Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Autobiography of Jessica Lifshitz

As part of the paperwork that we have to complete before we can have our next meeting with our adoption counselor, Carla and I each have to write an autobiography that provides answers to a very long list of questions.  I decided to try starting mine today and while I think I have only answered about 1/8 of the questions, I have already written three pages.  I cannot believe that anyone is going to be able to read what I am writing without falling asleep from boredom.  My life is just not that interesting and yet I seem to have a whole lot to say about it.  Like most things, I am probably way over-thinking this thing and probably don't need to be writing half as much as I am actually writing.  But that's just not how I do things. Why say what you have to say in ten words when you can use fifty words to say the same thing.  I am pretty sure that if I were to grade my own writing as a teacher, I would point out a whole lot of places where I have said the same thing multiple times in different words.  I am pretty sure I have taught the kids that they should never do that.  Oh well!

I am going to walk away from it for a bit and try again in a few hours.  If this is only the start of the paperwork, I cannot even begin to imagine how long it is all going to take.

I will keep you all posted on the progress.  I just needed to take a break!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Adoption 101

Carla and I arrived at The Cradle twenty minutes early (which is actually cutting it close for us) for our Adoption 101 all day class.  We were going to spend the day (from 8:30 until 4:30) with other couples beginning the adoption process with The Cradle.  Though we were not thrilled at the idea of spending our entire Saturday in our first adoption class, we were excited and anxious to get the day started.  We were clearly the first ones there and walked into the room where we would be spending the day, totally unsure of what to expect.  The women who were leading the class greeted us with smiles and warmth and we started to relax just a bit.

For those of you who know us, you know that Carla and I don't particularly thrive in situations where we have to make small talk with strangers.  So as people started to file in, we kept ourselves occupied by looking through the binder that we were given and by giggling amongst ourselves (something that we ARE particularly good at).  I expected to feel some strange competition with the people who we were sitting in this class with.  After all, these are going to be the other couples on the waiting list with us.  It's hard not to think about if they will get picked before us and if someone will choose them over us.  But in all honesty, I didn't feel any competition.  Instead, I felt comforted to be surrounded by other people who were in the same place as us. Other people who had the same fears and worries that we did.  Other people who could really empathize with what we were going through.

The day started with a tour of the building, including the on-site nursery.  The Cradle is the only adoption agency in the country with an on-site nursery (which is pretty amazing).  The nursery is a place where babies can go while final decisions are being made.  If a baby is born and the mother contacts The Cradle, they still require her to go through several weeks of options counseling to make sure that adoption is the right choice for her.  Instead of placing a baby with a family and then having to take the baby back if the mother changes her mind, the babies are placed in The Cradle nursery.  That way, the birth mother has the time and space she needs to make the best decision for her and the baby and the adoptive parents don't have the baby in their home just to have to take the baby back if a change of heart occurs.  It is a pretty wonderful system.  Yesterday, there were four babies in the nursery.  There are trained nurses on call 24 hours a day and a two year waiting list to be a volunteer baby cuddler!

Anyway, after the tour, things finally got started.  The first activity we did was pretty powerful and set the tone for the rest of the day.  We were asked to take something of value that we had on us, that would fit in the palm of our hands.  Though it took me a minute to figure out what on earth I could use, I quickly saw Carla taking off her wedding ring and figured that was what they had in mind.  Sure enough, most people chose to use their wedding ring.  Anyway, we were split into two groups: group A and Group B.  Carla and I were in group A.  Group A was told to place the object of importance in a basket that was passed around.  We were told to keep our eyes straight ahead while each person in group B was then asked to pick one of our items out of the basket.  Now, I knew this was just an exercise and I knew that we would get our objects back, but I still had quite a bit of anxiety that someone was holding onto my wedding ring and I had no idea who it was.  Once everyone had picked a new item, four of the people with items were asked to show what they had.  I got to see who had my wedding ring and I oddly felt a little bit better about it.  The whole idea was to show us what it was like to be the one giving up something special, what it was like to be the one with the special item, what it was like to not know who had your special item, and the instant connection that was formed when you knew who had your special item.  We then discussed how these feelings could be applied to the adoption situation.  It helped us to build empathy for the birthmother, helped us to see the benefits of an open adoption, and helped us to see how much emotion was involved in the whole process.  It was a really great way to start the day.

The next part of the morning required us to talk about our fears and concerns in starting this process.  It was amazing how quickly everyone opened up and I soon found myself explaining to a room full of strangers how scary it was to be a same-sex couple opening ourselves up to other people's judgements and prejudices.  I talked about our fears of not being accepted as possible parents by some birthmothers or their families.  As I finished sharing our fears, a man across the room loudly said to the whole room, "Well, I hope you know that you are accepted here with us."  It was such a kind gesture.  Such a genuine sentiment and it meant so much to both of us.  It was the first time, of many, that I found myself trying to hold back tears during the day.

The rest of the day was filled with many more exercises, speakers, videos, and discussions.  We heard from an adult adoptee from Peru, a gay man who had adopted a child with his partner, and two other families who had adopted children one as a domestic adoption and one as an international adoption.  It was an emotional day and helped us to think through a lot of the issues surrounding adoption.  There was a whole section dedicated to multicultural families which really helped me to see some of this issues that I had not thought about in terms of multicultural families. So many things were brought up throughout the day that I just hadn't thought about before and I appreciated the opportunity to start thinking of the many things that are involved with the adoption process.

I am not sure what exactly caused the switch in me, but at some point during the day I began to find more peace with this process.  I started to have more faith in it.  I came to believe that though we would probably have to wait a pretty long time, there was going to be a birthmother who came along and chose us as the ones she wanted to raise her child.  Again, I don't know what it was that made me feel better, but by the end of the day I really believed that this was going to happen for us.  This was going to be the way that we added a child to our family.  Up until yesterday, I was just not convinced that this was really going to work, that we would ever be chosen.  And at some point during the long day yesterday, I came to believe that it was going to work.  That we would be chosen.  That the right child would find us.  And that is what I took away from Adoption 101.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Initial Consultation

With each new step of this adoption journey comes new emotions that I sometimes feel ill equipped to explain to others.  Nothing could be more true of what we experienced this past Friday when we had our initial consultation with the woman who will be our adoption counselor throughout this process. 

We met our counselor, Dori, at the offices of our adoption agency at 8:00 in the morning on Friday.  She came to the door to let us in and I could immediately feel the warmth that emanated from the small woman.  She led us into a comfortable room and left Carla and I alone for a few moments while she finished some things up in her office.  The room was filled with pictures of children, stuffed animals, and toys for kids and it could not have been a less threatening environment.  However, Carla and I sat there in a high state of anxiety as we waited for this first meeting to begin.  We had no idea what to expect.  We had no idea what Dori would think of us.  We had no idea what the goals for this meeting were.  And so, we were left to wonder and worry. 

Finally, Dori came in and for the next three hours, the three of us sat around the small, round table and attempted to get to know each other and better understand the process that was about to begin.  It’s hard to remember all that took place over the three-hour long meeting.  We began with a discussion of who Carla and I were.  What we did for a living, how we came to be where we were, and what our relationship was like.  It is so hard to explain to someone who has never met you, who you are as individuals and as a couple.  But we did our best and I believe that the love between us was obvious to her.   

Then Dori asked about our families.  In detail.  We were not totally prepared for the types of questions that she asked, but it helped us to realize that in this process, nothing is off limits.  It is intrusive and personal and we now understand that it has to be.  We must be ready to share everything.  So we did. 

