Archive for July, 2009

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messy bits

July 30, 2009

It’s been a week since we heard we were turned down from Mychael and so far neither we nor our worker have actually gotten the official confirmation of that. I don’t know if we ever will, but they’re also supposed to give us some explanation of why they think we weren’t the right match for him. I talked to Lee about this when we had our big New Plan conversation last week, but it’s true that in some places there’s been a hesitation to match a same-sex couple with a relatively “normal” child. I’d like to think that’s not the case in our state; I feel quite secure that it isn’t in our region. But still, I think about that and I wonder sometimes whether that’s a factor too.

And I’m worrying now about getting our homestudy sent properly. States don’t accept homestudies sent by individuals because those individuals could fake information. So what Claudia wanted and what the worker in the other state wanted was for Elizabeth to forward a copy of our homestudy, giving it legitimacy. But Elizabeth’s not allowed to do that. Instead we have to make an open records request at the state level and they’ll release a copy to us to do with it what we will. (And while our licensing worker Kate had said we still wouldn’t be able to see the whole file due to privacy restrictions, I’m choosing not to worry about that. Yet.)

So what I did today was fill out and send in our open records requests (in Lee’s name, of course, since I have no legal standing, though Lee signed it and everything’s perfectly legal) with the request that the files be forwarded to Adopt America Network and to the far-off worker. Supposedly this will be done within 10 days of receipt of the request, and since it’s going to an office where people’s job is to mail out requests I imagine the timeframe is realistic. But I don’t know whether they’ll actually do it or whether they’ll send it to us and we’ll have to do lots of wrangling.

As it is, I’m going to make Lee call AAN and let them know our homestudy should be on the way. I hate making phone calls, so I’m our dedicated emailer and she does the telephone side of things. At some point I’ll email the out-of-state worker and just let her know that we’re the people Claudia told her about and that she should expect our homestudy. Normally there’d be a cover letter or something letting her know how we know about this child and that she’s expecting this, but we can’t really do it that way and there won’t even be the child’s name attached to our file when it goes out.

This all frustrates me. I’d like it to be smoother. I’d like to be able to have Lee make a call to find out the protocol for something without hearing back from her that she was transferred to five different people who gave tentative answers before she got to a person who claimed to know what was going on. I know this isn’t going to be smooth or easy no matter what, but I’m ready for this paperwork uncertainty to be over. Lee thinks it’s silly of me to be worried about this (and also thinks it’s silly of me to worry about not being a legal parent, so basically this is more about her not being a worrier and me definitely being one than about the severity of the issue, I think) but I am worried and I’ll feel a lot better knowing that other people have our information. Soon, perhaps, soon.

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switching paths

July 30, 2009

So yesterday I emailed back and forth a bit with our worker Elizabeth and we officially decided to step away from our plans to adopt within our state and instead to work with Claudia and Adopt America Network to work on an out-of-state match. That means we need to figure out how to get our homestudy forwarded to a worker almost 1000 miles from here so she can decide whether we’d be right for a 9-year-old boy Claudia found for us. I’ve got forms going out in tomorrow’s mail, but no guarantee from the variety of answers we’ve gotten in our state whether that means the homestudy will get where it needs to be. All part of the adventure, I guess!

Elizabeth understands that we’re frustrated (Lee especially) with the wait, and wanted to remind us that the department’s priority isn’t finding children for adults who want to adopt. From the way she was spinning it, our state apparently thinks that kids who are doing okay are able to go back to their families or are adopted into their foster homes; it’s only the ones with drastic physical or mental problems who end up looking for adoptive homes through the state program. I’m sure this isn’t always the case, but when we got information from her yesterday about a boy we thought had potential, again his public writeup seemed to be a fairy tale compared to what his daily life is actually like. I’ve said before that I’m glad our state respects kids’ privacy rights in not publicizing their histories or diagnoses, but they’re also doing a disservice to the kids if there’s no wa to figure out what a child is actually like.

And so that’s what’s going on with us. Lee was very excited and optimistic about things until I snapped at her while I was filling out the forms this evening because she was talking non-stop and being critical of how I was doing jobs she didn’t want to do in the first place. I apologized, but she’s not great at accepting apologies and getting over things. It helps me if I can make amends, so I made us a pasta dinner out of the Mark Bittman cookbook she’d just bought me, and since then I’ve been puttering around doing various chores. She’ll sleep and feel better in the morning. I felt better as soon as we got word that my grandmother had come through her surgery (removing an entire lymph node because the biopsy done previously was insufficient) and I could stop subconsciously worrying about that. I’m not too worried about adoption stuff either right now, because it’s largely out of our hands. I’ve made contact with the people I think can help us get the homestudy out properly. Now I need to just trust that it gets where it needs to go (and check up, I’m sure, since that’s what I do) and feel relief that we have someone doing the matching for us who cares about us and cares about these kids and has the flexibility to do whatever it takes to find the right child for us. And maybe she already has.

