Friday, October 28, 2011

Step Number 1: Where

Starting the process of international adoption was somewhat daunting. Where do you even begin? Well, Google, obviously. So I did this and found Holt International's website to be particularly helpful. Holt international is an adoption agency that has the license to practice in most (if not all) states. Rule number one is that the adoption agency has to be licensed in the state in which you reside. Holt is a huge agency and adopts from multiple countries. We are not adopting through Holt, but I used them and a few other large adoption agencies (as well as phone conversations with their adoption counselors) to learn about the different countries that participate with the US in international adoption as well as the rules and regulations particular to each country. As I researched the countries available through Holt I found one piece of startling information: it is so difficult to adopt an infant. Most countries do not adopt infants and may not start adoption until age 3 or even 5. Countries like the Ukraine, Peru, Romania, the Philippines...all these countries do not adopt infants. In fact, after talking on the phone with an adoption counselor at Holt I found that the only countries where infants (considered any child under the age of 2) are placed for adoption are Russia, Ethiopia, Korea, China, and Thailand. Here is what I learned on each:

In Russia the children are kept in orphanages where conditions are not that great. They are not eligible for international adoption until they are 8 months old in order to give the local Russians time to adopt. At 8 months they can be placed into international adoption, but because of paperwork and traveling done by the adoptive family, the time from when they first meet their family at 8 months until the time when they go home to their new country is typically 4-6 months. This means that the adoptive family is bringing home a child AT YOUNGEST 1 year of age. Typically, only boys are available at 8 months, and girls become available a little older, closer to 10, 11, or 12 months. The total time for the process in Russia is about 9 months for an older boy (the shortest time) and about 14-16 months for a young girl (the longest time). You can select your gender.

Ethiopia is very similar to Russia. The children live in orphanages and are brought home a few months earlier than in Russia, so you may be bringing home a child who is 11 months old rather than over a year. The timeframe is about the same as Russia. The children are also kept in orphanages. I do believe it is also easier to get a boy here. You can select your gender.

If you want to adopt a healthy infant girl China is the place for you. That is, if you have 5 years to wait. In China infant girls can be brought home I believe around 6-10 months old, but the current wait time in China is about 5 years (for a healthy infant). I believe 3 years if you are lucky. If you are open to children with special needs the wait it less and you will most likely get a boy.

Korea is the most lucrative place to adopt a baby. Infants are given to their forever families around 6 months. Adoptive families do not have to travel to Korea if they do not wish, as the child is sent over on a plane with an escort to JFK airport where their new family meets them. The children in Korea are kept in foster homes, and the mothers in Korea that give up their children are kept in a home during their pregnancy and have supervised pregnancies. The moment babies are born, they are placed in individual homes with foster families. The children coming out of Korea are healthy and have virtually no emotional and physical developmental problems since they are cared for in utero and are placed in foster care immediately. The time frame to adopt from Korea is about 2 years. They have restrictions on the adoptive families. Minimum years of marriage is 3, maximum number of children in the home is 4, and the youngest child in the home must be 2. You cannot specify gender. Oh, and you have to live in one of the following: CA, KS, MO, NE, SD, NJ, OR, or TX. If not, tough luck. Why Korea does not adopt to people in other states is beyond me.

Is much like Korea except with the nonsense state requirements. They have similar rules about marriage (3 years) and state the youngest child in home currently must be 2. However, you cannot have more than 2 children in the home when you apply for adoption. Children here are also well cared for and are placed in foster care at birth. The wait is long and is currently running 3-5 years. I am unsure about gender selection. Children are also young (6-9 mo).

So, given the fact that Tim and I definitely wanted an infant (I was wanting a child around 6 months, but it became clear to me this would not be possible) and that we wanted to get this done ASAP our options suddenly became Russia and Ethiopia. In fact, when I began searching for adoption agencies that were specifically in Ohio, it seemed these were the only two countries doing infant adoptions with these agencies. We are still lamenting the stupid state restrictions with Korean adoptions because given the age and amazing health of those children, I would have gladly waited the two years. I guess we'll let them know when we move to Kansas. Yeah, right.

The decision between Russia and Ethiopia was not that difficult to make. While we could get a child a 1-3 months younger in Ethiopia, I have family heritage in Russia and have always considered Russia as one of the top places I'd want to adopt from. Also, the children are mostly Caucasian, and while we did not begin this process only wanting a child that looked like us, having the option seemed nice. I believe it will be one less thing that our child has to contend with as she tries to find her identity in our family.

In the next post I will talk about the adoption agency we are using, why we chose a girl, and what we are expecting the process to look like. But I think this is enough for now.