And then Dori began to tell us about the process.  What I appreciated most about her was her kind honesty.  She was very clear that this is not an easy process.  She was very clear that with the current state of international adoption, domestic adoption has become even more difficult.  It is more challenging to adopt a child from a foreign country today because of the current changes in adoption laws in other countries.  Therefore, there is a higher demand for domestic adoptions, which in turn leads to longer wait times (an average wait time of 18 months).  All of that, I could handle with little emotional response. 

But then, Dori began to talk about what it was like for a same-sex couple trying to adopt.  And that is when my emotions hit hard.  There are realities of this world that I know and I understand.  However, much of my life is sheltered from those realities.  I have a family who is unbelievably accepting and supportive.  I have friends who love both Carla and me for exactly who we are.  As a teacher, I work in a school that is surprisingly open and supportive.  I am able to be out with the full support of my administration, my colleagues, my students, and their parents (to the point that my class threw me a wedding shower before I went to Vermont to marry Carla).  I am very lucky.  So I don’t often have to confront the realties of how same sex couples are viewed.  But the truth is, we are a minority. The truth is that not everyone in this world is comfortable with two women raising a child. And the truth is that even those who are comfortable with the idea, still may not imagine two women when they think of the family they would like to choose to raise the child they are creating an adoption plan for.  And so, it is more difficult for two women to be chosen by a birth mother.  And there is nothing we can do about that.  That was the reality that Dori explained to us and that was the moment of the meeting where I felt most scared and most unsure about this process. 

But I have to say.  That was just a moment.  There were many other moments where I felt so sure that this was the right process for us.  And that was the feeling that I walked away with.  I fell more in love with this particular agency and more in love with the idea of open adoption.  I was excited by the fact that Dori gave us some next steps to take.  She gave us, what she called, “The famous green binder.”  This binder was filled with paperwork and checklists and all sorts of other things that will get us through the beginning phase of the adoption process known as the home study.  So there was a lot to be excited about.  For me, it was just that amidst all the excitement was this reality that for some birthmothers, Carla and I would never be considered just because we are two women.  No matter how loving we might seem or how much care we put into crafting the perfect image of a stable family, there are some people who would never see anything other than a lesbian couple who are not fit to raise a child.  And no matter how I try to reassure myself or how others try to reassure me, that just hurts. 

And yet, I still look ahead with excitement.  Next Saturday, Carla and I will be attending an all day class called “Adoption 101.”  After that, we will start writing our autobiographies for the adoption agency.  We will start to have difficult conversations about what types of mental illness, physical illness, and drug and alcohol abuse we are willing to consider in the birthmother.  We will start to talk about what issues we are willing to consider in the child himself.  And we will start to list out for the agency how much money we make and how much money we spend in a month.  Truly, no detail goes unobserved.  Once these documents are done, there are more meetings to be had, more classes to take, and much more paperwork to fill out.  And I truly look forward to all of it. 

So with this first meeting over, I can look ahead with a lot of excitement and some fears as well.  I take comfort in knowing that I am surrounded by support.  I take comfort in knowing that I have a wonderful partner to go through this process with.  And I take comfort in knowing that we have found a wonderful agency and a wonderful adoption counselor to guide us through all of it.  And for now, all of that makes this process seem a lot more manageable and a lot less scary. 

(Don't be alarmed when this exact same post appears on my It's Conceivable blog. I wrote it to be posted there, but wanted to be able to share with you all first :) )

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Slight Change in Plans

Today was my first day back to work after a lovely five day break filled with a bit of work, but mostly just good times filled with family and friends (and shopping!).  Carla and I got a large portion of our holiday shopping done because I am determined to make this the year that we DON'T have to stop at Walmart or Target on Christmas Eve to pick up "just a few more things."  I must say that I am rather impressed with the shopping we did on Sunday.  We even went into a skateboard shop and custom built a skateboard for Carla's nephew.  We fully admitted to the lovely 12-year old helping us that we knew nothing about skateboards, but he was incredibly helpful anyway.  We now have a rather gruesome looking skateboard sitting in our hallway.  I am pretty sure this makes us the coolest aunt's ever.

Anyway,  I was sitting at my desk this morning while my students were in foreign language and I saw a text from Carla telling me to call her when I have a chance.  Now, this is a pretty rare thing.  Being a teacher is not one of those jobs that allows us to pick up the phone and make a call when you need to.  There are a lot of great perks about being a teacher, this just doesn't happen to be one of them.  So it is rare for Carla to ask me to call her during the work day and usually it doesn't mean good news.

So of course I began to panic, but had to wait until the kids were leaving the room for P.E. to be able to make the phone call.  So I instead decided to stealthily text Carla to find out what was going on.  Now this is no easy task as I hate for my students to see me texting during the work day and since they have the attention span of fleas with ADHD, it's hard to do much without distracting them.

So anyway, I texted Carla and I come to find out that our original adoption counselor, who we have yet to meet, just left on family leave.  So, our new counselor called Carla and was able to see us THIS FRIDAY instead of next Friday in order to do our initial consultation.  Yep, that's right.  That is only four days from today.  It works out well for both of us, since Carla's birthday is on Friday and I was planning to take the whole day off anyway. Now, we will be able to take this big and exciting step as a part of her birthday celebration.  I am thrilled.

I am sure as the day gets closer, I will become more nervous and think of many more things to worry about, but for today I am just excited.  Excited to really get this process started.  Excited to meet face-to-face with someone who is actually going to be able to help us to adopt a baby.  And excited to know that we get to have this meeting a whole week sooner than we thought we would.  Now I recognize that in the long run, one week does not make much of a difference.  But I just cannot explain how excited we are to have this meeting to look forward to.

So all in all, I must say that this news certainly helped to make the day a little bit easier and better.  Now, I just have to get through the next three and I can only imagine how painfully long those are going to feel.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving/We are Officially More Official

I was stuck between two titles for this post.  So I went with both.

In this week of Thanksgiving, I felt that I had to take a moment and be thankful.  I haven't had much time to sit and reflect on all the things in my life I have to be thankful, so I suppose this is as good as a place as any to begin.

There is much to be thankful for this year.  I am thankful for the incredible people in my life, the family that has supported me through my entire life, and the new family of my own that is beginning.  I am thankful that we were able to travel to a state that allowed Carla and me to get legally married and I am thankful that I live in a state that at least recognizes our relationship with many (though not all) of the legal rights that other married couples get.

I am thankful for family that loves and supports me. I am thankful for a mother who only sees the very best in me and would do anything in this world just to make me happy.  I am thankful for a father who consistently surprises me with the amount of love and pride that he has for me and who is stronger than he realizes and continues to fight to get himself well again.  I am thankful for a sister who doubles as my best friend and who is able to give of herself in incredible amounts to those of us lucky enough to be in her presence.  I am thankful for friends who understand my laziness about the telephone and who surround me with love and support and make my life so full.  And I am thankful for Carla.  I am thankful that I have found someone who makes life feel complete.  I am thankful for the ways that she fills my life with such love, would do anything to make a day a little easier and better, and makes me laugh no matter how crabby I might be.

I am thankful for a beautiful home, filled with quirky and entertaining animals, and filled with love and warmth to come home to every day.  And I am thankful that we live in a world that, though it is far from perfect, it makes room for a family with two moms. We live in a state that allows Carla and me to adopt a child, to put both of our names on a birth certificate, and to both be legally recognized as the child's parents.  I am filled with such excitement and anticipation at the journey that we are on and I recognize that just a few years ago, this journey would not have been possible and that in many places around the world, this journey still isn't possible for gay and lesbian couples.  So with each step along this path that we take, I am thankful for the opportunity to take it.

