Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The One Where The Cards Hit The Table

I thought that this post would come later. I really thought that all of this wouldn't boil over until our journey was complete. I was wrong. Suffice it to say that I have reached the point where it's not good for me, or anyone around me, to hold it in any longer. The universe has spoken, so now I will too...Buckle your seat belts, keep your arms and legs inside the ride, and please remain seated until the ride comes to a complete stop...

Way back when, Himself and I decided to complete our family. Our path first led up to adoption, and then on to international adoption. We attended seminars from different agencies, did the research and talked to people who had already adopted. We did everything we knew how to in order to make an informed decision. We tried our hardest to find the perfect "fit". Ultimately, we chose our agency based on their "seminar" and several personal recommendations. The agency we chose, was, at that time, at the top of the local price range. We ignored the financial end of it, and decided that we needed to "extra, personalized" help that they offered. We were clueless to the mechanics of international adoption. This was in the spring of 2005.

By mid summer, the agency phoned us with the news that prices were due to go up, and if we wanted the lower price, we needed to commit then. Never ones to turn down a bargain, we committed. We were going to anyway, the news just served as the little push we needed. We attended another seminar, with other prospective families, and learned about the intricacies of paperwork. At the close of the seminar we were given a Xeroxed list of all the documents we needed to obtain and forms we needed to submit.

Our "paper chase" covered three states, two marriages and one divorce and at least two federal entities. In between filling out forms and waiting for documents to be returned, we were personality tested, inspected, and the like. We started in August of 2005 and by November, we were inches away from being complete. Throughout all of the paperwork, we never heard from our agency. The only contact we had was during our home study and our personality testing. The advertised "step by step" assistance was nowhere to be found. Late in November, himself called with a question. His call was returned immediately, and during the answer portion of the call, he was told that there was only one more dossier group that was going to be sent out for the year and if we wanted to be a part of it, we needed to get our documentation in ASAP.

So we pushed the last portion of the paperwork. I took time from work, we paid extra fees to expedite stamps and approvals. We met with our agency's "paperwork queen" and had our contents checked. We were given a short list of paperwork that we still needed to attend to, and then the "passport" incident occurred. I had kept my maiden name for quite a while after we were married, and my passport needed to be in my married name for the dossier. I spent a day and extra money to get my passport re-issued in a hurry. "Paperwork Queen" flipped through the newly issued passport, and tossed it at me. "This is no good" she declared. I excused myself and went to the washroom. It was the best choice, my only other choice was to slap her. Turns out, the passport was perfectly good, I just hadn't signed the last page.....

Two days before the deadline, I made my way to the agency to turn in all my paperwork. I had an accordion file filled with at least four copies of every piece of paperwork we needed. I handed the entire file to the Paperwork Queen and told her to take whatever she needed. She went through each section pulling copies as she went. When she handed me back the file I asked her if she had everything she needed. She said she did, and I went on my merry way. Later that evening she called to say that she did not have everything that she needed. She was one document short, and if we wanted to make the deadline, we had a fifteen minute window the following morning, to get her the document. We checked the accordion file, the document was there and Himself made the fifteen minute window. Annoyed, but unconcerned we resumed everyday life and waited for the letter that would give us our log in date. When the letter arrived we were astounded to see that our log in date was for 2006 and not 2005. Even though we had made the "deadline" our dossier was not sent with the others, it was held for two weeks. The real cost of this? 4 months of wait time and close to $1000.00. We never received an explanation or an apology. The stage was set for what has ultimately become a wary and contentious relationship.

Time passed. A lot of time. During 2006, we heard nothing from our agency. There were sporadic updates on their website. Updates that encouraged us to be patient, not to talk amongst ourselves, to give no credibility to rumors or opinions from anyone other than them, to pray. In the beginning, when the snail mail would bring us envelopes with the agency's logo on them, we would tear into them eagerly. They never contained anything other than solicitations for donations. We stopped tearing into them and started laughing when they arrived.
In the beginning, we were told that they would keep track of all the important dates for us. Some of the documentation has/had expiration dates. We would go through our paperwork sporadically, checking the dates ourselves. We weren't concerned, after all, our agency would let us know when/if we had to renew something. Ultimately, we came within two weeks of an important document expiring with no warning from our agency. We handled it ourselves and accepted the fact that we were on our own. Very recently, one of our federal documents was due to expire. We quickly renewed it, paying over one hundred dollars to do so. Only afterwards, did we find out that that fee could've been waived. And no, it wasn't our agency that told us.

