Monday, September 5, 2016

Finalization and Our Final Post

It's been a while since we've posted, so this post is long overdue.  Amazingly, life with two kids is much busier than just with one!

Now that it's been 4 months since our last post, Ariel is 4 months old (math!).  A lot has changed as Ariel has gotten older, Dominic has gotten used to having a baby sister, and I feel like I've gotten a +5 bonus in multitasking.

Over the past few months, we've been in great contact with Ariel's birth parents and their families.  They've been very proactive about staying in contact and we've seen them several times since we brought home from the hospital.  While it will be tough to meet as often with Andy and I being back at work and life going back to normal with less time at home, we're definitely going to be keeping in close contact.

On the other side of things, we really hope to be able to see Dominic's birth parents again soon. While we've tried a few times to meet up and give them a chance to see Dominic and to meet Ariel, it's been a challenge to get things lined up.  We'll have our fingers crossed that we can get together soon.

Family photo at finalization with the judge
Similar to Dominic's adoption, bringing Ariel home from the hospital wasn't the final step.  Finalizing Dominic's adoption took place several months after he was placed with us and we brought him home.  During those months, the adoption agency had follow up meetings at our house, the counselor wrote up a report, our lawyer also drafted some paper work, and then a court date was finally scheduled.

For Ariel, all of that process took a little over 4 months and we were able to go through finalization just last Tuesday!  In effect, this milestone marks the end of the adoption process.

Looking Ahead
While this represents our last post on the blog, the fact that both Dominic and Ariel were adopted through open adoptions means that we will continue to be connected to their birth families for the years to come.

There will also be a lot of fun watching these two grow up together.
She's already giving him judging looks from her car seat during car rides!
After starting our process in late 2011, it's been an eventful 5 years to reach the point where our little family is complete.  Thanks to everyone that has read the blog during our journey and provided so much wonderful feedback and support!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Ariel Claire Magee

This weekend has been an absolute whirlwind.  On Wednesday morning shortly after 11 while I was at work, I got a call from Andy that we had been chosen.  Luckily, I was working in my main office that morning and was right next to Andy's building.  I popped over to his office and we were able to sit together for 'the call' with one of the counselors from OA&FS, Delphine.  It was exciting, joyful, and nerve-wracking all at the same time to realize how much our lives could change during that time.

This is what you get when you search for 'exciting phone call at work.
Not totally what I was going for, but it's about on the same level of crazy!
Compared to our previous path to adopt Dominic, this case was a last minute placement.  With Dominic, we got 'the call' about 6 months before he was born which left plenty of time for everyone to get to know each other beforehand.  For a last minute placement, everything is accelerated.  In this case, this compressed our first meeting, getting to know each other, ensuring that everyone is still comfortable with moving forward, setting the framework for the open adoption agreement, having an entrustment ceremony, and then finally departing from the hospital in the span of about 24 hours!

First Meeting
After getting the call, Andy and I rushed to handle logistics to make sure Dominic would have someone to watch him that evening (thanks Uncle Matt!) as well as figuring out what each of us would do with our jobs.  Effectively, we went from being active employees one hour with loads of responsibilities to telling management that we were about to be out on leave...immediately.  We always knew this would be a possibility over the past 2 years, but it was still a challenge for us to shift gears so quickly!

Once we sorted all of that out in a mere 60 minutes, we drove directly to the hospital to meet the birth parents and little Ariel.  While we only first met them on Wednesday afternoon and spent time with them through that day and again on Thursday before we all left the hospital, both Andy and I found ourselves talking again and again about how they are amazing people.  They're caring, genuine, and loved by so many people.  I feel lucky that they not only chose us to parent Ariel, but that we'll be able to continue a long-term relationship with them as we all see Ariel grow and develop over the days, weeks, and years ahead.

The Choice
One of the key questions many adoptive families have once they're picked is, why us?  Not long after we met the birth parents, we got to hear some insights into this.  Among these were that we would likely get along well together in the long run, we had similar values and goals for an open adoption, and that Dominic would make a great older brother for Ariel.

Andy and I with Ariel at the hospital
Every birth family has a different reason for choosing an adoptive family, so it's always interesting to hear these sorts of things.  One key thing I enjoyed hearing from the birth dad was that he wished he could give a baby to every single adoptive family he looked at.  Again, just a really kind and caring example of the type of guy he is.

