status update

Change in plans! Looks like we’ll be flying back on Friday, not Saturday. We’ll be seeing you guys one day earlier than expected!

We got a call from our counselor this morning, and all of our legal paperwork has gone through to allow us to leave the state of California. We’ll be back in Seattle on Saturday, and get to start settling in to our lives back at home.

It’s both exciting and scary to think about going back home. Having Gale, Auntie Heather, and everyone else with us to help answer our questions has been so extremely valuable, and I can’t imagine how we would have done it on our own. At the same time, I can’t wait to see some of our friends and family, and introduce Seth to the house that he’ll be growing up in.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working really hard on being as prepared as possible. I’ve studied magazines and books, highlighting and circling relevant passages, searching out helpful blogs, organizing my work in spreadsheets, and just doing some real heavy soul-searching to figure out what’s important to me. They say you can never really be prepared, but for every day that passes, I feel more and more comfortable with my decision – that drafting a top tier wide receiver is a priority in this year’s fantasy football draft due to positional scarcity and a relative parity in running backs after the top eight.

Meanwhile, our “what eelfang needs” list remains untouched…

For whatever reason, our enthusiasm and momentum fell off shortly after getting in the pool. I guess it felt almost like we had reached the finish line of a long, long voyage, and now we got to take a break. The odds of getting a call in the first few weeks are so small that it felt like we could take an evening off to watch a movie, or work on projects around the house, or study fantasy football stuff, or whatever it is we wanted to do to return to a “normal” life after a busy past few months. But then one evening led into the next, and the next…

It’s not like we haven’t done anything, per se – Betsy sewed a baby sling for us, we’ve started to gather together some furniture, and we have a few supplies gathered. We’re slowly making our way down the path towards preparedness – but at the pace we’ve been going, we’d be ready for The Call some time early next decade.

Which is why the call we got on Friday evening set our hearts racing.

We were out with some friends, hanging out and talking in a loud and busy bar when Betsy’s phone rang. She took it outside to talk to whoever was calling, and I just kept socializing and having fun. She returned back to the table, grabbed her purse, and whispered in my ear, “We’re getting a screening call right now.”

A bit of terminology – a screening call is very different from The Call. With a screening call, a counselor at the agency is determining what families would be open to having their profiles shown to a potential birthmother. This call is usually triggered by some sort of extraordinary circumstances – health issues, difficult birthfather situation, substance use during pregnancy, etc. The screening call goes out to everyone who expressed openness for similar situations (you express that openness on the Screening Tool, which deserves a post of its own) – if your openness range roughly matches up with the intensity level of these circumstances, you get a call to see if you are open for the specifics of this particular case. Depending on the situation, a screening call could go out to 50 families and they’ll all say yes, or it’ll go out to 5 families and only two of them say yes. The call itself really means little about whether or not you’ll be getting The Call soon – if the 50 other families also say yes, you’re at only a 2% chance of getting The Call as a result of the screening. Of course, you never know the numbers of the people who also said yes, and it’s hard to remember those when emotions are running high, but that’s the way it is.

I mumbled some sort of excuse to leave the table, and rushed outside to sit next to Betsy while she talked to the counselor. Fortunately, Betsy had paper and a pen in her purse, and I was able to follow a lot of the conversation from the notes she was scribbling down. The baby had been born on Thursday, and was ready to be released from the hospital on Sunday or Monday. There were a few (seemingly minor) health complications, and the birthmother had her own set of requests about the adoption process that would have been an adjustment to our expectations.

But it wasn’t our baby. After hanging up (and excitedly hugging), we talked to each other briefly, and both of us felt and quickly agreed that this was not our baby – not our time to say yes, not our time to be chosen. The baby will be going to another family (the right family) who will love them deeply and raise them, and I wish all the best for them. Even as I write this post, I know the new parents are holding their child and filled with love and amazement, and it’s awesome for them. Our turn will come soon enough, but it felt very clear that night that it wasn’t the time for us.

