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What We Learned from Parenting Books

17 Apr

Like all parents, Don and I bought, downloaded and borrowed a myriad of parenting books. You’ll note that I did not say we read these books, only that we obtained them.

This is because:

1. We have an infant. There is no time for reading about him. We are too tired to read and would rather gaze upon him than read anyway. And also,

2. They are sort-of pointless.

When my friend and new mom Karen shared the Portalandia clip above with me, I laughed for five minutes.

“Ryan, did you actually read the book?”

“Of course I read the book!”

No one reads the books.

Actually, we did read a little bit of all the books.  About three pages or so. I’m pretty sure that makes me an expert at parenting techniques so I thought I would share my wisdom with you and save you the trouble of acquiring these books yourself. Unless you want them to fool people into thinking you are well read on the subject of your baby’s development and want to place them in strategic locations around the house. In that case, by all means purchase a few. Don’t forget to leave one open on the coffee table for unexpected visitors.

Let’s start with the book above, Your Baby’s First Year Week by Week. In this book we learn that every week your baby will do things things radically different than the week before. For example, in week one your baby will focus on objects 8 – 12 inches away and in week two your baby will stare at objects 8 – 12 inches away. Wow. It’s crazy, right? I didn’t make that up; it’s in the book.

In Baby 411 we learn that all parents have questions. In fact, all parents have the same questions. For example: “My baby usually poops with every feeding. Now he hasn’t gone in 24 hours. Is he constipated?” The answer, I am both happy and sad to tell you, is no. Turns out constipation in infants is determined by the consistency of the output, not the frequency. That’s why as a new parent you will spend far too much time thinking about poop. People who don’t have children think that they will never be that parent. But you will. It’s inevitable. And really, you won’t even care.

I read my three pages of What to Expect the First Year on the plane ride to California to collect the Bird. I read those three pages for six hours because it was hard to concentrate for some reason. Therefore I am an extreme expert on pages 49  and 54-55. In the edition of the book we have those are the pages on infant reflexes (bottom line: he has them) and bottle feeding. I got to skip over pages 50 – 53 since those were the pages on breast feeding. Skipping pages was exciting to me. I felt like I had been promoted a grade in school. I stopped reading when I realized a HUGE portion of the bottle feeding section was about sterilizing the bottles and I had no idea how we might accomplish that in a hotel room. I mean, I’ve seen the “Dateline” specials. Nothing about hotel rooms is sterile.

For reasons we didn’t fully understand, we knew we would be swaddling the Bird from birth until he started Kindergarten. We knew it was valuable, we just didn’t know why. That’s why I checked out a copy of Happiest Baby on the Block at the library. A note about checking out library books as the parent of a newborn: Don’t do it. In my sleep deprived state, the book languished on a side table in the living room for weeks after I learned all I needed from it and I never made it back to the library to return it. The overdue fee would have paid for a new copy on Amazon, I think. Plus, you don’t even need this book because I am going  to tell everything you need to know. If your baby is fussy, turn him on his side and make a loud SHHHH sound. It sounds horribly cruel – like a really mean librarian. But honest to Pampers it works. We were already swaddling so we didn’t learn anything new about that, but the shushing was helpful when the Bird turned 6 weeks old and went crazy. I even downloaded a shushing app for my phone because I was getting dry mouth.

We put copies of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Childcare on our Kindles. Every time I have turned on my Kindle since December 13 I have fallen asleep so I can’t tell you much about this one. Nonetheless, I still feel I can offer two pieces of expert advice on this book having tried to read it a dozen times. 1. It’s an excellent sleep aid and 2.  Your parents read an earlier edition of this book and look how you turned out. Interpret that in any way you like.

