Thursday, July 23, 2015

What We Learned at our Parent Training: Part Two

Since our pre-adoptive parent training class was over a month ago, we think it's time to wrap this up! Haha (not like we've been doing anything in the meantime....!) For those who are interested, and for our own recollection, here's a list of other things that we learned at our parent training (which was excellent, and super helpful).

Naming an adopted child
This is something we both were interested in. It's one of those questions that seem obvious until you start thinking about it and realize that unlike a non-adopted child, a child placed for adoption has both biological parents and adoptive parents, each of whom may have a different name in mind. Our parent class affirmed that adoptive parents are able to name their child. What actually happens is that the birthparents choose the name that goes on the child's birth certificate. Then when the adoption is finalized about six months later, a new birth certificate is issued with the name chosen by the adoptive parents (if it's different). Sometimes adoptive parents try to honor the child's birthparents either by using the name they chose, or using a combination, for example choosing the first name and using the birthparent's preference as a middle name. And sometimes (depending on a lot of different things) the birthparents and adoptive parents discuss beforehand and agree on the child's name.

This was an topic that really brought out the uniqueness of adoption: the child has two sets of parents that are interested in his/her well-being, love him/her, and have a name in mind that expresses their hopes for the child or connections with their family, or whatever - all the reasons parents choose a particular name for their son or daughter.

We personally have some names in mind - still very much in the works, though!

On a related note: this is a beautiful video about adoption....definitely a tear-jerker! And all about a name...

Creating a Lifebook
A lifebook is basically a scrapbook that tells the story of your child's life, as well as your family's story pre-child. A lot of adoptive parents do this, and put in pictures of themselves, baby pictures of the child, maybe ticket stubs or receipts that relate to the travel for adoption, whatever. One reason this is good to do is that you can look through it with your child and talk about them being adopted as part of their life story. As the presenters said, if it's about the child, they'll love it :)

One example from the Internet, for an international - can't WAIT to start this!!!!

Challenges in Domestic Infant Adoption
Sobering....but good to know! They went over various challenges that we could face adopting domestically.
  • Uncertain wait time: you really don't know whether you'll get "the call" in one week, one year, or two years plus - this makes it difficult to plan for, not to mention the emotional, spiritual challenges associated with waiting (something we are relatively familiar with by now....)
  • The possibility of the birthparents changing their minds - meaning after the birth but before they relinquish their parental rights (it is very rare for an adoption to be contested after that point, and the birthparents would have to prove fraud or abuse to get the baby back)
  • Every state has different adoption regulations - there is very little consistency, which makes for a crazy patchwork of laws when adopting from a different state
  • Possible lack of the child's social or medical history, or it's inaccurate
  • Legal concerns re: missing birthfather (in case he shows up at the last minute and contests the adoption) - also just the sadness of not being able to tell your child anything about their birthfather
(We still think it's worth it :))

Hospital Time is the Birthmother's Time
This was a great point. Basically, the child belongs to his/her mother (biological mother) until the point that she (and maybe the birthfather, depending on the situation) signs papers relinquishing her parental rights. That means that in the hospital, it's her baby, and her time. The birthmother that spoke to us emphasized how much it meant to her to be able to create her own birth plan, choose who would be with her, choose when she would see the baby, etc.

I can only imagine that the time right before and after the baby's birth is high-tension, high-emotion for everyone! The birthmother still has the right to change her mind, and the potential adopting parents need to be respectful of that. It's not their baby yet. Also, there are a lot of emotions the birthmom experiences - other than the emotions of just giving birth, she has to face saying goodbye to the baby and often wants to spend a good chunk of uninterrupted time with him/her. That doesn't mean that she's going to change her mind - in fact, it's good for healing if she does stick with the adoption plan.

