Telling Your Loved Ones You’re Facing an Unplanned Pregnancy

ISTOCK - Birthmother looking at her stomachAn unplanned pregnancy is a huge obstacle that you are facing right now. Now more than ever you will need your loved ones support and help through this difficult time. Neither you nor your loved ones are ready for this conversation, but it needs to be done. It’s important to acknowledge the feelings that your family or loved ones might go through when you tell them about your unplanned pregnancy whether it be anger, disappointment, or joy. It will be an easier conversation and they will be more understanding of you if you understand what emotions they are going through.

You may be questioning whether or not you even want to tell your loved ones of your unplanned pregnancy. It is important to tell your loved ones because keeping secrets as big as this one is not always good for your emotional health and your ability to take care of your health. No matter your decision on what to do with this unplanned pregnancy, you should rally up all support you can receive from your loved ones.

It’s important to think through how you are going to have the conversation with your loved one by thinking through several practical matters. What time of the day would be best to tell them? What room in the house would you like to tell them? Do you want to tell them somewhere other than the house? Would writing a letter to them and then having a conversation be more beneficial for you and your loved ones? Do you want to tell them together or each separately? Would you want someone else with you when you tell them?

The best way to start the conversation with your loved one is to be upfront and just say it. Easy conversation starters could be “I have something difficult to tell you, I’m pregnant,” “I need to talk to you but I’m afraid you will be upset with me,” “I really need your support so please don’t be angry,” or “I just took a pregnancy test and it came back positive.”

Understand that your family and loved ones may need some time to process everything you just told them. They might freak out, which is understandable as they always want what is best for you, so it could be a good idea to give them some time alone to process.

Some of your loved ones might be very excited about your pregnancy, but might not agree with the direction you are choosing to go with this unplanned pregnancy. A good tip to dealing with this is writing down a list of reasons you have chosen this path. By explaining it to your loved ones with logical reasons, they may be more understanding of your decision.

You should understand that some people are set in their own ways, and they may not agree with your decision. There are counselors that you can speak to and get support from no matter what path you choose in this unplanned pregnancy.

Newborn Bonding

The first month of a baby’s life is all about meeting their physical needs. Whether they need to be held, fed, or comforted to sleep — it is important for parents to meet those needs. By the second month, a baby begins to seek their mother’s or father’s presence through smell and touch, the same way that they may seek food, a dry diaper, or a nap. The parent-child relationship is a way through which a child’s framework for understanding interpersonal relationships evolves.

Adoptive ParentsHere are some tips to help facilitate bond for adopting children of different ages:

Adopting a Child from Birth to Five Months
Your most important task is to boost bonding by keeping your baby close to you and responding to their needs. Infants can sometimes avoid eye contact, become fussy on a whim, refuse to take a bottle, sleep excessively or not at all. Just remember that this has nothing to do with your parenting ability or whether or not you have birth to this child, try and relax and give your baby and yourself some time to familiarize.
• Appeal to their senses: Maybe don’t wash the outfit your baby come home in right away, keep it near them in the crib because newborns are sensitive to smell and that familiar aroma could be comforting.
• Provide primary care: Help your baby identify you with comfort by providing all of their care (diaper changes, feeding, soothing to sleep, etc.). Tell your friends and family that for at least the first couple weeks, you want to be the only ones to do those tasks.
• Always be there: A good rule of thumb to follow for the first few months would be that no matter what your child’s age at adoption, respond to their cries or calls verbally or physically whenever possible within fifteen seconds. Don’t feel like you have to dash through the house to their side, check the clock, 15 seconds is actually probably longer than you may think. At the beginning, to help bolster bonding, it is important for your child to know that you are there for them, to provide for their needs, and to offer comfort.
• Snuggle up: Your little one won’t be spoiled by too much holding, rocking, or cuddling. Enjoy some skin on skin contact after a bath and even try a front carrier for your baby so they can hear your heartbeat.

Adopting a Child from Five to Ten Months
When adopting a 5-10 month old, they may have already developed a separation anxiety by the time of the adoption and could act sad or fearful. The natural fear of strangers that comes with this stage of a baby’s life is magnified.
• Go back to basics: Even if there is some resistance, try holding your baby in a nursing position, maybe when giving a bottle or before bedtime. The goal of this action is to reinforce the eye contact and relaxation that is usually achieved in earlier months of nurturing.
• Allow your baby to grieve: It might be difficult for you, but stay with your baby when they are grieving and crying — even if they won’t accept consolation.
• Maintain your baby’s routines: Now really isn’t the time to change feeding or nap times, the routine will reassure your baby.
• Keep it playful: Play games like peek-a-boo, smile, and sing songs to help your baby associate those positive feelings with you.

