Todd and I got a “welcome to the pool” packet in the mail from the agency today. Among the items was a bound booklet of Dear Birthparent letters. I started flipping through, and it looked to be current–us, plus lots of people who I recognized from the website, and some folks who didn’t choose to have their letter posted to the website…and then I happened upon two, count ‘em, two, letters from folks who we know outside the adoption world! We’re attending our first Waiting Families gathering in a couple weeks, and now instead of the usual shyness that was bound to take hold, I’m super excited in hopes to see their familiar faces there! Yay!

*Long, deep exhalation*

Okay. We’ve finished all of our Christmas shopping, Betsy is busy putting the finishing touches on her final home-made project, parties have been attended, cookies eaten, trees decorated, advent calendars progressed, and we’re just about ready to lay back and close out the year with friends and family.

It’s been interesting this year to think about the idea that this could very well be our last Christmas with only two people in the family. Which of the traditions from our families will we teach young Eelfang? Which of the new traditions we’ve developed will we carry on when we’re dealing with the extra complexity of having a young child participate? What music will be part of their life? (I have to admit that I’m really excited about the idea that our child will grow up with Sufjan Stevens as a major part of their holiday memories.)

This year has been a little more crazy than most, though, as we’ve been working through the homestudy process in December in parallel with our Christmas preparations. We submitted the necessary paperwork in the first week of December, and by the end of that week, we had our appointments scheduled. Normally, they try to spread the meetings across 3-4 weeks, but due to the holiday schedule and my work schedule, we had them back-to-back-to-back-to-back – a meeting in our house with both of us on Fri, 12/14, a meeting in her office with Todd alone on Tues, 12/18, a meeting with Betsy on Wed, 12/19 and another in-house couple meeting on Thurs, 12/20.

When people hear “homestudy”, I think there is a tendency to assume that the interviewer is checking out the house to make sure it’s baby-proof, or critically examining the structure of the house to make sure that it has no termites or fire hazards or dust on any of the bookshelves, or ensuring that the wall on the art is classy enough for a baby with refined tastes and sensibilities. In fact, the homestudy itself isn’t really an “evaluation” session, and unless there are some major issues in your family that have not yet been discussed, there’s little chance of “failing”.

(Every agency is different, of course, and we do know of people who didn’t pass – while there were extenuating circumstances in that situation, and the social worker assigned was nowhere near as professional and kind as our counselor is, it still made us a bit nervous, despite what I just said in the previous paragraph.)

Instead, the homestudy is designed to give the counselor a more intimate sense of who you are and what your life is like, aiding her in being able to describe you to a potential birthmother who wants to know more about where her child will be placed. The counselor takes all of the notes from these meetings and writes a 12-15 page “homestudy report” that is given to interested birthmothers, and the report gets down to really specific details in an attempt to build a picture in the birthmothers’ mind that they can then mentally put their child in.

The first visit was really easy. We had spent the previous week cleaning the house, weeding the garden, sweeping the steps and doing everything else we could think of, so the house was looking very nice. Our counselor immediately started gushing about how cute the house was and how our style matched hers, so I felt pretty comfortable right off the bat. The meeting ended up feeling more like we were being interviewed for People magazine or something along those lines – what’s a typical day like for you? What do you like to eat for breakfast? Who wakes up first? How often do you see your friends? What are they like? What color would you call this couch, so that I can accurately describe it in my write-up? Can you show me your house, and tell me about all of the interesting things in it? In short, it was a 2 1/2 hour meeting in which we just talked all about ourselves and how cool we are. I can handle that.

Early next week, I had my one-on-one with the counselor at her office. The intensity ramped up a little bit on this one – how would you describe your personality? How do you build relationships with people? What was your childhood like? How did you meet Betsy, and what do you like most about her? I definitely had to think more about the questions here. I’d guess that some of the questions were asked just to make me think about it, rather than for the answer – with Betsy and I both admitting to a fairly high level of shyness and difficulty with small talk, I think she wanted us to sit down and think through our process of building relationships and opening lines of communication with people. This meeting also lasted about 2 1/2 hours, and while it made me think more, it still didn’t stress me out too much.

