we reached a point where we felt so strung along that we emailed and essentially said that it was killing us to not know and to please, please put us out of our misery one way or the other (although we figured it HAD to be us because why would she spend so much time and energy on a couple she knew she was going to say no to?). 

Finally, 5 months to the day of her first email, on July 15th she texted us this picture:

...along with a very sweet message, part of which said: 

"M and I picked you guys and we are both so excited that you guys know how we truly feel now!  ... It's such a relief to have found the right couple for this little guy and I am more than excited I found you guys.  I could have asked for a better couple!

Her due date was less than 2 weeks away but after five long months, we had our answer.  We were going to have a baby boy. 

After the phone call (post #4 of 6)

This is part of a series of posts about our most recent failed adoption.  I'm trying to power through these and get them all up because I don't want to prolong this, but I feel like I need to tell the story.  The first post is here and the second post is here, and the third post is here, in case you want to start from the beginning.

The phone call went fine.  Not amazing, but at least we got to talk to a real person.  And she sounded genuine and down to earth and the kind of person we would like to have as our child's birthmom.  She finally told us over the phone that she was having a little boy.  At one point in the conversation I brought up the birthfather, "M", and asked if they had been in contact since she had only mentioned him in one previous email and said they weren't together but maintained an amicable relationship.  She said that he had recently come back into the picture - they weren't dating but she was forwarding many of our emails on to him and they would discuss what they liked and didn't like.

After the call our caseworker encouraged us to start reaching out to M through B as best we could.  We sent pictures of us for both of them (on our caseworker's advice) and links to past blog posts or videos that we thought they would like and would help them get to know us better.  They started asking us to think of a name.  It felt like they were getting close to telling us they had made up their minds about us.  B asked for Kayli's phone number and they had some communication for a while (I don't know the entire extent because I didn't want to ask Kayli what all B wanted to know about us or about adoption and make her feel like she was breaching a confidence between birthmoms or anything). 

Mother's Day came and went.  She was around 29 weeks and I thought maybe, just maybe, she would be saving an "announcement" for Mother's Day.  But it didn't come, and I didn't worry about it.  We would rather her take her time and be sure about her decision to place with us than to decide too early, tell us, and then back out later. 

She started asking about another phone call.  Ugh.  We said, "sure! of course! we can talk anytime!"  But unsurprisingly, a call never happened. 

She set up a Skype call for 7:00 a.m. her time.  By this point she had moved to Florida for the summer to stay with her family and wasn't working so we figured it actually might happen.  We texted her around 7:15 to see why she hadn't called yet.  She texted back about being stuck in traffic.  We waited.  We texted again a while later and she said she was home but had to use the bathroom.  (Seriously?)  We waited.  Ten minutes later she texted that she was excited to talk but also kind of nervous.  At this point I was like, "why are you still texting us?  why don't you just call?"  So I texted something to lighten the mood and finally she texted saying she was just too nervous and the call wasn't happening.  So Paul went into work a couple hours late for nothing and we wondered what we were doing letting her do this to us over and over. 

I'm going to skip ahead because there was just more of the same over the month of May.  More phone calls arranged and cancelled.  Daily emails being exchanged to the point where I actually bought a book about with conversation prompts because I seriously was running out of questions to ask B about herself!  (It is an awesome book, btw, and I should do a blog post in the future of questions we have been asked by the multiple birthmoms we have interacted with and questions we have asked trying to get to know them better.  I would love to read some other adoptive couple's take on that subject.)

B started finally sending us photos of herself in response to our many photos of ourselves (we never asked or pressured her for any of herself though).  Always group shots with other people where she was in the back and never any that would give even the slightest glimpse of a possible baby bump.  But at least she was feeling comfortable with us seeing what she looked like. 

In late May, B told us that she had narrowed her choices down to two couples - us and one other couple.  We eventually learned that the other couple had two kids - one biological and one adopted - and they were from Tennessee.  My heart sank a little because B had expressed concerns about us being on the West Coast and her being on the East Coast and I realized this other couple had an advantage being so close.  TN is just hours from FL or NC, the two places where B went to school and had her family.  But we soldiered on, figuring if she liked us enough to email for more than three months, there might still be a chance that she would choose us anyway.

Then on June 5 she emailed us two huge questions: 

"Would you guys be willing to meet me in person?" and "Would you want to be in the delivery room for the birth?"...

Scheduling a phone call (post #3 of 6)

This is part of a series of posts about our most recent failed adoption.  The first post is here and the second post is here, in case you want to start from the beginning. 

