Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hey, We Know Those Two!

Today was a fun first for us - we found a couple we know on OA&FS's list of waiting families!

We got to meet Angela and Andrew when we did the pre-adoption seminar, as they had flown in from the Midwest to work with the agency. They seemed like a great couple, and we ended up having lunch with them the second day of the seminar. (And then we wrote about it, too!)

Since they were from out of town, they completed all their in-person interviews with a counselor during a marathon session the day after the seminar. So they're a bit faster in the process than all the rest of us, which is why they're already up on the website. But it's really cool to see some folks we've met up there!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

And We're Back!

That was fun! Brian and I had a fantastic trip to Europe, visiting Stockholm, Rome, Venice, and Paris. We had the opportunity to visit the Louvre while we were in Paris, and saw the Code of Hammurabi. Quite impressive!

Code of Hammurabi, at Musée du Louvre
One thing that struck me about it was that the code actually contained references to adoption. I looked into it a bit more when we got home, and it turns out that it's one of the first references in written history to the whole concept. Pretty cool!

Although we plan on being a bit more lenient when our kids have questions about their birth families:
French translation of the Code of Hammurabi
In English: 193 - If an adopted child [...] identifies his birth home and rejects the father or the mother who raised him and leaves for his birth home, his eye shall be torn out.

Yikes! Seems a bit harsh, doesn't it? I'm glad things have evolved a bit since then!

Anyway, now we're back and ready to go. Our homestudy document (being written by our counselor Katie) will likely be finished in the next few weeks, and at that point we'll just be wrapping up a few loose ends before we enter the pool of waiting families!

Friday, May 4, 2012


Brian and I were talking about our upcoming European trip to a friend recently, and she asked us if it was our "babymoon". I'd never heard of that term before - as always, Wikipedia to the rescue!
Babymoon has several meanings. The original meaning is a period of time that parents spend bonding with a recently-born baby. More recently the term has come to be used to describe a vacation taken by a couple that is expecting a baby in order to allow the couple to enjoy a final trip together before the many sleepless nights that usually accompany a newborn baby.
So yeah, I guess this is our babymoon? It wasn't planned that way, but I guess the timing works out! Anyway, all this to say that we're taking a blogging hiatus for a couple weeks. Never fear, though, we'll be back with more updates as soon as we return!

Au revoir, mes amis !

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Is That Your Final Answer? - Screening Tool

Back in mid-April, I put up two posts about the Screening Tool which our agency uses to help decide which adoptive families to show to various birthmothers/birthfamilies depending on their situation.  If the birthmother knows that she is having a boy, all of the adoptive families that only want a girl won't be included in her list to choose from.

The two original posts about the top half and bottom half of the screening tool included a lot of tentative answers.  Now that we've had time to do some research, our answers are at a final draft stage.  We're posting them here to share with you before we leave for a 2-week vacation in Europe.  That will give us time to really think about our answers, all of you to give any input you might like to add, and then for us to come back with a fresh mindset to make any final tweaks before we submit our Screening Tool to our counselor, Katie.

Top Half of the Screening Tool
This was the easiest section.  Our answers were the same as before, but I'll list them here as a refresher:
Age - Newborn to 3 months
Gender - Either boy or girl
Description / Race - All
Twins -  Yes

Bottom Half of the Screening Tool
This was by far the hardest section.  Everything in the top half was very straightforward while this section is all about potential risks.  Even with 'Severe' exposure in any of these categories, a baby could still be perfectly healthy and normal, but the inherent risks are present.

Alcohol - Mild
Notes - It's been well documented that alcohol use during pregnancy can result in birth defects.  For us, we just have to decide how willing we are to risk it.  Realistically, I have a few drinks every week.  If I were to accidentally get pregnant, then my baby would automatically be in the 'Mild' or 'Moderate' category since it would take a few weeks to find out I was pregnant.  Overall, I think the biggest concern is binge drinking which boosts exposure compared to drinks that are spread out over time.  In this instance, additional research on WebMD and Wikipedia make me feel comfortable with 'Mild' exposure.  There may be cases where 'Moderate' may also be ok, but that would be a case-by-case basis.  