Adopting a Child from Nine to Eighteen Months
A child adopted at this age needs to transfer the trust they developed with previous caregivers to their new family. If you are able, observe your baby with their pre-adoption caregivers, see if they move away to play and return for reassurance or move away without checking back, meaning they may have concluded that there’s no one to watch over them.
• Revisit earlier stages of development: Offer comfort, even if they don’t seek it. Your child may not have developed a strong sense of security or attachment during earlier stages of their life, so they may want to stay near you and explore.
• Teach your child to check in with you: You want to make sure your child knows you are a source of their safety, have them check in with you. Have them check in with you before playing with toys or leaving the room to play in another room, and express joy in their accomplishments.

Adopting a Child from Fifteen to Twenty-Two Months
Moving a child in the toddler stage is difficult because they have already built attachment to a caregiver. Their greatest fear of losing that person has come true and they are not developed enough to understand adoption.
• Prepare your child: Visit your child in the presence of their caregiver before placement and together talk about the move. If a pre-adoption visit isn’t possible, send your child an album of family photos or a voice recording so they will be familiar by your first meeting.
• Help your child identify feelings: Your child’s verbal abilities aren’t developed enough to really express their feelings about this life change, so help him label emotions such as sadness, anger and fear.
• Record the circumstances: Write down everything about placement day in detail and take photos. Details will help them understand what happened and why.
• Get good advice: Sometimes children adopted as toddlers struggle with balancing dependence and autonomy, seeking professional advice may be helpful.

The blessing that your child brings will out weigh any obstacles you may face. Just as all new parents discover, some days are just harder than others. The most important thing is to reassure your child that you love them and you are there for all their needs. Keep in mind some of these techniques when bonding after placement and share any of your tips with us so we can spread the love!

August Book Reviews 2014

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All books purchased by clicking the link in our review will give AFTH a small donation from Amazon.com.  If you are interested in purchasing one of the books in our review please consider buying it through our link to amazon.com.

61rKOPiTrYL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Zero Degree Zombie Zone (Bakari Katari Johnson) by Patrik Henry Bass – Still on my quest to find books with main characters of color that don’t center around sports or aren’t set in the “hood”, I stumbled upon the Zombie Zone.  The illustrations in this book remind me of Captain Underpants, and it will probably appeal to the same audience of Elementary school kids. The difference is that all the characters in this book are African-American. Bakari and his classmates are forced to work together to help save their world from the frozen Zombies that are threatening to invade their planet if they can’t find a special ring.  While some of the books intents (bullying) may be over most kids heads it is still entertaining and fun.  amazon.com price $8.99 kindle price $7.99

9780545399333_p0_v2_s260x420The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Letters to their Younger Selves edited by Sarah Moon –   Uplifting letters from authors to their younger selves.  These letters cover everything from self-acceptance, keep pursuing your dream because it will happen, to stop being a bully and hanging out in parks at night.  For every kid who thought they were weird, different or didn’t know where they fit in this shows that it does indeed get better. I also like the idea of writing to yourself, one of the authors actually wrote a letter to his older self when he was 13 then stumbled upon it later and used it when writing his piece in this book.  What an amazing find and what a great idea.  To see where you are in 10-20-30 years and look back on what you thought was important to ask at that time.   amazon.com price $9.81 Kindle price $9.32 

593176Are We There Yet?: Adopting and Raising 22 Kids! by Hector & Sue Badeau – Sue and Hector Badeau didn’t begin their journey thinking they were going to adopt as many children as they did but somewhere along the way it happened.  In addition to the two biological children they had, Sue & Hector ended up adopting 20 children of all different backgrounds, several of who are severely disabled. Does this make them crazy? Many would think so and reading the book may leave you shaking your head thinking there is no way I could do that! But they did, through love, strength and faith.

 

While this book could have used some editing as it is sometimes clumsy and disjointed its ultimately about the children and the family. There is no sugar coated we all get along and life is just sunshine and roses despite having 22 kids, no there go through ups and way downs, but they make it through.  If nothing else you walk away from this book with hope and inspiration that whatever life dishes out you can make it through, because if they can do it, you can do it too. amazon  price $13.40 Kindle edition $9.99

Talking to Your Adopted Child

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Whether you have adopted your child through an open or closed adoption, your child will have some questions on their mind as they grow older. You may have asked yourself, “When should I start talking to him/her,” “Should I bring it up or wait for him/her,” or “How do I even bring it up?” Below are some common tips to help bring up the conversation, when to bring it up, techniques to get your kid talking, and some tips during your conversations.

