I am really happy to be participating again in the Adoption Blogger Interview Project (which has apparently lost an "s" somewhere over the years, because I keep referring to it as the Adoption Bloggers Interview Project and as I look at this year's button I see that clearly I have it all wrong).
I've been a part of this project from the very beginning, and although I don't write specifically about adoption in this space as much these days, it is obviously still a very important part of our lives and something we talk about often and live every day. So I'm beyond grateful to Heather, the magnificent mama behind Open Adoption Bloggers and the Open Adoption Roundtable) for putting this project together every year and for including so many wonderful writers who are living adoption, in all its complexity, from all sides (and many from more than one side at a time), and for giving us the opportunity to get to know each other better.
This year more than 85 people signed up, so instead of all publishing our interviews on the same day we've been split into three groups, publishing on three consecutive Tuesdays.
Today I am pleased to introduce you to Ethan Brooks-Livingston, who, along with his wife, Angela, is at the very beginning of the adoption process: just "in the books" (as they say) for two months, hoping that their wait won't be a long one, and determined to use whatever time they have to prepare themselves as well as they can for adoptive parenthood.
As I read The Littlest Brooks-Livingston, I felt as though I might be interviewing my younger self (if my younger self were male, I suppose). Ethan and Angela remind me very much of us, when we were where they are in the process: roughly the same age as we were then (ahem), thinking and reading and writing about many of the same things, but more to the point, earnest and eager and ready to jump, feet first and wholeheartedly, into parenting. I thoroughly enjoyed reading their blog, and I'm looking forward to reading along as their family grows.
According to your blog, you’ve been officially waiting for about two months now; how are you finding the wait so far? Is there anything you’re finding particularly or surprisingly difficult (or easy)?
Some days, waiting isn't bad. While we're waiting, we're saving as much as possible with the plan that I'll stay at home. I'm a very goal-oriented person, so working toward that goal feels like we're doing something while we're waiting. Other days, I find myself sort of bogged down by the wait—especially when I'm asked for the 15th time (by the same person) "how come you don't have a kid yet?"
I try to be purposeful about positivity while writing posts for our blog. Positivity has not always been my first response, generally speaking, to many of life's changes, but I am actively working on changing that "realism" into something much more helpful, even uplifting. I read an article recently about the real problem caused by adoptive parents' passing along agonizing stories of how long they waited for their child—years later, the child who was adopted internalized that story of grief as guilt and it ended up causing a rift between them and their adoptive parents. I don't want this to ever happen with our children. So while it's not the easiest thing we've had to do, we'll wait. And it'll be okay. Our little family is out there and we'll find each other.
It’s clear that you are both committed to open adoption. I’d love it if you would talk about how you arrived at such a committed place—were you sold on open adoption from the beginning, or did it take you a while to warm up to it?
When we first started considering adoption, we were almost completely new to the world of adoption and had no idea what open adoption was. We were looking for an agency and had some pretty specific criteria for the kind of agency we wanted to work with. It was between two or three, and only one of the three works exclusively with birth mothers and adoptive parents in open adoptions. My wife, *A*, really liked that particular agency, and though that one wasn't my first choice, I figured I should educate myself on what "open adoption" means. My initial reaction was pretty typical—the first thought I had was that it was akin to co-parenting, that the child(ren) would not have an actual mom/dad relationship with me and *A,* and that we would simply not want to share—this would be our child, after all. *A* felt similarly.
Thankfully, we're nerds, and we're open-minded, so we began reading anything we could find that described open adoption. It didn't take us long—maybe half a book and a couple of open adoption blogs—to realize that we were completely wrong about what open adoption actually means and what most open adoption relationships are actually like. It was one of those hand-smack-to-forehead moments where we both realized that it made sense to us. At that point, our thinking changed dramatically and we started imagining the kind of relationship we could develop with our child(ren)'s birthparents and their families. Now, we dream of developing a good relationship with our child's birth parent(s) and excitedly think of what it might be like to expand our little family by so many extra people all at once. Now, worry about what openness will look like from the opposite end of the spectrum—what might happen when the birthparent(s) and/or their families want to close or semi-close the adoption later on and we hope they won't?
We did not do any “marketing” (for lack of a better word) of ourselves while we were waiting to adopt. We knew people who did, but it wash’t something that was encouraged by our agency & it wasn’t something we were comfortable doing, so we didn’t. So it’s a totally foreign concept to me. Can you tell me a bit about that side of things? Is it something your agency recommends or requires, and what are your thoughts about it?
Marketing is weird, and not particularly comfortable for us. We're pretty private people, so the thought of putting a big photo of ourselves with our contact information on postcards and pass-along cards and scattering them into the wind, essentially, makes us nervous. But our agency highly recommends it, touting all the matches they've seen made through Facebook pages and information left at a nurse's desk in a hospital E.R., etc., so we're doing it, albeit with trepidation.
