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Talking With Your Kids About Adoption

Having that first talk about any subject matter with children is difficult. The “adoption talk” can seem daunting. However, it does not need to be this way. There are certain steps you can take in the adoption journey, especially when explaining it to children. We are here to alleviate some of that stress for you because we know it not an easy subject matter.

Do it Early and Do it Often

Being able to talk about your child’s adoption story early and often is important. By utilizing adoption terminology as early as when they are an infant, they can slowly become accustomed to the words as they grow older. By reverberating their adoption story from a young age, this can help them better understand where they came from.

It’s also important to anticipate – children ask a lot of questions. By being prepared for questions they may ask, you, as parents, can feel better equipped to answer them. If you are in a two-parent family, it’s also good to be consistent with your child’s adoption story. This prevents confusion and miscommunication. Coordination is key.

Keeping all of this in mind, it is also important to realize the developmental aspect of it. In other words, keep the talks “age-appropriate.” One of the most common questions kids start asking is about being in their “mommy’s tummy.” At that age (around three or four), kids are obviously still figuring out the world around them. By utilizing story-telling language to explain their journey to this world, it can aid in the child’s understanding.

It is also seen through developmental and behavioral psychology that repetition for a child is crucial. Certain aspects of life must be explained repeatedly to a child, and that’s okay. That’s normal. Explaining their adoption is no different in that way. It is a complex concept, and sometimes the information is emotionally laden for a child. Talk when they are ready or bring it up.

Be Honest and Let Them Express Their Feelings

Understanding adoption as a parent is hard. Understanding adoption as an adopted child is even harder. It’s important to be honest with them when you need to be. They have a right to know their story, but it’s important to realize that what you tell them when they are six years old is a lot different than when they are thirteen.

As parents, we want to make every boo-boo better, every bad day a good one, and every sad face a smile. Children are little people; they have bad days, sad days and everything in between. Help them express those feelings when beginning to tell them their adoption story. They may feel anger, sadness, betrayal, along with many other negative emotions. It’s always good to find outlets for those feelings – drawing is helpful, as well as writing. As they get older, an adoption journal may be beneficial.

If they ever feel a need to express those emotions, utilize it as a teaching moment. Ask them why they feel that way, and go from there. Give them an opportunity to sort through their thoughts. Of course, every child is different, and we learn from that.

Adoption can be tough to talk about with your child, but there are ways to alleviate that stress building up. By taking a few of these tips, you may find it easier to explain their adoption journey. We love our children, and ultimately want what’s best for them. We learn from them and feel what they feel. Remember, you’re all in this together. Family is family, no matter where or how it started.

I thought I couldn’t either…

If you are a birth mother that’s involved in a post placement, hopefully you are beginning to make peace with your decision. If you’re in involved in an open adoption, you realized the family you chose was a great a fit for your child. For some birth moms they gain more family through the adoptive parents. This can make your decision feel worthwhile as time goes on. Getting updates, letters, and pictures help tremendously on keeping you involved in your child’s life. Let’s not forget about the chat with the adoptive mother about the characteristics you and your child share. I am four years post placement and I must admit I am not the same person I was when I placed. I am different in the best of ways. I have matured and always keep an open mind. I love speaking to my son’s adoptive mother about all the crazy, cute things he does.

Unfortunately, from the outside looking in people don’t see the bright side of your story. Most people still have the negative misconception of adoption. The belief of all birth mothers are on drugs, homeless, or worse is untrue, unfair and yet people still believe it. The belief that you “gave up your child” because you didn’t want to be a parent is another common misconception. It cuts deeper when it comes from close friends & family that share the same misconceptions. What hurts worse is hearing the all-time line “I could never do that”. Once upon a time, we didn’t think that we could “do that” either. Fortunately, us birthparents thought with our heads instead of our hearts, so our child could have more opportunities in life. The further you get through post placement you begin to figure out good ways to dodge certain questions and even better ways to respond to them. I have chosen to discuss the two best ways to respond to people regarding your decision to use adoption.

  • Silence!

There is no better way to combat negativity or ignorance than with good, old silence. Especially with the statement I mentioned before the “I could never do that” line. I have heard this time after time and I always respond with silence. You don’t owe anyone an explanation about anything. Keep in mind, that most people that say this have never been in the circumstances you have experienced. Also, this statement implies they are solely speaking with their hearts rather than their head. Placing your child because you wanted him/her to have a better life, both parents, or a loving & compassionate home is a great thing. It means that you are thinking past your own feelings and emotions for the good of your child. So, if your boyfriend’s sister wants to mention something about your adoption, ignore her to the high heavens. Some people may never truly understand.

