Thursday, February 3, 2011

Birthmother Letter

Dear Birthmother,

This must be a very difficult time in your life and we admire your courage in considering open adoption. Open adoption is extremely close to our hearts, not only because Gerry is adopted, but also because both our families are filled with adopted siblings. We know how important it is to honor birth families because we have found that everyone’s lives are more complete and happy with each other in it. We want to get to know you and welcome you to be part of our family. We believe that open adoption is a life-long journey together, and we would be honored to share that journey with you.

About us 
Our journey began in Phoenix, Arizona over 10 years ago. We were introduced by mutual friends and enjoyed an evening of laughter, storytelling and sharing photos of our dogs. As the years have passed, we continue to unconditionally love each other with patience, understanding and a promise to embrace life.

Our lives are filled with family gatherings, travel, cultural events, sports, music and laughter. On weekends, we attend local art festivals, farmers markets and community celebrations, such as St Patrick’s, Cinco de Mayo and Martin Luther King Day. We enjoy international travel to places like England, Ireland, Mexico, Canada and Spain. We look forward to traveling with our child throughout the US and beyond, to experience many cultures and traditions. 

Gerry enjoys working as a Program Manager at a microchip manufacturer company. She has a passion around leadership and empowers others to achieve him or her goals. Kim is a Professor and Team Leader at a local university. She coaches students to know and believe that they are capable of learning anything. We will encourage our child to be curious about the world. We will expose him or her to the many different ways of learning and help instill self-confidence. What we enjoy most about our careers is the flexibility to often work from home and take care of our family.

About Kim: (by Gerry) 
Kim is the ‘light of my life’ and the most wonderful person I have ever met! Kim is always there to listen with a non-judging heart, and she is never too busy to help those in need. She believes in volunteering and contributing to the community and will share that value with our child.  She has taught me the power of never giving up on my dreams, and that family is made up of the people who love and care for you.  Kim has a passion for all types of music and will teach our child how to play the guitar. She is very bright, creative and is a wiz with computers. She is a gifted cook and will teach our child family recipes that came from her great grandmother. I know from watching Kim with our nieces and nephews, that she will love playing games, teaching about the world around us, and helping our child to learn to be independent.  Kim will show our child that he/she is a beautiful person on the inside and outside.

About Gerry: (by Kim) 
When I first met Gerry, she took my breath away. She has this incredible way of reminding people that anything is possible. She inspires me to live genuinely and always offers her time, unconditional love and friendship.  Gerry is an avid reader and will share that love with our child each night at bedtime. I know she will love reading children’s books, coloring, and teaching him or her how to swim and ride a bike.  Gerry is passionate about history and will teach our child the story of America and how many cultures shaped our country.  She will share her love of animals and include him or her in walking, feeding and playing ball with our dogs in the backyard.  Gerry will ensure our child develops self-respect and encourage lifelong learning through fun educational games and trips to local museums.  She is kind, compassionate and truly believes that we teach through the clarity of our example. Gerry has a way of always making me laugh and will share her happiness with our child.

Our Family  
Holidays are shared with family and filled with food, laugher, music and some travel. Since Gerry’s birth family and adoptive family live in Ireland, we travel to Europe yearly. Visiting Ireland means playing with cousins, visiting old castles and trotting through the wildlife parks. We are always laughing, eating Irish potatoes and creating memories! Gerry has two adopted sisters, three brothers, plus three birth brothers, and is close to all of them. These visits include our 17 nieces and nephews!

Kim’s family lives in New England and it is a family tradition to celebrate Thanksgiving together. Her Dad cooks and the family pitches in to eat everything in sight! Kim’s stepmother makes cookies, cakes and holiday treats. Kim has two brothers (one was adopted) and two beautiful nieces.  Family visits to New England means sharing meals, playtime with the kids, Boston’s aquarium, Science & Fine Arts museums and building sandcastles on the beach. Everyone is looking forward to sharing photos and videos on Facebook and Skyping with our child. 

We consider our many friends in Arizona to be our family as well.  Everyone is excited about our baby and is helping us prepare. We are surrounded by very loving people who are looking forward to day trips to the Phoenix Zoo, botanical gardens and children’s museums.

Our Neighborhood 
Our community is nestled in the foothills of the San Tan Mountains and filled with children, schools and neighborhood parks. We live only 40 minutes South of Phoenix, but our nearby regional park has over 10,000 acres of natural resources and trails, where we like to walk our dogs, Doyle and Riley. Right behind our house is an elementary school and children’s park.  Our child will have plenty of space to play sports and laugh with the other kids. The community has a variety of families, cultural events and block parties. Our home is a place that is warm, safe and filled with the smells of homemade cooking. 

