Saturday, April 15, 2006

Pink or blue?

One of the intriguing things about adoption is you may actually be able to choose the gender of your child. There are pros and cons to this option - and plenty of articles on whether or not a couple should be able to do this. In fact, some agencies believe that this is wrong, and won't allow the parents this choice if you use their services. It's an interesting debate that has so much emotion tied into it. Interestingly, when adoptive parents do specify a gender - they are more likely to specify girl than boy.

For us, it was definitely a topic of discussion. We've had the delights and the trials of both sons and daughters - the joy of parenting a preteen girl takes up a lot of our time and emotion right now! The kids are more than willing to share their advice - the boys would like a brother and our daughter wants a little sister.....o.k., to be perfectly honest, the boys want anything but another sister, and M says, not another brother! A definite quandary, but, in the end, they have said they are excited about either one.

So, how do you decide? One thing we definitely took into account was time frame. The more specific you are (you can even choose hair color, eye color, complexion...), the longer it could take. Was it that important to us to have a certain gender that we wanted to add even more time to the process? Another thought was that if you don't specify in adopting from Russia, you will more than likely get a boy referred to you. This isn't because there are more boys put up for adoption, but because there are more girls requested. However, as we've talked with other adoptive couples that did not specify, we've seen girl referrals almost as much as referrals of boys.

In the end, we decided not to decide. We felt, and told our kids, that God had the right child for us, and He would decide if a boy or girl was the right choice for our family. Can't wait to find out what He picked!!!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Attachment Parenting

When the little one gets home, the first order of business will be to teach him/her what a parent is. Up until now, they have likely lived in an orphanage of 150 children with 10-12 rotating caregivers. He has not been rocked to sleep, picked up when crying or soothed by a loving touch. He/she has had to learn, as an infant, to sooth themselves, and that adults can't be trusted. To teach our child that the world doesn't have to be that way, we will be practicing "attachment parenting". Basically, Sean and I will be cocooning our baby for many months - regressing him/her back as far as we can by putting them back on the bottle, (yes even to an 18 month old!) rocking to sleep, having them sleep in our room, and practicing eye contact as much as we can. Here is some advice from an adoptive parent, based on the teaching/writing of Dan Hughes. It is pretty long, but worth the read.

"I will use the name "baby and toddler" as one as well as "Mom" meaning the primary caregivers-mom and dad.

