By Stephen and Adam Podowitz-Thomas
As the Easter and Passover seasons are wrapping up in the Podowitz-Thomas household, we’ve been thinking more and more about how we’re going to share our religious traditions with our children. As an interfaith couple, we’ve had to navigate recognition and appreciation of one another’s beliefs throughout our relationship, but when talking about how to raise our children, we’ve noticed that things have the potential to get more complicated.
Stomping on glass at the end of our wedding ceremony.
One thing we’ve done for ourselves, and we hope to continue with our kids, is emphasize the commonalities of our religious experiences. A central aspect of our separate religious upbringings has been the importance that community played in our faith, particularly the role of a congregation.
Adam’s spiritual community growing up was his Presbyterian church, located in a pre-Revolutionary sanctuary. His congregation was a place of support, safety, and most importantly, delicious food at their regular congregational potlucks after services.
I grew up attending services at my family’s local shul (i.e., synagogue in Yiddish) in a tight-knit community. As a young child, many of my friends grew up observing the Sabbath without any form of work or the use of electronics. Having time to spend with friends and family encouraged us to come together, share a meal, prayers, and other religious rites that can easily get lost in the shuffle of day-to-day life.
Bringing people together in celebration was also an important element of our wedding, conducted jointly by a Methodist minister and a Rabbi. But even more essential to us was that we both felt represented in the aspects of the ceremony itself. Incorporating elements from both our traditions, including a chuppah, sharing a glass of wine, and a benediction from our minister, as well as stomping a glass, the ceremony turned into a somewhat eclectic blend of the Northeast, the South, Judaism, and Christianity, but represented who we are, both individually and as a couple. And this blending is also who our child is going to be; hopefully, with the addition of traditions from their birth families.
This blending of traditions has also played out in our celebration of holidays. Over the years, Adam has attended community Passover seders with me and our mutual friends and we have decked out our apartment with garlands and stockings every Christmas. We’re looking forward to making our child’s first latkes for Hanukkah and watching them hunt for eggs at Easter.
Our cat, Amelia, was not in the Holiday spirit.
In short, we’re not sure how it’s all going to go. We’re not sure how our child will identify religiously and we’re not sure, ultimately, that it matters. Through our years together as a couple sharing our own beliefs with one another, we’ve come to appreciate that feelings of support and respect are really the most important thing. And as long as we pass that lesson on to our child, we can be happy with the job we’ve done.
For more information about Stephen & Adam’s adoption journey, visit our adoption page.
The equality movement is chugging along like a freight train with the lights on and the horn blaring. Living in the south, we are well aware that our home state is resisting change and pushing back with anti-gay legislation. After becoming a brand new family of three, waiting for marriage equality in Tennessee had become less desirable and frustrating. I have always joked about shotgun weddings, but I believe there is some subconscious thought process after a child is on the way that made us both start to plan the “official” happily ever after.
A date was set while both Matthew and I were on paternity leave. The three of us would travel to Washington, DC for the time needed to apply for a marriage license, the three-day wait period and the actual ceremony. We carefully debated the idea of inviting our parents, but after the adoption process that was still ongoing, our new little family will be the only ones participating in a very private ceremony. I am sure there are many of you that can relate with me on this, the adoption process is very open and public. You are constantly networking in an effort to reach potential expecting mothers who are considering adoption for their unborn child. Our previous 14 months had been a frenzy of emotions and exhaustion and this was our chance to share a special moment without the worry of planning, catering, hotels and everyone commuting seven hours to the nation’s capital.
Our marriage trip was spectacular. The decision to have a private ceremony as a family was the perfect way to celebrate and enter into this life long commitment. Words cannot describe this beautiful day that will forever be imprinted in my mind. The weather was phenomenal. Harper looked beautiful in her white dress. Yes, someone had to be in a white dress. Instead of a wedding cake, we celebrated with a street vendor hot dog. Our wedding was one of a kind!
Our Mini Wedding Album
There are several things that I learned on our journey to marriage and parenthood. The majority of people support equality. A large majority! We were very concerned with possible reactions that we might receive when applying for a marriage license. Everyone was spectacular and Harper stole the show. Living in Tennessee, we have been beyond surprised by the outpouring of support and encouragement from our community. This experience was very moving for both of us and we are optimistic about full equality, even in the south, as days pass by.
People consider our relationship as newlyweds and think it is a fairly new commitment. We have now been married for almost six months, and our lives technically are no different from before. Matthew and I would have married years ago if it were not for discriminatory laws in Tennessee. It seems like we hear the word commitment a lot. “Marriage is a huge commitment” and “We are excited for your commitment.” The truth is, our commitment started six years ago. March 11, 2008 we made our commitment to each other. The major difference is the lack of commitment many states have towards their citizens and recognizing their commitment to marriage equality.