On Thursday, we met back at our house again (this time less immaculately cleaned) for another group meeting. The third was definitely the most intense of all – what are your religious beliefs, and how did you come to them? What is your parenting philosophy? How do you deal with conflict? What were your parents like – what did you like about their style, and what would you change? Betsy and I have spent a fair amount of time talking about different issues and ways we want to raise our child, and we talk about our values and priorities pretty frequently, so we were fairly prepared for some of the questions, but we had never sat down and thought of an actual “parenting philosophy”. I tend to be inherently distrustful anyway of something dogmatic enough to be called a “philosophy” when applied to something as dynamic and complicated as kids, and especially trying to set a philosophy in stone right now with my current (lack of) parenting experience. But we do definitely have our sets of beliefs and values, and we were able to stutter through enough of these to cobble together something resembling a unified theory.

With the week of meetings clustered so close together, and the intensity of the last meeting, I felt exhausted by the end of the last one. It was (and is) nice, though, to know that we’ve finished all of those meetings, and we don’t have to do any further ones in the immediate future.

So what’s next?

With the homestudy meetings done, our counselor has to write the homestudy report. At 10-15 pages, peer-reviewed inside the agency, and a full workload of other clients, it’ll probably take her until mid-February to complete that.

For us, we’re writing further revisions to our auto-biographies until it is something that both us and our counselor are happy with. We also need to put together a one-page “Dear Birthmother” letter to serve as our foot in the door to entice birthmothers to read our auto-bios and the homestudy, and we need to put together a photo collage to be included in that homestudy packet (if you see us walking around with our camera more frequently than normal, that’s why.)

All in all, we’re hoping to get everything written and put together somewhere between the end of February and mid-March. At which point, we’ll pay another fee and get into the pool, and officially be in the waiting period.

It’s been a while since you’ve posted any pictures in here, and you mentioned a Christmas tree up at the top of this post.

Well, if you insist…

Us and our very first Christmas tree as a couple.

Betsy bought a couple spools of ribbon and tied bows all over our tree. Very pretty…

…whereas the traditions coming from my family are a little more grotesque. Front and center in our tree is the infamous pinecone duck – an ugly ornament which my family grew to love over the years (well, at least I grew to love it… although every time I came home from college, it had accidentally been placed in the very back of the tree.)

So, about a month ago, I said we were going to have an interview “tomorrow” with our new counselor, and I’ve been leaving you hanging ever since then.  My apologies to those who have been waiting with baited breath.  This post will probably be relatively short (by my standards, at least), and maybe it will help motivate me to write more frequently if it doesn’t take two hours to write.

Betsy had been acting nervous for the week leading up to the interview – visions of being dissuaded from being adoptive parents, or being rejected outright, or being chased from the office by a mob with pitchforks and torches.  This was the first step in the countless evaluations and interviews that we’ll be put through, and Betsy was afraid that we would trip and fall on our faces right out of the gate.

For me, I’m not nearly humble enough to worry about being rejected.  I imagined a scenario in which we’d walk in, introduce ourselves, and our counselor would say something to the effect of  “Oh, you’re Todd and Betsy?  We’ve all heard the legends about you, and we’ve been waiting for this day since the agency was founded.  Let’s dispense with the formalities – we have a stockroom full of babies in the back, and you can just take your pick and bring one home today.”

The day of the meeting, though, I was back down to earth, and quite nervous about the whole thing.  I still felt pretty confident that we would be great parents, and that we were well-spoken enough to convey our awesomeness, but still… it was an interview for the most important job I’ll ever have.  No matter how qualified an applicant we might think we are, there’s always going to be a lot of nervousness.

