Perspectives of Adoption: Bringing Home Leo

“…this has been the most magical and the most definitive moment of our lives, but in so many ways, saying that Leo is meant to be our son seems to imply that he was meant to go through all of the very hard things that brought him to us.  I’m not so sure I feel that’s fair to say. I feel with every fiber of my being that my purpose in life is to be his mother, and I can’t put into words what it means to me that I was chosen for this job, but I can’t let my story overshadow his.”

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Spotlight: A Surprise Vist

“I think you sent this to the wrong person…” my client-turned-friend texted me back after I sent her a text to “come outside.” You see, I’m based out of Annapolis, Maryland and Meg, the texter-backer, lives on a farm in Illinois. Eight hundred thirteen miles separate us; but that’s nothing an early morning flight, and a rental car to drive out of the city and into the rural areas can’t overcome.

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 Meg and her husband Mitch had a long and tumultuous road to their adoption journey. They had been unsuccessful at starting a family through pregnancies and Meg found a blog I wrote about adoption and messaged me because she said she felt we had a connection. And a what connection we had! We often talk about how the universe puts people in your life for a reason and I know that Meg, Mitch, and myself all agree that we were meant to be connected and to be friends. Over the last 15 months, we have laughed together, been frustrated together, and cried together. We will forever be bonded over their adoption, over their faith in me as their doula, and their friendship which means the world.

I had told Meg I would be taking my son to a fall festival over the weekend all while secretly conspiring with her sister and husband to show up on her doorstep. I was there as a surprise to attend their baby shower in honor of their amazing little boy Leo. The look on her face when she opened the door to see me standing there was priceless and one I will never forget. After she got over the shock, we sat down and talked like we had been friends for too many years to count… like we had known each forever. We chatted about everyday life, she fussed like every new mom does over a baby who was only slightly upset, and I watched as she comforted her little Leo. I held her sweet little boy and it was, once again, instant connection and instant love.

Like Meg and Mitch’s path to adoption, Leo’s story is a little complicated as well. (But really, aren’t all adoption stories?) He was born a few weeks early and he has some thus-far unexplained medical issues going on that have meant getting a g-tube during his NICU stay to help keep his feedings safe. He is not a big fan of swallowing things and there is a risk of aspiration but he’s making huge progress thanks to his amazing parent’s diligence and because he has the brave and fighting heart of a lion. Meg and Mitch stay awake nearly around the clock to make sure Leo is getting in all his calories for his feedings. They are seeing doctors, specialists, and therapists. They are doing adoption finalization visits and check-ins with social workers. Through all these things, they are both smiling, laughing, and holding things down like pros.

For all these reasons, I was *so* excited to be able to celebrate Meg, Mitch, and the arrival of Leo at their baby shower this weekend. It was “Wish” themed as that was the book that really inspired them to look further into adoption. While the book features an elephant family, Leo’s shower, of course, featured a lion. At the shower, I felt like a celebrity thanks to Meg and Mitch sharing my posted from The Adoption Doula Instagram page. Their family and friends hugged me and made me feel like one of them. We ate some yummy food, we laughed and took silly photos (as evidenced below), and I watched Meg do and amazing job opening gifts even though I knew she *hated* being the center of attention.

Doesn’t everyone pose like this for a photo?

Doesn’t everyone pose like this for a photo?

After the shower, we drove back to the farm and spent the evening talking, hugging a sweet baby, and eating takeout on their couch. It was magical. I feel so connected to this family and as far as I can tell, the feeling is mutual. While there, I totally doula’d them more than I probably should have and made sure to tell them to trust their instincts and that sometimes they had to advocate for not only Leo but themselves too. Doctors and specialists know a lot but as Leo’s parents, they know him best and should trust their gut.

After sharing more conversation with Meg over coffee and delicious baked-goods the next morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about the magic of adoption.  Through its heart-breaking trauma and loss, adoption still somehow manages to shine and sparkle and ignite lives. Adoption will always be a double-edged sword but as I drove back to the airport, I couldn’t help but feel like the universe had once again delivered sheer magic to everyone who surrounded that adoption. Leo’s addition has allowed Meg and Mitch to be the parent’s they’ve always dreamed they would be. Leo is loved not by one family but now by multiple families. Through an ethical and open adoption like Leo’s, love multiples, not divides. I am so proud to call Meg, Mitch, and Leo my clients, my friends, and friends that are more like family.

 

Soul Sisters bonded by adoption.

Soul Sisters bonded by adoption.