Around the one-month mark of our email exchange, B brought up the idea of having a phone call with us.  This was a huge and exciting development because it meant real progress in our relationship.  We even thought that possibly she felt good enough about us to want to involve us in the ultrasound experience for determining gender or at least to talk to us and tell us over the phone what the baby's gender was when she finally found out. 

So we started trying to arrange a phone call - first we talked about doing a call on a weekend since that was the most straightforward time for Paul with work and B with school.  But she always had plans (so weird because what college sophmore packs their weekends so full that they can't prioritize a 30 minute phone call in there somewhere?).  So we talked about early morning before Paul left for work or evening after he got home (and we accounted for the 3 hour time difference and were planning on getting up super early just to make sure a call could happen before she had classes or a job to get to).  But again, there was always a reason why that couldn't work either.  So then we switched to a strategy of just saying, "hey, you just name a time - ANYTIME AT ALL - and we will make it work.  Don't worry about time zones or our obligations or work schedules.  Just tell us when you can make a call happen." 

All this happened over multiple emails over the course of a few weeks.  Finally, 3 weeks after her bringing up the idea of a phone call, she started giving us windows (like the delivery guys - between the hours of 2 and 4 in the afternoon on Thursday) when she would call us. 

Then she didn't call.

My hand was literally cramped from holding my stupid phone that first day she had given us a window of time because I kept thinking, "she'll call. and if something comes up she would text. right? of course. I hope."  I had Clara all set with books and snacks and was even ready to resort to letting her watch tv (even though we were going through a television purge during that time) so that I could talk to B without distractions.  The plan was to dial Paul in on a conference call and he would talk from work with his door shut.  All that preparation and the weeks of trying to finally schedule this and she just left us hanging.  And didn't email for a full 24 hours to "explain" what happened.

This happened at least 3 or 4 more times over the next couple of weeks.  By the end, I knew she was a scammer.  There was no way somebody could have so many excuses for not calling.  Excuses like "I got stuck volunteering at Relay for Life" or "I was Facetiming with my mom for the longest time and then had to pack for Spring Break" or "A class got cancelled but I was still so busy and had to stay on campus" or "I'm part of a disciplinary council and had emergency stuff come up because some people were stealing from other people in the dorms and it was my responsibility to deal with it". 

There was no way a real birthmom who claimed to care about us so much would continue to leave us hanging and never even text to say "you know what, this is crazy but I had something come up again".  Every single time.  We were as understanding and patient as humanly possible in our emails.  But I gave up even believing that she would follow through with the calls and just played along and humored her every time she said she would call.  But a little part of me - this niggling, hopeful part - thought maybe she was intimidated, maybe she just kept backing out and getting nervous to go through with it.  I mean, it made sense and I might do the same thing if I were her.  Not 4 or 5 times, but still...  Her emails remained very newsy and friendly and we were making progress in our relationship so I didn't want to cut it off completely when I honestly felt in my heart that it wasn't a scam.  But I didn't bother keeping my phone right by my side or arranging distractions for Clara on the days where B set up call windows.  Instead I took an "I'll believe it when I see it" approach.

Except...she had a Twitter feed.  If there was anything I withheld from B, it was that I googled her first thing when she started emailing us and found her Facebook page, Twitter account, and an old blog that she had written a few posts on the year before.  The thing is, she found us through Facebook and didn't have a caseworker.  I worried from the start that this could be a scam and had to verify her identity as much as I could.  Adoption scams (and not just ones that are about money - there are people who scam purely to mess with the emotions of vulnerable couples like us) happen ALL. THE. TIME.  So I checked her twitter feed every single day to see whether the things she posted matched the things she emailed us.  She had loads of friends and was always having conversations with other people from school and a lot of the stuff she posted seemed to confirm what she told us in her emails, (like the disciplinary council stuff and the relay for life stuff), which made me feel like maybe she wasn't a scammer after all.  And we liked her a lot and wanted to trust her so we didn't want to believe she was a scammer.

There was one other big reason why we held out so long for the promised phone call.  B finally scheduled her ultrasound appointment for March 30th (a month and a half after she first emailed us when she was already 18 weeks along).  Only when she emailed back the day after her appointment, she didn't even mention it other than to say "it went well".  We asked a little bit more about who was there and what it was like, but I didn't pressure for the gender because revealing gender to the adoptive couple can be a big moment for a lot of birthmoms and I thought that maybe she wanted to tell us over the phone (we were still pretty early on in the scheduling phone calls phase) so we could be patient.

