Children

What do your adopted children want from you as the adoptive parent?

Now that the adoption agency I founded here in North Carolina is 16 years old, and now that my two adopted sons are teenagers, I’ve learned a bit about what adoptees (adopted children) want over time from me as an adoptive mother. Every adoption situation is different, but there are some common threads:

Adoptees want to hear their birth story:

Birthdays and holidays like Christmas and Easter can be hard for adoptees. That is why we encourage adoptive parents in open adoptions to send photographs and update them three times a year at a minimum – the child’s birthday, and Christmas and Easter. We get the most inquiries from birthmothers who have placed their children on the child’s birthday and around the holidays.

And if you are adopted, hearing the story about the first time you as an adoptive mother saw you and held you is very important. Share these details. Share photographs from the hospital if you were lucky enough to be there and also share photographs from placement day (or “Gotcha day!” as they’re sometimes called).

Adoptees want to be reassured that you will never abandon them:

For adoptees, I think there is often the question of why didn’t she keep me? It’s especially important with adopted children that their adopted parents remind them frequently that adoption is forever. I tell my sons that “I will always be there for you” and when one of them acts out or makes a mistake, I let them know that there is nothing they can do that will stop me from loving them. It’s my mantra, and no matter how they act out, I repeat it.

Adoptees deserve to know why they were placed for adoption:

It’s important for adopted parents to share what they know about what was behind the birthparents’ decision to place them for adoption rather than raise the child. Whether she was an unwed teenager or a woman struggling with addictions, domestic violence or poverty, information about why there was an adoption helps adoptees cope with the reality that they couldn’t be raised in their birth family.

When the facts behind placement are especially dire – rape and incest, abuse by a birthparent, etc. the facts can be shared at a later time in development when the child can understand. In the meantime, if the adopted parents met the birthmother, telling the child about shared physical characteristics you observed is a link that helps an adoptee feel connected.

Adoptees need to know that they were not a mistake:

No one is a mistake. But I think for adopted children it can look and feel that way. Little do they know that many pregnancies are not planned, whether there is an adoption or not. But when you are an adoptee, it’s important to state the obvious often and without reserve – “I am so glad you were born! You have made me so happy! And I will always love you!”

When I told my son this recently, he challenged me. “But I was a mistake!” he yelled.

I hesitated and then recovered. “Not to your dad and me,” I said. “God made you just for us.”

Things on a Birth Mother’s Mind

Ask almost any pregnant woman and she’ll tell you: her mind races from anxiety to anticipation in a heartbeat. For a pregnant woman who has decided to place her child for adoption, the emotional roller coaster may have even greater ups and downs.

Deciding on Adoption Details

Birth mothers may need to decide on a family for their child. In an open adoption, the most common kind, the birth mother may meet many adoptive families, trying to decide which one will be a good fit for the baby. The birth mothers must determine what legal issues to negotiate related to the adoption, such as type and frequency of communication or visits.

Dealing with Questions About the Decision

In addition, birth mothers must face the barrage of questions such as “what are you going to name the baby” and other questions that assume the woman will raise the baby. Does she explain to everyone who asks that she has made the difficult, but loving decision to place her child for adoption? Does she say nothing or lie, just to avoid getting into a potential conversation or debate?

It’s not just strangers a birth mother may have to defend her decision to, but family and friends as well. Although adoption is a deeply personal issue, it’s not uncommon for others to offer opinions about what the birth mother should do. Most birth mothers, however, have given this option a great deal of thought and have done significant research before coming to the decision that this is in the best interest of the child. Rather than receiving criticism, birth mothers should receive support.

Keeping Themselves and Their Babies Healthy

Most birth mothers are deeply committed to keeping their babies healthy, and marvel at the baby’s growth. The mothers know they must take care of themselves and their babies—by eating well, exercising, going to regular prenatal doctor’s visits and taking pre-natal vitamins. If a birth mother needs bed rest or special care, she must figure out how to manage work, other children or commitments while keeping her unborn baby safe.