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weekend update

July 27, 2009

Since wanting to do in-depth posting didn’t work so well last time I tried, I’m going to try to just write some quick tidbits and then see how long they get as I string them out in this post.

Friday, after Lee and I had made our pact to give this adoption thing another year, I got a message from Claudia asking why I hadn’t asked for her help if I wanted to get matched. Besides being one of the most informed and consistent foster/adoption bloggers, she works as an adoption matching specialist for Adopt America Network and among other things recently helped Special K join Lisa’s family.

I hadn’t contacted Claudia yet because we were really focusing on children in Our State. I admit that’s easy to do because Our State’s adoption benefits are better than those in a lot of other states, but any child adopted like this is going to have a Medicaid card that could be used at the supposedly plentiful and excellent places around here that accept Medicaid. And any child is going to be uprooted from his home to move to ours, whether he’s traveling 20 minutes or two hours or halfway across the country….

I would still prefer to get an email from Elizabeth tomorrow that they’ve found the perfect child for us and he’s pretty close to us and we can start visiting soon or whatever, but that probably won’t happen. I do think we’ll get news from her and we’ll keep pursuing that as our first choice, but at the same time we’ll be mailing out a profile of ourselves to AAN tomorrow morning just so we have more bases covered. I would hate us to get to our deadline and realize that we didn’t have a child because I hadn’t worked hard enough at making that happen. I’m hoping the dream I had Friday night that we got turned down for Mychael because Lee hadn’t done enough prep work to justify being the primary parent was just my subconscious being paranoid and not a sign that I want her to be the one doing things like contacting Claudia, because too late!

Friday was great for us as a couple, we were getting along and were happy and all that good stuff. Then Saturday morning got a rocky start because the animals woke both of us earlier than we wanted to be up and it was raining too hard to go to the farmers’ market as planned. We had a painful drive to Columbus, almost-bickering for no clear reason, and I had to stop in the rain to put more air in the tires of Lee’s car, which wasn’t fun even once we did finally find a gas station with a functioning air pump. Lee did at least read the essay I’d asked her to read, one Dawn wrote about how she and her husband adopted Madison, Pennie’s daughter by birth. Lee didn’t say anything about it in the car, but at least did what I’d asked her to do to prepare to meet my friends.

And once we got to Pennie’s shower, things were great. I got to meet three fantastic bloggers plus of course Pennie and her partner Tommy, some of her friends, and some of Dawn’s family. Lee mostly left the party to mope and chat with the bartender at the restaurant, but I got to mostly sit quietly and listen, which is what I enjoy anyway. Once Pennie’s peers took off, Lee came back and talked more and really enjoyed bonding with other women who’d had largely absent biological moms and telling everyone how weird she thinks bloggers and blogging are and basically just having a good time. She’d already figured out who people were in relation to Dawn’s article and made a nice comment about that, so I felt better about sort of bullying her into doing background reading on my friend! By the time we left, Lee was saying as we walked back to the car that she’d love to hang out with Pennie more ASAP.

Then we went to Dawn’s house so Lee could meet Madison, since as far as Lee was concerned this would be the highlight of the trip. We ended up talking to Dawn’s son Noah more than his little sister, but they’re both adorable kids in their own ways, smart, well-spoken, just fantastic. Lee and I went away impressed, but I think seeing Noah thoughtful and dancing and being a fantastic big brother at age 12 made us both suddenly sadder about Mychael, that there wouldn’t be that particular smart, adorable child turning 12 in our house.

Dawn and I talked about how frustrating this has been and talked a lot about blogging, or at least a lot for the 30 minutes or so we were able to stay. She encouraged us to find a support group. Lee and Dawn’s husband Brett commiserated about not reading our blogs and not wanting to read our blogs and being a bit bemused that others do want to read about our lives. Madison changed costumes several times. Noah showed us his breakdancing skills (and who knew he got some of them from a parent?) and Madison picked a tiny bouquet for each of us, clover for me and mint for Lee. They’re in a tiny shotglass-sized measuring cup (and I love having this size measuring cup and recommend it to all cooks, for the record!) on our dining room table now.

I’m not putting into words properly how great this was. Dawn has always been a blog hero of mine, then eventually more of a friend, but now that we’ve met in the flesh she’s something extra special (as the other bloggers I’ve met have been too) and exactly what I needed after a hard week of preadoption drama and the toll it took on our relationship. Lee and I both left refreshed and happy, desperate to get back to visit as soon as we can. Or host the whole family at our house, whatever works!

