Just learned that the baby you are planning to adopt is going through withdrawal; how do you respond?
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The Complexities of Emotions and Circumstances at the Hospital and Afterwards (adoptionfocus/2017/03/14/)
Jennifer J.: Hi, and welcome to Adoption Focus. My name is Jennifer Jaworski, and I am a social worker with Adoption Associates of Michigan. This is Adoption Associates Premier Talk Radio Blog Show. Adoption Associates was founded in 1990, and we specialize in both domestic and international adoption. We provide pregnancy and adoption services throughout all of Michigan with offices located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills, and Saginaw. Anywhere in Michigan you can find a connection to Adoption Associates.
Adoption Associates brings knowledge, support, and understanding in adoption. Adoption is not only our specialty, but it is our passion. One of Adoption Associates’ commitments is to this radio show to help educate and support adoptive families, birth families and the adoption community.
We are very glad that you’re listening in to today’s show. If you’d like to call in with a question or a comment, we would love to hear from you at 347-850-1100. Again, 347-850-1100. I am happy to introduce to the show today Amanda, are you with us?
Amanda: I am.
Jennifer J.: Good morning.
Amanda: Good morning. Thanks for having me.
Jennifer J.: No, thank you for coming on. You and your husband adopted your daughter through Adoption Associates, you’re clients of AAI. Your daughter was born just about a year ago now, correct?
Amanda: Yeah, she’s about to be 11 months.
Jennifer J.: 11 months, wow. You’re a busy household indeed, which makes it even … we’re even more thankful that you’ve taken the time to be with us today. I’d like to start by going back to the beginning of your adoption story. Could start us off by sharing about the day that you got the call that a birth mother had selected you and your husband?
Amanda: Absolutely. That was March 26th of last year. It was actually just a couple weeks before our daughter was born. It’s basically a day you don’t forget. I had initially missed the call, and the agency ended up calling my husband. He called me and the first words out of his mouth were the most amazing words that any waiting adoptive family wants, and he said, “The agency called,” and your heart just stops. You get so excited, and so nervous.
He started rattling off all this information that the agency had gave him, which was a ton of information. I just remember thinking, “Okay, okay, is it a boy or a girl? Is it a boy or a girl?” And he said “It’s a girl.” I barely heard anything else. He said, “It’s a girl,” and then he said the most amazing words. He said, “They picked us.” They picked us. It wasn’t that they had shown the profile, and they were still looking, but it was, “They had chosen us.” I just remember like breaking down and crying and it was just the most incredible moment.
Jennifer J.: That is really special. “It’s a girl,” and “They picked us,” that’s all you needed to hear, right?
Jennifer J.: That’s wonderful.
Amanda: That’s all we needed.
Jennifer J.: You mentioned that you received, or your husband did, in that initial phone call, a great deal of information. What was that like for you? The process of gaining understanding about the birth mother’s background? Were there concerns on your part?
Amanda: They actually gave us quite a bit of information about the birth mother’s background, the birth father is also in the picture, which was nice. They gave us a lot of information. They especially gave us information, our birth mother had, there was going to be some neonatal abstinence syndrome that they had suspected. They had given us all the information about exactly what had been going on with that, which was nice.
It kind of [anxieties 00:04:20] a little bit. We had recently gone to a, it just happened to be that we had recently gone to a fantastic training at Adoption Associates with a, it was a pediatric nurse practitioner, in regards to substance abuse and things like that. So, we had actually just previously, I would say about two weeks prior, gone to that and gotten a lot more information.
Jennifer J.: And you mentioned neonatal abstinence syndrome, and for some of our listeners, they may not know what that means. That is the diagnosis that newborns receive if they begin showing signs of withdrawal from substances after delivery.
So, in your situation, did you have any experience with, not in yourself personally, but knowledge and understanding about neonatal abstinence syndrome, or substance exposure of children, or issues related to the birth parents regarding substances?
Amanda: I didn’t, personally, honestly. The most information we got was from that training. I also work as a paramedic in an emergency department, so these are some things that I was familiar with a little bit. My husband, however, was not at all. So, the information that we got from the training was great, but we did have to ask a lot of questions in regards to it.
Jennifer J.: So, initially, you may have been a little more comfortable with the concept than he was just because of your own professional background, it sounds like.
Amanda: Yes. A little bit.
Jennifer J.: What other things did you guys do to help educate yourself once you learned that this was a situation that you were interested in pursuing?
Amanda: We did a lot of Googling.
Jennifer J.: Okay.