The counselor wanted to hear back the next morning, so we agreed to sleep on it just in case we were rushing to a judgment. “Sleeping on it” always seems like a weird way to think through an issue, as I rarely get good thinking done while unconscious, but I guess just the fact that I slept soundly with no nervousness proved that I felt really comfortable with our decision.

(Since I’m between jobs, the insurance situation was also extremely dicey, and it could have been financially ruinous to have said yes. (The counselor had overlooked the note on our account saying we were not open to children born before July 1st). But that wasn’t what made our decision – it just made it a little easier to help keep wild emotions in check and make the right decision.)

But for as much as I felt comfortable saying that this was not our baby, I feel equally comfortable saying that this was our message baby. I think God arranged for the counselor to overlook the note on our account and give us that call, and to help wake us up that we really are in the pool and that we need to get ready. That it’s more important right now for me to compare pediatricians than it is for me to compare quarterbacks, and that it’s better for us to be working on setting up the nursery than it is to work on setting up summer parties.

Because next time we get that call, it might just be our baby on the other end of the line…

(Note: This will probably be the last time we write about getting a screening call – we’ll probably keep those private, if for our own sanity more than anything else. And yes, I realize that some people might scoff at the idea that it will be our baby at the other end of the line, but you haven’t met Eelfang yet – he/she is going to be so smart, he/she’ll be calling us up from the hospital to make his/her own screening calls.)

So, it’s been a long time since I last checked in here, but at least we have some good excuses.

Last Monday, Betsy started a new job. The story of what happened to her old employer is a long and sordid tale, but suffice to say, getting out of there was a very positive move for her. She’s now going to be working for a farm out in the Fall City / Carnation area – her daily work will be much the same, but it’s both a more interesting environment (working in a barn, surrounded by fields of veggies, parking in the mud with the farm dogs running around) and a more difficult environment (did I mention it’s in Fall City? We’re looking at about an hour-long commute on a good day).

Then, on the drive home from her first day on the new job, our old car broke down. Betsy’s parents bought that car back in 1989 when it was brand new. Between various members of the family, they put nearly 19 years and over 240,000 miles on the car. However, after that amount of time, it was definitely starting to show its age – oil leaks needing a new quart every couple of weeks, squealing brakes, rattling steering, bad tires, etc. The final straw was a timing belt, and while we could have fixed that, it was really time to let that car go off to car heaven. So on the same evening that it broke down, we went out and got ourselves a new (to us) car. It’s pretty sweet to be driving something that was made this decade. Did you know that they are putting CD players in cars now? And with all four speakers working, too! Incredible.

And finally, I’m starting a new job on Tuesday in Bellevue. I’ll be leading a team of people who maintain and troubleshoot SharePoint websites for various clients – our big client being Microsoft. I’d been with my previous employer for nearly 5 years, so this is a pretty huge change for me – but one that I’m really excited about.

So, we haven’t been doing anything specifically related to adoption recently, but in another way, everything we do is related to adoption. One of the reasons why Betsy took her new job is that is has the potential to turn into a part-time telecommuting job in the future – if she was able to log even 10 hours of work a week when she’s at home with Eelfang, that would help out with the bills tremendously (assuming, of course, that she has the energy to work part-time and raise our child full-time – that might be a big thing to ask for).

For the car, it’s been a long point of contention between us about whether or not the old car was suitable for a family. Betsy, in her embrace of simplicity and not wasting things, wanted to drive the car until it stopped working, and only buy a new one when it was absolutely necessary. Todd, in his embrace of being neurotic and a worry-wart, was not at all comfortable with the idea of putting both his wife and his child in a car that was anything but supremely safe and reliable. The car dying now was as good of a compromise as we could hope for, and the new car was definitely bought with the idea of spending a little bit more for reliability, safety and a long-lasting future.

For me, I’ve been looking around for a new job for a while now. I had worked with my manager to try to expand/extend my current role, but it just wasn’t in the budget, and to keep growing my career, it was obvious that I had to look outside. Additionally, there had been a lot of changes in the past couple years, and I wasn’t 100% comfortable with all of them. I had been looking pretty aggressively last year for a new position, but came up empty.