Then Sunday morning we went to church again, and this time the church was in full force. As an atheist raised in a Catholic family, I’ve never before been in a church where the bulletin reminds us that “order of service is subject to the leading of the Holy Spirit” and sure enough, things got shifted around a bit from published order. Although I’m a non-believer, I was trying not to act like the kind of tourist described in this post I serendipitously found this morning. I wasn’t alarmed and didn’t gawk when people were shaking or speaking in tongues or running around the sanctuary. Even though it was the first time I’ve experienced that, it seemed natural enough and I know it’s how these church members want or need to express their belief. I just let myself be moved by the music of keyboard, voice, and drums and felt the emotion even as I don’t feel the spirituality.

Last time’s preacher had been their senior minister, and Lee and I both love her wisdom and sense of humor. She saw us as we were leaving (Lee didn’t want to stay for the monthly post-service meal because she doesn’t like eating in group situations, though she regretted saying no after she saw how good it looked) and asked if we’d stay for the meal, clearly recognizing us from last time. Lee volunteered that we’d bring something for next month’s meal, explaining to me later that she’d feel comfortable eating if we brought something, so I guess in a month I’ll be cooking some side dish to bring to our new church.

What I was trying to say was that the pastor wasn’t as engaging as the senior minister, but that’s probably because she and her fiancee are getting married this week and she clearly had a lot on her mind. She still managed to preach about using your own power to overcome the things that are annoying you in your life (timely!) and about putting yourself in a situation where you can meet your own true potential rather than what the world expects for you, giving the example of girls who underperform in math and science until they’re put in single-gender classrooms and find that without the burden of comparison they’re able to achieve at least as much as much as boys.

The senior minister’s message two weeks ago had been about adoption, how the Christian concept of God’s adoption of Christians is and isn’t like human adoption. She talked about her devotion to her children even though they weren’t her biological offspring and about how she has to put up with the bad behavior from the family’s newly adopted puppy because she made the choice to bring the dog into the family and so she has the responsibility of teaching the dog to learn better behaviors. But by the same token, humans have limits that she believes God doesn’t. She spoke about a friend of hers who disrupted a special-needs adoption because the child she adopted was too dangerous for other members of the family, and talked about how it’s not our job to judge this woman whatever we might think of her choice, but we need to know that God wouldn’t do that. And I’m not even bringing in the Michael Jackson references and the hilarious jokes and body language she used to get the whole message across, along with a close reading of the Bible passage she’d chosen, which was something I enjoy.

Basically it’s just really cool to have a lesbian minister talking about being a lesbian just as a general part of the church service. It really seems that we’ve found a place that will accept us as who we are — and their website says they’re open to people of any religion, though when we were one of about 15 in the congregation rather than 65 and were asked during the altar call if we’d been saved, I just lowered my eyes — and we’d even be part of a larger queer (and some straight) community. Although Lee’s preferred flavor of religion tends to be a little less charismatic, that element reminded her of relatives of hers who would have enjoyed it. And the music was what she’s been looking for. They also have the strong social justice focus I like, something that’s very clear as part of the sermons and in what they do outside of worship.

So I guess we’ve found our place. Lee asked what I thought and I told her I’d be glad to spend three hours a Sunday there, and that’s true. This is probably kind of odd for someone who’s a nonbeliever, but I don’t see a downside to being surrounded by so much joy, and it does seem to be a joyful church. We’ve said we’d want a home church especially in case we have a child in our care who wants to be attending somewhere, and this is a place where we wouldn’t have to worry about being outside the norm because everyone’s outside the norm in some ways. I’m not sure if Lee will be officially joining and becoming a member, but unofficially I think we have another element of our plan in place.

And as I was writing this, Claudia emailed me the profile of a boy who lives very far from here to ask if he’s the kind of child we’re looking for. I guess a lot of pieces of our plan are moving. And I hope what we can get from this weekend is how much it helps to have support from the magical people on the internet, how much it helps to have a supportive community face-to-face, and how much we absolutely need to remember how much we love each other even when we’re frustrated and worn down. It looks like the future might be coming faster than we expected, and I can’t imagine a better partner to share it with me. Well, I can imagine that my perfect partner would be Lee and when I get home today she’d be finishing dinner cooking and would have done laundry all day, but realistically I’m happy. Life is good. I am loved. I like that.

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and we have a plan

July 24, 2009

I’ve said that Lee has been mopey lately, and I’ve mostly responded to that by leaving her alone to sulk in peace. Last night we finally had a long conversation that left us both feeling much better, though the outcome wasn’t what I’d expected.

Lee’s willing to wait another year for a placement, and that’s her cutoff. If our file is out on some child a year from now, we’ll probably follow through on that but then that will be the last chance. If it works out any time between now and then, it works. We haven’t so far heard from Elizabeth or from the state worker, both of whom promised to get back to us with information about other kids who could potentially work. My personal feeling is that we’d be better off meeting the permanency workers so they know us and seeing if they can make a connection, but we’re going to keep making whatever decision seems best at the time. At any rate, the goal is to spend the next year trying to find a child.