Worrying About the Baby’s Reaction Later in Life

Will the baby, once grown, understand why adoption was the best choice? Even when the birth mother is at peace with the decision, she still may wonder if the child will understand. The birth mother has no illusions: she knows it will be difficult not raising her child, but many birth parents find that staying in touch with the adoptive family makes it a little easier. In addition, with the opportunity to communicate with the child through an open adoption, a birth parent can convey the reasons for the sacrifice.

A birth mother has many things on her mind because she, like every mother, wants to ensure the best outcome for her child.

If you are considering adoption and want to learn more, or need support, please call A Child’s Hope in Raleigh, NC. Our understanding counselors can provide the information you need to make the right decision for you and your child throughout the North Carolina area. Dial our 24-hour hotline at 877-890-4673 or text “pregnant” to 919-971-4396.

A Letter To My Child — How Can I Let Them Know…

Although a birthmother may not be there for the little things like feeding, diapering and other daily tasks which help a child know that he or she is loved, there is a lot that a woman placing a baby for adoption can do before and after the process to help their child understand the difficult and brave act of asking someone else to raise their child.

These following notes are written as suggestions for a birthmother and birthfathers struggling with how to explain this either at the time, or perhaps in the future:

Letters — Write a letter to your child for the adoptive parents to read to him or her later in life. It’s important that this letter comes from your own words and from your heart. Explain why you made the decision, how much you love him or her and how he or she will always be in your heart. Sometimes, handwritten can have the best affect. For some ideas see this post.

Lifebooks — Consider doing a photo book. Known as lifebooks, these scrapbooks can include photographs about you and the birthfather so that over time the child can get to know you. For some ideas on photo books, see this example.

Make something for the child — Making a blanket or a stuffed animal for the baby or buying something for the child to keep and be told is from you is a great way for the child to have something tangible that represents your love. One idea is that you might consider a stuffed animal “mother and baby” so that you can keep the baby and the child will have the matching “mother”. If you are okay with parting with a stuffed animal or toy that you had as a child, that is a wonderful link to you as well for the child to keep.

Books about Adoption — Purchase a children’s book about adoption and inscribe on the inside something from your heart … like ”never forget how much I love you!” etc. For a list of children’s books about adoption see this list.

Naming the child — Ask the adoptive parents to work with you on choosing a name for the child. Many parents will often incorporate part of their name into the child’s name, or perhaps part of the name that the birthparent was going to pick. To start, ask the adoptive parents to tell the child where his/her name came from and build on that. Names are a touchy subject and if you are uncomfortable bringing up the suggestion, sometimes a counselor can help. If you don’t have a counselor, email or ask the question in a note to the adoptive parents and make sure they understand you’re coming from the heart. While many parents are skittish to make such a request, it’s common for adoptive parents to be very helpful here as they want the child to form strong and healthy bonds.

Stay in touch. Both with open and semi-open adoptions, you can send letters and pictures over the years to your child – Birthday cards, Valentine’s cards, and all other holidays. Send the card in advance so the child actually receives on his/her holiday celebration and remembers that you were planning this ahead of time! Your pictures show the child how you are doing and can help form stronger bonds.

Send clothes. Ask the adoptive parents for the current size the child wears and send some thoughtful clothing, perhaps married to the current season or weather.

Visits — Remember, the best way to connect with a child and show them you care is to visit and do so enthusiastically and lovingly!

Pregnancy: What to Know about The Second Trimester

Looking-out-window---blk-and-whiteThe second trimester of pregnancy often feels like the best. You may no longer get morning sickness, and you may now enjoy a hearty appetite along with a resurgence of energy. You also are starting to see visible changes in your body as the baby grows, but you don’t yet have some of the late stage discomforts.

Baby’s Development in the Second Trimester

The second trimester begins in week 13 and goes to about week 28. During this time, the baby continues phenomenal growth as the systems that are now in place continue to develop. Sweat glands develop, and eyebrows, eyelashes and fingernails start to grow. Other internal organs that have already formed continue to mature.

The skin becomes less transparent as necessary fat accumulates. The baby begins to have sleeping and waking cycles. Although the baby may have begun to move at the end of the first trimester, during the second trimester, you can begin to detect the movement. Doctors can find the baby’s heartbeat with a stethoscope.