In the office, we were introduced to our counselor and brought into her office.  Betsy immediately asked what the stakes were – was there any chance of us being rejected at the end of the day?  Our counselor assured us that they almost never rejected someone outright.  They may recommend that the couple spend more time considering the issues and talking with the counselor before moving forward, but rejection was rare; and, if there was a chance of rejection, we would probably already know in the back of our minds that this wasn’t the right decision for the time.

From there, we spent about 2 1/2 hours talking.   We covered topics such as our reactions to the seminar, how we chose open adoption, the other adoption options we had considered, what openness meant to us, our thoughts on the grief inherent in the process, financial concerns, how we had decided to start a family,
how we had announced our plans to our friends and family… in short, we recited the text of this blog to our counselor.  We did cover some new topics, and I tried to rephrase or rethink things I had already written to avoid just parroting what I had already thought, but I have to admit, writing things out in here was the best prep for the interview I could have done and it made it way easier.

Our counselor was extremely nice, and I’m looking forward to working with her over the next few months.  She was quite perceptive, describing facets of my personality to me in ways I had never considered and showing a lot of insight for someone who had known us for only an hour or two.  We left the meeting with some homework to do, and we’ll be meeting back with her as soon as all of that is done.

Okay – I just wrote another 2 paragraphs, and realized I was starting to head down the path of another long story.  As promised to myself at the start of this post, I’ll keep this one short.  I’ll finish up the other story shortly, and try to get it up here in the next few days.

I realized the other day that this journal has been long (sometimes very very long) in information about specific events, or emotional issues, or weird people sitting next to me at the fingerprint office, or things of that nature, but we’ve never really taken the time to give people a good idea of what the process looks like.

Here, then, is the high-level overview of the whole process, including how far along the path we already are:

  1. Decide to adopt Done!
  2. Decide on an adoption “path” (domestic/international, open/closed, infant/child, etc) Done!
  3. Find an agency to work with Done!
  4. Our agency’s specific steps
    1. Attend the informational seminar in Portland Done!
    2. Submit paperwork, fingerprints, documents, etc Done!
    3. Meet with counselor for Intake interview Tomorrow!
    4. Homestudy process – in-home interviews with counselor (2-4 months)
    5. More paperwork – biographies, photo collages, letters of recommendation, etc. (2-4 months, simultaneous with step 4)
    6. Preparing our home and lives (2-4 months, simultaneous but nearer the end of with steps 4 & 5)
    7. Jumping in the pool! (Early next year?)
    8. Waiting for the call… biting our fingernails… obsessively checking our voicemails… (could be 3 weeks… could be 3 years.)
    9. The call!
    10. Meeting the birthmother and making sure that this is the right fit (This “usually” happens 3 months before the birth, and can take a few appointments before everyone is comfortable. It could, however, happen in just a couple of hours, if the birthmother first contacts the agency after the birth and the process is accelerated.)
    11. Mediation – establishing agreements, attending any additional counseling, figuring out details. (Shortly after step 10.)
    12. Birth!
    13. Legal stuff that I probably should have been paying more attention to during the seminar, but I dismissed as “I know I’ll forget this, so I’ll study it again when we’re closer to the date” (Few days, most likely)
    14. Baby time!

So! That’s a rough outline of the process. Obviously, the only things set in stone so far are the very first steps (deciding to adopt and the adoption method we’ve chosen), and it could turn out that when we meet our counselor tomorrow, it just feels like a bad fit, either from their perspective or from ours, and we’ll have to start again at step 3 again. (I actually had a bad dream the other night in which Betsy and I were at a restaurant, and our waitress recognized us and let us know that the whole adoption community was abuzz about how angry our counselor was after finding “that little website of yours”.) But based on the information I’ve gotten from them so far, I’m feeling pretty comfortable that we’ll be able to work together pretty well.

So, we’re on to the next step tomorrow – the intake interview with our new counselor, who will be our guide the rest of the way. Wish us luck!

So, at this point in the story (mid June), we’d read a handful of books, and gone to one meeting that was informative, but which didn’t feel like the right “fit” for us. We were still in middle of trying to figure out where we stood on the big five questions of adoption, and so far there had been no ray of light beaming down from the sky illuminating any single path. We needed more information.

