People frequently ask me questions about how we adopted, what professional we used, what a homestudy involves, etc. A friend recently asked me to do a post about our experience with the process.
For our first adoption, we were very new to the process, so we hired a non-profit, full-service agency to help us. They completed our homestudy, counseled us as we created our adoptive parent profile book, matched us with an expectant mother, took care of the hospital, insurance, and delivery issues, completed our post-placement visits per state-law, and handled our finalization. It was nice having only one entity to deal with for the process.
For our second adoption, we had a similiar process. We hired the same agency, however, we lived in a different state this time, so we had to hire a third party to handle our homestudy and post-placement visits. The agency handled everything else for us.
For this recent adoption, we felt a bit more confident in the process, so we decided to go partly independent. Our state requires that a certified agency handle the legal aspects of an adoption and counsel the expectant mother, however, we are allowed to do a great deal on our own. As a result, we found a good agency that specialized in homestudies and “designated adoptions.” Since their involvement with the expectant mothers and birthmothers is very limited, it cut the price by more than half. They completed our homestudy, then we branched out on our own to match for a baby. We networked by telling everyone we knew that we were adopting. After a lot of research, we also decided to put a profile on an adoptive parent profile website. This is a website that often shows up in internet searches using the term “adoption.” Expectant mothers can browse the profiles of couples wanting to adopt, select favorites, and contact the ones they are interested in. Within 3 months, we had been contacted by several women, including R’s birthmom.
You can read the posts about our adoptions here.
I tried to keep this post brief. If you still have specific questions or want more information on domestic infant adoption, you can check some FAQ’s here, or leave your question as a comment on the blog, and I will answer as soon as I can.
What a week this has been! If you want to catch up, go to the “Adoption” posts and read to your heart’s content. I want to note that, when referring to the young girl we have been working with, I will only use generic terms. This is out of respect for her and the discreetness necessary.
Wednesday evening, I had spent several hours baking meals to freeze for the sitter while we were at the hospital, and my kitchen was a wreck. I was trying to do some straightening up before bed, when the phone rang around 10:30 p.m. S and I looked at each other with an “is this it?” look due to the time. S answered the phone, and sure enough, birthmom was in labor. I don’t know if the stress of the impending induction caused it or what, but she was at the hospital, already at 5 cm dilated, and wanted us there. (Maybe it was everyone’s collective prayers for a natural delivery?!) I ran and got dressed, started packing some last minute items, and called the sitter. Within 30 minutes, we were on the road. I felt terrible leaving my kitchen such a disaster, but, obviously, we had our priorities! S set the cruise on the speed limit, and we drove the hour and a half to the hospital, where we met the soon-to-be mother and some of her extended family. She had already had an epidural, so she was fairly comfortable. When the contractions began getting worse, we headed to the waiting room, where we spent the next 3 hours.
Arriving at the hospital around 12:30 a.m.
It was rather humorous that every man related to this birth found a way to sleep (including S). They were stretched out on chairs, loveseats, and even the floor. All us women, on the other hand, try as we may, could not get a wink of sleep. We sat, we watched TV, we paced the floor, and then we repeated the process. For 3 hours. I was the only woman not directly related to the birthmom, so the others kept going in and out of the delivery room, while I stayed in the waiting room. Thankfully, they kept updating me when they returned.
Very late...or very early, depending on how you read the clock at 4:40 a.m., after no sleep in almost 24 hours.
Finally, just after 4:00, I saw a lot of commotion starting around her room, and shortly after, I heard the baby cry. I quickly woke up S, and birthmom’s sister came out of the room to tell us it was a girl, and we could come in after the nurses got everybody cleaned up. It was almost 5 a.m. before they were ready for us, but we walked in and found the birthmom holding her. She looked up at us, smiled, and offered the baby to me. It was love at first sight! Baby was perfect in every way, and sleeping soundly.
Me holding R for the first time.
S holding R for the first time.
A photo I will always treasure of us, holding R, and her birthmom, right after delivery. I blanked her face for privacy purposes, but it is a photo I will always cherish.
R in her bassinet.
