Tortillas and Tomatillo Sauce

By: Stephen & Adam Podowitz-Thomas

Stephen and I fell in love over freshly-made tortillas and tomatillo sauce.  Our first official date was at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant in downtown Palo Alto, CA, nearby where we were both in graduate school.  I had spent some time building a schoolhouse near Merida, Mexico when I was eighteen, and loved the food and culture I experienced while there.  Ever since, I have kept an eye out for authentic Mexican places, but had never heard of this tiny place that Stephen raved about.  Nervously venturing into the restaurant, I was excited by the aromas I smelled and the sight of Stephen standing up to greet me.  Needless to say, the food was stellar, but even more so the company.

We made many more visits to La Morenita, often sitting at the same table as that first date.  I was excited one visit to spot chilaquiles on the menu (a breakfast favorite from my time in Mexico), and Stephen was always happy to get another order of their chicken sopes (a dish hard to find in Manhattan, his collegiate stomping grounds).  It was also at the restaurant that we realized that we both wanted kids, after laughing at a child delightfully chowing down on his first tortilla chip.

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Stephen mulling over our options at a traditional tapas restaurant

Over the years, eating out and trying new foods have become a big part of our lives.  We look for restaurants serving cuisines we haven’t seen before and get to know the places we live and visit through the foods they share with us.  Developing memories of Hawaii while eating the best saimin (a noodle dish) on Kauai during our honeymoon and hiking a tall hill in San Francisco for Nepalese food has kept our relationship interesting and fun.  Further, this sense of exploration, instilling a deep sense of wonder and discovery in both of us, is something we hope to impart to our kids in the future, because it was such a key lesson of our own childhoods.

Sharing food and the love that it entails has fed into other aspects of our lives, from our own exploits in the kitchen that we discussed in our last post to planning our recent wedding.  One of the very first decisions we made in the planning process was that we wanted a family-style wedding dinner with our closest friends and family gathered around a communal table.  We purposely kept our guest list small and on a beautiful August day in California, were able to enjoy a meal where passing dishes was expected, while laughter and conversation filled the air.  The night reminded us of the many family dinners we had when we were kids, surrounded by our loved ones, and enjoying food prepared by our parents.  And we hope that it was simply the first of many dinner parties for us, parties that we hope to eventually share with kids of our own.

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Our family and friends sharing food and conversation at our wedding

Read more about Stephen & Adam and their adoption process on Facebook.

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Rediscovering the Foods of Our Family

By: Stephen & Adam Podowitz-Thomas

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The fish swam lazy laps around the tub, ignoring the ring of grime, and wondering what it had done to deserve this temporary imprisonment in porcelain.  My grandmother had arrived with the carp from her parents’ fish shop on the lower east side, intent on turning it into gefilte fish for that night’s dinner.

“Hold on a second,” my husband, Adam, said,  “she put a live, whole fish in the bathtub?”

While it was certainly one of the stranger things my family used to do, the story exemplifies the impression food from my childhood has left on me.  I was telling him the story because we were working on a recipe for a Passover dish, something that came from my past, and something we hoped to share with a child of our own in the near future.

My husband and I had been talking about growing our family through adoption for sometime before we decided the moment was right to start the process. We carefully researched our options and settled on domestic open adoption because we wanted our future child to know their birthparents.  We hope to have an open relationship with our child’s birthparents, as well. We wanted our child to have very positive associations with being adopted and know that everyone in their extended family (particularly, us and the birthparents) loves them.

Once we found the right open adoption agency, we were off and running. From our first information session to “going live” (in adoption lingo, that’s screened, approved and available to match with birthparents), we took about 1 1/2 months. That’s pretty fast for our agency, considering we had background checks, health screens, home visits, and many rounds of edits to our “dear birthmother” letter, but we were motivated to get it started.

And then began the waiting part of the process. Given how fast we got the paperwork portion done, you can probably tell that Adam and I like to keep things moving.  Rather than just wait, we decided to use the time to think about the things that really mattered to us growing up.