Betsy did some research online to find a listing of a bunch of local agencies, and checked out the websites of all of the agencies listed on there, looking for ones that caught our eye and (most importantly) had an informational meeting that we could sign up for. As we went through the listings, the sites started to blend together – soft-focus pictures of infants, happy thoughts about bundles of joy, and very vague language about the actual process itself.

One of the sites was very different, though. Instead of warm, dreamy pictures of beautiful people holding their beautiful babies, we saw real people – a listing of the candidates waiting for a child to be placed with them. Instead of optimistic promises of a speedy process, we saw actual statistics (and if you know me, you know how excited I was to see that). And instead of painting a picture of mindless bliss and dreams come true, we saw the site clearly discuss and address the fears and concerns about open adoption.

But, wow, those fears and concerns… I had had some vague misgivings about the concept of open adoption, but I hadn’t yet put in enough time thinking about it to really understand what I was worried about. On the website was a nicely organized, easy-to-read list of exactly what I should (and would) be worrying about. Jealousy, last-minute disruptions, attempts to reclaim the child, split loyalties – all of the nightmare scenarios started to pop up, and the idea of hiding away in a nice, safe closed adoption started sounding more and more appealing. They wouldn’t have to write this stuff on the website if they weren’t legitimate fears, right? I mean, you don’t see a toaster manufacturer trying to defuse fears about the toaster spontaneously combusting and setting the house on fire because such a thing never happens – you only have to fight fears that are legitimate. (Although now I know what’s going to keep me awake all night tonight… maybe I should unplug the toaster before I go to bed. And stick it in a bucket of water.)

It was time to get more information – learn more about the benefits, get more information about the risks, and understand the process a bit better. Betsy and I called in and signed up for a meeting, and attended during the first week of June.

This time around, the nerves weren’t as bad as with our first meeting. We’d been to meetings before, we knew the process – we were seasoned veterans after that first session. Or, at the very least, we weren’t about to run away and hide in the bushes to avoid showing up. This meeting was in downtown Seattle, rather than in Renton like the first one was. This seems like a meaningless distinction, but for some reason, it was somewhat comforting to me – I’ve been a devoted Seattlite for past 9 years, and I felt like a big-city interloper when we drove out to the suburbs to the first meeting. This time, we could ride the bus and walk to the meeting, which is what our lifestyle is geared around, and it felt almost more “authentic” to talk about adding a child to our family when we were being ourselves in transportation choice.

We waited patiently outside the building for the meeting to start, sneaking the occasional glance at the other people sitting around the entrance – were they here for the meeting too? Or are they just here to meet a friend after work? The meeting facilitator came down and let us all into the building, and sure enough, all of the other people waiting outside were coming to the meeting with us. There were 5 couples there that night, and 3 of the 10 people were female. We’ve since found out that this is one of the few agencies in the city that would allow a ratio like that – definitely more of a progressive atmosphere than some of the other agencies we had looked at.

The meeting itself was pretty straight-forward – we spent a little bit of time introducing ourselves, the coordinator talked about the structure of their program specifically, a little bit about the legal requirements of Washington state, about her personal experiences, and talked a lot about the concept of open adoption itself.

So, what is open adoption?

Open adoption, in its simplest form, means that the birthparents and the adoptive parents know who each other are – full names and everything. In this specific program, this means that the birthparents choose the adoptive parents out of a pool based on an introduction letter/scrapbook the adoptive parents put together, and begin forming the relationship early – ideally, while the birthmother is still pregnant (there are some last-minute in-hospital adoptions, but this is less than 25% of them). After the birth, the birthparents remain in contact with the adoptive parents and the child, and becomes like a good family friend or a relative.

Remember in one of my recent posts, how I mentioned that Betsy and I are somewhat shy, and not particularly skilled at things like small talk? And now the plan is to form an intimate relationship with a complete stranger, with only a few months time? Oy.