Justin and I started our journey for adoption a little over a year ago. We have talked about what a roller coaster the journey has been. We have had hurdles with agencies accepting us as an LGBT couple even though we have been together over 10 years. We have had people call and scam us about being a birthmother and then not even being pregnant. But we hit the greatest obstacle on our journey yet…. the words “some assembly required”.
We bought several items to put in the nursery such as a toy chest, Pack and Play, and a baby sleeper. Thinking it was a rainy Sunday and we would assemble them for something fun to do together, we dumped boxes of parts out on the floor. Hours later, and I emphasize hours, we have a toy chest assembled with the drawers in backwards! We held out the instructions that have no words, just drawings of screws and wooden pegs with an arrow pointing to another piece. I think Justin even said at one point “are you sure we are reading this right side up?”.
Now keep in mind we are both smart people. I have an engineering degree and should be able to figure this thing out in a heartbeat. But we sat there in our pile of screws, pegs, side A’s, and front panel’s for hours putting together these simple pieces. It got me chuckling that in order to be a parent you really need to be part daddy and part engineer to figure out how to assemble the nursery.
One of the best things we did when we bought the crib last summer was paid the deliverymen to assemble it. For $20 they would deliver and assemble it. Money well spent in my eyes. Justin probably agrees, because I am sure we would be divorced if we had to put that together ourselves. Or we would have 5 screws left worried if our crib would fall over!
Just wait until years from now when our child is waiting for Christmas or their birthday. The daddy engineers will be in the family room assembling their toys. I know the “some assembly required” is going to get more complicated with a kid hovering over us waiting for the toy to be done – and it will be worth every moment of agony assembling when we see the joy in our child’s eyes playing with the toy. Tonight the hopeful dads and part engineers sit together in the nursery dreaming. We are blessed and hopeful of things to come. Keep us in your thoughts this month.
Read more about Jason and Justin’s journey to become parents on JasonandJustin.com.
Vladimir Putin is used to winning. He is undisputedly a winner from the recent LGBT confrontation-free Olympic Games. He now has his eyes set on the Ukraine and he has taken control of the internet in Russia. The biggest snowjob was not the white wet stuff on the ground in Sochi, it was the year of neigh saying by the Olympic and Russian authorities about treatment of gay people in the former Soviet Union.
Last week came news that Mr. Putin has been nominated in another contest—for a Nobel Prize due to his influence on the conflict in Syria.
As a dad, more than as a gay man, the idea of Putin getting any kind of an award is unfathomable. His treatment of LGBT people is horrific, with gay men being hunted, humiliated and abused, as seen in the film Hunted.
Then there are the million children. Putin and his policies are one of the single greatest forces of child destruction in the world.
It is estimated that across Russia there are about one million un-parented children living in poorly managed foster care homes, and many living is overcrowded orphanages. The abuse of these kids is legendary. According to a Human Rights report, the children are force to stay still and not move, be tied to furniture, lie in urine soaked sheets, stand en masse in wooden pens even in winter, be beaten, starved and ignored. When the children reach 15 or 16, they leave the system. A UNICEF report estimates that a third of them then live on the streets, twenty percent become criminals, and ten percent commit suicide.
The children who have been rescued from this squalor are among the most damaged of the world’s orphans. Parents worldwide have reported how the children they receive into their open arms are ones with all hope and vigor drained from their beings. Saving them is a long process.
Journalist Mary Gold described her own experience when she got her daughter who had been in a Russian foster care home, ““We have since heard horror stories of dreadful conditions in some homes, of babies with dummies taped into their mouths for hours on end; of children who are still being bottle-fed at the age of eight and haven’t been taught to walk or talk. We discovered that our baby had left her cot only to be washed. She had never breathed fresh air — the room in which she was confined was stiflingly hot — and neither had she seen her own reflection. When we collected her four months after we first met her (the time it took for the adoption process to be completed), she was 17 months old but still weighed a pitiful 17lb.”
Russian doctor Vera Drobinskaya told the BBC last year that she discovered conditions in the one orphanage were so bad that “at least 41 children had died over 10 years, apparently of neglect.”
A group in Russia is charted with a desperate band-aid mission. The group called Russia Without Orphans has targeted Moscow where they estimate there are 18,000 orphans. Their goal is to create a solution for the 4000 of those kids who are not placed in foster care homes. The perk of the program is that the people who sign up for it get a state funded apartment in which to raise the kids. The requirements are that the participants must take a minimum of 5 children “of which at least three teenagers over 12 years or children with disabilities”.