Finally, I was excited to learn that Cindy Crawford wrote the forward for Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Did you know she was a correspondent for “Good Morning, America”? I didn’t either until I read this book. See how much I learned? Actually, along with Happiest Baby on the Block, this book has been helpful even though I read so little of it. We started putting the Bird to bed earlier and even though it hasn’t stopped him from waking up twice a night to eat, we get a little more rest because of it. We had been putting him to bed between 9 and 10 p.m. when he fell asleep and he would wake up at 1 a.m. for a bottle. Now we put him into his crib at 8 p.m. and he coos to himself for 10 – 20 minutes before drifting off. He sometimes still wakes us up at 1 a.m., but we have an extra two hours of down time.

I think those are all the books I “read” to gain my expert parent status. Do you have a parenting book you would like me to review? I won’t actually read it, but I will be happy to read ABOUT it on Amazon and then tell you everything you need to know.

Choosing Profile Photos

21 Feb

Don and Susan: Walking on Boardwalk

Happy days are here. We're nearly done with the materials needed for our family profile.

We finally finished the 24 essay questions for our adoption specialist at the placement agency we’ve chosen to work with and moved on to the task of creating our family profile.

We knew we’d need photos – lots of photos – but I don’t think either of expected the exact magnitude. I thought we’d need to mark 20-25 photos that we didn’t hate. Instead we were asked to provide at least 50. Mostly of us. Photos in which we both look good and aren’t too squinty (we’re both super, super squinty folk).

Yeah. 50 very specific photos. Our agency provided guidelines for us and I think these are pretty great guidelines regardless of what agency you decide work with (or if you decide to pursue and independent / parent-placed adoption).

  • 8-10 Good, current photos of you and your spouse (and children, if applicable)
  • 8-10 Close-up photos of just you and your spouse together
  • 8-10 Holiday, vacation, fun photos
  • 2-5 Photos of your home (be sure to include outside and inside photos)
  • 2-5 Photos of a neighborhood park, pool, elementary school or other community space
  • 2-4 Photos of extended family and/or friends
  • 8-10 Photos of husband doing activities/hobbies
  • 8-10 Photos of wife doing activities/hobbies
  • 4-10 Hobby photos without people in them
  • Additional miscellaneous photos

This took a lot longer than I expected, especially since they do not want photos more than three years old. I fudged that part a little bit since the last three years we’ve been really busy planning a wedding, getting married, looking for a house, moving and renovating it so we’ve had less time and money to travel to fun places and indulge in hobbies and leisure. Though, actually, if you know us at all, you’ll know that a lot of our leisure activities (like Nice Mirror and We Love DC) aren’t all that leisurely – just a different kind of work than our employers pay us to do.

At any rate, we finally got them together. Our final submission is 58 photos showing what a fun, happy, loving life we share with each other – and many of you. Oh, you want to see some? Well, I’m so glad you asked. Have at it.

Don and Susan: Dressed Up as Colonial People

We have fun wherever we go. We found a trunk of costumes and props at this visitor's center.

 

Holidays, Vacations and Fun: Don and Susan in Seattle

We stopped by the Public Market while visiting friends in Seattle.

 

Hobbies: Craft Show Booth

A fair amount of our leisure time is spent making and selling mirrors like these at craft shows.

 

Don and Susan: Just Hanging Around Town
Oh this? Nothing special. Just enjoying a nice night in DC.

 

Hobbies: Don Juggling

Our friends' children always ask Don to juggle. It's a crowd pleaser.

 

Hobbies: Susan Hiking at Deadman's Trail

When we go on vacation, Susan finds hikes and nature trails for us nearly every day. This may not have been one of her better ideas.

 

Extended Family and Friends: Both Sides of Family

Both sides of our family at Mt. Vernon.

  

Extended Family and Friends: Enjoying Waterfront Dinner with Friends

Dinner on the water with friends. Two of these lovely ladies were pregnant in the picture. Since this picture was taken in July, one baby has been born in the group and another is due in 3 weeks.

 

Extended Family and Friends: Don and Sarah on Merry-Go-Round

Don and our friend Sarah on the Merry-Go-Around

 

Extended Family and Friends: Susan Playing Mini Golf with Grace
Susan playing mini-golf with our friend Grace.

