Sunday, March 26, 2006

Tugging at my heartstrings...

There's an generally horrifying 'adoption board' I lurk at -- mainly to watch drama unfold and to scoff at the insanity of desperate potential Aparents as they jostle to present their families to "expectant mothers" (mostly non-pregnant teenage girls out posting fake ads for fun, it seems). To put it in perspective, 'babies' are even occassionally offered and requested for money. (Thankfully, there usually is no baby....) Sort of the Jerry Springer of the adoption world.

Every once in a while though someone who sounds sincere will post -- take yesterday... I ran across a post looking for potential adoptive couples for a 3 year old African American boy. His father apparently is in school, seperating from this child's stepmom (no idea where his mom is), and no longer wants to parent his son. My gut says this post is legit.

And I WANT him! But we're really not in a place to adopt a another child anytime soon -- especially a three year old who will definitely be dealing with a significant amount of loss. Still, my heart breaks to know that not one of these desperate vultures -- who post pages of "Pick me!!" requests to every potential newborn and non-AA situation has left a post on the thread detailing this little guy.

"Older" black boys just aren't what 95% of adoptive parents are excited to parent. Really -- look at There are 295 couples hoping to adopt listed on PP.... 270 of whom are open to Caucasian children. Only 30, or10% are open to adopting a child who is African American (with both birthparents being black). And most of these folks (and Aparents in general) want a newborn or very young infant.

*sigh* I just hope this little one finds a loving family who wants him desperately.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

hello mood swings....


to cheer myself up, a list of cute new things James is doing lately....

  • enjoying reading! This mostly looks like James choosing a book, walking over to where ever you are, offering you the book, reaching up his arms to be picked up, settling in next to you for twoish sentences, wiggling down to the floor again to run and pick up another book... (you get the idea -- rather, rinse, repeat!)
  • dropping everything, grinning, and flopping onto the floor to pretend to be sleeping when we say "na-night James!" to him (which we really find hysterical)
  • crying whenever he's run out of cut-up orange pieces to eat. he's so sad that he can't subsist on oranges alone.
  • pretending to pick off his toes and feed them to us. we used to pretend to do this and now he'll offer them up willinging -- usually first thing in the morning as my wake-up call. (Picture two tiny baby fingers shoved into your mouth accompanied by a drooly paci-ed bleary grin) Ggggoooooo co-sleeping! (clap clap)
  • saying Mama (!!!)-- but only in a whiny, desperate voice and ONLY when on the wrong side of a babygate or when begging for something he's not allowed to have (ie: diet pepsi cans) or during a much hated diaper change.

and best of all........

  • clapping madly throughout any segment of American Idol where Mandisa sings. I shit you not. My son, who normally ignores TV completely, is in love. :)


Please don't get me wrong.. I know, all too well, that in domestic adoption situations there are women (and sometimes men) who try to scam hopeful adoptive parents with the promises of a baby -- when either there never was a baby, or if there was -- he/she was being used as bait to lure in many desperate couples at once -- all willing to suspend belief (and good sense) and send buckets of money to a pregnant woman with no intention of placing her child.

In fact, I spoke to one young woman over email who apparently has been identified as a scammer -- and she'll be featured on a Primetime (or Primetime-esque) show next month where she's apparently going to be confronted by angry HAPs who had been 'matched' with her.

So yes, there are - forgive the terminology - "birthmom scams" out there.

But I have a strong feeling that when the credits role at the end of the Primetime or Dateline show next month -- the whole story on "adoption scams" won't have been told. Not by a longshot.

I lurk on a board dedicated to exposing and alerting HAPs to "birthmom scams". Names of expectant moms considering adoption, often along with oodles of their identifying information (including pictures, medical history, etc) are forwarded to this group by HAPs "checking in" to see if anyone has 'heard of' or is 'talking to' a prospective birthparent. Get one "Yep, I'm talking with her too" response back, and the girl is quickly labeled as a potential scammer. "Be careful..."

I've seen people ask about a Shannon (name/situation picked out of the air here, folks) in Michigan due with a boy in July to receive responses to be careful because a Shanna in Cali due with a girl in July was asked about a few weeks ago -- and hell -- both of them are probably the same person! And they're probably scamming!!!

..Anyway, this topic has been weighing on my mine lately because I just received a sad email update that a friend of a friend (who was facing an unexpected pregnancy and who had been considering adoption) had decided against adoption after talking with a few sets of adoptive parents and eventually being trotted out online as a potential scammer. She even had one woman tell her that she was with an adoption agency, and even though this friend of a friend didn't sign with her or anything, the woman still placed an ad (as a facilitator) indicating that she was representing her.

