Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Now THE REAL Update: We're Expecting...To Adopt!

Like we said at the end of our previous post, we have more to tell you.  In fact, we have A LOT more to tell you.  We had these grand notions of keeping everyone up to date to the day through every little nuance of the adoption process, but as it turns out, almost all of the time, the information we are dealing with is so sensitive and uncertain that it takes awhile before everyone involved feels comfortable enough to share.  We are just now at a point where we can feel certain in sharing the story we are about to tell.  You should know, though, that this has been in development for over 2 months at this point.  We feel kind of strange having just posted a blog about all of the birthmom calls that didn't work out - the implication being that we were no further along than a year ago.  We were, in fact, much further along at the time we posted the last blog, but we felt it was important to tell you about all of the unexpected things we had to navigate on the path that has lead us to this moment:

We couldn't be any MORE EXCITED and HAPPY and THRILLED and SHOCKED and ELATED and GRATEFUL and HUMBLED and ANXIOUS and (still a little uncertain) BUT ULTIMATELY OVER-JOYED, to announce that WE.  ARE.  MATCHED!!!

So glad you're happy, Will and Adrienne - what the heck does that MEAN?  TO BE MATCHED?  Well, if adopting a baby is the wedding ceremony then being matched with the birthmom is the engagement.  A birthmom has chosen us to adopt her baby, and we have committed to adopt her baby.  We have agreed to exclusively work with one another to create an adoption plan.  After all the calls and posts and emails that resulted in nothing but disappointment, we have finally been chosen!   We are now working with a wonderful birthmom, and if all goes as planned, we will become parents in...wait for it...DECEMBER!  That's right, in 8 weeks!  So here's the story: 

In the previous blog, we mentioned that our agency, the IAC, had connected us with a birthmom in Ohio.  This Ohio connection came at such a strange busy time where we were navigating other very time sensitive contacts - something that hadn't happened all year.  We were having a very serious debate about whether or not we were going to pursue the Indiana opportunity independently without the IAC because they wouldn't work with this mom due to some things they found in her history.  It was completely insane.  We had absolutely nothing solid all year, AND NOW TWO?  REALLY?  We were in such a strange state of mind that we thought the IAC was offering us this connection to the expectant mother in Ohio as an unlikely consolation for not being willing to work with Indiana mom. (Unfortunately, the nature of the adoption process causes you to become somewhat of a skeptic about opportunities to adopt - scammers, calls and then nothing, other lawyers/agencies seemingly creating more efficient adoption opportunities for their clients, alleged expectant moms giving you too much information exactly how you want to hear it too soon, etc...).  It was unbelievable that in the middle of one very real, yet risky, opportunity to adopt, that a woman in Ohio just happened to see our profile online at that time, like it enough to request our letter, get it shipped overnight, and then be open to talking to us the same day she read our letter.  It seemed unlikely, but here's what happened:

In August, The IAC sent the Ohio woman several Dear Birthmother Letters, she chose 2 that she liked best.  In the same conversation we were having about whether or not it was a good idea to pursue an independent adoption with the Indiana mom, we told the IAC to let this new Ohio mom know that we were very interested in talking to her.  The IAC called the Ohio mom back to let her know, and by 4:30pm that day - the same day in the morning we were concerned we may lose our only real opportunity to adopt with the Indiana woman, we were talking with a new expectant mother who we would eventually come to match with.  We didn't know that at the time of course as she was still considering us and the other couple.  But, we felt good that we talked to her first and our conversation with her was really great. 

Luckily for us, the Ohio mom enjoyed her conversation with us so much that she simply told the IAC that putting her in touch with the other couple was unnecessary.  So now, we had a second prospective adoption opportunity on our hands.  And as you know from our last blog, a week later we would get a call from the Michigan mom who was due in a week.   Needless to say, having three choices nearly killed us:  a birthmom due in September, October, and December.  Ultimately, the correct adoption opportunity and choice rose to the surface.  While the Indiana and Michigan opportunities were tempting because they were happening sooner, there were major red flags and concerns and gaps of information that, in the end, were just too risky for us.  The contrast being that our Ohio mom called us regularly, gave us a lot of information, was really articulate about what she was looking for in an adoptive couple, very friendly, and easy to talk to.  The start to our relationship with her was the way we expected the open adoption process to go.  Over Labor Day weekend, she even sent us an ultrasound picture of the baby.