Rockin' and Rollin'

The past few weeks the baby has kicked into full gear. I feel movements all the time, and they are getting strong enough to see from the outside of my belly. This near constant movement has been incredibly reassuring to my anxious soul. The baby is incredibly active, just like its brother. Matthew was very active in utero and how now progressed into an extremely active little boy. The other day Tim was doing some yardwork and had a ladder out going up to the roof. I turned my back on Matthew for just a second, and when I turned back around he was on top of the ladder and had one leg on the roof of the house. He climbed down all by himself. He has only just turned two! I know now from these little baby movements that Matthew will have a partner in crime.

Yesterday we had our 20 week ultrasound. We have been calling the baby "Take Three" since we found out we were pregnant, reflecting how this is our third take at baby number two. Well, we saw a perfect little Take Three on the screen, flipping all around. The ultrasound tech had trouble getting pictures of the heart because the baby was so active. She even commented that this one will be a handful. I wouldn't have it any other way. I cannot comment how the relief I feel at finally having a healthy, growing baby. Seeing Take Three on the screen felt like a miracle, and I can say that I appreciated this one a lot more than the ultrasound we had with Matthew. With Matthew, I so desperately wanted a girl. This time, I am just so relieved at the presence of a little baby in there that I don't really care all that much.

For those who are wondering, our due date is March 20th. The baby will be about 3 months younger than one cousin and about 9 weeks older than another. Babies everywhere! I have not taken a recent picture of the baby bump, and I have not yet scanned in our ultrasound pictures. I will do that soon and post it. For now, here is the first baby bump picture we took. It's at about 15 or 16 weeks.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why we are now halfway to Russia

To begin blogging about our adoption of our daughter from Russia I thought it best to answer everyone's question of how in the world we ended up here, scheduled to bring home a baby less than a year after having one biologically. Well, the reason we are here is precisely because we did not think we would be.

We have always wanted to adopt a child internationally. From before we got married this is something Tim and I have discussed as a plan for our family. To be honest, I did not imagine this plan to begin unfolding itself on our second anniversary, but that's what happened. On our second anniversary, in January of this year, Tim and I lost our second pregnancy at about 8 or 9 weeks. Miscarriages happen, we said, and we moved on. Of course, the "moving on" process was not as easy emotionally as I would have liked, but in April we found out we were pregnant again, due Christmas eve. Things went along much better. We saw a healthy baby on ultrasound at 6 weeks and then at 10 weeks. At 11 weeks, one day before I was to take my boards for medical school (only the most important test of medical school) I began bleeding and went to the doctor to find out that our baby at died. We miscarried naturally 3 hours after I finished my test the following day. To say I was devastated is an understatement. Why did this happen? Were we ever going to be able to have another child? What was wrong with me? These and other questions raced through my mind as we got up at 4:30 the next morning for our vacation. Only 5% of couples miscarry two consecutive times and I had a hard time grappling with this statistic. We were unsure of our future and so I told Tim I wanted to begin researching what adoption might look like for our family. At the very least, I thought, it would give me something positive to focus on so I did not enter the pit of despair. It worked. I called a million adoption agencies from the middle of nowhere Vermont. We discussed at length what we wanted, where we wanted to adopt from, and all the other logistical things that come with adoption. I am not one to start something and then back off and so it should be no surprise to anyone reading this that we selected an organization, a country, a gender, an age range, and started the process of adopting. (I will tell you why we chose what we chose in another post). Focusing on this pending child helped ease the pain of the miscarriage and helped me think to a more positive time when that child would be home with us. We began filling our ten million forms (again, I'll tell you about these in another post) and planning for our future with a little Russian girl. Before we had even finished the initial set of forms my morning sickness began and I was shocked to discover we were pregnant again. It turns out we had been pregnant for most of this process and did not know it. But I was skeptical.

I was still so worried we'd lose this baby, too, so we kept going with the process. At about 14 weeks pregnant, when I had begun to contemplate the possibility that maybe this pregnancy was a good one, we were so invested with the adoption that we could not turn back. We are proceeding as planned because we have already made room in our hearts for our daughter and begun to anticipate her arrival. We will postpone the process for just a few months, which we have already discussed with our agency, in order to ensure that we are not traveling and giving birth at the same time and also to allow me time to finish my 3rd year of medical school. We are hoping to take our first trip to Russia next fall, about one year from now. This seems like a long time for me to wait, but the baby kicks I feel as I write this remind me that perhaps right now a little more time is better. Our hands will be quite full in 20 more weeks.