Tell Me Your Story: Of Waiting Again

From the moment Angela and Matt started dating, they knew that if they had a son, they would name him Kyle. When it came time for them to adopt, the couple posted their profile online, and shortly after posting, they received a phone call from an expectant mother. As soon as Angela heard the woman’s name, she knew it was meant to be. Her name was Kylie, and Angela knew that they had just met their miracle.

Angela and Matt stayed in touch with Kylie throughout her pregnancy and were at the hospital when she delivered. The couple brought baby Kyle home, and started the adoption conversation early by reading adoption themed children’s books and watching adoption related episodes of Sesame Street. One of Kyle’s favorite books is Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis. For Angela, the book holds special meaning because it closely mirrors Kyle’s story. As Angela curls up with her son for a bedtime story, she adds details of how she and Matt met his birth mother, were present for his birth, and how they brought him home.

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Angela also helps Kyle connect with his birth family through pictures and stories. She says that Kyle comments that his birth family lives “far away”, and when he is shown pictures, he points and asks questions about each person, curious to know about his other family.  When Kyle was only two, Angela wrote a letter to Kylie and included a few pictures. Kyle helped put the letter and pictures into an envelope, as Angela explained to the curious face peering up at her who the letter was for.  A few days later, Kyle folded up a piece of paper with his tiny hands, explaining that he was going to send a letter to Kylie too! Angela says that even though he is young, Kyle displays an awareness that their family was not formed in the traditional way – he knows that he has someone special that he has a connection to.

Now that Kyle is three, Angela and Matt are ready to adopt again. But the experience is much different than the first time they adopted, and Angela sometimes doubts why someone would choose their family “when there are so many beautiful families to choose from.” The wait for a first adoption is hard, but the wait for a second adoption is even harder, especially when the adoptive parents are considering another open adoption. It’s more than just checking off the right boxes and filling in paperwork –  it’s trying to find a match with another special family.

Besides being matched, there are other obstacles with a second adoption. With two children from two different families, one family may not have the same level of openness as the other. Angela is worried that it will be difficult to explain to her children why one family has a certain level of contact while the other does not. Kyle’s birth family is a drivable distance away, but if their future child lived further away, it might become difficult to visit both families equally.

Although it’s in the back of her mind, Angela doesn’t have to worry about all of those details just yet. The family has a profile on Adoptimist, but she hasn’t told Kyle any plans for a sibling yet. Angela says, “Kyle lives in the moment because of his young age, and I am not sure that he would understand what waiting means. And I know that he would not understand the disappointment that is sometimes involved with the adoption process.” Angela and Matt find themselves patiently waiting again, but they are also treasuring each moment with their son. Angela would love to someday have a sibling for Kyle, but ultimately she is thankful for her son and grateful to be a mom.

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Interview with Jody Cantrell Dyer

In my last post, I reviewed The Eye of Adoption by Jody Cantrell Dyer, and I also had the pleasure of interviewing her. Jody is just as personable and open in her interview as she comes across in the book, and she is honest about her struggles in order to help others. Read on for the interview!

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In parts of the book you describe your various methods of trying to conceive and the obstacles you faced – did you find it hard to be so transparent?

I wrote The Eye of Adoption to help, in a real, raw, way, families who are trying to conceive or adopt. I felt that transparency was key to meeting that goal. I wanted to be approachable, flat-out honest, and believable, so I gave details. Infertility treatments can be humiliating and costly, and I felt readers would appreciate me saying so. I was concerned I would offend someone who used IVF. It simply was not a healthy option for me financially, physically, or spiritually. Financially, I would have had to gamble smart by implanting at least two embryos. That would put them at a physical disadvantage because of my clotting disorder, “bumpy” uterus, and other issues. Finally, I did not want to “wonder” about any embryos left over. (I had good, plentiful eggs, so that was a true possibility). I didn’t spell all that out in the book because every woman’s body is different and I didn’t want to come across as judgmental. I tried to describe my treatments so that other women could relate, but not question their own decisions.

