Monday, March 30, 2009

Birthdaversary Day 4 (it's all about me!)

Oddly enough, I don't have any baby pictures of myself to share with you on this, my 31st birthday. This is too bad, because when it comes to looks I really peaked around age 4. Instead I will share this poem written by yours truly somewhere around 3rd grade.

This is definitive proof that I have been a nerd AND a geek since childhood. Also that, if things had been different, I might have had a shot at a career in rap. (not so much in "poetry" however.) Also, I have done some rather serious experimentation with the no-meat-only-candy diet since this was written. Not what I was imagining as a child.

Thanks for all the kind birthday wishes everyone - I feel quite loved and immensely grateful for all the amazing people I get to know and care about.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

just one small moment...

We were going around the room, everyone saying their name and something about themselves, how long they had been a part of the organization. I was there as facilitator, and so as the only real newbie in the room I gave my little spiel about myself. I always include something personal, something to let the folks in the room feel a little closer to me. These days, it's usually this "I've been married to my husband Andrew for almost four years and we're in the process of adopting our first child." Folks smile, nod. Occasionally a slight shadow crosses someone's face, curiosity probably, because I don't offer more than that. It's natural for folks to be curious but I figure hey - if I were to announce that I were pregnant with our first child I doubt anyone would ask for details on how that all came about.

So this time, today, as we went around the room each person said something about how many kids he or she had. Most of this group were retirees, kids grown and grandchildren counted off with pride. A couple young moms, with kids at home, one man whose children were almost out of the house. About half way through an older man with a snow white Santa beard and jolly gleam in his eye told a little about how he came to be in our group. Then he looked right at me and said rather gruffly, "my oldest's adopted. He's from _______, which is the only time I've ever been there - to pick up a child!" He looked thoughtful for a moment. "I've never regretted it. I've got two grandkids from him..."his voice trailed off and for a moment I wondered if he was getting a little misty around the eyes. "I have never regretted it."

I spent a truly wonderful day with these people, exploring and learning about many things. But that one little moment is the one I'm carrying with me tonight, turning it over and over like a small shiny present. I feel so impatient sometimes to get started, to meet my child and get going already on this project of parenting and being family. What we are doing has to be so different than what that bearded gentleman experienced forty years ago meeting his son - adoptions back then were not open, the rules and norms were dramatically different than they are now, the stigmas around adopted children much bigger. But in the important ways we resonate. It's good for me to have a reminder that ultimately these slow forever-long months now will be a distant memory, sweet in some ways, when I tell the story of our family to others. The goal is to be able, forty years from now, to look with confidence into younger eyes and tell our story with misty eyes and a loving smile, and no regret.

Friday, March 27, 2009

we take a break from our regularly schedule programming...

It's Birthdaversary time!!*

Today my sweet husband turns 29 years old, God bless 'im! Every year his birthday kicks off our Birthdaversary. Andrew's birthday is today, mine is Monday and then our wedding anniversary is next Thursday. I'll admit that I had dreamt of a Birthdaversary baby, as well, but that might be too much of a good thing all at once. There are pros and cons. Maybe baby A+A will want his or her own birthday month.


I would like to kick off Birthdaversary week with some adorable pictures of Andrew as a wee lad:

Can you believe that sweet drooly baby grew up to be this devastatingly handsome gentleman?

Happy Birthday, darling.

*Expect Birthdaversary madness to continue through the week, after which point we will return to mostly adoption related discourse.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Adoptism pt 1.

I was disappointed but not surprised to get an email from Liz late Monday letting me know that we had not been chosen over the weekend. I am getting better, turns out, at feeling calm about being shown and trusting in the choices that these women are making for their babies.

This time, however, the birth mom didn't choose another couple instead of us. Instead, after thinking long and hard and talking to her family she chose herself as the parent of her child. Liz's email told me this using very positive language, and noting that it really is best for everyone for her to come to this conclusion now, before involving potential adoptive parents. And of course Liz is right. I am a firm believer that if there is a way for a woman to keep and raise her own child responsibly that is the very best choice. And I'd much rather have her come to that decision now than after baby is here.

I've been slowly noodling my way through Inside Transracial Adoption, by Gail Steinberg and Grace Hall. A few days ago as I wound down before bedtime I came to the section on "Adoptism." Great, another -ism, I thought. Adoptism is a word that describes the prejudices that are prevalent about adoption. Steinberg and Hall describe different ways these stereotypes and prejudices can affect each member of the adoption triad. I might blog later about what they had to say about adoptism for adoptive parents and children. But what has stuck with me through this weekend and week was what they had to say about the birthmother. Society is not always kind to a woman who has given up a child.