The day came that we had a major decision make.  It was Monday September 8th.  While we loved the way our Ohio mom was communicating with us, we did keep the door open on the other two opportunities for a week.  It was the week following Labor Day.  We scheduled a trip to Ohio on Sunday September 7th to meet our expectant mother, but in that same weekend we were also waiting to hear back from the Michigan mom who was due on September 11th - in JUST A FEW DAYS.  The Michigan mom told us she would call us by Sunday evening.  Meanwhile, we had a really lovely lunch with the Ohio mom where we finally had a chance to get a sense of one another in person.  It went very well.  So well that she called the agency later that afternoon to let them know that she was ready to match with us - which means we would get taken off the books and the online search as being an available couple.  Here's the rule we didn't realize - when an expectant mother says they are ready to match with a couple, you then only have 48 hours, as the couple, to say "Yes, we want to match too," or "No, we would like to stay available for another opportunity." 

Suddenly, the clock was ticking.  We had not heard from the Michigan mom since Friday, and she was supposed to be having a baby in the upcoming week!  We did not hear back from her Sunday evening like she had told us.  What do we do?  Do we match with the mom from Ohio or go with the baby who is allegedly supposed to be born in Michigan in three days?  So, it was Monday September 8th in the early afternoon, after repeated attempts to reach the Michigan mom and no response, we called the IAC to let them know that we wanted to match with our Ohio mom.  It made more sense.  It felt right.  She was the right fit for us.  Even if we had heard back from the mom in Michigan (which we eventually did, by the way), there were still too many unknown variables and concerns that we had about the situation to risk losing our opportunity with the mom in Ohio.  We knew selecting to match with our mom in Ohio was the right choice for us and what our Ohio mom had already decided was the right choice for her.

Over the next several weeks we exchanged a lot of phone calls and text messages, got to know more about each other, and began the formal process - ie paperwork and meetings with the agency, to make it official.  We have since made one other trip to Ohio where we got to be present for a 3D ultrasound, and we had lunch and hung out all day.  We feel good creating a strong relationship and bond so that this child will know how much they were planned for and how much we both prepared.

We feel pretty comfortable at this time to tell everyone the whole story now... and to share our excitement with everyone who cares to hear it!  (Actually Will wanted to tell people as soon as we matched, but Adrienne wanted to wait a little longer - like another month).  Nothing with adoption is ever 100% certain, and all of this could change at any minute - even after the baby is born - but we feel like we are in as confident a place to be in this process to share our news.  Here it is!:

We're Expecting Baby Girl Pfaffenberger 12/24/14!!! 

We have tried really hard to be cautious with this story and experience.  At this point we feel like it's ready to be shared for several reasons.  #1 We are just excited and want to enjoy it.  We want to have a little bit of what an expectant pregnant couple would have:  planning, wondering, hoping, and sharing this journey with others.  #2 We realize that anything could go wrong with this match at any time and that has made us fearful of having to take all of this back and worried what that would feel like - the less people we tell, the less we have to explain later.  However, any pregnancy is uncertain too.  We really want to share the truth about adoption and matching and potentially unmatching is part of that.  Hopefully we never have to share that, but it is a very real possibility.  We feel it's only fair to write the whole truth and not just the shiny happy parts.  But, right now, we feel like we're in a pretty good place.  The time is going quickly and it's getting harder and harder to avoid the topic or skirt around the subject when people ask!  Right now, we are matched, expecting to become parents of a baby girl in December, and we really couldn't be any happier!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Even When It's Good, It Is Hard To Get Excited...

Since June, this adoption journey has taken us on some serious ups and downs.

Over the summer, we officially became desensitized and grew accustomed to the process of fielding one phone call from a potential birth mom never to hear from her again.  Our last one of these kind of calls was in June from an expectant mother in Michigan.  We really liked our conversation with her, thought it went really well, and then she just disappeared, which for us, had become par for the course up until that point. 