 

This is just a fraction of the 58 photos we provided. Head over to Flickr if you want to see the rest.

Here are some other photo tips that you might helpful when choosing your own images for an adoption profile. Remember when we said it was a lot like online dating? We weren’t kidding.
 
Much like an online dating profile, these photos are really important. Sure, they show the birth family what you look like but, more importantly, they illustrate what your life is like. Everyone we’ve met in this process says you can’t under-estimate the importance of these photos. We know a couple whose birth mother said she picked them because she liked the hopeful dad’s sweater. Other birth moms have indicated they liked the adoptive mother’s hair, or the way the house was decorated, or their dog reminded her of a dog she had when she was kid. None of those things can come out in your written profile.
 
Here are some more helpful hints:
  • Take your camera with you wherever you go.  Ask people to take your picture – friends, family, even strangers. Don and I are famous for our self portaits. We love them and they are very fun for us, but they don’t make the best photos. We didn’t include a single photo like that. 
  • Make sure you can see your faces really well in MOST of the photos you include. This is tricky because you’re also trying to show the fun places you go and cool things you do.
  • Choose both portrait and landscape photos.
  • Avoid busy patterns and wear color … but not colors that are too bright (like neons)
  • Don’t go overboard on pictures of your wedding. One, maybe two.
  • Smile. Birth moms want to place into happy homes.

*I just realized we didn’t provide any photos of our wedding. Hmm. I loved our wedding and some of our pictures (like riding the old carousel in Ocean City, playing skee ball, posing in the photo booth and walking on the boardwalk) definitely show our fun and quirky sides, but I guess I felt like our every day lives were a better depiction of us.

Did you have to provide so many photos for your profile? Did Don and I miss any of your favorite photos? Should we have provided at least one wedding photo?

Part Four: Picking an Agency for the Home Study (or The Experience That Nearly Stopped Us in Our Tracks)

17 Jan

Photo courtesy of The Tire Zoo
4 Way Stop Sign
courtesy of The Tire Zoo

Okay, we’ve dragged our feet on this long enough. It’s time to discuss what happened when we went to our third and final agency open house before choosing our home study agency. If you have not been following along, you can read the first three parts here, here and here.

Let me say that it was a good thing it was the third agency we visited or I’m not sure we would have moved forward. Even as an adopted person, actually ESPECIALLY as an adopted person, I found the visit extremely traumatic.

Also – I want to add that we know people who have had very successful and happy experiences with the agency and so I don’t think this is indicative of the services they provide generally. Therefore, we’re not naming names – either of the agency or the social worker. Remember, like everything on this blog, it’s just one couple’s experience.

Now before I begin, remember that 1. I was adopted as an infant and 2. We have not struggled with infertility. These factors are important in understanding how we felt alienated from hello with this particular experience.

The third agency we selected to learn more about hosts their open houses on weeknights and the office is about 30/40 minutes from my office in non-peak traffic so I knew that getting there was going to be a hassle. The two-hour open house was also being held at 7 p.m. so there would be no time to eat. Don stopped and picked up two grilled chicken sandwiches which we scarfed down in the lobby right before the session started forcing us to take the last two seats in the front row.

Here’s more or less how it went down; I’ve compressed a few things but the actual statements are as accurate as I can recall them:

Social Worker: Hello and welcome. Many years ago, I suffered with infertility just like you so I understand the desperation and sadness that have brought you to this point. I adopted my two children in the 1980s and a lot has changed since then.

Me (in my head): Wait. I don’t feel desperate or sad about this decision. In fact, I’m not struggling with infertility. I made a deliberate decision to adopt instead of biological child rearing. And, by the way, even if I did have fertility issues, I still would’t necessarily feel desperate or sad about this. Why are you judging us?

Don (in his head): Actually we struggle with fertility, but thanks for the unnecessary assumption.