Transracial/Transcultural Adoption
This is when parents adopt a child from a different race or culture - especially a child who looks different from them. Part of adoption is learning about your child's birth culture and finding ways to keep that alive for him/her. Another part is making sure he/she feels at home in your culture too (which now belongs to them). Adopting transracially means becoming a "conspicuous family" - everywhere you go, people will notice you, maybe do a second-look. As parents, we need to help our child learn how to handle that. 

Adopting transracially is definitely something we are open to. We have that in our family already (Dan's nephew) and realize that while there are unique challenges with this, there are also unique blessings, like showing in a very concrete way that love transcends race or skin color, and also living as a family the universality of our faith family. (Not to mention our child will be adorable no matter what his/her skin color is :) :)) Anyway, we'll see what happens with that!

Attachment in Adoption
Babies that are adopted go through some extra transitions in their first few days. Not only do they have to leave the womb and adjust to the outside world, but they also have to leave the mother that they've been used to for the last nine months, and be held and nurtured by a different mother. They may have to be with a foster family for a few days or more, depending on the situation and risk. That's a lot of changes for a little one!

On our book list

Adopted children, then, need extra attachment-promoting care, meaning a few things:
  • Limiting caregivers and new faces for the first few weeks so the baby attaches strongly to mom and dad (this doesn't mean no one can visit - we're sure we'll need the help! But we as parents should be doing the lion's share to make sure our little one knows we are there for them. And for friends and family who generously want to help post-bringing-baby-home, I'm sure we can find plenty of things for you to do!)
  • Simplify the environment
  • Stable, consistent schedule
  • Eye contact and play
  • Avoid big parties (goes with the first idea - most likely the only "big" event those first few weeks would be the baptism)
  • Find what soothes the baby and do it - there is no worry at all in "spoiling" the baby
All of these things are good for any baby, for sure. But as said above, adopted babies arguably need extra care and attention because of the extra transitions they had to navigate in the first few weeks of their life.

Open Adoption
This means adoptions where there is some level of contact between the birthparents (and/or birth family) and adoptive parents. It could be as minimal as letters and pictures once a year, or visits every month, or anything in between. Like any relationship, this one needs good communication. Most importantly, it's about the child. It's become pretty clear that children benefit from having information about, and perhaps a relationship with, their birth origins. That can't always happen, but it's generally a good thing if it can. Our responsibility as adopting parents is to discern what level of openness we're open to. The worst thing we could do is promise more than we're comfortable with, and then scale back after the adoption - that can be heartbreaking for a birthmother.

The nice thing is that Barker helps you decide your comfort level with openness and contact, and is there every step of the way as the child grows, relationships change, maybe difficulties emerge, etc. Adoption is a lifelong thing - so is the relationship with the birthparents. Even if contact ceases (which happens not infrequently), our child's biological mother and father still remain a part of them, always.

Testimonies are Wonderful!
We had three "guest speakers" who shared their experiences with us: a birthmother (wow, was that moving), a young adult who was adopted, and a family who had adopted twice from Korea. All of them were amazing, and really put some flesh to the ideas we discussed throughout the day. All of them were unique - there's not really a "one size fits all" in adoption, although there are trends. And all of them helped us see the intricacies, complexities, and really the beauty and potential of adoption. Yes, there are definitely hard parts, for everyone involved. But there are also a lot of possibilities for healing, for strong family relationships, and for happy endings.

Any Questions?
We know we have some still! This really only glided over the things we discussed at our class. It gave us so much to reflect on and sparked some ideas we want to explore more. We welcome your questions if you have any about adoption. We will try our best to answer them, or find the answers. If you'd rather email us privately:

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. So much of this we are trying to figure out too! I love the idea of the book, I had not even thought about that since we are still just in the process of being approved... There is still a huge part of us trying not to get ahead of ourselves... it is almost like the same feelings of IF is creeping its way back into our lives because there is so many roadblocks in international adoption.... :(

    Thanks for posting this stuff. I love it when others do all the hard work in reading up and sharing the best points with others!

    We are excited for you both!