We then took a vacation (see last blog post), which was a welcome distraction and a nice get away for the two of us, but very soon we were back to the reality of nothing happening on the adoption front. 

In July, the only thing we had going was having to go through the process of renewing and re-upping the stuff that goes along with our home study (background checks, fingerprints, health check-ups, etc.) since we were approaching our 1 year anniversary of having it approved.  You have to renew your home study every year.  That's right, IT'S BEEN ONE YEAR NOW.  We were really hoping something would happen before we had to do this, but no such luck. 

So much wasn't happening with adoption over the summer that we started to wonder if we needed to go in a different direction.  We started researching Foster Care and other similar types of opportunities to become parents.  We went to hear the lawyer the IAC uses do a talk at the agency on a Saturday morning just so we could basically feel like we were doing something proactive.

We wondered if our Dear Birthmother letter wasn't good.  We wondered if we needed to do more traditional paid advertising.  We wondered what the IAC was doing to help.  We wondered if we should hire another lawyer or agency to also work on this for us.  We had a pretty detailed laundry list of concerns that we were going bring to the IAC for our annual home study renewal check-in meeting, and then the flood gates opened in August...

We aren't sure why, but things started happening after two things -
1.  Adrienne found an abandoned baby bird in our driveway and we took care of it in a box we put in a tree until it flew away. 

2. Will posted this picture of the nursery we've slowly been assembling asking if anyone knew a baby who would like to live this room.  This actually generated a lot of viral response we weren't expecting.   

We know that those things were probably coincidences, but if you think they had something to do with it, nurse a baby bird back to health and post a pic of your empty nursery on social media if things are going slow in your adoption process.  If you just do those two things then you'll get an overwhelming amount of response like we did in August...

August was nuts.  Will refers to it as the most stressful and rigorous month of work he has ever had - all of his jobs culminated into major projects all at once.  He had to go to a radio conference in Chicago, he was opening a new $3Bill Fringe Show, and he was running a major tournament event for his soccer club for the first time.  Why not add on to that an inordinate number of calls from expectant mothers?

We received a call from a woman in Nebraska.  Adrienne talked to her briefly and then nothing.  THEN, we received a Facebook message from an expectant mother in Indiana who was due in October - more on that in just a second.  THEN, we received a call from an expectant mother in Indiana who had JUST GIVEN BIRTH - more on that in just a second.  Our agency then connected us with an expectant mother in Ohio who had requested our letter.  And Finally, remember that call I wrote about just a few paragraphs ago that took place in June?  Well, that expectant mother from Michigan called us back too - about a week before she was due.

Here is the insane story about how all of this played out - adoption is not an easy road, friends:

The expectant mother from Indiana who was due in October was definitely pregnant (an important thing to know for sure before moving forward because sometimes they aren't!).  We even met her for dinner once, and she seemed very nice, but with a few eccentricities.  Upon receiving more information, the IAC determined that they would not work with this woman due to some things they had found in her history.   They would not work with her because we are doing an open adoption, and in an open adoption, to one extent or another, there will be some kind of relationship between the birth mom and the adoptive parents and the agency.  The IAC felt like these issues (based on history of dealing with them) would prevent this woman from maintaining a positive relationship with us and the agency...POTENTIALLY - no one really knows for sure if there would've been any issues at all.  So, this left us in the awkward position of having to decide whether or not we wanted to move forward on our own without the agency's support and just hire a lawyer at an additional expense to help us complete this adoption.  This was a very difficult decision for us because this was the first time that we thought that we had a real opportunity to match with an expectant mother.  Ultimately, no agency support and a lot of uncertainty about the situation lead us away from this opportunity, but it was so incredibly hard to even consider walking away from this chance.  We couldn't believe that our first real chance to become parents was a situation that our agency wouldn't support.  We spent several days sorting through the information, consulting with our families and agency representatives, and trying to find ways to make it work, but after many of hours of exhaustive practical and emotional analysis, we concluded that it just wasn't right for us.  And on top of that, we suddenly had a lot of other expectant mothers calling us simultaneously...