Wednesday Night and Thursday Morning
Andy holding Ariel on Wednesday night
We had the great chance to stay at the hospital and care for Ariel overnight while the birth parents went home for some much needed rest.  Andy stayed there with Ariel.  A key difference for this experience compared to when we were preparing to be placed with Dominic was that we already had a child that needed to be taken care of!  With some key family and friends out of town or departing town first thing in the morning, I drove back home to relieve Uncle Matt and make sure someone would be home with Dominic.  After that, I energetically (hah!) threw together some baby items and attempted to install an infant car seat and then reinstall Dominic's car seat from the middle of the backseat to the side.  Being rather exhausted at 11:30pm, that was way harder than it likely would have been otherwise!

In the morning, I took Dominic in to day care.  We would have loved to have brought him down to the hospital to meet Ariel's birth family and friends, but caring for him for that long of a time would have taken away the focus from those that really needed it for the day.  I know we're all looking forward to having Ariel's older brother meet everyone soon.

Thursday Afternoon
The afternoon was a bit long because Ariel couldn't leave the hospital until she passed a continuous 90-minute test while being restrained in a car seat.  We waited to do this until some final members of the birth family stopped by to meet her and us.

During the test, we were all crowded around Ariel.  Delphine walked the birth parents, Andy, and I through the entrustment ceremony.  All of us were very informal about it, but it was a key event as we talked about our hopes for Ariel and our feelings.  It was quite moving.

The decision for a birth parent to entrust their child to someone else is a powerful thing.  It is not a decision that is made lightly and it has the ability to affect the lives of everyone involved in a very profound way.  During these final hours at the hospital, I wished that I could do something that would free the birth parents from any feelings of anguish and sadness, but there really were no special words or actions that would do so.  

Thinking back to Dominic's favorite movie, Inside Out, one of the lessons is that while society always tells us to put on a smile and be happy that it is ok to embrace sadness as well.  The ability to feel sad about something means that someone truly cares and may feel a sense of loss.  Building on this, Inside Out also shows us that sadness and joy can coexist in transformative moments of our lives.  For myself, the entrustment ceremony was exactly one of those moments.  Despite the sadness I know we all felt that afternoon, I feel joy knowing that both Andy and I will be the best adoptive parents for baby Ariel that we can be and that we will be able to help her birth parents see her grow and develop.

(Full disclosure: Inside Out is easily one of my favorite movies as well for this and many other great reasons!)

Dominic meeting his baby sister for the first time
Like I noted in a post the night we brought Dominic home, today's goodbye will become tomorrow's hello.  Already today, we have been trading texts and photos of Ariel with her birth parents.  Compared to past times when closed adoptions were the norm and this would never happen, I am truly happy that we are able to have open adoptions for both of our children.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Approaching the Homestudy Update

Life is moving along these days and it's already mid-April.  Since our last post, we've continued to accrue more adoption waiting pool "experience" on our way to the two year mark.  From our earlier post on our adoption experience to date (back in February), the big item on the horizon for us was our homestudy renewal.

Since December, we've been waiting to get a new counselor.  Since February, we've learned that our agency was having some challenges getting a new counselor on board.  Rather than having a new counselor work with us to do our homestudy renewal, we'll be working directly with a former counselor who is now the regional supervisor for the local office.  On one side, it will be nice to work with an experienced counselor.  On the other side, knowing that we'll likely have a minimum of 4 counselors over our wait does represent a level of inconsistency in our course through the process.

Now that we know who will be doing our homestudy, we do have a meeting setup with her to do all of our interviews in one go.  During that time, she'll get to see our house, conduct one-on-one interviews with Andy and I, and then collect any other info she needs to update our homestudy report.  For us, it'll be an opportunity to connect back in to our process and feel like we're doing something active during our wait.

Admittedly, the wait has been getting tougher over the past few weeks.  Just recently, there was another urgent screening email which needed a reply in under 90 minutes.  After an urgent call between us during a morning at work, we opted to say yes.  On my end, I then promptly lost most of my work focus during the day and had my fingers crossed.  It was still a long shot, but every little chance we have to be chosen just feels more magnified.  Of the 17 families that joined the waiting pool in the 3 months after we entered, only 4 remain.  There are still 19 families who have waited longer than we have.  Collectively, I know all 20 of us are likely very anxious and ready to be chosen.

