Tuesday, February 12, 2019

5 Ways You Can Love Adoption Differently Than The Majority

Happy Valentine's Day week, dear one!  I thought it fitting that this week, we talk about how to really love adoption, by treating it with the respect it deserves, vs. being "common" like the majority. 


1:  Let the open adoption relationship grow organically.  

Do not rush.  It's not natural.  It's not healthy.  

I know sometimes there are "deadlines" to these things.  Maybe you've been chosen three weeks before the baby is due.  This doesn't mean you're in a state of relationship emergency where you throw all common sense to the wind.  

Remember, the best relationships are ones of quality, not quantity.  The number or texts you exchange doesn't equal the intimacy and commitment needed for a long-standing relationship.  

2:  Say no, even when it's difficult.

You will make many, many decisions along your adoption journey.  Some may seem like no big deal or "easy," while others will be obviously major.  However, all decisions you make are important.  

I've shared many times, every single decision you make today can very well impact your child, the adoptee, forever.  

This is why it's critical that you have a comprehensive understanding of what an ethical adoption is and how to be part of one.  Without this foundation, you'll be subject to making unethical choices, even if these are unintentional.   

When you know something isn't right, you need to have the courage and conviction to say "no" without apology.  You won't regret doing the right thing.




3:  Carefully select an adoption professional to work with, not being easily fooled.  

I've shared so many times that just because an agency has "Christian" in their title, doesn't mean the agency is ethical.  Just because an agency offers you short wait time, because they are "busy," doesn't mean they are a good fit.  Just because an agency has a posh website and maternity home, doesn't mean they are worth the money they demand of you.  

Be a critical thinker.  Choosing an adoption professional isn't solely a heart decision.  It's a head decision, too.  

4:  Commit to a lifetime of adoption education.

Your education is just beginning, because your child, an adoptee, will have needs throughout his or her lifetime that are related to adoption.  How do you get educated and keep getting educated?  You are part of an adoption support group, you are befriending adoption triad members, you are connected to an adoption-competent family therapist, you are reading books and blogs and articles, you are attending conferences.  You do these things so that ultimately, you can give your child what he or she needs.  

5:  Learn as much as you can about connective parenting.  

Connective parenting is gold.  There are solid reasons for parents who have adopted to choose this way of raising their children:  because it works.  Trauma changes the brain.  And honestly?  Connective parenting works for any child.  The methods (eye contact, voice control, re-dos, time-ins, etc.) make life at home more predictable and peaceful.   Even though my four children are very different from one another, they are also all in need of the same things:  connection first, and then correction.  And, of course, love.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

To the (Adoptive) Parent: You are NOT Enough for Your Child

Yep, you read that correctly.

Now before you hit me up on social media telling me what a jerk I am, please allow me to explain.



Adoptive parents spend a lot of time proving themselves.  It starts when they are simply considering adoption and start applying to adoption agencies.  Those applications are like ten pages long and ask some intimate information. 

Once accepted, a longer application, plus background checks, fingerprinting, interviews, home visits ("inspections), financial forms, a physical, and much more.  Then it all has to get approved. 

Once approved, an adoption profile book.  Then the wait.  Then the profile showings and "rejections." 

Then, eventually, a match.  Perhaps a relationship with the expectant parent(s). 

Then the baby is born, and then more waiting. 

Once a placement happens, the six month (give or take) waiting-to-finalize period in which there are post-placement home visits by the social worker, more physicals (of the baby), and reports. 

Finalization:  the ultimate "are you worthy" moment. 

It's a lot of holding your breath.  Of wondering, worrying, and confusion.  Walking on eggshells, even. 

And if you have an open adoption with your child's birth family, you continue to prove yourself forevermore...

It can be exhausting.

I'm not complaining.  I'm stating the truth.  Proving yourself is HARD.  It's mentally draining.  It might even contribute to post-adoption depression

The "prove yourself" is a necessity, of course.  No ethical social worker is going to place a baby with a family that isn't capable of parenting an adoptee.   But that doesn't change the difficulty of always being "on."

Once you've proven, time and time and time again, that you are worthy of parenting, then comes the real life part:  actually parenting.

And I know sometimes (oftentimes?) you want to DIY.  You have yearned, planned, waited.  You are READY to DO THIS! 

But I'm here to tell you, after my decade (plus) of parenting, you are not enough for your child. 

