Saturday, November 22, 2014


Today is National Adoption Day, and I am bombarded by beautiful families all over Facebook celebrating the creation of their families in this most special and amazing way. And I am torn in two. I am just as convinced today as I was 18 months ago that adoption is THE puzzle piece we've been missing. But my heart breaks. My heart breaks yet AGAIN for the hole that still undermines our whole. And every time my heart breaks, a little piece of me crumbles, and I'm not sure if I can ever get it back. So on this National Adoption Day, please do celebrate with us, but know that those smiling families are at the end of the longest struggle of their lives. Know that they cannot possibly be the same people they were when they began their journey. Know that for as many beautiful families that we can see, there are those of us still waiting, still in the middle, still trying to understand and cling to last shreds of hope, still hurting. Know what lies in between and behind the scenes. 

"Let's say screw it and just get five dogs.” Wry, sarcastic, defeatist, dripping with pessimism and between-the-lines desperation.

“The waiting is the hardest part.” Too obvious. Too empty.  A between-the-lines dismissal because I have no better justification.

“You should just lie a little bit and SAY you’re going to homeschool your kid.” Well-meaning, surface-level understanding, joking (but not joking) and between-the-lines pity.

“Hang in there.” “Hopefully soon!” Generic encouragement. Over-used lip service and between-the-lines…what? Indifference? Annoyance? Doubt?

“There is no reason Jeff and I don’t have a child yet.” Baffled exasperation. Overt. Nothing in between the lines here. 

Fact: Every one of these statements has been spoken (or e-mailed) to us (or by us) recently in response to some non-development in our current, ongoing saga.  Every one of these statements has floated around in my head since first uttered.  One of these statements comes with the best of intentions, weighted with the desire to show us they’re on our side.  Some are merely poisonous exhaust. And others, I have a feeling, are expressed to couples like us far too often.

By all accounts, we have a warm, loving home that contains a beautiful nursery sitting dormant.  A place so carefully plotted, designed, executed.  A bittersweet room I am drawn to yet want to avoid. A stagnant shrine to the light at the end of the tunnel that never seems to draw closer or grow brighter. 

By all accounts, we have an amazing support network of friends and family who still wait with baited breath.

By all accounts, we are intelligent, thoughtful, generous – and grateful – people. 

By all previous accounts, we are the family someone will snatch up right away – the family that won’t have to wait very long.  The couple who will be great parents.

Fact: All accounts cannot account for our misfitting every opportunity that has come along. (“There is no reason Jeff and I do not have a child yet” – Me, frustrated and weak.)

We cannot afford to spend an additional $40,000 before we even have a child to care for.  Kids are expensive, right?

We live in the real world where we both hold down full-time jobs.  One of us does not have the ability to be a stay-at-home parent.  Neither of us is qualified to homeschool our child.  

We plan to encourage our child to explore their own spirituality rather than choose a religion for them before they are even born.  We have been told our open-mindedness is wrong.

We don’t have any children yet to be sibling to our adopted child.  We fully intend to adopt a second child because we highly value the sibling relationship.  But we have to start somewhere.

We have scrimped and borrowed and precisely plotted and accepted amazing charity from amazing people.  Yes, we can make $32,000 work. But no, we are not a same-sex couple who already has a child. (“Hopefully soon!” – Our agency.)

Fact: If I have to swallow my tongue and be the picture of grace, humility, and patience much longer…if I have to continue to explain and justify our values and lifestyle…I might just finally implode.  Because Limbo is slowly, but greedily devouring my spirit. (“Waiting IS the hardest part.” – I keep telling myself this.)

Why can’t we just paint a rosy picture? Why can’t we fib a little? Why can’t we put ourselves in the most advantageous position possible?  Why not look out for Number 1 for a change? After all, we’ve earned it, right? Why not just tell them what they want to hear? (“You could just lie a little bit.” – Multiple friends and family members.)

How can I explain it?

This is the very origin of our family.  How can we bridge the void that currently exists between us, who struggle with this great emptiness and need, and her, the woman who singularly possesses the ability to cure us, if we begin with dishonesty?

The degree to which we will maintain a relationship with this question-mark person over the course of our lives is unknown at this point, but there is no denying we will forever impact each other.  No other parties will ever share our mutual experience, bond, understanding.  

And the sake of our child’s healthy identity will rely on his or her ability to comprehend and accept his or her origin.  And that may very well rely on our ability to maintain an open relationship with our child’s birth family.

