Monthly Archives: April 2012

Finalization

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Becoming the legal parents of someone else’s child is a long, arduous process.

And it should be, really. While it would be a lot easier if we could just walk up to our adoption agency, request a child, and go home with one, deep down I’m glad it’s not that simple. Adoptive parents should have to prove that they’re worthy and capable (as much as a social worker is able to ascertain that from a few interviews and pay stubs) of the privilege of raising another parent’s child.

Eighteen months after attending the adoption expo that led us to our agency, we are in the final leg of that process. May 7, we will hit our six-month mark of fostering Teddy. On that day, we can file paperwork with the Baltimore County Court to petition to become Teddy’s legal parents. We had the choice to hire an attorney to file for us or take a seminar to learn how to do it ourselves. Given the cost of an attorney and how straightforward it appears to be to do everything ourselves, it was a pretty easy decision.

I just wish it were as simple as filling out a stack of paperwork. I would happily write our names, address, and social security numbers a million times if that meant I could complete the requirements myself. Unfortunately, as with our home study, finalization requires input from others. And “others”—particularly bureaucratic others—don’t always run on my timetable. I have to order a certified copy of our marriage license (which I don’t understand, since with our agency you don’t have to be married to adopt). We have to get new letters from our physicians stating we’re in good health because the letters we submitted for our home study are more than a year old. We have to get a letter from Teddy’s pediatrician stating he’s in good health and up to date on his immunizations. (Our pediatrician truly surprised me here—I had a letter within 24 hours of leaving a message requesting one.)

And our agency needs a couple weeks to review it all.

I’m just grateful we don’t have to redo our background checks!

The court visit itself will be momentous for us, but rather perfunctory in how it plays out. We’ve been told the whole process takes five to ten minutes. We present our request (although the judge, recognizing that we’re not pros, will likely walk us through that part), the judge will ask us a few questions, and then he or she will decree the adoption final. We’ve been told we can request a photo with the judge, which is something I never would have thought to do, but seems like a no-brainer now that it’s been mentioned.

We’ve been told to dress like lawyers, since we’re technically representing ourselves in court. And yet, we’ve been told not to be nervous because this is likely the judge’s favorite part of the day. In all other cases, someone has broken the law in some way. With us, the judge gets to create a new family.

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Being grateful for the rain

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Last weekend, one of our pastors preached a sermon that resonated with me. He spoke about our tendency to pray for a metaphorical harvest but pray against the rains that will bring that harvest. It’s a similar concept to one our senior pastor frequently talks about: We all want to see miracles in our lives, but we don’t want to be in situations that necessitate them. So so true.

Mike and I had a lot of rain in our lives before we got our handsome little miracle. We also invested a lot of energy praying against that rain. I wish I could say we got to a point when we accepted the rain as an inevitable, necessary part of the journey, when we became content with God’s timing. But we didn’t. We lamented the rain. We prayed against it. We wanted nothing more than for the rain to go away and the sun to come out, for God to fix our problem.

But he didn’t. He was right there with us while we struggled (although it didn’t always feel like it; thankfully we have friends who prayed for us when we couldn’t), but he didn’t fix anything. At least, not how we expected him to. We wanted him to fix us. Fix the plumbing. Make everything work the way it was supposed to. Instead, he redirected usHe guided us down a path to a different destination than what we had planned. But we experienced a lot of storms along the way.

The thing I sometimes have a hard time wrapping my head around is that the rain was necessary to lead us to Teddy. Without the storms, without the pain, without the frustration, we don’t end up with the most adorable little boy who has stolen our hearts. So I find myself in the crazy position of feeling grateful for all that mess that got us here.

I just pray I have faith the next time a storm hits to find joy in it, remembering that sometimes we have to pray through, not against, knowing God has an amazing rainbow in store.

Runny noses, high fevers, and gratitude amidst it all

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Teddy got his first viral infection last week (read: first fever). Cue parental freak-out. Actually, I didn’t over-react…to begin with. He woke up from his nap Wednesday afternoon feeling really warm. He had a fever of 101.5. I calmly put him on his play mat, scanned the table of contents of all our baby books for “fever” and proceeded to learn all I could about high temperatures in babies–most importantly, what temp merits a phone call to the pediatrician. The way I read the baby book advice, I needn’t worry until Teddy’s temp hit 104. I breathed a sigh of relief, closed the books, and let him continue playing.