Being a Mama is Easy... Except When It's Hard

Being a mama is easy. And it’s also really hard. Being a mama of a child you chose and adopted into your family comes with great privilege and also great sacrifice. Two sides to every stone, am I right? Today I am talking about the unpolished side. I could brag for YEARS about the polished side of my amazing son and the true honor it is to be his mama, but that is for most other days. Today I prepare to cry at a doctor’s appointment with a behavioral health specialist. I will have to tell the doctor that I sometimes, often lately, find myself out of ideas for how to help him calm his little body that is moving so fast and speaking so incessantly. I will have to explain how I try to have him take “deep candle breaths,” and how we work on counting techniques, taking breaks, whispering quiet songs, and even sitting with our hands and heads together to try to find a quiet minute in the dizzying chaotic moments of his running and spinning and scream-singing. I will have to explain that the child I love more than anything in my entire world, who I would lay down and sacrifice my life for, sometimes pushes me to a total breaking point where I am seeing red and I have lost all ideas and am just struggling to hold onto my sanity.

I will cry today explaining this because it is horrifying to me, that as his mama and an educator by training and trade, I don’t know how handle his activity level and help. Also because he is *so* happy all the time and his happy little energy just can’t be contained and sometimes its just too much for the rest of the world because we don’t know how to handle that kind of extreme blissful enthusiasm. I will cry because it mades me question myself and why U can;t seem to do better, to react better, to help better...

Today I will cry because despite how happy Isaac is now, I still shudder to remember our first eight months together where smiles were almost non-existent and he screamed and cried for hours on end every day because his soul was deeply devastated and genuinely confused. My sweet baby who met me at three days old and came home for good one month later, was deeply rocked by attachment struggles. His little brain and body could not understand why he was not where he was before with the people who’s voices he grew to know for nine months and then the new voices he heard for his first month in interim care…why they weren’t around anymore to comfort him. For eight months, Isaac and I attended doctors appointments where they assured me he had colic and every other over-diagnosed baby illness known to man. They pumped him full of all sorts of medicines and sent us to specialists for reflux… none of whom helped a bit. They sent me to these appointments because they told me i was wrong and ignored me when I told them I was fairly sure it was anxiety and attachment issues. They told me that was not possible because babies don’t even know. Such a shameful way to have been treated seeing as science proves otherwise. I knew better and I am telling this story today so that you know better too.

I worked HARD to get this boy to feel safe and secure. We walked and snuggled. We did months of co-sleeping and I wore him until he started walking in every baby carrier I could find. We worked and it paid off. Isaac overcame. But then just past his second birthday, he started developing anxiety. We live near the United States Naval Academy and once a year to mark graduation ceremonies they have the Blue Angels fly over to do an air show with tricks and flips and tons of amazing stunts. But what was amazing to most flipped a switch for my sweet son and triggered crippling anxiety. He was terrified and convinced the loud jet planes were coming for him. He screamed and cried and refused to go outside without major coaxing for 3-4 weeks. He didn’t want to go to daycare because that where he had seen the airplanes. He feel asleep and woke up with panicked questions about whether or not he was safe and if the airplanes were coming. To this day, a year and a half later, he still gets a fear-struck look in his eyes when he hears a plane or helicopter despite the fact that he does enjoy them now if he knows they are coming and is with someone who knows to assure him he is safe and that it’s “just a regular airplane.” He still has the occasional breakdown if one is too loud or too low. I’ve learned, thanks to a few doctors who knew what they were talking about, this is due to the fact that those stunt planes were combined with some random life events that felt, to Isaac, like abandonment in some ways. I had just returned form my first day trip away from him since he had come home and he had a different provider with him at daycare when the planes flew over that day. This combination of strange circumstances and loud scary planes means Isaac now associates those noises and the feelings they induce with abandonment. My heart breaks that this is the case but it is where we live and we have been visiting attachment and anxiety more often lately so this is another reason we visit the doctor today.. hopefully one who knows what they are talking about. 

 

I share this story because it is not atypical for adopted children. I think it’s important to note that while he is easily the best thing that has ever come into my life and he is wroth every second I spend worrying and ever tear I shed for him, adoption brings new issues. He is a worrier, he has mild attachment issues that we are working through, and he is extremely active in ways that I am currently unsure how to manage. Today we are off to another doctor… this time a behavior specialist and therapist… in hopes we can learn some strategies together that make life feel a little better and easier. Bring a mama is easy, friends… except when it’s hard. 

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The Power of Self Care

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I saw this image this morning and I was struck by how true it was. I think we, as a society, tend to forget to water our souls. We get too busy worrying about all the other things on our to-do lists and we let ourselves fall apart on the inside. In the words of Eleanor Brown, "You cannot serve from an empty vessel." 