Well, that's enough of the being thankful for now.  Now on to the next step we have taken.  On the morning of Friday, December 9th, Carla and I will meet with our counselor from The Cradle for our initial consultation.  We will meet with Dana at the Evanston office and she told us to expect the meeting to last for 2 hours.  I cannot even imagine what we will talk about for 2 hours, but Carla and I are both extremely excited about the meeting.  We found out about the meeting as we were on a walk with the dog.  I took my phone out to check to see if I had any money left on my Starbucks card since we were walking past a Starbucks and I thought a coffee would be a delightful treat.  Well, I didn't have any money left on the card, but I did notice that I had a new email.  I opened it. Read it out loud to Carla and enormous smiles spread across both of our faces.  I think that each time we get to take another step that brings us closer to our goal, we just become giddy with excitement.

Of course as the meeting date moves closer, our excitement mixes with nervousness.  Neither Carla and I are totally comfortable talking to new people.  And we can't help but wonder what kind of an impression we will make on this woman.  Now, logically, we understand that this woman is not meeting with us to judge us and determine if she thinks we will make good parents or not, but it is hard to really believe that emotionally.  So of course there will be nerves.  I would imagine that as we prepare to walk into the meeting, there may even be feelings of extreme nausea.  But these nerves also excite me.  I only get this nervous when something really big is happening and this is certainly something big.  This step makes us feel so much more official.  Someone has been assigned to us! That is a big deal in my mind.

After the initial consultation we will be required to attend what they call, "Adoption 101."  This is a panel presentation with a birth mother, adoptive parents, and other experts on oped adoption.  And I believe once we attend that program, we will be able to actually begin the lengthy home study process.  I am still a bit fuzzy on all of the steps, but I am sure we will understand it all soon enough.

So as we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I will be thankful for what I have been through, thankful for where I currently am, and extremely thankful for where I will be going.

Friday, November 11, 2011

First Dollars Spent

Up until a few days ago, all of the work we had done in terms of looking into adoption has been free and completely non-commital.  Well, with our first $500 check, that has all changed.  This past week, Carla and I filled out the first paperwork for The Cradle.  There is an initial application that is little more than filling out our names.  We filled that out and filled out the worksheet that went along with it.  The worksheet was an interesting activity.  We had to write down our reasons for wanting to adopt and also write down misconceptions about adoption that we have heard or have been told by other people.

As we worked on both the application and worksheet, we couldn't help but feel as if every answer that we wrote down was a kind of test.  Will someone think we are unfit to adopt because of an answer we write down?  Are they trying to trick us?  Now I know that none of these forms were any kind of test and that there are no judgements on our answers, but I still can't help but feel this way. It was probably a good think to think about because it helped me to resist my natural inclination to make bad jokes that I find funny but that often get me into trouble.  Those of you who know me, know that these jokes pop up at all the wrong times and I am going to try my hardest to make sure that doesn't happen around these fine adoption folks.

So on Wednesday morning, I took our paperwork and check into work to mail.  They are currently on their way to The Cradle and once they are received we will be assigned our counselor and have an initial meeting with him or her.  It's funny, but paying money has made this all seem much more real and much more official.  There is LOTS more money to be spent as the costs of adoption add up quickly.  But this first, small payment, has brought so much excitement and anticipation.  I am ready to get this process going and I am thankful that we chose an agency that is going to really be with us every single step of the way.  I like knowing that our application, worksheet, and check are currently on their way to the adoption agency.  I like knowing that soon we will be meeting the man or woman who is going to take us through this process.  I like knowing that it is all really beginning.

On a funny side note, the checks that Carla and I have, benefit the humane society and Carla pointed out that the check we were sending to The Cradle had written across the top, "Adopt your new best friend."  Again, hopefully they don't mistake this as some sort of bad joke.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Confession

Well, the weddings are over.  The gifts have been put away.  The thank you notes have been...well, they have been purchased.  This past week has passed in a blur fueled by the residual wedding high that has only now started to go away.  And now, we are back to the real world and I could not be happier.  Yes, I loved the excitement of the past two weekends, but I also love the comfort of sitting on the couch last night with Carla, with a bowl of popcorn, candles lit, watching a movie by ourselves (well, with the dog and cats curled closely by).  I love thinking about what is to come.  I love being able to turn our attention back to our next adventure of adoption.  I am so ready to get things started.  And so, I have turned back to the internet.

The internet and I have a love/hate relationship.  I love the information that is right at my fingertips and I hate the anxiety that all that information can bring.  This morning I went on the website of the adoption agency that we will be using and I started to scroll through the many families listed as potential adoptive families.  With each new page of pictures, my mind starts to turn.  I start to wonder how we will ever be matched with a birthmother.  Sometimes I get so ahead of myself and I start to dread the wait that we haven't even begun yet.  I know that I am supposed to stay positive and I completely recognize that if I am already feeling hopeless, then there is no hope for me to stay positive once we actually begin the process.  I wish I was the kind of person who could go into this with certainty and positivity and sometimes I am that kind of person.  But sometimes, I am not.

I feel the need to confess that I am already having doubts.  I have no doubts about this being what I want to do or how I want to do it, but doubts that I am strong enough to make it through the journey that is ahead of us.  So I thought I would put that out there into the world of the internet which and love and hate in equal parts and see what comes back.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Peace, Love, and Ice Cream

Here is the blog post that I just wrote for It's Conceivable.  From now on, I promise to be a more dedicated blogger with more adoption news to share.  For now, here a wrap up of our wedding season:

As I sit here and type this blog post, my wife (that’s right, wife!) is unpacking the remainder of our wedding presents.  I could not be happier to say that our family is well on its way to being built after the past two weekends. 

Two weeks ago, we traveled to Vermont to have a legal wedding ceremony with a few of our friends and family.  The ceremony was held at the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory (that’s right, Ben and Jerry’s).  It was actually a beautifully perfect location. My sister and best friend preformed the ceremony in a charming little gazebo outside of the flavor graveyard.  It was an incredible ceremony and it felt so wonderful to know that we were legally married in a state that recognized our marriage as equally as anyone else’s.  Our reception was the factory tour that we went on after the ceremony.  The people at the factory were incredibly welcoming and sent us on the tour for free and gave everyone in our party two free scoops of ice cream.  It was pure perfection. 

When Carla and I became in engaged, we knew that we wanted to go somewhere where we could be legally married.  At the time, our home state of Illinois did not even grant civil unions to gay couples.  The best we could do was to register as domestic partners.  The wallet sized card that came along with this status as not much more than roommates did not satisfy our needs.  We wanted to be married.  Thinking about our options, we chose Vermont for its beauty and for the fact that it housed the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory. So the decision was made. We would head to Vermont to have a legal wedding ceremony and then come back home to celebrate with all of our friends and family.   And then, this past June, civil unions became legalized in Illinois.  We were so happy that the bill passed, however, for us it was simply not enough.  There are so many people who challenge the legitimacy of our relationship and to us, a civil union still allowed people to view us as less than equal to other couples and other families.  As we prepare to bring a child into our family, we want to do everything that we can possibly do to show others that we are equal to any other family.  So while we are thrilled with the progress that the state of Illinois has made, we want more and we will not settle for less. 

So we continued with our plans to head to Vermont.  As we sat in the small town clerk’s office in Stowe, Vermont and filled out our marriage license, we both marveled at the fact that this loving act could be looked at with such hatred.  This small act of two people who love each other starting a family is the cause for such violent protest and controversy.  To us, nothing could have felt better and more right than to sit together and fill out a piece of paper that gives us the same legal rights as any other couple.  It brought tears to both of our eyes and I was so happy that we had made the decision to go to Vermont.  One day, I know that we will be able to do the same thing in our home state.  One day, I know that this country will remember that separate cannot be equal.  One day, I know that our children will be able to look at our family and know that we really are just like every other family.  Until then, we will see ourselves that way and take comfort in knowing that those who love us know that our marriage is something to be marveled at. 