1)YOU, AND ONLY YOU, WEAR YOUR BABY!!Carry them with you wherever you go, and whatever you do.Attach them to your bodies. A great baby carrier is one that the baby can have skin to skin contact with you. (Tank tops are great to encourage skin to skin contact). Carry the baby on your hip; tie to your body under a sweatshirt, front carrier, or in your arms. The more contact the better. These babies were not held enough. Hold Them!!!! A LOT!!! ALL THE TIME!!!! For the rare times the baby is not in your arms, have them in the same room as you are in.
2) YOU ARE THE ONLY CAREGIVER!! You always bottle, feed, bath, dress, change and most of the play. If friends and family want to help let them walk
the dog or clean your house, wash bottles or do laundry, bring food or make you
tea. No baby-sitters and no sending the baby away for respite. Until your baby
is firmly emotionally attached to you. NO ONE the baby doesn't see almost daily
should hold or even touch them, and even those that the baby sees daily should
hold them at a very minimum.
3)KEEP THE BOTTLE AS LONG AS POSSIBLE –EVEN LONGER! You, not the baby, hold the bottle. Hold them the way a nursing mother does – chest to chest, close to you with as much skin to skin contact as possible. Always insist your baby look in your eyes and when they do, instantly put the bottle in their mouth and tell them good job!! Keep looking at their eyes so when they are ready for eye contact, you don't miss it. Rub them gently, rock, sing.
4) BATHE WITH YOUR BABY, this encourages skin to skin contact in a nice relaxing warm fun way.
5) A LOT OF FACE TO FACE baby games and funny faces and TONS of smiles and kisses!! Paint bright circles around your eyes. Close one eye, then the other, rapidly blink, then change speeds, all the time with funny noises. Cover both
eyes then one, and so on. Have the baby sit on your lap, and if this is too hard
for them at first, lay them on a bed to do it. Then slowly trick them into
letting you touch and hold them!! Keep it fun for them.
6) WHEN THERE IS A GREAT DEAL OF ANGER OR AVOIDANCE, the baby NEEDS you to hold them, even if they don't WANT to be held. They feel so far away from you, and have to be brought closer to heal. Cradle the baby in your arms. Have their arm closest to you held close. Talk soothingly to them, and tell them to look in
mommy's eyes. They most likely won't at first, and will become very angry,
(actually they were already very angry, the anger is just allowed to come out in
a safe loved way) Other times in their life they were not able to get their
needs met; anger and avoidance came out of that. They were often either ignored,
hit, or yelled at. That is why it is SO IMPORTANT this ALL be done in an
extremely loving way. Never squeeze the baby too close, speak harshly, lose your
cool or forget why you are doing this. If you get to feeling their anger,
immediately put them down and call support. You have to remain supportive, yet
expect their best. Often they will try to hit you, scratch, bite, scream and get
to you any way they can. Their intense rage is there. Yes, even little babies.
Eye contact, feeling safe, and being accepted no matter what in a loving way is
the goal here. For whatever reason, they have shut off people. Now they need YOU
to heal. My daughter needed it most after someone she didn't know EXTREMELY well would touch her or hold her. Rub them, soothe them in singing, and soft speech,
rock them and tell them you love them. Keep it up until they will calm down and
look in your eyes and FEEL connected to you. At times they will fall asleep
screaming. If so, and if possible, continue to hold them until they wake up,
then continue above. If you need to lay them down, have a monitor on so you can
pick them up as soon as they wake up. For the very avoidant baby one unsolicited
eye contact a week could be considered good! Keep it up, you have several good
eye contacts a minute to look forward to! Remember, you did not create this
anger in your baby.
8) DO A LOT OF BABY MASSAGES. All the time talk, sing and let that baby know how special they are!!
9) ROCK THAT BABY!! They often can't stand you sitting in a rocking chair, but can often tolerate and enjoy you walking and dancing with them in your arms. (remember face to face contact during this) Gentle motion, bouncing and rocking are a must!!
10) SLEEP WITH THE BABY. If you can, the best is to have the baby in your bed close to you. Second choice is to have the baby in their crib right next to your side of the bed with the side rail down. Have the crib touching snug to your bed, so if they climb out, they climb safely onto you!! They need t hear your breathing and know you are close. Have the baby always fall asleep in your arms. Nap or night. They need to get used to feeling loved!!
11) SING, SING, SING!!! It lightens the load, and helps the baby feel the happy friendliness they missed out on. Joyful voices are so important!
12) ENCOURAGE EYE CONTACT WHEN FEEDING, BOTTLING, TALKING, CHANGING, AND ALL THE TIME!! Bribery of candy, special toys or sounds, tickles, or whatever. As one specialist told me in giving them candy, "They can live with rotten teeth, yet can not truly live without attachments!!"
13) EXPECT A DIRTY HOUSE, (nothing new here!) soup out of the can
and sandwiches for supper and piles of laundry. Know that you are not super mom,
and that baby can't wait until all is in order to get on with their lives. Here
is where all those well meaning friends that want to hold that precious baby
come in!! Let them work!!!
14) EXPECT TO BE CRITICIZED AND ACCUSED as over possessive, spoiling the baby, and making more than you should out of the baby's problems. You will be told all babies do that. This is by well meaning friends, neighbors, relatives, doctors, and social workers. Stick to what YOU KNOW the baby needs, and fight to get that for them. Remember YOU know that baby more than anyone else. Most people do not understand the needs of a post-institutionalized child.
15) HAVE A GREAT SUPPORT SYSTEM. Have a trusted friend (hopefully someone who has had experience in attachment disorder) that you can call without being told you are making too much of it. Read books on attachment disorder. Know what dangers await that baby if they are not helped. Working with an infant or toddler has such a HUGE chance for success!! Not one act of kindness is wasted.
16) GET AN OFFICIAL EVALUATION BY AN ATTACHMENT EXPERT. Dr. Dan Hughes does these (207-872-2121) or can help you to find an attachment
specialist in your area. 17) KNOW YOU NEITHER CREATED YOUR BABY'S
THEM. Your job is to give the baby the tools they need. The rest is up to them.
18) PRAY, A LOT. It is a very big job you have undertaken and at times a very lonely one. Know YOU are just as precious to Jesus as that little baby you are working with.
19) FOR THE BABY THAT HAS NOT YET ENTERED YOUR HOME – when you get that baby, get a piece of clothing or blanket unwashed and used recently by the primary caregiver. The smell will help the move. And don't you wash it!! Keep it close to the baby to help the baby adjust. No matter the baby's age or living conditions, the move to you is not easy. Never push this object, but make it available. 20) HELP YOUR BABY GET A TRANSFERENCE OBJECT. This is a blanket or soft toy they can sleep with, use it in the car seat, and for the RARE time you cannot be with them. Helps in security.
I have never heard of them getting worse when done this way, yet anything is possible.
I wish you all the best in your adventure. No one is superhuman, and there will be times when you cannot do all you want with your baby. Take heart, NO ONE can do it all!! If your baby is getting emotionally closer to YOU, you are doing great
and giving the baby a priceless gift. I have worked with older children with
attachment problems also, and believe me, NOW is the easiest and best time to
start!! God bless you on your adventure!

