Blog Talk Radio Transcript – AIR DATE: 1.16.18 “Adoption in Michigan – Do We Have What It Takes?” (You may listen to the podcast by clicking on the audio link, or read the transcript of the podcast below.)

After the initial consultation and orientation, the home study process begins. It’s a screening that involves personal interviews, a home visit, background and medical checks, and education. A big part of the home study process is to educate the adoptive couple on adoption. Through it all, you learn a lot about yourselves, and the adoption process; and even how some of your ideas about adoption were not what you thought. Liz, an adoptive mother of two, candidly shares her experience and the many thoughts she had preparing to adopt, and then meeting with the birth mother.

Adoption RadioJennifer:  Hi, and welcome to Adoption Focus. My name is Jennifer Jarowski and I’m a social worker with Michigan adoption agency, Adoption Associates. This is our Premier Talk Radio Blog Show. Adoption Associates was founded in 1990 and we specialize in domestic adoption. We provide private adoption services throughout all of Michigan with offices located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills and Mid Michigan. No matter where you’re located in Michigan you will find a connection to Adoption Associates.

Adoption Associates brings knowledge, support and understanding in adoption. Adoption is not only our specialty, it’s our passion. One of Adoption Associate’s commitments is to this radio show to help educate and support adoptive families, birth families and the adoption community. So we are very, very glad that you’ve joined us today and are in support of our adoption focus podcast.

Today I’m excited that we’re going to be talking with Liz about her adoption experience. Today’s topic is “Do we have what it takes?” It’s a really interesting story, so I’d like to go ahead and welcome Liz to the Adoption Focus podcast. Liz, welcome to the show.

Liz: Hi, thanks for having me.

Jennifer J.: Thank you so much for being with us. Could you start us off today by sharing a little bit about yourself and your connection to adoption?

Liz: Absolutely. My husband, Mike, and I are both very, very proud adoptive parents of two Adoption Associates babies. Our daughter, Charlotte, is three years old, and we have a son named Carter who is five months old today.

Jennifer J.: Wow, I’m sure they keep you busy.

Liz: Absolutely, but it’s so much fun.

Jennifer J.: You adopted both Charlotte and Carter as newborns. Correct?

Liz: We did. We had the best experience through Adoption Associates. Both were pretty fast moving situations once we were linked. For our daughter Charlotte, we got a call 12 days before she was born that we were matched. Then with Carter, we got a call six days before he was born that we were matched. Things happened very quickly after that. It was just the most amazing experience in both situations.

Jennifer J.: It was about four years ago when you came to Adoption Associates and decided to pursue adoption. Just like any other prospective adoptive family, you began the process of completing a home study. What was that like for you and your husband, Liz? Beginning the process and navigating through it.

Liz: Definitely, I remember going to our initial meeting at the Farmington Hills office. We got all the information about the home study and we felt a little overwhelmed. It looked like so much. So many things that we needed to … so many classes we needed to take, things we needed to read, just things we needed to do to prepare. But I have to say that as we started the process our caseworker helped put everything into perspective. She reassured us that we didn’t need to do it all at one time. We would take it step by step with her assisting us throughout the process. It. ended up being a really informational and priceless experience for both of us.

We learned a lot about ourselves, and a lot about each other. We learned a lot about adoption – we had so many misconceptions that we didn’t even realize that we had. Of course, I spoke to people who had adopted before, but I still had so many misconceptions. By researching, reading and attending classes, we were really able to wrap our heads around exactly what adoption is. We learned just what an amazing, spectacular experience adoption is. This knowledge took away a lot of those fears and insecurities, and that feeling of being overwhelmed with the process. Going through the home study helped us become fully prepared to be adoptive parents.

Jennifer J.: Awesome. That’s definitely part of the purpose of it – to fully prepare families. I had a family say one time, “We didn’t know what we didn’t know until we had a home study.”

Liz: Right. Yes.

Jennifer J.: I just love that.