After the ceremony in Vermont, we returned home to prepare for our wedding here in Chicago.  The week passed slowly until we finally arrived at this past weekend.  It was a beautiful fall weekend. The air was crisp and the sky was clear.  The festivities began on Friday evening as friends and family gathered from across the country for our rehearsal dinner.  The love in the room was obvious and the excitement began to grow.  Carla and I said goodbye to each other after dinner and spent the next 24 hours in eager anticipation.  The wedding itself was magical.  It was an incredible moment and the love that I felt for Carla the weekend before in Vermont was matched by the love that everyone felt for us as a couple. 

So many times during the night, I thought to myself about all those kids that feel like their lives will never be good or happy because they are gay.  I so badly wished that somehow all those kids who have spent every waking minute feeling bad about themselves could see the love that surrounded Carla and me at our wedding.  I wished that they could see the way people wanted to celebrate our love.  I wished they could see the joy that was exploding from both of our hearts and the support that we received from everyone in that room.  Because I know that if they could see that, they would know that it really does get better.  It isn’t just something people say to try and make them feel better and the proof of it was sitting there in that room. 

At the end of the night, Carla and I danced one final slow song together and a tight circle of our closest friends and family surrounded us.  I looked into the eyes of the woman that I know is my soul mate and the person that I am going to spend the rest of my life loving and I truly believed that anyone who saw us at that moment would find it difficult to find a reason to say that we shouldn’t be allowed to get married.  Of course I know better.  I know that there will always be people who find a reason to make that claim, but in that moment of such love and support I just couldn’t believe that it was possible. 

And now, Carla and I are ready to turn our attention back to the adoption process.  We see our wedding gifts as a start to what we have happily dubbed as, “The Expand a Family Fund.”  No matter what the world around us says, we know that we are going to offer a child an amazing home filled with love and stability and a strong sense of the power of family.  And so we will continue down the road towards adoption as a happily married couple ready to deal with all that comes along because we know the strength of our marriage and of our relationship and we know that one day others will recognize it as well.  

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sometimes life gets in the way...

Well, it sure has been a while since I have had the time to sit down and write.  Truly, I don't have much to report on the adoption front as life has found a way to remind us of things that are currently in higher demand of our attention.  Some of these things are the greatest things I have had to think about in my life and some have been the most challenging.

I want to keep this blog focused on adoption, but right now there is too much other "stuff" going on for that to happen.  The fun stuff is that our weddings are right around the corner.  In less than two weeks, Carla and I will be heading to Vermont where we will be getting legally married.  We are having our ceremony at the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream factory and the reception will be a factory tour!  For us, we had to take advantage of the possibility of being legally married somewhere.  This will allow us to come back to Chicago and celebrate a real marriage with all of our friends and family.  So, in less than three weeks from today we will be having a bigger celebration here at home.  There are many last minute details that are currently occupying our attention.  It has been more fun than I thought it would be to make these plans with Carla.  We get so excited every time we figure something new out.  This week, it's been the place cards that have really gotten us excited.

I truly cannot wait to be married to Carla.  To be her wife.  I feel so lucky to have her as a part of my life and I am so ready to take this step in starting our future family.  I have to believe that one day, in our lifetimes, we will be able to be legally married in our own state and no one will ever be able to question our legal legitimacy as a family.  So many people ask why we aren't just getting a civil union here in Chicago and it is hard to explain why that will never feel the same for us as having a legal marriage.  But there are so many people out there who don't believe Carla and I should be a couple and probably more people who don't think that we should be allowed to raise a child.  Having a legal marriage takes away some of their arguments.  A long time ago, this country decided that being separate is inherently unequal.  So, we will just wait until this country starts to realize that idea applies to marriage rights as much as it applies to anything else.

So anyway, that has been taking up a lot of our time.  In addition, these past few weeks have been tough.  My dad has been sick, has had surgery, and is currently healing himself in the hospital.  It has taken much of our families attention and I am just so thankful that we have so many people in our lives to offer both him and us strength, kind words, and wishes.  He is doing better and we hope that he will be able to go home soon.  While he won't be able to join us in Vermont for the wedding, we are all hoping that he will be strong enough to come to at least some part of the Chicago wedding.  To me, that is not nearly as important as the fact that I now believe my dad is going to get well and is going to be well for a long time.  While we are all heartbroken about him missing the wedding, I am comforted by the fact that our potential child is going to get to know his or her grandfather.  I believe that by the time Carla and I are able to bring home a child, my dad is going to be in great health and have many years ahead of him to share with our new family.  And that, is what is important.  That is what really matters.  That is what I am looking forward to.

As usual, it appears that I had more to say than I thought I would.  I can't imagine there will be much blogging in the next few weeks, but by the start of November things should be back to normal.  Life will have settled down.  And I will be a married lady!!! Until then, we continue to dream about our lives with a child as a part of them.  We continue to get excited about really beginning the adoption process.  And we continue to take whatever it is life brings us and deal with it with humor, strength, and belief in better things to come.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A (second) decision has been made

A lot has happened since I last wrote.  I will try to remember it all and recall it in a somewhat interesting manner.  It all began last Thursday.  Last Thursday, I participated in my very first webinar.  Let me begin by saying that I am not exactly webinar material.  I have enough trouble remaining focused when there is a speaker right in front of me who can see when I have become distracted.  Sitting in front of my computer, next to Carla, while an unknown man in a far away location switches slides on our screen and talks about adoption was a real challenge for me.  However, once things got going, I adjusted to what was happening and was able to summon up all of my attention to focus on the material being presented.

The agency that was hosting the webinar was the larger of the two agencies that we had been considering.  The agency is called the Cradle and it is probably one of the most well-known agencies in the Chicagoland area.  The webinar did an incredible job presenting us with enough information to make us feel informed, but not too much to overwhelm us.  They described their open adoption policy in a way that made me feel as if open adoption is truly the best option not just for any of the adults involved, but for the child.  They outlined the steps of the adoption process in a way that made us feel as if it was something we would be able to navigate.  They spoke very realistically about the wait time.  They explained that they have about 90 families waiting to adopt and that last year, they were able to adopt out 70 children.  They spoke about the wait time and how difficult it could be, but they also spoke about the support that couples are given as they wait.  By the end of the webinar, Carla and I were both filled with an excitement that we had not yet felt.  We loved the philosophy that the Cradle believes in.  Throughout the entire presentation ran a very child-centered message.  Everything that was said was said with the child in mind.  Every decision that is made, is made to ensure that the right child ends up with the right family.  Along the way, The Cradle seems to offer a plethora of support options.  There are support groups that run for families that are waiting to adopt and there are support groups and activities that are planned for families after they have completed an adoption.  It seems like the Cradle has worked hard to create a real community, one where families who are waiting to adopt and families who have already adopted feel as if they are a part of something bigger than just themselves.  This idea very much appealed to us.  The presentation that was given managed to inspire me, calm me, excited me and reassure me all at the same time.  We felt great and we were looking forward to the next meeting we had with the smaller of the two agencies that we were considering.

So today came that next meeting.  We had a thirty minute meeting with the executive director of the smaller agency.  We walked into the meeting feeling hopeful about the agency.  We had seen several pictures of same-sex couples on their website and we knew, based on the policies that we had seen on the website, that they were completely open to working with gay and lesbian couples.  We were also extremely impressed with the statistics that were posted on the website.  The wait times for this agency were significantly shorter than any other agency that we looked at, including the Cradle.  We were eager to meet face-to-face with someone from an agency and as we nervously rode the elevator up to their office we were anxious and excited.  We walked in and happily chatted with the receptionist as we looked at the hundreds of pictures of children hanging on the walls of the office.