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Baking Cookies at Grandma Thomas’ House

 

One of the things that makes us both think of family is food.  Adam grew up in Georgia and North Carolina and has fond memories of helping prepare his mother’s mac ‘n’ cheese and his Aunt Deanie’s dill bread.  I grew up in New Jersey in a family with Eastern European roots, and I loved visiting my grandparents in New York, where they would cook stuffed cabbage, borscht, and sweet noodle kugel.  Adam and I have decided that there won’t be any fish swimming in our bathtub, but thinking about our family traditions made us realize how much food has been a part of them for both of our families. We decided our love of cooking and the foods we remember fondly growing up were things we wanted to pass on to our child.

We set out to find those recipes and create our own versions of family classics, but between spending many years in school and moving to the other side of the country, we had forgotten many of the basics.

My first stop was my mother.  I wanted my bubbie’s borscht recipe for us to try out that weekend.  “She never wrote it down,” my mother responded.  The same held true for most of my grandparents’ recipes.

Adam didn’t have much more luck. His family was a bit better about putting things down in writing, but when it came to Aunt Deanie’s dill bread, we hit a dead end. He knew which cookbooks some of the standards–brownies, biscuits, and beans–came out of, but there was no way to completely recreate the more special, and therefore more important, recipes.

While we didn’t have much luck sleuthing out written recipes, we still had our taste memories and the little bit of information our parents could provide.  Armed with this base minimum, we have started experimenting.  We’ve been taking advantage of online resources and cookbooks with ingredients and techniques that sound like they will reproduce the food we remember.  Sometimes things don’t come out quite the same, but in most cases our intuitions have served us well.  We’ve been incredibly stubborn, recreating recipes over and over again, changing small ingredients and tiny processes until it tastes the way it did when we were five.

One of our early successes was with kreplach soup.  I remember going to a diner in New York near my grandmother’s house that had the most amazing kreplach, small “Jewish dumplings” often filled with coarse ground beef.  It took grinding meat dozens of different ways (some were too fine, some had too much gristle, others had the wrong flavor), not to mention playing with the dough (figuratively and literally–our cat decided pieces of dough looked like balls she should steal off the counter and hide under the couch), until we got it right. But wow, when we hit, we hit it spot on.

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Our first attempt at making Kreplach

 

We have also found ways to blend our food traditions, including stunning versions of sweet potato bourbon kugel, pecan pie rugelach, and dill challah.  Believe it or not, Jewish and Southern food pair unbelievably well, at least if you’re willing to leave out the ham hock in the green beans (which Adam still swears is a sacrilege).  By sharing the flavors from our childhoods, we’ve learned more about one another and begun developing our own traditions that we’ll be able to share with our future children.  We may not be a traditional “blended” family, but we’re certainly discovering new ways of combining our pasts and developing an image of our future.

With all of the work we’ve been putting in to these recipes, we decided it might be worthwhile to record them, both so we can recreate them in the future, and to hopefully make it easier to pass them on to our future kids.  Our blog, Biscuits & Brisket, was born from this effort.  As is so frequently the case, writing the stories that we associate with these foods has brought back other memories and more recipes to try.  It has also created more traditions for us.

While we’re still waiting to match with a birth mom, we’re feeling increasingly confident that when we do, we’ll have the ability to share our love, both for each other and with our child, through our food.  We’ll teach them about the traditions that we hold dear, and create more of our own. And we won’t have any fish swimming in our bathtub.

Read more about Stephen & Adam’s journey to adoption on our profile page.

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The Months Have Turned Into Weeks

February 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Same Sex Parent

By: Chris Coyne

The days are flying by lately.  A couple of months ago it seemed like time was not moving at all.  This week our little boy CJ turned two years old.  It is a magic time with our little man.  He has begun speaking in micro sentences.  He tells us he is happy and gives us more kisses these days.  Before he would give us a kiss if we begged for it but now they come unprompted.  It’s wonderful.

We were 33 weeks pregnant Friday. Some of our anxiety has let up about some issues associated with the adoption and some of those fears are getting stronger.  I am trying to stay positive and be upbeat but I cannot control my inner thoughts from coming out of me these days.  Blogging about most of this is impossible.  Some of the stuff I do not want to share.  Some of it is so personal.  Most of it is just a huge pain in the ass.  Adoption is hard.  I am all wrapped up in someone else’s life that I really do not know that well.  I can say we have been through so much in the last couple months but that is between her and me.

