After going to a meeting with the first agency, we had a pretty good sense of what type of questions we had to ask ourselves. Those questions were:

  1. Agency or Private?
  2. Infant or Child?
  3. “Healthy” or “Special Needs”?
  4. Domestic or International?
  5. Traditional or Open?

Private or Agency?

The idea behind a Private adoption is that the adopting couple retains the services of a lawyer to handle all of the paperwork and to give legal council, but to not work with an actual agency. Instead, the couple will advertise in local papers, magazines, websites, and send out letters to friends and family, searching for a birthmother in need. A well-chosen lawyer will have some experience with the advertising process, but the couple is largely on their own.

Maybe when we’re on our twelfth adoption and the process is old hat, but for now? No thanks! We need all the support we can get.

Infant or Child?

Again, this was a pretty easy question for us. We are definitely interested in raising our child from as early of an age as possible – as mad as it might sound, we look forward to the dirty diapers, the sleepless nights and all the craziness of that process. It would have been difficult for us to give up those early months and go for a child already past that stage.

“Healthy” or “Special Needs”?

One of the fields that WACAP (the agency who hosted the first meeting we went to) works in is with Special Needs children. During the presentation, they showed us a book full of children currently looking for placement, with any number of physical or learning disabilities.

It’s extremely difficult to look at these children, in need of a home and a loving family, and to have to admit that you simply aren’t prepared for that responsibility, both in parenting skills that we have not yet built and in emotional strength and durability.

When I was in high school, our parents were friends with a family who was heavily involved with the foster care system. The father in the family was someone who was always willing to help where he could – whether that meant lending a tool, providing an extra set of hands for a weekend chore, or driving an hour in the rain down from Marysville to help his friend’s teenage son get his car up and running when he left the lights on in the IKEA parking lot. My parents have had a lot of friends like that (and are people like that themselves), and as I grow older, I’m trying to look more for opportunities where I can be a friend and a source of help to others. With this family in particular, I’ve always been especially impressed by their willingness to bring children into their homes and to provide them with love – even if the children stayed with them for only a few months, I know that the children’s lives were measurably improved by that stay.

Betsy and I have talked a lot about participating in the foster program, and trying to do our best to help children with “special needs”. And if the child that we end up adopting through the “healthy” program ends up having special needs, we will do everything in our power to help them grow up strong and happy, and I know our families will provide us with the support we need to get through those obstacles. But we’re simply not ready to volunteer for the more difficult path today.

Domestic or International?

The other packet WACAP gave us included pictures of several children from each of the countries they worked with. As I flipped through the packet, trying to “feel” which country was right for us, I kept on returning to the Kazakhstan page. I tried to figure out what it was about that country that was intriguing to me – I had little to no knowledge of the culture or the people, and I had never felt particularly drawn to them before. In contrast, I’ve had a lot of “touch points” with some of the other countries – a cousin born in Korea, a burgeoning interest in Ethiopian jazz, love for the food from Vietnam, Thailand, India… admittedly, not a huge interest or knowledge about these diverse cultures, but it was still far more than I knew about Kazakhstan.

Until I realized that I kept on returning to that page because the baby was white.

It was a stunning realization – I’ve never been concerned about race among my friends or coworkers, I have non-caucasian cousins who I never think of as anything but as part of my family, I have great respect and interest in other cultures… but I couldn’t deny the fact that when I looked at pictures of babies, my “father instinct” kicked in way harder with babies who looked like me. I returned to the pictures of the other children, and tried to force myself to imagine holding them, playing catch with them in the backyard, teaching them to ride a bike, but it just didn’t feel as natural as with the caucasian child.
I left the meeting more confused about my stance on International adoption than when I had gone to the meeting. Was race important to me, and I wasn’t aware of it previously? Was I overreacting? If I went ahead with a non-caucasian adoption, would I subconsciously regret it later on?

Over the next couple of weeks, I continued to think about it, and to “try on” the images of different races of children in our house. As I worked through this mentally, I realized that my reaction actually wasn’t about the race of the child in the picture at all. What I was reacting to was the first realization that the child we would be raising was not going to share our genes.

Up to that point, I don’t think I had really worked through that part of my own grief. For myself, I was never going to carry a child, and seeing Betsy pregnant would have been neat, but it wasn’t what I was looking forward to. What I wanted was a child of my own, and I had convinced myself that the method of bringing the child home wasn’t important to me. But when I was confronted with a picture of a child that obviously would not share my genes, that part of my loss became more real.

Once I finally gave myself time to “own” this loss, to deal with it and to start to move on, I realized that race was not a consideration for me. There are definitely some people from the outside who may have an issue with a mixed-race family, but I decided that that was something I was willing to work with. However, in the time that it took me to come to grips with this and to understand my initial reaction to race, Betsy and I had made other decisions that answered this question for us. Those decisions will be the topic of my next post.

To hear Betsy tell the tale, you would think that I was some sort of cold-hearted villian.  She was all ready to go and have a child, but “Todd had other plans for us. Like playing video games and still being able to go out with friends.”  Yes, that’s true, but she left off two other important plans I had at the time – stealing money from the elderly and punching kittens in their tiny little faces.

It was definitely true that we had different priorities during the first year of our marriage.  We had been dating for several years before we got married, so for Betsy, it was time to go as soon as she got the ring on her finger.  I was still unconvinced, though.  I was still clinging on to my early twenties with all my strength, trying to wring our every last drop of the “early twenties” experience of being a relatively carefree DINK couple.