Yes, you read that correctly. 

You are NOT enough for your child.




When you chose to adopt, you chose a very serious, honorable role as a child's mom or dad.  But not just ANY child's mom or dad, an adoptee's mom or dad.

Some argue that there's "no difference" between biological and adopted children.  I do not have the experience of having both.  All of my children were adopted.  However, adoptees tell us, time and time again, that we need to parent our kids in a way that is empathetic to their experience as adopted people. 

What does that mean, exactly?

In essence, adoptees do not share the same experience as biological children.  They often have gaps or mysteries in their pasts, how they "came to be."  They have big feelings and questions about adoption.  Holidays can be hardTraumaversaries are real.   Family tree projects can be challenging.  These are just a few of the many examples. 

And because you didn't conceive, grow, and birth your child, there IS a difference in parenting an adoptee vs. a biological child.  Biological ties are STRONG and innate for some adoptees, and that should be respected. 

What can you do about it, knowing that you aren't enough for your child? 

1:  Always respond with empathy. 

This is my #1 piece of advice.  Your child's struggles SHOULD NOT be met with anger, a brush-off, defensiveness, offense, or anything else besides empathy.   But in order to be empathetic, you MUST understand your child's position.  Therefore, you have to get educated on adoptees:  proactively!   Of course, there is no "one size fits all," but you should explore resources created by adoptees (blogs, books, articles, documentaries, conference speeches, etc.) in order to be prepared!   Two of my favorite adoptee resources are Michelle Madrid Branch's site and Madeleine Melcher's book.   I frequently suggest adoptee-created resources on my Facebook page, too.  (You can grab my free e-book that talks about the importance of empathy here.)  Have plenty of adoption books on-hand like these transracial adoption children's picture books.

2:  Befriend adoptees. 

NOTHING beats face-to-face, hand-in-hand, heart-to-heart conversations.  Social media is awesome, as it can connect people across the world that we may otherwise never know.  However, those relationships aren't intimate or sacred. 

3:  Have an adoption-competent counselor on stand-by.

Again, be proactive.  Find an adoption competent counselor you/your family can check in with when need-be. 

4:  Have a mentor for your child.

I talk about this often in my writing and speaking engagements, because it's so critically important.  Ideally, this person is a same-race (as your child) mentor or an adoptee (or both). 

5:  Understand and appreciate your child's racial culture and implement it.

For our kids, we have a hair braider (for the girls) and a barber (for our son) who are both Black adults.   We also frequent Black owned businesses and historical sites/festivals, and buy books/movies/art/music/toys that feature Black people.  For ourselves as the parents, we read Black written articles, subscribe to Essence magazine, watch movies that educate us, etc.   The learning NEVER stops.  The connecting NEVER stops. 

6:  Speak the truth.

Tell your kids the truth:  that you are SO thankful to be their parents, and you invite others in to your "inner circle" in order to make sure your children feel appreciated, supported, and racially/adoptionally confident. 



How have you supported your child?  



Tuesday, January 29, 2019

5 Successful Parenting Phrases I Use Over and Over Again

I grew up in the days of discipline that involved standing in a corner, a spanking, and/or grounding.  When I was a teen and college student (often working as a babysitter or nanny), parenting evolved to include "time outs," clip charts, and not telling children "no" for fear of ruining their self-esteem.  

Today there are many different types of parenting, often a mix of whatever the parent is feeling on any given day and what they've been raised to believe is best.  But I'm here to tell you, consistency and science-based parenting works! 

The number one book I recommend won't come as a shock to many of you.  If you've been in the adoption or foster care community for any amount of time, you've heard of The Connected Child (and check out the free videos on Empowered to Connect).   When a hopeful or new parent asks me what they need to know, I tell them, read The Connected Child first.  Learn what trauma is and how it changes the brain.  Grow to understand that connective parenting is SO important. 

The main idea of The Connected Child is that we, as parents, first and foremost connect with our kids, and THEN we correct them.  It's a parenting approach that helps kids who have experienced trauma (which arguably CAN extend to children adopted at birth) grow up to be adults who know how to connect with others in a healthy way and succeed in life.

Given our connective-driven approach to parenting, you won't be surprised (though maybe inspired?) by these five successful parenting phrases we use on repeat.




1:  "Try again with respect." 

