Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Difference in Perspective...

Two and a half years. I never deleted the blog, but yet, no posts. That's a long time for me to be quiet!

I regret that now, but can't go back. Not quite sure why I stopped posting back in 2007. Not for lack of content, concerns, questions, etc. But to put those things into words... that part was harder. And just the adoption process itself was terribly difficult. I didn't realize how painful it would be to wait. So many fears, concerns.
So... silence.

Our kids did come home, but much later than expected. It wasn't until Spring 2008 when we first saw AJ and Helen's sweet faces in person. Still, that was over two years ago. So much was happening! Keeping up on my personal blog fell by the wayside, this anonymous one long since forgotten. Heck, we even adopted again in the meantime.

Much has changed in two years.

And yet, still so much to express. Swirling thoughts, concerns, joys and sadness about this topic. Now that I am living it, some fears have been realized, most have stayed dormant. New concerns have taken the place of old.

The sad truth is that even two and half years later, far too many kids are still waiting. Waiting with hope - maybe waiting in vain - for a family. Two and half years later, the roadblocks are slowly falling away (goodbye waiver in January 2010!) but there is still much fear, much ignorance... and although you can google "HIV" and read piles of information and data 'til the cows come home, it's not quite the same getting inside someone's head - someone who is living with it day-to-day.

My head might be a scary place, but I'm willing to open it up if it would help even one family consider being open to adopting an HIV+ child.


I'm back. I'll try to do better. :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Ethiopia! Does that mean they are African-American?"

So, decided to follow up this looooong absence with another post! See our big news here though!!!

Anyways, I really wanted to share this story, but I don't know if my personal, non-anonymous blog is a good spot. So I guess it will go here where no one will read it. ;) Such is life.

Yesterday I worked in another one of our offices and had luck with a few people in my group from that office. One I am very good friends with and she was asking me about the adoption process and how things were going. Eventually the whole group was involved in the conversation, which was fine (it's not a secret or anything - well, at least not the general adoption part!) Anyways, an older man that I've worked with on several occasions asked me the ages of the children I was adopting.

when I told him 3 and 5 he shook his head, very matter of factly and stated something along the lines of "That's too bad, it is too late for them." Very surprised by this comment and not wishing to pursue it, I sort of ignored it and let it go. Unfortunately, it came up again and another woman at the table proceeded to sort of debate this issue with him (her opinion was they were still very long and it was not "too late" - whatever that means!)

Then, and I wish I could remember the exact words, he said something about their "moral fiber" being "set" and there was nothing that could change it (obviously assuming it was 'set' in a negative way). It eventually got very very awkward and everyone got quiet and lunch sort of broke up.

to be honest, I didn't really say much in response to this man's ignorance. That was probably due to a few reasons. (1) he is my superior and that could be awkward (2) I was so surprised I really didn't know what to say, and (3) I didn't feel like anything I could say would make a damn bit of difference. It wasn't worth my time and effort. But I'm sorry that I let it go with nothing more than, "well, we are excited."

Oh, and intermixed in this conversation, the woman (who was debating with the man) asked me, "So, Ethiopia. Does this mean they are African-American?" She seemed to have very good intentions and was obviously seeking a "PC" way to ask me if I was adopting black children. But it was very weird. The woman next to her laughed and said (very accurately) "Well, they will be!"

All in all, very odd, disappointing conversation.

I forget, since we really have had a great deal of support, that there are so many people out there with very negative, antiquated, uninformed views about adoption. And it amazes me that people have no problem sharing those feelings. Most of the time I just ignore it - why should I let it bother me? But it is a reminder how hard things might be for my babies when they do come home. Ignorance is alive and well. Even in (especially in?) the highly educated...

We're Filed!

Okay, if there is anyone out there who still bothers to check this - so sorry I haven't posted! It's funny, I think I really missed me good window to write this blog. The real good posts, the time I really needed to pour out my heart about the HIV issue - that was all back in April, May and June. Before we decided to adopt AJ or Helen. Nonetheless, perhaps there is still something to share. But I'm kicking myself now for not keeping a journal during that time...

MORE IMPORTANTLY - We have great news! We found out yesterday that our case was filed in Ethiopia! That means that (hopefully!) we'll know our court date in about 10 days, that the date will be by the end of November (hope hope hope) and we might actually still travel by the end of the year!

A few months ago I was SO sure we'd have our kids home before Christmas. But once the court oopened and weeks passed with no news, I really lost all hope. And still no guaranties. In fact, if we are LUCKY we'll actually be IN Ethipia for Christmas. Kind of a crazy thought.