I think the turning point came when I started to be able to spend time with my favorite little dudes.  I had had cousins with children before, but I didn’t see them as often and the crowds around the babies were hard to get through.  However, when my nephew Saben came along, I fell in love instantly.  I baby-sat for my sister a few months after he was born, and for the first time ever, I could actually see myself being a dad.  Leaving him that evening, I felt my first pangs of wanting to start a family.

Shortly after this time, our friends Doug and Naomi had a boy of their own, the amazing Ben.  Were it not for Saben already having the title securely locked up, I might be tempted to say that Ben was the cutest kid ever.  The next key moment in getting me ready for parenthood was at a Halloween party at our friends Lindsay and Brooke’s house.  Ben was being passed from person to person, and I got my chance to hang out with him.  I walked him around the party, just talking softly to him, bouncing him up and down, and it was very difficult to give him back.

So, for Christmas that year, I decided that I would give Betsy the “gift” of trying to have a child.  After we opened the rest of our gifts Christmas morning, I mentioned I had one last thing for her.  I went upstairs, and came back down carrying our garbage can, and gave it to her.  She looked at it for a few seconds, baffled, and I produced her birth control pills and threw them in the garbage can she was holding, which resulted in many tears and hugs.

Well… turns out that we probably could have done that a long time ago.  Almost immediately we knew that there was going to be a fertility issue that we needed to address.  I’ll spare you all of the details, but suffice to say that we had a long 18 months of tests, medications, herbal remedies, more medications, charts, graphs, accupuncture, and *ahem* strict schedules in the bedroom.

After 18 months, we’d reached the end of the medication road, and we were faced with the choice of whether to proceed down the surgical path, spending thousands upon thousands of dollars in hopes that something would take, or to proceed down the adoption path, which involves… well, thousands upon thousands of dollars, but at least the end result is much more certain.

So we’re starting down the next path.   Saben’s grown up to be a toddler at this point, and we visited him this weekend.  When I first witnessed the joys of having a 2 year old in the house, with the refusal to eat certain foods, the crankiness, the messes, I started to experience the same panics that I used to feel.  But when I put him on my shoulders and carried him through the park, it made me realize that this long journey will be worth it someday.

I think I was ready to have children way before Todd. I had a romance with the thought of being pregnant. Frequent trips to the bathroom, swelling feet, my mucus plug falling out, my milk coming in…bring it on, I was ready. Well, Todd had other plans for us. Like playing video games and still being able to go out with friends.

With the advent of our nephew in March 2005, Todd’s heart melted and he was finally on board to start trying to have children. Well, God had other plans for us.

After eighteen months of troubles, which it must be admitted come with their own set of silver linings, we are continuing to try to grow our family–just not through my tummy. All along we have been praying for God’s will, and adoption seems to be it. We may not be expecting in the traditional sense (darn! I had the best ideas for announcing a pregnancy!), but we are expecting great things to happen in the coming months and years…

We met yesterday with my parents to celebrate Father’s Day, and met with Betsy’s parents last weekend. For both sets of parents, we got each of them a present, and warned them to not jump to the obvious conclusion when they opened them up. When they opened them up, a copy of The Grandpa Book and The Grandma Book were inside, which gave us the opportunity to let them know about what was going on.

It’s interesting to finally be able to start talking about this with people. We’ve been working on having children biologically for about 18 months, and we’ve kept everything silent through that time. I’ve had a lot of people ask me about when we’re going to have kids, and the best response I could give was a forced smile and a “when the time is right”. For myself, there’s a definite sense of relief for us to be able to come out of the infertile closet and start talking freely.

It’s still not the easiest thing to talk about, though. When you have a planned pregnancy, the reactions are almost always going to be positive and excited. With adoption, the conversation is simultaneously letting someone know about a loss in your life while sharing good news, and the vibe is definitely different. Our parents have been very positive in their reactions, but we’re still nervous about those future conversations left to come.

I think it’s always going to be easier for me to have that conversation than it is for Betsy, though, if only because we have different levels of loss to deal with. For me, I dealt with the fact that I would be unable to give birth a long time ago, and I’m pretty well past that. I would always be part of the pit crew in the great race of pregnancy, and so it’s easier for me to deal with. Losing the chance to pass on my genetic material is both a blessing and a loss – having a child who might actually be able to catch a baseball or do a crossover dribble without falling on his face might be a good thing.

For Betsy, though, she’s facing a different set of losses. This is as a good of a place as any to mention that this blog (as of today) is primarily going to be authored by me. This is also as a good of a place as any to remind myself to not make any assumptions about how Betsy is feeling about the process. I made the mistake yesterday of talking to my parents as if my emotional reaction was the same for both of us, and that required a conversation on the way home to help reset my thoughts. So, while you can depend on this blog most of the time to explain how the process is going for us, your best bet is to talk to one of us in person if you want the full story.

I was originally going to write a FAQ to answer some of the questions you are probably wondering, but there are far too many questions that need answering and anyway, that’s what I’ll be doing in this space for the next couple months. Here are a few odds and ends that need answering, though…

1. Where did the name of the blog come from?

Check out the story here…

2. Can I tell so-and-so about this?

At this point, we’re making this public. Feel free to pass on this address to anyone who knows us and/or might be interested.

3. I want to know specific details about your infertility! Or even non-specific ones, as in “which one of you is infertile”!

We’re probably not going to be getting into it here. You can ask us in person, but be aware that that is a pretty personal question and shouldn’t be asked lightly. This blog is going to be about the adoption process anyway, not the process that got us there, so it’s not what we’re excited about right now.

4. I have questions about things!

Feel free to leave a comment on any of the posts here, and I’ll try to get to it eventually. After this post, I’m going to try to back up chronologically and tell the story from the start, so it may take a while to get to a “today” question. But I’ll get there eventually.