This is a situation that calls for a massive international relief effort. Putin’s government is not the least bit interested. Rather than establishing means to better care for parentless kids, they seem fixated on minimizing the potential international parent candidates by propping up homophobia. The parents from the United States have been banned for over a year. CNN also reported, “Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree banning foreign same-sex couples — as well as single people from countries where same-sex marriages are legal — from adopting Russian children…The portion affecting singles appears to stem from concerns Russian lawmakers have publicly expressed that single prospective adoptive parents could turn out to be gay and enter a same-sex marriage in their home countries.” This action closed down prospective adoptions from over a dozen countries. Whether blinding bigotry drives this policy or whether LGBT abuse is a smokescreen to distract the world from Russia’s social failures is open for conjecture.
As a dad, I need to speak up. Will I be listened to? Probably not, but if I don’t sound out on this, I can’t expect others to either. If no one does, then a million children will stay trapped, abandoned, and facing a horrific present with a destructive dysfunctional future.
Dear President Putin,
I am the dad of two kids. You are essentially the father of a country and one of the most powerful men on earth. There are days that I am not sure I have the power to make my kids clean their room. Yet, I have the audacity to write to you and offer you advice to your horrifically failed systems regarding the Russian children. I also represent the one community who could be your greatest resource for help, the world’s LGBT families.
I write because I can. I write because we come from two different worlds. My sons enjoy the Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass stories. To them, they are pure fiction. For you and I, they seem to be an allegorical reality. I come from this side of the looking glass, from atop the rabbit hole. You rule the other side—the one where the leaders wear the picture of a big heart while screeching for their subjects to lose their heads.
Here is why I am writing to you. You are a child abuser. You are nominated for a Nobel prize, but you abuse the children of Russia.
Your children services infrastructure has failed and the children it tortures are among the world’s most traumatized when they emerge from it. That is, if they are lucky enough to emerge from it at all.
Meanwhile, in your through-the-looking-glass logic, you attack gay families and call us child molesters. A University of Cambridge study showed that gay dad lead families are the most likely to come to the rescue of kids like the ones you have trapped in a hopeless and bureaucratic system. An Australian study, the most comprehensive and accurate of its kind, shows that kids raised in LGBT families fair BETTER than they do in heterosexual ones.
It is inconceivable therefore that you shut the door to countries who allow such families to adopt. Even in the United States a few decades ago where LGBT couples were not allowed to marry anywhere, they were still allowed to be foster care parents in most of the states of the union. While the anti-gay forces towed their party line that marriage was for only for heterosexuals with children, they were pragmatic enough to know that they needed our families to take kids who would otherwise suffer with neglect.
Down the rabbit hole, such logic does not seem to exist. Instead, you insist that children either suffer in groups, or are put in your “best case” scenario, that in our country would itself be considered substandard. I know what these kids really need because my two sons are special needs kids. They would not be OK in Russia.
Both my sons were adopted as babies from drug addicted heterosexual parents. They are now eleven years old, born four months apart from each other. My oldest has had therapy to help him process language, to understand sequences and conceptual ideas. It was only a year ago for example, that he could understand what the words “yesterday” and “tomorrow” meant since the actual days they represent change…daily. He had to be taught things that most kids will learn by osmosis.
My other son has severe issues with the ability to focus and used to write everything as a complete mirror image of itself. He too had to be taught…everything. We had to teach him how to turn things around, and make them right.
This is just what I am pleading for you to do in your own country. Turn things around and make them right. I am hoping that the dad in me can reach the dad of a country in you. To that point, one of the things I have learned as a dad is that you cannot do it all alone. At times, it is OK to ask for help. That has been true for me. It is obviously true for you.
You cannot solve your orphaned children situation alone. Forcing even three special needs kids into a home with two other kids and an adult paid to parent them, is not the answer. While it is better than children chained to a bed, it is still far from the minimum those children require for healthy lives.
My sons just returned from a three-day science camp. As I cuddled with my son Jesse in a pile of stuffed animals, he told me about his adventures. He rested his head against my chest and I could feel his world in this teddy bear pile, get as safe and warm as is humanly possible. I gently kissed his head, as my mind wandered to the idea of a Russian Jesse, alone, shut down, with no daddy in sight. My heart breaks knowing there are a million Jesses in your country.
You need help. Rather than restricting your adoption policies, you need to open them wide. Rather than rejecting families who do not biologically procreate, you need to embrace them.
Magic can happen on this side of the looking glass—if you reach out for help, you will get it. If you confront the situation as it really is, and let the world know you need one million families who are willing to love the most needy kids on earth, those families will step up.