And then the meeting began.  The woman that we met with instantly seemed cold and short.  She began by asking us how we ended up there and when we told her we were excited by the smaller feel of their agency, she quickly informed us that they were able to maintain that feeling because they capped the number of potential adoptive families at 40.  Since they already had 40 families that they were working with, we would be placed on a waiting list that we would have to wait on until a spot became available for us to wait some more to be picked by a birthmother.  I must confess that after this one statement, I was already skeptical.  I just couldn't see how limiting the pool of potential adopters could be in the best interest of the child.  The more we spoke with this woman, the more that I began to sense that for this agency, the best interest of the child did not seem to be the most important piece of the puzzle.  It seemed as if their primary concern was creating a short wait time for potential adopters and while this seems so tempting when starting the adoption process, after hearing about all the horribly long wait times, it just didn't feel right for this to be the motivating factor in the decision making.  After a while she spoke about the wait time for same-sex couples.  I did appreciate her honesty when she told us that in her experience, same-sex couples experienced a long wait-time.   However, she then went on to say that she believes that the only time a birthmother chooses a gay or lesbian couple is when they have someone close to them who is gay or lesbian.  I can't explain why exactly but this statement came off as extremely rude and insensitive and I began to shut down.

Luckily for me, Carla handles these things much better than I do and she continued to ask questions and speak politely with the woman.  When the woman said that they offered no support after the adoption was finalized, I was done.  That was all I needed to hear.  The process that she described seemed like one that was isolated and lonely.  The wonderful community that was described in the Cradle's presentation was nowhere to be found here.  In the middle of one of her answers, she informed us that we only had three minutes left and when she was done we stood up and walked out the door.

I am pretty sure that I began to make a face of disgust before we even left the office.  Carla managed to hold it until we made it into the hallway.  One of the things that I am most thankful for about our relationship is that we usually seem to be on the same page at the same time.  And that was certainly the case here. By the time the elevator made its way down to the first floor (and we had only been on the second floor) we had already discussed and decided that this place just wasn't for us.  A short wait time was nowhere near as compelling as the community that was created at the Cradle and the child-centered philosophy that rang through everything that the Cradle said.

And so, with that, our second decision has been made.  We will be beginning the adoption process with the Cradle.  When we are ready, the next step will be to fill out an application, pay the registration fee of $500 and have an initial consultation with our assigned counselor.  I have a feeling that this face-to-face meeting will be exponentially better than the one we had today.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Words of Wisdom

It's been a while.  It feels nice to sit down and write down some of the thinking that's been going on.  Over the past ten days, I have had the true pleasure of talking with two different people in my life (and their significant others) who have been through the adoption process.  The words of wisdom that they had to share were invaluable.  What I took away, above all else, from the conversations that we had was the overwhelming positivity with which both of them spoke.  I had spent so much time reading book and book and each book was filled with more warnings than the one before.  I suppose that is the job of these books, to prepare potential adopters for the difficult road ahead.  And they certainly did their job.  I have been well exposed to all of the many stressful pieces of the adoption process, I am now well versed in all of the things that could go wrong, and I could recite by heart all of the difficult steps that we will face as we begin our journey.  But what these books seemed to be missing, or, more honestly, the parts of the books that I simply skipped over, were the parts that shared what made this all worthwhile.  And that is exactly what I found in the conversations I had with people who had been through the process.  

Neither of the couples that I spoke with had an "easy" adoption process.  They both had their long waits and even some false starts along the way.  Neither of the couples left those parts out of their story.  But what I found most amazing is that those parts were not the focus of our conversations.  Neither couple felt the need to warn us about what was going to happen nor the struggles we would face.  Instead, they both wanted to offer us helpful hints and most of all share the enthusiasm that they both had for the adoption process.  In a million different ways, these conversations made me feel much more positive about adoption in general and our journey in particular.  

One of the women I talked to was a good friend of one of my close friends and we met at our common friend's wedding.  We were both in the bridal party and we instantly hit it off.  When I told our common friend that Carla and I were planning to adopt, she instantly put us into contact with her friend who had recently been through the adoption process.  It was a brilliant idea.  We spoke on the phone last Saturday and it was such a helpful conversation.  She lives in California and used a facilitator to adopt, so some of the legal aspects were different from what they will be for us, but the conversation in general was beyond helpful.  

One of the best pieces of advice that she gave me was that we need to do the things that feel right to us.  One of the things we have really been struggling with is the idea of when to begin preparing for a baby.  When women get pregnant, they know they have nine months and then there will be a baby.  They know when they should paint the nursery, when they should buy the furniture, when to start buying clothes.  But when people begin the adoption process, you have no way of knowing when a baby will come.  Every book that I read said that you should not, for any reason, prepare a baby room until you are basically bringing the baby home.  The reasons they had for this advice made sense.  They said it would be a painful reminder of what wasn't there yet as you waited for an undefined amount of time or that it would be an unbearable sight to see if a birth mother changed her mind.  But, for us, something about that didn't feel right.  When I spoke with our friend who had been through the process she told me that the second their paperwork was all finished and they entered the adoption pool, she started to set up the baby's room.  She said that Carla and I just didn't seem like the type of people who would become weepy while looking at a baby's room.  And she is right.  That isn't us. And it also isn't us to not begin preparing for what we know will one day be coming. That's just not how we do things.  It was so nice to hear someone say, you know what feels right for you and that's what you should do.  

The next couple that we spoke with was a lesbian couple who adopted their son several years ago.  One of them is a coworker of mine and has already been an unbelievable resource for me during my coming out process at work.  And as soon as I reached out to her, she invited Carla and I over for dinner this past Wednesday to meet her son and talk with her partner and her about the whole process.  Again, they spoke with such positivity about the process.  One of the best parts of this conversation was that they went through one of the adoption agencies that we are thinking about using.  They had a wonderful experience and helped us to see a lot of the benefits of this agency without ever trying to sway us one way or another.  One of the nicest parts for me to hear was about all of the other people that they met through the agency.  It was nice to hear about the community feeling that they experienced through the agency.  It has become a place where they can go and be around other families that look like theirs and their son can see other families that look like them and not like them and begin to really learn that all families look different.  They spoke of the agency and of the people they have met and of what their son has brought to their lives in such an incredible way.  I can only hope that our family will one day share the kind of love that the three of them share.  It was an incredible evening and I left, once again, feeling so hopeful about the adoption process.  

Talking with people who have been through the adoption process has been so incredible and so helpful.  I am not always the first person to reach out to others.  It's just never really been the way I have done things, but I am so thankful that I have had such wonderful people to reach out to and they have all offered their help and support along the way.  I see the adoption process in a new way after this past week.  I see it in a more positive light, with more hope, and with more love than I ever saw it before.  

Next week, we will begin meeting with the two agencies and I am hoping that one will just feel right.  And then, my guess is, we will take some time to pause and enjoy the process of our wedding for a while before we take any further steps.  I feel really good about what we have learned so far and I am now looking forward to taking the next step.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Feeling the Love

I am completely overwhelmed.  Not because of my current group of students (though they are pushing me to my utmost limits of patience) and not because no matter how early I seem to get into work, I can't quite get myself ready for the day ahead, and not even because we have two weddings to plan before the end of October.  No, I am not overwhelmed in that kind of way.  I am completely overwhelmed by the amount of love that I have felt today.

