Monthly Archives: June 2013

Adoption interview, round 2

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What a difference experience makes. This week, we met with our social worker for the second time. The first time she came to our home, several weeks ago, we were merely becoming acquainted and reviewing  the paperwork process, just like we did during our initial meeting with the  social worker who helped us prepare for Teddy two-and-a-half years ago.

But the second meeting, the one where Mike and I are interviewed individually, that first time around was nerve-wracking. I thought about it all the time in the days leading up to it, wondering what she’d ask. This time? I wasn’t worried at all. The first time, I’m pretty sure I  thought a lot about my outfit, wanting to look well put together, but not like I was trying too hard. This time, well, no one would accuse me of trying too hard… Capri jeans and a t-shirt is the outfit of choice for this SAHM, and I saw no need to change. The first time, I made cookies, although that was less to impress and more because I almost always make cookies when people come over. I needn’t have bothered, though, and I didn’t this time: social workers as a general rule don’t dine with their clients, not even for dessert. Both social workers have only ever consumed water while chatting with us.

Last time, I was aghast that Mike might want to drink a beer. This time, didn’t bat an eye, and I even joked that we keep red solo cups in the cupboard so we can sip an adult beverage while Teddy runs around the pool on our roof, where glass is prohibited.

While sharing our story the first time, I obsessed throughout the interview, worried that I was saying the wrong thing, that I was answering as eloquently as I would have liked, that I was presenting myself accurately. During the interview this time, I was so much more laid back. She had the report from our first home study, so she was simply jotting notes on those pages, confirming that what we’d said the first time was still true. “You still have one brother?” She asked, smiling. She did have a few additional questions, concerning our lives since becoming parents.

During the first go-round, we had a third interview, when we were interviewed together, to discuss our feelings about adoption and any worries about parenting a child of a different race. Since our feelings haven’t changed, our social worker informed us the third interview wouldn’t be necessary.

So our part is finished. Now we  wait for our social worker to complete the report, have the agency approve it, and call our references. We will be on the waitlist to adopt a sibling for Teddy by Sept. 1!

 

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Learning the value of a good cuddle

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Recently I watched STUCK, a documentary by the Both Ends Burning campaign that highlights the crisis that international adoption is facing, due in part to the Hague Adoption Convention. The film showcases several orphanages and their young residents, who are languishing with little care while American families fight to adopt them. Because of a low worker-to-child ratio, these babies and toddlers receive little to no one-on-one attention and as a result suffer serious brain damage and will, in time, have difficulty bonding with their caregivers. Couples who adopt from these orphanages are warned about the work that they will have to do to repair the damage wrought by these conditions. It’s possible to help a child catch up developmentally and go on to form healthy and secure attachments with loved ones, but it takes time and dedicated investment.

I’m an adoptive parent myself, and watching the movie broke my heart. As I wiped away tears, I felt such gratitude that my son had not had to endure such living conditions and didn’t have any struggles bonding with my husband and me. Since we adopted an infant domestically, I had always figured we wouldn’t have to worry about bonding with our baby. Our son went from his birth mother’s womb to a loving foster mom’s arms (not to mention the eager arms of the foster mom’s four kids!) to our embrace. He never lacked in focused, individual attention.

But a few weeks ago, as part of the training requirement for our second adoption, my husband and I attended a class called “Enhancing Bonding and Attachment.” I must admit, I didn’t expect to learn much. I assumed we’d be told how to create a secure attachment with an older child who had suffered neglect prior to adoption, information that wouldn’t apply to us as adoptive parents of an infant. I was wrong. What I learned shocked me, but it also and encouraged me.

The shocking (for me) part: neglect is not the sole cause of brain trauma. Seems like a duh statement when I write it out like that. I know the hypothalamus can sustain damage in utero as well, but I had always assumed that as long as the birth mother wasn’t a victim of abuse or didn’t use drugs or alcohol, her baby wouldn’t suffer any ill effects and attachment wouldn’t be an issue. I was wrong. Any stressful situation a birth mother experiences can be detrimental to her baby. And unexpectedly becoming pregnant can certainly qualify as stressful—even for a mother who is in a secure relationship. A woman facing an unplanned pregnancy without a committed partner and/or financial security will have plenty of cortisol pumping through her body—even without the added factors of physical or drug abuse—and those high levels of stress hormone will negatively affect the baby’s brain.

The encouraging part: most adoptive parents do the work needed to repair any damage caused by a birth mother’s stress without even thinking about it. The fix for babies harmed by pre-natal anxiety? Cuddling. Lots of eye contact. Constant verbal reassurances of love. Bouncing for comfort. Even the simple act of feeding! As a baby’s needs are met, she feels loved, which builds attachment. Phew! We did that without even being told. But it was important for me to hear this foundation of connection spelled out. Even if I did squeeze my little munchkin instinctively and kiss his soft cheeks enough to chap them, I appreciate learning how those simple actions aid in his development. And when I’m next at the bottle feeding stage and am feeling a little bored, I’ll remind myself how important this time of closeness is for my little one.

