Tuesday, November 12, 2013

OAB Interview Project: Judy Miller Part II

~~~ If you missed Part I of my interview with Judy Miller, be sure you read through it here first!~~~
 Part II...
Lindsay:  You and your husband are more ‘seasoned’ parents than many of my readers who are just starting their families through adoption… where do you and your husband find support for your relationship with each other? What advice can you offer to the parents of young children whose relationship is trying to weather the storm of infertility or the challenges of adoption?
Judy: I still find my guy to be the most amazing man ever. We have grown up and experienced an awful lot together—infertility, loss of a child, deaths of siblings and parents, adoption, and raising children with special needs. He is my safe place, and I am his. This is our journey that we committed to, wholly and together.
We make ourselves a priority, and this grew out of our oldest son would accosting my husband after work when he was just a little guy. My husband was just starting his business, and was exhausted. Although thrilled to see our son he needed “15” (time to transition into the house environment) after a long workday. It dawned on me then that we also needed designated time for ourselves. I made sure we had a minimum of one “date” night, as well as time away from the kids—an overnight, a weekend away, and sometimes longer. Our kids think this is pretty cool, and they benefit by seeing our commitment to each other.
 Advice for parents? Be truthful, and graceful with your words. Listen with your soul. Remind yourselves why you fell in love and married in the first place. Continue to date each other. Dates can simply be having a glass of wine together on the porch on a summer evening or taking a long walk in the outdoor beauty. Take time to connect and share.
 Infertility does, in a way, prepare a person for the adoption process. People challenged with infertility are not in control; nor will they be during the adoption process. Their adopted child will have suffered great loss, as they have. Adults will arrive, hopefully, into parenting with empathy for loss.
Lindsay:  Your family has grown so beautifully through adoption, but as I know all too well, adoption doesn’t ‘cure’ infertility. You and your husband experienced fertility challenges after your son was born … did your decision to grow your family through adoption ‘interrupt’ the inevitable grief one travels through with infertility? Do you think you ever finish the grieving process, even when you know your family is whole and complete? 
Judy: There are still times when I become very sad. I sometimes experience this when working with parents who are adopting after experiencing infertility and/or the loss of a child. Sometimes, I think of my child during month she was due. Some years are tougher than others.
I view grieving and joy as two branches of the same tree. And yes, I know we speak of trees often within the adoption world. But, the branch of sadness intertwines with the branch of profound joy of being blessed with my kids and being their mom. What a sacred privilege!
I don’t think we ever “get over it.” The pain softens, the ache dulls, but it’s always there.
Are we whole? Are we complete? I don’t know… We always say we’re still listening.
a.       What advice can you offer to the waiting adoptive mama as she prepares her heart and life for motherhood?
Judy: Prepare yourself to be open and to appreciate what adoption can mean for your child as he or she ages. Accept that parenting the adopted child IS different than parenting a biological child. Recognize that although you’ve been “vetted” you may need to speak to someone or seek support in the future, in order to support your child. Understand that your child’s story is theirs, and should not be shared with others 
Take the time before your child arrives to streamline your life and prioritize what matters, and prepare any siblings, family members and close friends for the child’s arrivals. And keep your expectations low
b.      What advice can you offer to the adoptive mama of a child approaching tween years who is anxious or feeling ill-equipped to handle the evolution of her child’s emotions and thoughts toward his/her adoption?
Prepare early. Changes in children are occurring in the brain long before the physical signs are present.
Make sure your child has the all the facts about his or her story prior to adolescence, even the tough truths. Understand that how your child views his or her adoption and what it means to them will evolve.
Know that your child may experience feelings from the inherent core issues; understand how they may manifest. Understand that what your child may come to feel and express isn’t about you; it’s wholly about him or her. Read my guide, What To Expect From Your Adopted Tween, or work with me so that you can be prepared for your child’s approaching tween and teen years.

Monday, November 11, 2013

OAB Interview Project; Meet Judy Miller!

I am honored to once again have the opportunity to participate in Open Adoption Bloggers' Interview Project. This is something I look forward to every year, not only for the chance to meet and get to know other open adoption bloggers, but it always gives me the opportunity to re-live so many aspects of our own journey to and through adoption.
This year, I was matched with Judy Miller and I have found myself enthralled by her experiences in adoption, intimated by her knowledge of parenting, and so thankful for the chance to get to know her!