Once we got in the pool, I assumed that I would have to wait until after the adoption happened. It would be difficult to find a new employer who was okay with my “I may need to leave for several weeks with only a few minutes notice” requirement, so I figured I’d have to grit my teeth and stick it out for a while longer. I stopped looking for a new job, and as these things often happen, as soon as I stopped looking, a great opportunity fell in my lap, and with a company that is extremely employee-focused and more than willing to work with my requirements.

Insurance is the one tricky thing – my old insurance will go until the end of this month, and my new insurance will kick in at the new job on July 1st. So while it works out okay for my personal insurance, it would be exceedingly difficult to add a new baby during that time. So Betsy and I took a tiny step backwards – we’re marking ourselves as being unavailable for any adoption where the birthmother would be due before July 1st. The last-minute placements, therefore, are off the table for the next few weeks.

That’s actually probably a good thing – we’re still working on putting together the nursery, interviewing pediatricians, and putting together our emergency “we need to go RIGHT NOW” kit. I’ll write more about those processes in the next post.

After many stutters, hold ups and near misses, I am thrilled to announce that, as of last Friday, 4/18, we are officially in the pool! It is a good, good day to be Todd and Betsy.

During said hold ups, etc, when I was feeling especially impatient and raw, I tried to remind myself that getting “in the pool” is something of an arbitrary line in the sand. We could end up waiting a month to be picked, and then these last few weeks of frustration won’t feel like such a waste. Or we’ll hardly even remember them if we end up waiting three years! But! it’s still so nice to get on to the waiting already!

P.S. I also want to take the opportunity to thank everyone for your curiosity, encouragement and constant support thus far. You folks are awesome!

So, been waiting on the edge of your seat since our last post? Wondering when we’re going to finally be in the pool?

Well, so have we.

The plan was to be in the pool by the end of last week. We sent in all of our material on Thursday, and some of it had to go down to Portland, so we weren’t surprised when we hadn’t received a confirmation call by Friday. By Monday and Tuesday, though, we were starting to get a bit anxious. Finally, we got an email from our counselor, who let us know that she had forgotten about some work on the back-end that still needed to happen, and that she was now looking at April 11th as the official “pool entry date”. So as of right now, we’ve got our swimsuits on, googles in place, ready to dive on in – and we’re just waiting for the whistle to sound.

Of course, getting in the pool might end up being anti-climactic. Once we’re in, the only immediate change is that both of us will suddenly be a LOT more jumpy whenever our phone rings. (Have you ever been annoyed by the fact that I’ll forget to charge my cell phone for days at a time, or that I don’t check my voicemails immediately? You’re going to be really happy when we’re in the pool. No guarantees on how long it will take for me to return calls, but at least you’ll know I’ll have listened to the message.)

There’s a whole new to-do list in front of us, though. If we were to get the call right now telling us to come down to the hospital, we’d be in complete chaos trying to figure out what we need to do and get ready for. Dan Savage wrote in his book that there’s nothing a child needs in their first week that can’t be bought on the way home from the hospital (other than a car seat), and while that’s reassuring, it’d be nice to have a few things in place and ready to go. I also deal with stress and confusion by making lists, so I have to put a few of those together to make myself feel better.

So we’re spending the next few weeks getting our ducks in a row. Like trying to figure out how the car seat fits in the car – not something you want to try for the first time with “The Call” adrenaline running through your system. Or finding a pediatrician – again, it’s hard to be objective with interview questions when you are holding a feverish baby in your arms already. And we started to put together a list of what to take with us if we need to take an urgent road trip down to Oregon – even down to which CDs to bring with us, because I know I’d be staring at our collection with blank, panicky eyes if I waited to the last minute to make that choice.

