Monday, April 22, 2013

A Paradigm Shift

While there are some very practical, logical and pragmatic issues related to adoption.  I also can't help but wonder about the more emotional, intangible, and philosophical issues related to starting a family through adoption.  (This is Adrienne by the way, can you tell?)  I have asked myself all sorts of questions and continue to seek out new opinions on what it means to be a family.  I have been comforted by quotes and ideas about adoption that fall outside of my initial and "traditional" view of family. 
When all this began -and as this moves along - I have had many, many questions.  They go something like this:

Am I ready to be a parent?  Why can't I get pregnant?  Should I try harder to have a biological child?  Is adoption giving up on having a biological child?  Are we being impatient, or making a premature decision?  Should we tell people?  Should we ask for help?  Are we ready for all of the uncertainty of the adoption process? Should we spend the money on fertility vs. adoption?  Can we afford this?  Will an adoptive child love me and think of him/herself as "mine"?  Will I be able to love and bond with a child I did not carry and does not have my DNA?  Am I ready to parent a child with a family and medical history that I can not be sure of?  How will my family feel about this decision?  Open adoption?  How do I explain adoption to my child?  Do I have to allow my child to have an ongoing relationship with their birth parents?  How do I deal with the "loss" of having a child that does not look like me, like my parents, or feel a biological connection to my family tree?  And on, and on, and on...

I am gradually coming to the conclusion that it is a universal human characteristic to love, to want to belong, to share, to nurture.  It is not reserved only for those who are biologically related.   Will and I want to be parents, we want to share our knowledge and ideas and insights with another person.  Not just another person, but a child who we can nurture and guide from infancy to be a positive, compassionate, driven, creative, responsible member of our family and society. 

There is a paradigm shift occurring in me that I did not expect which is really broadening my view of family, parenting, relationships, and what it means to guide another person through this thing called life.   I am realizing that a lot of the questions or hesitations I have are not specific to adoptive families, but to all families, or interpersonal relationships.  My biological child could just as easily have a physical or emotional impairment.  There are many difficult topics I will have to breach with my child, and adoption is just another one of them, such as: sharing, rules, bullying, death, sex, college, career, heartbreak, love etc.  I could come across financial hardship in any number of other ways.  I think I will always wonder what a child who is half me and half Will would look or inherently act like, but I have to believe that nurture is at least as strong as nature in most regards.  I have to believe that our influence as parents will be received and that Will and I will see ourselves reflected back to us in the life and character of our child rather than the color of their hair or shape of their nose.  I suppose only time will tell, but I know we are going into this with the right mindset.  

Below are some images and quotes that have helped expand my view of Adoption, Family, and Parenthood.



Wednesday, April 17, 2013

So, Now What? (Our findings)

First, we would like to genuinely thank all of you for the outpouring of support, love, insight, and just simple positive excitement for us since we made our pursuit of adoption public over the weekend!  It is amazing the reach Facebook and word of mouth can have sometimes!  We feel truly fortunate to be surrounded by and a part of this incredibly cool circle of people.  Little did we know when we put this out into world how many (so very many) valuable adoption resources we would find so quickly in our friends, families, colleagues, acquaintances, friends of friends, and kind people who we have now interacted with for the very first time.  We knew you were all great, of course, but thank you so much for YOUR personal adoption stories, contacts to other couples who have gone through or who are also going through this process, links to blogs, willingness to share direct contacts at various adoption organizations, phone calls and emails with advice, and even an unexpected/unsolicited donation to our "GoFundMe" adoption account (We'll get to that).  The point is this:  keep sharing EVERYTHING with us.  No piece of positive or helpful information, perspective, contact, or advice you have will go unnoticed, unconsidered, or unused.  We will eat that up because we really love a lot of info.  It is a little sick how informed we like to be, but ultimately this helps us make the best decisions possible as we take the next steps forward.