They will forgive you, and they will be there for those kids. They will love them, nurture them and heal them. People will call them heroes, but they will consider themselves to be the lucky ones, because they will have the privilege of loving. I am not speaking in theory. This is characteristic of hundreds of LGBT foster families I know.
If you reversed your policies, and emerged from the “Wonderland” world, making things right-sized and no longer backwards, then these families could do what they were meant to do. Others would look at them and tell them how they all deserved Nobel Prizes for their work.
They would not accept those accolades, however; they would want the prizes to go instead to someone who made it all possible.
They would want to give the prize to you.
By Anthony Romeo
It’s the time of night in New York City when the neon lights are casting a purple pallor over the low-hanging clouds, wispy violet tendrils inching through the avenues, before another sun goes to sleep in a sleepless city. And I’m not watching it at all, because I’m watching a baby try to poop.
This must be one hell of a poop. I can see the furrowed brow of concentration and force, coupled with the scrunched cheeks and tightened fist of determination. This baby is about to accomplish something enormous, and I can’t turn away.
These things have been happening lately, you see. I just find myself captivated. Whether it’s a baby in a grocery store who can’t stop putting the broccoli in his mouth or the little girl at the rink in a hockey jersey in her Dad’s arms, smiling at me as an entire period of hockey passes by without my knowledge.
Our neighbor’s 11-month old baby is the light and the joy of living in our duplex. He hugs me, and tugs on my facial scruff, and always beams when he sees me. He sat on my lap for the entirety of his first musical. We immediately steal our friends’ babies and hold them until we are forced to give them back. Maybe steal is a harsh word.
If I had ovaries, I think it would be safe to say they’ve been aching. I want a baby. I want a baby very, very badly. All around us now, as my husband and I slide handsomely into our thirties, our friends are having babies. I’ve always been less interested in trends and more focused on what feels right for me individually.
I am so excited for my friends when I hear about their pregnancies. I have amazing friends, beautiful, loving, caring friends. And they’re going to make amazing moms and dads, I’m sure of it. Far be it from me to begrudge a woman her vagina. But there’s that part of me that wants a baby so badly for myself, for my husband. To make our family happen. We want to experience every moment of our baby’s life, from the first time we feel a tightened grip around our pointer fingers to the first diaper change, first word, first anything and first everything.
We started looking into the adoption process. In approaching my 30th year, I’ve lost the ego that tells me I need to have a child that is biologically mine. I will take any baby. I don’t care if the baby is Black, white, Asian, chubby, skinny or a jerk. Do you hear me? If you have a baby and it’s a jerk, I will take it. Pack his stuff in a box, I’ll pay for shipping and handling.
Well, the adoption research didn’t take very long, as it turns out. $2,500 for a home study. $1,000 for a home study update. $3,000 for pregnancy-related expenses. $3,000 for travel. $6,000 for out-of-state agency fees. $2,000 for “finalization expenses.” $1,500 for additional attorney fees. $150/hr. for birth parent counseling. $150/hr. for pre-adoption consultation. $150/hr. for private adoption information meetings. With specific agencies, there is a $20,000 child placement fee.
That’s at least $39,000. Thirty-nine thousand dollars. So ultimately, if we’re able to find a child who never needs to eat, wear clothes, go to school, leave the home or have any substantial quality of life, it looks like we just might be able to afford this.
If “Toys ‘R Us” sells toys, then logic would follow that “Babies ‘R Us”… nevermind. I already checked.
Maybe surrogacy would be easier, you might suggest. No, $80,000 is not easier than $39,000. Both are batsh*t crazy.
Real life is different than television. Couples like us are different from the couples on “Modern Family” and “The New Normal.” Money has to be earned, and that is hard.
We do not have, and will not have, an extra forty grand, or eighty grand just lying around. Can we afford to have a baby right now, in terms of the costs of living and providing for a newborn? Absolutely. Do we have the time to take care of a newborn? Absolutely. Do we have jobs that allow us the paternity leave to be there as our child grows up? Yes, we do. Are we ready? Mentally, emotionally, are we ready for our entire lives to change and adjust to a new life in the house? Yes. A thousand times, yes. And because our marriage is now legally recognized at the state and federal level, nothing is standing in the way of our having a family protected to the fullest extent of the law.
But unless Oprah or Ellen or Angelina Jolie is going to pay for a baby for us, we’re left watching for one sailing through the air from Rosie O’Donnell’s Koosh Launcher. Santa has left me disappointed every year. Let me appeal to you here, faithful reader. Looking past the insanity of adoption fees, here are the qualifications that I think make us fantastic candidates to be parents.