I have been going through all the clothes we have for our little girl.  Our amazing sister-in-law gave me lots of pink frilly things to use.  Most of it is confusing.  Little tiny bloomers, bonnets, and tights that make my head spin.  Boy clothes are easier than girl clothes.   I cannot figure out where to put what and I wonder how much of it I will need.  I picked out baby girl’s crib online.  It is sitting in my digital shopping cart until our birthmother has signed everything and we know she will be ours.  We made the mistake once of putting together cribs and car seats before we knew it was all done.  It was too hard to return them so we just donated them to Out of the Closet.  We survived the failed adoption and we learned from it!  We will be ready but not stupid.  I have the car seat, a bassinet, and some clothes.  The rest is provided by the doctor.  We know we can grab everything else in a few moments.

We purchased everyone’s plane tickets to Los Angeles.  We rented a small apartment close to where we used to live.  I am so excited to be in our old neighborhood.   We wonder if returning to Los Angeles will make us home sick for Maryland or if we will want to stay in California.

I have been surprised by how comfortable we are in Maryland.  We get an occasional glance here and there but in many ways we feel more at home as a family here.  Los Angeles is a great place to live but the parks and schools are so much better here than LA.  We see so many children one has to admit it is much more family-friendly than LA.  Every weekend we take one day to explore DC.  We take the train to the National Mall and walk around until we find a museum that CJ can run around in and explore.  I know he will enjoy living here.  On top of all that, we live in the best neighborhood.  People love having a gay couple raising kids as their neighbors.  I like to think they are raising their kids to accept diversity and to learn from people that might be a little different from themselves.  That way they can look themselves in the mirror.

Today I started getting some of the things I think I will need for our little girl.  I actually forgot to get CJ a blanket of all things.  Today I got a new mattress for a little girl’s bassinet.  We decided to just do a bassinet for her for the first few months.  I know we will end up getting a baby swing and a few other things that make life easier but not until she is born and ours.

Somedays I feel like a crazy man.  I seem to live in this bipolar world.  Things seem to be going very well until I get a call or text that sends me off the deep end.  Adoption is an emotional mind jab.  In some ways it is a lot like parenting.  I worry about the outcome.  I stress about the details.  I wonder if I can handle one more hurdle.  I know we can because the big picture looks great.  I know we will get a sweet little baby out of it.  We will remain the hard working parents we are.  Our love has grown leaps.  Our little boy has taught us so much about unconditional love.  We understand what we signed up for but nothing can prepare you for this.  We have read all the books, we were fortunate to talk to so many people that have survived adoption.  We know the end is what it’s all about.  Our lives are about to spin out of control and my mind started the spin long ago.

I love to sleep.  I was so excited when CJ started sleeping through the night.  I recall waking up in a panic for the first few days but that passed as I slept more and more.  The last few days I have been waking up every few hours.  I keep hearing things that wake me up.  The heater clicks on and I open my eyes.  Jon rolls over and I get up because I have to pee.  CJ talks in his sleep and I am at his door listening to what he has to say.  Once I am awake my mind starts to wonder.  I start thinking about what I need to accomplish the next day or what I did not do the day before.  I keep a running list on my phone of what I need to do.  I love scratching stuff off the list but so much has not even made it to the list.  We are about six weeks from D-day.  I hope my sleepless nights are getting me ready for our newborn.  Pregnancy prepares a mother for the arrival of a baby.  Adoption only brings stress.

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The Path to Parenting Two

By: Wendy Rhein

Over the last week, I’ve been somewhat passively observing a list serve dialogue among single mothers by choice (SMCs) talking about the pros and cons of adding a second child to their families. I am a single mother of two, though the “by choice” element in that nomenclature always causes some pangs in me. Yes, I chose to have my children while I am single but single by choice? That’s another blog …

The emails being circulated focus on the impacts having a second child will have on the mother’s life, the life of her child, how it will impact them emotionally, financially, romantically. I find myself nodding, and smiling, and even crying at some of these posts when I see the desire and longing for a larger family swelling in the words. I also find myself outraged by some of the rationale employed to not have a second child – you won’t be able to take that annual cruise, or retire at 50. All of this has caused me to reflect on my quest to have a second child.