This treatment and paper have been approved by Dr. Dan Hughes, attachment specialist. "

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Adoption isn't for sissies

Once we decided on adoption, it's all downhill...Right? Nope, not even close. Domestic, or International? Open or Closed? If international, China, Guatemala, Ukraine, Russia...? What agency? So, the research started. We figured being a bit older, second marriage, three kids, we probably weren't going to be on the top of the list of an unwed mother in the U.S. There are more than three potential adoptive families for each potential adoptee in the states. With that and a few other worries about domestic adoption, we decided that we would go international. There were pros and cons to each country. China was a single trip and would be an incredible culture. Guatemala has the advantage of being on the same side of the globe and ability to adopt an infant under 9 months of age. The Ukraine offers a one trip option as well. But in the end, we felt that Russia was the country that held our son or daughter.

The international adoption process is two part - approval within the U.S. to bring an orphan into the country, and approval by the foreign country to adopt one of their children. We started the U.S. approval process in July of 2005. We each had to fill out an 18 page questionnaire for our agency....a thought provoking and incredibly personal process. The questionnaires were just part of about 25 documents we had to complete. We had four wonderful friends that were willing to recommend us for adoption. We agreed to criminal background checks, and then we waited. And this was just to get the agency to work with us! Then came the homestudy. This involved interviews by a social worker with each of our kids, and us, together and separately. We had to childproof cabinets, add a fence around the pool and develop a fire escape plan. All before we even knew if they would approve us to adopt! In October of 2005, the social worker created a nine page document recommending that we "be approved for the adoption of one child between the ages of zero and eighteen months from the country of Russia."

Approved homestudy in hand, we then applied to the Department of Homeland Security to bring an orphan into the United States. We had to wait through the holidays to receive our approval in January of 2006.

During the wait, we worked on our dossier (doss-e-a) to be sent to Russia. This is a packet of forms, and copies of various documents that have to be signed, notarized and then apostilled. (ap-O-stilled) The Apostille is done by the Secretary of State in which the document is created. For us, we had to secure apostilles from Texas, Nevada and Michigan. We had to have doctors declare that all 5 of us were healthy, free from all kinds of diseases, and mentally stable (no comments, please) to add another child to the family. There were blood draws, and other lovely tests that we had to subject not only ourselves, but the kids to as well. After several redos of documents and three months, we finally got all the documents filled out and signed (in blue ink only), notarized, apostilled and ready to be translated into Russian.