By the end of the second trimester, the baby measures a little over a foot—about 14 inches in length and weighs about 2 ¼ pounds. For comparison, the baby is about the size of a whole cauliflower.

Changes for You During the Second Trimester

Just as the baby is undergoing amazing growth during the second trimester, your body changes to support that growth.

Some of the changes you’ll notice may include larger breasts, stretch marks and finally, a baby “bump.” You may also notice skin changes, almost as if you were in puberty all over again. You may get more frequent bladder or kidney infections and leg cramps as your body adjusts to the increased work it is doing.

Toward the end of the second trimester, you may feel aches as the ligaments in your abdomen stretch to accommodate the growing belly. You may also begin to feel a temporary tightening, or mild contractions, called Braxton-Hicks, which help prepare your body for delivery. As the baby takes up more room, squeezing your stomach and lung area, you may feel indigestion and occasional breathlessness.

By the end of the second trimester, most women are wearing maternity clothes and the pregnancy is real and undeniable.

Making Use of “Honeymoon” Period

Without the frequent nausea and exhaustion of the first trimester, and yet before the tiredness and discomfort of the third trimester, the second trimester is one of the best times to plan for your baby. For women who are considering placing their child with an adoptive family, this is an important time in the information gathering and decision making process. A Child’s Hope can help. Our empathetic counselors can listen and provide the information you need to make the right decision for you and your child.

To learn more, please call our 24-hour hotline at 877-890-4673 or text “pregnant” to 919-971-4396.

The Cost of Being Pregnant—And Where To Get Financial Support

CostOfPregnancy

It’s no surprise that raising a child can be expensive. A recent estimate puts the price tag $245,340. But what may be surprising is the financial cost women incur even before the baby is born, during pregnancy.

To have a healthy pregnancy, it is important to anticipate these costs, and learn where to go for financial help if needed.

Initial Medical Costs

Regular pre-natal doctor visits are essential for the wellbeing of you and your baby. Your doctor is likely to prescribe a prenatal vitamin that contains folic acid, which gives your body the additional nutrients necessary to help the baby develop normally, and that can help prevent birth defects. Your doctor may give additional prescriptions if you are anemic or have other health conditions to be addressed.

During the pregnancy, you will likely have certain screenings and tests to ensure the pregnancy is progressing as it should, without taking too great a toll on your own health. If you have complications during the pregnancy, or a pre-existing health issue, your doctor may require additional testing to monitor the situation.

WebMD, a health news site, estimates the cost of prenatal care in an uncomplicated pregnancy to range from $0 – $2000, and the cost of prenatal vitamins as $15 per month.

Where to get financial help: You may be eligible for help through Medicaid, a governmental program for low-income individuals.

Maternity Clothes

Some women make it through their pregnancy wearing loose shirts and drawstring pants to accommodate the baby bump, but others may need traditional maternity clothes. If you are working through the pregnancy, your needs will be determined by your work dress code.

Many women get through the pregnancy without spending much on clothes by combing through their own wardrobe for comfortable clothes, borrowing from friends and family, and looking for good finds, including sale items in the men’s department or clothes from local thrift or resale shops.

Food

It’s not fair that healthy food is often more expensive than junk food. Making nutritious choices for meals gives your baby the best chance for a great start in life, but when you’re on a tight budget, it may be difficult to balance to maintain. Consider preparing foods yourself, instead of eating out. Enjoy frozen fruits and vegetables, which have similar nutritional value as fresh produce, but are often less expensive. Build meals around beans, which are inexpensive and great forms of protein. Shop sale items, especially for lean meats. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Choose My Plate offers more tips on healthy eating, at low cost.

Where to get help: If you need food, contact the USDA National Clearinghouse or call the USDA National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE. Over 80 sites in the Raleigh area collaborate with the clearinghouse to provide food for the hungry.

Another program in North Carolina, known as Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides healthy foods for pregnant women who live in the state. Click on the WIC website or call the Department of Health and Human Services’ Customer Service Center at 1-800-662-7030 (TTY: 1-877-452-2514).