I've already seen it, a little, from dear friends and family members with our best interests in mind. They are skeptical about the level of openess we are hoping for. They are protective of us, of our place as the parents of our child. And there are assumptions we make about women who are unexpectedly pregnant, who are poor, who are not white, who give their babies up for adoption. The assumption is, for many, that this is not a person who you would want in your life, that she is someone who is bad for the child - dangerous even - that we will be "saving" the baby from her. These are easy assumptions to make. The media has told us over and over what to think about poor black women through sensationalized stories about "crack babies" and the movies and television that prop that trope up.

I'm not going to make those assumptions. For me, this woman is already one of the bravest people I know. Her choice to give up a child means choosing a huge lifetime loss for herself out of love for her little one.

Now, this doesn't mean that I think her life will be perfect, or that she will be a saint. (I'll pause here to note that I can't promise her a perfect life or sainthood from myself, either.) I'm sure our birthmother will have issues to bring to her relationship with us. She is a real person whose real life has brought her to this less-than-ideal situation of making an adoption plan. There are good reasons that she will make a different choice than the woman we were almost shown to this weekend, no matter how much she might wish it were different. Our commitment to her will be to parent her child the very best that we can, to care for ourselves and our son or daughter to the best of our ability so she can go on with her own life feeling secure in her decision, and to build a family that honors, respects, and even includes her.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Okay, maybe I will post every time...

Q: What does adopting a baby and touring in a rock band have in common??

A: They're both all about the hurry-up-and-wait.

Andrew and I met at a time when we were both in touring rock bands - meaning that both of our musical projects went on the road periodically for days and/or weeks at a time. It was a nice perk of our relationship that we both got the nature of this lifestyle. He was definitely on the road a lot more than I was, but I understood the quirks of communicating from tour: the late night post-show phone calls when energy is up, the short clipped answers to questions that one gets from a conversation partner who is stuck in a van with four or five other people, the time difference snafus, etc. It got to the point where I could have an entire 5-10 minute conversation with him in the middle of the night without even waking up. I'd have to check my phone log in the morning to see if I'd talked to him. And when I was on the road and he was at home, he understood it too.

The hardest thing about touring for me was always the hurry-up-and-wait. Get done playing a show and either nab some sleep at your current location and hustle out in the morning, or drive all night to the next town and grab sleep during the day. Either way it was a rushed trip to a new location and then the long sessions of waiting around: for the club to open, for the soundcheck, for the doors to open, for the show to start, for the show to end, to get paid, etc, punctuated by the comparatively brief (but usually amazing) rush of excitement that comes with performance. Andrew was able to get into a routine with it - I never really did. One reason why I'm not in a band anymore and he's touring Japan in June. I loved planning for the tours and I loved playing the shows...but I really didn't like all the darn waiting around.

So, you can imagine how things are playing out here. Adoption, especially the way we're going, is all about hurry up and wait. Get the homestudy done, figure out the finances, be as ready as you can be....and then wait for an indeterminate amount of time that could be as short as 3 days or as long as 18 months. Getting ready was a cinch for me.

The waiting? Not so much. (Andrew, on the other hand, is doing just fine thanks for asking.)

So you can imagine my relief when I got an email from Liz about a case yesterday afternoon. It feels like movement, it might be something! But more than anything knowing we're being shown again on Saturday gives me the illusion that we're progressing. It feels like showtime. The reason she emailed about this particular case is that the birth mom is interested in a greater degree of openness than the minimum we agreed to - something we're actually thrilled about and is a whole post in and of itself that is still gestating currently. The fact that we said yes this time means she probably won't tell us next time a mom who desires something similar comes up. But I'm glad to know. This waiting is starting to feel a lot like a long drive on a Nebraska highway, where everything looks the same for miles ahead and behind. It's nice to have a curve in the road to navigate every once and a while, even if around the bend is just more of the same.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

But it's so expensive....

One of the most common responses we get when we tell people we're adopting is something like "wow, isn't that really expensive?" or "yeah, we would consider adopting, but it's so expensive." There seems to be this idea out there that adoption has to cost tons of money. That's not really true, although it's true that it certainly CAN cost alot of money. Also, no matter what your method, lots of money will change hands.
There are a lot of reasons why adoptions cost money. That is a post all its own, I think. But here is some of what we learned in the course of our investigations about the money when we started to research adoption. This isn't bible truth by any means, so take it as one couple's research, and know that there are exceptions to everything.

