Monthly Archives: March 2012

How We Got Here, Part 3

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Shortly after we hear the amazing news that we’re one of the families being considered for DJ, we’re told that the meeting in Oregon to make the final decision has been postponed until March 13, another month away. In the big scheme of things, I know that the postponement is not the end of the world, but it completely feeds into my fears that once again we’re going to get our hopes up only to have them completely obliterated at the end.

The weeks leading up to the meeting are among the longest of my entire life. It feels almost impossible to concentrate on anything else. And after years of being fairly closed-lipped about our adoption process, I find myself telling everyone that I talk to about DJ. I watch the video we have of him a dozen times and cry every time…out of fear, out of hope.

After what feels like a lifetime, the meeting is only a week away. We’re contacted by the caseworker from Portland who will be representing us to the selection committee and set up a conference call for March 5th. By the time that 1:30 comes, I’m a nervous wreck. This interview is both better and worse than the last. Better because we know that we’ve gotten this far and that we must be somewhat likable. Worse because the stakes are so much higher. This person, a total stranger, is going to be the one to convince the committee members that we’re the best parents for DJ, a child we have never met or even talked to on the phone. No pressure!

Even the logistics of the phone call are stressing me out–each on our own handset, I’m sitting at the dining room table and John is in the living room. So everything that John says, I hear twice. He also gets up in regular intervals to pace around the house. His pacing in general makes me nervous, but I’m also a little panicked because I want to be able to make eye contact as we give our answers so we won’t start speaking over each other and I can give him “the look” when his answers start to get off target (meaning: makes us sound anything less than ideal parents).

The call starts off a bit forced, but that’s totally to be expected, right? The caseworker–we’ll call her Beth–seems friendly and competent, a good combination for making our case to the committee, I think to myself. Like the interview, she asks us a lot about our experiences growing up and our current relationships with our families. As usual, we talk a lot about my family with whom we spend a lot of time with. I worry that maybe we’re laying it on a little thick with how great my family is and how supportive they’ll be when we have DJ, but it’s really true, I remind myself. We also talk about our friends, another huge part of our support network.

Throughout the call, we try to emphasize how much thought and work we’ve put into preparing ourselves to become parents. We’ve attended years of trainings, watched videos, read books, and discussed and dissected every aspect of parenting that we could think of, especially in regards to adopting an older child like DJ. We don’t expect it to be easy; we know that whoever our child is that they will have gone through a lot by the time that they get to us, but we explain that we’re committed, that we won’t give up our child. We’re also supportive of our child maintaining healthy relationships with biological and foster family members; we know from the research that this is much better for the child than pretending their life began when they came to us. And I know in my heart that these words are not mere lip-service but a promise that all good parents make (and re-make and re-make)–that we’ll do whatever is best for our child, even when it’s not what is easiest or best for us.

The phone call ends, and I’m feeling really good about the conversation. Beth likes us; I’m sure of it! Not that it’s a popularity contest or anything…oh wait, it kind-of is a popularity contest. Anyway, I feel confident that we’ve done all that we can to put our best food forward, and I’m slightly relieved to have things out of my hands again. The waiting sucks (sorry if my nieces or nephews are reading this, but sucks is putting it nicely!), but at least it’s a familiar frenemy at this point. We also have a new task: put together a family album to “introduce” ourselves to the committee and eventually to Dominick.

Fortunately, I’m on Spring Break so I have a fair amount of time to devote to the photo album in order to get it to the committee in time for the March 13th meeting. I know it sounds easy, but do you know how daunting it is to put together a photo album that sufficiently represents 13 years of marriage, 6 siblings and their significant others, 9 nieces & nephews as well as friends and other family members? Of course, my lifetime reticence toward being photographed is now coming back to bite me in the arse. Panic ensues which leads to a semi-frantic email to my siblings and close friends for pictures. And boy, do they deliver! Within hours, I have tons of pictures from my sister-in-law (who is really more of a sister) who is out-of-town visiting family in Chicago. Shortly thereafter, I get even more pictures from siblings and friends. In the meantime, I’ve been scouring our photo albums and boxes of pictures as well as various online photo accounts–what the heck is my Shutterfly password? Since when do I have to have a Pro account on Flickr to see my pictures? I’ve even broken out our old laptop in order to find some pictures for the book. How many pictures represent a life–or at least a decade of two lives? About 126 pictures. I start to calm down and feel more confident that I’ll be able to pull something together.

It’s a strange thing…putting your life into pictures, knowing that this will most likely be our child’s very first introduction to us. I’m also reminded of all of the great times that John and I have shared with each other and with family and friends over the years…holidays, camping trips, Steelers games. Which reminds me, trying to find a group picture of my nuclear family *not* in Steelers shirts virtually impossible. In fact, the photo album looks a lot like an homage to the Pittsburgh Steelers and slightly less to the Pittsburgh Penguins. But that’s us, yinzers through and through.

I am simultaneously giddy & nauseous for the last 24 hours leading up to the committee’s decision. It has been impossible to think about anything else for days. I literally count down the hours and then minutes until 7:00 when we’re expecting the call from Oregon. John and I sit anxiously on the couch holdings hands and surrounded by the dogs. Finally, the phone rings and we hear literally the best news ever: we’ve been selected for DJ!!!