Happy Sunday, friends! Take care of yourselves today and recharge for the upcoming week! 

Share It Saturday: The Owlet Smart Sock Monitor

This weekend I'm sharing a baby product I WISH existed when my son was a baby. It would have saved me a lot of trips in and out of his sleep space to check on him. I mean... new babies can make you feel a little neurotic with making sure they are safe and sound. After all, you did just suddenly find yourself caring for a tiny human with just about zero instructions.

 

For this reason, I'm sharing the Owlet Smart Sock (https://store.owletcare.com/products/owlet-smart-sock-2) for the first round of #ShareItSaturday. This sock fits babies up to 18 months and has an accompanying app for your smartphone that allows you to check on your baby's heart rate and oxygen levels while they sleep. And if their levels drop while sleeping, it sends an alarm alert to your phone so you can rush and take appropriate action.

 

While I've never used or seen one of these in action, I've read a TON of reviews and they really seem quite amazing. It seems like an Owlet would really provide a lot of peace of mind that many parents crave so deeply.

 

Anyone have one of hear or seen them in action with a friend's baby? What is the consensus?

 (Original image courtesy of https://store.owletcare.com)

 (Original image courtesy of https://store.owletcare.com)

Think About It Thursday: Spotlight on Private Adoption

I’ve had a lot of questions from families lately about the different options for adopting and what the differences are between them. It issucha great question because it’s 2017 and families really do have quite a few ways they can go about their adoption journey. Over the next few weeks, I plan to highlight one type of adoption each week for my “Think About It Thursday” series. Today we are starting withprivate adoption, which is sometimes also calledindependent adoption.

 

Private adoption is generally when an intending family who is hopeful to adopt connects with a birth parent/family who is looking to find a best-fit placement for their growing baby. The two parties work through their feelings, hopes, and wishes and come to their best transition and adoption plan in a way that (hopefully) meets the needs and wishes of the birth family as well as the intending family. An adoption lawyer is generally the only adoption professional aiding in a private adoption.

 

A private adoption can often be a lower-cost option for families as there are less professionals involved who require payment. Families around the country have reported paying anywhere from $8,000 to around $30,000 for their private adoption. Intending families could be asked to pay for things such as separate legal representation for the birth family, housing during the pregnancy, and potentially medical expenses for the birth. These expenses really depend on the situation and the agreement an intending family reaches with the birth family and are greatly impacted by individual state regulations on what is legal and what is not.

 

To complete a private adoption, an intending family must…

  • Complete a homestudy in their home state

  • Spread the word that they are seeking adoption

  • Connect with a birth family and reach an agreement

  • Meet with a qualified adoption lawyer for advice on moving forward with the adoption

  • Pay for the expenses your state requires for the birth family

  • Meet your baby

It is important to note a few more things about private adoptions….

First, they tend to carry much more risk for an intending family as you are working directly with a birth family who could potentially change their mind about the adoption. This change of heart could be after you have already paid out significant money with no means of getting it back. While we hope this doesn’t happen, it can and does happen as adoption is a difficult and emotional thing for birth families.

Additionally, it can be difficult to connect with a birth family. It is illegal to place ads in newspapers and alike. Many families create blogs, Instagram accounts, and even Facebook pages to chronical their family, how they hope to adopt, and hopefully attract and connect with potential birth families. There are also numerous websites and apps available now for intending families to post profiles to (usually for a monthly fee) for birth families to search through.

Lastly, while private adoption can be a riskier financial option, it can also be less expensive (if all goes well) and it can allow the intending family and the birth family to connect on a deeper level than if they were using outside services to facilitate their adoption. This option allows both families to decide how much contact they would like, how open the adoption is after the birth of the baby, and allows the families to stay connected long-term more easily if they wish.

 

It is also noteworthy that there is no reason you can’t decide to pursue private adoption while you are a waiting family with an agency. In this case, you’d be working with an agency and waiting for a match but you’d also be a “free agent” of sorts and whoever found a family match first would be the option you pursued further.

 

Private adoption doesn’t make sense for every family but it is an important option to consider when making your choices on how you plan to journey towards your adoption. If you have any questions or would like more information regarding private adoption, please don’t be shy! I would love to chat and help with your adoption journey! Shoot me a message or email me at TheAdoptionDoula@gmail.com anytime!

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Exploring Adoption Virtual Workshop News!

I'm so exited to share that the fall session of my virtual interactive 8-week session of "Exploring Adoption," is now enrolling! This session will feature course content each week that helps get answers for all the questions that roll around in your head about adoption and it will allow you to talk through your worries in a safe and unbiased space. And it's all done online so you don't even have to leave your house!