Marijuana - Moderate
Notes - This was a tougher one to research.  Given marijuana's status as an illegal substance, there's a lot of speculation and 'just say no' information out there.  Sticking with WebMD, there is a brief paragraph suggesting risk of premature birth and low birth weight.  Wikipedia has some conflicting research.  Another article chock full of research takes a more realistic look at the research and suggests that there is not consistent evidence based on research that marijuana is harmful.  An interesting thing to note is that limited research cases and sample sizes for the research that has been done may also be impacted by concurrent factors such as alcohol use, poor nutrition, etc. during pregnancy.  For this case, it is readily apparent that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol and we're very comfortable with going 'Moderate'. 

Methamphetamine Moderate
Notes -Meth is another drug with limited research available.  One source lists increased rates of premature delivery fetal growth retardation, heart abnormalities, and brain abnormalities.  A WebMD article reviewing a study with mice showed distinctive changes with a single low dose of meth.  Additional information from March of Dimes shows low birth weights and smaller head sizes for babies, but does not address the amount of exposure to meth.  Our response for this is 'Moderate' which matches marijuana, but this is an exposure of seemingly greater concern that may need to be addressed if we are chosen by a birthmother that has used meth. 

Cocaine Moderate
Notes -  The National Institute on Drug Abuse has some interesting analysis on cocaine.  They say that extreme damage is not likely but that there are signs that there could be later deficits in children for areas of cognitive performance, information processing, and attention to tasks.  WedMD has some additional review that reference back to NIDA.  For this case, I think I'd lean towards a similar 'Moderate' answer that was given above for meth. 

Heroin Moderate
Notes - NIDA has a high level review for heroin with the main concern being low birth weight.  March of Dimes discusses several potential issues such as withdrawal, lower birth weight, breathing problems, and learning/behavioral problems.  Continuing the trend, we'll stick with a 'Moderate' rating along the lines of the previous two. 

Prescription NarcoticsModerate
Notes -  Some examples of these are oxycodone and hydrocodone.  Given the wide variety in this category, there could be a variety in both the magnitude and type of affects.  March of Dimes supports this with a general catchall that "some medications can hurt your baby, causing birth defects, premature birth, and other health risks."  Given that this one has such a wide range of drug types, a solid 'Moderate' rating seems appropriate.

Tobacco Moderate
NotesNIDA has some surprising stats here.  They state that about 16% of pregnant women smoke during their pregnancies.  The adverse effects include fetal growth retardation and decreased birth weight.  On the positive side, there seems to be a dose-dependent correlation with birth weights which means that the potential for negative impacts reduces as the amount of smoking is reduced.  Similar to many other drugs, development of addition for the baby is possible.  WebMD has similar information but also discusses cleft palate.  The majority of these are all short-term problems that can be addressed right away, so a 'Moderate' response fits well.

Mental Illness of Birthparent - Moderate
Notes - The next three categories are more easily answered without research.  This one is more heavily influenced by our long-term relationship with the birthparent(s) rather than the health of the baby.  There could be a wide range here from minor things such as depression or autism all the way up to schizophrenia.  Katie specifically pointed out that finding a birthparent with 'None' in this category is getting more and more rare with a higher rate of diagnosis for things like autism.  For us, I think that 'Moderate' is a happy medium which will open us to a majority of birthfamilies and we can make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Developmental Disabilities of BirthparentModerate
Notes -  Similar to the last category, this will be important for maintaining a relationship with the parent.  Many development disabilities can be due to external influences like accidents or trauma.  Katie also provided some input here with some specific guidance that IQ plays a factor in the screening.  At this stage, 'Moderate' feels right for us.

Child with Known Medical ConditionModerate
Notes -  Well... this is a vague category isn't it?  In truth, this could be completely independent of drugs.  In an unplanned pregnancy, a birthmom might not realize or accept she's pregnant until month 5 or 6.  It would then make sense that the baby would be behind in development due to lack of proper nutrients.  Something like that can be corrected but could warrant a Mild or Moderate designation.  There are many more potential considerations here, but 'Moderate' seems like an acceptable catch all that reflects what we may be able to accept.

Whew! Glad that's done.