By the time that I hang up the phone, I am so happy that I feel like I’m going to explode, and John has already texted a few of our friends. John holds me as I cry and shake, and he cries and shakes, too. The only way that I can describe the rest of the night is a flood of emotions. I smile so hard that my face hurts, and I burst into tears with every new telling. Our family and friends amaze me with the depth of their happiness for us. I realize for the first time that they know (almost) how hard the last ten years have been for us.

It is, hands down, the best day of my life.

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How We Got Here, Part 2

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We take a year off from adoption stuff to settle back into Pittsburgh and for me to adjust to life after the tenure-track. We continue to try to get pregnant the “old fashioned way” but no success.

Looking back, that first year was really bittersweet…so amazing to be back in the ‘burgh with friends and family and not to be working constantly. But suddenly living in Pittsburgh again and not working constantly is difficult in some ways, too. I’m truly heartbroken over leaving my students behind. I miss my office and my colleagues.

One of the reasons that we moved back to Pittsburgh…watching Steelers games with the family without having a 5-hour drive afterwards!

I get an adjunct position at a local college in the Women’s Studies Dept., but I’m a bit lost without my full-time professor status. Being an adjunct feels lonely and unfulfilling in comparison to my constantly busy schedule of the previous five years. While I went into the move fully aware that I was probably kissing life as a full-time history professor goodbye, the reality is still hard to bear. Getting back into the adoption process that first year–I realize now–would’ve required a certain amount of hope and confidence that I just wasn’t capable of at the time.

In summer 2009, we attend an orientation meeting for Three Rivers Adoption Council (TRAC). It is hard to start over from the beginning–the mounds of paperwork, the classes, the home visits–but we know it is the only way to get to the other side.  We finish all of our requirements and are finally certified as foster/adoptive parents in March 2010.

We begin to scan online profiles of waiting children,  and we attend matching events. Before we know it, it is time to get re-certified and so we begin the process of security clearances, adoption classes, and home visits all over again. It is hard not to be frustrated, but we’re convinced that our child is out there waiting for us, and we just have to persevere.

Another year of sending our family profile out to social workers and receiving profiles of potential children. Along the way, we are initially matched with a little boy and a set of siblings but neither works out. We start to lose faith in the whole process; we question ourselves and our agency.

Unbelievably, another year has passed, and it is time to start re-certification again. It is now our fourth time going through adoption classes. We sit through the sessions on topics such as interracial adoption, early child development, and dealing with birth parents with a mixture of nonchalance, boredom, and sadness. It’s not that we think the material is unimportant or that we consider ourselves experts in parenting, but we just want the chance to put the theory into practice; we just want our kid.

By December 2011, everyone and their cousin is telling us to find another agency. I convince John that if nothing happens by March that we’ll move on. The idea of starting completely from scratch again makes me want to scream, but I can’t go on living with my life on hold…caught between trying to remain hopeful and wondering if it is time to give up on our dream of having children.

And then, everything changes. We get a new matching coordinator who sends our family profile to the Northwest Adoption Exchange for a nine-year-old named DJ. Within weeks, we hear back from the Oregon caseworker that they’re interested in us. We receive bits & pieces of information about DJ, including a very sweet “Wednesday’s Child” promo. He seems almost too good to be true.

The next step is the phone interview with DJ’s caseworker scheduled for Jan. 13. I’ve been through job interviews, and it’s nothing like interviewing for your kid. On the way to our agency for the conference call, I try to get John to rehearse our answers to potential questions without much success. I’ve been on the verge of panic all day…but then an unexpected calm comes over me as we drive along Bigelow Blvd. towards downtown. I’m not sure if my new-found serenity is a product of denial about what is about to happen or actual peace of mind, but I’m willing to go with it either way.

The interview itself is both nerve-wracking and surprisingly pleasant. Throughout the call, I’m searching my brain to try and remember every useful tidbit of parenting information from our years of adoption classes in order to give the best possible answers to the caseworker’s questions. We talk about our wonderful network of family and friends who have promised to support us in this endeavor. Inevitably, we relax into our familiar John-and-Margaret routine–my “straight man” to John’s goofy bravado. Thirteen and a half years of marriage and hundreds of conversations about parenting seem to be paying off; the caseworker clearly likes us and we’re really encouraged by what she tells us about DJ. After a mere sixty minutes, the interview is over. We’ve done everything that we can for the moment…now back to the waiting game.

A few weeks and several follow-up emails later, we are told that a meeting will be held on February 16th to determine who will be selected as Dominick’s adoptive family and that we’re one of the families being considered! I’m in such self-protection mode that I meet every small step forward with grim optimism. John, on the other hand, is much more hopeful. I want to be hopeful, too, but I’m still afraid, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Welcome to MargaretAdopts!

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On March 13, my husband (John) and I were selected to become the parents of 9-year-old DJ. Ever since, we’ve been on cloud nine. This is almost the end of a very long, exciting, and difficult process to adopt our first child.

Now that the euphoria has started to abate just a little, I find that I have about a gazillion questions ranging from how to decorate his room to how much should we be saving for college every month.

Lucky for me, I have a whole host of friends & family–some with children, some without–who have foolishly offered to help me on this wild & wacky path called parenthood. But how to  harness all of that collective knowledge? Well, a blog, of course! Thus begins what I’m tentatively calling MargaretAdopts to journal my transition into being a new mom and to gather the collective wisdom of friends–new and old.

My plan is to post a wide variety of questions and observations about parenting and then sit back and let the advice pour in! Hopefully this will be a place where folks can post their own experiences and questions, too.