Judy is the mama of one 'home-grown' and three adopted children. Her life experiences include travelling through infertility, losing a child through miscarriage, adopting internationally, writing and publishing a successful book, and teaching courses to adoptive parents in the throws of their children's adolescence, among so many other things. You can read Judy's thoughts as she wanders through her own childrens' adoption stories on her blog, Parenting Your Adopted Child; Tweens, Teens, & Beyond. You can also access and purchase her book, What to Expect from Your Adopted Tween... a book I intend to read cover to cover soon ;-)
I know you'll enjoy reading through my interview with Judy... her insight is profound, her emotions are raw, and the knowledge she has to offer those of us in the beginning stages of adoption or parenting is not something to be missed!
(Be sure you click over to Judy's blog, too and read through her interview with me ;-))
I want nothing more than for you to absorb Judy's wisdom and I've decided to split her interview into two parts to be sure you're able to do just that. SO...
Without further ado... meet Judy; Part I!

Lindsay:     What led you to build your family through adoption? How old were your children when you brought them home?
Judy: We made decision to adopt prior to marriage; we just didn’t realize how it would unfold. We were led to adopt internationally. That was always the plan, as was being a multiracial family. All of our children joined us as infants.
Lindsay:   Our adoptions were both domestic, making open adoption a very simple and reasonable option. I love your references to the ‘ambiguous loss’ your children face as they get older. How has your experience with international adoption and limited biological background information affected your tweens? How do you address those questions and possible confusion as your children process the parts of their lives that might be missing?
Judy: Ambiguous loss is very, very difficult to address. Period. There is no, “just get over it,” or, “I’m just going to love them through it.” Any parent who has either or both of these mindsets will have their eyes opened at some point.
We were aware we’d have to help our kids grapple with the unknowns—the lack of information and family and genetic history. And we’ve dealt with ambiguous loss, countless times, as well as discovering what events and situations events trigger feelings about adoption. Knowing this has helped us to be proactive.
Without going into any of their stories (because my kids’ stories are theirs, and I’m a stickler about keeping those private…), due to the nature of our kids’ adoptions, I can share there are missing “pieces.” We strive to be truthful, compassionate and supportive. We rely only on the facts we know, and we are fortunate to have enough that each of our kids has been able to build a foundation. Their frameworks sit, within the historical facts and contexts of their cultures of origin. They may decide to add to their stories in their futures, and we will be there to support them.
Lindsay:    You teach classes and write books on the joys and challenges of parenting an adopted tween and you offer advice to parents who may find themselves struggling through the tween years. As the Mama of tweens yourself, who do you turn to for advice with struggles you face at home? Do you think you hold yourself to a higher standard of parenting because of what you do?
Judy: Advice; I wish I could say my mom, but she passed away just after my oldest daughter was born. I turn to friends who are:
·         Adopted adults.
·         Adoptive transracial parents, whose kids are the same age and older than mine.
·         In interracial relationships/marriages and raising multiracial kids. 
·         Not white, nor are any of their family members.
·         Bi- and multiracial friends who are raised by parents that don’t “match.”
·         Who have immigrated into the U.S. and, when going “home,” are viewed as too American by their culture of origin. They’ve become Third World Kids (TWK).
·         Raising teens and young adults.
·         Who are of the same ethnicities as my kids.
·         Adoptive parents
I encourage parents to build a tapestry of support and diversity for their kids and themselves. I’ll share that we’ve tried to make sure our kids, including our homegrown son, have an expansive diverse groups of friends, role models, experiences, and exposure as possible. Diversity and exposure are inroads to creating openness, compassion, empathy, and understanding.
 I don’t feel I hold myself to a higher standard of parenting, however I do feel I am a very informed, proactive, open parent because of the work I do.

Lindsay:  Being the mom who supports other adoptive parents in their parenting techniques, how do you think your ‘profession’ affects your relationship with your own children(their openness with you, their ability to discuss their thoughts and feelings with you, etc)?  
Judy: My profession—work and advocacy—has helped me appreciate the complexity of adoption, and that of parenting the adopted child. I’ve come to embrace openness as a tool to unlock secrecy, shed light on shame, and face and walk through fear. And through modeling this, teach my kids to do the same.  
I’ve realized that being open in mind and heart is true compassion and support, further serving to “open” my kids and their abilities to communicate their needs as well as promoting our trust in each other and solidifying our relationships. I’ve learned the parenting journey is the toughest “job” I’ll ever love and is fraught with challenges because of the complexities of adoption. I’ve also learned that there are many optional tools to use for raising kids, which is so important, as they all are different.
~~~~Head over here to read Part II of my interview with Judy!!~~~~