 You mention MTV’s 16 and Pregnant and the movie Juno made an impact on you during your adoption journey.  Do you think media depictions of adoption are accurate? 

I think that MTV did a much better job than Juno writers did. Of course, 16 & Pregnant is a reality show, but they could have edited to control the message. I would like to have seen some stats about adoption, abortion, and open adoption in the broadcasts. So many young girls watch that show—why not give them hope through details about agencies, adoption information, etc.? Catelynn and Tyler are wonderful advocates for adoption. You can see that, though they grieve, they are healing well and moving forward in healthy ways. I sent them a copy of my book and they loved it! They Tweeted me really sweet messages, as did their social worker, Dawn. I loved Juno. I felt that Jennifer Garner did a great job of capturing the desperation and emotion and sometimes business-like approach to adoption. What wasn’t realistic was her husband’s strange affection for Juno and Juno’s parents’ cavalier attitude toward losing their grandchild. Media has so much power. Unfortunately, most media messages (particularly in the entertainment industry), gloss over the heartache and stereotype birth parents and adoptive parents.

You struggled with your inability to conceive and others’ ability to do so quite easily. At one point, you joke with your doctor that “If I’m not pregnant in six months, I’m going to start smoking. If I’m not pregnant in a year, I’m doing meth. Smokers and drug addicts get pregnant.” All jokes aside, now that you have adopted Scotty, do you feel less resentful towards pregnant women?

Not being able to conceive is an incurable, frustrating loss. To be honest, I still look at pregnant women and think, “Please be humble and grateful and modest. So many women are struggling through gut-wrenching heartache to just be normal and be mothers.” I am happy when someone I know becomes pregnant, but I don’t think I’ll ever be completely cured of the hurt of not being able to have more children. I truly think that turning 40 helped me more than anything, i.e., I feel too old to have a baby now, so I don’t want to be pregnant! Adoption doesn’t cure that loss, but adoption does cure the longing for a child.

 On the topic of infertility, you called it “traumatic” and despised advice from anyone, including the popular “Just relax and you will get pregnant.” What is the best thing to say, if anything, to a woman or couple struggling with infertility? 

Ha! Amen! Unless you are an ob/gyn or fertility specialist, simply say, “I am sorry you are having trouble conceiving.” I urge people to help those going through any struggle by doing something specific. We can pray, donate money to the cause (treatments and adoption are expensive), give a gift that demonstrates faith but won’t be too sad for the recipient (a baby blanket, a photo album, diapers, a devotional, a massage, a gift basket). Any tangible token of love would be thoughtful. Basically, women struggling with infertility can feel isolated. What we need is friends who will listen without judgment or criticism.

 Your book is unique in that it includes many different perspectives of adoption. Your husband was adopted as an infant, and you thoughtfully include his story. Along with your own narrative, you also include an interview with Scotty’s birthmother, Kerri, at the end of the novel. Why was it important for you to include the different perspectives? 

One of my goals with The Eye of Adoption is to build kinship among the adoption triad (birth family, adoptive family, adoptees). Adoption is a dynamic, extremely complex “industry” and experience for all parties. Adoption has been mishandled so many times and I don’t think the general public really understands it even know. By sharing all the different views, I could illustrate the positive and negative aspects of adoption for all of us. Kerri wanted to dispel myths and communicate hope to adoptive parents and birth parents. Adoption situations are as unique as the individuals involved in each match. It is important that families are educated so that they make right decisions for their children. It is also important that family and friends read books like mine so they can empathize with and support loved ones struggling to conceive, adopt, or place a child.

You also share emails exchanged with Scotty’s birthfather Bryant. At one point, you and your husband flew him down to visit. Are you still close to Bryant, and how do you see Scotty and Bryant’s relationship in the future? 