So then, there was the Indiana Birthmom who called us who had just given birth:  She was in the hospital with a new baby.  Her friend sent Will a Facebook message while he was on the air around 7:30am requesting the link to our adoption profile, and Will replied with the link.  This happens all of the time, so he thought nothing of it.  At 10am, Adrienne received an emotional phone call from this woman.  She had just given birth at 4am, she was considering adoption as an option but the baby came earlier than she expected it to and so she had not gotten far in the process.  After this conversation, we notified the IAC, and they simply told us to wait for more information.  From this point forward, we had a couple of more conversations with the friend who FB messaged Will, and she gave us updates as the day progressed.  By the end of the day, the woman was having meetings with the hospital counselors and by the next morning, she decided to parent.  But, it was a crazy 24 hours for us to think that we might have had to have prepared to have a baby in our house that fast.  Also, incredibly exciting and ultimately disappointing...  which, if we are being honest about the adoption process, is kind of how this always works.  Just when you think you can get excited, there is always something that will most likely disrupt that feeling... usually in a big way.

Speaking of ups and downs and things that happen more regularly in the adoption process than they should - let's talk about the expectant mother from Michigan.  She first called us in June and told us she was due on September 11th.  She and Adrienne had what seemed like a great conversation.  Then - she disappeared.  Usually this happens because once an expectant mother has a conversation with a real person on the other end, the prospect of adoption becomes suddenly very real for her and all of those emotions and considerations come pouring to the surface.  Many reconsider adoption at this point from what we understand.  In our case, we don't know for sure, but most of the time when this happens it means they have made a different choice. Well, she called us back for the second time about a week before she was due just a few weeks ago.  At this point, we had moved on in our minds, but again, the opportunity to adopt is something HAVE TO always consider - we never know how many chances we are going to get.  We felt like we weren't going to have any chances based on how the year up until this point had gone.  SO NOW, we were talking to the expectant mother in Indiana, had been connected to an expectant mother in Ohio, and now had a call from an expectant mother in Michigan due in a week.  

 We went from absolutely no prospects in May, June, and July to THREE VERY REAL prospects in 
August, and for the first week in September were having very elaborate conversations about what direction we needed to go in.  Who do we choose and how?!  HONESTLY, we wanted to say, "Give us all three!"  But you can't do that, and I'm sure all you parents are laughing at us right now saying, "How about you try one first before making such a bold claim?"

Well,  here's what happened... Without the agency's support, we had to move away from the Indiana birthmom - the IAC made sure she was supported by other organizations to assure she could pursue an adoption elsewhere.  AND THEN, the expectant mother in Michigan sounded like an amazing immediately gratifying opportunity and would have been much faster for us, but when we attempted to reach back out to her, she essentially became unavailable AGAIN.  Knowing she was due in a week or two did not seem to generate the same amount of urgency for her and as it did for us.  And keep in mind that we knew nothing about her - health, history, background, etc.  There IS A TON to establish with birthmoms and adoptive parents before the due date and we were hoping that we would get the responses we needed to trust and understand her and feel comfortable moving forward in this kind of relationship with her. Not to mention that the laws in Michigan would require us to stay there for 2-3 weeks awaiting clearance to cross state lines and come home, on very short notice.   Unfortunately, we never did get the conversation we needed to have with her so all of this excitement has still left us in the same position... Waiting.  It has definitely been a learning experience.

All the while, we haven't really felt comfortable talking about anything, which is why there have been a lack of posts. We've shared with our families, and gotten some advice throughout this process, but it's really hard to talk about something that is so uncertain.  It's also difficult to go through all of this in such secrecy or to celebrate any small victory like a regular pregnancy.  We don't want to talk about it and get people's hopes up, or worse yet, have to explain how or why things didn't work out.  It's not like being pregnant and having a pretty good idea of what's going to happen in 9 months.  Nothing is certain until all the papers are signed - which, by the way, is months after the baby is born and in your home.  So many hurdles left!  

Don't worry, there is still more to tell, but this post is super long.  We'll continue the updates very soon!