I say this dozens of times per day.  Granted, I have four kids, so yes, lots of attempts at disrespect.    

This phrase comes directly from Empowered to Connect.  Karyn Purvis encourages us to prompt our children to correct their original attempt by re-stating, in a respectful way, what they need to say or ask us.

The more we have used this phrase with our kids, the more they know EXACTLY what to do next.  Here's an example:

Child:  I'm hungry!  Get me a snack, mom!

Me (acknowledging the child's blood sugar is low after a four-hour gap between lunch and arriving home from school):  That's not how we speak.  Try again with respect.  

Child:  May I have a snack, please?

Me:  Good words!  Absolutely!  What can I get for you?  We have yogurt, or I can get you some trail mix.  

Note that I used a few Purvis/ETC phrases here (I bolded them for you.)  I also offered two choices for my children, so I don't overwhelm them with choices, I give them the power of choosing, and I don't create a situation where they ask for options that I either don't have or don't allow (as a healthy snack).

Why use this phrase?  It trains kids to ask the RIGHT way for what they want or need.

2:  "I'm feeling ____."

When my child is struggling, I offer a prompt.  I say, "I'm feeling..." and the child fills in the blank.  (Sad/mad/angry/hurt.)  Then I say, "Ok.  Why are you feeling sad?"  The child can articulate the events leading to the feeling.  Then we work together to solve the problem and meet the child's need. 

There is NO reason to tell a child how he or she should feel or try to dismiss those feelings.  Rather, addressing them head-on and as a team works!  Plus, we don't want to raise children who are constantly working to repress their feelings OR allow them to build and build until they explosively manifest in unhealthy, inappropriate actions.

Note: a child might be in a place where he or she is too dysregulated to articulate their feelings.  If this is the case, utilize a calm-down space, or lead by saying something like, "I can see you are upset right now.  Let's take some deep breaths together and then talk about how I can help you."  Remember, with ETC, you don't isolate your child or rep reprimand them for having feelings.  You work through the struggle WITH your child. 

3:  "R-E-S-P-E-C-T." 

Sometimes I get really sick of saying, "Try again with respect." (Point #1).  My kids LOVE the fact that they know how to spell respect (thanks to Aretha), so a simple spelling of the word is a great reminder for them to "straighten up."  Plus, spelling a word can be fun and silly, and thus, attention grabbing. 

There's been many times I'll say to my kids, "Come on!  You know!  R-E-S..." and they say, "P-E-C-T." 

4:  "I'm sorry for _____."

There's a lot of apologizing around here!  A lot. 

When I usher my kids into an apology session, we first discuss what happened so I can get to the bottom of the situation.  I give each child a chance to tell his or her side of the story.  I always ask, "Tell me what YOU did wrong, not what your sibling did wrong."  This prompts the children to take ownership of their own actions.  

Then the offender says to the other child, "I'm sorry for ____." (The blank is for the offense.)  They must be making eye contact with each other, and they must use an appropriate tone and volume of voice.  If not, I go back to, "Try again with respect."  After an apology is offered, the receiver says, "I forgive."  Then we move on.

I find that many parents see something happen between kids and force the offending child to "say sorry."  It's superficial and ineffective.  

Take the time to work through the situation.   And keep in mind, not every situation means you have a big come-to-Jesus conversation.  But some situations are certainly important enough to focus on.

5:  "Get it together." 

I know this sounds dismissive, but truly, it's a simple reminder that shenanigans won't be tolerated and instead, will be called out, but in a way that's direct and a bit silly.  Sometimes playful love is exactly what a child needs:  a reminder to be brave, be strong, and act appropriately.   This is NOT a phrase to use when a child is dysregulated for any reason (sensory, fatigue, low blood sugar, etc.).  Rather, this is something I use when a child is on-the-edge of making a series of poor choices, and I don't feel it's serious enough to share #1 ("try again with respect").  

Also, don't get caught up in "correction" so much that you never have fun with your kids.  Affirming your children, spending time with them, cheering them on at their concerts and games, oohing and ahhing over their impressive test score or art project, etc. are all important.  

Remember, you're working to CONNECT and then CORRECT (when needed).

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Should the Hopeful Adoptive Parents Be Present at the Hospital?

Whoa.

I mean, this is a big question.  One that is controversial in the adoption community.   

I've avoided tackling this for awhile, if I'm being honest.  But I think the time has come.  Time, distance, and experience have given me the courage to write this post.  So, here goes.