If any of you have read the last few posts, you already know that the issues continue. You already know that our translation has come in incorrectly not once, but twice. You already know that our personal friend has done most of the translation "unofficially". The most recent? Reminding our agency that we will need an addendum to our home study due to the age of our child at referral time.
The current "wildest" issue? Our daughter was referred to us from a province that our agency has never dealt with before. It appears that we had all of the Institute and contact information before they did.....

As the final leg of this journey approaches, the families involved are coming together. Past and present, these families are sharing information and supporting one another. The saddest part of all of this is that our story is not unique. Other families have had "issues", other families have had their journey marred by the practices of an agency they turned to for guidance and help. Most of them are quiet and polite, some are afraid to articulate their woes, but so many have had their joy tempered. It shouldn't be that way....

For those of us, past and present, the journey is an onerous one. We plod through, we adjust our lives, we adjust our thinking. We wait patiently for a word, a sign, anything, to let us know that we are on the right path, that we are not alone. It reminds me of being a kid, and graduating from the kiddie rides to the big roller coaster. You knew you could ride alone, but it ride was much less frightening when you had someone to grab onto. Most of us were promised a hand to hold, most of us paid for a nanny (agency) to hold our hand. Many of us were bitterly disappointed.

My agency plays their cards close to the vest. They appear to resent anyone or anything that may give their clients more information than they are willing to release. Their attention seems to focus when the checkbook appears and becomes cloudy as soon as the check clears. They control information and opinions fiercely.

Cards on the table.... you are breeding a culture of mistrust and suspicion and resentment. You're clients are going to get the information, whether you want them to or not. They are going to form their own opinions whether you want them to or not. They are going to share that information and those opinions whether you want them to or not. You're holding my hand now though, not because I need to you, but because you need to. See, my process is holding up your process so now, my every thought is important to you.

I'll let you in on a little secret. I lost my sh*t last night. Literally lost it. The aftermath involves a repairman and some replacement purchases. Thank you agency o' mine for the push. After a loss of impulse control and a cocktail I feel much better this morning. Another secret, I'm polite because I have to be, I'm cooperative because I have to be.

Know this agency o'mine, I may have slapped the cards on the table, but I'm not the one holding aces and eights......

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The One Where I Trade Frustration for Exhaustion

The process is sucking the zoom-zoom right out of me. My current issue, the translation.....You know, the one that every family waits for? Yeah, that one. Ours was supposed to be available Monday. Our agency chose to use a translation service out of Georgia and this past week-end, the Southeast suffered though some pretty heavy weather. No power means no translation. I needed the translation to be able to keep an appointment with a University Adoption Clinic. Clinic is held once a week, and if I miss this one, I'll have to wait until next week. And so will all the other waiting families. Himself and I have refused to sign an acceptance until we get an opinion from a doctor. Monday, we left the social worker's office with some photos, and the a copy of the original Chinese referral. I'm thinking that the doc doesn't read Chinese.....assurances were given that the translation would arrive in my inbox the following morning.

As if.......

Rather than being able to take care of the regular "business" of life, I spent the morning hitting refresh on my inbox every few minutes. By eleven I had to get dressed in my grown-up clothes for a noon meeting with some financial advisors. Just as I was stepping into the shower, a phone call from the social worker....the translation will not arrive until later in the afternoon. I'm not surprised by the delay, but I am surprised that forty minutes have gone by. Ten of those minutes were devoted to me asking the questions that I needed to and relaying my displeasure with the whole "our translator is official" thing. (we could have had an un-official translation done by a friend of ours over a week ago) The other thirty minutes were devoted to her pouring on her sugary platitudes. Gah!

