I had the best time at Maine Park in Park Ridge, IL, strolling around with Michael, Emily and Levi. Emily and Michael were just in town for a few days, and I am so thankful that they took time out of their busy schedule to share their story with me. We had the most beautiful day and great conversation, not to mention, one adorable little man! I was so thankful that my friend Eleanor, who I went to college with connected me with her sister Emily! (You can see pictures of Eleanor and her beautiful family here!).
Although my time with Michael and Emily was short, I loved hearing their adoption story and how little Levi came into their life. I love that every adoption is so different, each one with it’s own hardships and beauty. I am beyond grateful for anyone that is willing share their story on this blog. It’s not always easy to share, and I handle these stories with great care. Below you can read more about Michael and Emily and their adoption story.
Thank you Michael, Emily and little Levi!
What lead your family to pursue adoption?
We knew that we were ready to start a family about five years ago. I had struggled with some health issues so we weren’t sure if we would be able to conceive. After several years of hoping we came to a simple conclusion; we were ready to be parents and there were children out there that for a whole number ofreasons needed parents. Adoption helps connect the two.
Why did you feel domestic adoption was right for your family?
Several reasons. The first reason was that we felt strongly that we wanted the birth parents to have the opportunity to choose us. As someone once told us, “adoption at it’s best can be a redemptive act where you take a child who will need parents, a family that loves their child and decides to place them for adoption, and an adoptive family that longs to become parents and you bring them together. In the process,healing for everyone is possible.” A second factor in our decision was that domestic adoption was more financially accessible to us. The wait times for adoption are also often unknown but we felt that domestic adoption allowed us to take a somewhat more active role in connecting with a birth family.
Did you use an agency? If not, what did your process look like?
We did not use an agency. We initially thought we would but a few things happened that caused our path to look a little different. It started when we mentioned to a friend that we had attended an agency open house and were preparing to start the process. A week later she called and told us about a possible adoption situation that would require immediate action. Oh my! We were not legally ready yet but that started us on the journey. We met with a social worker who was known for his expedient and thorough homestudies. During our first meeting he mentioned that almost 50% of adoptions happen outside of agencies and come about because of situations like the one we had just experienced. We thought, let’s try to do this without an agency for a year and see what happens. We completed the homestudy, made a website, handed out business cards, started telling people we were trying to adopt, created a photo book and distributed our information to local lawyers and social workers. Along the way we received excellent legal counsel from attorneys accredited by the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, a guild of very experienced adoption attorneys. We also retained an AAAA attorney to help us navigate and finalize the local legalrequirements for our adoption.
How did you become connected to Levi?
About six months into our adoption process we decided to put our information onto a website called Adoptimist which hosted our online profile and provided a space for us to blog about our life. Two monthslater we connected with Levi’s amazing birth mother.
What advice would you give to those thinking about adopting?
There isn’t one single path to adoption. Everyone’s journey looks different. There isn’t a magic formula. Be you. I know that sounds trite but particularly with domestic adoption where you are actively “marketing” yourself it can be easy to feel like you’re competing in a beauty pageant. We presented ourselves as real people, the good and the bad. It’s also ok to not be ok. Adoption is an emotional rollercoaster. DO NOT DO THIS ALONE! Seek out support, be open, this is a vulnerable process so surround yourself with a support system. If you’re far from family, seek out a local adoption support group.
Did anything come up during the process that surprised you?
Hmmmm, so many things! I think one thing that really struck me personally was that at the exact moment of joy when we connected with Levi’s birth mom I also experienced a tremendous amount of unexpected grief. And what I realized I was grieving was that I wasn’t physically carrying this baby. It was a complete surprise because up to that point I had been fairly pragmatic about everything. As stated above, this is a vulnerable process. You often hold two opposite emotions simultaneously joy and grief, hope and despair…sometimes you don’t even realize your holding the two so closely. We are incredibly grateful to our son’s birth mother, she is a wonderful person that we have truly grown to love.
What did you learn about adoption through the process that you didn’t know when you began?
EVERYTHING! Literally. We both came in with a lot of personal experience with other adoptive families but the actual legal process of adoption was pretty foreign to us when we first started out. We spent a lot of time in the library, online, talking to other adoptive families, and educated ourselves about the process.
What do you wish people knew about adoption or adoptive families?
That we’re just like you. I guarantee we’re experiencing the same feelings any new parent feels: sheer terror (what are we doing and who do we think we are), exhaustion (couldn’t tell you what we did all day but we survived), elation (basically our kid is the greatest thing since sliced bread), pride (he rolled over!), love (my heart now lives inside the little person snuggled in my arms) and all the rest. And educate yourself. You might not adopt but you will meet families that have. Be mindful of the language you use about adoption. There are books, websites, blogs, and friends you can talk to about adoption. Please take a few hours and learn about the experience of other families. It matters.
How can people support someone they know that has adopted or is going through the adoption process?
Not to be redundant, educate yourself. In the process you’ll learn what your friend or family member is going through. Ask questions. Adoption is not a taboo subject; people have been growing families this way for centuries.
Some very practical, tangible things you can do:
- Host a fundraiser or adoption shower where people can donate towards adoption expenses.
- If you have permission, tell everyone in your network about your friend/family member’s adoption dreams. You never know who might know of someone that is looking to connect with an adoptive family. The new normal is the old school—word of mouth.
- Arrange meals, set up a time to watch the baby, send a list of second hand items you have on hand and ask if they need anything.
- Be present. Grieve over failed adoptions. Celebrate connections. You do not need to be an adoption expert or a social worker to lend support to adoptive families; you just need to be a friend. Be ok with being uncomfortable. You may not know/understand all the emotions your friend may be experiencing—the may be figuring out all the emotions themselves. Have grace.
What’s it like now that Levi is home and the waiting process is behind you?
The waiting has ended, the adventure has begun! Hmmm, I guess it just feels right. The other day Michael said, “I forget that we went through the process and adopted Levi.” That’s how it goes; the intense emotion of the process fades somewhat and is replaced with the quotidian—parenting. We love it.