Understandably, this first exposure to the world of domestic adoption turned my friend of a friend off to the idea completely. She chose (for a number of reasons, many beyond the scope of this post I'm sure) to end the pregnancy instead.

And I'm sad about that -- not that she chose to exercise her right to terminate her pregnancy, but that she had the adoption experience she had. How horrible to have your motives questioned and your body and child treated as a commodity. It just pisses me off.

It also resonates with me so strongly because James' birthmom was accused online (quite strongly) of being a scammer. She was devastated. But I have some wiggly, snuggly, beautiful proof that that accusation is/was a load of shit. And S's story of being an expectant mother navigating domestic adoption is horrifying -- a journey that took her though a few sets of horrifying, immoral, bigoted and unethical HAPs before finding J and I.

But her story is not mine to tell here. And sadly, her story -- and those of countless other birthmoms and expectant moms considering adoption -- won't be told on a Primetime special anytime soon.

So yes. I'm sad tonight.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

fascinating read....

Dawn, over at ThisWomansWork, wrote an amazing article for Salon entitled "Open adoption, broken heart" that details the open adoption between her family (adoptive) and the birth family of her daughter Madison.

I read it this morning and cried.

Her depiction of leaving the hospital with Madison mirrors my experience of leaving the hospital with James.

Here's a paragraph I wrote in another journal a few weeks before James was born:

"For those of you who are control freaks (as I am), the last few weeks before you're about to become a parent are crazy-making. I'm sure this is true for anyone about to welcome a child into their life, but it's particularly true for those adding kids though domestic adoption. It's like: be excited about this baby, but he's not really your baby yet, and he won't be yours even after he's born for several days, but he needs to bond... so love him with all your might, just remember that bioparents have every right to parent, and that the baby isn't always real to them until after he/she is born, so it may not work out, but still, it might... so you have to be prepared financially, emotionally, and logistically, but still... try to keep back a part of your heart in case it doesn't work out, even if you are buying baby detergent to pre-wash tiny clothes and your friends are beside themselves and your checking into baptismal stuff at your church, blah blah blah blah."

I can't imagine what S's feelings were/are about choosing to have us parent James, but I can remember her anguish in the hospital during the first few days after James was born. S had a very well-defined birthplan that included her not wanting contact with James after he was born - she wanted us to immediately take over with all parenting/medical decisions. (We had been prepared for and excited about an matching with an expectant mom who wanted a very open adoption and instead had been chosen by a wonderful woman who was adamant at wanting little to no contact with her birthchild after his birth and with us once she returned home after TPRs were signed.)

I can remember wanting to be with S in her room instead of with James in ours. Of course I wanted to be with J and James -- learning this new life that may become my son, but I also desperately wanted to reassure S that we didn't just want her baby and that we truly did care for her as a person. I was so afraid she'd feel like an incubator. I was also so afraid to fall in love with James -- as I was all too aware that S may choose to parent him.

The hours I spent with S after James' birth are ones I will treasure always. We cried together. She asked me questions about James.. "Is he cute?" "I bet he's cute..." We watched Roseanne on the wall-mounted TV, holding hands. I snuck her in some powdered mini-donuts because she hated hospital food. I relayed and advocated for her requests to the nurses and the hospital social worker.

Our hospital experience overall was pretty mixed. On one hand, J and I were treated quite well -- we were given a room to ourselves for the entire hospital stay (we were discharged with James when S. was discharged), and we had access to the nurses who treated us as any new parents (which we were worried about, considering we were a same-sex couple at a Catholic hospital).

On the other hand, the nurses/social worker were relatively invasive in their questions and S's hospital experience was very frustrating. The staff had some preconcieved ideas about what an adoption looked like, and were (rightfully) very protective of S. S viewed this "protectiveness" very negatively though -- she felt as though she was being told how to grieve and didn't want to have to rehash her feelings with every rotation of new nurses. She also felt pressure to parent. Plus, none of the staff knew what to do with S.'s close relationship to J and I -- I think they worried that we may be influencing her. Meanwhile J and I were just trying to advocate for S, all the while trying to convey to her that we were very respectful of her current role as James' mother and that we were completely okay with her changing her mind about bonding with (or even parenting) James. The last thing we wanted was for S to feel as though she had to place James if she had reconsidered her choice.

After S was discharged, I walked her out of the hospital and got her situated in the backseat of the car that would be taking her back to where she was staying. We hugged goodbye and I told her we'd call her that night to check in. We shared a look that spoke volumes, though I can't do it justice in writing. The car left and I watched it go until I couldn't see it anymore. I kept it together for the walk back to our room, but completely lost it when I saw J getting James ready to be put in his new carseat for our discharge.