Amanda: Our birth mother, we found out, had been, she was on Subutex, which is a form of suboxone. It’s just there’s been more research in regards to it.
She had initially been addicted to prescription medications and she started taking Subutex since pretty much the minute she figured out she was pregnant. So, she was under doctor care the whole time. I knew she was taking really good care of the baby.
The most research we did, really, was kind of what Subutex was, and what kind of things could come out of her being addicted to this medication. A lot of the research we did was as far as what to expect after the birth.
Jennifer J.: Okay. So, this concept of withdrawal for a baby is hard for a lot of families, and it feels a little scary or intimidating, but in your particular situation, the baby was having withdrawals, not from an illicit substance or something that the birth mother was doing outside of a doctor’s care.
She had had a prescription drug addiction, and then was seeking care and then she was getting the suboxone treatment for that. And so, your baby was withdrawing from the suboxone. Is that correct?
Amanda: Yeah. That’s correct. So, what they did was she was on a morphine wean. Initially, she didn’t have … it actually took about two days for them to notice any symptoms of withdrawals. Before she was born, we were told that she was probably going to be in the NICU. We had kind of had to wrap our head around that.
But, it wasn’t, like I said, until about two days later. Honestly, as a new parent, we didn’t know if these were withdrawal symptoms, or if this was just normal baby.
Jennifer J.: Right.
Amanda: So we had medical professionals to tell us that. So, about two days after she was born, they had the NICU doctors come down and assess her, and then they decided that she was going to go there.
Things that she was having, which we didn’t know were normal withdrawal symptoms, was she was yawning a lot, multiple sneezes. It was like an inconsolable cry. Things like that. And again, we didn’t know if that was just normal or if those were actually withdrawal symptoms, which we learned, that’s what it was.
Jennifer J.: Right. So there’s a specific scale that the hospital providers use in determining those things.
I’m curious how you and your husband came to a decision about this link. This birth mother selected you, and then you learned of these details. Was that a difficult process? What was it like? How did you make the decision that you felt prepared to adopt a child with prenatal exposure to Subutex?
Amanda: We had actually, we had done a lot of research beforehand, ’cause we actually had gotten a call, previously, before this one, for another baby who had quite a bit of substance exposure. Much, much more than our daughter did. So, from that, we did so much, so much research. From that experience to the call that we got for her, it was like night and day, and right away, we knew that it was just, it wasn’t a question. That we would be able to handle it.
Jennifer J.: Okay. And you mentioned that the birth father was involved as well, which is always very nice to hear and to have. Did you meet both of the birth parents?
Amanda: Yes. We did. I always describe that moment as, “an awkward first date.”
Jennifer J.: Mm-hmm (affirmative)-
Amanda: Omigosh. We were so nervous. This is the most important people, I think, that you’ll ever meet in your life.
We ended up meeting at a restaurant. At first it was kind of awkward. And the case worker was with us. After a while, you kind of start … they give you an idea of what you should talk about. Things you should stay away from, and you kind of keep that in the back of your mind. The biggest thing is I just wanted to learn about them. And I wanted them to be able to ask us any questions that they wanted. By the end, it was so much more comfortable, and it was a really positive experience.
Jennifer J.: What impact did meeting the birth parents have on you and your husband?
Amanda: I can tell you, I have been asked so many times. There’s so many stereotypes. “What’s the birth mother like, and why is she giving this baby up for adoption?” And to me, I had zero judgment. Zero judgment. To me, these two people who are very, very supportive of each other, they’re really lucky to have that, literally, we just look at them, and we still look at them as the most amazing and selfless people in the world.
We realize … we just happen to be in a really, really lucky situation with them. We know that our daughter comes from two amazing people. That did create quite an impact on us. You think of all these different scenarios that you can come into during this process. We always say we couldn’t have a better one.
Jennifer J.: That’s nice to hear. Well, what about, can we talk for a minute about what happened at the hospital when the time came to go to the hospital?
Amanda: Yes. I remember, we got a text message. We had been texting quite a bit before, right before, basically up to the time that our daughter was born. I remember at 5:30 in the morning, I felt like a waiting [inaudible 00:12:50]. At 5:30 in the morning, I had gotten a text saying, “Her birth mother, she’s going into labor, they’re going to the hospital.” I remember jumping out of bed, and we were kind of … it was the most nervous chatter and quiet driving because it was an hour and a half away. We got there. She was born at 7:11 in the morning. We got there at 7:30.
Jennifer J.: Wow.