And a quest it was. After Nate was born, and the initial panic and sleeplessness of new motherhood wore off, I knew pretty quickly that I wanted another child. I am one of four kids, and I cherish my siblings and our interwoven history. I wanted that for my son. And I wanted the experience of being a mother to more than one child.

Step 1: Pregnancy. When Nate was 16 months old, I went the IUI route and tried to get pregnant using anonymous donor sperm that a friend had leftover from her attempts to become a mother via pregnancy. Talk about a gift! Bet most of you have never gotten a gift of little wigglers on dry ice! After several attempts, drugs and ultrasounds, pregnancy didn’t take.

Step 2: international adoption. I have always been a strong believer in adoption but frankly, domestic adoption scared me. I also knew, or thought I knew, the hopeful angst of long-to-be parents putting their names and family books out into the world of domestic adoption agencies only to be told it would be years before someone considered them. Don’t believe everything you hear about that, single moms and single dads to be. More on that later.

I started to pursue international adoption and quickly found that there were very few places from which I, as a single woman quickly kissing up to 40 with another child, could adopt. I got involved in list serve, I asked for advice. I called adoption agencies for Ethiopia, a very promising option. However, the timeframe, costs, and fickle adoption laws overwhelmed me. I would lie awake and ask myself about my motivations – is this about giving a child the best possible start in life? Do I want to parent a child or raise a child from infancy? If what I wanted was the chance to parent a child who needed a parent, and if that was the true parenting motivation, why not look at the children in my own community who need a better start, or a mid-childhood do-over?

Step 3: foster care adoption. I entered that scary muck pit of the foster care system with dreams of adoption. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I attended the classes, submitted the medical, financial, social, and professional references. I was fingerprinted and got a 5-year printout of every 911 call I had ever made. I went through the multi-step home visits that took months to schedule, not to mention complete. I included Nate in the whole process and he decided that he really wanted an older sister. He liked the idea of still being my baby and of having someone to play with and later, to take him places, he said.
Throughout the process I defended my choices to those who said I was crazy to parent two children. It would ruin my family, emotionally cripple Nate, and send me into a therapeutic tailspin. I would never recover financially. How could I give each child the attention they deserved? Who would ever want to date, let alone marry, a single mom of two? (I admit it, that one hurt.) Depending on the messenger, I took the concerns into consideration. I renewed my focus – my family – and steered clear of the negative opinions. My choices and decisions were never meant to ease the fears of others. They had been, and would continue to be based on what I knew in my very core I wanted and could do.

On December 10, 2009 I was approved by the State of Georgia to be a foster parent and pursue adoption of eligible children in the system. Finally after more than three years I could move forward with adding a child to my family. I was a woman with a plan.

Step 4: Open window. Throw out plan. Enter Sam.
On December 14, I read a Facebook post from a friend asking for prayer that an adoptive family come forward for an African American infant boy, yet to be born. His birth mother’s adoption plan had fallen through and he was due in early February. Within two days, I had spoken to the birth mother’s sister. Within six days, I was on the phone with a birth mother who asked me if I was ready for a newborn. Because she wasn’t. I said yes. I found myself giggling and crying for days on end. What was I thinking? I had decided on an older child! I had decided to not go through all that newborn drama again! All of those decisions were gone and I was operating straight from my heart, straight from a loud and sure voice in me that said that little one was my son. I recall telling my mother. You know that approval I have for a single female child, ages 5-12, from foster care, who might be placed with me sometime in the next year? What would you think of a newborn African American boy in the next 6 weeks?
I had the incredible fortune of getting to know my son’s birth mother over those few weeks. She let me meet her daughter. She invited me to medical appointments. She handed me the ultrasound pictures, saying I could keep them as his first pictures. I took a dear friend with me to meet the attorney who would manage our open, third party, domestic adoption because I knew I wouldn’t remember anything. Daily, I reminded myself that she could change her mind. I didn’t buy a crib or have a shower. I reminded Nate that the baby may not come to live with us and that we would have to wait and see.