For years, I was adamant that hopeful adoptive parents NOT be at the hospital with expectant parents.  I felt this way for a few reasons:

1:  I'd never experienced it.

2:  I was scared of the experience.

3:  I felt the hospital had the potential to be unethical.  

But this ALL changed when not only was I invited to be in the delivery room, but it was INSISTED that I be there. Not by a social worker, not by an adoption agency, not by a lawyer, but by an expectant mother who wanted support.

I.  Was.  Terrified.

Terrified of my own emotions.  Terrified of all the unknowns.  Terrified that I'd do something unethical.  Terrified that I'd fall even more deeply in love with a baby who I couldn't call MY child and with a mama who, no matter what her decision, would leave the hospital with a broken heart.

You see, deep down I knew:  this baby wasn't mine, the expectant mom wasn't "our" "birth" mom, the pregnancy and delivery weren't mine either.   

NOTHING was mine.  Everything was hers.  

And I don't say that out of selfishness, bitterness, anger, or confusion.  I'm sharing it out of acknowledgement.  I believe all hopeful adoptive mamas need to, first and foremost, know exactly what a match is and isn't and do whatever it takes to have an ethical adoption.

Because as I say, time and time and time again, if and until TPR and revocation is over, the parents have every right to parent their child, and there is no promise of placement with the adoptive family.  Nor should there be.   

And, I really, really wanted to protect my own heart and the hearts of my spouse and the children we were already parenting.  There were SO many hearts on the line. 

You see, thus far, we had chosen to have ethical adoptions.  Doing the hardest things that were the right things.  The right things, in the right ways, every time.  To us, there was no question of whether or not we'd have an ethical adoption.  It was an ethical adoption or NO adoption.  PERIOD.  

So why did I agree to be in the delivery room?

Because I made peace with the invitation to be there.  I knew it was not suggested to the expectant mom.  I knew not a soul had told her to do it and listed reasons why.   It was her own, free choice.  And I knew if I said no, she would be in that room alone.  

And we had spent months getting to know one another, and I was ultimately (honestly) invested in her.  I wanted her to feel that she could do whatever she decided, whether that meant parenting or placing.  

And I made this very, very clear.  "No matter what you decide, we support you.  We would be honored to be this baby's parents.  But we also respect your decision to parent this baby."

This sacred conversation happened many times.  I offered this affirmation more times than I could count, as I wanted it to be perfectly clear.

And I promise, I meant every single word.  I did.  

Yes, it was hard at times to imagine leaving the hospital without the baby.  Of course, it would be difficult.  But if it were the choice made, we would support it.  



I think the choice to be in the delivery room was OK for me for a few reasons.  And these are personal, and certainly cannot be "one size fits all."

1:  We had a lot of adoption experience.  

2:  We had friends from all three points of the triad (adoptive parents, birth parents, adoptees):  and had listened to their thoughts and experiences for many years.

3:  We examined the invitation, at lengths, and then said yes, aware that there was no unethical actions or words behind it.  

4:  We didn't initiate or expect the invitation.  We didn't eagerly and naively accept it either (point #3).  

5:  We felt no person should bring a baby into the world alone.

6:  We understood and articulated, many times, that if the child wasn't to become "our baby," we would support that choice.  

In the end, I am so thankful I was there.  Those moments were sacred, beautiful, hard.  I'm thankful the photos we took and shared with each other.  I'm thankful for hands-in-hands and words of encouragement.  I'm thankful for the beauty in the brokenness.  And yes, we remained ethical.

And I can tell my child, I had the courage and faith to say yes, even when I was terrified to do so.   




So if you, dear one, are considering the hospital experience, may I shed some wisdom on you, now having been there?  

1:  Do not demand or expect the invitation. 

It's not your baby, it's not "your" "birth" mom, it's not your birth.  None of it is yours.  

2:  Know that a match or hospital experience doesn't mean you will be placed with that child.

There are no promises or guarantees.  Don't try to figure out the likelihood a mom will parent or place.  Let it be.  

3:  Let all decisions be made by mom, if and until you are mom.  

If the hospital staff defers to you for decisions, you need to point them right back to mom.  

4:  Ask to take pictures.