But as I thought about it more, I kept coming to the same conclusions. It’s indisputable that this is healthier for the birthparents than the old system of “pretend your pregnancy never happened”, and the bulk of the evidence collected so far (this is a relatively new concept, after all) indicates that children are much healthier when they have a chance to interact directly with all of the important people in their life and when they can get honest, straight-from-the-source answers when they have their inevitable questions about “why”. In our marriage, we’ve put in a lot of work at confronting tough questions and discussing them openly rather than trying to hide them away or trying to pretend that the problem doesn’t exist, and I’ve tried to advise my friends to use similar tactics of honesty and vulnerability to solve problems instead of putting up emotional shields.

As I contemplated the idea of open adoption, I kept asking myself the same question – would I be able to look my child in the eyes ten years from now, and tell them that I chose to not let their birthmother be a part of their lives because I was feeling shy? Or because I felt there was potential emotional risk? If I wanted the values I intend to raise my kid with to be true, I had to take the first step in being open and caring about others in the adoption process.

Once that fifth question (“open or closed?”) had become clear to me, the rest of the steps were obvious. I felt a level of comfort with OA&FS that I hadn’t felt with any other agency I had read about or visited, and they were definitely well-equipped to fit our needs. Unfortunately, the concept of open adoption precludes an international adoption, but that just made the decision process that much easier. I talked about it after the meeting with Betsy, and we were on the same page – this was the right path, and this was the right agency to work with.

The next step in their adoption path is to attend a two day seminar – they hold them quarterly in Seattle, or monthly in Portland. Unfortunately, the next available seminar in Seattle wouldn’t be until November, and it was June when we were making these decisions. Slightly better, but still not great, Portland had an opening in September – specifically, September 17th and 18th. We signed up for that seminar and will be down there next week.

After that meeting, we started letting our friends and families know about our adoption plans, and we officially launched this blog. And that pretty much brings us up to the current day. A few more books, sneaking peeks at the mountain of paperwork that awaits us after next week’s seminar, and a lot of anticip…

I’m going to mess with Todd’s chronology a bit by letting you know that in nine days’ time, we’re going to “the adoption seminar.” Because we signed up for it about three months ago, the seminar has been the single event thus far on which we’ve been hanging our hopes, fears, and just about every other emotion. Any adoption conversation with folks who know the blow-by-blow so far, opens with, “So when are you going down to Portland?” Todd and I talk pre- and post-Portland; we’re twiddling our thumbs now, but oh, man, after the seminar we can really get the ball rolling!

I shouldn’t underestimate the importance of this thumb-twiddling time, though. It’s been so good for us to have time to catch our breaths, collect our thoughts (as much as we can think and project upon the unknown future), pray, and prepare for the enormity of what’s coming our way. With that in mind, I’d like to share a few quotes from The Spirit of Open Adoption by James Gritter. It’s the second of three required books I’m reading in anticipation of “Portland,” and it’s blowing my mind with information…

Children are not deserved and cannot be earned. In our desire to create children, we are ultimately powerless. We cannot produce them on demand. For proud, capable people, this is an infuriating truth. We strive to master our circumstances, but the fact is, children are only available to us as gifts, and all we can do is receive them humbly. Like it or not, the only verb that appropriately brings children into our lives is receive…Children belong to God, not us. Parents are privileged to hold them for a while, but they cannot be hoarded and contained. From the day we first welome children into our lives, we know our goal is to prepare them for the day they will leave. They are entrusted to our care, and it is our responsibility to nurture them toward independence. As parents–biological and adoptive–we are stewards, not possessors.

I was telling a coworker about reading the above truth, and saying that it was so obvious but also so overlooked. Her son died a couple years ago and she shared with me that that was the one thing that helped her come out the other side of grief. She remembered that he belonged to God, and while she got to enjoy him as a gift for three years, God ultimately had bigger plans for him.