And then she called me at work one day and asked me to take her to the hospital. On February 2, Sam was born. And I was there. I stayed with him from the moment they let me in the nursery. The hospital staff didn’t know what to do with me since I was not in a maternity ward room. I sat in an upright desk chair at the nurse’s station, day and night, feeding him, changing him, holding him while he slept. The days and weeks that followed were harrowing as I dealt with a potential challenge to the adoption by a potential birth father never moved beyond threats into action. I spent days weeping and vomiting, terrified that I was going to lose my baby. I got through by remembering my goal in this whole process – to give a child the best possible start in life and love him for as long as I could. Even if that meant only for a few days. Those days turned into weeks, and then into months. Later that year, Sam became a forever part of our family in a short ceremony in a judge’s chambers. The years of ruminating, thinking, wondering, planning, and trying were all captured in one moment by Nate, who stood at my shoulder as the judged signed his name, “so we get to keep him forever?!”

Yes, we get to keep him forever. We talk about Sam’s adoption openly and with enthusiasm, recognizing that we are the luckiest family to have gone through the labors and pains it took to become who we are to one another. When I think of what my life would have been like these last two years if I had said no to the trials, the sacrifices, the sideways steps along the way that eventually led me to my younger son, I can’t catch my breath.

Maybe I will go back and comment on that single mothers dialogue after all.

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Living in the NOW

September 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Same Sex Parent

By: Chris Coyne

The call with the potential birthmother went really well. It took me a few weeks to recover from not being picked. Until we get chosen by a birthmother our lives will be filled with a certain amount of uncertainty. She chose the other couple even though we had a great conversation with her. It is hard to not make it an us-versus-them-thing. After some time we have dealt with it. One of the signs of my acceptance was my shock when the phone rang again a couple of days ago. We are a bit more guarded this time. I refuse to think of this as any more than it is: a slight possiblity.

Anything is possible with adoption. We should feel like adoption pros at this point. We have experienced a failed adoption and a successful adoption. We have been through the worst and the best adoption has to offer. Although we feel very vulnerable. A complete stranger is making a choice about us. I want her to know above everything else that we are meant to be the parents of her
child.

I recall before being matched –and way before we ever became parents –daydreaming about holding our baby, rocking him or her to bed. Fantasizing about sleeping in on Saturdays and watching cartoons in bed as a family. These things have all come true since, but so much more has come to pass. The reality of parenthood is so much better than I had imagined and so much harder at the same time. I am enjoying the day-to-day challenges of keeping up with a very active toddler. Cj is amazing. At night when I am putting him to bed I rock him a little more and a little longer than I used to. I stop and reflect on the moment so much more than before. I am going to try to start living in the NOW more. Soon Cj will be a big brother. His life is going to change when the new baby comes. We remain hopefully optimistic while enjoying each other before we change, again, forever…

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Teen Moms and Adoption

July 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Adoptive Families, Family

By: Stacey Ellis

I watched the young woman cry and say it was the worst decision of her life.  She is a birth mother, who gave birth to a little girl and gave her up for adoption to her aunt and uncle.  She was 16 at the time, 17 now, and was being featured on the 16&Pregnant Adoption Special on MTV.  I was mesmerized.

Ten months ago this week we adopted our beautiful baby girl.  Ten months.  Where did the time go? She’s crawling, walking while holding our hands, smiling, giggling, clapping, and eating anything and everything she can get her little hands on.  She’s happy and healthy and we think we are providing the best possible life for her with love, stability, and lots of kisses.

I think about her all day at work and look at her pictures all over my office and on my cell phone.  I’ll talk about her to anyone who asks (or doesn’t ask).   But I don’t just think about her and her well being; my mind continues to drift to her birthmother.  How often does she think about our daughter?  Is she okay?   She originally said she didn’t want any contact with us at all after giving her daughter to us but the state law requires us to send photos and a letter once every three months for the first year.  We are nearing the last letter to be sent on her first birthday and a letter just doesn’t feel like enough.  (I say final letter, but of course if she wants more letters in the years to come, we’re happy to send them.)

While watching the Adoption Special, I also saw another couple who gave half a charm to the birth mother and the adoptive mother kept the other half, to give to the baby girl they shared between them when she was old enough.  That seemed nice.  But is that too much?  Will that “shove” in our birth mother’s face every day that I am raising her daughter?  Or is she thinking about her every day anyway and this charm will give her something tangible to see when her mind drifts as well?   I can’t imagine that she doesn’t think about our little girl every day. But what if she doesn’t?