But don't be disrespectful about it.  Ask if it's OK to take pictures, and check in on that often.  Whether or not mom places or parents, you can share those photos with her.  And for the love of all-things-adoption, do not post photos online of a baby who isn't yours.  

5:  Don't hover or assume.

You ask, every single step of the way, what mom wants.  Period.  

6:  Don't sneak around.

Don't ask questions about mom or baby, of the hospital staff or any other professional involved, that aren't your business.   

7:  Don't manipulate.

Don't offer over-the-top gifts, for example, attempting to manipulate the situation. Because trust me, whatever is best for the baby is what is best for all.  (Save those special gifts for after placement if placement occurs.  Too many parents want to give mom a matching bracelet, for example, with a birthstone in it.)  Manipulation = coercion.  Coercion = unethical.  Unethical = not good for anyone.

8:  Know the laws and policies.

What are the TPR and revocation laws?  Don't forget about the child's father, who also has rights.  And know the hospital policies so you don't overstep.  It's best to have a reputable adoption attorney involved, and to be ethical, the birth/expectant couple, the hopeful adoptive family, and the child should each have separate legal representation.

9:  Be proactive without being pushy.

I think it's fine to ask the mom you are matched with, what do you think your hospital experience will look like?  What can we do to support you during that time? And no matter what, be supportive of her decision and understand you may not be privy to her hospital plans.

10:  Don't insist on breastfeeding or doing skin-to-skin at the hospital.

Remember, it's not your baby or your birth.  If the baby is placed with you, you can then make your decisions.   (I was asked by hospital staff if I would do skin-to-skin with the baby right after birth; I declined.) 

11:  Check in:  often.

Is the current "plan" or invitations working OK?  Be clear that you are fine to go elsewhere, leave completely, take a break, etc.  Don't make it about you.  Because it's not about you.

12:  Don't show up with your own posse.  

The hospital experience is not the time for all the grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. to meet the baby.  This is manipulative:  no matter if you intend for it to be or not.  If you're invited to bring someone to the hospital to meet the baby, consider this decision very carefully.

The #1 argument I encounter against hopeful adoptive parents being at the hospital is that there is simply no way their presence can be ethical.  It's often assumed that the mom was coerced into allowing the hopeful parents to be present.  There is no way, arguably, that hopeful parents can be unbiased in every way, all the time, and their very bodies being there is a form of manipulation.

I disagree. 

Yes, there is so much on the line.  And yes, it is VERY hard to be present AND be ethical.  Because at the very heart of the storm is a child and a very big decision for a mama to make.  

But I do not think there is a one-size-fits all approach to the hospital decision.  I don't think it's up to anyone else to judge a mama's decision to invite parents to the hospital: IF she is making that choice by her own free will.   Her reasons are personal, private, and sacred. 

And ultimately, should always be respected by all parties.  





Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Why Our Multiracial, Adoptive Family Left the White Evangelical Church

Once upon a time, I grew up in church.  And so did my husband. 

Red carpet, wooden pews, 500-page hymnals, church lake baptisms, summer VBS, KJV Bibles, no-sex-until-marriage, pasty-white-Jesus church.   

Maybe you can relate?  

Once Steve and I were married, we continued to attend church.  Since our wedding day, which was over fifteen years ago (!!!), we have been part of four churches.   As our family grew, and as we learned and evolved, we changed churches when we felt it was necessary for the spiritual health of our family.   

So when did we leave the white evangelical church, and why?  

I had felt a longing, for some time, to find a multicultural, woke, relevant, authentic church that taught our children the faith values we adamantly believed in.  These include:  eternal life and a rich earthly life comes through salvation (choosing to accept Jesus' sacrifice on the cross); that we are to love God and love others; that certain Biblical traditions are important to follow including communion, baptism, prayer, learning God's word (the Bible), and community.  

Then there was 2016.

We had just adopted our fourth child when the 2016 election took place.  I wasn't worried.  I was certain that people would understand and clearly see that now-#45 was not for most people, including women, people of color, those with disabilities, those dreaming of coming to live in the U.S.  As Maya Angelou famously said, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."

Of course, we all know what happened.   

It was the very next morning after the election that I felt this sense of anger that I couldn't shake.  Not over a few days, or a few weeks, or now, even after a few years.  I just cannot make peace with where our country is.   