I hang up with her and immediately call the financial guy. Crap! Voice mail. I leave a message that I'm running fifteen minutes behind. I throw myself into the shower, slap on some make-up and clothes, stuff the spinning dog into the kitchen (please Lord, let his bladder be relatively empty) and jump in the car. The car, is the equivelent of a rolling garbage dump. Complete with copious amounts of bird poop. We've been tending to spring chores on the outside of the house, so we've used both the Nytmobile and Vanbo to carry around all different kinds of ourdoorsy stuff, and since there is currently numerous yards of mulch residing in the middle of my driveway, whoever gets home first gets the garage, the other party is forced onto the street with it's many wildlife laced trees. Obviously I was refreshing my inbox when I should have been at the car wash....

Halfway to my destination, finance guy calls, he hasn't checked his voice mail and is itchy for me to arrive...grrrr...I'll be there in five minutes. I breeze in to finance guy's office, meet him (we've only spoken on the phone) and his partner (I didn't know he was working with one). I know the partner, he was a regular at a bar that I worked at, and on top of that he's friends with the one owner of that bar that I can't stand. Sh*t! Now on top of being late, frustrated, and flustered, I have to watch my P's and Q's as well!?! Crap! I hate this small world thingy!

In the middle of the pitch (errr...meeting) syrupy social worker calls to inform me that the translation is now in my inbox. I inform her that I am nowhere near my inbox, that I'm in a meeting and I will check my inbox as soon as I
get home. "That's alright" she coos. "I just wanted to let you know it was there and let you know that your child has a small, but very common malformation but not to get upset". Splendid! Thanks for the warning. I'll look at it when I get home. The meeting continues, finance guy makes the play for the stuff I clearly told him was not up for discussion, partner smooths it over, and I leave them with the understanding that I will get in touch with them in the next few weeks.

A quick stop for some food (was I supposed to eat? Seriously, I don't remember) and a pick-up from Walgreens (I was three hours late for that) and I'm home checking the inbox.

Now there is a story here (isn't there always?) From the photos we received, it appears that our child was prepped for adoption to another family in September of 2006. For whatever reason, that adoption never took place. As I'm reading the translation, I notice that we have two sets of bloodwork, with different results but the same dates. Truth, fiction, or simple error? Um, yeah, the dates are 2006. Entire sections were marked as "illegible" by the translator, but characters are clearly visible on the Chinese copy. At least one section of the translation still contains the Chinese characters, but with no English translation. The only developmental report is from 2006.


Back to the phone and the syrupy social worker. "It's probably just a mistake, I can't read Chinese, but I'm sure that everything is just fine." Followed by the one that almost pushed me to a loss of impulse control, "Well, I'm sure that your friend can clear up any discrepancies with the translation". After a deep breath, I voiced my concern about having a developmental report that is over a year and a half old. "Well, certainly we can ask, but it may not be happen, I can ask our Chinese contact to look into it, but....." That tears it folks, Miss Nyt has reached critical mass. I sweetly informed the syrupy social worker that if her Chinese contact couldn't get to it, mine could. And that I have all of the information that I need to reach the Welfare Institute, and the Director of the Institute and that our friend's wife (Chinese) is an attorney who spent a portion of her career finalizing adoptions on the U.S. side. I'm pretty certain I can tend to the matter myself. The panic from her was palpable. She informed me that the CCAA gives agencies a hard time when families go outside the boundaries. I acknowledged her concerns, but in my head the only thing I could think was "tough sh*t". As it stands right now, our friend is currently re-translating all of the Chinese documents and comparing them to the "official" translation. Oh, and all those sections marked "illegible" aren't....