How can we expect to do this– how can we approach this person later on down the line with yet another need only she can fulfill – if we set aside our integrity in the very beginning?

Fact: This is not about us. This is not about our child’s birth family. At its rawest, most essential truth, this is about our child. What must always come first is what is best for our child. And it is something we, as good parents, must think about now. Just as any good parent takes prenatal precautions to positively influence their unborn child.  This is your pregnant daughter, sister, wife, friend cutting out caffeine and alcohol and raw foods.

Fact: It doesn’t mean it doesn’t still sting like hell every time we come up short.  Every time we make a concession only to be told it’s the one thing we can’t change or won’t compromise that misfits us with that birth mother.  It doesn’t mean my fire doesn’t ash over a little bit more every time I catch myself trying to defend a stranger’s wholesale rejection of us as an appropriate family. Integrity sucks sometimes – it is physically painful sometimes.

“Let’s say screw it and just get five dogs.” The text message I sent my husband after our latest let-down. (“Hang in there!”)

Fact: Four years is a lifetime. I am tired. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


"Das Schweigen"
Johann Heinrich Füsli
Limbo is a challenging place to be. Held in place, you look forward, to a future just out of reach, just a bit hazy and unfocused. Yet you also look backward, down a road at once exhausting and fraught with potholes, detours and 20/20 hindsight, but also teeming with wisdom and perspective gained along the way. Your unknowns are too many and, frankly, too unknown to feel as if you have any leverage to carry you onward. But you've come too far to lose momentum now.

Limbo is a place where all control lies in the hands of another. And so you continue to sit, full of latent energy, motivation and restlessness.

For Jeff and me, Limbo has been home for three months, six days, and counting. In the bigger picture, I suppose we really have lived here for four years (but who's counting?).

It has been a while since I've spilled my guts on the page. And the interesting thing about Limbo is, having been here before, I've come to understand it's the most creative place for me to be. Out of necessity, spinning my wheels gets my gears going.

I suppose if you were to characterize the process of adoption, it would be as a series of do-this-as-fast-as-you-can tasks so you can get to The Long Wait. From November to May, Jeff and I were caught up by the seemingly endless checklist of requirements we needed to complete for someone (several someones) to tell us we lead an acceptable life in which to raise a child. Every step of the way, as we winnowed the list by a couple of checkmarks at a time (often only to add one more new item) we felt the light shine a little stronger at the end of this tunnel.

(And don't worry - we've heard all of the lamentations from friends and family and experienced firsthand the cynicism that jumps into the rabbit hole with you when you start asking why two people like us, with our history, effort and demonstrated appreciation, have to jump through the hoops when others abuse and take for granted the gift of life they've been given. It may be a fair question, but it is an unproductive one that we are long past at this point.)

Finally in May - after completing financing plans and financial statements, undergoing physicals and identifying a pediatrician; after pages and pages of autobiographies and hypothetical answers to philosophical questions about everything from discipline to spirituality to ethnic sensibility to our thoughts on children watching television; after fingerprinting and background checks, reference letters and 3+ books to read (and subsequently more questions to answer) and two interviews with the social worker; after four drafts of our family profile book; and after questioning and requestioning our own thoughts and beliefs and values and still leaving the questions and expectations open for discussion and reinterpretation at a later date - we were finally ready to jump into the pool of waiting families ready to find that perfect match. But the further we get from May, the more we realize this is a pool of couples treading water waiting, with no timeline, for that perfect match to invite us to come out and dry off and hopefully not push us back in after we've done so. (Limbo can be a pool, right?)

During our wait, we have had our expectations of just who is out there and just what they're looking for shattered and rebuilt several times. Each encounter is surprising in both the details of the situation and the timeline for birth. If nothing else, learning about these birth families and the circumstances that have brought them to this brave decision has been a crash course in true life.

To step away from the mixed metaphors and catch you up on the facts - since May, we've been presented with four birth families. Of those four, one has actually looked at our profile book. This young woman took an interest in us, based on the very surface-level image available to her through a 20-page photo book. We met with her a few weeks ago, underwent essentially the most important job interview of our lives, and quickly learned we were greatly incompatible with each other.

Back to Limbo we go.

Existentially, sterilely, looking at our experience from  a thousand feet, I can confidently say we are stronger, better people with a more complete world view because of what we continue to go through. Will it make us better or better prepared parents? Unanswerable. Does it make us wiser, more empathetic human beings? For sure.