Our Promise to You and Our Child 
Our promise to you is simple - We believe, through open adoption, we can come together and celebrate our families. We promise to always raise our child with self-respect and a belief that anything is possible. We deeply value education and will provide our child every opportunity to attend college. We promise to unconditionally love, guide and encourage our child while honoring you as birthmother. We want to learn more about you and welcome you into our family.

Love, Kim & Gerry

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What's in a Birth Mother Letter

Hi Everyone,

Where does one start in writing a birth mother letter. This has to be the most difficult letter we have ever written in our lives.  What do we say? Can we convey our feelings in 1200 words or less. I cannot begin to tell you how much we love this person, without even having met her yet.  We poured our hearts into this letter and sent the first revision to the adoption center during the holiday break. 

The birth mother letter included the headings: About us, Our family, Our neighborhood, About Kim (by Gerry), About Gerry (by Kim) and Our Promise. Many revisions were provided. Honestly, we made every suggestion the counselor asked of us. Even though the second revision seemed a bit clinical, we just felt that they are the expert in their field. I really struggled with this because I firmly believe that energetically "connect" with those in our lives. I couldn't help but ask myself, IS THIS TEACHING ME PATIENCE? When I have the final version, I'll be sure to share it with you.

We also provided at least 90 photos to the agency. Thank you to our close friend, Jill Carilli for taking them on New Years Eve! We are hopeful to hear back from the agency this week. In the meantime, we are putting the baby room together and went a little hog wild on purchasing the Bear Wall Art. Attached are some photos of the furniture to start. 

After all of this, I sit here in amazement. How did I ever get so fortunate? Surely, God/Universe has heard our many, many prayers.  Thank YOU for sharing this experience with us.

Love, Kim & Gerry

Monday, December 27, 2010

Follow the Yellow Brick Road – Signing Papers

Hi Everyone,

I must admit, life isn’t as bad as everyone lets on. There. I said it. LIFE has so MUCH to offer. I’ve struggled with what to write or even how to feel during this serendipitous waiting period. Yet, each day I’m reminded that life is good and sometimes it’s our “silence” that speaks more than chance. During the past few months, we’ve dug deep to rediscover the magic of adoption and matching with a birthmother. By doing so, we released negativity and purposely let go of those who didn’t support our dreams; to have a child and share our unconditional love. Besides, the honest truth is that paperwork is a necessary evil that unfortunately grays the adoption process. Yet, after each signature and “required” triplicate document, we are one day closer to a birthmother match! On Gerry’s birthday, December 17th, 2010, we signed open adoption papers with the Independent Adoption Centers! (IAC)

Now, let me be entirely open and honest with you. There are some people that are completely against our decision. In fact, some believe that gay couples aren’t able to raise well adjusted children. I have to laugh at the irony, since I’m assuming that most gay children are raised by straight people. Either way, life has its reminders that “the peanut gallery” has little to offer. Curiously though, perhaps it’s more than philosophy that drives those to judge others. Maybe those that live in fear of their own judgment, tend to streamline their concealed hate because of their inability to love outside of their ideology. Nonetheless, as we walked into the IAC office in excitement, we realized that it was the inclusiveness of open adoption, not ideology that attracted us.

During the “weekend intensive” we met a birthmother and another gay couple that went through the same open adoption process. Her experience was much like many others; an unplanned pregnancy, young and unable to care for a baby. What struck me the most was the amount of love that she had for her biological child. In her own words, “I knew I wasn’t ready to be a mother and wanted to give my son a better life.” As I watched her tell her story, I found myself completely consumed with the bravery of this young woman. Where does this type of character come from? After all, society seems to demonize those who don’t follow cultural norms. There she sat with her knitted multicolor hat and scarf, holding on to her own hands. She truly was the “light” in the room.

The gay couple that adopted candidly shared their experiences as well. They explained that unfortunately there are those individuals who seek to take advantage of others looking to adopt. Their actions are driven by a false sense of security and basic financial need for instant gratification. In the end though, they may not be pregnant and/or have their unborn child in distress, due to drug use or other non-related issues. As difficult as this was to hear, it’s good to be aware of these unfortunate situations. The best advice we were given was to always direct the birthmother back to the adoption agency. This way, any monies that we provide can be accounted for. In the end, open adoption is a life time commitment, not only to our unborn child, but the birth family that he or she was born into.