Together with a small group of like-minded individuals, we will dig deep and get the answers that help you decide how to move forward (or not) with your call to adoption. Each week, we will come together in a virtual and secure meeting space where we can learn, talk, and grow together through the topic of adoption. Additionally, as a tremendous added valuemtk the course, everyone who enrolled will have unlimited Adoption Doula care and attention through unlimited one-on-one support outside of the sessions.

I'm thrilled to be able to offer this package in this virtual setting and I can't wait to see all the families we can bring closer to adoption. For more information, please reach out via the "contact me" section!

If you feel moved to do so, please help spread the word on this one — it's going to be AMAZING! 

xoxo,

brooke

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Hidden Pictures

To most, this would just look like a random photo where I was tired and trying to look cute doing my "mama thing" in a selfie.

But in reality, while this was exactly that, to me, it was also SO MUCH more. This photo was my baby sharing when I wasn't allowed to share. Confidentiality from his adoption agency asked I not show my son's face on social media to protect him and myself from unnecessary heart break "just in case."

This photo meant the world time then because it was my hack that allowed me to feel a *little* less jealous and envious in seeing everyone else's photos. The wait was well worth it but the road and months to make him mine were long and hard. I couldn't share his first smiles or his first tastes of food.

Adoption is a hard road, friends. Hard for very simple pleasures being denied like posting photos to social media and then hard for the really and truly hard things that are the reason behind my inability to post to social media... the uncertainty and the vulnerability of knowing that there is a possibility that the child you've grown to love could potentially be taken from you. Adoption is hard.

It's also worth it.

If you've been questioning adoption, please reach out! I'd love to chat with you about my experience and how I can help you navigate (potentially) your own adoption journey.

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Adoption Is Expensive But...

One of the biggest barriers for most people to adoption is, without a doubt, the idea of the cost. Adoption is not cheap my friends... but I'd argue that it is some of the best money you will ever spend. The average cost of a domestic adoption through an agency from families surveyed in 2012-2013 by "Adoptive Families Magazine," was $39.996 when agency fees, legal fees, and everything was said and done for their adoption.

 

While that is a significant chunk of change and there's no way around the shock of that price tag, I'd argue that cost need not be a barrier. Cost needs to be a planning factor but not a barrier. Adoption tax credits are currently available to tax-payers as well once your adoption is finalized. These tax credits can be applied to all your adoption expenses (including hiring an adoption doula) and can fill over for up to three years while you claim them all! I am not tax professional but this is a great way to recoup some of that cash and makes adoption much more budget-friendly longterm.

 

Finally, please don't ignore adoption grants and fundraisers! There are TONS of adoption grants available. Many require you to have a home study before applying by this is a great option. (This is something I can help you plan for as your doula!) Additionally, there are MANY amazing adoption fundraising ideas! Traditional fundraisers like t-shirts, puzzle pieces, the ever-popular gofundme pages, and even envelopes are a great option. With the boom of the side hustle, many direct sales companies are offering fundraisers and these would be a fun and easy way to support friends while also raising money for your adoption.

 

Some independent sales representatives that offer fundraisers are...

 

LuLaRoe

Noonday

Usborne Books

Scentsy

Lilla Rose

Jamberry

Tupperware

It Works

Barefoot Books

Lia Sophia

Thirty One

 

I also found this fun take on the traditional "envelope" fundraiser kind of fun! Christmas in July, anyone?

 

http://www.juliegumm.com/2013/12/the-envelope-adoption-fundraiser-with-a-christmas-twist/

 

Your Path is Knocking...

Let's talk about the noise you're hearing calling you to adoption. Maybe that noise is still an errant thought or a tiny whisper because you haven't it given much light yet. Or maybe that whisper has grown and is now a loud, screaming, undeniable shout that occupies much of your brain space during the day...


Either way, please know that if adoption is on your brain and/or in your heart, there is probably a very good reason. Your path is calling you — that whisper is a tiny tap at the door and that shout is adoption banging down your door waiting for you to come see. Answer the door!


Let's explore together why adoption is at your door and pinpoint what's drawing it close to you, your family, and your life. In my experience, nothing is random. Perhaps an opportunity to love a child is about to enter your life, perhaps a friend is about to adopt and will need your support, or perhaps you are being drawn to foster.


I'd love to help quiet those thoughts and worries about adoption that are rolling around inside your head. I've got answers and am here for you wherever you are on your journey. I'm a quick message away and adoption is what drives me to work harder, be better, and learn more every single day. Let's connect!

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