Labor and Delivery

Hospital labor and delivery costs can range from no charge to $30,000 for a vaginal delivery to $50,000 for a C-section. Some insurances may cover some or all of the cost, but the remaining portion can still be huge. If you or the baby has a complication, the costs will only increase.

But this is not a category to bargain hunt. Taking good care of yourself and the baby during pregnancy is a good way to decrease your risk of a complicated delivery.

Where to get financial help: You may be eligible for help through Medicaid, a governmental program for low-income applicants.

Emergency Savings for Recovery

After delivery, your body needs time to physically recover. Doctors typically suggest taking six weeks of medical leave, although some studies say the body needs a full year. If you have worked through the pregnancy, your recovery time may or may not be covered by sick days or vacation. Be sure to anticipate this loss of income by saving in advance.

Having a baby is a significant financial responsibility—one that starts even before the baby is born. If finances are a consideration, explore the resources mentioned above for help.

If you are considering placing your child for adoption, keep in mind that many of the pregnancy costs may be taken care of by the adoptive family. For more information on that possibility, please contact A Child’s Hope, 1-877-890-4673, where our compassionate counselors can provide information as you explore your options.

The Benefits of Open Adoption

OpenAdoptionThirty years ago, when a woman had an unplanned pregnancy, she often was sent to a convent or a maternity home until the baby was born. Afterward, her family and friends did not discuss that she ever gave birth. With the typical closed or confidential adoption, she had no contact with the child after it was adopted. On the other side, many adoptive parents never told their children they were adopted.

But times have changed, with a welcome trend toward openness and acceptance about adoption. Now, birthmothers attend school until their due date; continue working; name their babies; and are able to spend time with their babies at the hospital. Their friends, co-workers and relatives know about the pregnancy and the adoption plan. Adoptive parents know the birth parents and may treat them as extended family. One study shows that 95% of today’s adoptions are open, at least to some degree.

However, when I sit with prospective adoptive parents to talk about adoption, there is still a learning curve about openness in adoption. Here are some details about open adoption that may help.

What are Open Adoptions?

When you agree to an open adoption, it means that you as a birth parent can have some type of contact with the adoptive parent and adopted child. That may be indirectly, through letters and photos, or more directly, through phone calls and visits. In many cases, the birth mother can help select the adoptive families and that the child grows up aware he or she is adopted. The amount of contact depends on everyone’s level of comfort—it may be in the form of an occasional letter, or it may be sharing holidays together. With open adoption, the adoptive parents retain their legal rights and responsibilities for raising the child, but the birth parent has an opportunity to be involved in the child’s life.

Birth and adoptive parents can decide on varying degrees of openness. For example, a birth mother may want to select the family, but not maintain contact later. In an open adoption, she may want to be able to have direct contact with the child and adoptive family, but in a semi-open adoption, she may prefer to communicate through a lawyer or social worker. With agreement, the amount and frequency of contact may also change over time.

Advantages of Open Adoptions

Numerous studies and stories have shown how closed adoptions affect everyone involved. The birth parents often feel a life-long sense of grief and loss, with no opportunity to see the child. Adoptive parents may have questions about the child’s background that can never be answered, since no communication with the birth parents is allowed. The adoptive children may be the ones who have the most difficulty, because they cannot access their history, have no sense of connection with their birth family and may often wonder what circumstances of their birth led to the secret of adoption.

In contrast, research reported by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute says that birth mothers in open adoptions have less worry and grief than those in closed adoptions, and are better able to adjust after the adoption. Adoptive parents also have positive experiences, and that the openness actually reduced fears of losing their child to the birth parents. Adopted teens said that open adoptions allowed them to understand why they were placed for adoption, helped increase positive feelings for the birth mother and enabled the teens to better understand who they were, in connection to their birth and adoptive families.

Could An Open Adoption Be Right For You?

