May 5, 2012

“Marcus and Jenny,

My name is Lindsey. I’m an expecting mother of the most amazing baby boy. I just started with the LDS Family Services program and was looking through the family profiles and I noticed you two have adopted beautiful Callie and of course have blessed Samantha. My son is biracial and I couldn’t help but feel The Spirit drawing me to you, and a few families. With this, one of my only criteria: that the parents would be willing to have a biracial child and are willing to have open communication with the birth mother, which I read you have with Callie’s birth mother. I was wondering if I could ask a few questions so I can get a better feel for the adoptive process and also to get to know your family a little better. I would love to hear back from you.”

As both my grammar and identity as a birth mother have developed over the last four years, I have come to really appreciate not only my maternal instincts to ask a ton of personal questions to get to know my son’s adoptive family, but Marcus and Jenny’s willingness to answer them. Choosing a family for your child is a huge deal; it’s as though you’re playing God for a single person. It’s a lot of pressure and responsibility, but when it comes to your child, nothing but perfection will do.

The first thing to consider is a foundation or a base, qualities you refuse to compromise on.

When looking into options for your child, think of it like building them your ideal home. The first thing to consider is a foundation or a base, qualities you refuse to compromise on. Since I had waited until 4 months into my pregnancy to even start looking, I felt a little rushed for time, so I really had to ask myself what I needed for my child. As I mentioned in my first email to his family, I just wanted to make sure he would be loved no matter the color of his skin, and that he would know who I am, so if he ever had questions, he could get information from the source. Everything was off the table if those two things weren’t met.

It goes without saying that there will be more than just those two requirements for you to really decide on a family for your child. Once I knew Marcus and Jenny were on board for the foundation, it was time to start building the frame. Though it was required by the adoption agency to have most of these qualities to become foster parents and eventual adoptive parents, I wanted to make sure stories lined up.

Dig deep and don’t settle for short answers.

I asked about finances, current careers, educational achievements, religious beliefs, style of discipline, how they keep their marriage strong, and so on. Everything but who they were going to vote for in the upcoming presidential election (though if you want to ask families that, they very well may let you know). Dig deep and don’t settle for short answers. This is not a temporary arrangement and deserves some serious answers. For example, my son’s family already had children, and I wanted to make sure that there would be enough time and energy to be allocated to my son. In just my third email, and again with my poor grammar, I asked, “Has it been easy for you guys to take care of two children in general financially, physically, and emotionally?”

May 6, 2012

Jenny’s response:

“I’m not sure if easy is the right word . . . but it feels natural. I’ve always wanted to be a mom. I loved teaching high school, and honestly it was sadder to leave than I thought it would be, but I LOVE being home with them. There are most definitely days when I feel like I’m not doing a good job or that I want to be more. But, there is nothing I’d rather be doing. And it makes me pretty happy to know that there’s nowhere else they’d rather be either. They both have friends and like going to school and stuff, but they get so excited to see us and that makes me feel like we must be doing something right! :) One of my favorite times of the day, seriously, is first thing in the morning. They are both so happy to see me come in their room. It starts my day off pretty great. Financially . . . I feel so blessed. Honestly. When we got married, I was teaching and we were living in Provo. Cheap living and we had a salary coming in with great insurance. During that time, we were able to save a lot of money. We both come from homes that were frugal and so it was easy for us to follow that model. We saved as much as we could . . . Marcus was going to school and working as well . . . and we have never had a problem financially.  Marcus’s hard work has helped him earn his PhD and he now works for Kaiser. I feel really blessed, especially during this time when we know so many people who can’t find jobs, that we are in a secure job that is great for our family. One of the reasons we specifically wanted to work at Kaiser was knowing that medical and financial security would be able for our family for a long time. We were soooo happy when he was hired!”

