This year, I had the pleasure of learning more about Sarah Baker of Grew In My Heart: Through Adoption. In some ways, this was my easiest pairing yet. Sarah’s blog is new – only 26 posts to read! Sarah and I also feel the same way about many aspects of adoption, which is really lovely. In another way, it was quite difficult, because I had so many questions I wanted to ask. I limited myself to seven. My questions are in bold, her answers are in italics, and, for the first time, I put a few of my own comments in plain text [in brackets] under Sarah’s responses.
Before you begin, you need to know that the Bakers were matched with an expectant mother who signed them all up for the show I’m Having Their Baby. The Bakers and the emom, Tory, appeared on the show’s second season. Ultimately, Tory chose to parent her daughter.
1. Now that you have adopted Ezra, are you done building your family, or do you think you will adopt again? Why or why not?
That’s a great question! One, honestly, I don’t have a definite answer to. At times I feel like our family is complete. The perfect little family of 4. I LOVE being the mom of two boys, but at times I still crave a little girl with hair bows and tutus. Since Ezra is just a baby, continuing our family by adopting again isn’t on the horizon at this time, but I can’t say we would turn down an opportunity if it presented either. My husband says we are done. He’s ready to just spoil the ones we have. I say, who knows? I have plenty of love to give. But realistically, I don’t know if it’s in the cards for us to expand.
2. What was your reaction when the first expectant mother with whom you were matched applied for the show [I’m Having Their Baby]? Did you have any qualms about being on the show?
The first expectant mother we were matched with and I became very close friends. We wanted to learn a lot about each other and develop an unbreakable bond. When I saw that a new show was going to be starting that focused on adoption by following an expecting mom and the adoptive parents she had chosen, I told her about the show. I suggested that when the show aired, we should watch it together each week over the phone so we could learn from it. She was so excited about it that she went to the website to learn about the show. She giddily told me she signed up for the show. I laughed it off. I never in a million years thought she would be chosen! I was a little nervous about appearing on a TV show, but with how close she and I had become, I thought it could be fun. She felt it was important to share her story about why she chose adoption and that it would be a way for her to forever share the story of her love with the child she planned to place. After talking to the producers about the show, they put my mind at ease and seemed genuinely interested in the beauty of adoption.
3. Has your opinion of the show I’m Having Their Baby and reality adoption shows in general changed any since being a part of IHTB? If so, how so?
I was soooo impressed with the first season of the show. I learned a lot of lessons watching the show as an outsider. That said, after being a part of the show, I have come to realize that what fits into a tv show time slot is a very condensed version of what happens. With people that work on the editing that aren’t there when you do the filming, a lot can get lost in translation. I like to think they don’t purposely alter a story, but get it mixed up. The show “I’m Having Their Baby” was promoted as a docu-series. I felt documentaries would tell the truth and nothing but the truth. And while I am not saying they didn’t tell the truth, they just picked which truth they would tell and promoted it (in my opinion). I can understand it would be very difficult to promote all facets of a very in depth situation as our adoption story in one episode that featured two stories in an hour time slot. I have a respect now for watching “reality tv” that there is probably more to the story than we see and we shouldn’t be so quick to judge.
4. Without naming any names, how do you feel about your agency? Did you feel that they prepared your family and Ezra’s birth family for the realities of open adoption?
We worked with two agencies in our adoption process. Both of our matches were “identified matches” in that the birth mother found us both times and then we went to the agency to facilitate the adoption for legality reasons.
The first agency was in Indiana because that was where our first match lived. It was her agency. They were a new agency and the director was an adoption attorney. They had very limited access to social workers and since the match was identified, I felt the social worker assigned to the expecting mother was very lax in the amount of adoption counseling she was giving. I saw this and urged the expecting mother to seek counseling outside of the agency and that we would pay for it, so she could work through her decision and make her final choice. The open adoption was never discussed past the point of filling out a paper that stated what the expecting mother would hope for in an open adoption. With our growing friendship, her expectations heightened and [when] I felt it was unfair to commit to more than I knew we could offer, the match dissolved. The agency never prepared her or us for realistic expectations of an open adoption. After we parted ways with the expecting mother, she decided to choose another agency that would offer her more support. After delivery, she chose to parent.