Finally after numerous phone call attempts, I sent B the following email:

"Hey B!  We hope everything is okay since we didn't hear from you yesterday or today.  We were really hoping that we might actually get to talk this weekend, especially since we have been talking about doing a phone call for quite a few weeks now and we have been emailing for two months (crazy, huh?!).  So if you have any time at all tomorrow, please give us a call or at least send us a text.  Don't even worry about what time it is because we would take your call even if you called us at 5:00 a.m.  Seriously.  :)  Or if you have gone to call us and changed your mind because of any second thoughts or anything, we understand that too, but please just let us know.  We hope this doesn't sound like us pressuring you into a phone call or anything - we don't want to do that and we know that you are super busy (way busier than most people) so we know that you have tons of other obligations and responsibilities - we just want you to know that we understand how difficult this must all be for you.  We know that lots of birthmoms often start feeling pressure from a lot of different people at this point in their pregnancy, especially now that you know the baby's gender (which we are sort of dying to know ourselves but have held off on asking about because we thought that was maybe something you might be waiting to tell us over the phone) and things are starting to get more "real" and will likely get progressively more difficult.  We hope that you still have people you can talk these things through with, but we would love to be a part of that, if you want us to be."

Reading that again makes me think that it sounded desperate, but the phone call was B's idea in the first place!  What we were was frustrated. 

She apologized profusely and promised to call the next day.  She also promised to send a pic of her baby bump.  We didn't ask for that although we had been wanting some sort of confirmation - an ultrasound pic or a belly pic or even better, for her to go into our agency's office just 30 minutes away and talk with a caseworker - to be able to provide at least some proof that she was actually pregnant and actually a potential birthmom and not some scammer. 

She didn't call.  Instead, she apologized (again) and promised (again) that she would absolutely, for sure, call the next day.  It was nothing we hadn't heard from her before.

But finally, FINALLY, she followed through and called us 5 weeks after first suggesting a phone call....

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The first month getting to know "B" (post #2 of 6)

I already shared how we were first contacted by "B" back here at the start of this series of posts explaining our most recent failed adoption. 

B explained that she was 18 weeks along and had decided on adoption within about a week or two of learning that she was pregnant.  She talked about having a friend and a cousin who had both placed babies for adoption and surprised us with her knowledge of adoption in general.  Clearly she had been doing a lot of independent adoption research.  We started emailing back and forth on a daily basis.

To be honest, at first it was hard writing back to her.  We had suffered an adoption failure just two months earlier after emailing with a birthmom for 4 1/2 months and we knew we were facing an even longer road with this birthmom with 5 1/2 months until her due date.  And believe me, it was daunting. 

One part of my brain was telling me to be excited! be hopeful! be positive!  Another part of my brain started crying at the thought of months of pouring out our hearts and souls and giving support and building love and trust with somebody who may or may not decide to choose us to be the parents of her child. 

This is going a little off track, but if adoption could be related to a distance race, it felt like we had prepared for and run a marathon (adoption failure #1) only to be told that our efforts didn't count and to start over.  So we ran it again (adoption failure #2) only to get within yards of the finish line and be told that those 26.2 miles didn't count either and to go back to the starting line for another 26.2 miles of pain, fatigue, and stress on already overstressed "adoption legs".  Every emotional and mental "muscle" was yelling and begging to stop the pain, but I just. could. not. give. up.  I couldn't quit.

Even though I wanted to.  Even though I want to now.  But not really.  Not truly have I ever wanted to quit when it comes to the idea of having at least one more child.  I've said the words, of course, and thought for moments and maybe even minutes that I even meant them.  But then I look at Clara and know that if ever a child deserved the right to be a big sister, she does.  And I look at Paul and I pray that he will have a son to take on campouts or another daughter to take on daddy-daughter dates.  And I hold a newborn and think I can't possibly not get to experience this again.  (Incidentally, I write this blog from my perspective although Paul has had many of the same feelings and obviously we approach building our family as a team.  Maybe someday I will be able to convince him to write from his perspective what all of this has been like but I don't want to put words in his mouth or alternatively, make it seem like he doesn't have a hard time with any of this.)

Anyway, back to the story - over the course of a few weeks we found a lot of common ground and really started working to develop a friendship.  We were so grateful that her emailing was so consistent - we never had to worry about whether we would hear from her again (unlike the birthmom from adoption failure #2 who would go a week or two between emails).  She told us early on that she was emailing multiple couples, and we understood that - it isn't totally unusual for a potential birthmom to consider more than one couple at the outset of the process.  But we were worried that she didn't have a caseworker to talk to her about the process and she wouldn't talk with anyone from our agency until she had actually chosen a couple.  We felt like having some professional guidance from a licensed caseworker could only benefit her and we were confused why she would refuse such help.

