Archive for September, 2006

The Stan Family

So I’ve been asked a few times lately how we came to choose to adopt from Kyrgyzstan. I remember myself thinking and worrying about how to choose a country and how to choose an agency. I launched into my usual tendencies to read and research something to death. I like doing that and so does my husband. It’s a good thing to have in common because I think you could really bug the carp out of someone by this kind of behavior. My husband can recall part numbers. I can tell you weight restrictions on strollers. You get the idea. So, I found out that to adopt from China, it is about a two year process. Since we had decided to adopt, we wanted to adopt now. Or now-ish. Many international adoption programs are taking right around a year give or take a few months. It can be less depending on a few factors. Having no gender preference and being open to an older infant can really speed things up. I was told that 90% of adopting couples prefer a girl, and so if you are requesting a girl it can take a bit longer.

So, armed with that information, I searched my fanny off online. I rang up aqencies and I was happy to discover that every person I talked to was eager to talk my ear off and answer all of my questions. I had about 5 conversations with agencies and I talked with each of them for about 45 minutes. I was quickly learning the lingo. A program is the relationship and process it takes to adopt from a particular country. A Home study is where you prove on paper and in person that you are fit parents. A dossier is a collection of papers much like the ones in your home study that go to the country from which you are adopting. It gets translated and reviewed by their adoption people. A referral is when they have selected a particular child for you to consider based on the things you have requested such as gender and age.

What I was hearing from multiple agency directors that the programs with the shortest timelines were Russia, Kazakhstan and Guatemala. If you wanted a boy from Guatemala, the referrals were coming within 3-4 months which is crazy fast. So, I read and called and read some more. Russia, it seemed was just coming back from a period of suspended adoptions in America. They took away the accreditations of American agencies to adopt from Russia so that they could take some time to firm up their adoption laws. This added a lot of time to people who were about to adopt from Russia. Also, it meant that their new laws were slowing down the process. That didn’t sound good to me so I began to look at Guatemala and Kazakhstan. Basically at this point my three criteria were:
1. Fast
2. Healthy
3. Girl

To me it didn’t matter where. I kept looking inside myself for hidden prejudice. I imagined myself holding a Guatemalan baby, an Eurasian baby, an Ethiopian baby (not that I’d look anything like Angelina Jolie) and honestly, no matter which child I was holding, I still had the same response. “Give me that baby! I have got to get my hands on that baby!!!” I fully admit to being baby-crazy. I shamelessly flirt with any baby I see. I offer to babysit friends’ babies. And I wasn’t naive enough to dismiss the realities that some time in the future someone was going to say something stupid and/or racist to me or my family.

Ok, so when all this thinking was going on, I called Adoption Options in San Diego. I talked to the director and asked him all about their Kazakhstan program and how long those referrals were taking. I told him that a fast adoption was of the utmost importance. He talked to me about Kazakhstan and then brought up that they had a newer program from Kyrgyzstan. He mentioned that it was a new program because the Kyrgyzstan government had just created international adoption laws in the last year. You know, I didn’t have the courage to say that I didn’t know where that was, or even Kazakhstan for that matter. I was sure it was Eastern Europe and most likely a former Soviet republic, but that’s all I knew. He said it was by Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan. “It’s in the Stan family.” In 2005, 2 children were adopted from Kyrgyzstan by Americans. As I write this, there have been 7 adoptions this year. Adoption Options, in partnership with Frank Adoption Center, are the only agency to have completed Kyrgyzstan adoptions in this country. Several other agencies have Kyrgyzstan programs, but at this writing to the best of my knowledge, they haven’t completed any placements yet. The director told me that the government was not creating red tape for prospective adoptive parents and that the quality of the baby houses and orphanages was very good. The babies and children were given affection and love and quality care. Then he told me that the referrals were happening quickly. What this meant in real time is that after completing our home study, we would most likely be getting a referral in 3-4 months’ time. WOAH. I was thinking to myself, “Where’s the checkbook?” I told myself to chill and perhaps maybe I should ask maybe one or two more questions and perhaps talk to a family who had been through a Kyrg. adoption. Which I did. I talked with everyone. I joined a yahoo group. I called the director a few more times. I read about Kyrgyzstan and its people. I felt something. I already felt connected to it. Something told me that this was the country. So, I sent away for the information pack and the registration form. I asked the director for the name of the agency for a home study. This was it. The decision had been made. Oh, uh, how much was it going to cost? I restrained myself when he said that including travel, it would be around 35K. I forced a breezy response. I’m sure that’s probably not possible, but I did my best to fake it. Yikes. I’ll figure all that out later. Don’t think about it!

