Monday, January 30, 2012

Crossing things off...

It feels like we have been on this huge quest to get as much done for the adoption paperwork as we can in the least amount of time. Carla and I both feel like this paperwork is the last thing that we have any control over in this process.  We know that we are going to have to wait for quite a while to be matched with a birthmother.  We know that we might even have to wait longer than most other couples simply because we are gay.  Truly we have come to terms with that, but we feel like the paperwork is not going to be the thing that holds us up.  So in the last two weeks we have filled out many forms, taken two online classes (we have one more to go), prepared our house to be completely fire safe, taken our CPR class and this morning we got our fingerprints done.  We just went to the post office and dropped off a huge packet of DCFC paperwork that needed to be done including the forms regarding our fingerprints.  And for perhaps the greatest accomplishment is that this morning I made a doctor's appointment.  Now for most people this would be no great accomplishment. However, I cannot remember the last time I made a doctor's appointment.  But thanks to the recommendation of a close friend, I have found a doctor and will be going for a physical in two weeks.  Yikes!

So with that we are just a little bit closer to finishing all the paperwork.  The doctor will be able to fill out my health form and that will feel like a huge relief.  After that we are left to work on our dear birthparent letter and our profile (kind of like a big scrapbook to show a birthparent who we are and what our lives are like).  On that note, we are starting to gather pictures that might look good to show people what our life is like.  If any of you out there reading this happen to have any great pictures of Carla and I doing something that looks like fun, please email them to me so we can use them for the book.

Well that is it for now.  I thought I would sneak in a quick post since I took this morning off in order to get those fingerprints taken care of.  I must now get back to the part of my life that doesn't involve adoption!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Seeking Support

On Thursday night, Carla and I attended our first support group.  We are lucky enough to live fairly close to one of Chicago's gay and lesbian centers.  The Center on Halsted has been a great resource for me in the past and once again has proven to have exactly what I needed.  In one of the many emails I receive from the center, I saw that a new support group was beginning for gay and lesbian couples considering adoption or in the adoption process.  After making a phone call, Carla and I were all signed up.

Now normally, this is the type of thing that would make both Carla and I incredibly nervous.  We don't love having to be social with people we don't know and we are particularly skilled at meeting new people (I believe I have mentioned this before).  But something was different this time. We both said that neither one of us felt in the least bit nervous.  We decided that we had been through enough situations at this point where we were talking about our adoption process with total strangers that it didn't really phase us anymore.  So off we went, excited about the opportunity to connect with other gay couples dealing with adoption.

We were of course early and when we reached the room where the group was meeting, the lights were off and we wondered if we were in the right place.  After a trip back downstairs and then back upstairs again we found the women who would be leading our group.  For a while we were the only couple there, so we chatted with the facilitators of the group.  A few moments after the meeting was supposed to begin, a second couple walked in.  And so the group would consist of just us and this other couple.  The facilitators told us that the following week they knew of at least two other couples who would be there, but we began with just the four of us.

While I won't bore you with all the details we discussed, I would like to at least say that I loved being there.  Carla and I both said that we loved having a place where we could just talk about what we were going through.  This process has become so consuming and yet, I often struggle to find the right time to talk about it with those around me.  It just never seems to be the right time.  It was nice to have a place where that was what we HAD to talk about.  It was our purpose for being there.  I also loved having a place to focus on issues specifically connected to being a gay or lesbian couple going through the adoption process.  Our agency has been wonderful and while they have offered us a huge amount of support, it was nice to be at a place that is specifically geared toward gay and lesbian couples.

We both left feeling really good about the group and about the opportunity to be a part of it.  While we are hoping for more couples next time, even just having the few of us sitting around the room was an incredible experience and one I am very thankful for. It makes me feel thankful for living so close to the Center on Halsted and it makes me feel for the people who don't have the luxury to go through a process like this without the support that we have found.  I know that not every city has a gay and lesbian center and I know that not every state is as accommodating towards gay and lesbian couples who want to adopt a child.  We are lucky.  Though we will certainly face our share of challenges, we live in a place where we are well protected by the law and well supported by our community.  But not for a second do I forget that there are so many gay and lesbian couples who don't have that on their side and I just hope for a day when no one has to worry that because they live in the wrong state, things are going to be harder for them.  I hope changes.  I hope that we won't be considered lucky one day just because we are treating like everyone else around us.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What a week!

Hello all!

It's been a while (it seems as if I am always starting that way).  This week has been a complete whirlwind.  On Tuesday, we had our second meeting with our adoption counselor.  I spent the days leading up to the meeting convincing myself that they were going to tell us that we don't make enough money to adopt a baby.  For the most part, this was an irrational fear of mine and I totally let it get the best of me.  But I suppose that is what this process is starting to do.  At each step we reveal more and more information about who we are and it seems like the agency is constantly looking at that information and deciding if it makes us ready to do this thing.  Again, that is a somewhat skewed version of what really happens, but it feels as if we are in constant scrutiny and that someone else is determining if we are ready to adopt.  When I step back and look at it, I know that they just want us to think about all the things that will occur and they want us to plan and be ready and I truly am thankful for that.  It is just incredibly nerve wracking as we are going through it.