Liz: That is the perfect way to put it, because it’s true. There are so many facets to adoption that without experiencing it yourself, you really don’t understand. The home study is just such a very important part of the process. Having gone through the home study once, we felt like we knew everything. But the second time around was just as valuable as the first time. Every situation is different, and we needed to prepare ourselves again.

Jennifer J.: Very good. One of the things that I appreciate about you coming on today is to talk about the issues and concerns that many couples discuss when the topic of adoption first comes up. Some of those concerns are about bonding with the baby for whom there’s no biological connection. And what the relationship is with birth parents, and how, or if, an adopted child would be accepted by a family member. Can you talk about your initial thoughts and feelings about birth parents, and when you first began thinking of adoption as well as your actual experience with your children’s birth mothers?

Liz: Absolutely. When we first started the home study process, there were so many unknowns. I remember  sitting up in the middle of the night thinking about who our birth mother might be, and what her situations might be, and will she like us? Will we be good enough for her? There was a lot of anxiety around that, because you hear from other people’s experiences with their own adoption situations. But I really thought a lot about who the birth parents were going to be and what our relationship might be like then and in the future. I don’t think that you really can fully prepare yourself until you meet that person for the first time.

I remember going to meet Charlotte’s birth mom. I don’t think I have ever been that nervous in my entire life. Even my husband, who you never see him sweat, I think he changed his shirt three times. We had a long three-hour drive to go meet her, and we were just so very nervous. But as soon as we met her, we felt a connection to her. I’m not going to say that it wasn’t awkward at first, but as we started to talk, and as we got to know each other, we started to relax. Our lifestyles were very different. But, none of that mattered, all that mattered is that we had this mutual care and respect for each other, and that we both already loved this child more than anything in the entire world. That really was all that mattered. There was no judgment on either end.

The same situation happened with Carter’s birth mother. Again, we were so very nervous, even going through it before. But we just had an instant connection with this woman. I felt a sisterhood with both of our children’s birth mothers, which I still feel today. And I wanted to be that person for both of them that was there to support them with anything they needed. If that meant that they wanted me to be in the delivery room with them, I would be there holding their hand. Or if they wanted me to sit in the waiting room while they were delivering, I would be there. Anything I could do to support them is what I wanted to do. In turn, I found that both of these women wanted the same for me. Which was just an amazing experience, they wanted me to feel comfortable, and they wanted me to be a part of things. It just was the most amazing experience meeting these two women and creating a bond that is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.

Jennifer J.: It’s hard to describe that for sure.

Liz: It really is. It’s almost impossible to describe how I just really love these women. It’s the most amazing blessing.

Jennifer J.: Four years ago when you and your husband first came to the agency, this is something that was pretty hard to imagine. Could you have foreseen feeling this way about a birth mom, or desiring this sort of relationship?

Liz: Honestly, no. I knew I wanted to have an open adoption with some sort of communication with my child’s birth mother. But I never expected that these women would become members of our family, and that I would love them so deeply. I truly want to be here to support them in any way that I can. Our lives are very different, but none of that matters, because we have these children in common. That connection will always be there.

Jennifer J.: Shifting gears a little bit, the idea of openness is a topic that I’d like to hear your thoughts on. Openness can be something that’s quite misunderstood, and it can seem rather scary or consuming to families in the beginning. They think that the agency is referring to co-parenting, which we’re not. How did you feel about this? What was this like for you and your husband early on and as you progressed coming to an understanding of openness?

Liz: When we first started the process, there were a lot of fears. Is the person going to try to co-parent our children with us if we do choose to have an open adoption? Turns out that’s the farthest thing from the truth. But what I’ve learned through the process is that every adoption situation is different. Every situation is unique and special. It’s got to work for both parties involved. We have two very open relationships, but they both look different. They both work for us and for our children’s birth mothers.