I know Lulu will not be happy if we leave her for Xmas. But I think that may have a great deal to do with her concern that Santa won't find her at Uncle Chuck's. Hopefuly all of that will be a non-issue.

We are so excited! Still months away, but feels so much better to know something. This was a big step for us - can't wait until we have more to share!!!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Our Great News - and, what's that? The sound of our joy being sucked away...

I haven't even had the 'fun' of announcing yet that Drew and I made a very exciting decision - not only are we adopting AJ from AHOPE, but also a daughter! Helen is about 4.5-5 years old. Lulu is incredibly excited to have a sister that she can really play with! Although I think things will be pretty crazy for us (going from 1 kid to 4 in less than 18 months, having 6, 5, 3 and 1 year olds, needing a new car, bigger house, etc!) we are so terribly excited and just know, deep in our hearts, that we are making the right choice.

to be perfectly honest, we agonized over it for a couple of weeks. I actually wanted to post about it, just to relieve some of my anxiety, but I couldn't - I was so afraid we were going to choose not to adopt her and the thought really hurt. So I just couldn't be public in any way until Andrew and I were on the same page. Once we were and we made the decision to move forward with her adoption, we haven't had a single doubt. =) What an amazing feeling!

Unfortunately, some don't share our joy. We have told most family members and several friends. The family all knows about AJ's - and subsequently Helen's - HIV status. Two friends know as well. Fortunately, the majority of our support system is very excited. Some think we are crazy, but most of that seems to relate to actually wanting to parent 4 children, rather than some of the other issues. Sadly, we aren't experiencing unqualified support.

To be perfectly frank, my relationship with my parents, formerly very close, has changed dramatically since we decided to adopt. I honestly think that race is at least part of it, though many other reasons have been given. My dad has never really talked about the adoption much but since we disclosed AJ's HIV status he hasn't said a word about it. Literally not one.

Unfortunately, I ended up having to discuss the issue (HIV) over the phone with my mom and she told my dad. I have seen him twice since (including yesterday) and he has not acknowledged it. Saturday I called to tell my parents about Helen. I had talked about it with my mom last weekend, hoping to get some constructive feedback in our decision-making process (unfortunately, only negative and not particularly helpful). So I knew it wouldn't go over great and figured it would be better to 'warn' them before they came to visit yesterday. My mom just said "oh, how old is she again?" and then changed the subject by asking how our garage sale was going! Today, while they were visiting - no mention at all. Until about 5 min before I knew they were going to leave. My mom said something like, So do you have any pictures of her? You didn't send me any. (like it was my fault...) But she says this away from my dad so he doesn't have to be involved...And that was pretty much it.

And I didn't do anything. =( I just don't know what to do. In my heart I know that if I bring my children home and they are not accepted by my family, then things will have to change dramatically. But I'm not ready to give up on them - I just keeping hoping and praying that it will just come in time and things will be okay. But it is so hard and I'm so scared. Lulu is very close to my mom - it would be very very hard on her to break off that relationship. And very hard on me. But not nearly as hard or as unfair as it would be if I allowed them to treat AJ and Helen like... well, not like one of the grandchildren.

After taking a little time to calm down about the issue and receiving support from various sources, I am feeling more confident that they will come around. But it is very hard right now. To have something so huge and meaningful in your life and to not have your own parents even want to be a part of it ... just very challenging for someone like me who has always put a great deal of value/emphasis on her family...

To make matters worse, I haven't even told my brother yet. after the negativity from my parents, I just didn't have the energy. I don't know how he will react and I really don't think it will be as bad as my parents, but I'm just not expecting a ton of positive comments and ... well, just don't want all my joy sucked away in a weekend...

But then I look at Helen's photo. And her smile. And I am reminded by that fluttering feeling in my heart that we are doing the right thing. And even if it takes others days, weeks or months to also see that, all that matters is our family and the love that is there (and is coming...)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

How to Convince Your Family that You Are Not Taking on Too Much?

I was finally able to talk to my brother yesterday. Unfortunately, it had to be on the phone. Which wasn't ideal. But overall it went okay. He admitted he doesn't know anything about HIV - which is fine! I certainly don't expect anyone to be an expert on a disease they have likely never had any (knowing) contact with. So I appreciated that he asked questions. I think he may have been a little concerned about transmission, etc. But he also trusts me and knows I would never put my children in any danger.

His real concern is that we are taking on too much. I think this is a concern of my dad's as well, but he hasn't really talked about the issue at all....

My brother asked me an interesting question - basically trying to determine, to get me to ask myself, if I was 'getting anything out of this that I needed. He didn't ask it rudely - but I think it was more along the lines of "do you feel like you have to do this to save the world" or something like that. Which isn't an outrageous question. It isn't easy to put into words though.