Talk early and often. By talking to your child starting in infancy, your child will be able to learn adoption language and begin to grasp their adoption story. Revisiting the story helps your child process the emotional information you may be discussing. We are asking our children to understand complexities about their adoption stories that sometimes adults can’t understand, so talking early, in an age appropriate language, and often can help your child tremendously. Books are a great resource for getting the talk started.

Help your child learn to express their feelings. From a young age, help your child develop a feeling-word vocabulary so they can identify feelings that get jumbled up. Some children would rather draw pictures or keep a journal – Any of these work, as long as their feelings are being expressed.

Teach your child positive and negative adoption language. Talking with your child about the ways to respond to negative adoption comments can help them to handle awkward or hurtful situations as well as educate others. By teaching your child positive adoption language to replace the negative adoption language they may hear, your child will feel proud of their adoption expertise.

Keep your conversations developmentally appropriate. These conversations require you to think carefully about how to discuss your child’s story without lying. Most back and forth conversations start at around age 3 or 4 with the common question, “Was I in your tummy?” Keep in mind that as your child ages you will need to change the storytelling technique and the language that can be grasped by your child.

Be Honest. This one is simple – don’t lie or keep things out of the story. If you know your child was conceived by rape, you don’t want to tell the story as saying that their birth mommy and birth daddy loved each other very much. Instead, you may imply that your child’s birthparents didn’t know each other well. Remember, your child deserves the truth. Children are remarkable able to cope with implications when told the truth straight forward.

Develop a Lifebook. A lifestory book is your child’s adoption story told in words and pictures. It helps you and your child talk about adoption and keep the facts straight forward. One book that is very helpful for parents is Lifebooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child, by Beth O’Malley. Some agencies and support groups also have workshops to help adoptive parents get started on their lifebooks.

Be aware of possible triggers. School projects involving family, birthdays, and Mother’s or Father’s day are occasions that might be difficult for adopted children. Watch for how your child is behaving or feeling to make sure they are okay with it. Not all events will trigger questions or concerns for every child. Don’t be surprised if they breeze through without a problem.

Don’t push a conversation. Asking general questions like, “How do you feel about being adopted,” could cause your child to shoulder shrug or continue to be silent. Strive for open-ended questions, and some closed-ended questions, as a way to plant seeds for further conversation in the future. Good questions to ask are “What are your feelings about your birthmother or birthfather,” “Do you have any friends that are adopted,” or “Do you have any questions about your birthmother or birthfather?” Just remember to not push and to listen and speak with compassion. Your child will open up when they are ready and you have already planted the seed for discussion.

Listen through the silence. Remember that your child is processing extremely sensitive information. Silence is not always a bad thing. As your parents always say, “Actions speak louder than words.” Your child could be more afraid of talking to you about their adoption for fear of hurting your feelings. So bringing it up occasionally could spark some conversation.

Consider using techniques to spark conversation. Great examples are discussing with your partner or a family member when knowing that the child is nearby about the child’s adoption such as “I always think of Megan on Mother’s Day since she’s Tommy’s birthmother. Should we buy flowers for her or send her a card?” Another idea is to make a small comment about a topic and see if the child responds.

Don’t wait until they ask. If your child has come to you with a tough question, they probably thought about it for a long time before working up the nerve to ask it. If you provide your child with the answers before they ask, it may be easier for them to approach you with additional questions.

Include the birthparents. If possible, you should work as a team with your child’s birthparents to decide together how to answer your child’s questions, that way your child isn’t hearing different details. Some answers might be more appropriate coming directly from the birthparents. You can also get the correct answers from the birthparents and keep your child involved.

Talk in a comfortable setting. Talking about adoption can be uncomfortable in an awkward setting, so find a place your child feels comfortable to get the conversation started. Starting the conversation at the kitchen table with siblings or when asking about how their day went might be awkward for the child. Meet your child in their zone; whether it is the ice cream parlor, out shopping, at their favorite restaurant, or at the basketball court, by going to where your child feels comfortable they might be willing to discuss some uncomfortable topics.