The next morning, Teddy’s temp read 102.7–still well under the 104 mark. I had every intention of going about my day as usual…until I chatted with a friend and mentioned Teddy’s fever. And she wondered why I wasn’t freaking out. So then I wondered if maybe I should be showing a bit more concern than I was. So I called my mother-in-law. She also wondered why I wasn’t freaking out, although she didn’t say so in so many words. Instead, she gently suggested that maybe a call to the doctor was in order.

Well shoot. If Grandma thinks I should call the doctor, I’m definitely calling the doctor. I called the nurse triage line, a wonderful system that allows frantic parents to leave messages for the nurse on duty, who assesses each situation and returns calls in order of severity. My first message exceeded the time allowed (I’ve never been good about leaving messages, and now I know that holds true for “brief” ones about my child’s illness), so I had to delete it and begin again.

I love the nurse triage line. A very calm nurse returned my call within 45 minutes (I wasn’t truly frantic at this point; I was only wondering if I should be, so 45 minutes felt quite reasonable). She asked about Teddy’s symptoms and assuaged my concern–so far, it seemed Teddy was suffering from a viral infection, which would work itself out without assistance and wasn’t cause for concern. The nurse advised me to monitor his temp over the next 18 hours or so, and if it was still over 102 by noon the next day, we could come in to make sure we weren’t dealing with an ear infection or something else bacterial.

Because evidently any temp over 102 can indicate something serious.

Hmm. Maybe I read the baby book advice wrong…

The next morning (Friday, in case you’ve lost track), I took Teddy’s temp first thing. 102.7. Commence freaking out. I called the doctor’s office and made an appointment for early afternoon. My gut still said Teddy was fine. He was fussier than usual, but he had all the symptoms of a bad cold and none of the symptoms of something more serious. But when the nurse recommends you come in to get your child checked out, you do.

There’s something very reassuring about being in a doctor’s exam room. Even if my intuition was wrong and it turned out Teddy was more seriously ill than I thought, there was someone right there who had gone through years of schooling to learn how to diagnose his sickness and treat it. (Although it was a good thing this wasn’t our first visit: the office lobby, usually bustling with parents and babies and receptionists, was under construction and filled with plastic tarp–it didn’t inspire much confidence.)

The doctor (not our usual pediatrician) questioned me about the last few days and examined Teddy. She concluded what I thought: Teddy had a bad cold. However, she noted that not everything is visible to the naked eye; if Teddy still had a temp over 102 the next morning (which would be going on 48 hours), we should come back the next day to have blood work done. But for the time being, she sent us home.

Later that afternoon, after the doctor’s office was closed for the day, I took Teddy’s temp again: 103.1. Commence hysteria. Teddy was so shocked to see Mommy crying, he stopped fussing. I called Mike, who stopped by the bank to get out cash in case we needed to get a cab to make a midnight run to the ER. (I’m so thankful he thinks of those details.) Then I called the nurse triage line our insurance company provides.

I really love these triage lines. It is so reassuring to have an authoritative voice on the other end of the line telling you your child is probably ok. She did suggest, for my own peace of mind, that I call our doctor’s after-hours line, which until then I didn’t know existed. Dr. Hamburger was the on-call doctor Friday night. (How can you not love a pediatric office that has a Dr. Hamburger?!) She assured me that a temp of 103 did not automatically warrant a visit to the ER, especially since Teddy had been checked out just a few hours earlier. She said I was welcome to call again during the night if Teddy’s symptoms changed. Although she did politely encourage me to think twice before calling. Evidently, doctors like their sleep, too.