In general Foreign Adoptions cost more than domestic.
This isn't always the case, of course. But the agency fees for a foreign adoption are generally more, because they have to have employees in that country, and there is more to subsidize as far as overhead costs. Also, there are government fees on top of agency fees, and then the cost of travel is definitely more. Add in money lost from not working while you travel (some governments require long stays in-country before they will release the child, or multiple visits.). Domestic adoptions can cost just as much, but there really is no reason for them to. The agencies that charge more should be including birth mother expenses in their fees. If you're required to be responsible for birth mother expenses, the agency fee should be significantly lower - think under $10,000.

There is a Federal Tax Credit available to those who adopt a child. This doesn't pay off until after you've completed the adoption, but for those who finalize an adoption this year that credit is over $12,000. That's a lot of money. And it's a credit, not a deduction. That means that after all your income is calculated and your return decided on, you get credited up to $12,0000 OR the rest of whatever you paid. Note: you can only be refunded what you've paid in taxes, so if your family only paid $5000 in taxes in a year, that's all you can get back. But the credit rolls over, so whatever you didn't get back the year you finalized, you can get the next year, and the year after until you've gotten your whole credit.

Babies cost more. There are a lot of funding programs available for kids who need homes, both domestically and abroad. Our agency has special funds to help subsidize or completely pay for older kids' adoptions. The younger a kid is the fewer subsidies available.

White babies cost the most. This was a shock for us. The most expensive countries to adopt from internationally are Russia and former Soviet Republics where many of the children are white. The most expensive adoptions domestically are white infant adoptions. It's mostly a white privilege thing and partially a supply/demand thing, more white people can afford to consider adoption and most of them want to adopt a child of their own race. The less expensive foreign adoptions are places like Ethiopia and Haiti - and I've written before about how one agency we had the option of sending our profile to broke down the percentage of African American as far as 25%, with the lowest fees being for 100% African American babies.

All that being said - there's programs out there to help fund adoptions, so you don't have to be rich to do it. Andrew and I are certainly not wealthy, not by any stretch. Here's how our adoption will break down.

Application fee: $250
Homestudy fee: $1565
Agency Fee: $4500
Matching Agency Fee: $7,000 - $23,000
Follow-up visit fee: $300 - $1000
Finalization fees: $1000 - $1500

So in total our adoption will cost at least $14,615. and at most 31,815, plus travel within the USA. Quite a spread, huh?

How the heck can we afford that? Well let's look at the funding sources we have available, in addition to pinching pennies on our own.

1. Tax credit - at some point we'll get at least 12K back.
2. No-interest loans: Our agency has these available for those who qualify. We qualify for one to the tune of $7000. Not too bad. Also, we have some family members who are willing to up the no-interest loan funds we can draw on a bit with their own money.
3. People like to help out. Other family members have slipped us money here and there.
4. This is the biggie for us: our grant. Our agency has a special grant program for their infant program. This is what levels the playing field for us, and lets us send profiles out to agencies whose fees are much higher as well as those whose fees are comparatively low. The grant works like this: Total Cost of Adoption minus Tax Credit times .75 equals grant. So the more we pay, the bigger our grant. So take that high end total cost, $35,815. Take out the travel, which doesn't count towards the grant, and run it through the formula and we've got a grant of 14523. Not too shabby. add the $7000 loan in and we're paying less than 10K out of pocket plus travel expenses. At the end of it all(grant and tax credit), even with the most expensive option the cost of the adoption is around $4k plus travel. Programs like this one is what is making it even remotely possible for us to afford adoption.

It's true that we've been especially lucky, and that we are just one unique situation. But there is other stuff like this out there, it just takes looking. At the end of the day an adoption doesn't have to cost more than having a baby biologically - and sometimes it costs less.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

not so much adoption related...

I believe it reveals something important about Andrew that he's the type of guy who will wall himself off in the kitchen for an entire Saturday afternoon working on a "special secret project" so that he can surprise me.

It's also somewhat telling that when he emerges, this is what he's been working away on:

That's right. Cookie Monster cupcakes. He was seized with the need to make Cookie Monster cupcakes. Of course, one person pointed out, they look more like Grover. Apparently there is a reason that the directions suggested waiting until the cupcakes were cool to apply the blue buttercream frosting.

It should tell you something about me that I couldn't have been more thrilled that this was the mysterious kitchen project.

I think he'll do just fine as a dad.