S and I took a few pictures, and eventually, the nurses needed to take the baby to finish doing what they do with newborns and moms. We returned to the waiting room, where we spent the next 2 hours. Around 7, the birthmom’s family needed to leave and go to work, so we were left with her and the baby. The nurses decided it was time to feed baby, and I was invited back into the room. Birthmom wanted to feed her, but wasn’t sure how, so I helped her get set up with a bottle and baby. I stayed, burping baby when necessary, as birthmom didn’t feel comfortable doing that (or diaper changes). After the bottle, both mom and baby decided they wanted to sleep. I wasn’t allowed to leave with baby, as she technically still belonged to the birthmom at this point. So, I laid her in the bassinet, and left them to rest. Let me tell you, after months of waiting, and the anticipation and excitement relating to the birth, laying the baby down and walking away is a hard thing to do!
Around 8, a nurse came and gave me an arm band. Let me explain. In most delivery wards, there will be 2 hospital bracelets allowed for each birth. Typically, the bracelets would go to mom and dad. In the case where there is no dad, the mom can decide who gets the other bracelet. In our case, the birthmom asked the nurse to give it to me so that I would have equal access to the baby. After putting on my arm band, the nurse asked me to take the baby and she would set me, S, and baby up in a room in post-partum while birthmom rested. We eagerly did so. Of course, the nurse had to get birthmom’s permission to do this, but birthmom understood that baby needed care, she was unable to, and she wanted rest. So, she agreed to let us take her.
We spent the next few hours in a room together, just enjoying looking at her, holding her, and of course, falling in love with her. At this point, I had been awake for over 24 hours, so the times are a little fuzzy in my brain. Around 10:30, birthmom woke up and they brought her into a seperate post-partum room. I noticed that her room and our room both had a “STOP” sign posted on the door outside, unlike other rooms. The nurses explained to us that we were under heightened security. The birthmom was concerned that the birthfather’s family members may try to show up and cause trouble. So, any visitors to our rooms either had to be escorted or know the password to get past the nurse’s station. Great. Anyway, after they got birthmom settled into her new room, she asked to see the baby. I took baby to her, helped her feed her again. Later, when she decided she wanted to be alone with baby for a little while, I returned to my room, and S and I both crawled into the little post-partum bed and managed to sneak in about 30 minutes of sleep.
Throughout the afternoon, birthmom’s family came and went, we spent time with them off and on, we handled diaper changes and burping, while they handled feedings, and we all generally got to know each other better. This is an amazing family, just full of love for this little girl. Even a great-grandmother came to visit. With arthritic fingers, she had hand-knitted a beautiful baby blanket. Then, around 3 in the afternoon, we got a very unexpected and devastating phone call.
I can’t go into much detail, but essentially, there was an issue with the birthfather’s paperwork, and the agency was nervous about whether the adoption would be able to finalize. They recommended we put the baby into “cradle care,” which is basically a privatized, specialized version of foster care (without state involvement). They didn’t know if she would be there for days, weeks, or months. You can’t imagine how that hit us like a brick in the chest! I was fully prepared for taking this baby home, and I was fully prepared for the possibility that birthmom could change her mind and take the baby home with her instead. I was not prepared in any way for the possibility that the baby would be put into cradle care and not go home with either of us! Just the thought of her not having a real mommy put me to tears. S and I had to talk about some things and call the agency back. We talked, we prayed for peace and direction, and he called them back. I just kept crying off and on. The agency needed us to talk with birthmom about the situation and call them back again. Unfortunately, at the time, her parents were not with her, but the situation was urgent. So, her sister, who was there, quickly called her parents, and then we explained the details of the situation to birthmom while we waited for her parents to arrive several hours later. The next several hours were an emotional time for everyone. Birthmom and I both sobbed, as we held each other, each for our own seperate, yet similiar reasons. She had her heart set on us taking her baby and giving it a loving home. We had our hearts set on doing just that. She was in no way prepared for bringing baby home with her, and yet, like us, the last thing she wanted was cradle care or any other temporary arrangement. We found ourselves caught between a huge rock and a hard place, and couldn’t quite figure a way out. As if the situation wasn’t bad enough, the nurses who were witnessing the tears, but weren’t sure what was going on, felt compelled to call the hospital social worker. So the worker came up, talked with birthmom privately–which was not a good thing seeing as how she had no one with her for support, and didn’t fully understand the situation to begin with. Then, the social worker came and talked to S and I. It was quickly obvious she was very misinformed about the issue at stake, and was giving us incorrect information and counsel. To further compound the situation, the nurse assigned to birthmom and us that day, decided she needed to be involved. As sweet as she was, she had no business in that room while we were being counseled, but continued to hang around and occasionally offer her two-cents and opinions and theories–all of which were not even remotely related. Finally, after getting a bit of info from birthmom and seeing how she felt about the whole thing, her parents arrived. We got to talk with them for a while and explain what was going on.