Me, Dad #1. (Or maybe it’ll be Pop? Daddy? Something cute our baby calls me that I can’t even imagine right now?) Here’s what I bring.
1.) I know every lullaby ever created. I am the best shower singer in theseUnited States. I have seen literally hundreds of Broadway shows and am prepared to sing that baby to sleep every single night of its life until it’s thirty or I’m dead.
2.) I have been a hockey fan for 20 years. I will care too much that my son or daughter is also a Devils fan. That child’s first Halloween costume will be in a hockey jersey. And there will be facepaint.
3.) Happiness and celebration matter to me. So there will be Christmas decorations and Halloween decorations and Easter decorations and the happiest of birthday parties and celebrations for good report cards and celebrations for Arbor Day because trees matter and on President’s Day I might dress up as Thomas Jefferson because it will make my child laugh and all I want in this world is to have a child that is mine and to make it laugh.
4.) I don’t know how to do girl’s hair. I will probably never know how tobraid, but I will happily send my daughter to school with a sloppy braid, because I will try so hard. Hmm, maybe that’s not my best sell. You know what, we have friends who will do her hair.
My Hubby, Dad #2 (Pop might be a better name here, he does wear old hats really well, and that feels like a “Pop” thing to do.)
1. He can cook anything, from anything, and it will be the most delicious dish you’ve ever eaten. I will only eat French Fries, but he will teach our child about being what other folks call “healthy and nutritious.”
2. He is a teacher, and he cares more about children than I could possibly imagine. He has dedicated his life to children, and if he works half as hard at being a dad as he does as a teacher, our child will be President. Unless we end up adopting that jerk baby we discussed earlier. Then maybe he’ll just wind up in the Senate.
3. He can parallel park better than anyone I’ve ever met.I feel like this is something that might not get covered in a home study for adoption, but my husband will out-parallel-park your husband eleven times out of ten. So I’m pretty sure our baby will be a great driver, and a responsible parker.
4. He is a good man. Good men make good fathers. This is a no-brainer.So, there it is. These are among the many and varied reasons that I think we will be good parents, should be parents. Our parents can’t wait to spoil a baby. This would be the first grandchild in our family, and I think you all know what that means.
There will be too many family members passing around the new baby, too many stories about what we were both like as babies ourselves. Too many toys, shiny plastic celebrations of a new beginning. And there will be embarrassing photos trotted out, like this one.
My body and my head and my heart feel like they can’t wait to be holding a tiny bundle of baby-love in my arms. But I have to wait. For something, I suppose. A magical stork in a cabbage patch, a family who hears about two dads-in-waiting or an overhaul of the costs of the adoption system that makes adoption affordable for two dads with a lot of love and a lot of hope. For now, we have our cat. And as much as he puts up a fight when it’s time to put his pajamas on, it’s the best we can do. It is all we can do. It’s just a little less fun to see him poop.
Until then, we’ll find happiness in unexpected places. Grocery stores, hockey games, our friends’ homes. And their babies. Every tiny smile and giggle we’re lucky to share. Someday our prince or princess will come. And we can’t wait to be part of it. Even if waiting is the only thing we can do.
(Author’s Note — All babies pictured in the above article are otherwise spoken for, with parents who will not give them up, no matter how hard I try. I’ve even offered chocolate. They aren’t budging.
Thanks to the parents of Baby Max and Andie Lynn for use of the adorable pictures.)
You can follow Anthony on Twitter
Last night we celebrated our friend’s birthday and enjoyed an evening of fun, frivolity, and meeting new people. Fun and frivolity are always goods, but meeting new people is always a crapshoot. You just never know what you’re going to get.
Well last night we got lucky. We spent almost the entire night with two different lesbian couples. One couple was about 3-4 months away from being ready for the adoption journey. We reminisced about parenting classes, the paperwork, the birthmother letter, and the home study. That seems like ages ago, but I was happy to give my words of caution. Having experienced the loss of a child after 24 hours in my home, I might have a unique perspective on the whole adoption thing. While the end result of my adoption journey was a beautiful healthy baby that is now a really great 6 ½- year old, I still find that I get a pang of worry for those embarking on this endeavor. Hopefully through the stories of my ups and downs, the new parents of today can have a little easier go of it. In some ways little ole me might be a kind of trailblazer.
Just when I’m up on my high horse, I meet the second lesbian couple and realize that I am speaking with true pioneers who took risks in the past that those of us in the current can hardly fathom.
Jane and Mary (not their real names) have been in love for 38 years. Jane had a son from her first marriage to a physically and emotionally abusive husband. The ex-husband is out of the picture, and the son didn’t turn out so well due to the collateral damage of divorce. In fact, although they live in the county next to his, they have no contact with him.