I guess, the simplest way I can say it (and I probably didn't express it very eloquently to him) is that I know we can do this (we know we can). For us, once we knew we could, it was much harder to walk away. Because it is always easy to say, we've got enough on our plates, it is okay to just want to adopt a 'healthy' child - let someone else save the HIV kids. But who is that someone else going to be?

And besides - AJ's our son. He just also happens to have HIV.

But we came to this conclusion before we knew AJ was ours in our hearts. We personally had to come to terms with the disease before we allowed our hearts to fully open to a particular child. It just took some time. But it was inevitable. Because he is ours - and we're his forever family.

If there are any readers out there... Anyone have any thoughts about how to better express this feeling? I think that it can also be just adoption related (since far too many have that "it's for someone else to do" feeling about adopting in general) ...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

What to do when you are so "over it"?

I'm having a bit of a problem - there is still one person left on my 'list' to disclose AJ's HIV status to. And I'm not putting it off for fear of reaction or anything like that. I had just really hoped to do it in person and have a discussion about it. I hate doing it over the phone. The telephone seems to lend drama to it. And yes, I realize that this isn't a run of the mill disclosure. But it isn't world-ending either. So my brother and I have been playing phone tag. Hopefully I can track him down tonight and have the discussion.

Here is my problem:

I am so OVER the issues!

We spent weeks (months!) agonizing over the decision. Researching, talking, etc. Now, that we are committed to AJ and just want to get him home, we've moved past (most) of those emotions. I don't think about HIV on a daily basis. I certainly don't think about AJ as a sick kid and how he is going to impede our lives when he arrives.

It has been very hard for me to get in the right 'mind set" to have these disclosure talks. Because our family ISN'T yet where we are - how could they be? They haven't done the research. They haven't internalized the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa the way we have. To them, it seems very sudden, surprising, scary. And so each discussion involves lots of questions. Which is SO great! I want people to be educated, to seek us out when they don't know or understand something.

But it is a bit exhausting. The thought of gearing myself up for one more is tiring.

And that makes me feel kind of bad! I owe it to our families to try and put myself back in their shoes and tell them the sort of information that go us to where we are today.

So, I'm trying. I hope I succeed.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Welcome Bag Has Landed

Alrighty everyone! We have been waiting quite awhile for this (month and a half) and now we know for sure - AJ was told that he has a family! He knows we are waiting for him!

Our agency does this neat thing - the way that kids find out they are being adopted is that the new parents prepare a 'welcome bag' for them. It includes a photo album, a special t-shirt, and a few little toys... We sent ours to the agency in mid-July. However, we had to wait for an agency worker to be traveling to Ethiopia to take it. And he finally got it.

I haven't seen the photo yet, but I can't wait. I wonder what he's thinking? At AHOPE, these welcome bags aren't nearly as common as at our agency's other orphanage (where pretty much every child is adopted eventually). Although more and more children from AHOPE are finding homes (yeah!) many have been there a long time and may never leave.

My joy at him receiving his bag is somewhat tempered by my sadness for these other children. Although AJ has been at AHOPE for over a year now, I know that other children have been there longer. And I bet the older children know that their chances of leaving are not nearly as good. How hard it must be to see the few children who are chosen?

It tears at my heart. But I know I can't save them all. Being a fairly young parent as it is, I just know that I'm not ready to parent a child older than Lulu. And I don't think she would do well losing her spot as the oldest...

I guess all I can do is continue to keep these wonderful children in my thoughts and heart and do whatever I can to educate PAPs who just might be able to offer them the home they need...

But, back to my happiness - AJ knows we love him! =)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Unexpected Aftershocks...

Over the last few weeks as we have left our family in on AJ's health, I would say that, overall, it didn't go exactly as I expected. In general, that is a good thing! I was afraid to hope for the best so I anticipated the worst - not in that our family wouldn't accept it or him, but just that it would take some time to work through the issues, educate, etc.

And don't get me wrong - I'm not completely naive. We still have a ways to go there. But overall, everyone was very open and accepting. We still have one left to go (had been holding out for an in-person discussion, but doesn't look like it'll happen...) but I don't expect anything different there.

What did end up happening was something I didn't really fully anticipate - the sheer sadness.

Now, Drew and I have been working through our feelings on HIV since the moment we decided to adopt from Ethiopia. You simply cannot adopt from Africa and not consider the horrors this disease has had on the continent as a whole. This was all too real when I read Melissa Fay Greene's book, There is No Me Without You. Greene does an excellent job of making the HIV/AIDS crisis, and its effect on the children of Africa, come alive. In reading that months ago, I had to deal with the sadness, the anger, the sheer frustration of the unfairness of it all.