We must be careful not to sanitize, sentimentalize, or even glamorize the pain of adoption. It really is miserable stuff, and it is intensely personal. It is internal. The pain of adoption is not something that happens to a person–it is the person. Because the pain is so primal, it is virtually impossible to describe…Surely, no outsider fully understands the to-the-bone exasperation and helplessness of biological mutiny…And it is folly to suppose that someone who has not been there can really grasp the interior emptiness that exists when one leaves the clan. And somehow, not being understood makes the pain all the worse.

To think that I’m going to be party to this pain, among all the other emotions and experiences, is hard to wrap my head around. But reading this book (oh, if I had the room to quote the whole thing!) has galvanized the idea that if we are indeed meant to adopt, open adoption is the best way possible. But I better stop there before I fully rip the rug from under Todd’s next post! Until next time…

Part 2 of our first meeting. The first part was posted a couple weeks ago.

Once we were inside the meeting room, the meeting facilitator welcomed us warmly, providing us with a big packet of information and explaining the plan for the evening. There was another couple sitting in a couch in the front of the room, with chairs gathered around in a semi-circle around the couch. The couple had their two children with them, and the facilitator explained that they were a couple who had successfully adopted through their agency and were there to share their story and to answer all of the questions we were sure to have.

The problem was, we didn’t have any questions. At least not any questions that could be easily answered. We had vague senses of the categories of questions, but I couldn’t think of anything more intelligent or insightful to ask than “so, adoption… it’s good, right?” After reading all of our books, we had a good sense of the specifics, but no sense of the general and no sense of what path we were going to take. It was like we had studied the driving manual and the rules of the road and now had an opportunity to talk to a professional race car driver, but we had never actually sat behind the wheel or even been in a car. We knew the language but not the conversation.

Worst of all, we had shown up early for the meeting, so we were expected to be making small talk while we waited for the rest of the attendees to show up. Todd and Betsy can do a wide variety of things, many of them extremely well, but we are not small talkers. And put us in a situation where we’re already nervous about attending the meeting, and we’re going to be very quiet. I could tell the couple sitting up on “stage” felt a little awkward as well, and they didn’t really have anything to say to start the conversation, so we all sat quietly and watched the couple’s daughter run around, say “hi” to people, fall over, and eat cheerios. It was standard toddler action, but from the way we were all glued to her every movement, you would have thought she was walking a tightrope over a pit of flaming crocodiles.

Finally, the meeting started, and the couple told their story. From what I had already read about the process, there were no surprises – lots of paperwork, long agonizing wait on The List, photos sent, a trip to the country to pick her up, love and happiness at the end. The facilitator seemed to think that their process was extremely short, and she kept interrupting with a panic-stricken tone to tell us that it NEVER went that fast and to not expect it to go SO QUICKLY, like the couple was telling us that they got the process done in 60 minutes while they waited for their dry-cleaning to be done.

After the couple shared their story, we toured around the building, and the facilitator showed us which parts of the office dealt with adoptions from which countries. There’s no such thing as a “generalist” in the world of International Adoption – each country is so labyrinthian in its laws and regulations and processes that a worker focuses very intently on a single country and knows nothing about the process for any other country.

After the tour, we watched a quick video about the agency, including a story from one of the families they’ve worked with. The story showed a family who brought home a boy from Russia as an infant. A year or so later, he was able to start talking, and he asked when his sister was going to join him. Sure enough, when the family looked into it, there was a sister at the same orphanage who hadn’t been listed in the records back when the first adoption was going through. The family ended up adopting her as well, and the little boy was so excited to see her again. Roughly at this time, someone must have dumped a large amount of dust into the room, because I found my eyes becoming VERY watery.

The rest of the meeting was a cold shock of reality, though, as we started going through the information about the specific countries that this agency worked with. The big impact was seeing the requirements – half of the countries disqualified us because either we weren’t over 30, we hadn’t been married for more than 4 years, we didn’t have a verifiable $80k net worth, or various other criteria like that. For the other half, the requirements we could meet were a lot higher than I anticipated – 8 weeks in the country to finish the adoption, or thousands more in fees than I expected, or two different trips of a couple weeks each.