Social Worker: The first time I attended an agency open house, we were told we were too old to adopt a domestic infant. And at 32, I was a lot younger than most of you. Today, it’s so much better. Now people are permitted to adopt well into their 40s and 50s.

Me: Oh dear. Why am I here?

Don: A lot younger? Ahem.

Social Worker (after telling us more about adopting her children internationally): That’s why I decided to go into the field of adoption. I wanted to help make this a better experience for others.

Me (in my head): Okay. We’re back on track. This is good.

Social Worker: Especially for birth mothers who suffer a great trauma when they place their children.

Me: [hearts starts to beat faster]

Social Worker: This is something they will never get over.

Me: [an involuntary tear escapes one eye]

Social Worker: They will think of their child every day for years. They will lactate on the child’s first birthday. They will cry every year on the child’s birthday.

Me: [actively crying in front row. looks out adjacent window so she won’t see me]

Social Worker: They will never get over the loss.

Me: Oh my God. Is this what my birth mother deals with every day? Does she hate herself? Does she cry for me? [still crying and looking out window]

Social Worker: So, again, I enjoy working with the birth mothers to make this an easier process for them. I have been in adoption social work for 15 years. In fact I opened this office on behalf of the agency 10 years ago. Back when I ran the office we never had one single state finding. Now things are different. You can see the state findings hanging right there on the wall. This year we had some outdated personnel records. That never would have happened in my day.

Me: [still crying. barely register this.]

Don: Are you really badmouthing your employer as part of your “you should use our agency” spiel? I don’t think this is convincing in the way you think it is.

Social Worker: But adoption is hard for everyone. My daughter, for example, refused to bond. I used to turn on the vacuum cleaner and leave it outside the nursery so I didn’t have to hear her cry.

Me: [stops  crying. whips head around to look at social worker] Did you just say you turned the vacuum cleaner on because your baby cried? Are you insane? The state authorizes you to be the person to pass judgment on whether or not I will be a good mother?

Don: I’m beginning to understand why the baby didn’t bond.

It was at this point that Don and I look at each other in shock and surprise, my lips pursed tightly shut. I didn’t think I had telepathy, but at that moment I knew very clearly that we were both asking if there was any possible way we could stand up and leave.

[Aside from Don: if you need proof that Susan does NOT have telepathy, this would be it. I'd been thinking how much I wanted to get out of this room for several minutes at this point and would have been delighted to avoid the slow-motion train wreck that was continuing.]

Social Worker: And we’ve all heard stories about bad adoptive parents.

And then she went on to list them. The mother who tried to put her kid on a plane to his native Russia with a note that said the adoption didn’t work out.  A tragic story about an abusive mother in DC with a mix of foster and adoptive kids who was responsible for the deaths of two children in her care. The story of a Fairfax man who forgot his baby was in the backseat and went into his office building on a hot day.

Now let me say that the story of the man who left the baby in the car was devastating and, like all the other cases she mentioned, I heard about it on the news. But at no time in the coverage had I heard that the child was adopted. It was a crazy and sad situation where the mom usually did the morning drop offs and the dad was tasked with it one day. Once in the car, he was on auto-pilot and drove off to work, forgetting that his child was in the back seat. As Gene Weingarten’s feature on the phenomenon discussed, it’s more prevalent than we realize and cuts across pretty much every demographic – it had NOTHING to do with the fact that he was a bad adoptive parent. He made a careless mistake that ended in the worst way possible but there is no chance a “better” home study would have spotted it ahead of time or allowed the family to prevent it.

Oh no, wait. I’m sorry. Super Social Worker has the solution.

Social Worker: Now that family’s home study was not done by our agency, but if it had been and if I had been the case worker, I would have taught the man to put one of his child’s stuff animals on the front seat so that he couldn’t forget the child was in the car.

Don (the Weingarten article fresh in his head since it had just won the Pulitzer a month prior): You have to be kidding me. You’re really going to just dismiss this horrible tragedy as something that you could have told someone how to prevent with a stuffed toy?