Everything was in Russia and waiting for the Russian committee to review by January of this year. The Russian process is lengthy and has become very volatile over the past couple of years. There is a contingent in the Russian government that wants to outlaw international adoptions, and they have been successful in slowing down and creating a lot of hurdles in the process.

On March 6th, we were informed that the committee had reviewed our dossier, and we only needed to change two documents. It was a pesky little change of wording on who issued our passports. The form stated the United States - and we had to change it to the Houston Passport Agency. So, forms were changed, signed in blue ink, notarized in blue ink (thankfully we have a notary in the family!) and sent to Austin for Apostilles. These forms are now on there way back to Russia.

So, back to the wait. Our agency won't speculate as to how long it will take. We are the next in line for a "referral" from the committee. It could be next week, it could be 6 months from now. Until then, we wait.....sometimes patiently.

Here is the bible verse I have posted on our computer, a reminder that this adoption will happen:
"But these things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it surely will take place. It will not be delayed." Habakkuk 2:3

A bit of history - her perspective

We have been married 6 years, though with 2 out of state moves, 6 houses and two company mergers, it seems much longer! Between us, we have three children. Sean's son, we will call him "C", is almost 17, an avid hockey player, and, since he became a licensed driver, very hard to keep up with! Robin brought along two into the new family. "K" is a 12 year old man-in-the-making that loves anything sports, especially baseball and football. "M" is the 11 year old self proclaimed queen of the household. She loves gymnastics, track, and unfortunately, boys!

So, why, you ask, with three wonderful, busy kids would you want to start over with another baby? We've pondered that ourselves a thousand times. But to understand how we got to here, you have to know where we started. It began in 1999, when we were dating. Driving down the freeway, there was a billboard for "Vasectomy Reversals". Sean, instead of cringing like most men, mused that he would be more than willing to submit to this elective surgery. Me, being a single mom of a 4 1/2 and 6 year old, almost bailed at 75 miles per hour. I fought the urge, kept my seatbelt fastened and we married the next spring - April 2000. Our new life was busy, and we really didn't talk about "it" again. After almost two years of marriage, the idea of a baby started growing on me - but only if we could have one naturally - and it had to be a product of "us" - no donor eggs, donor sperm, and not adoption. (Sean had also lobbed out the idea of adoption after reading an article on it) If we couldn't conceive "naturally", then we'd just drop the idea and continue on with our life. With that said, Sean bravely submitted to "minor" surgery in January 2002. With frozen peas in place, we left the doctor's office in Hollywood and went back to our home in San Diego....we were ready to conceive. Fast forward through a year of temperature charting, precisely planned "rendevous", and still no pregnancy, we had a change of heart. (ok, I had a change of heart, Sean was way ahead of me) Let's amend the rules...we'll go see a specialist, but we will NEVER subject ourselves to any treatment that will result in multiples. (you can probably guess where this is headed). A few months later....hmmm, maybe twins wouldn't be so bad. We'll try in-vitro, but if that doesn't work, we're done. During eight months of hormone shots...and hormonal swings...Sean learned way more than he ever wanted to know about how a woman's body works. We also learned that we could get pregnant, but couldn't carry a baby to term. As difficult as that was, to say goodbye to babies we would never get to hold, it strengthened our marriage, and our resolve. We learned how much we wanted to add a child to our family and that the biology didn't matter. What mattered is that we added an "ours" to our already wonderful family.

So, here we are, waiting to go to Russia, hoping to bring home a toddler in 2006. Thankful to have the support of our families, as well as three kids who are willing to embrace a baby brother or sister, the paperwork is done and now we wait for "the call"