Yesterday, I mentioned that Carla and I were going to be sharing our story on a fantastic website called "It's Conceivable."  As the blog post went up yesterday, I sent the link to my family so that they could check it out.  And because my sister is the most supportive sister in the world, she liked the blog on Facebook.  Before I knew it, I received an email from a close college friend who saw the blog on my sister's page and that is when I realized that now was the moment to tell all those closest to me about our plans before they came across it on Facebook!

And so, I quickly wrote some emails to some friends to share the big news and then pass them along to the blog.  And then, since the cat was most definitely out of the bag, Carla and I both posted the blog to our Facebook pages.  And so began all that overwhelmed me.

I have always known that I have been incredibly lucky to be surrounded by the most amazing people.  When I came out, I never had to doubt that I would loose family or friends.  Every decision that I have made in my life has been completely supported by the amazing people who are around me.  However, sometimes it is easy to forget just how much love I am surrounded by.  As soon as people found out, there were just the most amazing words of excitement and support.  It continued throughout the day and I am now sitting here at the end of my day, simply in awe of the people in my life.

In this moment, I completely believe that no matter how hard things get as we start the adoption process and as we go through the many ups and downs that are ahead of us, there is going to be this amazing circle of friends and family who are just going to be there to carry us through.  So, if you are a part of that circle, then please know that I thank you.  With all of my heart.  Know that I am thankful to have such loving and amazing people surround me and I am so glad that I can begin to share all of this with you.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Taking this show on the road

Exciting blogging news folks!  I'm so excited and honored to be a small part of an incredible website called, It's Conceivable.  This website is completely devoted to providing LGBT families who are looking to expand their family in some way with current and reliable resources on adoption, insemination, surrogacy, and parenting in general.  They have an entire section featuring different people who are in the process of adding a child to their families. Each person has a blog where he or she will tell his or her story and you can follow along on the journey.  Well, as of this morning, I AM ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE! How exciting is that?

Yep, my blog is titled "Insert Baby Here." (Thank you Carla for the fantastic title!) You can find the blog by going to, clicking on the features tab on the top of the screen, selecting resources, and then scrolling to the last blog, "Insert Baby Here."  There you can find my first blog post! Or, for those of you who are more efficient than I am, you can simply go to:

I am going to continue blogging here on a more day-to-day basis, but will be posting on It's Conceivable each month.  I would love for you to check out the new blog and would also love if you took a moment to check out all that this website has to offer.

It is amazing to me that they wanted to hear our story.  It is amazing to me that anyone but us wants to hear our story.  To be able to share our story with others is truly an exhilarating thought.  I know that there are so many people out there who have gone through the adoption process or who are going through it now and the thought of being able to share our stories together is unbelievably appealing. Even more, I love the thought that one day we will have a child and we will be able to show him or her all of this evidence of how much love, planning, and desire went in to creating our family.  I love that we are creating an everlasting record of the journey we went through to bring our child into our lives.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Baby Cravings

Today I had a major case of baby cravings.  It started this morning.  Carla and I began our extra day off by taking our dog, Frankie, for a long walk that ended with Starbuck's and pumpkin scones.  It was perfectly fall-like outside today and it was a perfect walk. Amidst this perfection, I couldn't help but start to think about the future when we will be able to bring a little one along with us on these walks.  I picture Carla and I walking with Frankie, but in this image of the future we are each holding the hand of a little boy or girl.  It makes me smile to think about the three of us (plus Frankie) walking through the streets of our neighborhood on a morning walk.  It got to the point where Carla and I even began to discuss the formation we would have to be in with our one day child in order to keep Frankie happy (she only likes to be in the middle of the two of us on a walk).  And thus began today's baby cravings.

When we returned home from our walk with coffees in hand, we settled in to watch some t.v. before heading off to spend the day with my family.  I have no idea what was on t.v., but I clearly remember a commercial came on with a little girl and I said out loud, "I want a baby so badly!"  And I meant it. With all of my heart, I meant it.  You know, when we first made this decision, I have to be honest, there were still doubts lingering.  Every so often I thought, "Do I really want to do this?"  And slowly, over the past few weeks, I have become more and more sure of this decision.  And in this moment, watching some unknown blonde child on t.v., I really knew with all of my heart that I did want a baby so badly.

And then we were off to my parents house to spend the day with them, my sister, and my adorable four-month-old nephew, Noah.  My sister and I live about an hour away from each other and while I got to see Noah several times a week during the summer when I wasn't teaching, now that I am back at school, I don't get to see him nearly as often as I would like.  So, as always, I was incredibly excited to see him.  But today, it was different.  When I looked at him, and when I looked at my sister, all I could think about was the baby who would one day find its way to Carla and I.  I thought about the things we would do together and about being able to give Noah a cousin.  Again, it brought incredible happiness to my heart.

At the same time there was just a smidgen of sadness.  One of my sister's friends, who is pregnant, stopped by the house to see my sister and Noah.  While she was there she began discussing the painting that her husband was doing for the baby's room.  Carla and I gave each other a look, both of us thinking about the recent paint colors we had been thinking about for the room that will one day be a baby's room.  Yes it's true, our extra bedroom currently has several different patches of yellow painted across the walls (another one of those things I am slightly embarrassed that we have done, but we have done anyway).  And while we wanted to join in the discussion of paint colors and decorating, we didn't feel like we could since we hadn't brought up the fact that we wanted to adopt to my sister's friend.  It didn't feel like the right time and so we just sat quietly.  I know that one day it will be different.  One day, when we have gotten further along in the process, it will come up more naturally.  But for now, it is a little sad to stay quiet.

But in our quiet, I take comfort knowing that Carla and I share this exciting secret (well with our families, several of our friends, some of our coworkers, and whoever happens to be reading this).  I take comfort in being so sure of our decision and I take comfort in knowing that soon we will be able to truly start this process that will bring us the child of our dreams.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Deciding who to tell and when

I have always thought it odd when friends of mine have told me when they decided to start "trying" to have a kid. In a way it always seemed like they were just telling me that they were deciding to have unprotected sex, and that was never something that I thought I should be privy to.  But, like many things that I thought I knew, I am now realizing why people chose to tell me when they made the decision to try to have a child.

In many ways, I feel like our decision to begin the adoption process is like many couples' decision to start trying to have a baby.  For some couples, this decision comes just a few months before they are able to share news of a pregnancy.  For others, it can be years.  Taking the risk of telling people you are trying to conceive means knowing that people will be asking for months about how it is going.  When things work out well, that isn't a big deal.  But, I can only imagine that when you end up having to try for years, the constant questioning can be frustrating and even heartbreaking.

And so, our decision to tell people that we are planning to adopt a child, risks many of the same things.  In a lot of ways, I think that was part of my motivation in starting this blog.  Once we begin our wait, it will be nice that I will have a place where people can find updates on our journey so that I do not have to worry about sharing any heartbreaking news over and over again, face to face.  This is never something I have been good at doing and the thought of having to do it for many many months makes me nervous.

Right now, our decision has been shared with the people closest to us (and those of you who have found your way to this little blog of mine).  It has been so wonderful to see the reaction that people have had.  At first, I was afraid to tell people because I knew the response would involve some, "I told you you would want kids someday." But, I quickly learned that this reaction didn't bother me because most often, what came next was such incredible excitement for what we were about to do.  And I quickly saw that the risk of telling people our decision was far outweighed by the support that I found in people.  I know that this journey is going to be a long one and I now know that I am going to need these people in my life to be there right along with me every step of the way.  Carla and I are going to need lots of love, encouragement, and support and I am so thankful that we have so many people in our lives who are willing to provide just that.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A new answer to an old question

As is evident from the number of days since I have last blogged, going back to school has somewhat consumed my life.  I try never to complain about going back to school in the fall since I know that we, as teachers, are incredibly lucky to even have a summer break.  But truly, nothing in my life is quite as exhausting as the first few weeks back at school (at least until a baby enters our lives).  Since most of my time this week has been spent at school, it is only natural that the inspiration for this blog post occurred while I was at school.