I know, Bible peeps are reminding me of John 16:33:  "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

The political climate just felt and still feels so...personal.  Every tweet from the not-presidential President.  Every audio and video clip.  The social media responses.  The election signs on people's cars and in their yards.  Those MAGA hats (Jesus, help me).  

Then there were the right-wing social media trolls who left racist comments about my children on Twitter.  Disgusting, vile things meant to rattle us.  Where did these trolls come from?  I don't know, but they sure crawled out of their hole in early 2017.

I wasn't naive. I didn't think that any other candidate would save the world.  But I did feel that others had more experience, more history, and certainly, better morals, ethics, and standards. 

Then the reports.  Overwhelmingly, white evangelicals were backing up this President and continued to do so, even though he paid off a porn star (and cheated on his wife), even though he bragged about grabbing women inappropriately, even though he chucked paper towels at people of color who were in dire need of shelter and water, even though he made fun of a reporter with a disability, even when he mocked a woman after she testified that she had been sexually assaulted by the then Supreme Court judge nominee, even when he called one woman "horseface" and another a "dog."  I could list dozens of examples, but let's move on. 

Now, I am not throwing our previous church homes under the proverbial bus.  There were some wonderful, woke, empathetic, kind people among us.  

But what was missing was so important:  people of color in leadership, an acknowledgement of the pain people in our country were facing, conversations about how to be more inclusive and welcoming of others beyond just "say hello to the person next to you."  We were always encouraged to invite friends and family to our church events, but how could we invite friends of color when they'd stand out so much among a sea of white congregants?  

I know this to be true:  when you aren't represented, you know it.  You feel it.  You see it.  And others do too, even if they don't say so.  

And it's really awkward, uncomfortable, and often offensive.  

We worked hard, very hard, to find a diverse church.  But when I asked church leadership about their diversity, many would say yes, their church was diverse.  But then we'd visit and there'd be maybe two multiracial families (almost always at least one of them was an adoptive family).  Or when I'd ask about diversity, the leadership response would be "we're working on that."  

What does that even mean?  Working on diversity?  

I didn't want to be the token multiracial family who would suddenly appear on the church website or social media feed in order for that church to prove they were welcoming of people of all races.

Thanks, but no thanks. 

Yes, I'm skeptical.  White America, which exists everywhere, even in church, and today is SUPPORTED BY people who claim to be Christian, makes me very uncomfortable.  

It's not that we believe a church has to change their values based on current events.  But BECAUSE of current events, the church should step up their already proclaimed values.  

After an exhaustive search for the perfect (or even slightly flawed) diverse church, we realized it just didn't exist.  So we decided to attend a church I had heard about once from our girls' first mentor. 

A Black church.

My main hesitation was not standing out as two white adults with four Black kids, or the scrutiny we might face, as we so often do, for being a multiracial family.   Were we good enough to parent Black children?  What were our motives?  

No. 

My main hesitation was this:  were we inappropriately taking up seats in a safe, Black, sacred space?  How would congregants and staff feel seeing two white adults sitting in a church service, many of them not even knowing we had four Black children in children's church?  Were we invading a space that was not meant for us, and rightfully so?

It's not our space.  It's not our place. This is what I told myself in the days leading up to the Sunday we planned to attend for the first time.

But as parents-by-transracial-adoption, it's not even close to being all about us (as the parents).  It's about the kids and the family unit.  

We ultimately decided that we were making this choice for our children.  Not attending church wasn't an option for us.  Attending a church that treated my family as tokens also wasn't an option.  Attending a church that preached love but not standing up to injustice wasn't an option.  Silence is compliance.

To be honest, we felt we were out of options.  If this church didn't work for us, we were done searching.  Because searching is exhausting.

And it turns out, being "out of options" is a really GOOD place to be sometimes.  

I don't mean to say the church we attend was our last choice or last resort.  It wasn't.  We actually re-discovered it at the tail-end of our search (the search we about gave up on).  I talked to the girls mentor about it, and then a friend (fellow mom-by-adoption) who had recently attended with her Black daughter.  But I was holding back out of respect for the church.

I messaged the church admin to ask questions.  She hooked me up with the children's ministry coordinator, in which I asked many more questions.   They both said to me, when are you coming?

It was time.

The experience was amazing.   The church was so ALIVE.  The music, the preaching, the people.  People were hugging us on the FIRST day we attended.  Introducing themselves to my kids.  Not a single whisper, second-glance, or sigh.