Click here to read through dozens of other Open Adoption Blogger Interviews!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Stream of Consciousness.... 'Choosing' Adoption

I've written before about one thing that separates conception from adoption more than anything else, in my opinion.

No matter how it may seem, hopeful adoptive couples are given much control in their journey to grow their family through adoption. Sure, it's a long and stressful process... but we tend to focus on the control we DON'T have and don't focus enough on the control we DO have;

We get to choose the race of our baby.

We get to specify our comfort-zone when it comes to a birth-mom's past behaviors, lifestyle and health.

We can say 'yes' or 'no' to CP, or CF, or DS, or AIDS, or STDs, or ADHD, or missing limbs, or hearing loss, or blood disorders, or blindness, or prematurity, or heart defects, or kidney issues, or liver dysfunction, or pulmonary problems, or ...

Those last 5? Okay, yeah... it's getting personal now.

Many hopeful adoptive couples use themselves as the guideline by which they rank their level of comfort...

"I have never done drugs so I'm not open to a child who has been exposed to drugs."
And that's fair.

"I don't drink so I'm not open to a child who has been exposed to alcohol."
That's fair, too.

"If we conceived, our baby would not have A, B, and C so we aren't open to A, B, and C."
I get that.

I really do.

While Joey and I have always taken the 'check list of openness' very seriously, nothing causes you to stop and think about your level of comfort more than coming face to face with said baby who has A, B, C, D, E, F.... and so on.

When we first learned about Hunter, all of his medical issues were fully disclosed to us; heart issues, kidney issues, liver problems, and more I haven't mentioned... on top of his prematurity.

Here's the thing.... many many times in the 2 years we waited for Baby Smith #2 were we introduced to 'special needs' babies... Downs Syndrome, FAS, drug exposure, HIV, schizophrenia, and more. For each situation we became aware of we prayed, talked to family and doctors, researched, and asked ourselves honestly if this baby, and everything that came or could come with him or her was really right for us.

Inevitably, 'seomthing' always caused us to move on.... to continue waiting.
When we heard about Hunter... and ALL of his medical needs and unknowns.... we didn't hesitate to ask when we could meet him.

Sure, we did our research and prayed and talked to family and doctors but when it came down to it... when we were forced to be completely honest with ourselves and truly envisioned what our future could look like with this baby boy, it was right.

I've wondered many times why he felt right and the others didn't.

When I catch myself wondering.... never doubting.... but wondering...
I'm reminded of one thing;

God chose me to be his daughter.

He took into consideration all of my flaws...

External; my curved spine, flawed vision, high cholesterol, migraines, clumsiness
Internal; constant worry, self-doubt, gossip, doubting HIM, moodiness...

And he chose me anyway.

He chose to look past my weaknesses and unknowns and he chose me... for me.
We walked into Hunter's isolette and spent a few minutes getting to know him. Joey held him, we chatted with his primary pediatrician and nurse, we asked our questions, talked to our social worker, and finally made eye contact with each other...

My eyebrows raised... a sure sign to Joey that I'm asking him a question.

Joey nodded... a sure sign that he understood my question.

And we cried.

As much as I'd love to say that we chose this baby.... taking into full consideration all of his 'flaws'...

He really chose us.

And in the end, his 'flaws'... his 'list' or 'special needs'... are the things that make him ... him.

They tell his story... even the one's that are no longer there.

His 'flaws' are the reason we love him as fiercely as we do... because without them... without who they have made him... we wouldn't be who WE are today.

His parents.

God chose us to be his children.... He chose Hunter to be his son.... and he chose us to be a family.

So maybe the questions and concerns and conversations were God's way of letting us, our human selves, feel like we had some iota of control over the future of our family.

The truth is.... we had a choice.

Except I'm so thankful that we really didn't.

Monday, November 4, 2013

UPDATE on Baby Girl

I have just spoken with the agency representing the precious baby girl who is in need of a family.... the response to her need has been overwhelming and can only be described as a movement of God's love on her behalf! It's been truly remarkable to witness!

The job of matching a child with his/her family is a tall order... home studies, support systems, capabilities, finances, location... there's so much to sort through to even consider someone as a 'candidate' for such a special, but complex baby girl. Those of us who have adopted know this all too well....

I have taken baby-girl's story down for the moment while the agency's special needs department sorts through and responds to each inquiry... it is of utmost importance to them that they respond to each and every inquiry and do their best to find the right match for her. If a family still has not been found in the next few days, we will repost! And as soon as she has found her family, we'll be the first to know!

If you're a family who inquired about her, please be patient! You WILL hear from her placing agency... give them some time and keep praying :-)

I am humbled beyond words at how fast and how far this baby's story has traveled... the intense love and heart for special needs adoption has been pulled out of so many hearts through her story! 

Whether this was the first time your heart has been tugged at by adoption or whether it's been a constant ebb and pull that you've ignored for quite a while.... don't ignore your hearts this time, friends. This baby isn't the only one who needs a special family.... there are thousands more; overseas, in the US, and in your city and state. I'd like to encourage you to research local agencies and foster care systems.... let this baby girl's life leave a legacy by building your family through adoption!

In the mean time, please continue to pray for her... for her health and especially for the special family who's hearts are being prepared to welcome their baby girl home... even if they don't know it yet!