We’ve been asked by many, where exactly are we in the process? Good question! Here’s my answer – We are further down the yellow brick road. I know, not exactly a clear answer. The process is long and at times, convoluted. We were told to expect to be matched in about 7 months. A typical birthmother is around 6 months pregnant. The operative word here is “typical.” Most of you know though, Gerry and I have never been “typical.” With that said, below is a step by step process which will give you a good idea of the series of events.

Before jumping down and reading more, I want to share with you some of my personal thoughts…

I believe that unconditional love is the most powerful gift you can give one another. I’ve learned that life is too short to worry what the world thinks. I’ve experienced that there are good people in the world, willing to authentically share their lives and family of choice with you. At the end of the day, I would hope that our adoption stands for kindness, compassion and a belief that nothing is more important that the love we offer each other. And, I don’t want to ever lose it.

Love, Kim & Gerry

Here is a breakdown of how it works:

1. Complete the home study. (Approved in July, 2010)

2. Sign the adoption paperwork that legally commits you to the adoption. (Signed December 17, 2010)

3. Sign additional agency paperwork/training that is related to your specific adoption. i.e.: inter-racial training, inter-racial questionnaire and client profile. The client profile is used by the agency to match you with the birthmother’s specific experiences. i.e.: drug & alcohol use, race, child disabilities, mental status, multiple births, etc. (In progress – Completed within days)

4. The adoptive parents are asked to write a birthmother letter, collect family photos, have a website and develop a four page, full color brochure. (In progress – Completed & printed within a month)

5. When a birthmother contacts the agency they are provided with a psychological and environmental prescreen, confirmed pregnancy and HIV test. (Ongoing)

6. Once the agency confirms the validity of the pregnancy, the birthmother is provided brochures that match with both the adoptive parents and birthmother‘s profile.

7. Once the birthmother is interested in the adoptive parents, she then makes contact by calling and/or emailing them. During this time, it’s important to have a strong connection with the birthmother. This is a person that is likely to stay in your family for a life time. The whole process is a lot like dating with a long term commitment.

8. Once the birthmother and adoptive family find a connection, a “match” is completed. This is where the birthmother stops viewing brochures of potential adoptive families and agrees how much contact she will have with the child. Example: one visit a year and pictures monthly.

9. The adoptive family is hopefully able to be at the hospital at the time of birth. The birthmother must sign “intension of adoption” papers before leaving the hospital. Additionally, she can ask for a 30 day hold before signing the “relinquishment papers” although most birthmothers do not.

10. If you are adopting outside of your home state, the adopted parents must stay in the state of where the child was born for about 10 days to 2 weeks. During this time, the courts are processing an ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) document which will allow the child to be given temporary custody and permission to the leave the state.

11. The final adoption papers are completed within about a year.

Note: This information is not legal advice. Please contact your attorney and/or adoption agency for details.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Adoption Update

Hi everyone,

I received a call from our Social Worker today. She has completed the Home Study document and plans on submitting the file to the Court tomorrow morning. (June 24th, 2010)  We should hear back from the Court is approximately two (2) months. She doesn't see any problems. Yeah!! We are beyond excited!! 

Finally - starting to see progress. 

As a side note, BIG HUGE THANK YOU to those who wrote our reference letters. The Social Worker has confirmed that she has received them. And, there isn't a moment that goes by that we are not grateful for your love, friendship and support. 

Here we go!!!

Love, Kim & Gerry

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Freedom - An Educated Mind

It seems like yesterday to me. Our antique kitchen farm table bore the brunt of our family conversations. Some conversations were absolutely hysterical; others historical. Perhaps the wooden knots really signified moments in time that would change our choices forever. I can remember tracing my brother’s penmanship in the wood with my pinky finger, which was embedded from last week’s school assignment. I had thought if I held my breath long enough maybe I would pass out and wake up as a Rock Star.

As my father looked over his glasses he said, “You are going to college. You are going to have the opportunity that I did not have.” At that time I had believed that $500 a week was a lot of money. I could work three jobs and eventually have my freedom. After all, don’t most teenagers day-dream of having the wind blowing in their hair, staying out all night and listening to music loud enough to wake the dead. Yeah, during that time Bruce Springsteen was really “the boss,” white pants represented the youth of Miami Vice and BMW still meant “Break My Wallet.”