Susan: I really want to leave. I really want to leave. I really want to leave.

And thus it went for two hours. We got to hear all about this woman, her children, their adoptions, how she rocks as a social worker and how she is far superior to, well, her superiors … but we didn’t get a single question answered.

We beat feet as fast as we could at the end of the open house and never looked back. To re-iterate, we’ve heard nothing but good things from others about this agency and we probably could have called the office manager and arranged a one on one meeting with someone more suited to our needs… but we had already found an agency that we liked better and there didn’t seem to be much point.

It’s been well over a year and I still feel raw thinking about that meeting – especially the part about the birth families. I have heard many people say that the grief in placing a child, even when you know it’s the best decision, is real and palpable. I get that. And it’s something that everyone involved in adoptions – the biological families, the adoptive families and the case workers – all have to cope with … but I don’t think one’s first look at an agency is the place to drop that bomb and to present it as a wound that will never heal?

Has anyone else had any experiences like this during the adoption process?

A Heartbreaking Tale on Every Level

12 Jan

Photo courtesy of mazaletel
holding mama’s hand
courtesy of mazaletel

You already know that my parents have a little experience with adoption, but you might not know that Don’s dad does, too. He serves as a guardian ad litem for Miami-Dade county in Florida. A guardian ad litem is an individual appointed by a court to represent the interests of a child in a particular legal action or proceeding. In other words, let’s say there is a legal proceeding in which a child is an issue but is not either party actually involved in the action (divorce proceedings, custody arrangements, etc.). The parties involved have attorneys who protect their clients’ interests, but the child – who is not a part of the formal legal action - does not. Enter the guardian ad litem whose job it is to make sure that the court considers the best interests of a child in handing down its decision.

In his role as guardian ad litem, Don’s dad has worked on a few cases involving adoption - including one that I was reminded of recently when I read this article about a biological father whose two year-old daughter was placed at birth with a family in South Carolina.

A few weeks ago, the birth father was granted custody of the child even though the adoption had already been finalized in South Carolina. As a member of the Cherokee Nation, the birth father was able to point to a provision in the Indian Child Welfare Act that protects Native American families from being separated. An appellate court in South Carolina ruled that the Indian Child Welfare Act overruled South Carolina law in this case.

The adoptive family who raised the girl for two years is planning an appeal.

So, back to Don’s dad. A couple of years ago we were discussing a case we’d heard about where a family who had been fostering a child and hoping to adopt her was likely going to be denied because the birth father, who claimed no prior knowledge of the child’s existence, had turned up wanting to parent. Don’s dad explained to us the state’s position – which was that since the child was in foster care (the family was only hoping to have the chance to adopt her), since the birth father appeared to have no knowledge that the state had been given temporary custody of his daughter and since he appeared to be a fit parent, the birth father was likely to win custody. Don and I both recognized the terrible situation the court would face, though I think I was far more sympathetic to the birth father’s position than Don.

The potential adoptive family, Don argued, had been there for the baby since birth. One night of fun with the birth mother does not a father make. Fathers are made by showing up, by changing diapers and drying tears, by planning for the future and living every moment.

I can’t argue with any of that. I know as well as anyone that families are made in a lot of ways and biology is only part of the equation (and not even the biggest part in my opinion). On the other hand, if the birth father didn’t even know the child existed, and if he would have behaved differently had he been made aware, then shouldn’t he have the chance to parent his daughter? Or at least have the chance to be given consideration?

Situations like this have elements of sadness on every level. There is no way for both families to win. Someone is going to get custody, and the other side will likely not be a part of the child’s life going forward.

Take the case of the Native American child. Her birth father loves her and wants the chance to be her full-time dad. Her adoptive family loves her and they’ve spent two years nurturing and caring for her. The adoptive family is all the child has ever known, but the birth father claims to have been fighting for custody since shortly after the child’s birth.