We really started to worry about whether she was scamming us when her ultrasound to determine gender was cancelled less than a week after her first email to us.  Then rescheduled for a week later.  Then rescheduled again.  And again.  Until we had been emailing for a full month and she was at 23 or 24 weeks and still hadn't been to the doctor to determine gender... 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

In which I explain how Facebook friends can help make an adoption connection... (post #1 of 6)

Thanks for the kind words and prayers and love during this difficult time.  We know we have some amazing friends and family (and even strangers who are following our journey through adoption) who really care for us and are hoping for another successful adoption right along with us.

To that end, I wanted to share how our friends' sharing our adoption profile helped us connect with this most recent potential birthmom.  Yeah, it didn't work out and yeah we are bummed. least we know social media can actually work to make this kind of a connection, right?  Here's what happened:

Back at the end of January, I did a blog post and mentioned on Facebook that we would love help doing a "media blitz" of sharing our adoption profile or linking to our blog, just to get our name "out there".  We saw a huge spike in traffic to our adoption profile and blog over a two or three day period, but we figured the chances of a potential birthmom seeing either of them was probably slim.  But two weeks later, we got an email from a 19 year old college student in North Carolina who was pregnant (we will just refer to her as "B" for now) telling us that somebody named Amy C. (I won't post her full name here but it was not me and not somebody that either of us knew) had passed along a link to our profile and recommended that she check us out. 

After some sleuthing and a phone call, we figured out the connection:  Paul and I have a friend named Nikki (who Paul has known since grade school) and when we shared the link to our adoption profile on Facebook, she shared it on her Facebook page.  Nikki has a friend named Amy C. who saw the link.  She clicked it and read about us just because she was curious.  Two weeks later, Amy C. found out about B and her situation, and went back to Nikki's FB page, found the link to our profile, and forwarded it on. 

And voila, just like that an adoption connection was made.

Social media is a hugely powerful tool in the adoption world and can open up doors to adoption situations that we would never otherwise know about or have a chance to be considered for.  I did a mini-blitz this past weekend when things started going south with this most recent adoption (I didn't ask anybody to share but once I started sharing, others started sharing too) and we have had over 300 hits to adoption profile in just those few days, which is huge since we typically have single digits numbers of profile hits on most days.

So thanks to everybody who has shared our profile or blog and especially to those who have "liked" our Facebook page (If you haven't done it yet, I just added a link to the sidebar - third item down - all you have to do it click on it and click "like"!).  We were at just over 100 likes this past weekend and in a matter of days we have jumped up to 173 "likes", which is awesome because the more people who "like" our page (not just liking a post or a photo but liking the group page itself) the more likely we are to turn up in an internet search of couples hoping to adopt.  We have people stumbling on our blog often just by searching phrases on google like "waiting to adopt" or "hoping to adopt" or one of those phrases combined with the word "facebook".  You can actually even send out invites to all your friends to like our page as well. 

I think that's my little spiel for today.  Seriously, peeps, you rock.  Thanks for cheering us on.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Disappointment #3

Today is the day I thought I was going to be a mom again.

Only a few people knew about this possibility and we kept things pretty quiet on our end so even they maybe only know 1/10th of what we've been going through for the past 5 1/2, almost 6 full months of practically daily emails with a potential birthmom (or potential scammer - I will get to that in another post because it is one of the most confusing and upsetting things about this entire ordeal).  Since Feb. 15th when we first heard from her, to be exact.

Today a little boy will be born in Florida.  Up until just a few days ago, we thought he would be ours. 

We were made promises - promises which we knew when they were made could be easily broken or changed or forgotten about and which we have heard before from others but knew we had no right to expect or enforce or count on.  But still, you hear things in emails like "I cannot stress to you enough how decided I am about having this adoption occur. There is absolutely no chance I will keep this baby to parent. " and texts telling you that she "couldn't have made it through this without you" and the hope starts bubbling up and there is nothing you can do to tamp it down, hard as you try. 

I am so glad this summer is almost over.  My mantra for months now has been to just make it through the end of July.  This baby's due date was the 27th so he is now officially more than a week overdue, which is why she is being induced today.  But for weeks I have checked the flights between the Bay Area and Orlando almost every day to the point where I have them memorized.  It has been agony, this not knowing and waiting and wondering whether this was the time that it would actually happen.  Thinking that there was no way that we could go through a third brutal adoption failure for a third time in a row, especially after so much extended and intensive contact with someone we truly came to care about so very much.

But it can and does happen and here we are.  We aren't the only ones to have gone through this.  But sometimes it feels like it.  I saw this on Pinterest yesterday though, and at first I wanted to throw my phone but then it made me feel a little bit better.

I'll blog more about all of this soon.