As I stared skillfully into my father’s eyes, I somehow instinctively knew that education was the key to having a more successful life. I’m not saying that money is the answer to all foes that we experience. Yet, a person with more education has a greater chance of increasing their overall income potential. Not that I consider myself archaic, but back in those days, people still felt that they could work hard and reap from the benefits of their efforts. Perhaps this may have been the case for some. After all, the personal computer wasn’t “personal” just yet.

There is no doubt that today we live in a knowledge environment. This means that most industries valued, are the ones where a person uses their mind rather than their brawn. What does this mean? This means that IF your child does NOT have a higher education, it is less likely they will be financial stable. In other words, the income of an individual is highly dependent upon the level of degree that the person holds. It’s appalling how we can live in the richest Nation in the World and yet be ranked 33rd in Reading, 27th in Math and 22nd in Science. (, 2009). What does this mean for our children?

In 2007, the Census Bureau reported the following statistics:

Earnings Estimates Starting Points:

  • $19,405 Less than a high school diploma
    (approx $10 per hour)
  • $26,894 High school diploma
    (approx $14 per hour)
  • $32,874 Some college or associate's degree
    (approx $17 per hour)
  • $46,805 Bachelor's degree
    (approx $25 per hour)
  • $62,287 Graduate or professional degree
    (approx $32 per hour)
Reality Check: According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2007 the poverty threshold is $20,614 for a family of four. However, if you take into account the expenses of owning/renting a home, automobile insurance, food, clothing, gas, electricity, water, taxes and healthcare, I think that you will find most individuals with Bachelor’s degrees struggling to keep above water.

Let’s put this into lifelong terms:

“High school graduates can expect, on average, to earn $1.2 million; those with a bachelor's degree, $2.1 million; and people with a master's degree, $2.5 million. Persons with doctoral degrees earn an average of $3.4 million during their working life, while those with professional degrees do best at $4.4 million.” (USGovInfo)

Okay, now that I have your attention. Yea, education is important. I’m not saying that it is “wrong” if you choose to not educate your children. I’m just saying that it’s likely they will need assistance from the government in their life-time. Honestly, this bothers the heck out of me. Why? Well – our tax dollars shouldn’t be used for those who are capable of thinking and working. One really has to ask, “Have I failed my child” by not encouraging higher education? In my opinion, Yes. Education is not a failsafe. However, education is key to keeping those out of poverty.

A good question to ask is: Will my child be able to take care of themselves and/or their family without any outside assistance? If the answer is yes, then Bravo! If the answer is no, then perhaps returning back to school is worth a consideration. I would imagine individuals who are angered by my post are those with little -to- no education. Why? Because most educated individuals really understand and know the value of higher learning. In fact, here is a really good depiction of your typical uneducated American. Come to your own conclusions.

Perhaps listening to my father all those years ago was the most valuable words ever spoken to me. Because of our education, my partner and I can easily pay for an adoption, all of our expenses, live in a more than comfortable home (estate to some) and most importantly, intelligently understand and discuss solutions for the needs of the many. Perhaps social justice lays in the foundation of earning an education. Think about it. If you are tired of living in poverty, tired of watching every penny come in and out of your bank account, tired of not being able to afford dentistry or health care, tired of being sick and tired – then consider reinventing your life. Teach your children by the clarity of your own example. You always had the choice to better your experience. You just have to stop playing the victim and do it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

It Takes a Village

As a young child, I can remember Mother’s Day being a big event. My Grandmother would be in the kitchen cooking “gravy” and meatballs. I would be in the living room with my Crayola Markers and homemade Mother’s Day card made out of construction paper. Around 1 p.m. “the family” would visit and eat all day. Of course, our family was made up of neighbors, friends and extended mafia members. Okay, maybe not mafia members, but there is an element of truth to this. I lived in an Italian neighborhood and to be honest, we all considered ourselves related by some circumstance or purpose; broken English and all.

Dinner was normally enjoyed in the dining room, not far from the Technicolor portrait of John F. Kennedy and Jesus Christ. (Not in order of importance, of course) If you haven’t had the experience of visiting an Italian home, there are distinct smells that remind us that we belong there. These smells usually consist of anisette, coffee, fresh tomatoes and of course, Uncle Vince’s home-made wine. What was particularly distinctive during those times was a sense of La Familia. Yes, we were poor. Yes, most were Immigrants reenacting their village upbringing. Yet, it was “that village” that taught me loyalty, faith and the belief that I am my brother’s keeper. This isn’t to say that there weren’t family squabbles. When I say, “La Familia” I mean it in the most literal sense possible. During those days, the words double-crosser had real consequences.

(“Are you talking to me?”)