After looking at the costs/travel requirements, I spent the rest of the meeting thinking “whoa.” As a result, the meeting itself is a little bit blurred in my memory – I know they went over each country in detail, allowed us to ask questions about specific programs, and they were probably helpful and nice. I, however, only remember thinking “whoa.” I kept going over the program, but between costs/requirements being higher than anticipated, and still unresolved questions about ethnicity (probably the topic of my next post), nothing felt right. It was good to go to the meeting, but if I learned nothing else from the books I had read and the meeting I attended, it was that the right program for you is the one that “feels right”, whatever that would mean.

As a final note, I asked at the end of the meeting if there were any books they recommended that we read to help get us up to speed (and to maybe help me get past the “sticker shock” I was feeling at the time). One of the fellow attendees helpfully suggested that we “try the library – they’ve got lots of books there.” I wasn’t so far gone into my world of “whoa” that I wasn’t able to immediately start thinking snarky comments such as “Really? They’re carrying books at the library now? Is… is that something new they’re trying?” (When I told Betsy my comments later, she pointed out that the woman was trying to help, and that we appreciate someone referring us to the library rather than Barnes and Noble, but Betsy is nice to stupid people that way.)

As we left the meeting, I felt that we had made a good first step on the process – we confronted the issue, and officially started rolling the ball. That particular agency didn’t feel right to us, but it was primarily because it was the first one we had visited and we were still figuring out what we wanted, not because of anything they lacked.

It was time to go back into research mode, and to start thinking about some of those Big Questions of adoption to help us narrow down the search.

After reading a number of books, we had a pretty good understanding of the questions we’d need to answer over the coming months. The main questions are:

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

Knowing the questions was definitely a step in the right direction – but after all our reading, we weren’t really any closer on knowing the answers. We needed to talk to people and get some insight that way.

One of the books we read included a list of reputable adoption agencies in Washington, and we checked out their sites. One of them, WACAP, held informational meetings on a regular basis, and we decided to drop in on the next meeting. WACAP works primarily with international adoptions, but also places a fair number of domestic special needs children and has an African-American child program as well, so they felt like a good resource to get some information on a number of different adoption paths.

The drive over to the meeting was nerve wracking – we had been reading the books and talking about it a little bit with each other, but this was the first time we were taking any sort of action, and the people we were going to meet that night would be the first people to know that we were looking into adoption.

I think if either Betsy or I were going to the meeting by ourselves, we probably would have turned around. I know I would have, at least. If I were a cartoon character, with the angel and devil sitting on my shoulders whispering advice, my angel would have hiking shoes, a book of maps and a ready smile, and my devil would…, well, he probably wouldn’t even be on my shoulder, as that would require leaving the safety of the couch. He’d be at home, watching TV and eating popcorn, and if he felt like it, he might give me a call to try bring me back to the couch to sit next to him.

Approaching the building, the nervousness and fear of leaving my comfort zone was kicking in heavily. I wanted to adopt, but… not if it involved talking to people! Or going to meetings! Can’t we just sign up on a website somewhere, and have a child shipped to us? Does Amazon have a child adoption center yet? When we walked to the front door of the WACAP office, and saw that it was locked and the lights turned off, a load instantly came off my shoulders and I was ready to jump back in the car and go back home. “We gave it a good try, but the doors were locked – what else could we do? Guess we’ll just head back home and play Guitar Hero.”

As we started to walk back towards the car, the angel voice kicked in and I realized that we really needed to give it a little more of a try than just jiggling the door handle on the front door and driving away rapidly. We started to circle the building, walking around the back, and sure enough, we found signs pointing us to a backdoor entrance and the site for the meeting. The door was wide open, and we could hear a few voices chatting inside. We walked in, and saw exactly what I had been fearing… smiling people who were happy to see us and holding informational brochures, a couple with their adopted child ready to provide information about their experiences, and a warm, comforting environment hosted by people who truly cared about our needs for information and guidance.

I was terrified.

(The rest of the meeting in the next post!)