So – it’s sad for the birth father who didn’t want to place, and it’s sad for the adoptive family who consider the girl their own child. But, of course, it’s really sad for the two-year old whose biological father and adoptive parents are fighting about where she should live and who she should be.

I don’t know the specifics of either case, and even if I did I would have a hard time issuing a declaration about the right solution for either. As a casual observer I can only offer the opinion that there’s a lot of heartbreak happening in both of these cases. I can say with confidence, that we’re so lucky situations like this are extremely rare.

 

Yeah, I Thought So

26 Oct

As family legend has it, I actually asked my parents if I was adopted.

We were a closed adoption family (which was very typical in the 70s stone ages) so unlike kids adopted today there were no birth parents as part of our family make up.

That meant that my parents expected they would get to decide when and how to share the story of my adoption with me. So you can imagine their surprise when over dinner one night at age four or so, I just came right out and asked. As it turned out another child at my day care facility had recently learned she was adopted and for some reason that we never did understand, her parents told her I also was adopted.

Because they always intended to be truthful with me, my parents took my inquiry very seriously. They told me that I was adopted and prepared themselves to answer any questions I had. I think I said something like, “Yeah, I thought so” and went back to my dinner. That was enough for them to know I wasn’t ready and it didn’t come up again until I was in second or third grade. By that time I had no memory of the dinner time incident when I was four.

Adoption was always a known topic in our house, but it was never a big deal. Sure, there were some random school projects that frustrated us all (silly science projects where you have to see who you inherited your ability to roll your tongue from or locate the people in your family with attached earlobes), but most of the time we didn’t think about it.

My feeling is that the vast majority of today’s adoptions are much different. Because there is often contact with the birth family, adoption stories are shared from the very beginning. There are late night snuggle sessions where kids are reassured about their place in the world. Kids have more questions because they witness more, experience more.

It’s hard for me to imagine having been part of an adoption like that because you only know what you know. But, I’m prepared for the fact that our child will likely have a very different adoption story than my own, that he or she will actually know his or her birth mom and maybe even birth dad or grandparents.

I wouldn’t change my own adoption story for anything in the world. I have amazing parents, but they’re enough to handle on their own. I honestly have never had more than a passing curiosity about my birth family. I’m excited to see a different side of adoption this time around, though. And I bet my parents are, too. 

Did you start explaining adoption to your child immediately upon bringing him or her home, or did you wait until a specific point in his or her development? At what age did they start asking questions that made you realize there was real understanding of the situation?

Yes, I Googled “Parenting Styles”

7 Oct

One of the questions on our home study form asked us to describe our parenting style. This was awkward for us because, uhm, we’re not parents. We have theoretical ideas of how we want to be as parents and how we want to raise our child, but we’re smart enough to know that actually becoming parents is what’s going to help us define our style.

Also, I had more of a philosophy or statement in mind and I wasn’t sure how to turn it into a style. Here’s where I started:

Your child is a small human being that will grow into a large human being and the things they learn when they are small will stay with them when they are large. Don’t raise good children, raise good grown-ups.

In other words, teach your kids to be adults you would respect.

But I had a hard time defining that as a style. So, I turned to Google. Of course.

And, not surprisingly, there were plenty of resources including this quiz from Parenting.com.

Don and I both took the quiz, the results of which are explained in three categories: Shaping Character, Making Rules and Enforcing Discipline. We had the same results in Shaping Character (Involved, but Flexible), and Enforcing Discipline (Lenient). We differed in Making Rules (Susan is Authoritative, Don was the next step down but I can no longer remembered how it was titled). The only real surprise is that we’re both described as lenient in enforcing behaviors since I don’t tend to think of either of us in that way. However when I read the description, it made more sense.   It’s more about tolerance and letting children learn for themselves, even make their own mistakes from time to time. I’m okay with that description, but since we both trend in that direction, we’ll just need to be mindful that we’re not being too lenient.