They brought a daughter into this world with the help of a gay friend with premium sperm, a turkey baster of some sort, and a cooperating uterus. Since it was illegal at the time and the place they were living (i.e. the United States of America), they had to suffer through a clandestine pregnancy and birth before presenting their daughter to the world.
They were finally able to consummate their relationship last year with a fabulous wedding attended by 800 of their closest friends. They are supremely proud of their daughter, who is successful in her business and out & proud in her own gay life with her own loving wife who is now pregnant with their first child, a baby girl.
Most of the night was spent learning about the great pains they had to go through in the workplace, in their daughter’s school, and even their own back yard. They remain completely amazed how things have turned around in this country, and how much easier it is to live as an out gay person. Alen and I had to confess that we often forget that we are actually a gay couple, not because sex after children has dwindled to a trickle, but because we perceive so much support from those around us, namely family, friends, and neighbors. We realized after we left the party that we owe our perception (and in most case reality) to all the Janes and Marys of the world who came before us and made today easier for us to survive. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
By Meika Rouda
When I was in college I attended my first pro-choice rally. We wore t-shirts with slogans like “U.S. out of my Uterus” and “Uncle Sam Stay Out of My Pants”. We went to Washington D.C. and marched for women’s rights.That was twenty years ago. While abortion is still a right that we need to fight for, reproduction freedom has changed greatly. There are several new debates on the table, things that are complicated and raise intense moral questions. For example, how many fertilized eggs should be implanted into a woman? We all remember the horror of Octomom who now says it was a mistake to go back for IVF treatments when she already had 6 children. Um… yeah. Wasn’t there anyone in the fertility to clinic to talk to her, make sure she was stable mentally and financially before they implanted her with multiple embryos? What about sperm donors, should there be a limit to how many times a donor is used for fertilization? What about the concern regarding cross-pollination of half siblings, meeting and falling in love and having children of their own? What about donor eggs? And what about age? Should we limit the age that women can undergo IVF? Is it natural for a 50 year old woman to be pregnant? How does the later age of motherhood affect the current population of children?
All of these reproductive questions makes abortion seem like a simple issue. You either believe in the right to choose or you don’t. While artificial reproductive technology is a pandora’s box of topics to be considered. There are clinics that will perform low cost abortions to those who need or want one but there are no low cost clinics for IVF in the U.S.This is a business with very little ethical boundaries for right and wrong. So while we feel entitled to having our own “natural” children with completely unnatural procedures, we think little about the repercussions of those actions on our bodies and our society. In the past 35 years, since the first “test tube baby” 5 million children have been born through artificial reproductive technologies. In 2009 in the U.S., 60,000 babies were born through IVF and the number has been steadily increasing each year. There needs to be regulation in place to make sure parents and children are cared for responsibly. While women are still fighting for the right to choose and new laws are being placed constantly restricting a women’s right to an abortion, no one is governing reproductive clinics. We know Octomom and Kate Gosslin have regrets and yet the people who will suffer the most will be there children. The science has clearly gotten ahead of the ethics. IVF is something that has been accepted by society as the new normal yet abortion is still a major battle in the U.S. Does anyone else think we may have our shirts on backwards?
By Meika Rouda
I haven’t been writing much this year. A slow spell of overwhelm came over me and I found it hard to muster the energy to write. It felt selfish of me, a purely indulgent act when so many other things needed to get done. First off are the kids, they need, well, everything. Food made, butts wiped, shoe laces tied, booboo’s kissed, nightmares scared off, hugs and kisses and books read constantly. Then there is housework, the laundry, the bills the groceries and the dinner to be made for my husband not to mention the bonding dinner time conversation so we can continue having a loving relationship even though I just want to go to bed and read a book alone. The writing was for me and me just isn’t a priority right now. I don’t mean to sound like a martyr but I realize I am always in a rush, not just on a daily basis to get the kids to school or be at an appointment on time but in a rush to make things happen. I want to finish my book and move on with other projects. I want to see The Next Family Anthology come to fruition and be published. Everything feels like it needs to happen now or else. Or else what? Maybe rushing isn’t what it is about? Right now I need to think about my family, my son’s multiple doctor’s appointments to treat his self control issues, my daughter’s gymnastic classes, my husband’s demanding job and allow myself a stint on the sidelines. I haven’t exercised in ten months and the lines on my face are growing at an alarming rate but still I am grateful that I have this life. That these children who tirelessly need things are my children. I am grateful to have this time to be with my kids even if they drive me crazy sometimes. I know that my time will come, my time will come.