Amanda: So, it was pretty soon after. The thing with the hospital, one thing the agency does is they’re so good at explaining kind of the logistics of things of what’s going to happen. What you should do, what you shouldn’t do. We were very, very aware the whole time. And you know the agency explains to us, “You’re guests. And your place there is basically however the birth mother, birth parents want you to be.”
We realize, logistically, you can be prepared, but you have to be also open to anything that could possibly happen, because it’s not … everybody’s story’s going to be different.
We did have some communications issues with the hospital. It was a day where it was a roller coaster of emotions. But, at the end of the day, I would do it all again.
Jennifer J.: So, you’re talking about the logistical preparations, but it sounds like what you’re also referring to here is being emotionally prepared. And, emotionally prepared for what? That’s the big question, and that’s what makes it hard. People say, “How do you emotionally prepare for a roller-coaster?” Would it be fair to say that you were worried? And that, during the roller-coaster of emotions at the hospital, that you were also concerned that she could be changing her mind about adoption?
Amanda: Oh, absolutely. I think, there’s always that worry. There’s absolutely no way to get that out of your head. This was the biggest decision that she’s ever going to have to make in her life. And it was not an easy decision for her, at all. And we know that. And that day, we realized, we knew that the baby was taken care of. The biggest thing that I could say is that, that day, it’s not about the baby, necessarily. Like I said, we knew she was taken care of. It’s about what’s best for the birth mom. It’s about supporting them, and basically, responding to their wishes.
They ended up, and we knew this was going to happen, our daughter stayed with them that first night. One thing that the agency had also prepared us for, they said, “This isn’t necessarily them changing their mind” which is something that we needed to hear. It wasn’t that they’re changing their mind. It’s that it’s their time to have, it’s their special time, and their time to say good-bye, which was exactly what it was.
We knew that. They definitely, they needed that time, which was completely fine with us. But, they were very, and I’ve said this before, surprised. Because of the miscommunication at the hospital, we didn’t see the baby for multiple hours after she was born. They said, “Gosh. If it was me, I would have been texting and blowing up our phone and things like that,” and as much as we wanted to do that, we understood our place, and it wasn’t our place to do that. They needed their time to handle what was going on with them.
Jennifer J.: And while you understood that at that time, I think it would be fair to say that it’s easier said than done to tell a nervous, anxious couple who have waited, as you said you did, to wait a little bit longer, and hold on a little bit more while all those fears were creeping in. I imagine that that was also a difficult time for you, as well.
We talk about managing expectations versus realities, and a lot of couples kind of have it in their mind, or maybe they’d talked with the birth parents about the way things are going to go at the hospital, and then sometimes it doesn’t go that way after all. Did you have anything in your circumstances that kind of fit that mold, too? That the expectation versus the reality just didn’t really coincide?
Amanda: Oh, completely. Like I said, you can’t be prepared. And even the birth mom can think, “I’m going to be prepared. I know what’s going to happen.” And they don’t. They have no idea the type of emotions that they’re going to have as soon as they see the baby.
And it was a situation where we had a lot of contact with the birth mom, literally leading up to the time she was born. We always contacted each other by text message. She knows, even to this day, that she can contact me whenever she wants. That day, and after that, we didn’t really hear a whole lot from her.
We ended up bumping into her in the elevator, that day before we left. It was definitely a very awkward and uncomfortable moment, I think, for all of us. It was a very different mood and feeling that … I didn’t know exactly her pain or anything, but I knew she was going through pain, and all I wanted to do was give her a hug, and I couldn’t do that. I basically just needed to give her her space. So it was definitely a different dynamic than we had previously had with them.
The birth father, on the other hand, was very … he would come out into the waiting room and give us updates, and things like that. I was more or less talking to him that day, and trying to give her her space.
Jennifer J.: Well, what about after she left the hospital? Were you able to continue your support of the birth mother once she left?
Amanda: Absolutely. Honestly, the best way that I found to support her was I let her … if she wanted to contact me, I let them know, absolutely, any time, they can contact us. But, I didn’t want to … as much as I wanted to talk to her more, I knew that it wasn’t my place. It was really she needed to take that time and do what she needed to do.
One thing that she did request of us was, she hadn’t put her in an outfit. She wanted us to be the first to put her in her first regular outfit. So, I did that, and I sent her the pictures.
They also gave her a special, they bought a teddy bear for her, which she still has. She actually pulled it into her crib last night, strangely enough. That was really special. They were like, “She really seems to like the bright colors,” and it was really important to them that she had that. So, when I took the pictures, I also took the pictures with our daughter having the teddy bear. And she’ll have that forever. And she’ll know exactly where it came from.