The "stupid" is exhausting me. If the doctor received the "official" translation in time, I will spend $500.00 and an evening listening to the doc opine on information that is over a year old. The medical may be close to current, but obviously, the developmental will not be. Shall we discuss the $1850.00 that my lovely agency charges as a referral fee? You know, the one that covers translation? The translation that is incomplete and inaccurate? The one that our friend is having to re-do? I shudder to think what it will cost to properly "thank" our friend and his wife for all their help. Did I mention that this entire process causes one to hemorrhage money? I shall not, after all it would be in poor taste to do so.......And heaven forbid I do or say anything that might be in "poor taste"... :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The One Where Everything Changes Yet Stays The Same

After almost three years, we finally got a glimpse of exactly who is going to change our lives. Thousands of miles away from here is a child who we will call our own, a child who we will willingly sacrifice everything for, a child who will fill our hearts as we will do our best to fill hers.
Meet our Jade.....

So now that everything has changed, everything is still the same. Our agency still does not have our translation. They were kind enough to give us a copy of the original Chinese paperwork (which they could have done more than a week ago, and I could be working with an "unofficial" translation) and I'm awaiting the translation via e-mail. I need the translation for the consultation with the doctor, who only does consults on Wednesdays, and who needs the paperwork prior to the Wednesday evening appointment. If the translation doesn't arrive today, I will have to reschedule the appointment for the following week, and delay our acceptance for another week. This will also hold up travel plans for the rest of the families. Le Sigh......

As usual there has been no acknowledgment of the current events in China, just an e-mail that Bill, his family, and the adoptive family traveling with him are alright. Nevermind the waiting families who's travel may be delayed due to the events...and nevermind the condition of the referred children and their Welfare Institute. We feel very blessed in an odd sort of way that our daughter is currently in the northernmost province of China, an area that was virtually unaffected by the quake.

There is also the fact that we appear to be the only family with a child in that province, and our agency has never dealt with them before. It could be complicated....there is no acknowledgment of that....

I've been thinking about yesterday's post, and as I sit here now, I'm more committed to my position than ever. My child will be two and a half years old before she finds her way to her "forever" family. We know that at least twenty-five of those months have been spent in the Welfare Institute, under the watchful eye of her caregiver, and for that, we feel lucky. But, it does mean that in the whole grand scheme of things, I will be my child's third mother. She will have her birth mother, her "house" mother, and her last mother. It makes me a non-mom mom people.... and I'm perfectly alright with that. It makes me different from other mom's, it makes my kids vision of the world a bit different than that of her peers. My child is old enough to have memory of at least one of these women and their contribution to her life must be acknowledged. There is a woman out there who has tended to her every need, loved her, watched her roll over, crawl, helped her stand, watched her take her first steps, fed her, taught her to feed herself, laughed with her, cried with her, kissed boo-boos, and shaped who this tiny child is. We owe her not only a debt of gratitude, but a measure of respect for everything, and every little piece of her soul she has given up.

Many of you have adopted your children as actual babies. Maybe they were months old, maybe they were a year old, but they passed milestones and developed in many ways with you. My child will develop with me as well, but not in the ways that other children and "regular" moms do. And, I'll never pretend that she did. I may want to, I may have those moments of insecurity where I may crave the validation, but I promise, I will not allow myself to be that weak. I will not be weak for my child and I will not be weak for myself. I hope to send my grown child out into the world with an unshakable sense of self, and an appreciation for all that the world and the people in it have to offer. For those reasons, and a few more, I will relish the title of non-mom, and I will celebrate the women who have contributed to to life of an amazing child.

I've read so much about this topic in the last few days, and my thoughts and opinions certainly won't win me any popularity contests. I am the grown adopted child. Adopted by a woman who was adopted herself. I am the child who looked nothing like her Mom. (I was tow-headed with skin so light it was almost clear, my mom was olive-skinned with black hair) I am the grown-up child who was asked repeatedly throughout my life if that was my real mom and if I was adopted. I am the child that knew for as long as I can remember that someone else gave me blue eyes, someone else brought me into this world, but someone else, my mom, gave me a family. That's the part that's important, and that's the part that's different. And that's also the part that will always be different, no matter what path I walk in life.

