Hi, everyone! Apparently, no one in the world had the power to wake this little blog from the dead except for Heather PNR, when she announced this year’s Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project for 2011. This year I was paired with lovely Jodilee, who writes at Simple Perfect Life. Jodilee lives in Minnesota and is the busy adoptive mom of three great little kiddos. She’s got a son in Kindergarten as I do, and he was her first, so I found myself joining with her immediately when I started reading her blog. She’s also got two sweet little daughters. Their lives include the kids’ first mothers, each in their own way, and Jodi shares her daily joys and struggles in her blog. You can also read my answers to her questions here. Here is my interview:
1. Tell me a little about your original journey to adopt your son. He wasn’t a newborn anymore (yet SO cute in his footie jammies!) when the blog seems to have started.
My husband and I were not getting pregnant and really had no clue what to do about it. He was a delivery driver and drove by a local adoption agency and brought home some informational packets from them. We are both not worldly travelers (and this agency specialized in international adoption) and the thought of having to travel to another country was terrifying to both of us–and wondering how we could manage to get off of work–and seeing the ‘estimated’ cost all together made it seem completely impossible. There was nothing in the packets about domestic adoption so we didn’t even really know that it existed for us normal folk. C.L.U.E.L.E.S.S! With that, we went to see a fertility specialist and with that came the dye test, tubal surgery, six rounds of drug assisted artificial insemination and nothing. In the meantime, we had found out a little more about foster care adoption as I had some clients at work that did foster care and we also learned more about domestic adoption. My mother knew how much I wanted children and at one point said, if it was me, I would do whatever it took, and with that, we decided to attend the IVF informational meeting required to sign up for the process. It was a bear to get off of work for it–and being completely hormonal from our plight to have children and the fertility drugs–I was a complete mess when they canceled the meeting due to not enough people signing up. By the grace of God (well, most definitely His plan), somebody I had had conversation about adoption with at the community center where I worked, walked in to the fitness center and informed me that there was an informational meeting that night at an adoption agency they checked out when they were exploring adoption. We went, and that’s all she wrote! :0) After completing all of our paperwork, homestudy and profile, we waited in the book for about 4 months and were matched with our son’s birthmother about three months before he was born. It was about one year total time from the day of signing up with the agency to finalization. We were with an independent adoption agency and talk about treading in uncharted water with no guidance or support….The first three months after placement were simply horrific–at least not what we envisioned it to be. Our son’s birthmother was grieving and we were at a loss as to how to help her. When we contacted our agency to check in with her, they never did. To be honest, we were under the impression that she would just be able to move on like nothing ever happened. Lack of truth in some of our training. All relationships change when children arrive in a home, and then you add the complexities of an open adoption and poor support and you are most definitely on a train wreck! My husband and I sought counseling on our own…and they sucked. haha! NOT a lick of experience with open adoption. No, sir, closing the adoption is not an option. It is obvious that my husband and I made it through as we have since then adopted two more children. We are not ashamed of telling people we had counseling. Our relationship with our son’s birthmother is in the ebb and flow of rebuilding. The fact is she was a teenager when she placed him and she is also growing into her own self. With that, we have grown to disagree on some things and have grown apart since May. It has been a very difficult time for me. I can’t stand to not have her in our life but I am thrilled to say that she has started emailing me again and as soon as we can finagle it we will be getting together. We are lucky and blessed that we are still all sticking it out through the thick and thin. Our son will be six this January! AMAZING! And we are always working on perfecting our relationship with his birthmother and her family.
2. Tell me a little about your start in blogging? Who was your intented audience at that time and how has that changed (if at all) since 2008?