Once we decided to consider whether we could adopt an HIV+ child, we began revisiting those feelings. But we had moved past those initial emotions. It is unfair - but the issue at this point was what we were going to do about it. So although I still feel much sadness, anger, and frustration about it all, those feelings aren't at the forefront of my mind.

In telling my sister in particular, these feelings came back up. for the first time, our families have had to truly internalize the sadness and the unfairness of it all. Before, they just knew we had a child coming home (a "healthy" one at that) and sure they know that AIDS may have touched his life in some way. But it is a much bigger jump to now know that HE has HIV - he personally will suffer the injustice of it all. After much discussion and assurances that he will be okay... the sadness was still there.

And it breaks my heart. for my family that already loves him enough to cry for him. And most importantly for him - who has been at an orphanage for over a year because no one wanted to adopt him. Even though hundreds of families are waiting in line for "healthy" children exactly his age.

But you have to move past that sadness and anger. Because AJ is coming home to us - his forever family. As much as I love him, if I had the power I would bring his mother back. I would erase the stigma that still exists in Africa (as well as the developed world...) that prevented his neighbors from being willing to continue to care for him. I would not rip him from his culture and country.

But, I don't have that power. And so I will love him. And take care of him. And give him the life he deserves. He is a "healthy" child. And we want him. He is our son. And he will be loved.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

"We Are Still Here" - Documentaries about the Adoption of HIV+ Children

Deca Productions created a documentary about the adoption of HIV+ children, profiling children from Ethiopia and Vietnam. I believe it has been shopped to Oprah and HBO, but I haven't heard of any takers.

If you go to http://www.decaproductions.com/ the preview is on the home page. If you click on the Reel link, there is a different preview (though it will look the same at first). Also, there is a documentary about Chances By Choice, an organization started about 3-4 y ears ago by Margaret Fleming, a great woman who has devoted the last who knows how many years of her life to finding a home for HIV+ children. She has adopted three HIV+ children herself.

These documentaries really put a face to this issue. One statement really hit home for me - it's at the end of the second preview, stated by Josh, Erin's husband. He says something like, "It is there, and you can't pretend you didn't see it." I can still remember when we were considering whether or not we could/would adopt a positive child. Someone on the HIV yahoo group (for prospective adoptive parents of children with HIV) told me - once you let the idea of adopting an HIV+ child in your heart, it is hard to let it go. That proved to be so true.

The Cat's Outta the Bag!!! Disclosure Issues

OK, so I have been horrible about posting! This blog thing really doesn't come very natural to me. However, I think it is important to share the things we are going through. I know that when we were deciding whether or not we "could" adopt an HIV positive child, this series of posts from Erin, as well as this blog, made a huge difference in my mind-set. So, back to the grindstone.

As for the substance of this post - it's true. The disclosure has begun. Now the extent of disclosure (whether or not to share your child's health status with anyone) is a debate in and of itself and could take up MANY posts. I'm sure I'll revisit it later. For us, it was a huge roadblock in making the final decision to adopt an HIV+ child. We had to get comfortable with our disclosure decision before we allowed ourselves to commit to AJ.

What we decided was to tell immediate family (parents and siblings). I have also told two very close friends. for the time being, we are leaving it at that (hence the need for an annonymous blog). The reality is that no one really needs to know your child's health status (I mean I would exactly preach from the rooftops if Lulu were dealing with diabetes or something). But we are very close with our family and it was too stressful for me to consider not telling them. Additionally, given that AJ will be taking medicine the rest of his life, at some point it would likely come up and we didn't want our family to be hurt that we didn't trust them enough before to discuss the issue.

The cat started crawling out of the bag a few weeks ago. Drew's mom lives out of state, so every week or so they have a good phone chat. She was asking a lot of questions about different charities or programs that we've been involved with since we decided to adopt, including AHOPE. Well, this was too good of a segue to pass up, so Drew shared with her that AJ is positive. I think she was fairly surprised, but very supportive. She asked a lot of questions and in general just talked with Drew for awhile.

Not too much longer after that, we were headed 'home' to visit Drew's father, Andrew, and step mom, Tina. The 'news' was weighing on me a bit and Drew and I decided I should tell Tina that weekend. While her and I were out walking the dogs I just brought it up. No segue this time! And it was great - she just looked at me and said, well, that doesn't matter. =) She's great. Fortunately for us, while she was in hygiene school, she had done some research about HIV. Granted, it was a long time ago, but even from the out dated info she had, she knew that AJ posed no danger to anyone and would likely continue to do very well on his meds.