The other side of the plan is that if we have no child in another year, that will be the end of it and we’ll change our focus to how to move from here to a place that will give us more rights and more fun. Lee’s kind of depressed that she’s ended up living in River City for pretty much her entire adult life, and she’d love to travel. If we’re not going to adopt (and despite the fact that only one of us can legally adopt here, it seems like a pretty good place to do special needs adoptions) we might as well be somewhere that will make us happier. We have a few hypothetical scenarios, but there’s plenty of time to worry about that in a year.

Both aspects of the plan came directly from Lee. Well, I got her to scale back a bit from “and if we don’t have a child in a year, we’re leaving town” to something a little more open-ended that takes into account fluctuations in the economy and our personal interests and blah blah blah. Anyone who reads here knows I’m good at hedging and overusing parentheticals, and it was an example of that. I’m surprised she was willing to put in a whole year of waiting, but she was the one who suggested that duration. I’m certainly fine with it; becoming a parent as 30 seems no different from doing it at 29.

All of this is subject to change, too. If Lee decides three months in that she can’t handle the stress of waiting for a child, then that will be the decision. I’d have a really hard time with that decision, but I’m not going to talk her into doing something she doesn’t want to do. And with our current system, I don’t have to. Instead last night we both just felt relieved that this wasn’t going to be much of an issue between us anymore, that at least we had common ground.

Lee’s been relatively chipper since then, so I think the pressure of some sort must have been really weighing on her. We’ll be heading to Columbus for a baby shower, really largely a chance to meet blog people and bring them from the fictional world to my real one. I’ve asked Lee to read Dawn’s essay from One Big Happy Family and I don’t know if she’s done it yet, but that way she’ll know about the family from something other than just my explanation of what goes on there. Is that weird? I guess I don’t care since I already did it. Anyway, I think it will be good for us to get away from home and eat tasty food and talk to people about adoption without having to talk to the same people who are always asking about our adoption…. And if people do want to talk about our adoption, at least we can tell them we have a plan.

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officially moving on

July 22, 2009

To put my thesis sentence first, we’ve been officially turned down as a potential family for Mychael. Either we’ll get a letter in the mail or Elizabeth will get a message at some point explaining what the rationale was, but the important part is that we weren’t right for him.

The way we found this out is that Lee apparently had a fairly lengthy conversation with one of the statewide adoption workers (a person you’d contact if you were adopting from out-of-state) after she’d initially called this woman about tracking down where our file was in the process. We’d initially told Elizabeth there were four other boys from the photolistings who looked promising. One of them (Lee’s beloved Jake, whom we know has some big psychological problems and has had one adoptive placement disrupt already in the last year) is currently tentatively linked to another family. So Lee gave this woman the other three names and was able to find out a lot about the 13-year-old Lee really likes, a bit about the older teen, and basically nothing about the 10-year-old. The worker will call us back later (today? this week? Who knows?) with basic information on them, though she warned Lee not to get used to this kind of quick and personal treatment.

I’d emailed Elizabeth yesterday to explain that we were having a hard time coming to an agreement about what to do if things weren’t resolved with Mychael. Now that they are resolved, I guess I have to write her again as soon as I finish this. Lee’s initial plan had been to immediately send in our file on the 13-year-old, but if we can get basic information on all these kids first, that might help us make a better decision this time. For one thing, this boy has said he wants to be placed with a white family and since he’d get at least some veto power over his adoptive placement, there might not be much point offering him a home with a black mom. I don’t know!

Right now I’m not feeling sad or grieving for Mychael the way I did for Ezra. This was a very different process and still hard, still very much showing us how differently we approach emotionally difficult situations, but not hard and painful like that first decision was. Now I mostly feel relieved that we have a response and that we can now form some kind of gameplan, I hope one in which Lee will feel that her needs are being met.

I’m not sure she’ll feel like talking tonight. I’m not sure what exactly we’ll have to talk about. But I’ll be thinking plenty and probably going through a whole range of emotions too. And, I suppose, moving on to something else. At least we know; right now that feels most important to me. I hope Mychael finds the family he needs and I’m sorry it won’t be us, but I’m glad we know now.

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probably a relevant footnote

July 21, 2009

Sometimes the most obvious things are the ones I overlook. Yes, Lee and I had a night that left us saying some impatient and stressed-out things to one another. It was also the night when we learned my grandmother has been diagnosed with lymphoma. There’s no prognosis yet, certainly not until it’s clear what the spots on her lungs in her chest x-rays indicate. She’s 87 years old and not interested in aggressive treatments. This is the grandmother whose husband died in early March, not the one whose husband died in late January. I’ve been feeling sad but fairly neutral about it; I’d worried since I’d heard she had a strange growth or pain in her neck at the end of June. I’m holding off on being truly scared that another funeral is imminent until there’s at least a clear diagnosis or something more concrete.