So we went back again.  And again.  And again.

A few weeks in, a woman stopped me, my husband, and my second daughter after service and asked if she could talk to our daughter.  We were bewildered, but agreed.  The woman bent down and looked into my daughter's eyes and said, "You are very beautiful.  I want you to know that."  

My daughter (an introvert) quietly replied, "Thank you."   

A few weeks later, my oldest kept telling me she wanted new glasses "like that lady at church."  I had no clue who she was talking about, as there are hundreds of women at church.  Then the next Sunday, my daughter discreetly pointed out an usher, a young woman with fashionable, clear glasses.  So after church, we approached her and told her how much we loved her glasses, and my daughter had a similar pair on order.  The young woman was so sweet to my daughter, telling her she couldn't wait to see her new glasses.




These may seem like small things, but small things add up. 

The truth is, we feel really safe in a church where we are surrounded by people who look like our kids.  I don't worry if someone is petting my girls' braids or interrogating them ("How long did that take?  Did you have to sit still for hours?").  Not ONCE have we been asked if we're the babysitters, the foster parents, or even the "adoptive" parents.  My kids love that their teachers are Black.  

We sit in the sanctuary with so much appreciation.  There's no bashfulness or lengthy explanations for being concerned about another white person calling the police on a Black person for ridiculous things, another shooting of an unarmed Black person, a tweet from #45 that is so clearly racist.   We don't worry about an off-handed comment that sounds like it came straight from a Fox news anchor.  

Because we are all concerned.  Because we all see it for what it is.  

My kids are happy, safe, and embraced.  What more could we ask for as parents?  

And we leave church feeling like we learned.  We learned about God.  We learned about the Bible.  We learned about being better parents and spouses.  

We leave encouraged.  We leave better.  

Not tired.  Not tolerated.  Not used.  

It's incredible.  

If you're feeling lost in today's culture, I completely get it.  You can even be like us:  know who you are and what you want, but struggle SO much to find a house of worship to support and refine that.  

If you're searching for the right church for your family, please do not give up.  Because we almost gave up.  And if we would have, we would have been even more lost, confused, and hurt.  

Keep looking.  Keep asking questions.  Keep pursuing. Make an effort.  Visit churches.  

And don't feel guilty for leaving the white evangelical church if that's what your family needs. 

You were CHOSEN to parent your children.  You were CHOSEN to do what's best for them.  And that doesn't stop on Sunday mornings.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

6 Ways to Reduce Adoption Anxiety

So you know that I typically write about adoption, but today, I need to talk about something that impacts A LOT of women, and often women in the adoption community.    

We spend A LOT of time worrying and waiting.  We often live in long seasons of confusion, frustration, exhaustion.  And of course, anxiety.   




I've had anxiety for as long as I can remember, which means when it comes to adoption, my anxiety revs up even more.  For my entire life, I've heard things like:

-let go, and let God
-just take a chill pill
-calm down
-you just need to have more faith
-it'll be OK

Let me make one thing very clear:  when you have anxiety, you cannot just "suck it up."  Anxiety can be debilitating.  

Now being anxious in tough circumstances doesn't necessarily mean you have anxiety.  There are different types of clinical anxiety.  However, situational anxiety is quite common among those waiting to adopt.

I'm not going to play.  There are no superficial suggestions here like, just have a "spa day" with a friend, or jet off to Hawaii, or meditate.  Yes, a spa day, a fab vaca, or meditation might be able to help, but my goal is to provide you with practical (and from my experience) help.  

For more ideas, I explore the "waiting to adopt" phase in depth in The Hopeful Mom's Guide to Adoption

1:  Make a list of what helps.

This should be a personalized list of the things you can do to stay focused on peace, joy, patience, and thankfulness instead of on worry and control.  Type out this list and post it somewhere visible.  And then refer to it often!   I promise, this can be very helpful.   I call my list "When Anxiety is Winning." Here are a few things on m list to inspire you to get started: 

-go outside on a sunny day and take deep breaths in of fresh air

-schedule a coffee date with a trusted girlfriend

-drink green or white tea or take l-theanine

-avoid social media (explanation of why)

-listen to my favorite energizing or calming music (depending on my mood)

-organizing something in my home

-diffuse an essential oil (I prefer orange for energy or vanilla for calming) or light a favorite candle

-repeating a favorite Bible verse




2:  Seek the guidance of an adoption competent counselor.