Involve mentors. Most adoptive parents don’t have the personal experience to draw upon when it comes to adoption. It’s important for your child to have other people in their lives with whom they are comfortable talking about adoption. Any older individual who has been adopted could become a mentor for your child to turn to when they feel as though you might not understand.

Final words: Remember that every child is different. You could have 4 adopted children who will all discuss or react differently when on the topic of adoption. Some might enjoy these conversations while others dread it. You know your child best, so don’t push them too much to the point that they feel uncomfortable. Talk about adoption early, and plant the seed for later discussions when your child is ready.

 

Finally, below are some great books to read on the topic of discussing your child’s adoption story:

  • Raising Adoption Children: Practical Reassuring Advice for Every Adoptive Parent, by Lois Ruskai Melina
  • Making Sense of Adoption: A Parent’s Guide, by Lois Ruskai Melina
  • Real Parents, Real Children: Parenting the Adopted Child, by Holly van Gulden and Lisa M. Bartels-Rabb
  • Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self, by David M. Brodzinsky, Marshall D. Schecter and Robin Marantz Hendig
  • The Family of Adoption, by Joyce Maguire Pavao
  • Talking With Young Children About Adoption, by Mary Watkins and Susan Fisher
  • Dialogues About Adoption: Conversations Between Parents and Their Children, by Linda Bothun
  • Talking To Your Child About Adoption, by Patricia Martinez Doner
  • 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, by Sherrie Eldridge

Fundraising for Your Adoption

Some people have different opinions when it comes to fundraising for adoption. If you are someone who has decided to go the fundraising route it can be daunting, but never fear, we are here to help! Start by going over all the fees with your attorney or your social worker from your agency so you can gain a better understanding of how much the cost of all the services will be. Consider opening a special savings account for all of your adoption expenses to help keep yourself organized during an especially hectic time. Take some time to go over the areas of your budget where you can cut spending. You might have to stop going out to eat as often, skip the expensive summer vacation, or go on monthly shopping sprees, but in the end saving where you can is the ultimate goal.

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Adoption Fundraising Etiquette
Before you start your fundraising efforts, it is important to take some time to develop an adoption expenses fundraising plan. You obviously aren’t a mind reader, and you might not know how much you’ll be able to make from fundraising, but take a stab at it! Focus on the greatest money making potential options first when creating your plan, this way you aren’t asking your social circle multiply times for donations. Finally, be aware of fundraising fatigue. Chances are that the people in your life will be more than willing to help support your adoption journey, but you don’t want to set up multiple fundraisers that ask for funds from the same group of people.

Fundraising
Starting simple by adding a PayPal button to your blog if you have one, or setting up a small yard sale can really jump start your fundraising efforts. GoFundMe is another awesome way to crowd fund for your adoption and you can sign up for free, share your page with friends and family and even on social media. Here a couple other fun and creative fundraising ideas that take a little more planning:

• “Tag the Bag”
Grab the suitcase that you’re going to use for all the travel related to your adoption and some Sharpie markers. For every donation someone makes towards your adoption, they can “tag” your bag with their name. It is totally up to you if you choose to specify an amount for donations, or if you choose to keep the donation amount open. After your adoption is finalized, you can turn the suitcase into a home for your child’s keepsakes or even feel free to tag a different item if your adoption doesn’t require travel.

• The Envelope Adoption Fundraiser
Select a number of envelopes to offer (100, 150, 200, etc.) and number those envelopes one to whatever number you’ve decided on. You can get super creative with the envelopes and include instructions on the fundraiser and maybe even a little note about your family’s adoption journey. Display the envelopes on a large bulletin board in a church lobby or anywhere else in your community. (If you don’t have a public wall to display you can do an online version and display the envelopes on a wall in your house, take a photo and post to your blog/Facebook, and just be sure to keep it updated). A person selects an envelope and puts the corresponding dollar amount inside to go towards your adoption. A holiday twist can be successful too! You can check Pinterest for some DIY ornament ideas and number them (instead of envelopes) and then people can “buy” the ornaments.