That was extremely special and important to them. Because, it was basically like them giving a piece of themselves to her, and I thought it was really important for her to have it, too.
Jennifer J.: That’s very nice. I like this story about the teddy bear. As you were supporting the birth mother during the early days of her grief, your baby was still in the hospital receiving care in the neonatal intensive care unit. What did this look like for you? What was the process like emotionally managing all of that?
Amanda: It was interesting. Well, initially she was born in a hospital which was an hour and a half away. They didn’t know how long she was going to be there for. So, we, lucky enough, I have no idea how, we were able to get her transferred to a NICU that was closer to our house. We ended up being there, it was probably eight or nine hours a day. We would go for about four to five hours every day, and then take a lunch break and then come back.
We knew it was important, and the doctors let us know that it is extremely important to make sure the parents are there as much as possible, because the more you’re there, the quicker they, most of the time, they’re going to leave.
It was an interesting experience. It ended up being a very good experience. A lot of times, people have a baby, 24-36 hours later, they’re like, “Here you go. I hope you know how to take care of it.” We had the opportunity, for two weeks, to make the best of the situation and we were able to ask questions, and basically learn how to take care of her, which a lot of people don’t have.
Now, the situation with her with the NAS, was, you have to document everything. What they do, she was on a morphine wean, so she got morphine every three hours. Besides that, we had to document how many times she yawned, sneezed, every diaper, every time we changed her diaper we had to take her temperature. When she went to sleep, when she woke up, when she was crying. It was a lot.
Jennifer J.: Right.
Amanda: It was definitely a lot of information. By the time we left, we were like, “Oh my gosh, we don’t have to write this down anymore.” It was amazing. We realize that it is important because what they’re doing is, it’s a scoring system that they use to check and see how they’re doing. There were a couple times where we thought, “Okay, she’s going to get discharged tomorrow.” I believe it was twice we thought that she was going to get discharged the next day. Because of her scores the night before, she wasn’t able to.
So, that was kind of frustrating, but we also knew that it was the best thing for her. We were lucky. We had a private NICU room. She had a swing in there, and they even had cuddlers that would come in and hold her when we weren’t there, which was kind of nice.
Jennifer J.: Yeah. Well, we are rapidly approaching the end of today’s show. The time always goes by so fast on these, and I don’t want to end without hearing from you about what you believe the message is in your adoption story. What your take-away was from all of these circumstances?
Amanda: You know, my take-away honestly is be open to anything. I know the words “substance abuse” and “prenatal exposure” those are scary words. But, what I would say is, be open to it. Do proper education, because if we were closed off to it, I wouldn’t be a mother right now. And, we wouldn’t have our daughter, and she is the most amazing thing that I could possibly imagine in life. She hits every single one of her milestones. She’s strong. She’s healthy. She’s doing amazing. You would never know how she started off. So, my biggest thing is just be open-minded. Things aren’t always going to work out exactly how you think it’s going to, how it’s supposed to. With all the emotions and roller-coasters, and everything that we went over, I would completely do it over ten times again, just to have our daughter.
Jennifer J.: Aww. That’s so nice to hear. We’ll be putting a picture up of your family later today on Facebook, with a link for today’s show for those who maybe didn’t get to hear this live. I love hearing all the ins and outs of your story, because you kind of took us through the roller-coaster of what that looked like, from getting the first phone call and meeting the birth parents, and then kind of some difficulties in the hospital. You had a lot of balls in the air, so to speak, there for a while. You were managing your own emotions, trying to support the birth mother, taking care of your newborn. This is great information, and I appreciate you coming on and disclosing your family’s story and how you and your husband came to be parents.
So, Amanda, thank you again very much for today.
Amanda: Oh, you’re welcome. Thank you for having me.
Jennifer J.: You’re welcome. For those of you that are looking to connect with Adoption Associates, you can do so by calling 800-677-2367, or you could also reach us on the web at AdoptionAssociates.net . We’re live on Tuesdays at 11, and we hope that you’ll join us next week when we hear from another adoptive mother whose name is also Amanda, coincidence, about her adoption story and her family. We also want to let everyone know that registration for tonight’s meeting in Midland for Explore Adoption is now full. We are very pleased with the response and hope that we can offer another Explore Adoption event in the next few months, so stay tuned and continue to follow us on Facebook.
For now, this is Jennifer on Adoption Focus. I hope everyone has a wonderful day. Bye-bye.