So between all that and Lee’s conversations every few days with her sister (bio aunt) Grace, who’s had such a steep decline from complete lucidity into a certain amount of helplessness and even more hopelessness, it makes extra sense that Lee would be worried about running out of time and making the most of her relative youth. And it makes sense that I’d be wanting to not make any rash decisions until we know more. This is how we’re both feeling right now about others we love. So I’m sure that is playing out too in our discussions about adoption. I feel a fair bit better since realizing that, but I’m also sadder about my grandmother too. Emotions can be such complicated things.

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so frustrated

July 21, 2009

I guess I shouldn’t have written that Lee isn’t bothered by the amount of time we had to wait, because that no longer seems to be true. I’m not sure if she initially misread “six weeks” as “60 days” (which is double the suggested time) and that’s where her annoyance started or if it had just been building and she hadn’t said anything. Once again, we’re not quite on the same page and once again I don’t really know why. It’ll probably sound horrible and sexist to say I’m putting money on this one being hormone-related, but that’s how I feel at the moment. I’m sure part of it is how she really feels, but part of it just seems too impassioned to be normal for her.

And how Lee feels is that we’ve already waited too long, that time is a commodity for us. Everything I write here is going to be slanted to my annoyed view because I can already see some snippy comments wanting to make themselves onto my keyboard, but I’ll try to be fair to her. I’ll try to be fair to both of us; I can hardly assume I have any monopoly on truth. I’m the one who’s up at night because I can never get to sleep when there’s unresolved annoyance between us, so I’ve been combining that with my resolution to clean rather than criticize when I’m annoyed. The dishes are done, but I’m still a little rattled.

I know Lee is working under a self-imposed time limit because she’s in her mid 40s. I know she told me that she doesn’t have patience to go through this process too many more times. She wants to either have a resolution that leaves us with a child or give up on having children and focus on being able to afford a fantastic vacation home when she retires or relocate overseas or something like that. And I can understand that she’s not comfortable being up in the air and wants it to be over; obviously I feel the same way. I can also understand that she’s not able to be clear on what exactly her acceptable timeline is, because I don’t think she knows. She just can feel the end of the line coming for her and it’s making her antsy.

So last week we were talking to friends and I said that the wait was making me paranoid, that I keep expecting to be told we’re not good enough and the longer we wait the more worried I get about that. I said I’ve stopped really believing this will work out, when at first it felt like a sure thing. Lee scoffed at this, saying I was just being pessimistic and that Mychael was so obviously a great fit for us that I just had to loosen up and let it happen. She expressed similar support this weekend, even saying that she likes that from the picture we have, if he were out with either of us individually she thinks it would be easy for people to assume that this was a boy and his biological mother, which is a concept she’s come back to periodically that means something for her though I don’t think it would in any way be a deal-breaker if it weren’t the case.

Then tonight she said that we’ve waited too long. Sure, Mychael seems great, but we haven’t seen his whole file. She thinks I’m being unrealistic in saying that I believe he is on the very high-functioning end of things (and please, other foster/adoptive parents, don’t think I’m dismissing your children; I just think he seems to function basically within normal ranges for his age and background and that this is something to be excited about, especially since it’s clear after our wrangling about Ezra that Lee’s not open to more significant challenges.) and that it will be hard for us to find a child who’s equally or more “easy” than he seems to be. She thinks this is ridiculous since I’ve only seen the two files she’s also seen, though both of them seemed drastically more “difficult” than Mychael.

Her response is that the department in Mychael’s area needs to “shit or get off the pot,” in her words (and again I’m being unkind here because this is a figure of speech I happen to dislike) and that Elizabeth should notify them that we’re not interested anymore so that we can move on to looking at another child. It’s still not clear to me whether this means giving them another week, giving Elizabeth a few days to see if she gets a response from the people at the state level she queried today, or just sending this as an ultimatum tomorrow (which isn’t going to happen since she’s not going to do it without my participation.)

So here are my fears. Yes, we’ve put in six weeks on waiting for this child. I’d like to think that means at least some people on the committee have made a decision about us. So let’s say in another month we’d have our yes or no. If it’s yes, by three months from the start we’d have gotten through our meeting with all the key members of his team and would be ready to start meeting him. That could be just six weeks from now, could be even sooner especially if there were a move to find him a placement before school restarts.

If their answer is no or if it’s yes but our response to his file is that it won’t work, it’ll be a month from now and we’ll be wanting to hear from Elizabeth about one of the other children on our list. Then we restart the process, hoping to have an answer on that child within another month (2 months from now) and I guess quitting at six weeks if that’s what Lee’s going to demand.