I happened to meet someone at the community center I work at who overheard me talking about our second adoption process. They too were ‘waiting’ in the ‘book’ at the same agency we were at so we connected and she told me about her blog and, of course, I had to start one. :0) I had been blogging on myspace at the time, mostly for sharing things with our son’s birthmother (the reason I joined myspace–of which I haven’t logged onto in eons! haha!) I’m not sure I had an intended audience. It was kind of a way to share photos and happenings in our life. If I were honest, I think what I wanted was an online journal, but then my blog would probably have to be private! I have a dream of having my blog focus on the nitty gritty of open adoption. After adopting our son, we thought we knew what to expect…..ha! Not one of our adoptions is even remotely similar to the others. You should always expect the unexpected. I love and respect each of my children’s birthmothers and their story…and some things are just meant to be ours and not to share with others. My passion with adoption is maintaining that open relationship when things don’t go as planned (and what really does go as planned?) I hope I can help others feel the same way.
3. Who are your biggest supports with regards to open adoption–who are the people in your life that “get it?” Are there those close to you that don’t, even three children later?
My biggest supports are my friends who have also adopted. They are the people I cry with, tell all, share my biggest fears, share my biggest dreams, share private photos because I know they will truly respect the desired privacy and share my faults and weaknesses with. To be honest, I don’t have a whole lot of time for friends–so only my besties get me for now! Anyone making a completely purposefully hurtful or insensitive idiotic remark is deleted! :0) I give kudos to my family and for their acceptance and support and unconditional love they give to my kiddos! Growing up with pretty much NO diversity whatsoever…in a small town….I wouldn’t have expected the openness and support I have received. SO thankful for that! My family doesn’t always ‘get it’, but they will say that outright and ask questions to try and understand something. My non-adoption friends don’t always get it either, but they give me the time and an open ear to learn about it.
4. What have been some of the biggest misgivings/doubts over the course of building your family through adoption (thought of this as I read the Mothers Day post from 2008, where you were wondering if you should even send a card to one of the kids’ moms).
This question made me laugh out loud! :0) I think I actually thought adoption was as easy as signing up, getting a baby, and living happily ever after. Don’t get me wrong, I am living happily every after (on most days). I am not talking about feeling true love for my children. I love them more than life itself. They are my world. And I cannot imagine my life without them. I cannot know the emotions a birthmother experiences when she places her child, but I know how I would feel if I had to live my life without my children and I imagine that a birthmother just has to deal with a lot of pain and hurt–and that hurts me. I do cry about it, still. I’ve cried with them while visiting. I never knew my love for them would be so intense. I think there is also a lot of added pressure to be that perfect parent. Like I don’t have a right to feel stressed or overloaded or like I always need to have it all together. I’m responsible for making my dreams come true, my child’s dream to come true, and my child’s birthmother’s dreams for her child to come true. It’s especially tough when you think you might be letting someone down. From my experience, we already know what we want to do about any one situation and if we choose to seek advice, we will seek it from those that will give the advice we would approve of.
5. What have been some of the biggest truths you’ve found as related to open adoption in general; or your personal adoptions specifically?
A true open adoption requires work and sacrifice from all persons involved. We have been walked on, taken advantage of, been disrespected, had our boundaries crossed and still expected to be there when people are ready to be involved at their discretion, their times, no compromises. Now before you all get angry, I have to say that I, too, have been disrespectful, cheesy, immature, bossy, and inappropriate in how I have set limits or decided to talk about an issue or handle something I’m uncomfortable with. It’s the part of developing a relationship that I HATE! It’s the truth that with any relationship, there will be conflict of some sort at some point. The truth is even my husband and I are not always (hardly ever) on the same page and I’m sure it will get super interesting when the kids are old enough to give their input too! Then you add expectations from birth parents and family and sometimes it can be just plain difficult. Sometimes there just isn’t an easy solution and all you can do is pray it will all work out.
6. What would be your best and first advice to families considering pursuing adoption, as well as to a mother/couple considering placing?
To those considering adoption: Expect the unexpected, expect to be flexible, remember that your journey doesn’t end with placement and that your work has just begun. Don’t make promises that you don’t intend to keep. Just because your child doesn’t talk about something, doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it. Encourage them to talk about their adoption and their feelings. Don’t ever make them feel like they have to choose between you and their birth family. Let them love who they want with all their heart. Teach them how to love big!
