Most of the little sessions for the weekend were taught by adoptive parents on the board of Families Supporting Adoption (FSA) in our county. It covered a range of topics from special parenting situations, addressing any concerns we had, to more technical aspects like blogging and social networking, to spiritual aspects of being forever families and God's plan for His children. One of the highlights was when they had a birth mom panel with four birth moms who sat and answered our questions for over an hour.
My biggest fear or concern before this training was that no one would ever pick us and that we won't be able to have any more children. Now I know, and have peace that if there is another baby who is supposed to be with our family they will make it to us. We can't have anymore biological children so if there are more who are supposed to be with us I know that a birth mom will find our little family and choose us to raise her child.
One of the most important things I took away from this weekend was that it really doesn't matter what we put in our profile, how many people we contact, or what we say. If there is a child who is supposed to be with our family then they will be with our family. Our birth mom will find us if we are being ourselves and listening to promptings from the Spirit about what we should do and say.
So below is a little bit of a summary of some of what we took from the weekend.
We both already had a strong respect for birth moms before the training, but now...I don't even really know how to describe it. I am in awe of the women who place their children with adoptive families. These are women who are able to show an unbelievable amount of maturity and love by giving their child a great life, and giving couples a gift they cannot give themselves. I'm excited to one day meet our birth mom :) I'm sure it'll get awkward and Daniel will have to speak for me because I'll be a blubbering fool :) Oh well :)
We got to ask questions of the birth mom panel and it was really insightful. Each of them had different stories, different circumstances and different reasons for wanting to place their babies, but every one of them wanted one thing, for their baby to have the kind of life they knew they couldn't provide at that time.
We learned a lot of ways that we can help birth moms with the whole process. All of what we learned about interactions with birth moms was to help us know how to show respect and support for our birth mom.
One thing I learned that I hadn't really thought about is that each birth mom has her own plan of what she wants for the birth. I don't know why I was surprised by this since each woman giving birth has her own plans for the whole process. I had thought that most birth moms would want the adoptive couple (or at least the mom) to be in the room for the birth, but all of the moms on the panel didn't. Regardless of what a birth mom's plan is for the day of birth and time up to relinquishment, we need to be respectful and supportive of that.
- One said she didn't know what her reaction was going to be and she wanted that day to be "nothing but joy" for the adoptive parents so she had the baby taken right to them and she didn't see him or them again for a few months.
- Another birth mom said she wanted the day (Utah relinquishment laws say the papers can't be signed until 24 hrs after birth) for just her and her family to say their good byes and spend time with the baby.
Birth moms almost always want to meet face to face before either selection or placement. Sometimes when you go to a "face to face" the birth mom has already chosen you, but sometimes they are meeting with several couples to help them decide. I am seriously already so nervous for the face to face :)
Here are some of the tips we got for meeting with a birth mom:
- Don't freak out! Relax :)
- Birth moms are nervous too
- We may or may not have already been chosen. Don't let this affect how we act.
- Be yourself
All of those tips are easier said than done :) I really do look forward to our first face to face even though I'm sure I'll be freaking out :)
A tip discussed that we had always planned on is to talk about adoption from day one. We don't want adoption to be any kind of secret. A lot of the moms talked about different age appropriate ways of presenting adoption to our future children. We got lots of ideas like picture books about adoption for younger children.
Something I hadn't really thought about is what we'll call our birth mom. One mom from the birth mom panel is called "Auntie (name)." Of the couples we talked to who have adopted before a lot of them call the birth mom by her first name. One couple's birth mom gave them a french nickname to have the kids call them because her family is french. When we are selected by a birth mom we'll ask her what she would like to be called :)
One mom talked about inter-racial adoptions. She and her husband are white and their oldest little boy is full black and their second is a quarter black. Something I took from her portion was essentially, if we are chosen to adopt a child of a different race, don't treat the situation as "well, we're you're parents and we're white, so now you're white." They are (insert heritage) and should be encouraged and helped to celebrate and identify with their ethnicity and heritage. It is a part of who they are. I really hadn't thought of that before. She said "don't be color blind" because the child won't be. She said her son is at the age where he is asking why they have different color skin and they explain that he got his skin color from his birth mom and dad. Plain and simple. There are actually several organizations specifically to help inter-racial adoptive children learn about their ethnic group.
On this same topic it was brought up to help any adopted child embrace the culture they came from, where ever or whatever that may be.
They had a guy come teach a session about positive parenting. He and his wife are adoptive parents and he teaches...I don't remember. Something about teaching and education or something. Anyway, he talked about parenting by giving positive reinforcement rather than always saying "no, don't do that."
He did this REALLY awesome example exercise. Two people went out into the hall and then were brought in one at a time. The goal was to get them to walk around the room and play the piano. When the first person came in we were supposed to say, "I like that" when she went the right direction and say nothing when she was going the wrong way or not going anywhere. It took her a little while but after lots of "I like that"s she made it all the way around the room and played the piano.
When the second person came in we were supposed to say "I don't like that" if he went the wrong way or did something he wasn't supposed to, and say nothing if he was doing it right. This guy made it to the front of the room (he came from the back corner) and didn't make it to the piano (in the other back corner). He was in the front of the room trying all sorts of things to entertain us and all we kept saying was "I don't like that." Poor guy. Eventually he got frustrated and gave up.
This was a great example of how to best parent children. Children respond very well to praise. Its important to notice the tiny little things they do that they are supposed to do (cleaning up toys, eating their food, etc.) and then reward it with "thank you," a high five or whatever is a rewarding reaction for that child. We just started doing this on Saturday with Aurelia and have already noticed a difference. It feels kind of silly sometimes making a huge deal out of her trying anything new or doing anything good but it has already made an impact. She seems more confident. This technique helps children make good choices and do whats right because they want to, not because they have the threat of punishment hanging over their heads.
Here was a quote I liked from this weekend.
And lastly, here is an article we were given that I liked. It was written by a birth mom.
The Gift of Adoption