If we quit right now, Mychael stays in the home he’s in. We have no idea if anyone else is interested in him. We were the only family when we put in our studies, but it’s quite possible other people will be happier to wait and find a place for him in their lives. And since we’re working through the state directly, I have no idea whether showing impatience and canceling a request would bring us negative attention. If we ended up having to send our homestudy to Mychael’s district again, would they ignore us as the family that cried wolf and wasn’t even committed enough to wait out the matching process?

Lee thinks I’m mostly so concerned about Mychael and wanting to follow this process through to its conclusion because I’m

If we quit on Mychael now, it could again be 2-3 weeks before Elizabeth can get us preliminary information on another child. Lee would probably want to go ahead and send out our file on a certain one initially, but it’s entirely possible that his mostly-positive writeup is not particularly indicative of what he’s like in reality and we’d be asking to be matched with someone whose needs are more than we can handle. As I see it, that could again be 2 months or so before we’re getting any answer on the child behind door number three.

I guess what I just keep telling myself is that every step of this process has had delays. Even when we were told that at a certain meeting we’d be assigned our homestudy workers and I was dying with anticipation, the assignments weren’t actually ready until the following week. And writing the homestudy took much longer than planned, as did getting it approved by our worker Kate’s boss. So that this matching process hasn’t gone quickly is hardly a surprise. I’ve had the other chances to be dying for an email that will give me what I want to know, and now I’m managing to be more passively expectant now when it matters most.

But I’ve also seen blogs lately where parents have disagreed on what they could handle and I’ve seen what damage that does to a family. I don’t want us to start out on a bad note that will put us under more stress than just starting a family is. I want us to be united, and I don’t want Lee to think I forced her into waiting around because I liked a child (and I think that’s the narrative this is now falling into for her) but I also don’t want to feel like I was pressured out of holding on when I wanted to.

At this point our plan is to talk about it again tomorrow and probably send Elizabeth an email just letting her know that the wait is getting to us and that we want to know what if anything our options are. I know people recommend not being overly frank with our workers, but she was very helpful when Lee and I had differences of opinion about Ezra and it helped her feel she understood us better. I think I can phrase all of this neutrally and abstractly enough that she’ll be able to give us advice without having ammunition against us down the line if anything goes wrong.

And like I said at first, maybe Lee will wake up and her hormones will have shifted and she’ll be all sunny and optimistic about Mychael again. Similar situations have certainly arisen before. And maybe I’ll get this venting out of my system (though again I feel guilty that I’m writing her in the bad guy role here; this would all be easier if I didn’t suspect she’s seeing things that I’m unwilling to see!) and get some sleep eventually and wake up tired but more at peace. I don’t think this is in any way the end of our story. It’s just one more sticky step along the way.

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Mychael’s worker

July 20, 2009

I’ve been mentally writing a post about the gay black church (though it doesn’t like being described as a gay black church) we attended a week ago Sunday, but obviously I haven’t gotten through it yet. We’ll probably be going back again this Sunday when the full congregation will be there instead of having virtually all the leadership and a lot of the general community away at the annual meeting of affiliated churches. Maybe then or even before then I’ll actually write a post about our experience, which was both very positive and directly related to adoption discourse.

For now, though, I’m writing to say that we wrote our weekly email to Elizabeth saying, “Hey, it’s Monday and so it’s been another week since Mychael’s worker got our file. Any word? Any way to find anything out??” and today there was a bit of an answer. It’s six weeks today, by the way, in case you’re counting. Obviously I’m counting, but Lee isn’t; sometimes it seems like a long time to her and sometimes she’s just glad we have lots of time to prepare and work on the house.

The only word we really got is that Mychael’s worker is out on maternity leave. I don’t know if the department has funding to cover for workers who are on maternity leave, though I know this was not the case a year ago when we were starting our classes and I can’t imagine funding has improved much. So someone will be covering his worker’s caseload somehow, but probably her cases just get farmed out to the other workers in her department until she returns. I have no idea what this means in terms of getting someone to know about Mychael and to read about us and be able to make a judgment from the caseworker standpoint.

Beside’s Mychael’s worker’s consent, we’ll also need our homestudy to be read and approved by the worker’s superior and probably by that region’s adoption coordinator. There may be more, but we’re counting on those three and at this point we don’t know if any of them have reviewed our file yet. And that not knowing is what I find so frustrating.

Emotionally, Lee’s convinced Mychael is the right child for us and that the placement will happen when it’s cosmically supposed to happen. I, too, think it seems like an awfully good match. I’m very positive. I think he looks heart-stoppingly adorable and would love to get to know him more, hear what’s going on behind those thoughtful eyes. But I’m also guarding my heart pretty significantly and maybe effectively at this point.