The agency we worked with in Ohio was the agency we were signed up with from the beginning. It just so happened that Ezra’s first mother was the little sister of a friend of mine and when our first match fell through, she contacted us and our agency. As soon as we were in talks with her about the possibility of us adopting her son, we immediately talked about the level of openness we could all agree on. It has been MUCH more open than we initially discussed, but I would rather under-promise and over-deliver.
Our agency met with us in the beginning and gave us a TON of information to sort through and was there to answer all our questions. They encouraged open adoption and had many books, classes, and support groups to provide us with the resources needed to determine the preferences we wanted to set for our profile. They walked us through the home study process and the social worker assigned to our case was friendly and straight forward. She was thorough with our home study and fair. They helped us find the required classes we needed and quickly complete the coursework so we could move forward. While our match was “identified” the social worker still did her job of explaining adoption to Ezra’s birth parents and went over a lot of paperwork, helped them get access to things that would help them succeed, and periodically checked in with them. The birth parents felt they were treated well and not forced into the decision, they knew it was their decision and one they were proud they were making, even if it hurt. Open adoption was pretty much the only option our agency presented to us. They stated they occasionally had an expecting mother request a closed adoption, but they tried to counsel all parties on the importance of open adoption. This was scary for us when we were first starting out and knew very little about open adoption, but through their training, we are so glad that they were the agency we chose!
5. If you could change anything about domestic infant adoption, what would that be? (One to three specific items would be fine.)
The things I would change about domestic infant adoption would be:
1. A standardized adoption model across ALL states. They would all be through non-profit agencies and the laws for adoption would be the same for every state. Discrimination would not be permitted. First fathers would have the same rights (except in certain cases of rape, abuse, incest, jail, child support default, etc.), living expenses would be limited, costs would be just to cover staff and overhead, surrender would be consistent, and finalization would be as well.
2. Expecting mothers would be the main focus of the agency, by providing them support. Giving the expecting mothers resources to make the best choice for them and their child without coercion of finding them a “better” parent/family. They would not be guilted into placing their child if they begin to waver. It should always be her choice.
3. Adoptee rights left more intact. One way to start would be by not sealing their original birth certificates. They should amend the document once the child’s adoption is finalized to reflect the adoptive parents and the new name change if there is one. The original information should be left intact. It is the identity of the person and their birth information is their right.
[See? I told you I liked her!]
6. Are you finding it difficult to parent two children who are so far apart in age? How is your older son handling being a big brother after being an only child for so long?
I don’t know if I would use difficult as the word to describe my new status of mom of 2 that are 11 years apart… The age difference, if anything kind of has been nice. I don’t have two toddlers in diapers running me ragged like most of my friends with more than one child. Isaac is pretty helpful with entertaining Ezra. The biggest challenge to their age difference is I feel like I am a new parent all over again. I forgot what lack of sleep was like. I forgot what teething was like. I forgot how often babies poop! I forgot how they get frustrated and cry and I have no idea why sometimes. I forgot how much slobber a baby can make. I forgot how much a crawling baby can get in to! Isaac was really nervous about the adoption. He had concerns of not feeling the sibling bond or that he wouldn’t get as much attention as he used to get. All his fears went away when Ezra came home. It was a very short time for Isaac to feel completely enamored with Ezra just like the rest of us. Now they are the best of buddies. The first thing Isaac does every day is hug Ezra and when he comes home they play before Isaac starts homework. It has been such a blessing to see Isaac as a big brother, it has brought out a side of him that I never imagined him having.
7. I always ask a random, non-adoption-related question, and this is it. if you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
If I could have a super power, I think it would be super speed. In my dreams I often am running every where I go, as if I don’t even need a car. I run so fast that sometimes I don’t even touch the ground. It seems pretty cool in my dreams and totally normal. Just think of how much I could accomplish if I could do it in super speed time!
[I would totally pick super speed too! Best superpower ever!]
You should now go read Sarah’s interview of me. And check out her previous posts as well. She’s covering a lot of ground in a fun, organized way.