That evening, we marveled that a child with a temp of 103 could play happily in his exersaucer. I kept reminding myself to not obsess about why Teddy wasn’t acting how I thought a sick baby should act and instead be thankful that he wasn’t inconsolably fussy. Mike distracted me from said obsession and the possibility of horrors “invisible to the naked eye” by being Candidate Teddy’s voice as he railed against the injustice of having his nose wiped and vowed to do away with Big Kleenex. (Seriously, the kid hates it when we wipe his nose. When we use regular Kleenex, he screams like he’s getting his shots. When we use Boogie Wipes, moistened towelettes that are a brilliant marketing gimmick, though, he merely whimpers.) I giggled watching Mike raise Teddy’s fist as he delivered his “platform.”

That night, Teddy woke us at 11:30. His crying had us dashing to the nursery. We suspected hunger (he hadn’t eaten well the previous day), but took his temp first: 99.1. His fever had broken! After doing a little happy dance, we fed him and put him back to bed, relieved that a Saturday trip to the doctor was no longer necessary. Saturday morning, Mike again took Teddy’s temp again and verified that it was indeed back in safe territory. We had all survived Teddy’s first illness.

One question I love, and one I struggle with

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We got a couple different questions pretty regularly when we first brought Teddy home: What is your biggest challenge? and Do you have contact with Teddy’s birth parents? We don’t get the first one at all anymore (because, obviously, we come across as completely competent adoptive parents now…) and don’t often get the second one. A couple new questions have cropped up in their place: (1) Are you going to adopt again? and (2) Where is he from?

I welcome most questions people ask about the adoption process and our experience with Teddy, but I especially love the first question. Why? Because it’s essentially the same question birth parents get. I’ve heard people ask my friends with bio kids whether they plan to have more or if they’re “one and done.” While I do think there’s probably more to this question when it’s posed to us–the adoption process can be difficult, long, and expensive, so people wonder if we’re willing to put ourselves through that again–none of that is articulated, so I can interpret it as I choose. And I choose to hear it as any birth parent would: Are we happy with one or will we “have” more?

The answer, in case you’re wondering, is “absolutely we’re going to adopt again!” Our plan was never to have only one child. Granted, our plan hasn’t quite gone according to…well…plan at this point, but we love the story God’s writing in our lives, and we’re excited to continue along this path.

Not to mention Teddy needs a sibling. This kid is far too social and has far too much energy to grow up an only child. We’d be perpetually exhausted.

The second question, though, is definitely not one birth parents get. And it’s one I struggle with. It’s a question that, at some point, we’ll have to start deflecting. For now, it’s fine. Teddy doesn’t understand yet, and we’re happy to answer “Baltimore” (which always surprises people; I think they see a black baby and assume we adopted him from Africa) and then make a joke about how we’re teaching him a bit about his culture by raising him to be a Ravens fan. (His foster mom passed on a Ravens onesie that we dressed him in last fall, and we’ve since received as a gift a Jerry Rice jersey, so he’s set for this fall.)

But at some point, this question won’t be cool anymore, because it will subtly point out that Teddy is different, that he didn’t start out as part of our family. It’s not like people are asking where our family is from. They’re asking where Teddy is from. People don’t mean this maliciously. They’re genuinely curious. I know this. I often want to ask the same thing when I see obviously adoptive families. But our training classes have taught us that it’s inappropriate to ask such questions in front of the kids. Kids just want to be like everyone else, and this question reinforces that an adopted kid is different from his non-adopted peers. It singles him out. Odds are an adopted kid is already going to struggle more than his peers with identify issues and figuring out his place in the world. No need to make matters worse by pointing out another way he’s not like everyone else.

A former colleague who adopted her daughter from China would get really annoyed with this question. When people would ask her where her little girl was from, she would shoot them a confused look and answer, “Silver Spring, Maryland. Our family is from Silver Spring.”

But the tricky part is knowing when to start following my colleague’s example. Teddy won’t understand the question for quite some time yet, let alone feel awkward because of it. And therefore, it feels silly to make a big deal out of it now. Especially since it’s easy to give a quick, humorous answer and move on.

We’ll play it by ear–as the obviously completely competent adoptive parents we are. In the meantime, we promise we won’t glare at anyone who asks us where Teddy’s from. But we may well follow up with answers to more “normal” questions that haven’t necessarily been asked yet, like Teddy’s age and milestones he’s hit. Like any proud parent, we’ll happily go on all day about that stuff.