"The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother"- Anonymous

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dear Sweetheart: Hopeful Adoptive Family Spotlight

I'm so excited to share this! We are the featured spotlight family over at Dear Sweetheart!!

Here's the post:

Hopeful Adoptive Family: Walker Family Spotlight

**How did you meet your spouse?  How long did you both date before you decided to get married?  How long have you been married?**

Steve and I met online actually! I was on love@aol.com (now match.com) and he was one of my "pics" of the week. My first thought when I saw his face was, "He has cheeks like mine!" I "winked" at him to let him know I thought he was cute. His profile headline was, "Are you looking for your prince?" He had me as his "pic of the week" too and had saved me under his "hot" list (lol). We emailed for about three weeks and then he called me (I was about to get my car washed and had like five minutes to talk). We had our first date on March 6, 2004 and it was an instant connection.

We wanted to start off as church buddies, since he wasn't sure if he was ready for a relationship. Our friendship progressed to a deeper connection and we felt like we had known each other for years, when it was only a month!
Our first date started with going to mass, then we went back to his apartment and made dinner together and then we looked through pictures and videos of his friends and family. It was the greatest date of my life.
We have been inseparable since March of 2004 until present. Steve asked me to marry him on September 17, 2005 while we were camping with some friends. We got married in the Bahamas (barefoot on the beach) on July 8, 2006. This past July we celebrated five amazing years together.

**What was the first thing you really came to appreciate about your spouse and why was that quality/characteristic important to you [if the ladies of the couple are answering this, then grab your husband's and have them answer it for you as well ;)  ]?**
I appreciate so much about Steve, it's hard to pick just one. If I did have to pick one quality/characteristic that I value most, it'd be his ability and willingness to communicate. I feel very strongly about communication being the key to all successful relationships. Steve is open, honest, and values our relationship. We don't fight. We might have a disagreement, but we always talk it out and in the end, we can agree to disagree, but we never fight. We both feel that what we have is too important and we don't sweat the small stuff.
Steve says that he appreciates my humor and ability to laugh at things. He likes that I don't take things too seriously, I'm low-maintenance, and I'm fun to be around. 

**Do you have any current family traditions that you celebrate as a family?  If so, how did these traditions begin?**
We celebrate Gus's Adoption Day (April 15) every year, as it's a very special day for us as a family. Last year we celebrated by going to a pottery place and we painted a platter and put our handprints on it. It's beautiful. Not sure what we'll do this year, but it'll be special and something we do together as a family (and just us).
We also go up to Michigan twice a year (the months always change). We go up to see my side of our family, and Gus's side of our family. We're hoping to start a tradition this year, of going up and doing a camping trip with all of my side of our family (my brothers and their families, and my parents). It should be really fun for Gus to spend great time with his cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

**If you currently have children, how many children do you have right?  Are they biological?  Are they adopted?**
We have one son, Gus. He was born on May 11, 2010 and he's adopted. He's the love of my life and the answer to so many prayers. He's special for so many reasons and is loved by all who meet him. He's got a dazzling personality and is just completely delightful to be around. He brightens each day and brings a smile to my face just thinking about him.

**If not already explained, how did you come to the decision to adopt?**
I always wanted to adopt. My mom was in an orphanage for a brief time as a child and it always perplexed me as to how she (being as amazing and wonderful as she is) could be looked over by anyone. So, it was always something I wanted to do when I was older.
When Steve and I got married and started trying to start a family, we were faced with four years of agony. I never stressed too much about it because I knew adoption was something I wanted to do anyway, but I had wanted to have biological children first and adopt second. God had a different plan.
One day after school, my room mom came to see how I was. She and I got to talking and she asked about my family and if I had any kids. I shared with her our struggle with infertility and she shared that she and her husband had adopted their youngest daughter. She gave me the name of her agency and I shared her info with Steve while we were celebrating our 3rd anniversary at the beach.
Steve wasn't ready to start the process until that October. It took him three months of praying and thinking about it before he was ready. When he was ready we started the paperwork.

**How has your experience in the world of adoption mirrored or changed your expectation of adoption?**
I didn't really know what to expect. We were told that we wouldn't be able to adopt a healthy child and to expect a child born addicted to something. We were told that we'd probably not be adopting a Caucasian child and to be prepared and ready for an interracial adoption. We were told that birth fathers are not in the picture ever... So be prepared to only deal with the birth mother.
Everything that we were told was the opposite. Our son is Caucasian (blonde hair and blue eyed), he was born to a mother who never used any drugs and didn't drink while pregnant. Our son has a birth mother and father (who are still together) and they BOTH love him and are active in his life.
I don't know if we're living the exception to the rule, but we have an incredible open adoption and hope to have something as great for the second time around.

**If you currently have children who are adopted, what is your current relationship with the birth-mothers/birth-families of your children?**
Because we live in another state from them, we don't see them as much as we'd like. That being said, we don't see our own families as much as we'd like, and we try to keep ALL sides of our family as connected to us as possible.
I think we're pretty lucky to have them as part of our family. Both sides of Gus's side of our family have welcomed us into their family, and genuinely care about us. We genuinely care about them as well.
When we head to MI, we see my side of our family, and Gus's side of our family. We include them in all aspects of our life.
Gus has a Facebook page and it's for all sides of his family. My side, Steve's side, and his biological side. They get to see pictures at the same time as everyone else.
I send weekly texts with pictures to everyone, we send presents and pictures, and they're no less important to us than our own parents. They send us gifts too and it's very sweet.
We feel so fortunate to have so many people love our son. He will never have to wonder where he comes from, what roots he has, or doubt if anyone loves him.