We feel emotionally close to Bryant, but we don’t talk with him very often. Kerri does. She shares information and pictures with him every time we get together. Bryant is hoping to visit this summer. At this point, I have no idea what Bryant and Scotty’s relationship will be. Jeff and I speak of Bryant and Kerri with love and respect, so I think Scotty will feel love and respect for him. But, Bryant lives in Pennsylvania, so I don’t think they’ll be too close. Open adoption is open-ended. We’ll have to see how Scotty’s relationships evolve. We all agree that his mental and emotional well-being are the most important concern.

For anyone considering adoption, by either placing a child or welcoming a child, what would you tell them?

To birthparents, I say “Do what your heart tells you to do.” If you want to parent, parent. If you need help, work with an agency to help you secure the resources you need to maintain a healthy pregnancy and be a successful mother or father. If you are considering adoption, read as much as you can about all types of adoption and get as much counseling as you can from social workers and pastors. Talk to other birth parents who have placed. Pray for good judgment and peace of mind. Know that you can negotiate the adoption relationship that is best for you and your child. Know that adoptive parents appreciate, love, admire, and respect you more than you can ever imagine, and that many want a continued relationship.

To adoptive parents, I say, “Do what your heart tells you to do.” Be willing to spend every dime, every moment of time, every ounce of energy, and every bit of your heart on the beautiful, burdensome, blessing of adoption. You will question, doubt, worry, and suffer. You will also gain the spiritual education of a lifetime. I think adoption is the most intentional process in the human experience. Pay attention to the miracles that happen along the way and allow yourself to grieve and heal. No matter what happens, if you want to be a parent, keep moving forward and do not give up on your dream.

Do you anticipate a follow up book or other adoption books in the future?

Kerri and I have talked about writing a book together. We’d like to write something that ministers to birth parents. My mother tagged me a “compassionate humorist” and my friends have begged me for years to write a “funny book.” I am currently writing the funny book one chapter at a time through my blog, Theories: Size 12. Basically, the posts are weekly rough drafts of chapters (my editor’s idea). I have a few ideas and projects in the works, but they may take some time to complete because I teach full time, write for a local magazine, contribute guest posts to adoption blogs all over the country, and, of course, have two busy little boys. Whew! I love to write, and definitely like writing with the purpose of inspiring others, whether that’s through emotion or humor. I am thrilled and honored when appreciative readers say that The Eye of Adoption ministered to them or that my latest Theory made them laugh out loud. I want my work to affect others in a meaningful way.

To find out more about Jody Cantrell Dyer, you can visit www.jodydyer.com

 

Book Review: The Eye of Adoption

The Eye of Adoption by Jody Cantrell Dyer is a candid look at the process of open infant adoption. The book takes readers from the struggles of Jody and her husband to conceive to the finalization of their adoption, and the title is based on Jody’s experience that adoption is “a storm of faith, fear, paperwork, hurt, healing…devotion and hopefully, a delivery.”

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Jody tells her story in a way that seems down to earth and relatable. It feels at times that you are a friend sitting across the table from her at a coffee shop as she describes both the best and worst of the adoption process. The book begins with Jody’s description of the pregnancy and birth of her first child, Houston, and her struggle in the years that follow to conceive again. Jody is honest with how infertility strained her marriage, and how she and her husband arrived at adoption.

Jody explains how the MTV show Sixteen and Pregnant, among other programs, showed her that infant adoption was very much an option.  Inspired by Catelynn and Tyler’s open adoption from Season 1,  Jody watched and was “mesmerized and enlightened by the birthparents’ loving attitude toward the adoptive parents, and vice versa.” The show gave Jody hope, and gave a face to open adoptions.

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Brandon, Teresa, and baby Carly with birthparents Catelynn and Tyler from Sixteen and Pregnant

Throughout the book, Jody shares the tremendous loss felt when a match falls through, and her determination to have a baby. For anyone considering adoption, she lays out the specifics. There are detailed accounts of filling out endless paperwork, completing a home study with a social worker, and creating a family profile book.  And then there is the wait. In the waiting period, Jody and her husband have to deal with The Question (Have you heard anything yet?), and consider practical issues like when to set up a baby nursery.