The Child Welfare Information Gateway, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, suggests asking these questions:

  • Do I want to have a say in who will raise my child?
  • Does it matter to me if I won’t know if my child is safe and healthy?
  • Do I want to watch my child grow up through photos, letters, phone calls or visits?
  • Do I want to be able to tell my child about his or her family background or other important information in the future?
  • Do I want my child to know, for example, if he or she looks or acts like someone else in the family?

A yes to any of these questions may mean open adoption is a good option. Remember: to be effective, an open adoption requires ongoing trust, communication and flexibility on all sides.

If you’d like to learn more about adoption—open, closed, or have other questions, please call A Child’s Hope today at 877-890-4673 or text “Pregnant” to 919-971-4396. Our experienced, compassionate counselors can provide the information you need to make the best decision for you and your child.

9 Essential Ways for a Birth Mother To Take Care During Pregnancy

prenatalvitaminsAs a birth mother, your goal is the same as of any pregnant woman—to deliver a healthy child while staying healthy yourself.

Pregnancy puts an understandable strain on the body, which basically becomes a complete life support system for the baby. Making sure that life support system is strong and vital increases the baby’s chances to survive and thrive. But it’s not just the baby to be concerned about—pregnancy affects every part of the body, from your heart, digestive system, skeletal system, digestive system, skin—even your brain.

That’s why taking care of yourself during pregnancy is so important—your body has important work to do, and in order to complete that work—and recover from it—it is important to follow these tips to stay healthy.

  1. Schedule and attend all of your prenatal doctor visits. Although they are often routine, prenatal visits confirm the baby is growing and developing on schedule, and that you remain healthy. Your doctor can diagnose pregnancy complications such as anemia, high blood pressure or gestational diabetes, even before you may feel symptoms. Free prenatal care is available through state organizations, such as NC Association of Free Clinics.
  1. Take your vitamins. Get your body off to a healthy start even if you have not seen your doctor yet. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends pregnant women take 400 mgs of folic acid every day—an important B vitamin that can reduce the risk of birth defects like spina bifida. The AAP also says to consider taking a daily prenatal vitamin that contains iron, calcium and the fatty acids DHA and ARA.
  1. Eat a healthy diet. There’s a reason pregnant women are told they are eating for two—they are. You need 300 calories per day more than your usual to help the baby develop. A healthy diet is one that contains protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fats. Your doctor can suggest the best combination for you, but the Mayo Clinic provides some helpful guidelines.
  1. Get enough rest. Easy to say, hard to do—but important. Whether you are working, going to school, or have other children or commitments, it is still important that you get rest during the day and sleep at night. This peaceful time gives your body a chance to recover from some of the stresses of pregnancy—physical and emotional, and is vital to your wellbeing.
  1. Exercise. Doctors encourage exercise during pregnancy unless a particular health concern suggests otherwise. Your doctor may clear you to continue your regular exercise routine, or suggest activities that have low impact on your body, such as walking, swimming or yoga. Exercise can relieve backaches and improve posture, provide strong muscles that are useful during delivery, and can help women gain less weight during pregnancy.
  1. Take care of your emotional wellbeing. Pregnancy is an emotional time—whether because of surging hormones or because of the life changes ahead. Make sure you have a support system of friends, family, counselors, or mentors who can provide encouragement and comfort when you need it.
  1. Avoid substances and activities that can harm you or the baby. Smoking or being around smoke, taking drugs or drinking alcohol can be harmful to you and the baby. Although some studies say that moderate drinking during pregnancy may be okay, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts it quite plainly: there’s no known amount of alcohol that’s safe to drink during pregnancy.
  1. Avoid foods unsafe to eat during pregnancy. Unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses, undercooked meats can contain bacteria that can make you sick and possibly harm the baby.
  1. Ask for, and be willing to receive help. Whether it’s asking a neighbor to watch your toddler so you can take a much needed nap, asking a family member for a ride to the doctor or let a friend do a load of laundry.

 

Taking care during pregnancy means making sure you and the baby have the physical and emotional nurturing you need—giving you both the best chances for a healthy life.

Creating Family Through The Miracle of Adoption!

SantaWe feel like the luckiest people in the world to have created our family through the miracle of adoption! We have two children – Neva and Marco. We chose to work with A Child’s Hope because we liked the idea of having a North Carolina adoption and we felt like they could guide us through this complex process.