So steps: Uh-huh, now what?  Well, you might have guessed that we did some research about how this adoption thing all works - where to go from here.  We've certainly arrived at a couple of conclusions about the desire to adopt:  A.  Deciding the right next step is hard.  B.  It is really expensive.  As in - would you like to purchase a yaht OR adopt a baby kind of expensive (exaggerated for illustrative purposes - adopting is only like buying 1/4th of a yaht).  Right now, as we understand it, couples looking to adopt have essentially 4 paths:

1.  Join an adoption agency.
2.  Hire an adoption lawyer.   
3.  Find your own birthmother, then find a lawyer.
4.  Become foster parents or adopt out of the foster care system.

Paths 1 and 2 are essentially the same service for very nearly the same amount of money.  Roughly $25,000-$30,000 - and that's if you stay in the USA.  For that money, they guide you every step of the way - from finding birthmothers to read your "Dear Birthmother Letter," to navigating each state's specific adoption laws, to mediating terms and communication with birthmothers, to counseling.

 Now, the third option is to find your own birthmother.  So instead of an agency or lawyer, we would  do all the marketing and networking OR  just be lucky enough to find an expectant mother who wanted to find an adoptive home for their child.  While this significantly reduces the overall expense of adoption, our understanding is that trying to find a birthmother on your own and then successfully navigating the delicate communication to establish the terms of your relationship can be tricky.  (It can and has been done though.  One of our friends, by happenstance, found and connected with a birthmother through a professional acquaintance without going through an agency or lawyer.  They only brought in an adoption lawyer to guide them through the final legal process at the end.)

So, in the end, there are always going to be fixed legal costs to finalizing any adoption (obviously). 

We are diligent stewards of our finances and we really hate using credit or relying on debt to accomplish our goals.  Thanks Dave Ramsey.  Adoption, for us, is no exception.  We do not think it is wise for us to get a loan against our house, borrow money, or use a credit card  when we can raise the funds we need to do this with a little tightening of our budget, creativity, and extra effort.  The high mark from what we've seen so far is around $30,000, which is A LOT of money.  It is an amount that, let's just say, gave us some serious pause (aka anxiety attacks).  But, at the same time, it isn't an impossible goal with time and focus.

Right now, before commiting to one specific adoption path, we are asking ourselves, "Could we use a creative combination of these paths to reduce the final cost of adoption?"  Maybe we can find a birthmother through our own networking efforts and then only use the mentorship and resources of an agency or lawyer to help us navigate the trickier parts.  Another one of our friends who adopted recently said that should she try to adopt again, she would try to do more of the work on her own that she paid an agency to do for her.  The two of us have never been afraid to do the extra work for something we were passionate about!      

As we figure out how we fund this adventure, we are leaving no options off the table:  garage sales, t-shirts, selling a car, comedy shows, extra photography, and anything else we can do to responsibly raise this kind of money.  NOW - I mentioned our GoFundMe account earlier - you can see a link/widget to this on the upper right side of the blog.  This is a crowd-sourcing service.  Crowd sourcing is this new age concept (not really) of asking a large mass of supporters (usually through digital/social-networking means) to individually contribute a small amount in order to raise a large amount of money.  It is like that Kickstarter service for artists, only instead of raising money to make a bizarre avant garde record, you raise money to assist with the expenses of adoption.  We read that a lot of couples have been successful using this service, so we created our account as an additional resource.  We did the math, ok?  If we can get 30,000 of our closest friends to put $1 in there, we'll be set - LOL, we may need to borrow some of your friends!  Seriously though, if you feel moved to be a part of our "sourcing crowd," any amount you offer will be humbly and graciously appreciated.  Thanks in advance for becoming our giant flock of storks :)

Now, we are off to make a list of who to call and talk to next!  So many of you came out of the woodwork (By the way, what comes out of the woodwork?  Bugs?  Sorry, if we're calling you bugs right now.  We mean "bugs" in the most respectful way possible) that we have a ton of new info to collect.  Can't wait hear more stories!


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Adoption, Here We Go!

Thanks for visiting our Adoption Blog. We can't wait to become parents, and after much thought and consideration, have decided that adoption is the right way for us to start our family! This blog is our home base to share our story and keep our friends, family, and supporters updated along the way. We know this process will be challenging and uncertain at times, but ultimately joyful. We hope that by sharing our story, we can be a source of encouragement as others have lovingly supported and encouraged us. We can't wait for the day that we write our final post about how all of you helped us grow our family!