One of the things that struck me on this Special was Dr. Drew kept saying to the one birth mother who was still grieving her loss, “When are you going to move on?”  MOVE ON?  Even I was offended and appalled.   How can he possibly expect the birth mother to “move on”?  I mean, she can accept the reality of the situation – that she is not raising her daughter – but “move on”?  Can a birth mother really “move on”? I am not sure any birthmother ever moves on, but what if our birth mom has?

So, I scoured the internet for a gift. I found bracelets that have various sayings like, “Adoption is Love”.  I particularly liked the one that said “In my heart”.  Again, I don’t want to be presumptuous that our daughter is still in her heart.  I found sterling silver heart necklaces which can be engraved, but is that too much?  I found memory boxes which can be engraved.  Then that made me think – our daughter has a biological brother – do I have both of their names engraved on a gift?   I continued to look for the next hour.

Then I found it…a sterling silver charm on a chain that says, “Many Hearts One Beat”.  I read the story behind the charm.  The woman who created it met so many people along the way to adopting her son, people who all played a role in bringing her and her son together, she wanted a charm that would symbolize their journey.  Wow.  This was it.  I feel like across the miles, this gift will touch her soul as it has touched mine.

I am not ready to “move on” and I am sure my heart beats the same as the birth mother’s who I believe has not “moved on” either.   At least I hope she hasn’t, as I may just buy three charms, one for the birth mother, one for me and one for my daughter to wear when she is old enough.   That way our daughter knows we are all here for the same purpose – to give her the best life possible.

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Gay Adoptive Dads Prepare for a Second Adoption

June 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Same Sex Parent

By: Chris Coyne

 

We get deeper in everyday.  Last week we started our second home study.  Parts of me think this is amazing and parts of me are terrified.  Cj is cutting a couple molars and he needs us so much right now.  We are running around doing fingerprinting, doctor appointments, and going on playdates.

The paperwork is easy.  We do not have to rewrite our life story so that is great!  Our friends and family have been very supportive.  Jon forwarded my last blog to every person he had in his address book so we received so much positive energy it was very touching.

I am keeping very busy with our toddler.  His world has expanded and he loves it.  He gets so excited to see the bunny rabbits in out new neighborhood.  He even recalls where he saw his last bunny the previous day. Hr jabbers all day long about his life.  I think he gets this from me.  He is more and more curious about his surroundings and he keeps me on my toes.  The weather has warmed up and CJ loves the hose.  He spends hours a day filling cups and buckets with cold water.

I notice more moms at the park who are expecting babies.  Some of them have more then one child and a few of these mothers have more then three!  I see this and I wonder if that could be me in a few years.  Will I be the stay at home dad with a minivan filled with soccer playing kids drinking juice boxes?  Will we stop at two?  I do not know the answer right now.  I was so afraid to go through all the newborn stuff anew months ago but now I want it again.  No one tells you how hard it can be to care for a newborn.  I lay in bed at night craving the smell of a newborn baby.  What a ride!

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Two Dads: Post Failed Adoption

February 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Family

By: Chris Coyne

One could say we had no right to feel anything for those girls. We did not carry them in our bodies for nine long months. We never felt them kick and we were not there when they took their first precious breaths. We did everything in our power to do right by them and I know I would have done a few things different if I had the chance. We were in a fragile state. Everything that could go wrong had and there was nothing anyone could say or do to make us feel better.

Walking through the front door of our home our dogs welcomed us with love. We had been gone for some time and they had missed us. The house seemed empty and dark. We closed off the doors to the nursery and unpacked our bags. All things “baby” were tossed in the nursery, roomed in by a door that would not be opened for a while. Everywhere we looked we saw the girls. A few things popped out here and there to haunt us. The constant reminders were killing us. We had to get out. We had to flee and deal with the fact that the future we had dreamed of was dead.

We packed up a few days worth of clothes and a tent and whatever else we would need to go off the grid for a while. We packed up the huge, overpriced SUV and hit the road. We headed north. We drove until we hit Yosemite. We camped and hiked with the dogs. We swam in the ice cold rivers but we did not talk much. We refused to talk about the failed adoption until our last night. We sat by the fire and cried. We were so grateful our moms were there but it was so hard on them too. They were so excited and it hurt us to see their pain. We vowed to not consider adoption for some time and we drove back. We did not take the direct route but we eventually landed back at home.