So, that’s how we chose a country from the Stan family.

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September 27, 2006 at 8:07 pm 2 comments

The beautiful people

Last night I invited my aunt over to dinner. Now, we were cooking our usual big Sunday dinner and it just so happened to be ribs. Ribs are her favorite. My thinking was that I knew she would definitely show up for ribs and then I could ask her to take a family picture that we could add to our documents to be sent to our agency. Earlier that day my husband surprised me by buying me a new digital camera. My aunt takes good pictures of people and isn’t intimidated by anything digital and so she was the perfect person to ask for dinner. I know this is a serious aside, but those were some awesome ribs. It is an Alton Brown recipe from the food network. If you really want the recipe you can search their site for “Who loves you baby back ribs” I baked up some nice corn muffins, made some tangy cole slaw and steamed green beans. YUM.

Ok, so we plied her with a big glass of red wine and asked her to take our picture. Again, the marketing animal in me reared her ugly head while trying to get the shot. In between flashing my best smile, I was uber-controlling. No! Get in closer. That’s too high. Zannie, move over here! The picture we got in the end is really, really good. All three of us never look this good at the same time. But, afterward I was making jokes about how normal and well-adjusted we all look and at the same time, feeling that I was not so attractive on the inside. I keep getting so wound up and spazzy. I keep feeling like I have to prove that we’re perfect. That I’m good enough. And in a way I do. But what’s kind of not so good is that I can’t just have my picture taken and have the result be ok with me no matter how it comes out. Maybe if I hadn’t been feeling that bit of anxiety, the picture would have been even better. Who knows. This reminds me of that character Billy Crystal had on Saturday Night Live who sat around in a smoking jacket talking about how suave he is and “Ju know, it’s better to look good than to feel good.”

I have to go. I need to do another chapter of my online homework. Also, can someone out there tell me how you do all this work and get anything else done? I haven’t worked out in about 3 weeks now. Maybe exercise is the key for me – I can sweat my worries away.

September 25, 2006 at 9:19 pm 3 comments

Forms and documents and fingerprints – Oh My!

So last week was the first week I started the actual work which in the beginning is what I am referring to as “the paper beast.” Most people might just refer to it as a bunch of forms. And I know that it’s just the beginning.

In international adoption, you have a distinct and specific path to follow in order to bring home your child. The first big part of the process is conducting your home study. Sometimes your adoption agency is also your home study agency, but that isn’t the case with us. Our home study agency is called Accept and it is located in the bay area. Our adoption agency is called adoption options and it is located in southern California. Right now, we’re in the home study bit. I’m culling and gathering birth certificates, taking pictures of the house, sending away for marriage certificates and (here’s the fun part) setting up the crib. Yeah, it’s a little early for the crib, I know. But, the home study does include social workers coming to your house to interview you, make sure you’re not misfits of society and make sure that you have ample room for a child. I don’t know if we have true ample room, but we have room. Our house has 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths. That’s just huge compared to our house in southern California. Anyway, we have quickly converted our spare bedroom into a playroom and putting the crib in Zannie’s bedroom. So, two whole rooms and a bathroom dedicated to the girls. I have to say that today while we assembled the crib while Zannie helped us and learned how to work an allen wrench, I had the greatest feeling of satisfaction. I just hated the feeling I had when we finally put the crib away and in boxes two years ago. I clearly remembered when we were taking it down to the basement thinking, “Well, at least we’ll take it again out when Zannie has children.” Putting it up today and thinking about what kind of sheets and blankets to buy was enough to make me want to walk up to strangers and say, “you know what I just did?!! I set up the crib!!” I still might. I’ll never forget today.