We’ve been talking some about how the pain of saying no to Ezra when I believed I could handle his issues was different from her pain of saying no to him because she didn’t think she could handle them, but they were both true and significant pains, not to mention the stress of worrying about each other through that process. I think because of that I’m not falling in love or letting myself say “when” or any of that, as if somehow that can prevent me from feeling the fallout if things don’t work. And maybe part of it is a superstitious don’t-count-your-chickens thing, but I also know I’m scared.

It’s also been a year since we started our training classes. A year doesn’t sound like a long time. When we started the classes, we were saying, “Well, maybe in a year we’ll have a child!” But this particular waiting is hard for me and I don’t know how to talk or think about it even though I’ve seen it on potential adoptive parent blogs all the time. I’m really scared deep down that someone in this process will decide that we’re not good enough, not worthy. And I’m not sure if I feel that fear because Mychael is a relatively easy child and I think they might want him to go to a mom-and-dad-type family or if it’s just my general self-defeating perfectionist conviction that no matter what happens, if someone could see into my soul she could see that I’m a fraud and not good enough for what I want.

I’m afraid when I talk about this frustration it will sound like I think of this adoption in commoditized terms, that the reason waiting is frustrating is like when you’ve got something you ordered online out for delivery and you keep checking to see if it’s been delivered to your house and refreshing the page all day to see if maybe now…. For me, the waiting is harder because I don’t know what kind of timeframe we’re looking at. If we could have a child next weekend, should I be planning another jaunt out of town? If we don’t know when we’ll be parenting, shouldn’t we plow as much money as we can into house repairs since we won’t have the financial flexibility to do so once the child is with us? It’s all crazy-making, at least for me, and I don’t deal with that well.

And then beyond all that there’s Mychael. I know when I finally get to read his full file (and I’m leaving that in there as I initially wrote it to prove that I do slip and say “when” when I’m thinking about this) I’m not going to be able to look at what’s going on in his current foster placement without wondering what could have been better if he’d been transitioning to us rather than seeing a substitute adoption worker while his worker’s on leave and our paperwork sits on someone’s desk somewhere. Even though our state’s system seems fairly good compared to others I read about, it’s very slow. And if that slowness lets them have the time they need to make good decisions, that’s a good thing. (And I’m not saying that placing Mychael with us would necessarily be a good decision, but talking more abstractly.) I don’t want to write too much about our state before I know more about how things actually work compared to how they’re supposed to work. If 30 days means 30 business days, we’ll be there by the end of the week. But right now Lee and I have been waiting six weeks for some word, and Mychael has been waiting six weeks without knowing anything about any of this. I hope that changes soon.

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30 days and …?

July 6, 2009

Okay, so we’re not at 30 days yet since we sent out our file to Mychael’s worker, but today is 4 weeks by the calendar and there’s still not a word. Lee and I talked about this on the drive home from Chicago yesterday (after many interesting — occasionally unexpected, though more on that later — conversations with each other over the course of our trips) and I think we’re both in the same place about this. I’m not feeling the same level of excitement/nervousness/anticipation I was when we were waiting for his preliminary information. And all we really got then was a list of his diagnoses plus some basic information about his family and how many times he’s been moved while in care. Instead I’m just waiting and figuring we’ll find out in the nt week or so maybe and that there’s nothing we can do anyway until we know more.

But what’s frustrating is that as I understand it we’re supposed to be the top priority in adoption decisions. We’re a licensed in-state family with an active homestudy and openings in our home now. I believe we get priority over out-of-state families making requests, but I don’t know whether that means out-of-state families get just a cursory review before they’re refused within 30 days and we get more or what’s going on. We just don’t know.

And however you want to mark the 30 days, whether we’re waiting until next Monday to start pushing again or not, 30 days is a long time in the life of a child. 30 days (again, my understanding of things) means his caseworker will have gone out to see him one more time, will have written up updates on how he’s doing. His foster family will have had to fill out paperwork and get reimbursement for him again.

I think the wait is getting to Lee more than I’d realized. She told me the other night that she’s been praying for a sign, that if we’re “meant” to adopt, Mychael will work out for us. At the time, as we were falling asleep and she didn’t want to talk about this anymore, I got panicky because it sounded like she was saying if Mychael didn’t work she was over this. But she meant that we’ve put in a year and at this point she’s not really willing to put in more than another year at most, maybe less. She doesn’t want to be a first-time parent at 50 and while she still has a few years to get there, I can see why being older makes her feel she wants closure now rather than later.

So she doesn’t mean that Mychael is our last chance, but rather that time is limited for her too. And until we hear about Mychael, we’re not allowed to get information on any other kids in state care. We have to just wait until we have information from his worker about whether we’re approved, if we’re approved read his file and make a decision, then move on with that decision and either get to know him or start in with someone else. Or we’ll be told that we’re not approved, and I think that would be a blow to both of us unless there was some really strong rationale to find a better placement for him, because his issues seem so mild in the scheme of things and we could meet his cultural needs on several fronts and I think if it’s any reason other than “he needs a dad in the house” (and even that seems like a potential cover for homophobia) we’ll both have some mopey-reevaluation of ourselves to do. (And was that a long enough sentence for you? Hope so!)