When we began the process for our first adoption, one segment during our pre-adoption seminar was all about managing grief.  We touched on these in our summary posts, but from our perspective there was very little grief to manage.  As a gay couple, we never have had an opportunity to control our process to building a family.  That was a basic expectation.  We were just thrilled to be at that seminar and take the first step.  However, I think that topic is applicable to our status now.  Being unable to control our process, our role has been to wait while time ticks by.  As that time goes by, Dominic grows older, we grow older, and not much effectively changes for us with respect to an adoption.  Just the same as it was when we entered the pool, we could be chosen 5 minutes from now or 5 years from now despite having 22 and a half months go by.

In the meantime, we're focusing on keeping busy.  Just today, Dominic had a fun trip to the park to get out and enjoy the nice weather.  He's a happy little guy who has changed so much over the past few weeks and months.

His independent, smart, and adventurous spirit helps keep us active and on our toes.

Both Andy and I are training for a half-marathon in May.  We've each run races before, but never a half-marathon together.  With some luck, we'll both manage to drag each other across the finish line in decent time.  While we may have no control over the finish line in our second adoption, the finish line for our race is one we can cross under our own power...and hopefully in under 2 hours!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

21 Month Update

Hello again!

Now is a great time for an update after a busy February.  First up, Andy and I had an amazing trip out to Hawaii.  Similar to how we took one last big vacation before adopting Dominic, our week Hawaii was a great time to get away, recharge, and enjoy a rare opportunity.  Someday, we hope to take Dominic and a future sibling there for a vacation that all of us will enjoy.

Going to Hawaii was also a way to take our minds off of our longer than expected adoption wait.  Of course, we even got another screening email towards the end of our trip marking #18.  Overall, there was a significant amount of activity for OA&FS in February which resulted in 9(!) separate placements.  For an agency that has typically averaged 41 placements a year, this is a huge spike for a short time period and coincides with our jump in recent screening emails.

As we are up to 21 months in the pool, now is a good time for a fresh round of statistics on our waiting pool/wait:

As a final update, we took Dominic on a trip today.  We got to visit his birth dad Jason, play at the local children's museum, and then enjoy lunch afterwards.  It was great to connect again, and we'll be looking forward to a future visit his birth family!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Adoption Process - What Does Our Experience Look Like?

Time to check back in after a few busy weeks!  Just recently, we have received a big jump in screening calls, work has clicked into a higher gear, and I was also somehow able to make time to meet with some friends in the adoption waiting pool or currently exploring the possibility of adoption.

Just sitting down to talk and think about the process of adoption got me thinking.  When we first started our journey, one of the things I found the most interesting and engaging were the stories from adoptive parents.  Their direct experiences represented a real connection to what Andy and I were signing ourselves up for.

Our first adoption with Dominic went very quickly.  That was great for us, but it also meant that we had a completely different experience compared to our time for this second adoption.  In fact, now feels like a great time for a refresher on the overall process to compare the two.

Typical Adoption Process
Looking at the basics, the adoption process after entry into the waiting pool distills down to a few key points for every adoptive family.
  • Everything starts out with a splash into the waiting pool on Day 1.
  • At 12 months, adoptive families need to sign a fresh yearly contract with the agency and some other minor paperwork.
  • Next up is the average wait time for adoptive families at 14 to 15 months.  
  • At 21 months, families still in the pool will approach a decision point and need to update their homestudy to remain in the pool after 24 months.  Many families opt to update their materials at this time as well.
  • At 24 months, families will again sign the yearly contract and redo paperwork.
  • This process will then repeat in two-year intervals (aside from pool entry) until adoptive families are either selected or leave the pool.
Our Experience
With Dominic, we barely made it into the chart above before we were chosen (just 2.5 months).  On this go around, there has been a lot more to document!  Building on the base chart, I've overlaid several key elements during our wait:
  • Current Wait Time - 20 months
  • Material Updates - 1
  • Screening Emails/Calls - 17
  • OA&FS Counselor Changes - 2
  • Dominic's Birthdays - 2

While our experience isn't done yet, we are rapidly approaching the stage where we will begin a new homestudy.  We will hopefully have a new counselor soon who we will team up with for that effort and to help review a refresh of our family letter and book given that a lot can change in a year.

Until then, Andy and I are looking forward to a break away from thinking about adoption and work as we are taking a brief vacation out to Hawaii.  We haven't been there since our honeymoon over 5 years ago, so it will be fun to get away for a few days and recharge!