I suspect this is how many agencies work, but we also have our profile on file with our agency, and expectant mothers who contact them fill out a "match" sheet and if we match their criteria, our profile is sent to them for further consideration. That same profile is on the agency's website. This was a requirement—and probably a fair number of expectant parents, maybe even a majority, connect with hopeful adoptive parents with our agency this way. To me, the problem with that profile is that everything is sort of cookie-cutter and edited so precisely, I feel like who we actually are is almost sort of lost—our individuality is primarily in the pictures we included. But it does have contact information that includes our Facebook page, and just about everything we post there is from our blog—so it's a little trail to what is an accurate picture of who we are. I don't know if an expectant mom will ever read it—I hope so—we sure do talk about her an awful lot!
You talk on your blog a bit about your reaction to the reactions of others about adoption (I’m thinking particularly of the incident in the fabric store here), but not much about your family and friends. I’m presuming they’ve been supportive, but I’m wondering if anything has surprised you? Has anything stood out as particularly helpful (or not)?
Of the family members we're especially close to, everyone has been supportive. Initially, I think, several of them had a lot of questions they didn't want to answer, maybe because they didn't want to appear ignorant, or because they didn't want to come across as if they didn't support us. The blog has helped that a lot—it's helped me work through my own questions, and it's been a space that has generated some thought and a sort of it's-okay-to-ask-questions feeling with my folks, especially. And actually, explaining parts of the process to family members who are not eyeball-deep in reading about adoption has helped us learn how to explain things a little better—at least, I hope!
Recently, when one of our friends shared our page on her (very popular) Facebook page, and several other friends followed suit, old friends, new friends, acquaintances, strangers—all started coming out of the woodwork proclaiming their support of our hopes to adopt. We were a little overwhelmed that so many people were ready to give us a thumbs-up, some of them people we haven't seen in years or barely knew. That was really something—and it's cool that many of these folks are now following our blog, too.
We've always had a small circle of friends, several of whom have remained over the course of our relationship so far, but many who have come and gone. This little circle has been very supportive and they are already divvying up babysitting rights. This circle of our closest friends has grown to include a couple more people who have really surprised us in their support of our hope to adopt. We knew each of them wish us the best—but they've been so constant in their support. We've needed that—and it's been as simple as just having dinner with us a couple times a month and asking us about where we are in the process. We are more grateful to them than they might ever imagine.
You touched briefly in one of your posts about transracial adoption and needing to be okay with being a sort of poster-family for adoption. This is something we gave a great deal of consideration to when filling out our grids, and I think it is really an important thing to think about for families considering transracial adoption. I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on it.
During our first home study visit with our social worker, one of the many things we talked about was how we filled out our client profile sheet, which included detailed questions about our openness to transracial adoption. We were nearing the end of the visit and after two hours of answering questions, our brains were apparently getting tired. I think the next question was something like, "Tell me how you feel about adopting a child of another race." And one of us blurted out "Oh, we're totally fine with it. It's no big deal. We're very open to adopting transracially." And the questions continued in another direction. As soon as we closed the door as she left, I said to *A*, "What on earth did we just say about transracial adoption? We, two white kids, being interviewed by an African-American social worker, said it was no big deal?!"
That statement to our social worker totally negated the many hours we have spent talking about and reading books about transracial adoption, debating whether we would be fit parents for a child of another race. I have no idea why we said "it's no big deal," because of course, it's a very big deal. Luckily, at our second home study visit, we got a second chance to revisit this, upon our request, and spend about a half hour talking about transracial adoption. Our point apparently came across as intended, maybe even moreso, because when we read our home study report, the section about transracial adoption read that we had carefully thought about and researched transracial adoption and were especially willing and hopeful to welcome a child of a different race into our home.
Our openness to transracial adoption comes with a willingness to embrace and celebrate difference rather than ignore it—after all, our child will be no less our child because he or she looks nothing like us. It also involves an understanding that we will be the target of questions, stares, and inappropriate remarks, some of which might be painful for us to deal with, especially when our child(ren) is old enough to understand them. There will also be chances to demonstrate what love and family is really all about. Whether you mean for it to be or not, transracial adoption is an advertisement every time you're out in public. It's not a role for everyone; it's certainly not something to be taken lightly. We realize that reading books about transracial adoption, even books written by adoptees about their experiences being raised in a household with adoptive parents of a different race, is not the same as the actual experience. There might be a steep learning curve for us, and we're fine with that—we welcome the opportunity.
You can read more interviews from today's group of participants here, and you'll find links to all three weeks' participants here. If you'd like to read my interviews from previous years, you can find them here, here, and here.