At the end of one these past few days, I was walking down the hallway towards the office.  I was stopped by a good friend of mine, another teacher, who wanted to tell me about a Dateline that she saw the night before on transgendered children.  As the token gay teacher, I often get to hear about such things.  We were then chatting for a while about how our students really needed more education on gay and lesbian issues, including gay and lesbian parents.  During the discussion, she stopped and asked me if Carla and I were planning on having children.

The question caused me to pause for a few seconds.  For so many years, my automatic response to that question was, "No."  And since the answer has changed for Carla and I in our own minds, we have been careful about who we have told.  We know the road ahead of us is going to be a long one and filled with a whole lot of ups and downs and we just haven't been sure when we should tell the people around us.  So for a lot of people in my life, they are still under the belief that Carla and I don't plan on having children.

So here I was, standing in the hallway of the elementary school I work in, being asked if we are planning on having children.  And for the first time in my life, I could confidently respond, that yes, we do want to have children and yes, we are planning on beginning the adoption process after our wedding.  All of a sudden, I had this brand new answer to a question that I have answered a million times.  But it felt right.  It felt good.  It was strange to me how not strange it really felt.

And so we talked for a few minutes about what had been going on in our quest to learn more about adoption and then I walked away with a huge smile on my face.  It felt good to talk about with another person and it felt good to know that I was so sure of our decision.  So now I look forward to the next time that someone asks if we are planning on having children.  I look forward to being able to answer, "Yes. And we are planning to adopt."

Monday, August 29, 2011

Things that I am embarrassed that I do, but I do them anyway

So, in gathering more and more information about adoption, I have come to do some things that I wish I didn't do.  Though, since I have never been one with all that much self-control, I continue to do them and I have decided that I will feel better about them if I just get them all out in the open (especially since "out in the open" really just refers to the few people who will stumble upon this blog post).  So here is the list,

1) I check one of the adoption agency websites that we are considering using (the one we have a meeting with at the end of September).  I know, so far this doesn't sound all that bad.  But keep reading.  I check the website several times a week. Okay, sometimes it is more than once a day.  Again, this doesn't sound so bad.  And if I was just looking at more and more information to help us make a more informed decision, it wouldn't be that bad.  But, nope.  Instead, I am looking to see which, if any, perspective parents got matched with an expectant mother and which perspective parents have moved into the recently adopted section.  The day that I saw the lesbian couple move from the perspective parents section to the recently adopted section, I celebrated as if the success was my very own.  And then, after I check to see what movement has occurred, I scrutinize the pictures of the people who have recently adopted to see what it was that could have drawn an expectant mother to that couple.  Even though everything that I have read has said that you just have to be yourself as a couple, I want to know what those lucky couples have done to get themselves chosen.  See, I told you this was embarrassing stuff.

2) Carla and I have already picked out names.  I know, I know.  It's bad.  Again, everything that we have read says that you shouldn't prepare to much for a baby until a baby actually arrives.  Now, these books are talking about after you have entered the perspective parent pool.  WE HAVEN'T EVEN CHOSEN AN AGENCY YET.  Nonetheless, the excitement that came along with thinking of names was almost like a drug and I was totally hooked after just a few moments.  There was a long night when we lost power and had to stay up in order to take care of the fish in our fish tank (long story) and we spent much of those long hours thinking of possible baby names.

3) And if choosing baby names wasn't bad enough, this weekend we went to home depot and bought paint samples of colors which we would like to paint the baby's room! Now, I am completely satisfied with the two shades of yellow which we picked AND I do know that we would have to repaint this room no matter what, but to actually buy the paint samples. Oy!  We are in for one long wait!

So that's it for now.  I am trying to follow the rules. We are trying to do what the books say is the healthy thing to do, but it is so hard.  Carla and I just get so excited when we think about our future and our future with our baby that it is just hard to stop ourselves.  Thankfully, our wedding is right around the corner and for now that gives us enough distraction to stop us from doing anything too destructive!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Our First Real Step

When Carla and I first made our decision to adopt a child, we decided to wait until after our wedding in October to take any initial steps.  However, since then we have spent much more time than we thought we would thinking about the adoption, thinking about having a child, researching adoption, reading books on adoption, and discussing our future as a family.  All of this has made it hard for us to wait to take any real action.

So this week, we took our first real step.  We called one of the two adoption agencies that we are feeling might be the right fit for us, and we made an appointment for a free, thirty-minute meeting with them.  Now, I realize that this is not really that huge of a step. There has been no money paid, there has been no commitment made, and yet as we made the appointment, my heart started to beat more quickly and my palms started to sweat, all good signs that this was indeed a very big deal.

I guess, for me, this was the first concrete step that we took that really said, we are going to do this.  We are serious about this.  This is what we want.  No matter how hard this road might be, we are making the decision to take it.  So I guess that is kind of a big deal.

Now, the bad news is that this meeting isn't for another month.  So, for the next month I am sure that I will be counting down the weeks, days, and minutes until we actually get to meet with the agency.  I want to go in prepared.  I want to have a list of questions to ask in order to help decide if this agency is the right fit for us.  The problem at this moment is that there is so much I don't know that I am not even sure what questions to ask.  So between then and now, if anyone has any good questions we should be asking the agency, please send them my way.

Other than that, I am hoping that when we meet with the agency, I will have some sort of gut reaction.  I am a huge believer in trusting that gut instinct.  It's how I knew that Carla was the person that I was supposed to be with for the rest of my life, it's how I knew that our current house was the house that we were meant to own, it's how I picked my wedding dress from the tiny picture on a website, and I am hoping that it is going to be the way that I know which adoption agency is the one that we are supposed to be working with.

So, our appointment is safely stored in my phone's calendar.  Every so often, I check to make sure that it is still there, that I really did put it in there in the first place, that we really do have this appointment waiting for us, and that we really are doing this.  I am excited in this really incredible way and right now, I am just really looking forward to this next step.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

No more adoption books before bed

This is a new rule that I have set for myself. No more adoption books before bed. Last night, as I was trying to unwind from my second full day back at school, I decided to pick up one of our adoption books and read a bit before I fell asleep. Carla was next to me on her iPad. Before I knew it, tears were running down my face and Carla was asking if I was going to be okay.

I don't know what exactly happens, but no matter what I seem to read about adoption, I somehow end up crying. Sometimes they are tears of sadness, sometimes they are tears of joy, sometimes they are tears of fear, and most often they are a mix of all three.

This particular night, I was reading about the moment when an adoptive couple watches a birth mother say goodbye to her baby. This is not something that I had thought much about, but something that I am so thankful that I read. While the description broke my heart and the thought of actually experiencing such a moment ourselves was almost too much to bear, I am unbelievably thankful that I am at least aware of what is going to happen. I cannot imagine what it must be like to find yourself in such a moment without at least being aware of what is about to happen. The fact that I was thankful to have this information, made it no easier to get control of myself and my tears.  So there I was, crying in bed, totally unsure if I really was emotionally strong enough to handle the road that is ahead of me.

While I found the description of this moment difficult to handle, it also gave me a new found respect for birthmothers and a new found respect for the concept of an open adoption.  The description of this powerful moment led me to a new understanding of the incredible sacrifice that a birthmother makes for her child.  She is selflessly thinking about what is best for her child and putting aside the intense emotional trauma that this act is causing for her.  What an amazing thing.  These women deserve our utmost respect and they also deserve to know about what happens after their children leave the hospital.  An open adoption allows a birthmother to continue that connection with her child and I now understand why that is so important.  Ultimately, I believe it is the best thing for the child himself, but I also can now see the true benefits to everyone involved.