Six weeks after completing our adoption homestudy and paperwork, we were matched with a birth mom! Our son Marco was born on a gorgeous fall day. I remember thinking, “today would be a good day to be born,” and then we got the call from the agency. Ten fingers, ten toes, and a healthy baby boy was waiting for us!  He has been a delight.

When Marco was 18 months-old, we decided it was time to expand our family again. It was not long after completing our paperwork again that we got the call. This time, we did an independent match with a birth mom in Texas. She picked us because of Marco. She wanted a big brother for her baby!  A few weeks later, Neva was born and we were on an airplane to Texas to meet our angel!  We finalized Neva’s adoption with A Child’s Hope.

We send letters and pictures to Marco’s Birth mom twice a year. We have never met her, but we love her and know that she has given us the greatest gift possible. We have an open adoption with Neva’s Birth mom. We talk on the phone, visit her in Texas, and exchange letters and pictures. She is an important part of our lives. Adoption creates a bigger extended family. Our children are surrounded by love and we are certain that we were all meant to be together.  Adoption has made us a family.

A Big thank you to Neva and Marco’s family for sharing their adoption stories!

Do you have a story you’d like to tell? Email us at blog.ach@foryourlife.com. Visit us at www.achildshope.com, or call our Birth Mother Hotline at 1-877-890-HOPE (4976) so one of our adoption counselors can answer your questions confidentially.

Please remember that this is a public site open to anyone; therefore, anything you post can be seen by anyone.

Every Mother / Child Love Story is Beautiful, but Ours is My Favorite

ACH-blog-247 years ago, a wonderful woman who was not able to carry a pregnancy to term, had a newborn baby girl placed in her arms, and a love story unfolded that spanned 40 years.

People seem fascinated when they find out I’m adopted. It was always such an inconsequential thing to me. A detail. My mom was my mom, my dad was my dad, and I never gave it much thought.

ACH-blog3My parents made a point of openly discussing the fact that I was adopted from a very young age, so it was a very natural, non-dramatic thing for me. I was told that my biological mother was single, and loved me enough to want the very best for me, so she made sure I was placed in a home with two parents.

ACHblog5My parents went on to adopt a baby boy two years later, and then months after that, ironically became pregnant and gave birth to a second baby boy. So I grew up with two siblings, in a sweet little house in North Florida. My father was a machinist, and my mom kept other children at home, and sewed and baked for extra money, so that she could stay home with us. We didn’t have much money, but it was a happy childhood.

ACHblog4Years later, my mother and I had the typical turbulent relationship common in the teenaged years. But by the time I went to college, I was calling home every other day. There was just no one on earth that reveled in the minutia of my life like my mother.

Years later, when I got married, she made my wedding dress. It was a labor of love, and she told me afterward that she alternated stitches and tears.

I went on to have four girls myself, and my mother was a doting grandmother. She taught my girls to sew, and enjoyed making the same bunny cakes for them each Easter that she’d made for us growing up.

ACH-blogSeven years ago, I got the call that my mother was rushed to the hospital with a life threatening complication of diabetes. I rushed to her side, and rarely left the hospital for the three weeks that she was ill. We lost her in December that year, three weeks before Christmas. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced and I miss her every day. But I am so enormously grateful for all the years that I had with her. She was my best friend, my greatest cheerleader, and a wonderful role model to me as I mother my own children.

ACH-blog-1I often reflect on the tremendous amount of time, energy and sacrifice children require, and the fact that a woman who did not have to, spent four decades loving me with everything in her. Contrary to the idea that adopted children may feel abandoned, I felt so loved, so treasured, and so wanted. I give thanks every day for my biological mother who cared enough to want the best for me, and made the supreme sacrifice of making sure that I grew up in a loving family. She made the right decision, and I’m so grateful for her wisdom.

 

 

Birthmother Hotline: (877) 890-4673

Se Habla Español: 1 (866) 805-2323 (BEBE)

Text: Pregnant to (919) 971-4396