• Adoption Auction
Consider setting up a dinner and auction at your home. Invite everyone and anyone! Draft and send a letter to friends and family, post about your event on Facebook, at your church, even have friends invite their friends, the more the merrier! Try reaching out to local restaurants or franchises for donations because that will be so much less stressful than making all the food yourself. If securing donations ends up being unsuccessful, think about making the dinner a potluck! You can set a suggested donation amount at $15 and leave a basket of some type near the food and dessert tables.
In another area, set up the auction! To prepare for this, put some items together yourselves and ask for donations prior to the event. If you send a support letter to places in your community, you might be surprised by the items and services that get donated. Place a silent auction sheet by each item (include: item name, the value, the starting bid, amount bids must increase by) so your guests can bid on your donated items.
You will most likely be busy with hosting duties and saying hello to everyone that you may think about delegating some of the responsibilities. Someone can oversee the auction and the exchange at the end of the night, the food table, trash, taking pictures, and let your DJ or wannabe DJ friends play music all night. If your family and friends are movie junkies, think about making the auction a movie night! Borrow a projector from church or your local library and use a large sheet as the screen!

If you don’t have a natural talent for fundraising, that doesn’t mean you are alone when it comes to financing your adoption. Tax credits and grants are available to prospective adoptive parents; visit our website for more information about those options: http://www.afth.org/pdfs/education/help_with_adoption_expenses.pdf. Have you found success in any of the fundraisers that you’ve had? We would love to hear your stories and share them with our families!

Recordable Books for Birth Parents to give to Children

With such busy lives, it may be hard to get your adoption triad together as much as you would like. By purchasing a recordable book (Usually less than $30 and available at Hallmark or on Amazon) your child can not only hear your voice, but your wishes for them as well. Recordable books are easy to record and have a secure switch that assures your voice won’t accidentally get recorded over.

Below are some suggestions of recordable books. If click on the picture of the book it will direct you to purchase it on Hallmark.com:

  1. Love you Forever by Robert Munsch
  2. Under The Same Moon by Suzanne Berry
  3. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise
  4. Wherever You Are my love will find you by Nancy Tillman
  5. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
  6. My Wish For You by Keely Chace
  7. All The Ways I Love You by Theresa Trinder

 

Do you have any recordable books that you’d like to add to this list?

Understanding Open Adoption

The words “open adoption” can often strike fear in the hearts of prospective adoptive parents who are just beginning the adoption process. Since the mid-1970s, open adoptions have been widely accepted as more beneficial for all those in the adoption triad than the secret adoptions of the previous generation. According to recent research, openness appears to help adoptees understand adoption and answer their question; relieve the uncertainty of adoptive parents and help birthmothers resolve their grief.

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There are several basic types of adoption in regards to communication: closed, semi-open, and open.

• A closed adoption is one where no identifying information is shared between the birth and adoptive families and there is no communication. Occasionally, the birthmother selects the adoptive family, but the two do not meet and there is no agreement for any form of ongoing communication over the course of the child’s life.
• A semi-open adoption is one where two families usually meet and agree to communicate going forward. All communication takes place through an agency or attorney and is on first name basis only. Typically adoptive parents send letters and photos the first few months after the child’s placement and then annually around the child’s birthday.
• An open adoption is one where there is a more open sharing of information and a desire by both families to maintain communication and a relationship. Names and identifying information are often exchanged and there is an initial mutual desire to have ongoing and direct communication between the families and the child over the course of the child’s life.

Most open adoptions lie somewhere in the middle of spectrum, exchanging letters, pictures, phone calls, and having face-to-face meetings once or twice a year. Communication in adoption, as in all relationships, may change over time, for example a birth mother who initially wanted a closed relationship may change her mind later and ask the adoptive family for communication or an adoptive family that starts out with a semi-open relationship may want to open it further.

Here are some important things to remember as you embark on your open adoption journey:
• Open adoption eliminates the factors that may have caused adoptees to focus on a lack of answers surrounding their life. Since the open lines of communication are already established, there is no need to search for clues or answers to their questions.
• Being open about your child’s adoption and keeping connected with their birth family sends a powerful message to your child about how you view their adoption and the way they came to be part of your family.
• Birth families do not want to co-parent your child. They cannot reclaim your child after adoption. Openness helps them to be able to move forward with their lives and provides the extra blessing of knowing the child they brought into the world is loved, happy and safe.
• The continued communication with your child’s birth family is you responsibility when your child is young however as your child grows up, they will be able to become more active in the communication process and developing their own relationship with their birthparents.
• Maintaining honesty in your open adoption is also very important. You don’t want to set a level of open adoption that you aren’t comfortable with and promise things that you cannot follow through with.

Most importantly, biological and adoptive parents must remember that open adoption is about meeting the needs of children, not adults. Open adoption has proven to have amazing benefits for adoptees as well as for adoptive parents and birth parents too. Many adoptive parents say they were able to work through their fear of openness through education about its benefits. We would love to hear your open adoption fears, experiences and/or advice!