As I go along this journey, as I gather more information, I often find myself asking, "Am I really ready for this? Can I really handle all this?"  Reading about this moment really did leave me unsure of the answers to these questions.  But, when I put the books down, when I let myself fall asleep in the arms of the person I love, and when I woke up in the morning, more well-rested, I knew the answer was yes.  While the road ahead is going to be hard, yes, we are ready for this and yes we can really handle all of this.  The answers always seem more clear in the morning and that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly why I have imposed the "no more adoption books before bed" rule.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Does Size Really Matter?

So far we only know a few things for sure.  Here they are:

1) We want to adopt a child.
2) We want to adopt a newborn.
3) We want to use an adoption agency as opposed to any other option.
4) There is a whole lot that we don't know.

And that about wraps it up in terms of what we know for sure.  Well I guess we also know that we don't want to take any steps with an agency until a month or two after we get married, twice, in October.  So, for now there is a lot of looking and deciding about what steps we want to take in the future.

One of the things that I have been going back and forth on is the issue of which agency to choose.  We pretty much have it narrowed down to two options.  One is a large, national, well-known adoption agency. There is a branch in Evanston, nearby where we live, that we know works with gay and lesbian couples.  The other option is a smaller, less well-known adoption agency that is located right down the street from out house.  Judging based on the information they provide on their website, they also are used to working with gay and lesbian couples.

I go back and forth between which is a better fit for us and I know that we can't make any decisions until we meet with both agencies and see which feels right for us.  They way I see it, there are advantages to both options.  Going with a larger agency, to me, means that more women who are looking for adoptive families are likely to that agency versus a less well-known agency.  However, I also love the idea of working with a smaller agency who really gets to know the people they are working with. Plus, does working with a smaller agency mean that we are competing with fewer families who are looking to adopt a child?  While I wish I didn't see these other families as competition, it is hard for me not to.

Above all else, it is important to both Carla and I that the agency we choose is used to working with gay and lesbian couples.  I found it extremely helpful to look at the information provided by the HRC's project, All Children -- All Families which can be found at:
This project listed gay friendly adoption agencies and also listed criteria to use when trying to decide whether or not an agency is open to working with gay and lesbian couples.  Since there were no agencies listed in our area, it was helpful to know what to look for when searching through agency websites.  Our current two options both met many of the requirements that HRC set, so I feel confident that either agency that we end up using with be open and welcoming to working with Carla and I.

So again, I hope to find others who know more than we do and I hope to find advice from those who have gone through the adoption process.  Until then, I will continue to search the web looking for answers to the multiplying questions that continue to pop up!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

How much information is too much information?

So now that Carla and I have made the decision to go forward on this road to adoption, I have started to do what any good, nerd for life would do.  I have started to read everything that I can get my hands on about adoption.  I have bought three books, checked out books from the library, and spent countless hours researching gay and lesbian adoption online.

The sad truth, however, is that there is not much current information about gay and lesbian adoption out there.  Much of what I have found is outdated and the danger there is that even just a few years ago, gay and lesbian adoption seemed to be a pretty difficult thing.  So much of what I have read in books tells me that there is no way that a gay or lesbian couple can adopt a newborn baby.  And while I am so glad that there are people in this world who have the kind of hearts that they want to adopt older children, it is just not right for us.  So I end up starting to read a lot of things and then putting them away when I start to get discouraged.

Carla is amazing.  She is so positive about the process and believes in her heart that we are going to end up with a child who is just right for us.  While I wish I could get myself into that mindset, I just end up so discouraged when I read about the difficulties of the adoption process.   I keep alternating between telling myself that I just need to stop reading until we actually go and talk to an adoption agency and telling myself that in order to be successful in this adoption process, I have to read every bit of information that is out there.  I imagine that there has to be some good middle ground.  I know that there are some people in our lives that we need to talk to, people who have been through this process before.  I just don't know if I am ready for that yet.  I wonder if there are better resources out there than the ones I have been looking at.  I am open for any and all suggestions.

In the meantime, I go back to work tomorrow after being off for the summer.  A classroom full of fifth graders is probably just what I need to take my mind off of things for a while.  In addition, our weddings are right around the corner and I am so excited to finally be Carla's wife.  I am glad that there is so much going on in my life right now because it gives me some time to relax and just enjoy life before really going full force into the adoption process.

Again, if anyone should happen to find their way to this silly little blog of mine and has any good resources on gay and lesbian adoption, please send them my way and know that I will be eternally grateful!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Decision Has Been Made

As I assume all beginning bloggers must feel, I begin this blog with the assumption that no one is actually going to read it. I am okay with that because I think the real reason I want to write a blog at all is to have some place to put all of the emotions that I know will come to me throughout this process of adoption that we are about to begin. If someone happens to read it, if someone happens to have experienced the same things, if someone happens to be able to offer some words of wisdom, well then that is just a giant bonus.

So, I suppose I should begin by explaining how I got to this point in the first place. Let's see...okay, three years ago is as good of a place to start as any. Three years ago I met the love of my life. Carla and I met online, yep, it's true. We are one of those success stories that talks about in their commercials. We have spent the past three years falling more and more in love with each other and building a life together that I am truly proud of. In October, we will be getting married. Twice! Since lesbian couples cannot legally get married in Illinois, we will be traveling to the beautiful state of Vermont to have a legal wedding at the Ben and Jerry's ice cream factory (a good consolation for not being able to get married in our home state) and then we are going to come home and have a big ceremony and party in Chicago!

Anyway, for as long as both my partner and I can remember, we have said that we don't want children. We both had very different reasons for this. For me, I spent most of my life believing that I was going to be alone for the rest of my life. It took a long time for me to come out and a long time to believe that I could ever be in a healthy, stable, long-term relationship. And then Carla came along and my whole world changed. All of a sudden, I began to imagine a future for myself. A future that involved someone else and a future that was going to be filled with love instead of loneliness.

And then, my nephew was born. I have to say that this was the first time in my life that I actually loved a newborn baby. And things began to change. I didn't really think about what was changing, but I knew that it was there. And then one day, while we were driving to see my nephew, Carla brought up the subject of children. We both admitted that we had started to change our minds about wanting a kid. And by the time we arrived at my sister's house, we had come to this amazingly huge, amazingly new, and amazingly terrifying decision that we wanted to adopt a child!

Over the next few days, we spent a lot of time researching adoption, gay and lesbian adoption, adoption agencies, etc. Some of what we found excited us to no end and some of what we found terrified us. We learned that international adoption was pretty much not an option for lesbian couples, but we also learned that domestic adoption had actually become easier for gay and lesbian couples over the past few years. We learned that adoption is incredibly expensive and that heartbreak is almost guaranteed at some point along the way. But we also learned that if you can tough it out, if you can wait the average of 18-24 months, then you have the possibility of having this amazing new life added to your own and that you have the possibility of welcoming this new being into your family. And somehow, that makes it all seem worthwhile.

So, we are still in what I tell my students is called the information gathering stage. We hope to talk to some people who have already been through the process. We are slowly sharing our new decision with friends and family. And we are having a lot of discussions between just the two of us on how we are going to make it through this whole thing.

Right now, I alternate between being unbelievably excited and unbelievably terrified. There is so much about this process that scares me, but the end result makes me want to do it anyway. So, should someone happen to see this post who has been through the adoption process already, any words of wisdom or advice would be much appreciated.

Until then, I hope to use this blog as a place to put my emotions down as we go through this process.

Here's to mommies and here's to babies!