On one hand, we wished that the agency was doing all this talking, but then again, I guess it is technically an independent adoption which puts more responsibility on us. If there was a positive to be found, it was the fact that this whole situation created a tremendous opportunity for us to not only build the foundations of a good relationship with the baby’s birthfamily, but also to really evaluate the calling God had given us and how far we were willing to go to answer that call. Late that evening, the agency’s birthmom counselor finally arrived. Surprisingly, she had not been warned of any of the drama that had unfolded that day. She had simply come thinking we were going to do some papework to prepare for the consent to be given the following morning. She was floored by the news we shared. She proceeded to step out into the hallway and call our adoptive parent counselor, as well as the agency director who had given us the bad news initially. After spending about an hour on the phone, she returned to the room where we had all gathered, and we got things sorted out as best we could. It boiled down to the fact that the burden of the decision was on us. The baby was to be released from the hospital the next morning. The birthfamily could not find any way possible to take the baby home and make it work for birthmom to parent. So, we had to decide whether to take custody of the baby under legal-risk pretenses, or send her to cradle care for an unknown amount of time until the legalities were sorted out. S and I talked and prayed some more, realizing now that it was not just the baby that would be affected, but our current children as well. If we took her, were they old enough to understand what a legal-risk situation was? In the event she had to leave us at some point in the next year, how would they handle that, as young as they are? How would we handle that? The more we talked and prayed, though, the more we knew there was absolutely no way we could turn our backs on the baby or her birthmom. As devastating as it may be to lose her one day, we realized it would be far more devastating to just walk away, and send her to a temporary home. So, we agreed to take the risk, take the baby home, and allow the courts to handle the details. I don’t know if it’s right to read into things, but the relief we could see in the birthfamily’s eyes when we told them we would still take her helped us feel we had made the right decision. You could easily see their thankfulness in their eyes, as this was a family that loved this little girl every bit as much as we did, and they wanted only the best for her.
That evening, things gradually calmed down, and birthmom’s family and S had to leave to return home for the night. That left me, birthmom, and the birthmom counselor from the agency. Just as she was about to leave, birthmom requested the baby, and then she broke down again. The thought of giving the baby up finally hit her. I left the room and the counselor talked with the birthmom for awhile. Afterward, she came and told me the birthmom wanted to have some one-on-one time with baby for a while, and then wanted me to take her for the night so she could rest. Birthmom had me take the baby out about 45 minutes later, and, after an emotional day, we said “Good-night.” By now, it was around 10:30, and with the exception of that little 30 minute nap in the morning, I had been awake for over 36 hours. I was exhausted, I was emotional, and my brain was hardly functioning at that point. Predictably, baby decided she was done sleeping. For the next several hours, everytime I was just about to doze off, she would start crying. Finally, I felt terrible after all we had been through, but knowing the next day could prove to be equally emotional, I called the nurse and asked her to take the baby for just 3 hours. That would give me a really solid power nap, let baby have her awake time in the nursery, and we could go from there. So, that’s what we did, and I got probably the best 3 hours sleep of my life. Before I knew it, the baby was brought back to me and ready to eat. I was able to feed her, and since the nurses had taken the opportunity to do some more of the newborn stuff they do, baby was exhausted and more than ready to sleep. I was able to sleep for the next couple hours, only waking once to feed her. At 7:30 Friday morning, birthmom called my room and requested I bring the baby to her.
I got up and took her in, and got her all set up to feed the baby breakfast. I spent the next 3 hours or so with birthmom, getting to know her more, sharing laughs and stories, and sometimes just sitting quietly staring at the little miracle in her arms. We discussed paperwork that had to be completed. Before we knew it, her and the baby had both been examined by the docs, and were ready to be discharged from the hospital. S soon arrived with Nana and the kiddos in tow, and on birthmom’s invitation, they got to visit with their new sister for the first time.