We were discharged on Valentine's day. I sobbed uncontrollably as I sat in back seat of our car next to James while we drove the short distance between the hospital and our home. I remember seeing the traditonal white and red paper hearts on many shops and doors (left by a local Valentine "phantom" who's been peppering Portland for thirty years) and I was overwhelmed with so many emotions -- appreciation, love, sadness, guilt, fear, excitement, concern -- the tears just started and wouldn't stop. Then our CD played kicked on the next track on a mix CD J had made a few weeks before, and suddenly we were listening to 'Sweet Baby James'. James must have been worrying about his new mom's emotional stability.

* * *

In her article, Dawn writes: "I had been picturing the two of us [she and her daughter's birthmother]balanced on opposite sides of a tipping scale. If one of us was the real mother, then the other one was not. If one of us was happy, then the other must be sad."

I've learned that in order to successfully and joyfully attempt/complete an adoption journey, you must be okay with living daily with complexity. Adoption is at once a gain and a loss. Excitement and fear. Happiness and sorrow. There are two (in our case three!) REAL mothers of every adopted person. James is my child, and he is S's child.

Anyway... please read Dawn's article. It expresses all this so much better than I can.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

the wee child this blog obsesses over...

i figure it's true -- a picture really is worth a thousand words..

Bill of Rights

these both were so insightful, I just had to share them.........

A Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage

by Maria P.P. Root


  • Not to justify my existence in this world.
  • Not to keep the races separate within me.
  • Not to justify my ethnic legitimacy.
  • Not to be responsible for people’s discomfort with
    my physical or ethnic ambiguity.


  • To identify myself differently than strangers
    expect me to identify.
  • To identify myself differently than how my parents
    identify me.
  • To identify myself differently than my brothers and
  • To identify myself differently in different


  • To create a vocabulary to communicate about
    being multiracial or multiethnic.
  • To change my identity over my lifetime--and more
    than once.
  • To have loyalties and identification with more
    than one group of people.
  • To freely choose whom I befriend and love.
And two more from Marilyn Dramé's companion article "A Bill of Rights for Mixed Folks" on

  • I have a right not to fractionalize myself in order to conform to society's notion of race.
  • I have the right not to want to fit in exactly.

Transracially Adopted Children's Bill of Rights -

Adapted by Liza Steinberg Triggs from "A Bill of Rights for Mixed Folks," by Marilyn Dramé.

  • Every child is entitled to love and full membership in his or her family.
  • Every child is entitled to have his or her heritage and culture embraced and valued.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who value individuality and enjoy complexity.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who understand that this is a race conscious society.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who know their child will experience life in ways differently from theirs.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who are not seeking to "save" a child or to make the world a better place by adopting.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who know belonging to a family is not based on physical matching.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who have significant relationships with people of other races.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who know transracial adoption changes the family structure forever.
  • Every child is entitled to be accepted by his or her extended family members.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who know that if they are white they experience the benefits of racism because the country's system is organized that way.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who know they cannot be the sole transmitter of the child's culture when it is not their own.
  • Every child is entitled to grow up with items in their home environment created for and by people of their own race or ethnicity.
  • Every child is entitled to have places available to make friends with people of his or her race or ethnicity.
  • Every child is entitled to have opportunities in his or her environment to participate in positive experiences with his or her birth culture.
  • Every child is entitled to opportunities to build racial pride within his or her own home, school, and neighborhood.

These are going in James' lifebook -- that is, if I ever have fifteen minutes of non-parenting, non-working time to devote to his lifebook.....

An introduction..

Hello internets!

Welcome to "ten miles behind me", yet another in the vast sea of 'adoption blogs'.

I've waffled on starting this blog (I already have two personal ones on Livejournal), but I liked the idea of a stand alone space to ruminate on all things adoption. I've got a lot to say. ;)

Beyond adoption, I'm also drawn to the idea of using this space to chronicle James' early days as a person and my early days as a parent. Plus, J and I are still planning on adding another child to our family at some point in the not-so-distant future (maybe twoish years from now), so having an established space to write about that journey also appeals to me.

So, who *am* I? I'm Erin, a 28 year old woman partnered to another 28 year old woman (J) for the past six years and an adoptive mom to James (who celebrated his first birthday last month). J and I are white, James is black/mixed (more on this later). We share our home with a housemate (James' 'uncle'/godfather Stephen), four cats with multiple personalities, and one slightly neurotic lab, Noe. TMB will also be a child of color, with at least some African ancestry.