Not everyone gets adoption, so if you choose to go to counseling, I urge you to be picky!  

Counseling was a jackpot for me during my recent breast cancer journey.  My anxiety was at an all-time high, and it seemed like nothing I was doing was "enough" to tame the beast.  I needed cognitive behavioral strategies.   

Most recently, I learned of the container exercise---look into it!  Very helpful to "contain" whatever adoption issues you are wrestling with, the ones keeping you up at night.   

Counseling is great because it's an "outside party" who can listen to you without judgement and offer suggestions and exercises you can do to help your anxiety.  

3:  Join an adoption support group and/or create an adoption "village."

The more perspectives you have, the better.  A great adoption support group will be for all triad members, inviting everyone into the conversation.  It should be an open, welcoming place where you can ask questions and receive responses.   

I've been asked, what about online support groups?  I love that online groups bring about different triad members from all over the world.  I love that you can participate as much as you want or just sit back and read.   However, there are some drawbacks:  posting anything personal means many, many people have access to that information.  There tends to be a lot (a lot) of drama in online adoption groups.   These groups also tend to have a few strong voices that dominate the group's discussion and direction.   

So I'd say, join at your discretion, and remember that nothing, and I mean nothing, is more helpful and beautiful than face-to-face, hand-in-hand, heart-to-heart relationships.   So if you engage in online support, please consider person-to-person support as well (and more importantly).  




4:  Get educated.

Oftentimes, the source of adoption anxiety is ignorance, meaning, a lack of knowledge.  For example, perhaps your social worker has given you a checklist in which you must say what type of adoption you will or will not consider including transracial adoption, older child adoption, and special needs adoption.   

You want to swiftly mark "no" because you are scared.  You are intimidated.  You have a million questions but feel too frozen to seek answers.   But answers are exactly what you need to make an educated, confident decision.

I have talked to SO many adoptive parents who stepped out in faith, after getting educated, and have the children they do BECAUSE they chose to learn, listen, and say "yes."  If you've read The Lucky Few (if you haven't, PLEASE do!), you know exactly what I'm talking about. 

Personally, we swiftly marked "white" on the race openness during our first adoption.  After waiting a year, we were re-evaluating our openness, and I remember looking at my husband and saying, "Why aren't we open to race?"  We spent four months in the trenches of transracial adoption education (and that was just the beginning...we have NEVER stopped our transracial adoption education):  meeting with transracial families, reading books/blogs/articles, talking for HOURS every single night about race, and more.  After those four months, our eyes were opened to the fact that not only could we adopt transracially, but we were as prepared as possible to do so.  Of course, experience IS the best teacher, but there's a lot to be said for proactively preparing.  

Our daughter was born and placed with us shortly after.  And now, we are parenting four transracial adoptees.  

5:  Be aware of possible future struggles, and prepare now.

Again, being proactive is incredibly wise!  After adoption, some women experience post-adoption depression.   A particularly difficult adoption might lead a mama to experience PTSD.   (I shared three trauma experiences you can explore here:  part 1, part 2, and part 3.) 

I don't throw these around lightly, and I'm not a medical expert.  However, I have engaged with thousands of adoptive parents:  and struggling with an adoption before and during is common, and the struggle often amplifies after the adoption, manifesting in post-traumatic stress (though it may or may not extend to PTSD) or depression.  

How can you prepare now?  Constantly "check in" with how your're feeling and doing.  A counselor (see point #2) can help you with this. Also, learn about post-adoption depression and trauma.  If you end up experiencing either of these, you will be able to recognize them and seek help sooner rather than later.  

6:  Don't pause your life.

You NEVER know how long it will take to adopt.  One of the worst mistakes a woman can make is to put her life on hold (AKA:  put her joy, time, peace, energy, etc. on vacation) while she waits for "the call."  

Waiting to adopt is a great time to invest in a new hobby, to "date" your partner, to organize things in your home, even prepare a nursery, make career moves at work, go on that dream vacation, step up your fitness routine, etc.  

Holding out only increases your anxiety!  If you bank everything on "when the baby comes," I've got news for you:  once the baby comes, you will have way less time, energy, and money.  Parenthood is tough!   It requires a lot of you.  It's a shift and requires a lot of adjusting.   It's a welcomed and wonderful shift, but it is hard.