The kids and Nana meeting R.
JR feeding R
N shocked everyone with his attentiveness and gentleness with R. He was absolutely smitten with her!
A was also smitten with her, and was very gentle when he held R. He kept asking to "pet" her.
Big sister M holding her little sister. Her smile says it all!
Nana holding R.
Birthmom’s family soon arrived and S and I took the kids from the room to give them some time to say goodbye, while we waited on the counselor to arrive for the final, official paperwork. The rest of the day was spent with S, me, and Nana entertaining our kids and spending time together, while the birthfamily spent time with the baby.
The toddler boys napping on my hospital bed as we wait.
At one point, the birthfamily requested we let them borrow the outfits we had brought for newborn pictures, and they spent some time dressing her up, taking as many pictures as possible, and someone, at all times, it seemed, was crying. Around 2, the birthmom counselor arrived, and the paperwork was completed. Final pictures were taken, and we all left the family again to say their final goodbyes. This was Nana’s first experience with an adoption situation and a birthfamily, and I think she cried as much as the rest of us! Around 5 p.m. on Friday evening, R was turned over to us in the entryway of the hospital, and we buckled her into the car. S and I said our goodbye’s to birthmom and her family, with lots of hugs, promises of e-mail updates, photos, and even periodic visits. Then, we got in our cars and drove our seperate ways.
There is absolutely no way to explain the emotions of what occurred over the last 2 days. Even now, as I look at our new little girl, I have to remind myself that it is possible we could lose her at some point in the next year. This is where we have to have faith that God has called us here and put us in this situation for a reason. We do not yet know what the outcome will be, though we know we already love her with all our hearts as though she were born of our blood. We can only pray that everything will work out legally and this adoption will finalize just like our other 2 did. At the same time, though, we know that we have gained an extended family of sorts, as we have developed a close relationship with her biological family, and we have come to love people that we otherwise would not have had the opportunity to. Despite the roller coaster of emotions involved, this has been a time of spiritual growth, growth in our marriage, and growth in our personal characters, and for that we can only be thankful.
So now, as one waiting period has come to an end, another has just begun. Now, we wait on paperwork to go through and be processed, we wait to find out if we get to keep this little angel, and we wait to see if the adoption will be finalized. In the mean time, we will love her as our own, and we will be thankful for every moment we get to spend with her.
N, 18 months, modeling our new cloth diapers.
Several months back, I officially made the switch to cloth diapers. I feel like I am probably the last person on earth to figure out the ins and outs of this topic, but since I have had several friends and strangers ask me questions about cloth diapers recently, I figured it might make a good post topic. While I have not gone through the entire infant stage yet, I have learned a great deal about cloth diapering these last few months.
First, I can tell you a bit about our diapers and the system we have found to make things easier around here. We use Fuzzi-Bunz cloth diapers. I must preference this by saying that I did absolutely no research on diapers, and have no idea how these compare to other brands. The sole reason I have these is because my neighbor’s children had outgrown them, she was encouraging me to use cloth, and offered to sell me hers at a great price. I bought them. That being said, I have been very happy with our diapers.
While my limited research since has shown that other brands are very similiar in characteristics, here is a brief overview of ours. The diaper itself is actually pretty hi-tech! It consists of a “shell” with the outer side being a fabric lined on the inside with a waterproof coating, and the inner side being wool to wick the moisture away from baby.
diaper shell on left, liner on right
The back of the diaper has an opening to slip the absorbent liner in and out easily. I could be wrong, but I think I read somewhere that the liner is something like wool with a cotton interior. It is fairly absorbent in any case.
Unlike the old cloth diaper pins, this diaper has snaps all over the front to allow you to adjust the diaper as baby grows. I can honestly say it is very adjustable! My 24 pound toddler wears the same size as my 34 pound toddler (though the bigger one won’t fit too much longer).