It's important to remember with this list that it's meant as a general guide, and individual cases may vary. The agency will use this to ensure that they aren't handing out our profile to birth families in situations where we're sure we won't be comfortable, but that's as far as this tool's usefulness goes. If and when a birth family picks us, we'll still absolutely have a chance to review the individual circumstances and make our own decision then. There's a great facility at UW which will review the mother's and child's medical records for a small fee, and will be able to provide better guidance based on the specific parameters. So it's good to have this research in now, although we'll have a lot more thinking to do in the future!

We'd love any input that you have too. Any comments, questions, or other feedback are definitely welcome!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Who Wants a Baby? - May Edition

Even though we are not in the waiting pool yet, it seems fun to share/track some statistics about the waiting pool.  Each birthmom/birthfamily may select an adoptive family for different reasons.  This is just a new type of post that we'll do every month or so to share a summary of the waiting pool, how it changes over time, and provide a snapshot of what birthmoms/birthfamilies might be seeing.

Total Number of Families -82

Couples - 78 (95%)
Single - 4 (5%)

Heterosexual - 49 (60%)
Gay - 18 (22%)
Lesbian - 11 (13%)
Single - 4 (5%)

What Is Open Adoption?

So Brian and I keep referencing "open adoption", or "openness in adoption", but we realized recently that we never really explained what that means. And there's a lot of confusion out there about the topic, since it is relatively new, so I thought I'd give a go at explaining it a bit.

In short, open adoption means fostering an ongoing relationship between a child, the adoptive family, and the birth family. It's really that simple - the specifics of what that relationship looks like will always change depending on the individual case.

It's sometimes easier to look at open adoption in terms of how it differs from a "traditional" (closed) adoption. In the past, adoption has sometimes been looked at as a shameful thing. A birth mother, especially if she was unmarried, would be told that giving up her baby and forgetting the pregnancy ever happened was the best way to move on with her life. Adoptive parents, who most often were infertile themselves, were told to act as if the child they raised was their biological child. And adopted children were often kept in the dark about their unique heritage, so that "telling them they were adopted" became an important (read: scary) event.

By choosing an open relationship, we hope to avoid much of the emotional stress that can be caused by the secrecy that used to be the norm. Our child will always know that he or she was adopted; it will simply be a fact of their life, and we'll never have to have "the conversation." There will inevitably be tough questions: "why did my birth family give me away" seems to come up often. But instead of being only able to say "we don't know", Brian and I will actually be able to have a real conversation with the birth family and will be able to give a real answer to our children. And from the reading we've done, it appears that knowing that a child has entered into a loving and stable home can often provide closure for birth parents that they wouldn't have had otherwise. By all accounts, openness can benefit all parties involved in the adoption.

I'm going to switch over to a quick Q&A style, based on some of the more common questions we've got:

Q: Who will be the "real" parents? Is this some sort of co-parenting arrangement?
A: We (Brian and Andy) will be our children's parents. We will be the ones providing for and raising the children, and we will be fully responsible for them. The birth family will not have a legal relationship with the children; any parental rights are terminated at the time of the placement. The relationship between a child and his/her birth parents could change with each different case, but some have likened it the the relationship with an aunt/uncle, or with a close family friend.

Q: Why choose openness? It seems complicated.
A: Yep, it's definitely complicated! But adoption in the US is clearly moving towards openness, and with good reason. The latest research has shown that all parties in the adoption triad (child, adoptive parents, birth parents) benefit from having a more open relationship in the grand majority of cases. A recent Seattle Times article explored just that issue with adult adoptees who were seeking access to records of their own adoptions.

Q: What if the birth mother wants her child back?
A: Hollywood and many media outlets have made a big deal of some high profile cases where a birth mother has gone to great lengths to "take back her child" from an adoptive family, but that's not a common or realistic scenario. At the child's birth, the birth mother will sign what's called a "relinquishment", and that document terminates her rights as a parent. After that, the only way for a birth mother to try to regain custody would be if she could prove that she was somehow coerced into signing the document. Luckily for us, we work with an ethical agency, and we don't anticipate any coercion going into our own process!

There's much more to talk about here, but I'm going to cut off the post for now! But any questions are welcome in the comments, and we'll try our best to answer them in the future.