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!