This week I start an online course required of me and my husband. It is an education tool that they have adoptive parents do. It says to only do a chapter a day. They have never met me, it’s very clear. I’m going to have it done by Friday. Ask me on Friday if I’m done please. I like the pressure. Also this week, we have to go in and get fingerprinted and send in our FBI clearance forms. I think that after this, I’ll just cart their findings on our lives in my purse. Then, when another kid comes to play, I can just flash their report on our clean living. I mean, they’re letting us take a kid from Kyrgyzstan….you can leave your kids here for a couple of hours. It’s safe. Really. The feds said so.

Anway, we are really getting our feet wet and I’d say almost half the work is done on the forms for the home study. I got the packet in the mail on Thursday. I’m not even breaking a sweat. Tomorrow I’m mailing out stamped envelopes to four friends who are graciously writing letters to our agency regarding our character. It’s funny that they have a sheet with guidelines for your friends on how to write this letter. It says, “we don’t expect parents to be perfect.” HA! By nature, this process is set up to put prospective adoptive parents if not on the defense, certainly at the ready to show anyone at anytime that they are the most extra-normal people you’ve ever met. Articles are written on how to have your home presented for when the social worker comes to visit. It’s a very strange reality to be faced with – proving that you’re ok to be a parent. I submit exhibit A, my daughter. Here she is, my previous and ongoing work. Judge for yourself. I wish it could be that simple. Meanwhile, the paper beast is being tamed. For now.

September 24, 2006 at 9:28 pm 3 comments

He said yes!

Right, so before picking up from where I left off, I just cannot say enough thanks to those who have already responded to my blog. Your kind words mean so much to me. I continue to learn that support has so many forms. So, I met these kids who just captured my imagination and sent me off on a trajectory from which I hope to never return because it was those two who opened my heart and mind forever. We had always wanted two children. Our daughter is incredibly social, creative and loving. She has been asking for a sister since she could talk. Whenever she would tell me , “I want a sister mama. I could teach her things.” I could only say back, “I know you do sweetheart. I know.” And while I was really enjoying our life here in my hometown, I was failing at fully accepting that we would be a family of three.

So, what does a clever wife do when she wants to convince her husband that he wants something as much as she does? Yes, she waits, and creates a quiet moment in time conducive to Important Coversation. That’s right, I called him from my cell phone while at an amusement park while he was in dicey traffic. I’m not so much one of those clever wives. Waiting is not necessarily my strong suit. I mention the kids I met, I say how I kinda sorta was thinking that perhaps we could think about talking about adopting a child. Clearly, he hadn’t heard the determination in my voice…he was saying that he was enjoying having all of his energies and focus just on Zannie. He was saying it was economically advantageous. He was giving me all sorts of logical and practical reasons for not adopting. I was nodding and responding calmly. Inside, my thinking was along the lines of, “Just say yes! All those things are true, and I still want this!” Instead, all I did was sigh. I must have been crazy to bring it up in that way, but that’s what I do. I think I brought it up again about a week later and he was happy to listen to me talk about how I still wanted another child. He had lots more reasons not to adopt Internationally. I nodded and listened at him. He nodded and listened at me. We both had good reasons for doing it and for not doing it. But we were both dancing around the heart of the matter. I was just about to put it to rest when another wonderful thing happened. We went and visited Jake and Rosie.