By Jason Holling
Waiting can seem like an eternity. While we wait to be matched, Justin and I have decided to focus on getting the nursery setup and networking so others see our profile. While we expected ups and downs in the adoption journey, I do not think we were fully prepared for some of the emotional highs and lows. And while we do not want to stop this ride by any means, we know there are still more to come on this roller coaster.
In our adoption classes prior to our profile going live, the agency helped to prepare us for the ups and downs that would soon come and we started to be contacted. I remember watching a video in the class that took place at the birth of a baby and the ups and downs the birthmother went through as well as the adoptive parents in the waiting room. Justin grabbed my leg as I wiped away a tear thinking of the emotional struggles both sides were going through. The story ended well and the baby had a safe home.
Justin and I have had some leads since our profile went live. While these have not worked out, we know our birthmother is out there still. I remember hanging up the phone with Justin after the initial phone call in the middle of the night. We were both on an emotional high as we hung up and sat on the floor of the nursery next to the crib talking about how excited we were. Could this be real? Could we be daddies in just a few short weeks? Then looking around the nursery in a panic at all the things we would have to do still to get ready. But then the lows come when we realized later that week it was someone that made up a story of having a baby just to make someone else feel horrible. Luckily we have our agency to help figure out what is real and what is a scam. Justin and I joked that the silver lining is that we are no longer nervous when the 800 number for the adoption rings and a potential birthmother is on the other side of the line. And what that person did to us was build our confidence for the next call that we know will come any time now!
Another component that helps us with the wait is networking. Networking is a huge component of getting noticed and finding a birthmother that is looking for a safe and secure family to place her child with. And many times it may be a friend who has a friend that knows someone considering adoption. Since going live in May, Justin and I have focused on networking and getting our profile out for potential birthmothers to see and connect with us. We have been using Facebook as one of the tools to tell people about our journey which has been a great way to connect with families that have adopted, birthmothers that have already placed, and people that are supporting our journey. Facebook has been hands down the best method for connecting and interacting with people in the adoption process. The messages and posts of successful adoptions from others give us hope and encouragement! We have had so many people write us stories and offer help it has been overwhelming at times.
So while waiting is hard, we know the emotional roller coaster we are on will be worth the wait in the end. Everyone that writes us to encourage us on our journey, we write back and thank. We are truly grateful for having so many supportive and loving people in our lives. Each time our blog is read, profile viewed, or someone adds our page on Facebook it gives us hope that our family will grow soon.
We are an approved family with Independent Adoption Center. Visit our profile and Dear Birthmother Letter at http://www.jasonandjustin.com.
By- Trey Darnell
The short five minute ride to the Abilene Fairfield Inn & Suites was a breeze. Harper did not even notice that she was riding solo in the back seat. It was the first and only time of the trip that she didn’t have company watching her every move. The hotel staff was waiting patiently for our arrival. Before we even opened the car door, several staff members were peeking out of the lobby. Hoping for a quick peek of the new arrival.
As we made it to the room with our cart full of bottles, diapers, luggage, baby clothing and everything else that would fit into the Honda Pilot, we were met with a pleasant surprise. The entire hotel staff had signed a banner that said “It’s a Girl.” They had even filled the room with pink balloons and pink flowers. We were in awe of the amazing hospitality that we had received from the hotel staff. It felt like Texas had rolled out the red carpet and welcomed us with open arms.
This would be our first night alone with Harper and our first chance to settle into our new roles as parents. For those of you that have adopted or are in the process of adopting are aware that you are theoretically babysitting until relinquishment documents have been signed and the termination process is complete. For an agency adoption, there is no reclaim period in Texas and the relinquishment documents cannot be signed until 72 hours after the birth of the child. Our counselor would be traveling to Abilene from Houston and had scheduled the meeting to sign all the documents at three o’clock the next afternoon. A world record for holding your breath? I had it in the bag.
Matthew and I had already planned to stay through the weekend and leave on Tuesday morning. It is not uncommon for an adoptive family to leave town immediately after the relinquishment documents have been signed, but we chose to wait five days after. It was necessary to us to spend as much time as possible with Mercy and Dylan (birth parents) and the rest of the birth family. Matthew and I wanted to reassure the entire family that this was not a goodbye. It was a new beginning. We are very committed to the idea and meaning of an open adoption.