To someone considering placement: You should never feel coerced or pressured to place. You have the right to change your mind. Nobody could ever possibly know how they are going to feel when their baby is born. Find support. Possibly an agency that offers extensive post placement programs–not one that is going to kick you to the curb after placement. (sadly it happens). Or a private counselor. If you don’t click, find a new counselor. Or a friend, or a blog, or someone who has placed already. Do what feels right for you. If you want time with your baby in the hospital, take it. I would encourage it. I don’t think anybody has ever regretted spending time with their baby….but I have heard many regrets about not spending time with them at all. Choose families wisely. Sadly, there are some who make false promises. Take your time. Life long decisions shouldn’t be made in a weekend. If things don’t go as you envisioned, don’t ever give up.
7. It seems the common thread through our previous emails up to this time is that you are busy and I am busy :). However you seem to have your act together far more than me and you have three kids and I only have one. Can you give me some valuable/useful time-management tips that work for your family? Also, three kids sound expensive! What do you do to help save money in your family budget?
haha! My house is a mess! An incredible mess! My husband hates clutter and I’m terrible at doing something about it! I rarely shower and my kids are never dressed if we aren’t going anywhere. There are always 3 or 4 baskets of clean laundry on any given day sitting around the house. We dig out of those more than out of our closets and dressers. I stay up late to get things done and then on Friday or Saturday night hit the hay around 9pm. I have to write lists and notes and charts to make sure the bills get paid and appointments aren’t missed. I am chronically early to everything–even with three kids. I even pay the bills early–once I paid one twice because I couldn’t remember if I paid it or not–all still two weeks before it was due. We do a lot of cooking at home–making extra–and freezing for later meals. This helps with time AND money saving. But, makes for a very messy kitchen! I make bread (I know, how could I possibly have time to do that?) haha! The kids help and it is awesome for their sensory stimulation to be able to beat, squish, squeeze and pound the bread. It is soothing and makes the house smell awesome! We garden in the summer–lots of fruit and veggies. We totally simplified our life and cut our budget. We rarely go out to eat, no Starbucks or Dairy Queen. I just recently got a basic cell phone and my husband’s cell is provided by his work. We buy in bulk at Sam’s and coupon shop. We do our own oil changes and I totally skimp on haircuts and colors. We visit family in Wisconsin for vacations, rarely pay full price for anything and mostly buy used when we can. We shop at garage sales, use cloth diapers, make our own baby wipes, made our own baby food, and do our own home repairs when we can. We do have cable TV and DVR…our entertainment budget. AND of course, the internet–which we had dial-up for a VERY LONG TIME! haha! I was even selling tons of stuff on ebay when we had dial-up! We have made a ton of sacrifices and truthfully, didn’t notice a whole lot. My kids are perfectly happy doing activities at home with the family and love being outside playing and gardening! I am thankful for the Federal Adoption Tax Credit becoming refundable this year. We were able to use our return (along with a little help of a cashed out retirement fund) to pay off our house a couple of months ago. So, we are pretty much debt free. We have gone out to eat a couple of times, but truthfully, after cooking at home for so long, it is hard to find a restaurant that we think was worth the horrific amount of money it cost to eat there! :0) It pays to be stingy! haha! I like to call it smart with our money. If groupon, living social, crowd cut, centerpointenergyextras, or amazon deals, happenings coupons, etc, don’t have it, neither do we! haha!
I think the best time management tip is to make lists. Spend 5 minutes before bed writing what needs to get done the next day. And plan meals ahead too. I know some people who plan the whole week or month. I just plan a day ahead since that is all my brain can compute. I didn’t write anything down last night and NOTHING got done today! AND, don’t get dressed if you don’t need to! :0) I feel like I’m in college again cramming to get my paper done, how’s that for time management?
*Just a note: I apologize for the qonky font sizes. Somehow in the cut and paste from email, they didn’t maintain any routine size, and me? I was just too lazy to try to figure it out 🙂