Now, Jake and Rosie are not your garden-variety, run of the mill great kids. No, they are the kind of kids who just do you in with the littlest expressions of who they are. And it’s really only incidental to mention that they are both special needs kids of friends of ours. Jake is Zannie’s age and has muscular dystrophy and Rosie is 2 1/2 and has Down Syndrome. They are the kids of dear friends of ours and they were in the area visiting. We went and visited and it was the best visit. We played with the kids on the beach, while we caught up with each other. Jake was in a particularly loving mood as he kept coming over to snuggle up to me and rest his head on my shoulder. Rosie was being especially cute and working our heartstrings from every angle. She has all her baby sign language and just couldn’t be more sweet and happy and wonderful. I noticed my husband being particularly drawn to Rosie that day. We were definitely being reminded how much we love being with children. All kids. Lots of kids. Any kids. I turned to him and whispered, “Can you really tell me that with the way you’re feeling right now, that you wouldn’t even consider thinking about adopting?” I think he had trouble getting the words out but he said, “Let’s look it all up when we get home.” Right then, I knew I had him. He’d gone all marshmallow on me. Once he took about a millisecond to remember how wonderful it is to be with a really little one, those feelings took over. Later, he told me that after that day, he’d thought about our losses and felt that there was still an empty spot there where those babies were supposed to be. He said that he had no worries about loving another child as much as he did Zannie. He said, “let’s do this” Yippeeeeeee!!!

So, what used to be the energy I would expend in early pregnancy on the latest baby-equipment, I was now spending it on researching adoption agencies. All this time, I had it in my mind that we would be adopting from China. Fine by me, I thought. I just want healthy, if at all possible. That my child will have light skin and blonde hair is not at all a requirement or need. “That’s where everyone is adopting from.” I thought. Even though there were friends around me who had adopted from Russia and who had adopted domestically. I had read plenty about Americans adopting from China because there were are surplus of abandoned baby girls waiting in orphanages. Yes, my research was telling me that it was a dependable program. Long, but dependable. Couples hoping to adopt from China were told to expect a 2 year process. YIKES! That wasn’t going to work for me, the woman who couldn’t wait 2 hours to talk to her husband about adoption certainly couldn’t wait 2 years for a child. Crazy talk! Other popular programs were Russia and Eastern Europe. Fine by me, I thought. Fast. That’s what I want. Fast and healthy. Oh, and a girl. We wanted another girl because we were already grooving the girl-thing and little miss Zannie wanted a sister. Bad. So, after talking to about 5 agencies, joining an online email group of those deciding on where to adopt from and thinking about the ups and down sides to several countries including Guatemala, Russia, Kazakhstan and the like we decided on Kyrgyzstan. That’s right. We were going to adopt a child from a country we’d never heard of, let alone visited or had heard anything about. The kyrgyzstan adoptions were taking roughly 6-7 months. I like that in life. Occasionally, sometimes a little grace falls your way. Obsessive research has its rewards. A month earlier if you’d told me that I was about to adopt internationally and from Kyrgyzstan, after asking where Kyrgyzstan was, I’d have laughed in your face and wondered what you were taking. But here I was, on the phone requesting information packets, emailing directors of agencies and googling key words. Bishkek. Yurt. Fermented mare’s milk. I had a lot to learn.

September 23, 2006 at 9:58 pm 2 comments

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September 22, 2006 at 4:32 pm Leave a comment

Away we go

Thank you for finding me! The start of this blog is coinciding with the start of another chapter for our family in our quest for children. It’s been a long road leading up to the present, and I hesitate in writing it selfishly in the name of self-preservation. It’s painful stuff to revisit. However, there are so many hundreds of people silently suffering while going through infertility and treatment without direct support. While going through my own struggles, I found online community support that was absolutely invaluable. I became part of a group of women who were experiencing the same things I was. We were pretty much a group of 30-something women who were ready to have kids and not getting pregnant. The wonderful thing about online support is, you can be so completely honest, and you get so real right up front, that you get to the heart of your own feelings and experience. And in the process you get so much back from others. We talked about everything. EVERYTHING. There wasn’t any holding back of information. If we were being tested for it, body parts examined and prodded and poked, we put it out there. There were tests so embarrassing to have to endure, that we all just had to laugh. The point is, we could say the awful truth and then get on with it. We all shed tears for each other when someone suffered a miscarriage. We all knew each others’ pregnancy testing dates and when we were all due to get busy and throw on the Barry White music. We knew the best ovulation kits and the difference between motility and morphology and how to get our men actually through the doctor’s office door. We had our jokes. “I’m not a fertility Dr. but I play one on the internet” We were virtual experts.