 

  • Think about it, smile, & be kind when you speak.

I have had a few instances where some people weren’t being negative at all. They are generally surprised by our courage and call us brave. They are eager to learn more about your situation with adoption rather than shunning you. I have encountered people that wanted to hear about the brighter side of adoption rather than the side they are accustomed to. It’s okay to answer the questions you are comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to set the record straight and dispel the misconceptions. These conversations can be very therapeutic and make you feel empowered. You will be shocked at how some people look at birthparents as heroes. Your child is a blessing that made someone’s family whole.

 

 

Coping with post placement isn’t about struggling with your own emotions regarding your decision. It mainly consists of learning to deal with people who think you should feel a certain way. People have told me that I should be ashamed of myself, but I’m not ashamed. People have told me I will regret my decision in the long run, but I don’t. After all this time, I couldn’t imagine being without the adoptive parents I chose for my son. I wouldn’t change that for the world. Embrace your strength as a birthparent and everything negative will become a breeze in the wind.

Reasons To Choose Or Not To Choose Adoption

Deciding whether to parent or make an adoption plan can be a difficult decision. There are many factors that play into finding the right fit for your situation. Am I financially ready to parent? Will my family & friends support my decision? Better yet, does my partner support the idea of adoption? These are all very important questions to consider. Although it can be overwhelming, take your time to research and weigh all of options. Down below are reasons to choose or not to choose adoption.

 

  • I’m not emotionally ready.

Like all new experiences adoption may seem scary at first. This is a normal feeling to have and you will overcome with time. The best thing to do at this point is get all the research you can. The internet is a great source of information. Read adoption blogs by expectant/birth parents. Research the advantages of open adoption. You will discover that open adoption can be a happy journey. Most adoptive parents respect their birth mothers enough to view them as additional family members. Both adoptive & birth parents join together in the best interest of the child.

  • The belief of taking responsibility for your own actions.

Fact of the matter is making an adoption plan takes great responsibility. By setting aside your own needs and wants to consider what is best for your child is taking full responsibility. You may have already considered your financial status, your educational future (if deciding to further your education), and support from your partner or family. These things factor into whether you should choose an adoption plan. The next big step is choosing a family that will give your child a loving, safe, & secure environment. Not to mention choosing a family that aligns with what you would like to provide your child. Completing these tasks mean that you love your child and that you are taking responsibility for their care & happiness.

  • My partner doesn’t like the idea of making an adoption plan.

Your partner may not feel comfortable making an adoption plan. If at any point he doesn’t feel ready to parent or able to financially/emotionally support the child, adoption may be an option. Discuss the concerns that may arise. Don’t hesitate to reach out to an adoption agency to go over your options, rights, and questions.

  • I was raised that if I get pregnant I keep the baby.

Family values can either persuade or dissuade your decision on adoption. It is important to remember that this is your choice to make. What works for one person may not work for others. Everyone’s situation is unique in its own way.

 

  • Wanting someone to love you.

There is nothing that can compare to a child’s love. However, having a child that will love you isn’t always in the best interest of the child. You have to prioritize the child’s needs over your own. Placing them with a secure and stable family is the most important aspect.

 

Consider these aspects when deciding if adoption is right for you or not. Make sure to do your research on adoption and other options that may be available to you. Talk them over with your partner and/or someone that you trust. If you choose open adoption, be aware that you are not leaving your child, but expanding your family. Find an adoption agency that best fits you and talk to a social worker about any concerns.

 

 

Family Films About Adoption That Teach You A Little Bit More

How does one portray adoption on the big screen? To do it with care and finesse is difficult, but attainable. There are movies that do not portray it in the best light. However, there are others that pinpoint major themes in an adopted child’s journey. Not only that, but they also accurately highlights the birth mother’s journey and adoptive family’s journey. These three movies, although possessing a comedic element, depict adoption in a unique, but relatable fashion.

Juno (2007)

Juno is a story about a high school girl (Ellen Page) who experiences an unplanned pregnancy with her crush (Michael Cera). Throughout the movie, Juno’s wit never fades as she’s faced with multiple decisions regarding her baby. We also see every step of her pregnancy. She chooses a family that seems like they fit the “American Dream” ideal pretty closely. While getting to know them, she learns that the adoptive father isn’t ready to have a baby, and thus, asks for a divorce from his wife (Jennifer Garner). But all ends well, as Juno realizes that as a single mother, the wife would do an excellent job raising her baby.