But from my seat in Limbo, on the most personal level, I have never felt more vulnerable - despite the methodic microsope of our six-month homestudy process; despite the physical poking and prodding and grin-and-bear-it, medically prescribed humiliation I endured for three years. Until now, we have been able to steer, or at least knowingly leave ourselves in the hands of fate. This is something altogether different - this is control of this very important, very emotionally raw part of our lives placed squarely with some completely unknown person. 

Is vulnerability a bad thing? Perhaps that's too simple a question...

     Hindsight tells me to search for the silver linings.

     Hope tells me life has an amazing, unspeakable reward awaiting us in the relatively          near future.

     Love tells me Limbo will fade without us even realizing we've left it behind.

But for now, with our souls exposed, with our hindsight, hope and love battling uncertainty, exhaustion and doubt, my heart feebly mutters something about knowing we are great parents if only someone got to know us underneath the surface.

The ironic thing about Limbo? While going nowhere, it is nearly impossible not to get lost.

So in my attempt to regain clarity, I turn to this scribbling, stream-of-consciousness outlet once more, and through this exercise, here is what I know:

- Adoption is the beautiful, unbreakable commitment to true love between a child and that child's parents - both the adoptive parents-for-life and the life-giving birth parents.

- This is the momentous, defining path our lives were meant to follow.

- The joy we feel for the future still infinitely outweighs the oppressive, stagnant air we currently breath.

- We all have to face life's curveballs.

- It's OK to be frustrated and feel like we're being left behind at times so long as we remember that what we are doing cannot possibly be valued against the experiences of others following a different path and so long as we check our expectations whenever we can to regain perspective.

- I AM stronger now than I've ever been. And I am also more vulnerable than I've ever been. And I don't have to change anything about that.

- I am truly fortunate to have a partner as we keep each other company in Limbo and forever thereafter.

- I feel peace when I walk into our nursery.

- I want everyone to feel my excitement and know our story. This is how I know every minute of this journey is worth it:

I drove into work this morning brooding and frustrated, discouraged and disheartened by the past few months. But as I was walking away from my car, a co-worker started walking with me and asked me if I had gone on any fun vacations this summer. You know, idle small talk to fill the awkward air between us from the parking lot to the 2nd floor of City Hall.

So I started to give my stock response to this type of question: "Well, my husband and I are in the process of adopting a baby, so we haven't been taking many vacations lately in order to save our money and our time off." But I only got as far as "adopting a baby," and this co-worker lit up like Clark County from 2 weeks before to 2 weeks after the Fourth of July (we have a "small" problem with personal fireworks in our neighborhoods here).

And so we had a conversation about adoption - both in general and specifically about our experience so far - and she was genuinely interested and excited for me, this person who knew virtually nothing about my personal life and now knows much about the most personal part of my life. And I got that amazing feeling of affirmation I have gotten time and again that tells it to me straight up: This is right.

And so I will continue to sit in Limbo, holding my husband's hand, until we are able to take another step down the tunnel. But I will take this moment of stillness also to continue to tell this story of our trying, heart-wrenching, joyful, defining journey to every passer-by. Because it is inextricably essential to who we are and who we will become as a family. And one day, when we have passed through to the daylight again, I will be telling this story to my child. 

And it will be, above all, a love story.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Ties that Bind

Dear friends: The following is a message from my lovely daddy-to-be husband.  I'm proud to share this snippet from his soul. ~ Amanda

One of these days, when you’re not even trying anymore, Amanda is going to get pregnant out of nowhere. I guarantee, it will happen.”

I have, in all honesty, lost track of the number of times I have heard some variant of the above sentence in the three and a half years that my wife and I have been attempting to become parents. It has been used during both our struggles with infertility as well as our adventure into the world of adoption. It is such a frequent go-to for people with whom I discuss our parental endeavors that I’ve developed automatic reactions to this that are as natural as comments about the weather. Smile. Nod. “Yeah, who knows? It just might.”

I do not hold any negative feelings toward the people who utter this statement. They are being conversational, friendly, optimistic, maybe they think I haven’t at all considered this as a possibility. Another reason they may mention this – and Amanda and I have confronted and embraced this as a mere cold reality – our situation is not the norm and not comfortable for a lot of people to talk about openly. Infertile couples are far outnumbered by fertile couples. The nuclear family is still by far the majority in this country. And though you may know someone who was adopted, it is not incredibly common and not something you would imagine anyone would consider unless they had no other choice.