All in all, I made some amazing friends, some of whom I met and still keep up with. My story seemingly ended up very well with the birth of my daughter after a completely normal pregnancy. Getting there took me almost two years of tests, surgery, hormones, UFMS (ugly female mood swings) and constantly running to the clinic in order to get pregnant.

Once I was pregnant, I just went about my life. I loved being pregnant and preparing for my baby’s arrival. I had already bought the earth’s supply of gender-neutral baby clothes as a means of passing the time while trying to get pregnant. I was already an expert on which baby equipment was top-rated and had already started going to La Leche meetings. I was ready. I had her, fell in love as a mother should and became the dedicated mom I had always wanted to be.

Fast forward 9 months and we were thinking that since the first one took so long to have, we’d better get going on the second. We went straight back to the clinic and our fertility doctor and got back on the drugs and the treatments. 4 months later I had a positive pregnancy test. At our second ultrasound, the doctor confirmed what he had suspected – twins. We were going to be a bigger family than we thought. Sort of wobbly and happy and scared, we left the office and told our families. I did my usual obsessive research on strollers for multiples, breastfeeding twins, and how were were going to afford college for three. I felt a deep satisfaction in having conquered infertility by my own persistence aided and fueled by the support of my friends. My 17th week of pregnancy was Mother’s day 2003 and it came with an abundance of gifts from my husband and baby daughter. Late afternoon I started feeling like something wasn’t right. I called and called my doctor. I had an appointment the next day and went to bed telling myself that I would go in first thing in the morning. I awoke around midnight with awful pains. What I didn’t know, or want to face, was that I was in labor. The next few hours were a combination of a horror movie and what I imagine is a bad acid trip. There was a paradox so cruel between the highest of ethical, compassionate, sensitive care I received from the nurses, and the outright insensitivity and lack of human interest from the OB on call. I left the hospital in a wheelchair and no babies. When I think of that day, that empty feeling is still palpable.

To add insult to injury, in a year’s time, I repeated almost the same scenario with a single baby at 12 weeks. These losses were distinct and unusual in that most miscarriages occur in the first trimester. Only 3% of pregnancy loss occurs after there is a heartbeat detected. So twice I ended up in the 3%. It was a slow road back to where I am now. Slow.

Meanwhile, I was putting what I did have left in my reserves into loving my daughter. I don’t feel that she suffered because of what was going on, but I do know that she was aware that I was sometimes sad. I didn’t hide my tears from her, but rather I talked openly about having feelings and feeling them when they came up. She’s a smart little thing and she knows more than even I care to admit. It’s humbling to have a two year-old kiss away your tears. I did my best to stay strong for her.

The next two years, I got used to the idea of having a smaller family. I liked the intimacy of having one child to pour yourself into. We did everything together. I brought her everywhere with me and took her to storytime, play dates, pre-school, the park, Target, the pool and on visits to family. We went to Disneyland, I bought her the coolest euro-baby clothes I could find. We jammed money into her college fund and we had the best barbeque, with movies, popcorn, bounce house and mile-high cake birthday party any 4 year-old ever had. And then something wonderful happened.

We sold our house that we loved and moved from Southern California back to my hometown in the bay area. When we did that, part of me relaxed and fell in step with part of my old life. While we had the best friends money can buy back in So Cal, there is just something about being in and amongst old family, friends and old haunts that is deeply satisfying to me. My daughter Zannie thrived. We moved into a house that is tucked away on a cul-de-sac and merged into the young kids’ social scene. Our doorbell rings non-stop and I am forever replenishing our cabinet of kid-friendly snacks.

Then, right before Kindergarten started we were invited by my friend Deborah to meet her friends’ new twins who had just been adopted from Russia. The idea was to let Zannie and them have a play date. We went over to their home and had a great time playing and the kids all ran around their beautiful back yard. I talked with the twins’ moms and heard about what an adventure Russia and adopting internationally had been. I think from that moment on, my mind hasn’t stopped turning. I started thinking about adoption and I haven’t stopped.

I’m getting long-winded here I know and need to stop at this point to catch my breath. I’ll get you caught up tomorrow on the rest.

September 21, 2006 at 3:09 pm 5 comments


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