Elf (2003)

Although a bit more unrealistic, this story follows the life of “Buddy (Will Ferrell),” the estranged baby from New York that makes his way into Santa’s sack on Christmas Eve. Upon his return the North Pole, Santa realizes that an infant had crawled his way into the sack. They grow to love the child and raise him as their own. However, Buddy, like many adoptees, soon realizes that he is not like the others. After a discussion with “Papa Elf,” Buddy embarks on a journey to find his birth father in New York City. Although his reception is not initially a warm one, Walter (Buddy’s birth father) learns to love his elf son. In the end, Buddy maintains a healthy relationship with both his birth father and adoptive elf father.

The Blind Side (2009)

This beautiful story of adoption follows the life of Michael Oher, a present-day professional football player. Throughout the movie, we see the struggle of Michael and his birth mother. Many nights, he is left on the street without food or a place to sleep; that is, until his adoptive mother finds him. After staying a few days in their beautiful place, Michael feels out of place. He retreats to his birth mother, who only turns him away once more. Throughout the movie, the viewer develops a sense of empathy for Michael, who struggles to find his identity in this world. In the end, Michael is adopted by the loving birth mother (Sandra Bullock) and her family, and experiences a new take on life. He even develops a relationship with his birth mother so she can stay in his life.

Saying Things You Think Are Helpful, But Actually Hurt

worried-girl-413690_1920              Adoption can be a difficult road to navigate. For birth parents, this can be a rocky road with highs that we appreciate and lows that can reach the deepest valley. Some of us are lucky enough to have a support system that is set in place. Other birth parents either make their own support system or have learned better ways to cope with the grieving process. I am a birth mother that is 4 years post-placement. You never truly “move on”, but you can “move forward”. As I look back on my adoption journey, there were times I thought I was coping well. You know, when you miss your child, but it doesn’t paralyze you or depress you. You miss your child in a healthy way and want nothing but the best for them like any other parent would. Adoption is mentioned in a conversation and today you feel confident enough to mention you had an adoption placement. Then someone says this thinking they are being supportive, “You will have more kids later in life.”

            Before I continue, most comments I heard during my pregnancy & after my adoption placement were from people with good intentions. These comments were from close friends and family who thought I needed encouragement. When they said these things, I had to remind myself that they didn’t mean any harm, but it doesn’t stop these statements from being painful. I’m going to list some statements and explain why they hurt. I’m also going to give an expecting parent’s point of view with a comical twist. As time goes on, you learn to forgive people and laugh.

“Why are you upset, you’re doing a good thing?”

Response: “Gosh, let me stop moping around. All this good I’m doing is the prescription I needed.”

We are upset, because who truly wakes up and says “I’m going to give my child to a stranger today.” Trust me, no one in their right mind says that. We love our children so much that we trust the adoptive parents to provide a better life for our children. We are filled with joy to complete a family that once thought having a child was a distant dream. However, it doesn’t stop our mind, body, and soul from missing and loving our child.

“You know it’s going to be hard, right? You’ll end up regretting it.”

Response: “Really?! That never crossed my mind. I almost thought it was going to be easy. Thanks for the advice.”

A nurse said this to me during one of many third trimester check-ups. She knew about my adoption plan and worked with other expectant parents choosing adoption. I was truly shocked when she made this statement. I wasn’t shocked by what she said, but by who it was coming from. As expecting parents, some of us don’t have the best support system and that’s if we have one. My doctor was supportive and kind. He told me about support groups he thought would be great for me. He confirmed that the agency I chose was not only a credible agency, but a good agency in general to work with. For once I was feeling good about my decision. It is a shame that one comment made by the nurse could fill my mind with so much anxiety. She made me feel like I didn’t understand what I was planning to do. When in reality, I had already weighed my options and adoption was the best decision for my child to live a better life.

“You’re stronger than I am. I could never do that!”

Response: “I would have never guessed with the three kids standing behind you.”

This statement carries a powerful sting. For most birth parents, if our circumstances were different we wouldn’t do “that” either. Adoption isn’t for everyone the same way as abortion isn’t for everyone. When people say, “I could never do that” it makes you feel like you did the unthinkable. I spoke with other birth mothers who mentioned this made them feel sub-human and unworthy. We are worthy and very human, which is why it is painful to hear.