So that’s how the waiting is going for us. Our new front porch should be finished today. It had been that fake wrought-iron, and it was flaking and looking pretty nasty. So we hired the guy who’d previously painted our porch and around all our windows to come and put up new wooden posts and I’d found a composite railing system on huge markdown, so we’ll have crisp white columns and white railings against our faded brick house, and it should look great. My garden is coming in nicely (and I’m writing from the side patio now!) and I need more sedum as groundcover but other than that am finished planting.

Our trips were great and I’m sure I’ll write more about being the white girl with the shea butter in a group of black women and about how great it is to see Lee with other black lesbians and about how cool it was to end up at Chicago’s Black Gay Pride even though it was just a park full of gay teenagers. In fact, I think that was cooler than if we’d ended up at the other park with fancier parties. Just seeing these young people being themselves and having a place to explore and express that safely and supportively meant so much to me. Lee sort of rolled her eyes, but I think she was impressed too. We talked about how like and how unlike these kids seemed from me shyly going to gay youth group for the first time in high school, her edging her terrified way into gay bars as soon as she was legal. In a year of gay-bashings and young teen suicides, it was so refreshing to see this laid-back, wholesome, young queer fun.

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getting ready

July 3, 2009

Thanks to everyone who read and responded to my post about Lee’s need for reassurance. I had no idea it would be so popular or that it would seem insightful to people! That shows me there are real benefits to learning from someone who’s had time to age and heal from some of the behaviors and tendencies many of these kids have. I get to see a form that’s probably much more tolerable.

And on that note, Lee actually did make steaks for dinner last night. And unlike my example, she only asked once how mine was. I said it was delicious (which it was) and that I was very happy with it, then elaborated a bit about why. “Oh, Thorn! You always know what to say!” was the response I often get these days. I told her saying the right, true thing was part of my job and that I know she needs reassurance, and that was basically it. I did say a few positive things later in the meal, but she didn’t ask for any more positive reinforcement.

That’s actually getting to be our pattern with smaller things, that if I know how to handle things the way that suits her needs I can generally avoid a long conversation with lots of repetition. There are still big things where she does need the help, which is one of the reasons I so often go with her to school-related events, so I can talk her down afterward when she’s convinced her dean thinks she’s a goofball or something. I’m guessing this is a coping technique, because if she asked the dean over and over for reassurance, the dean would think she was a little odd. So she’s learned how to direct it just to me as a safe person, and it’s part of my role to listen and respond.

I have plenty of other roles too, and today it’s going to be the odd one of pushing her to socialize. We’ll be in Chicago with a group of women I know online, a community of black women with natural hair (and me). Although I met them because I was needing advice about Lee’s hair, they’re my friends rather than hers and she’s been a little bit skeptical about hanging out with them. This is totally a switch for us, because I’m generally fairly shy and the vast majority of the people we jointly know were friends of hers first. Now, though, we’ll be going to Black Pride (which is a gay pride celebration for people of color, not specifically a racial pride thing) and Taste of Chicago and just hanging out and tooling around with people I know deeply online and not at all in person and people she doesn’t know at all. I’m glad we’ll be trying something new, and I expect good things.

And since all that socializing is going to take a toll on me, I’m taking the whole next week off work through a sabbatical program my job offers. I feel so lucky to work for this organization that will give me parental leave, that already gives me far more vacation and benefits than most Americans get. I’m writing this here to remind me I said it when it’s time for me to go back in a week and I’d rather be home, but I honestly do feel very fortunate. And I’ll have a week to get everything of mine moved from what will be the child’s room down to the basement, which is going to be my little area in the future.

Lee said yesterday she’s not worried about having to wait to hear about Mychael. (I, of course, am going through doomsday scenarios in my head. What if we’re not good enough because we’re gay? What if they’ve made a decision and forgotten to tell us? What if it takes TWO months for them to decide, since we can’t get any information on any other children until we have a decision here?) She doesn’t feel like it’s been a long time and thinks in the scheme of things we’re moving quickly on this. That’s true, since it’ll only be a year this month since we started our training classes and there were plenty of holdups along the way. Still, I’ll be clearing out the bedroom and getting it more child-oriented because we’re going to hear someday soon and we may have to be ready to move quickly. I’m glad she’s not having the same emotional response I am, but I think once things get going Lee will be as excited as I am too. I know she’s looking forward to being a mom. We both are. But first we get to enjoy being non-moms out on the town with some new friends from all over the country, and I think we can handle that too.

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