Jody’s book is not just an adoptive mother’s account, but she also includes the story of her husband, Jeff, who was adopted in 1963 at 10 weeks old. Jeff’s story of adoption, which was shrouded in secrecy, contrasts the Dyer’s very open and transparent adoption today. There are also parts of the book that heartbreaking. The real and raw pain of a birthmother placing her son in adoption was difficult to read, but necessary in understanding the full scope of adoption.

Adoption is a family affair, and Jody also shares how Houston felt about welcoming a new member into their family, and how both sets of grandparents offered their support. Finally, Jody provides an interview at the end of the book with her son’s birthmother that gives readers an intimate look at the relationship between the two women. From start to finish, the The Eye of Adoption was engaging and informative, and it is a valuable resource for anyone interested in learning more about open adoption.

Tell Me Your Story: Of Becoming a Mother

In January of 2014, Sarah started writing letters to her child’s first mother. In the letters, she shared stories about her own mother, anecdotes about her husband, and her prayers for the mother who would change both of their lives forever.

Married for almost ten years, Sarah and Doug started the adoption process in 2013,  although they had known for awhile that adoption would be in their future. After sharing with their families that they wanted to adopt, they set up a family blog to share what they had been learning about the adoption process. The private blog detailed helpful information from books, their home study training, and different classes they attended. They wanted to not only prepare themselves, but prepare their parents to be sensitive to the complexities of adoption.

Sarah and Doug represent the next generation of adoptive parents.They are honest about their expectations and committed to raising a child who understands their adoption story. To prepare for their adoption, they read, talked, and then read some more. The prospective parents discussed serious issues such as their level of comfort with an open adoption as well as more practical issues like discipline. Sarah advises that one way to successfully prepare for adoption is to tackle any potential issues before they happen. When asked if she comes across blogs or comments that discourage adoption, Sarah says,

“Adoption is not about being comfortable as an adoptive parent. I think it’s critical for me, as a prospective adoptive mother, to read these posts. I think these posts may be the most important things I read in this entire educational journey. My goal is to learn from these voices who are bravely sharing their stories. Their sharing empowers me to anticipate some of the challenges they bring up as I raise my child, to avoid some of the pitfalls altogether, and to acknowledge and APPRECIATE my child’s need to express his or her frustration with and hurt from the adoption experience.”

Also, Sarah and Doug don’t see their adopted child as a way to fill in the place of where a biological child should be. The couple see their future child as an extension of his or her birth family, and for them the adoption process is about  “adding an entire branch, with its own offshoot, to the family tree.” An open adoption means sharing with the birth family the opportunity to see their child grow and thrive.

For most prospective adoptive parents, waiting is the hardest part. While waiting, Doug and Sarah had a few close matches and even had a match fall apart. To put things in perspective, Sarah told herself that she didn’t want to rush the process because she knew that the birthmother would be making “an enormous, heartbreaking decision beyond comprehension.” Each day she tried to live in the moment and prayed that the mother meant to place her child with Sarah and her husband would be making a decision in full confidence and peace.

On January 1, Sarah wrote the first letter to her child’s first mother, and on March 2, they finally met. Frank was born on February 20, and after delivery, his mother chose Sarah and Doug to carry on her son’s life and legacy.

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Sarah & baby Frank

 In the days following Frank’s birth, Sarah and Doug were able to bond with their new addition and simply marvel at the miracle of life. Above all, they were profoundly grateful to Frank’s birth mother for the life she had entrusted to them. Of the experience, Sarah says, “Never in my life will I forget the moment this beautiful woman placed her baby boy in my arms before walking out of the nursery and said, ‘Look at you–you’re a natural. I knew you would be.’ Frank, your birth mama loves you so.”