Sorry for the digression. My Robert Deniro impression comes out from time to time.

In all honesty though, Mother’s Day and most other holidays for that matter, taught us that we were all responsible for each other. Not only did my Mother have eyes behind her head, but so did every other person in the neighborhood! To this day, I swear my neighbor Millie was really disguised as the Italian version of the Oracle of Delphi. I honestly can say, I was raised and protected by those that I like to call, “family of choice.” Most of those heroes are long gone. I say that they were heroes, not because of the great things they had done, but for the great things they had endured. You see, those were the very immigrants hated by some that helped shaped my beliefs in humanity.

As Gerry and I visited with the Social Worker last Friday, we were reminded of how important it is for us to raise our children to include the richness of both my Italian and her Irish heritage. To some degree, I feel as though we as Americans have lost our inclusiveness in honoring each other’s diversity. We always seem to look deeply at our differences instead of celebrating our uniqueness’.

With this in mind, here’s what I think. I think Sunday dinners will include Gravy and meatballs. I think that Saint Patrick’s Day is a day to celebrate Irish patriotism. And, I think “our Village” includes each of your cultural experiences. If we can accomplish this together, perhaps the children of today will experience an inclusiveness which will help sever the ties of discrimination, injustice and hopelessness.

Perhaps I like to think big. However, as Marianne Williamson once wrote, Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.” Enough SAID!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Knock, Knock – Who’s there? Social Worker!

Okay, truth be told – I’m not often nervous about anything. However, the moment the phone rang, to set up an appointment with our Social Worker, my heart flittered!  What will she ask? Is the house clean? Since she was arriving at noon, what shall we serve for lunch? Umm….I can hear Walmart calling my name! At this point, my phone dials itself to Gerry’s office, my stepmother’s home, and a direct Google chat with my supervisor at work! Oh yes, it’s also true that I’m having conversations with our dogs throughout the entire day. They do listen for a cookie or two!

It’s funny how things start to change without even noticing it. There was a time that I would have to have “everything just right.” Seriously challenging my thoughts on being obsessed with perfection. Perfection was not needed. Not today. Not yesterday or tomorrow.  Perfection is found in being authentic, not only with the Social Worker, but with ourselves.  In fact, a new friend of ours said something really power that changed my perspective on life. She said,  “I need to laugh, enjoy my life and to stop and smell all the flowers, not just the roses.” I did just that. I dusted the house and admired not the physical things we had to offer, but the love that filled our home. I cleaned the bathroom and thought about the children living in Haiti; knowing that we lived like Queens to have running water. Dust? Not a problem!

Our Social Worker arrived just “a little late” as Gerry and I anxiously paced throughout the house.  I knew Gerry would be upstairs folding laundry (nervous but productive reaction!) while I quickly organized the papers on my desk. (Okay - I was fidgety) I was flying by each room glancing at our family photos of whom we love so very much.  I was wondering if we would be as diligent as others with baby photos and videos to share on Facebook. Surely, we can do it all! Well, perhaps with a little bit of help from our family and family of choice! (Please send chocolate now!)

As the doorbell rang, the dogs went insane; barking like they knew something, we didn’t. It’s almost as if they were saying, “get the flippn door – she’s here!” Our Social Worker walked through the door and I felt as though I had instantly known her. Her “energy” just radiated with positive everything. As we informally started to make sandwiches, I watched the dogs as they creatively positioned themselves for a snack or two. Ha!! Never ending in our house.

We sat down at the kitchen table and our moments of sharing began. She asked questions about our childhood, schooling, parenting style, work and briefly reviewed our finances. Her demeanor was kind, loving, knowledgeable and understanding. As Gerry was reminiscing our ten (10) years together, I can began to feel my eyes well up with tears. Seriously? Crying now? Oh God, I truly feel pregnant without being pregnant! What is up with that!! Anyhow, that was the very instant I realized, every moment of love that we experienced together was now manifesting for others to see. We always knew others could see our “connection” but whoa – here it was – all in Technicolor!

Our time with the Social Worker had ended and we set up another appointment to meet again in two weeks. We have “homework” where we need to provide our biography and answer 11 different questions about our childhood, parents and work environment, to name a few. I looked at Gerry as the Social Worker got into her car and it was as if she glowed. I’m really not sure how to explain this other than I was reminded how impactful and important our love is to each other. And, to be able to share that love with a child is the most beautiful thing I can think of these days. We walked back into our home, shut the door and let out a humungous breath. Yes, there really is more than just roses; there are flowers everywhere if you close your eyes and allow it.