“So you don’t want your child?”

Response: (Blank stare)…..Really?!

Naturally as parents we want our children. We want to raise them, care for them, and provide for them. Even after adoption, birth parents feel the same way, but we understand that we can’t. Every birth parent comes with a unique story that leads to adoption for one reason or another. It doesn’t mean we are bad people. It does mean that we are selfless enough to think past our emotions to provide what our child needs, which is a good family.

When someone finds out you did an adoption and the room falls silent with uncomfortable stares.

In my head: Maybe they’re waiting for the punch line.

I think this is the worst reaction. As quiet as silence can be, it speaks volumes. Silence and stares can feel like a guilty brick being thrown in your direction. And let’s be honest, who wants to catch a brick. Most people who don’t say anything, typically don’t know what to say. It’s like the old saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” This is true, but people tend to ignore what was said and move on to the next topic, so they don’t feel uncomfortable. If anything, at least converse with the birth parent. Talking about our adoption is a form of therapy. It is us accepting our situation and being able to live with it.

Time Heals, People Change, and Forgiveness Allows Understanding

As cliché as it sounds, time does heal all wounds. Some days are harder than others, but you learn to cope with the hard days. The biggest piece of advice I ever heard was to allow myself grieve. On my sad days, I allow myself to cry, scream, yell, etc. Once upon time, I would bottle it up believing if I cried I was slipping backwards. In turn, when I did cry I was a neurotic mess that could barely get out of bed. We must grieve in order to live a healthy life. Allow yourself to feel the emotions you feel. It’s okay and it’s normal. We must learn to forgive ourselves in order to live a healthy & happy life. I even forgave the people who said these things to me. This too came with time. To anyone that has or had an adoption, life does get better. The situation you are in makes you stronger. After a while, comments like these will roll off your back and make you laugh. Joy and laughter are key components in the grieving process. Without them life is just bland no matter how you look at it.

 

 

Dealing With Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS)

Finally! You bring home the baby you’ve always wanted, and your dream of being a parent has come to fruition! Yet instead of feeling the new joys of parenthood, you feel frustrated, withdrawn and overwhelmed. With the extreme highs and lows during the adoption process, it is common for adoptive parents to work through a wide range of emotions before and after placement.

If you are struggling with post adoption depression, there is help…and hope.

What is Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome?

Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS) is a psychological response to new experiences and to losses. From feelings of disappointment, to the demands of meeting an adopted baby’s special needs, to the physical and emotional strain of not being prepared for parenthood.

Adoption advocate June Bond coined the term Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS) after meeting new moms who experienced feelings of sadness and an absence of bonding with their babies.

Common Symptoms

Symptoms of post adoption depression vary widely and not all new parents will experience these symptoms at any one time. Some parents may have only one or two of these symptoms, but still may be experiencing post adoption depressions.

  • Depressive mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with baby
  • Isolating yourself from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or binge eating
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Extreme irritability and anger
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Fear that you are not a good parent
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt or inadequacy
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Seek help

Don’t be afraid to ask an adoption professional or social worker for help – they can provide you with resources to help you with any worries or fears you may have. Talk to a therapist, your partner, friends, family, and other adoptive parents, who can provide you with necessary support.

Trust the process

Creating a strong bond with your child isn’t something that always happens instantly. Not every parent feels an immediate connection with their child, even among biological parents. Remember that you and your child’s bond will grow in the days, months and years to come.

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Take care of yourself

Get plenty of rest, eat well, go for walks, and designate “me time” when needed. Don’t feel guilty if you must cancel an obligation or two to focus on self-care. Caring for your body will decrease the negative effects of depression.

 video baby best amazing sleep GIF

My Adoption Story: Alyssa

my-adoption-story-1

Hello readers! I am excited to be one of the newest members of Adoptions From The Heart’s Marketing team. As AFTH’s Donor Development & Marketing Coordinator and an adoptee myself, I want to introduce a recurring blog segment called My Adoption Story.

My Adoption Story will reveal personal adoption stories from all spectrums of this unique reality. My goal in designing this interview-style segment is to offer a platform to the diversity of life stories created by the adoption experience. For our readers, I want to invite you into the incredible variations of family, life and love that adoption creates.

As our first story, I will share my own

A brief background:

In 1987, as a newborn infant, I was adopted from Bogota, Colombia by Jewish, American parents from Long Island, New York. My parents, Pat & Irv Brookstein had also adopted my brother Jesse four years before me from Bogota through the adoption agency FANA (Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children).