The more we got to know both of our birth mothers, the more our relationship just very naturally progressed into something that was happy and worked for all of us. Every situation is unique, and it’s not as scary as it seems initially. It’s not scary at all. It’s actually the most amazing, beautiful thing for not only us, but for the birth parents and our children. For example, Charlotte had her first gymnastics class last weekend, and the first person that I texted the picture to was her birth mother. Because I knew that she would be as excited as I am about it.

To be able to share that with her is just the most amazing thing. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I want her to be a part of our lives in any way that makes her feel comfortable. Openness is just something that evolves, it’s something that naturally comes about, and it works. I think that just to keep an open mind, and to communicate is the most important thing when it comes to having an open adoption.

Jennifer J.: Like you said, it develops because it’s relationship grown over time.

Liz: Absolutely.

Jennifer J.: When considering domestic adoption, couples are asked to give thought to a lot of different circumstances that may present for a prospective adoption. I’m sure you and your husband were posed a lot of questions at the beginning. Some of these may include substance exposure, mental health conditions, or in some cases unknown medical histories. I know that for you and your husband you found that you became more open-minded when you decided to adopt a second time compared to the first time. Can you talk about that a little bit? What was your frame of mind? Why was it different with the second adoption for you guys?

Liz: I think it was different because we were a lot more comfortable with the adoption process. There is almost three years difference between the time we adopted our daughter, and the time we adopted our son. During that time, we became part of an adoption community. We learned so much about other people’s experiences with adoption. We were able to do a lot of research on our own about possibly adopting a child with some substance exposure or unknown medical history. I think we just felt more secure in that it’s not as terrifying as we thought the first time. We felt able to handle any situation that was thrown at us because you just can’t plan. There are so many unknowns. We were willing to open our hearts and our home to a child that was always supposed to be with us.

I just think that a lot of what happened the second time is that we trusted in the process, we trusted God, we trusted the agency, and we trusted that the perfect situation was going to come our way. As long as we were educated and prepared for all of the circumstances that might happen, it was going to be a wonderful experience. There was no reason for us to be judgmental or jump to conclusions about anything that was happening with the birth mother. W knew that she loved her child enough to make an adoption plan, and we would love her and the child no matter what.

Jennifer J.: That’s awesome. Thank you. Let’s talk about bonding. Did you have concerns about bonding with a child who was not going to share a biological connection with you? I know this is something people talk amongst themselves about, but it’s almost forbidden to say out loud and we do need to talk about it.

Liz: Absolutely. That’s so true. I absolutely did. I honestly don’t think I ever communicated that to anyone. Because looking back, I think it’s so silly that I felt that way, but it was a real feeling. Am I going to hold this baby and look at this baby and think, “Oh my gosh, this is not my child?” That was a real fear for me. But, the reality of the situation was that we were so very lucky to be in the delivery room with both of our kids. The second I saw both of my children, they were my children. Never was there a moment that I felt uncomfortable or that wasn’t my baby. But the coolest thing about it is that I instantly I felt that bonding. I felt that connection. It was just an amazing experience to know that I shared that bond with another woman, and that she felt exactly the same way about that child as I did.

It’s just so hard to explain how my love for these kids is so much deeper because I can share that love with their birth moms. It’s just amazing. So, my husband and I both bonded with our children right away. I am so grateful to our amazing birth moms for allowing us to experience their delivery, and to hear their first cry. That’s just the most amazing experience that we could’ve possibly ever been given.

Jennifer J.: This has been a really great podcast, hearing from you about several concerns that you never verbalized in the beginning, and hearing what that resulted in your family, and in your adoption. I again appreciate you for being on today and sharing this information.

Liz: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

Jennifer: For those of you looking to connect with Adoption Associates about choosing adoption for your baby, please call us any time at 800-677-2367.  Or, you can text us at 248-919-8094. We also have very helpful information on our website www.AdoptionAssociates.net.

For now, this is Jennifer on Adoption Focus. Have a great day, everyone. Bye. Bye.