The day we returned we had to go into the nursery for something. I am sure we were putting the suitcases back or something like that. I looked over at this mound of stuff piled up everywhere and I broke down. Jon came in the room and he too was overtaken by emotion. Piece by piece we looked at this or that item. Most of the things were gifts. We found the appropriate box and packed it up. The next morning we returned it all to the stores. It was just stuff. It was stuff that reminded us of the worst experience of our lives. Some tiny part inside me resisted the idea of returning the baby crap. Some part of me wanted to feel bad but we got rid of it all. The cribs were not returnable so we donated them.

We filled the room with our stuff again. It was returned to us. It was our man-den before the girls and now it had returned to its former glory. We were not the same but it felt good to erase this from our line of sight.

But we had a gap in our hearts. Heather and Tere had us over so we could talk about all that happened. They shared too –their challenges to get pregnant, a miscarriage, and the huge difficulties of carrying twins. We vented about this and that experience in our failure to adopt, and at the end of the night we all felt a bit better. I still recall sending text messages to Tere and Heather while we were at the hospital or dealing with baby mama. They played a major role in our ability to deal with the day-to-day in New Jersey.

We grew angry over time, having left New Jersey with nothing but questions. With a bit of effort we began to realize a few things. Like the stuff in baby mama’s hospital room the day the babies were born –baby clothes scattered around, a digital camera. Weird? Our attorney had released a large check to her a few days before the birth so she could move out of her current apartment and into a larger place. Our caseworker told us to never speak to our birthmother about money so we didn’t. But we found out baby mama was constantly asking our attorney for more. Our minds filled in the blanks.

We are almost sure she did it for the money. She must have been desperate in order to hurt two people as bad as she did. She had no intention of ever placing the girls with us. She saw us as the rich gay guys who were paying her bills. We vowed to never find ourselves in a situation like this again. We also felt the agency could have done better to shield its clients from such heartbreak. We were told that ten percent of the time the birthmother changes her mind. We were sure to have a great match, quickly. But it took well over two years for a match that resulted in us feeling used, abused, and un-represented.

There was no way we were going to adopt a baby after this huge failure. Our savings was gone as was our hope of becoming fathers. Our life would be forever altered from this failed adoption. We had lost hope and we were in a darker place. We were mourning the loss of the girls. Until one day when my dry cleaner stopped me to ask where our babies were…

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The Adoption Dance

February 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Adoptive Families, Family

By: Stacey Ellis

My husband and I stared at the letter from our daughter’s birthmother and asked each other how we felt. My husband and I are on the same page on virtually everything, and this was no different. We simply felt wonderful about it. We decided we’d write back soon. But because we were headed to NYC with our daughter for work, we would allow ourselves one week to deal with the preparations and chaos of flying across the country with a four-month-old. But no more than a week –we figured that the birthmother took the time to write us such a beautiful letter, we’d want to write back as soon as we could.

The birthparents had treaded lightly by asking if they could send a gift. Had they included a gift with the letter, we would have gladly accepted it and made sure our daughter knew it was from them, so of course we wrote back yes! Also, we requested pictures of our daughter’s biological brother. Our daughter may want to see them someday. And we told them we are always open to hearing from them.
The one thing we didn’t do was email the birthparents. We aren’t ready to have that instant, every day, every week email communication. Our daughter isn’t quite using a computer yet so it’s not like we can give the information to her. Based on my last blog and the extreme reaction to it, some adoptees will find what I write here incredibly offensive and wrong (and a whole host of other words to show what bad parents we are). I’m sure my words here will be ripped apart with conclusions and misinterpretations. But that is what makes America beautiful. Everyone is allowed to have an opinion and everyone is allowed to be parents to their own children without interference from anyone else. We get to raise our child how we feel is appropriate, just like my friends get to raise their children – adopted and biological – how they want to do it. All parents will look at their friends’ kids and comment about something they would do/are doing different. And I’m sure half of the reactions to this blog will opine that we are wrong in the “birthparents communication part” and how dare we set a boundary at all with no email! Just as many parents will comment that we are wrong in our napping schedule, or our decision to start solids at 5 months instead of 4 months or wait until 6 months. I mean, just think about all of those who have a comment about breastfeeding and bottle feeding! (We of course bottle feed, as we adopted.) What I am trying to say here is this: we are our daughter’s parents. In fact, I’ll scream it from the rooftop with a huge elated smile on my face! WE ARE THE PARENTS. I know that statement alone just incensed some of you out there and you’ll start in on my “tone” that is created in your negative mind.
I say to you: What is good for one child – adopted or not – doesn’t necessarily work for another.