I was born on March 21st 1987 severely underweight and suffering from bronchial pneumonia along with many other babies in the agency at the time. My mom told me every moment until arriving in Colombia that she suffered greatly from being unable to soothe and comfort me in my fragile state.

My adoption was closed and I departed from Bogota with a name and nationality that would soon be replaced. The Colombian, Adriana Gonzalez without a home or family soon became Alyssa Brookstein, a US American with two loving parents and an adoring older brother.

Do you have a memory of finding out you were adopted?

I have no memory of finding out. It has felt like I have always known. Apparently, my brother told me upon his own childhood impulse when I was a toddler. He broke the news to me during playtime. I took the news without a care and continued focusing on what was in front of me, my toys!

Why did your parents decide to adopt?

My parents chose to adopt after years of trying to get pregnant. My mom experienced multiple miscarriages culminating in a near death experience from an ectopic rupture. During her ectopic rupture, she died on the table and remembered having an out-of-body experience. She recalls floating above her body and wanting to go towards a light but a message was communicated to her that she had more work to do. Soon after this defining experience my mom decided to adopt.

While growing up did you ever struggle with your adoption or feeling like you belong?moonshooting.png

I never felt like I did not belong with my family because my mom constantly told my brother and I that she wanted children more than anything in life which reinforced the knowledge that we were dearly wanted, even wished for long before we were born.  As an adolescent, my family’s obstacles overshadowed my personal struggles so I kept my pain to myself and struggled inwardly. In retrospect, I can see that some of my struggles were related to adoption but I was so silent with my confusion that I would have had no idea how to communicate my inward struggle. So, the answer is yes, I struggled but so silently even I was unaware of the anguish.

As an adoptee, do you ever feel like something is missing in not knowing your birth-family?

I do have a faint recollection of what came before Alyssa Brookstein and with that, a faint curiosity. This question is difficult because my experience is like Plato’s allegory of the cave; my reality is such that I am so far removed from my Colombian reality that it is near impossible to imagine it. In addition, I have experienced boundless love from my mom & brother that never made me want for someone or something else. I also love the diversity adoption has blessed me with, I am a Colombian, American Jew! I am empowered by my adoption mystery because it adds immensely to my sense of self. I find peace in my personal unknown.

Do you want to search for your birth family?

I do not have a great need but a small curiosity which holds the potential to grow. I believe that everyone has numerous roots across the world that could lead to incredible self-discovery, I am no exception. Because I am Jewish, Israel is a motherland and I returned. Poland is a motherland because it is the land of my ancestors and I returned. Colombia is a motherland because it is the land of my blood and I will return. When I return, I plan to let my instinct lead the journey. In my mind the search for my birth family will find its own way without plans and details; if it is meant to be it will be.

It is often said that adoption is built on loss. As an adoptee, how do you deal with loss in your life?

As an adoptee, great loss revives intense and disorienting waves of emotion. I have no waking memory about the 1st great separation I experienced in life but I have an acute emotional awareness that I survived something catastrophic as an infant. In the wild, newborns will not survive without the protection of their mothers. I feel I was aware that my life was threatened, first because I lost my lifeline, my mother, and second because I was gravely ill. I feel that every living being knows when their life is teetering on the edge of death no matter their state of consciousness. I was no different.

As an adoptee, the loss of a mother has been the most profound experience for me because I have lived through it twice. My mom Pat passed on in 2014 after surviving 14 years with cancer. In a strange way, I feel like I was more equipped than most to cope with great loss because I had already survived the greatest loss in the most vulnerable condition but my experience also made me that much more fearful. Could I survive the loss of a mother for a second time? My adoption has given me a deep, inner wisdom about loss but I still struggle immensely on how to manage the compounding losses.

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EPILOUGE:

It may be true that adoption is built on loss but it is also built on love. Before I conclude I want to say that being adopted into a family does not mean that the family is always ready, just like many traditional families. Like many moms who dream of having their own children, my mom dreamed of my brother and me and because of adoption her dream came true. My dad was absent most of our lives and for my many years his abandonment caused me to question my adoption in a negative light but without him my mom would have been unable to adopt. Ultimately My Adoption Story taught me that love is what binds people together more than anything else in life, more than genetics, family names, religion or race. Love was passed on to me and my brother which is why he and his wife are now the proud parents of 6 foster children and why I am working for Adoptions From The Heart.