From Adrienne:

I have always been open to the idea of adoption, even when I was younger, not married and not ready for a family. I always thought it would be a nice way to add to a family and give wonderful opportunities to a child who might not otherwise have them. I never thought it might be my only way to have a family. Who knows, maybe my body and my hormones will straighten themselves out in the future, but for now, we are ready to move on. 

Will and I have been struggling with trying to get pregnant actively for over a year, and technically forever. We have never avoided getting pregnant, so now, almost 7 years into our marriage, clearly, we have been unsuccessful. It has been almost a year exactly since we got some of the best and some of the worst news we could get all in the same week. I got a positive pregnancy test at the end of May 2012, and by the first week of June I had lost the baby as a result of an ectopic pregnancy. It sucked, totally sucked, not only was I losing this baby I had barely had time to process was there, but I had to actively take medicine to end the pregnancy so that my life was not in danger. I know miscarriages are rather common, but it was definitely dramatic for me. 

You grow up thinking that if you do the right things, make the right choices, that you will reap the rewards. I feel like I have done that, made responsible choices and am actively choosing to start my family at a time in my life that I am ready and able to provide. I have come to learn through all of this, that I am not in control of whether or not I am able to get pregnant. But through adoption, I feel like I have a little more control in becoming a parent. I am excited and anxious to see where this decision takes us, and I know that Will is the best partner, husband, and hopeful father to have through all of this. There is a quote that says, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” The potential in that statement is profound and exciting. I know we are ready to be parents, and just like all hopeful parents, are just waiting for the day that we get to meet our little boy or girl.

From Will: 

If you know me well, and you probably do if you're here for our first post (I'm pretty sure strangers aren't anxiously googling "Did Will Pfaffenberger start an adoption blog today?") then you probably know that I am a less-than-serious, ok, outright, ridiculously goofy silly person.  I live my life laughing at everything along the way - the absurd, the awkward, the sacred, and the obscene!  Yes, I react to most things with humor, and certainly everything in life has a laugh it in somewhere for me.  AND, because I do this in very public forums - on the radio and on stage - Adrienne who is genuinely sincere, sweet, polite, quiet, thoughtful, generous and always doing the kind and appropriate thing for all occasions, will often be asked, "What's it like living with Will?  How do you do it?"  

She's awesome, that's how!  (That's true, but she could probably write an entire separate blog with the real answers to "How I deal with Will:  Coping Mechanisms For Your Absurd Husband.")  But here's MY real answer:  she and I are a lot more alike than you know. 

We are pragmatic planners.  Yes, I confess.  All of my outward spontaneity and silliness is, what I believe to be, a luxury afforded me by my drive to have a plan, set goals, and feel confident and comforted when I work toward those things, achieve them, check them off my list, and know that what I have built is there to support me and my family.  Adrienne and I have built a life together on setting and meeting our professional, personal, and relationship goals.  We somehow grew up learning how to objectively deconstruct, analyze, and evaluate all this life stuff - maybe to a very nerdy fault.  People sometimes ask if we ever have fights, and we do, but to you they'd look more like contract negotiations or debates supported with thesis statements, rational arguments, data points, and a compromised resolution (It's actually not that nerdy, but you get it.).  We make a great team in this way and our mentality to thoroughly investigate every major decision we've ever made has worked very well for us.  Together, we have put many of the pieces in place that we have always dreamed of having as adults.  

Ok, I've read 3ish paragraphs - talk about babies!  While we have never prevented the possibility of having children, we always wanted to be in what we believed was the most optimal life circumstance to be the best parents possible.  We are now confidently in a place where we are ready to be great parents!  That's the cool part.  Unfortunately, our very pragmatic plan to allow biology to take its natural course - certainly it would after 7 years of marriage, right? - did not play out the way we expected it to.  And not even some intervention from this medicine-science did the trick.  This obstacle, however, has not diminished our resolve to be great parents and start a family.  Adrienne and I are very excited to begin this adventure of adoption, and we feel very lucky and blessed to have all of you here to help us along the way!