It is clear some parents clearly damaged their children (those who responded to my other blog) – and I am sure those parents did what they thought was right at the time – during that time. Maybe they kept secrets, maybe they wouldn’t let you meet your birthparents, maybe they didn’t LISTEN to your needs. Well, what I have HEARD and LEARNED here is that I certainly don’t want to raise an angry, sad, obsessive, negative child. And to make sure that doesn’t happen, we will always listen to our child’s needs – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

We can’t predict the future. But right now, we feel that (when she’s 18), if she chooses to meet her birthparents– and if they want to meet her – then we’ll fly to meet them if that will make her happy, healthy, and whole. If she is having trouble earlier in life and asks to meet them, then we will cross that bridge and be open to her meeting them earlier. And if she’s 30 and has no interest in meeting them, then she won’t meet them. We will listen to her needs and make decisions accordingly. What is so fascinating is that the commenters are adamant that my daughter know her birthparents – but what they don’t know is that the birthparents told us they are NOT SURE they want to meet her in the future. Hence their instruction for us to call them and “we’ll discuss whether that’s a good idea.” Maybe their thoughts on meeting her have changed with their most recent letter. That’s fair – they said they weren’t sure before leaving the hospital and now we are four months later. Of course they couldn’t know how they would feel later on – but what if our daughter turns 18 and the birthparents haven’t been writing to us for years and really don’t want contact anymore? Should I FORCE our daughter on them so that my daughter feels that rejection from them directly? Of if they are in touch with us and we say, “Our daughter would like to meet you in person” and they respond with a resounding, “No.” Should I then tell my daughter, “Oh, we talk to your birthparents all the time – but they don’t want to meet you”? How painful would that be? There are a million different scenarios here – both good and bad.

We know dozens of well-adjusted, happy, healthy adoptees who have no interest in their birthparents. We know others who met their birthparents once, answered their questions, and haven’t seen them since. And we know people who have had horrible first meetings with their birthparents or who have birthparents who rejected them over and over, pretending they didn’t exist. And from this blog, I have now heard from some very sad, angry adoptees who are clearly damaged forever. We knew before we adopted that we wanted our child to know she’s adopted, to know who her birthparents are, and to know the true reason why she is adopted…with those facts, she will grow up with no secrets and have control over her life and how it unfolds and who she wants in her life. If she wants a relationship with her birthparents – then we will encourage it if her birthparents are open to it.

We feel adoption is a delicate dance that we, the birthparents, and our daughter are all going through for the first time. They made the choice to give their daughter up for adoption. We made the choice to adopt our daughter and be the best parents we can be. None of us has been through this before and none of us wants to intrude on the other, force ourselves on the other, or do anything to offend the other. We do have a tremendous respect for our daughter’s birthparents and want them to be as happy as our daughter is every day. Yet we know we are connected forever as we try to figure out how to dance together yet miles apart…

And with that, I mailed the letter with a dozen pictures.

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The Failed Adoption

February 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Family

By: Chris Coyne

2 dads trying to adopt

The return flight home from New Jersey was a miserable travel experience.  The gate agent wanted to charge us for additional cargo because we were flying with two empty car seats.  Jon’s mother returned the double pack and play she had purchased for us the day of the baby shower.  We put my mom on an earlier flight home but it was delayed and she was still in the terminal when we boarded our flight back to Los Angeles.  We left Jon’s mom at a hotel waiting for his father to arrive on a business trip.  We had lost something in New Jersey.  We had lost our will to ever go through something like this ever again.  We had gone out on a limb.  We thought the return trip would be a moment of celebration.  We had thought this was going to be a happy time but we were going home defeated and beat down by a failed adoption.

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