In actuality, we had a great meeting with our counselor on Tuesday.  She even told us that she liked working with us because we were so open and honest and we were exactly who we said we were.  It is true.  Carla and I don't hide much, mostly because we are incapable of it.  When we are happy it is obvious and when we are freaked out, that is obvious too.  So I am glad that she saw that as a good thing.  The purpose of the meeting was really to go over the financial paperwork we turned in, review the next steps, and give us more paperwork to fill out.  Much of the next round of paperwork is the DCFS licensing paperwork.  In Illinois, in order to be approved to adopt a child, you have to be licensed to be foster parents through DCFS.  This does not mean that we will ever be foster parents or even hold the title of foster parents, but it is just how they do things here.  And that requires a lot of paperwork.  It also requires things like making sure we have fire extinguishers (which we now have on every floor), working fire/smoke/carbon monoxide detectors (which we also now have on every floor), and even a fire escape ladder from the room that will be the child's room (you guessed it, we now have one of those as well).  So in the coming weeks we will be working our way through the fairly large stack of papers we were given.

The last piece of our meeting on Tuesday was our counselor talking with us about the profile that we will be making.  We looked at some examples and talked through what we needed to do.  Essentially we are creating a book that will tell someone who we are and what our lives are like.  Some of these books were super fancy, while others were simple and straightforward.  Knowing Carla and I, we are going to end up somewhere in the middle.  But this will certainly require calling on all of our most creative friends to help put this thing together.  It is hard to imagine creating a document that will be able to convey the kind of people that we are, the relationship that we have, and the life that we live.  However, as we flipped through the books that we were given as examples, I was definitely able to gain an understanding of the kind of people that created those books and the types of families that they were.

I left the meeting feeling good and Carla left the meeting feeling motivated.  As soon as we got home we were filling out more papers and yesterday we made a big trip to Home Depot to purchase all of the fire equipment we needed for the house.  We also left the meeting and came home to sign up for our next class which was on Thursday.  So on Wednesday, we spent the evening do the homework that we were given for Thursday night's class.

On Thursday, I rushed home to let the poor dog out, who has been somewhat neglected due to all this adoption stuff this week.  Carla came home and then we were off to our class.  Thursday's class was all about openness.  The class really helped us to understand the real logistics of maintaining an open adoption.  One of the most powerful things for me was a video that we watched of an adult woman who had been adopted and had not met her birthparents until she was in her 20's.  In the video, she was asked how her life would have been different had she known about her birthparents at an early age.  She explained that her life would have been filled with much less questioning.  She wouldn't have always had to worry about if the person who she passed on the street who happened to look a bit like her was really her birth mother.  She wouldn't have always had to wonder about who her birthparents were because she would have known.  It just reinforced for me the power of having an open adoption.

It was clear that each couple in the class was at a very different place in terms of their feelings about open adoption.  Carla and I are feeling really good about open adoption and really believe it is what is best for the child.  But from the comments that some of the other couples made, it was clear that they weren't so sure yet.  It was interesting to see how everyone felt about it and where everyone was in their beliefs about how it will work for them.

Thursday's class went until 8:45 and I have to say that the last few hours were really a challenge after a long day of work.  It was hard to stay focused, but, as always, I walked away from the class with a renewed sense of peace that we are working with The Cradle.  The education that they are giving us has been invaluable.  I learn so much from each experience and I am constantly being asked to stretch my thinking in ways that lead me to a better place.

So now, there is more paperwork to do.  We need to get started on a rough draft of our profile.  We have a bunch of online classes to take and two more in-person classes to take.  We have to get ourselves certified in infant CPR and eventually we need to get ourselves a clean bill of health from a doctor (which you know is a place I DREAD going.)  So there is still lots to do as we continue along this journey.  While I know it is going to take a long time to reach the end of all of this, I am thankful for the time that we have now and I am thankful for the work that we are being asked to do.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A most difficult checklist

Well, the first round of paperwork has been completed.  The autobiographies have been written.  Both Carla and I have finished writing our life stories.  If that assignment wasn't enough, we then had to complete the most difficult checklist of our lives.  The checklist asked us to say whether or not we were willing to be presented to birthmothers who had certain medical conditions themselves or in their families.  The list also asked us to check whether or not we were willing to be presented to birthmothers who had some exposure to drugs, tobacco, or alcohol during their pregnancy.  The checklist does not mean that we will absolutely adopt any child with this medical history, but that we are willing to be presented to a birthmother with these certain medical histories.  If that mother were to choose us, we would still be presented with the specific information about this woman, the birthfather, and their families.  Only then would we have to commit to whether or not we would be able to go forward with an adoption.

It is unbelievable difficult to fill out this type of a checklist.  We would all like to say that we would happily adopt any child that came our way.  However, this process requires us to be completely honest about what we are actually able to deal with and what our lives will allow us to care for in a child.  Carla and I both had to get past the idea that it felt wrong to say there were conditions that we were not equipped to deal with.  We had to get a more honest place of accepting what we feel we can truly do. We want to be able to provide our child with everything that he or she will require and if we can't do that, we would rather be honest about it now.

As we were filling out the checklist, we couldn't help but think about how many of these medical conditions exist in our own family histories.  With any birth, with any child, there are risks that are involved.  It is impossible to have a child who is not at risk for anything, but I suppose that is just a part of being a parent.  Knowing that there are risks and knowing that you are going to be there for your child no matter what happens throughout his or her life.  Looking at it from that perspective helped us to fill out our checklist with a bit more ease.

We finally got it done.  We completed the rest of what we had to do and we have now scheduled our next meeting with our adoption counselor for January 17th so that we will hopefully be able to register for the next class that we need which is being offered on January 19th.