We jotted down key points about each of the areas and developed this as our parenting style:

Set expectations, but don’t be too rigid. Encourage open discussion while still asserting authority on important matters. Display tolerance. Serve as good role models. Take a democratic approach, but understand that sometimes parents know best. Encourage creativity and thoughtful pursuit of interests.

What do you think – is this a reasonable answer to for wanna-be parents to describe how they hope to be as parents? What’s your parenting style? Did you take the Parents.com quiz? What surprised you?

Then We’ll Adopt

2 Oct

There’s something you might need to know about us before we enter into our long-term online relationship. We do not struggle with infertility as far as we know. In fact, my husband recently pointed out, we struggle with fertility – meaning we believe we are capable of conception, but go to great lengths to avoid it because of a different medical complication.

Almost six years ago my vision started to do funky things. Where there was period on a printed page, I would see a semi-colon. I started to clean my glasses two or three times an hour when I was at work or reading a book. Finally I went to an eye doctor, thinking I needed a new prescription. A few weeks later, thanks to the amazing team of specialists in the field of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at The Johns Hopkins University Hospital, I learned that I actually have a retinal eye disease called Punctate Inner Choroidopathy. It’s an extremely rare, inflammatory eye condition primarily occurring in women in their 20s and 30s who are nearsighted but otherwise healthy.

Although it’s not technically classified as an auto-immune disorder, it behaves like one AND it responds to treatment like one. So, to effectively manage the condition, I began a long-term treatment involving a drug called CellCept. Usually, CellCept is used to suppress the immune system in transplant recipients so they don’t reject the new organ, but it’s been effective in off-label usage for people with auto-immune conditions. And, it’s been mostly great for me. I’ve had relatively few flare-ups in six years and very little if any permanent vision loss. I’ve been extremely lucky.

But, CellCept is a powerful drug and it’s believed to cause birth defects. Patients who are on it have to be extremely cautious not to become pregnant, according to two warnings in place by FDA. There are other ways to manage the disease, including regular shots of a drug called Avastin and steroids, but I already take a daily dose of steroids and recently started the injections as well. This overall course of treatment seems to work for me and I see no reason to tempt fate by altering my plan – especially because I sort-of always expected to adopt.

I knew I was adopted before I knew how babies are made. So to me, adoption always seemed like one of a couple of ways families are created. When I was a kid and teenager, I told people I wanted to adopt. For a brief period of time in my 20s, I assumed I would parent biologically because it’s certainly easier and less expensive in most cases, but the minute I began my CellCept treatment I knew adoption had always been the right choice for me.

Don’s own journey to adoption was different than mine because he had to first determine if he even wanted to be a dad. I’ll let him tell you that story himself, but I will tell you how his decision intersected with my own.

When I first had my diagnosis and began treatment, it was a scary time. My vision was deteriorating, there was talk of needles to the eye (or warm laser treatments which would cause some vision loss) and these very powerful drugs which can have lots of terrible side effects. I saw a doctor every two weeks at first. It was at one of these appointments where I learned about CellCept, its benefits and drawbacks. My doctors explained that the course of CellCept would likely last for years – well into my 40s in all likelihood, eating up the remainder of my child-bearing years. I called Don when I got home and told him everything that had happened at the appointment. Finally, I said in small and scared voice, “And I won’t be able to have kids.”

And Don said, in a determined and not-at-all small voice, “Then we’ll adopt.”

We weren’t married at the time, we weren’t even engaged (though we had been dating for four years), and our previous conversations about kids had ended with Don saying he wasn’t sure he wanted them … so this was a Big Deal. He wanted them, he wanted them with me and he was okay with the fact that we’d need to look at alternative ways to create them. He didn’t even take 30-seconds to mourn the loss of the opportunity to be a biological dad.

It took us another two years to get married and another two to arrive at this point, but those three words helped me know that Don and adoption were my future.

“Then we’ll adopt.” It started as simply as that.