(Thursday August 22, 2013)
The day had arrived that could make us dads. The hotel graciously offered a vacant suite for our counselor to use to obtain signatures on the relinquishment documents. Mercy and Stacie (Dylan’s mother) came to the hotel a couple of hours before the meeting. While Stacie and I talked about everything from food to medical insurance and the Army, Matthew got carried away with the digital camera. It seemed like every couple of seconds the sound of the camera shutter echoed through the room. I have never been a fan of getting my picture taken. My mother has an infatuation with pictures, so I blame her for my dislike. She can go to a two hour birthday party and take over 1,400 photos. What is the saying? You marry your mother. Matthew had so much fun. The results were phenomenal. Check out our Facebook page for all the photos.
Cindy, our counselor from the Independent Adoption Center, arrived and quickly asked who wanted to go first. My heart started to beat faster. I felt nauseous. My mind couldn’t think straight, and every possible outcome was playing out in my head. Cindy reentered the room and summoned the next person. All this was happening very fast. After what seemed like only four or five blinks of an eye, she returned and asked Matt and I to sign two forms. Two forms that officially made us dads!
Cindy posed for a couple of pictures, asked if we had any questions, gave a hug and left. I was effective in holding my composure as plans were being made for later that night. Everyone gave hugs and said a quick goodbye as we would see them in just a couple of hours. The hotel door seemed to slam shut, and Matthew started to do his quirky happy dance. We hugged each other and hugged Harper and then one of us asked “Now what?”
What would any person in the trenches of the social media world want to do after a moment as monumental as this? A Facebook status update of course! I quickly typed up a statement and added a picture. Before I pressed the post button, we began to worry about Mercy. While we were overjoyed, we wanted to be respectful of Mercy and the rest of the family. We agreed that we could tell our parents that they were officially grandparents and give them permission to share the good news with family but not through Facebook.
As the afternoon quickly faded away, we headed to spend the evening with the birth family. It is hard to describe the feeling of being a new parent. Amazing! We wanted to ask permission to share the news with our friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. After popping the question about making a post on Facebook, Mercy and the family said they were somewhat disappointed that we hadn’t shared the news already. A world record for fastest Facebook status update? I had it in the bag.
Over the next several days, we spent as much time as possible with Mercy, Dylan and the rest of the family. We even watched the MTV Music Awards together. How could we miss *NSYNC’s reunion in honor of Harper’s birth? I think I squealed (inside) five or six times during the 90 second performance. Another great aspect of our relationship with Mercy and Dylan is the similarities in our music taste. Off topic side note. Over a year ago, I had just arrived in Denver, Colorado. It had just been announced that Whitney Houston had died. While checking into the hotel, I mentioned the news to the 19 year-old front desk employee. She had never heard of Whitney Houston. What? Really? Bodyguard? No? A world record for living under a rock the longest? She had it in the bag.
The weekend quickly ended and we were less than 24 hours from leaving Abilene. We had decided to schedule Harper’s one week appointment with the pediatrician that administered care in the hospital and decided to invite Mercy to join us. Later that evening, Mercy, Dylan and Liz (Dylan’s sister-in-law) invited us to their home and cooked a wonderful southern meal. During dinner, I could feel the emotions starting to rise to the surface. Excitement of starting our journey home and the sadness of saying goodbye to Mercy and Dylan were at their highest. Abilene had come to feel comfortable. As the night came to an end, we made plans for our final goodbye before checkout the next day.
(Tuesday August 27, 2013)
Mercy arrived at our hotel a couple of hours prior to checkout. Our plan for the first leg of our trip home was to drive three hours to Dallas and spend a couple of days. Slowly making our way to the Texas and Arkansas state line while we waited for Texas and Tennessee ICPC (Interstate Compact for Placement of Children) approval. Mercy and Harper were able to have some alone time while Matthew and I loaded the car with all of our stuff. Over the past week, we had undoubtedly acquired more stuff. The Honda Pilot had no room left. Before the trip would be over, we would return something for the lack of available space.
As checkout time came and went, we began to say goodbye. It felt as if we were slowly inching closer to the door. Matthew and I wanted to reassure Mercy that we would be back soon. This was the beginning of a new journey for all of us. We inched a little further to the door. All three of us hugged with Harper sandwiched in the middle. Tears were clearly flowing. We had made it to the door and said the last of at least 15 goodbyes. Mercy walked slowly to the elevator and pushed DN, the door closed, and we feel apart. We were delighted to leave Abilene, but we felt as if we just broke the mother of our child’s heart. This will be a moment that I will never forget.
It is very possible that we sobbed for 15 minutes leaning up against that door. In my mind, it felt like the all so common scene from the movies where you see a person on both sides of a door crying, and neither one of them know what is happening on the other side. After we captured our composure, we snuck out of the hotel so the staff wouldn’t see us leave. The car was loaded to the brink, and we were ready to say goodbye to Abilene. This time I road in the backseat with Harper.
Our next stop? In-N-Out Burger …