Tell Me Your Story: Of Open Adoption

Meet Ezra. He recently celebrated his first birthday, and on his birthday there were presents, birthday cake, laughter, and smiles. There were also, presumably, smiles shared between Sarah and her husband Joe, thankful for the important milestone they could share with their son because they both knew the journey that brought them to that day was not an easy one.

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In 2001, after a complicated pregnancy and 48 hour labor, Sarah gave birth to her older son, Isaac. Five years after Isaac was born, Sarah and her husband had grown apart and ended their marriage.  Sarah then met Joe who quickly swept her off her feet and proposed after a few months. Sarah and Joe tried for several years to concieve, but because of Joe’s health complications, they realized adoption would be the next step to expand their family.

The journey of adoption started with a failed match. Having a failed match can be a source of heartache, but the Bakers were not able to grieve privately because they were being filmed for the Oxygen reality television show, I’m Having Their Baby. Before filming, Sarah recalls that their prospective match seemed excited to share her story of choosing adoption over abortion, but as the months progressed, the relationship between the Bakers and their match began to break down and filming became incredibly difficult. Sarah and Joe knew this baby would not be theirs. Although producers and film crew were sympathetic to the Baker’s grief during filming, the experience was both heartbreaking and discouraging. Being on the reality show taught Sarah and Joe many lessons, but it didn’t deter them from trying to adopt again.

Aware of their failed match, one of Sarah’s longtime friends contacted them about her sister who was considering adoption. Sarah passed along her profile to the expectant mother who later called the Baker’s agency saying she thought it might be a match. The two families met, instantly hit it off over lunch, and agreed to move forward. In the next few months, Sarah was invited to doctor’s visits, listened to her Ezra’s heartbeat, and asked a thousand questions. Although Sarah and Joe were excited, there were still so many questions. Would it be a healthy pregnancy? Would the expectant mother change her mind after the baby was born? Would the families remain close after delivery?

Ezra arrived three weeks early, on January 10, and when Sarah and Joe brought him home, he fit right into their family. Sarah said it took Isaac, her older son, a while to come to terms with adoption. Isaac was around six when adoption was first brought up, and he feared that he would never see his adopted sibling as his “real” brother or sister. Sarah and Joe understood Isaac’s fears and walked him through the process. They allowed him to ask questions, read him information from their adoption classes, and gave him the time he needed to take everything in. Today, Isaac and Ezra are “best buddies”, and there is no better feeling than for Sarah to see her two boys laughing and playing together.

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The Bakers

Many prospective adoptive parents may shy away from an open adoption because they are unsure of how to proceed with the relationship with the birth mother or birth family. How many visits are appropriate? Will the child be confused? How much access should be given? Sarah advises that an open adoption must be something that prospective parents are comfortable with. From the beginning, boundaries must be set, and the success of the relationship is dependent on how well the two parties communicate. Sarah advises that parents must not “overpromise and underdeliver.” If the birth parents want 2-3 visits a year, that has to fit the adoptive parents’ expectations. Also, adoptive parents should not operate from a place of guilt or fear. The relationship between the two families must be based on love, compromise, and understanding.

For the Bakers, visits are usually centered around holidays: both families gather for Mother’s Day cookouts, Labor Day picnics, and Thanksgiving meals. On those occasions, Ezra is able to see his birth parents and two older biological siblings.  An open adoption can be difficult to navigate, but Sarah knows Ezra will now grow up knowing his birth family, have access to his medical history, and never have to question or search for his roots.

When asked how she thinks Ezra’s relationship with his mother will evolve as he grows up, Sarah is hopeful that he will view his biological parents as “those really special people in his life..almost like a favorite aunt or uncle.” She hopes that the open relationship between the two families will result in Ezra not resenting his birthparents for the adoption. It takes a village to raise a child, and someday Ezra will know his mother and birth mother did everything they could to provide a village of loving family members to raise him from a boy to a man.

To learn more about Sarah and Joe’s journey, visit Sarah’s personal blog at http://1grewinmyheart.wordpress.com