An early papermoon: Boston, Providence, and Cape Cod

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So…we kind of cheated. We aren’t actually paperwork pregnant yet, but two weeks ago, we still went on our papermoon. Tickets were purchased, lodging was secured, and parents were in town to stay with Teddy. So despite the fact that we were still waiting for a final piece of paperwork to complete our adoption application, we kissed our little man goodbye and flew to Boston.

I really liked Boston. So many capital cities are kind of boring. I imagine they were more exciting at one point, but now their main feature is the capitol building and they boast little else. But Boston has history on its side. It was the site of many events in America’s past, so it’s a destination for travelers other than those like me whose bucket list includes touring all 50 state capitols plus the nation’s capitol.

The Boston capitol is one of the more underwhelming of the 18 I’ve visited so far, although I did learn about the origins of “red-tape” in reference to slow-moving bureaucratic processes: years ago, bills were tied with red ribbon when placed on the desk for review. The capitol also has a gorgeous metal railing lining the main steps inside. The artist broke the mold so the pattern couldn’t be duplicated.

railing

We flew into Boston, but our ultimate destination was Cape Cod, where we were staying for two nights, so after touring the capitol, we drove to our next stop on the 50 capitol tour, Providence, Rhode Island. (We had only one day to tour both because we flew in on Friday and neither capitol is open on the weekend. Mike was actually convinced we could fit in Hartford, Connecticut, as well, but I decided it would be too tight of a turnaround.)

Providence is similar to most capital cities we’ve visited: cute and quaint, but not much to see besides the capitol. But the capitol is beautiful. My fave part is that it’s topped by a statue known simply as “Independent Man.” Originally, the carved man on the dome was supposed to be the effigy of the founder of Rhode Island, but no one knew what his full name was, so they just decided to name the statue “Independent Man” instead. The Providence capitol also has a little library. It doesn’t compare to the quaint, creaky-wood-floor library in Springfield, but it was still fun to glance around. Books were shelved high enough to require a two different platforms with handrails, which is definitely a sign of a good library.

library

From Providence, we drove to Cape Cod. Given the traffic in off-season, I was grateful we weren’t traveling in peak season, when it can take hours to get from beginning of the Cape to its tip, out at Provincetown. We were staying in a hotel on the western side of the Cape, and didn’t venture out the first night. But Saturday morning, we drove straight to Provincetown, which, according to the guide books, is the only place really worth visiting on the Cape.

The weather was perfect. It was sunny and warm, but not overwhelmingly hot. One thing we didn’t figure on was so many shops and cafes closing up during the off-season, so we had to hit up Plan B for our breakfast stop. But the Portuguese pastries we munched on were delicious and sustained us for a morning of reading and searching for the nearest beach. Getting my once-yearly view of the ocean was an adventure, but well worth it. Let’s just say, on the map, the beach looked much closer. When we finally arrived at the entrance to the National Seashore, we, well, thought we were there. We were wrong. Turned out we had a couple football fields’ worth of marshy sand to trudge across. And the trip back was way more marshy. In fact, had as much ankle-deep water greeted us from the entrance, I probably wouldn’t have made it to the ocean. So I’m glad I didn’t know what kind of trek was awaiting us on our journey back to town.

dunes

The ocean is beautiful. It always is. I absolutely adore the crashing waves. Never tire of the view of endless water and horizon. Love watching beachcombers stroll leisurely by, head down, looking for shells and unique rocks. I always bring a book, but never read as much as I think I will. The surf is just so mesmerizing.

Upon our return to town, we sought out the pizza and coffee bar we’d seen during our morning meanderings. Two of Mike’s favorite things in life, under one roof? How do we not have one of these in every city? But we tried not to eat too much because lobster was on the menu for dinner.

And oh wow. What a lobster we enjoyed. The owner of one of the many art galleries we peeked into had advised us to order the 2-pounders; we shouldn’t waste our time on the 1 1/4-pounders. When we mentioned that to our waitress, she suggested the 6-pounder, because that would be a better deal for the two of us. We agreed. I mean, really, how often do you eat lobster caught that afternoon? And it was delicious. And we ate it at a table overlooking the water as the sun set. I feel like it should’ve been our anniversary or something. Because now we have to top that in a couple months!

dinnerview

The next day, we drove back to Boston and walked the Freedom Trail before our flight home. I love how Boston is similar to European cities in its juxtaposition of old with new. Commuters drive and walk past buildings dating from the American Revolution. I would love to visit Boston again since we didn’t have time to do the city justice. But the taste we did get was delightful.