We should have plenty of time to make these decisions, of course. The average wait time for our agency is 10.5 months in the pool, and only 24% of placements are last minute – the majority of “first meetings” with the adoptive parents and birth parents is somewhere near the start of the third trimester. While it’s entirely possible that we could be in the pool for 2 weeks before a last minute placement, and have a child in our home before the start of May, that’s extremely unlikely, and we could end up waiting a couple years or more – we’d be very fortunate to have a child in our home before the start of 2009.

Even though I know it could end up being a while, there’s part of me that keeps clinging to the idea of a very short wait time. It’s hard to get a sense objectively of how our Homestudy material turned out – my hope is that we did a good job of showing how totally awesome Betsy is and what a fantastically amazing mom she will be, and that we sufficiently explained that her husband Goofus has the best of intentions and that his oddity is mostly benign.

Beyond that, we do have some “advantages” based on who we are. Those could be meaningless – all it takes is one lotto ticket to win – but we do get a few extra tickets to scratch just based on the fact that we are young, healthy, religious and heterosexual. It gives me a weird sense of guilt to think about that, though, as we’ve met some great potential parents already who don’t fit into those categories, and I don’t really like being given “better chances” just based on who we are and our backgrounds. But that’s just the reality of it, I suppose.

It’s hard to say when it will happen, though. I know Betsy tends to assume that we’ll be waiting for quite a while, where I can’t keep my mind from fixating on the stories I read of the one or two month waits. Both of us tend to picture ourselves adopting through a last-minute placement, but that’s the minority of cases. And it’s like the dating world – since so much depends on the chance thing that makes two people click, there’s no way of knowing how long it’ll take for the right person to show up, even if you have all the “advantages” in the world.
However long we wait in the pool, though, it’ll be the right amount of time. If we do get a call in the next month for a last-minute placement, that’ll be the right time. If we’re still waiting in the pool 3 years from now – it’ll be tough, but that’ll be the right timing as well.

I just want to hurry up and get waiting already.

Finalized all of our documents on Monday with our counselor…

Printed out copies of our photo collage and Dear Birthparent letter yesterday at Kinko’s…

Just finished signing all of the copies of the letter…

Wrote out a big check and put it the pile to get mailed out tomorrow…

Stay tuned for an announcement about being in the pool!

Quick status update, in between more topic-specific posts:

Our checklist to get into the pool looks like this:

  • Betsy and Todd each write auto-biographies, 3-5 pages. We’ve both completed these, and sent them off to our caseworker to be reviewed. We each got some feedback on our initial draft, revised it, and sent it back in. We haven’t yet heard back from our caseworker – in Todd’s case, it’s been over 3 weeks since he sent it in. We’re a little discouraged about that, but she is such a fantastically nice person that we’re giving her full benefit of the doubt that something major came up on one of her other cases. We’re going to start pushing more heavily for a response, though, se we can get the ball rolling.
  • Write a one-page (including photo) “Dear Birthmother” letter. We’ve completed our first draft on this, and we’re pretty happy with it. We had our photo taken by our friend Mandy, and we’re trying to find a time to meet up with her to get a copy of it so we can integrate it into our letter and play around with the formatting. We’ll probably have to go back and forth a bit with our caseworker on drafts of this, too, but we haven’t sent in our first draft yet (giving her one thing at a time to handle).
  • Compile a photo collage. We’ve identified all of the pictures we want to use, and we have the majority of them compiled. Todd is working on putting them together as an actual collage. We’ll show you a copy of the finished version when it’s done. If you happen to have a picture of Betsy and/or Todd hanging out with you or your family, we’d appreciate it if you sent a copy our way – while we’re in pretty good shape for pictures, having extras is always great. (Note: Heather’s flickr and Doug and Naomi’s website have been pretty thoroughly scoured, so no need to send any more pictures from those places.)

Once we get all of those things completed and have the drafts approved by our caseworker, we’ll be ready to go. Things are going a little slower than originally expected, but we’re hoping to be in the pool by Easter.

I’m planning on writing a longer post on each of these topics (an auto-biography post will be coming in the next 36 hours), but I figured a quick update might be nice.