Last weekend we went camping with Drew's family and told his sisters. They were very supportive as well and asked a lot of questions. I really appreciated their open minded approach. They admitted they didn't know much about it - which is understandable, I certainly didn't! I also told Tina that the girls knew and we decided she should tell Drew's dad. We weren't scared to tell him - we just never had a good opportunity. And just bringing it up out of no where seemed to make it sound like some dirty secret that it isn't. I think he took it okay. Drew talked to him a bit about it the next day, but he didn't say too much. I think he is still processing it. He has concerns, understandably, most of them (I think) related to AJ's medical prognosis and how sick he may or may not be. After we got home from camping, I sent Drew's whole family some great resources (see side bar) which will hopefully help answer some questions that they may have.

So, all the sudden it ended up being my family that didn't know. At this point we were just ready to have it out in the open (well, with the family anyways). Since Lulu turns six today (yeah!) my parents are coming for cake and ice cream. So we were going to discuss it then. However, my mom called last night while on a walk and was talking to Drew, asking questions about AJ and his history. Drew brought the phone to me and said he didn't want to lie and I should probably just tell her now. So I did. And I think she was pretty surprised. but we had a great dialogue, talked about a lot of things. She was going to tell my dad last night. I don't think he will want to talk about it for awhile. I think they both have some processing they need to do. Drew and I have just moved beyond that - now we need to take a step back and walk through the scared feelings with our family. Help them understand why we made the choices we have.

After talking to my mom I talked to my sister. And it really bothers me that she wasn't one of the first to know. We have been incredibly close for a long time. I have wanted to talk to her, but preferred to do it in person and just have not had the opportunities this summer. At first she was really quiet. Which sort of surprised me. Out of everyone I hadn't been scared to tell her at all. But then I realized - she was being so quiet because she was crying. She was grieving for AJ - how unfair this world is that he would lose his mom and age 2 and be left with this disease. So we talked through some things. She doesn't feel any differently about it and was so supportive of Drew and I - which meant so much.

That leaves my brother. And I am REALLY unhappy that he is going to be the 'last' to know. We really want to talk to him and my SIL in person though. You see, they have agreed to serve as legal guardians for our children. So, our decision to adopt AJ really does have a more direct (or potentially direct) impact on them as compared to most people. I am not worried about telling them, I just feel I owe it to them to do it in a direct way. So we are trying to figure out when we can get away for dinner or something - hopefully very soon.

So that's it, our disclosure story. It's funny, when we first decided we were going to adopt an HIV+ child, we agonized over when to tell the family, how much, how many people to tell, etc. We knew everyone would be okay in the long run, but you just never know what someone's gut reaction might be? We discussed waiting until AJ was home - making sure everyone had fallen in love with him first. But that just didn't work for me. I'd rather be more upfront about it. And if someone really does have an issue, it needs to be dealt with before he can be hurt by it. I think we made the right decision. Last night it was honestly a huge load off. And it felt good to have people that love and care about us to talk to about the issues we are facing.

This too shall pass.

Friday, August 3, 2007


I have been thinking about doing this for WEEKS but never got around to it! Hmm... that sounds bad. I guess the truth is that I've had all these feelings bottled up one way or another since we started the adoption process and I've just wanted to share them. But, unfortunately, HIV is not a topic you can just open up to anyone about. At least, I don't feel that way now.

As you can see from my bio, my husband and I are expanding our family by adopting from Ethiopia. I plan to post in the future about how we made the decision to adopt, how we chose Ethiopia, and how we decided to adopt an HIV+ child. But for now, all you need to know is that we finally 'got there' and committed to our beautiful son AJ. He is about three years old and is waiting for us at AHOPE.

Already at home we have a thoughtful and sometimes dramatic 6 year old daughter, Lulu, and a ferociously independent, yet cuddle bug almost one year old daughter, Jane. Lulu cannot wait for her brother to come home. I'm sure we'll have adjustments there too, but she is excited. Jane, obviously, has no idea what is going on, but she loves other kids and I'm sure she will be very excited to have him home (although I KNOW she'll have some adjusting to do - she is rather demanding!). Just to make our house a bit more complicated, we also have two dogs and a crazy kitty (all from one rescue or another).

We look forward to sharing our experiences. I hope that we are able to provide some valuable education about the adoption process for a child with HIV and, later, parenting experiences. My sincere hope is that if just one person finds this informative and starts them to thinking, "I could do that," then it would be a success. Because, if not you, then who?