Adoption was our first choice re: babymakin'. I've been drawn to adoption for a long time... in fact my mother remembers me talking about adopting a daughter from China when I was in elementary school and one of my high school papers was on open adoption. J was also supportive of adoption as a family building option, so we didn't really put much energy past the researching stage into concieving a child.

We quickly chose domestic infant adoption, primarily because we wanted to be 'out' for the entire adoption process and because we wanted to start out with a young child with few special needs as first-time parents. We were also very welcoming of an open adoption, and liked the idea of welcoming our child's birthfamily into our life as extended family members.

Living where we do, we were initally hesitant about our ability to connect a child of color to a community of same race peers and adults. We never doubted our ability to love and care for a child of another race, but definitely wanted ensure that we were up for the extra challenges inherent with being a multiracial family in a predominantly white state. So J and I did a ton of talking and researching. We talked to someone local who had adopted transracially. We talked to our friends and family. We looked up resources in our community. We looked up resources online specific to white families adopting children of color.

And then there was James. :)

During the researching phase, I had discoved the wonderful world of online adoption advertising. This was about a month after we had made the official decision to start TTA (trying to adopt), and we hadn't begun a homestudy or created a profile or connected with an agency/attorney... nada. Nothing. All along we had been told how long it would probably take a youngish two-mom adoptive couple to be chosen by an expectant mom considering adoption, so I guess I felt safe throwing up a little two paragraph blurb about J and I on one of these adoption classified sites so early in the process.

My posting was added by the moderator on December 18th, 2004. J and I were in NYC around this time -- sitting on Santa's lap at the Marc Jacob's store in Greenwich Village and answering "a baby" to his query of what we wanted for Christmas in front of a line full of other shoppers.

Two days after Christmas, Santa came through. I checked my email that evening to find a response from a woman (S.) in her (late) 7th month of pregnancy.. a woman disenchanted for a multitude of reasons with the hopeful adoptive parents she had matched with who had liked our 'ad' and wanted to talk further. She wrote she was due in mid February with a biracial boy, and that all signs pointed to him being a healthy baby.


Thus began a number of gutwrenchingly difficult conversations between J and I. Was there any way we could be ready to be parents in six weeks? Could we afford to fund an adoption *right now*? Were we sure we were able to effectively parent a child of a different race? Could we get a homestudy done in time? What if this woman chose to parent after the baby was born... would we be emotionally and financially able to move on? What the hell were we thinking????

Eventually we came to a desicion. I wrote back to S and told her we were going to have to pass on talking further. I told her we were devastated with our response, but that we were only in the beginning stages of the adoption process and that we didn't want to string her along as she very obviously needed committed adoptive parents ASAP because of her coming due date.

I wrote this to her on the 31st of December, '04 and I sobbed the entire time.

A week later, J and I met with Judith, a local adoption attorney and adoptive mom who is highly regarded for her twenty plus years of adoption experience. We went over the preliminaries -- how she charges, how adoption works in different states, what services she provides, etc -- and at the end of the meeting she started talking about birthmothers. I brought up S's emails and situation and explained that we had told her we would have to pass for logistical reasons. Judith listened intently while we went over S's specific situation, and once I finished talking, she started outlining exactly how we could make things work to match with S.

Beyond logistics, there was also the issue of J being a very linear person who had been pretty freaked at the idea of becoming an insta-parent with a mere six weeks notice. So imagine my surprise when J turned to me after Judith had finished talking and said "I think we should write her back."


And so, we did. I got back to work just before lunch and took my lunch hour to write back to S. About 2 hours (and 4,000 clicks to refresh my email) later I recieve the best news possible - S. had not matched with another hopeful adoptive person/couple yet and she wanted to talk to us on the phone the next morning! I almost passed out.

I'll make it short for now -- we did end up matching that next morning (January 8th, 05') following an easier than expected phone call. S. flew to our state (her strong preference) the following week for the remainder of her pregnancy and we all grew very close. James was born at 4:35am on Saturday February 12th, 2005 at our local hospital, about four weeks after his birthmom chose to match with us. :) His entrance into the world was shockingly quick -- S. had only about an hour's worth of contractions (which started at 25 seconds apart!) before James was born.

S. signed the TPR in front of a judge ten days later and flew home the same day. We had to advertise a notice of adoption in the community where James' birthfather's last known address was, and by late April (following no response) his rights were terminated as well.

We finalized James' adoption on my birthday, July 1st 05'. :) As per usual, I sobbed through the entire court procedure.

* * *

So, while this post is quite long, that's the incredibly abbrieviated version of our adoption story. The timeframe from our official decision to start paperchasing to adopt a child to James' birth spanned about two and a half months.

And life with James? It's blissful, even on the hardest parenting days. And trust me, you're going to hear all about it here.

So welcome!