The funny thing is I come from a family where this exact scenario has happened. My parents adopted my brother after struggling with infertility and being certain they could not conceive, and I was born three years later as something of a “miracle baby.” Obviously, it is a sincere possibility, however a very unlikely one in our case.

Amanda has explained, much better than I ever could, about her condition and why it makes the chances of pregnancy extremely remote at best. She has also explained about our ventures into the arena of fertility treatments, which included two aggressive rounds of hormone injections, near-daily doctor visits, and precisely scheduled fertilization. One resulted in a pregnancy, but sadly one very short-lived that did not prove viable. The other resulted in nothing at all, only continued pain, lost money, and dashed dreams.

The point being, if such closely monitored (and expensive) treatments ultimately yielded no success, what chance would we possibly have on our own with nothing but educated guesses and a lot of hope on our side? Frankly, though this statement means well, in the end it is a stock response to a problem that can be (and often is) more complex, and much more painful, to the people you are saying it to.

However, I understand the point of casual conversation about matters like this. Not all of the people asking really want to know the gritty details of our reproductive issues, and equally I do not want to divulge that information to just anybody. There is a more inherent issue at hand, though, with this kind of response, one that rather has applied since we decided on the adoption route. It is also one that, the farther we’ve traveled along this route, has seriously felt insulting as we’ve become more aware.

The issue is with the general, widely accepted notion that a household made up of biological relatives is the truly correct and preferable form of family. Adoption, as mentioned before, is therefore the backup plan, the second choice, essentially what you settle for.

I’m sure some might accuse me of being oversensitive with that response, or that I’m picking a fight where there is none. Please trust me that that is not the case, but please also see my side of it. Imagine that you are telling someone about the amount of anticipation you are experiencing about an upcoming major change in your life, in fact the most important thing that will ever happen to you. You are choosing to accept a child into your heart and home, to love them with no condition of blood relation but simply out of pure love … and then you are told that it’s okay because someday, you’ll experience the “real thing.”

My aim here is not to reprimand or to try to incite any sympathy, but rather to plea that you take an honest look at your own preconceptions about what makes a real family. If you truly feel that a blood-related family can more legitimately be considered a family than one formed by adoption or other means, please try to take a moment to really analyze why you feel that way. Try, in fact, to consider what truly makes a family and makes the members of that family happy.

A commitment to one another, experiencing joy in each other’s company, creating lasting memories, being there through the great times and the awful: those are the things that come to mind when I think of a harmonious family. While blood can connect a family, it is not an essential tie, and in fact the lack of that specific necessity can both strengthen and deepen the bond that brings you together. For instance, my brother is my brother in every way but through genetics, he is my lifelong friend, my confidante, and I love him more than I could ever express.

Adoption is saying that I am not obligated to you because I’m biologically connected to you. I chose to bring you and keep you in my life and to love you unconditionally.

The more we have learned about adoption and the more we have considered it, the more we have fallen in love with it as the method of creating our family. Even into a very progressive age, there is a certain stigma associated with adoption, sometimes still as being a taboo subject but more often now as simply being unorthodox. We have embraced this fact, realizing we may have to repeatedly explain to total strangers why our child does not look like us, knowing our family may very well stand out. Though we know a tough road is ahead, we also realize it is one that is distinctly us.

I am used to feeling against-the-grain of what is considered normal. I’ve accepted that I often represent opinions either not accepted or unpopular with the majority, and I feel not only prepared but excited to co-parent a family that may be viewed differently than others. I feel that I am joining an elite group, one where you could have no idea how special it could possibly be unless you experienced it for yourself.

So no, my friends, my sympathetic ears and supporters who do truly care, respectfully we are not eagerly awaiting that day when we realize in shock that we will have a child biologically. Honestly, though we were excited for it as a potentiality, that ship has sailed for us. We are 100% committed to the adoption process. After we adopt our first child, we will adopt a second one. We have no interest in trying to conceive anymore, though we would accept it and make it work if it happened incidentally.

We are a family that is choosing adoption, not tolerating it out of lack of choices. After all, there are other options out there for us that we have not and will not ever explore. There is IVF, there is surrogacy, but a blood connection is not what we need to create a family.

The love we have to give, the support we know we can provide, the knowledge we know we can pass on … and the baby we will adopt, who will be our son or our daughter … are the only ties we need to make our family tree.