Marcus’ response:

“I don’t think parenting is ever easy, and if someone says that it is, they are probably doing something wrong. Emotional ups and downs come with the territory. Still, I never look back at my parenting experience and say, “Wow, that was really hard and I never want to do that again” or “I don’t think I could take much more of this.” Being a parent is the reason I feel we are here on the earth. Everything else is just extra. I absolutely love being a dad. My favorite time of the day is coming home from work and seeing two little girls so happy to see me. That’s where my priority is. Physically, we’re both still pretty young and try to stay in shape and have enough energy to keep up. So easy, not sure that’s the right word, but I guess I would have to agree with Jenny and say “natural.” I’ve sat here for a long time trying to think of a better way of saying it, but I think that’s the best way I can think of.

Like Jenny said, I have a stable job with good insurance, so I’ve never been too worried about money, and we are both pretty good at saving. I suspect I’m the only husband that has to encourage his wife to go out and buy new clothes and get her hair done more often.”

Now you can begin to build a relationship with the family that helps create a foundation that make you feel your child will be secure.

Once that frame is sturdy, and you feel your child will be adequately provided for and loved, you can begin to build a relationship with the family that helps create a foundation that make you feel your child will be secure.

Now you can get into the details.

 

And now you can get into the more trivial, though still important, details to decorate your almost-complete home: What do you do for fun as a family? Who, other than family, do you spend a lot of time with? What extracurricular activities do you want them to participate in? Does your family stick to any special eating habits (veganism, vegetarianism, fast food-ism, etc.)? Who do you have watch your children when you’re both gone? What television shows do you let kids watch and for how long? How much time do you spend on social media? What kinds of family vacations do you go on? All these things and more will help you gauge whether or not you think their lifestyle will be both safe and enjoyable for your child. After a little more than a week of emails, I felt comfortable asking, “Do you guys have a favorite place to vacation or camp? You said you live by the beach, which one? Do you guys go on vacation with your families a lot or is it mostly just you guys?”

May 15, 2012

“Marcus’ family didn’t really vacation all that much growing up. Travel wasn’t as exciting for them. But in my family, we lived super cheap, and then went on vacations! It’s just a part of my family culture. Each year we’d camp at a state park in Michigan. It was always July 4th and we’d go with other families in our ward. Fun! We’d also drive down to Florida each Easter to visit my grandparents. We’d stay with them but we’d go to Disney World each year . . . swimming in the Gulf . . . etc. Fun times. My family, well, we’re always busy. We like doing things. I think we’re slowing down, but we still like vacationing together. I keep trying to convince them that we need to do a trip in Hawaii. Yeah . . . that hasn’t happened yet. Marcus would be content going to Disney World every year. It’s a long flight, but it’s really fun. But with my side of the family, we’ve gone to Lake Cumberland in Kentucky, Disney World, Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City (Michigan) . . . one year we just stuck around home in Michigan and did things around there. We try to go to Michigan every year—or somehow see my side of the family. My parents have come out here to CA a few times, which is always fun.”

Even after you really know a couple or family, it’s important that you look inward.

Even after you really get to know a couple or family, it’s still important that you look inward. Pray, meditate, whatever it is you do to clear your mind and try to get direction. It may still not be easy, but it’s worth it to make sure your child will be as happy, safe, and loved as possible. When I chose Marcus and Jenny to be the parents for my child, I knew it was right. They had been open and honest with me, cared for me regardless of my decision, loved me through my mistakes, forgave me for being inquisitively intrusive, and have now spent the last three plus years making my son one of the happiest kids on the planet. They have lived up to every standard and made good on every promise, giving him more than I could have imagined.

If you have the chance, ask as many questions as you can. You’re helping build a home for your child. Make sure to lay down a sure foundation by knowing what you won’t compromise on. Set up  a strong frame to make sure the family can support your child the way you need them to. And once everything seems secure within the walls, decorate it to fit the dreams you have for your child.

If you’re pregnant and considering adoption for your baby, know that you don’t have to make this decision on your own. Click here to connect with an experienced, compassionate adoption professional who can help.