For all of you that find judgements in labels, for all of you that scrabble to join the ranks of the ordinary, I beg of you, get over yourselves. For your kids sake....cowboy up. Live the life that you were given and embrace it. Stop trying to slap the square peg into the round hole. None of this is about you, it's about your child and their vision of themselves and their family. It's time to get right with who and what you are, it's time to get right with your reality. The world is never going to be as PC, or as kind, or as considerate as you might like it to be. Prepare your kids for that. In retrospect, my parents gave me all the tools from the very beginning. In retrospect, I used them fearlessly. I remember being in kindergarten and one of the other children saw my mother and asked me if it was my "real" mom. I told the kid it was my "real" mom and then I was asked why I didn't look like her. Fearlessly, I answered that the mom he was looking at was out of eggs, so she had to use an "egg" mom. Ms. Huizenga (the kindergarten teacher) is probably still in therapy to this day because she had to explain to a kindergarten class about eggs and remains, to this day, one of the finest scenes I have ever created. The point here is that my mother was different, and when it was acknowledged that she was different, it no longer became an issue, for her, for me and for other people around us. I was different, it was acknowledged and everyone moved on. Adoption, the idea of having another mother, never seemed any different than having 10 fingers and 10 toes. It was the reality, and it was embraced.

Enough for today...

Monday, May 12, 2008

The One Where I Find Myself On The Opposite Side Of The Fence...

So the interwebz is all aflutter about the NBC/Teleflora gaff. The "Non-Mom" category in a contest. All across the interwebz there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth. So much so, the category was retracted and renamed forthwith. "To arms, to arms!" "We are just regular Moms!" "Boycott NBC!" Boycott Teleflora!" "Call the FCC!" Adoptive mothers everywhere seem to have lost their collective minds.

Being an adult adoptee of an adoptee, I can tell you that both my mother and my grandmother were not "regular" Moms. Their paths to family were different than a great percentage of the population and I can't see any reason not to acknowledge them for that. When I see grandmothers, aunties, gay partners, anyone, taking on the challenge of parenting a child, I'm in awe and I can't bring myself to call them "regular" at all.

The internet supports a plethora of "mommyblogs" and within that plethora, one can see mommies separating themselves from the pack and breaking off into groups of people with like experiences. There are single mom blogs, adoptive mom blogs, gay mom blogs, gay men as moms blogs, grandparents raising grandchildren, etc. And that seems to be okay. It actually seems natural. But heaven forbid, anyone outside that small world acknowledges it. Prepare for the wrath of the Gods to descend.....

To all those moms out know who you are... you are different. You're not a "regular" Mom. You didn't travel the same path as the majority of society. It doesn't make you better or worse than any other mother out there, but it does make you different. And to try and erase that difference is doing yourself and quite possibly your child, a disservice. Your path, your journey, is uniquely your own. It sets you aside from a great majority of society and it should be celebrated.

What seems to get lost in the melee is that this is not about love, it's about labels. Why in the world would anyone want to share a label with someone who has not made the same journey as themselves? Why would anyone want to be "regular"?

So here's the part that's going to get me in trouble with gazillions of Non-Mom moms out there. This entire hullabaloo is less about how the world sees you, it's much more about how you see yourself. To me, it's extrodinarily sad to see folks denying their own reality and scrabbling to join the ranks of the ordinary. It's heartbreaking and disheartening to see people take a label as judgement. It also breaks my heart to see that so many of you still consider the biology important, even as you deny it matters.

I think NBC could have done a better job with their categories. I'm not sure how, but I'm sure there's a better word for it. What kills me, is that there are a bunch of kids out there who just might have participated in that contest, and who just might have a "Non-Mom" mom who loves them unconditionally. And now, because the grown-ups in their life chose indignation over understanding, their view of the people that love them is being challenged. Instead of their Mom being unique and special and different, their Mom must be like all the other Moms or someone's feelings are going to get hurt, or someone's going to get mad. Nice message, don't you think? Whatever your vision is, it's alright as long as it's the same as everyone else. And the same as mine.....And the same as the guy down the streets, and the same as the lady in the grocery store, and the same as......