**If you currently have children who are adopted, do you have any traditions that their birth-mother's share in on?  If so, what are they?  (eg., my adoptive couple gives me an ornament every year with a picture of Baby Boy in it, and I love it and appreciate it so much).**
We try to make it to MI each year around his birthday so that we can celebrate his birth together (all of us) as a complete family. He got to sit on his birth mom's lap and blow out his candle last year and open presents while sitting on her lap. It was the most amazing day.
I send her something each year for Birth Mother's Day (the Saturday before Mother's Day Sunday).
Each year, just after his birthday, I make a video of pictures of Gus throughout the year. I always send her (and his birth father) a copy so they can see him change before their eyes (since they're not here to see it in person).
We send Christmas gifts. Each year I do something with his hand/foot prints and send it to them.

**How do you define open adoption?  What is open adoption to you?**
Open adoption is when everything is out in the open. There's nothing hidden and everyone is fully aware of the intentions, expectations, and realities of adoption. It's face-to-face visits, pictures, cards, letters, text messages, and correspondence that's not done through a facilitator.
To me, open adoption is everything. It's giving my child their future and their past all in one. It's making sure that when questions arise, we have a way to get answers. It's for the child COMPLETELY. It might be hard, and often it is, but ultimately, it's for the benefit of the child involved-- because THEY didn't ask to be born, and THEY didn't ask to be adopted. They deserve to have the best of all worlds... One where they know their story, they understand it, and they appreciate the choice their birth parents made for them to have the life that they have.
Anything but open adoption is cruel (in my opinion). I think there are circumstances where it's in the best interest of the child to not have a connection to their birth family, but it's still cruel to deny them the ability to know where they come from. It's cruel to deny the extended family the right to know the child that their family member decided to place for adoption.
With open adoption, everyone wins. Everyone.

**What would your ideal relationship with "your" birth-mother be, pre-placement?  (Would you like to attend Dr. appointments with her, have her to Sunday dinners, get together on a monthly basis for a movie, &etc?  How involved would you, ideally, like to be involved, &etc.)**

We're talking ideal... So in my ideal world, I'd love to attend appointments, be there when the baby is born, and have this great relationship. However, it's not ever going to happen. I'd be so afraid to get "sucked in" and committed and excited to be a mom again, and I'd worry that it'd all be gone with a change of mind. I'd be afraid that the birth mother would decide to parent and I'd be devastated that I invested so much hope in the relationship.
I almost feel like birth mothers should not "match" with a family until after the baby is born, and she's 100000% certain that placement is what she wants to do.
But in an ideal world, I'd love a birth mom to trust us, open her life to us, and connect with us. I'd love to have a birth mom share her story with us and continue with it after the baby is born. I'd love to have her be the intricate part of our family that she should be.

**If you already have adopted children, in your experience, what part of the adoption process (pre-placement, placement, post-placement) have you found to be the most important to the building of the relationship between you and the birth-mother?**

We didn't find out about Gus until May 3, 2010. We had exactly one week from the time that we were "matched" with his birth family, to when he was born. In that time, we never talked to his birth mom or dad. We only talked to her aunt (she worked with my cousin and the two of them brought us together). It was so scary to not have any details worked out, to not know what she was thinking/feeling. I was so worried that she was going to change her mind, I didn't allow myself to get attached.

I think post-placement has been where the most growth has taken place with us and his birth mother and father (more so with his birth mom). We are Facebook friends with her and share pictures and she comments on them. She's opened up more and more as more time has gone by and it's been such a blessing.

She just sent us a package with a Valentine's Day card for our family, two stuffed frogs for Gus, and then she had one of her friends (he's in art school) hand draw a picture of our family. She had it framed and sent it to us. It was so unexpected and thoughtful. Our relationship has come a long way and it's only getting better and better.

**For any young woman considering placing her child for adoption, and who is reading this right now, what do you want to say to her?**

It's so important that you follow your instincts and your heart. Don't do anything that you're not 100% comfortable doing. Deciding to place your child for adoption is the most agonizing decision you'll ever have to make, don't go into it lightly. Take the time to really determine what's most important to you and find what you think is the best possible connection with a family.
Don't let anyone pressure you into adoption. It's something that you'll always regret if you're not 100% certain. If you have doubts or hesitations, don't enter into something that will affect everyone involved. Adoption isn't for everyone, but neither is parenting.
You really need to make a list of pros and cons and trust yourself. If you decide that adoption is the right choice for your baby, go into it with an open heart, and really allow yourself to find the right people to raise your baby. Find people who will include you in your child's life. Be up front and honest, and speak your wishes.
Make sure that the family that you choose, values YOU, and isn't just saying what they think you want to hear. When you find the right family, you'll know it.

No matter what decision you make, you have to think about what's the best thing for your baby. I think OPEN adoption is the best of both worlds, but it's not for everyone. Good luck with your decision and keep an open mind. There are thousands of people looking to adopt an infant... Only one of them will be the right match for you. Decide what you'd ideally want your baby to have, and if you can't give them what they deserve, find a family who can.

Lastly, if you decide to place your baby for adoption, be PROUD of yourself. Don't beat yourself up, or think anything negative about yourself. You are ALWAYS going to be that baby's mom and whether or not your raise them, you will always be a significant part of the person that they become. The decision to place them into the arms of another person, is the most selfless thing that you can do. To decide that you cannot give your baby what you think they deserve, is the ultimate sacrifice. You should hold your head high and know that you're special, you're important, and you matter to that baby.

**Do you have a blog that you would like to share with those reading this today?  If so, what is the address of your blog?**

We do! We have an adoption blog and we're on hopingtoadopt.org and have a profile on there as well.
Here We Go Again (Our adoption blog): http://walkersadopt.blogspot.com/
Hoping to Adopt (Our profile page): http://www.hopingtoadopt.org/index.php/family/letters/448

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