I have had no problem with leaks around the legs. The only issue I have had with leaks is with my older toddler. He has a bit of a drinking fetish, and pees like crazy. As a result, despite our limiting his fluid intake, he soaks the diaper overnight, and it would leak out around the top. In this case, I finally found that if I took a second absorbent liner, folded it in half, and stuffed into the front of the diaper, while leaving the first liner as normal, then the extra layers prevented leaks. It does create a bit of a bulky diaper, but that doesn’t seem to bother him, and it saves me a lot of laundry!
With three exceptions, cloth diapering is really not much different than using disposable diapers. Those three exceptions include dealing with the dirty wipes, dealing with the soiled diapers, and dealing with the ammonia smell between changing and laundering.
I quickly realized how habitual it was to wipe baby, drop the dirty wipe into the disposable diaper, roll it up, and toss in the garbage. Quick, simple, and mess free. At this point, I am still using a standard diaper pail, for lack of other ideas. I keep it beside the changing table, and just toss the wipes in there now, rather than the diaper. It works, but I would like to find a better option that doesn’t use all that plastic.
As far as the dirties, I know a number of people who simply dump the diaper into the toilet, perhaps even swirl the diaper in the toilet water (giving it sort of a pre-rinse), and then toss it into the laundry diaper pail. Before we potty-trained, I did not have a great deal of success with this dumping and swirling technique. I am bit particular about having the diaper, ummm….shall we say “chunk-free?” So with our next baby, I have every intention of having a designated “diaper spatula” stored near the toilet to actually scrape the waste off. I think it will make life much easier.
The ammonia is much easier to deal with. The severity of the smell will actually depend a lot on your child’s urea production and the time it sits before laundering. Some of the diaper manufacturers actually sell a specially lined laundry bag to lock in odors while the diapers sit. We have chosen not to invest in this, rather we use a good old-fashioned bucket, and bottle of vinegar-water.
When we take the diapers off the baby, we remove the liner, lightly spray both sides of the liner and the wool side of the diaper shell with the vinegar water, then just drop it in the bucket to sit until laundering. Mine generally don’t sit more than 24 hours though, as I do at least one load of laundry almost every day. I just toss the diapers and liners in whatever load I am washing at the time.
So there you have it. Cloth diapering 101. Here are some other tips based on my very limited experience:
- Cloth diapers will not swell up like disposables, so you must remember to change them frequently. If you go too long between changes, you will risk yeast or bacterial infections taking hold of baby. Trust me, we learned this the hard way.
- Some of the fancier cloth diapers with wool pads and waterproof linings cannot be bleached. You also have to be careful to use a mild detergent (homemade detergents are also fine). You may be able to sterilize them by boiling them in hot water and/or vinegar for 20-30 minutes.
- Vinegar is excellent for neutralizing the ammonia odor while the diaper is waiting to be washed, or when sterilizing. If your child has a pretty high level of urea/ammonia, and you spray the diaper with you may hear or even see a bubbly fizzing occur (picture hydrogen peroxide on a dirty wound). Don’t be concerned. This is simply a chemical reaction between an acid (vinegar) and a base (ammonia), as it neutralizes into a salt water. Quite fascinating, actually! Great homeshool science experiment!
- Do not soak your diapers with the vinegar, unless you are going to wash it soon after. Vinegar is an acid, and it could potentially break down the waterproof lining of the diaper and/or the diaper itself. A very light spray is all it takes, and that ensures the chemical reaction will occur to turn it from acid into salt water, which is relatively harmless. I even run it through a laundry cycle after the occasional boiling in vinegar water just to make sure all the acid is out.
- Cloth diapers that can’t be bleached do have stains. It is a fact of life, and you just learn to deal with it. If the diaper is clean and smells fresh, it’s safe to use. If you have concerns, boil it once in a while.
- Cloth diapers can be a bit of a nusance on outings. You have two choices, both of which we have tried. First, you can take ziploc bags to seal the used diapers in until you get home and can clean them. Second, you can use disposable diapers during outings. Both options have pros and cons, and you have to decide what’s right for you. We learned to utilize both options, depending on how long the outing was. If I only had the potential of 1-2 diaper changes, I generally preferred the cloth diapers and ziploc bags. If the outing was longer, I used disposables so I wouldn’t have to carry dirty diapers around all day.
So, if you have been considering taking to the plunge into cloth diapering, I recommend you go for it. It will be different, but it is very doable. It is better for baby, better for the pocketbook, and better for the environment!