Improving Adoption For Everyone - An Interview With Rebecca Vahle Transcript


Episode 8 Podcast > Full Transcript


Lori Holden, Greeting: 
Rebecca Vahle has witnessed the very beginning moments of hundreds of adoptions, starting with her three children, now young adults. Those three vastly differing experiences prompted her to create a program that standardized care for potential adoption and placements in the hospital, training healthcare professionals about the “wedding and the funeral” that happens in the same room.

The program has grown from one hospital to dozens in states around the country, and Rebecca is now advocating for the Improving Adoption Outcomes and Affordability Act, working its way through Congress.

Here’s what you need to know about all that, along with some poignant adoption stories Rebecca has been privileged to witness.

Lori Holden, Intro: 
Welcome, everyone, to this episode of The Long View. This is a podcast brought to you by the people at Adopting.com.

I'm your host, Lori Holden, author of The Open Hearted Way to Open Adoption and longtime blogger at LavenderLuz.com. I'm a mom through domestic infant adoption to a daughter and a son now in their late teens. And let me tell you, it's been a ride. Think of any road trip you've taken. There are ups and there are downs and it's always an adventure. You're always glad for the trip and afterwards, you might on occasion end up thinking, if I knew then what I know now. Regarding your adoptive parenting journey, we aim to help you know now.

Lori: 
In 2004, in a suburb of Denver, Rebecca Vahle created the first hospital-based adoption support program in the nation, which has been recognized as defining best practice in handling the complex emotional and logistical needs present in infant adoptions in the hospital setting. You'll find out why she was prompted to do so as her story unfolds.

Then, in 2015, Rebecca founded the Family to Family Support Network as a pro-education, nonprofit organization. Following nationwide interest in the program housed only at one hospital, Rebecca created the organization to be able to implement the program in hospitals across the country.

Rebecca has a master's degree in education, was a parenting instructor with Centura Health for 17 years, and is the mother to three amazing kids, now all legal adults who all came home through infant adoption.

In addition, Rebecca was named the Angels in Adoption Award winner for the state of Colorado and was honored in Washington, D.C. by Congressman Mike Coffman in 2011. She also was the host of the weekly radio show Adoption Perspectives on Denver's 670 KLTT from 2010 to 2015. And most importantly, Rebecca is one of my heroes and one of my guides and my dear friend.

Now, Rebecca is actively involved in a bipartisan bill. How often do we get bipartisanship these days? A bill that is working its way through Congress right as we speak. It's a bill that can make what I call adoption world better in so many ways as it is pro education, and it helps make adoption more ethical and thereby more affordable and just better in multiple ways. We're going to dig into all of that.

Welcome, Rebecca.

Rebecca: 
Thanks so much, Lori, this is so fun. Thanks for having me.

Lori: 
Yeah, it's great to see you. We're looking at each other.

So, let's start by telling us briefly about your path to motherhood and then your path to advocating for people involved in adoption on Capitol Hill. How did you get there?

Rebecca: 
Great question. I ask myself that every day. My story as a parent was through the avenue of infertility with my husband. We were both teachers and had watched, you know, we always joke we were the world's greatest parents with no children. Teachers often are like that when they don't have kids. Well, I would never do that. And it's just so funny in retrospect.

But we really just thought, I think like so many, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby and baby carriage. And when that didn't happen, it really rocked our world; it rocked our marriage, rocked our faith. It just was nothing we had expected we would be facing.

And so, after going through what we were comfortable with, through the infertility world, we decided to adopt. Very soon after we finished our home study, we actually got a call. We finished on Thursday and got a call on Tuesday that we'd been picked, which is Crazy Town. And we were told that there was a mom who had chosen us, that was 10 days overdue, and at the hospital. And we were having a girl.

So, we joked that I drink wine in the tub and called everyone I know. And my husband went to play volleyball, because that's what we do.

So, the next day we got to meet our daughter, which was four hours old and got to meet her incredible birth parents that were at that point 22 and 24. And the staff just really supported us, give us space to parent in the hospital.

And people don't realize when you come out of infertility, you really don't feel like you qualify as a parent. Like you have these tapes in your head, like, you know, maybe there's a reason that I wasn't able to conceive a child. Is this the reason? Am I not going to be a good parent? And they just really were empowering tasks and really kind.

So, we left the hospital. Our second child came home a little bit older, and our third child, we met his mom when she was just seven weeks pregnant and she was a high school student at the high school down the street. She had heard {indistinct 5:17 – 18} pregnancy. There was a couple that had adopted before that maybe she could talk to. And so, I met her at Starbucks and we chatted and she at that point decided she wanted us to adopt her little one.

So, we did the whole pregnancy together. And I was her childbirth coach and we did our baby shower and just had an amazing relationship; just an incredible woman. She's now a nurse, which is just so funny how this all flows together.

But we got to the hospital and it was just super awkward. I was super awkward. I always think if I could sit with those nurses, they would be like, Oh my gosh, you were such a nightmare because you realize once you kind of have expectations set and then that gets pushed back on and there's so much grief and emotion going on, that you escalate.

And so, like I think back; we have a videotape of us at the hospital and I refuse to watch it because I'm like, Oh my gosh, I was such a nightmare.

But we really just… I started asking questions because my background was education. Like, what kind of training is there for nurses in this complexity? And I found out at that point, after our conversations, there was no training. And we call it the wedding of the funeral in the same room.

And we know adoptions change. So, when a mom wants the family to be there, all of a sudden, we have this grief and this loss and this excitement. Then we're putting these nurses on the front line with no training in this concept and really asking them to just kind of wing it. And that's the number one phrase I hear from my nurses, is that they just wing it.

Lori: 
Okay, wait a bit. You said two really important things: You talked about the wedding and the funeral in the same room. And I want that to sink in. And that nurses are expected to wing it in this highly, highly emotional wedding/funeral situation.

Rebecca: 
Absolutely, and the more I was in the adoption community, I would hear people criticize the health care professionals and saying, oh, they don't know what they're doing, etc. And I'm like, Well, no one's telling them.

It just felt so unfair to me. And I had already been in that situation where one nurse is really supportive and kind. And then there was a shift change -

Lori: 
That one nurse.

Rebecca: 
- where it's like, Yeah, what's going to happen? Who's going to walk in the door? And that's just really hard to manage during that time. And like I said, I felt it was really unfair.

So, I started… I had already started teaching adoptive parent classes; like newborn classes and CPR and also kind of woven in some of my own grief work that I had done into those classes at a local hospital.

And there's that sister hospital, another – Now, how do I say that? – Another sister hospital opened to my original hospital and asked me to bring my classes over. And I said, I really just want to build a program Can I just come in and help when there's adoptions going on? And I kind of joke; like a wedding coordinator for adoption. Like, it's the big day and everyone's there and it's intense and they don't even know where the bathroom is or how to work the buzzer to even get in. And they just needed a person.

So, that was the beginning in 2004 of the Family to Family Adoption Support Program. I spent 10 years. We did some really bad adoptions and some really good adoptions. But the biggest thing I did was sit with the families and say, What could we have done better?

And that's really how this whole program was crafted; it was feedback from families, from the moms, what was difficult, what was helpful, what was painful? And so, we just tried to make it better over 10 years.

Lori: 
So, do you have some stories that you can tell us from your time as an adoption liaison in the hospital, of how this program played out for adoptive families?

Rebecca: 
Yeah, I have a lot of stories. You know what's interesting is that I have many families that started with Family to Family Support Adoption Support Program while they were in infertility.

And so, the beauty of the potential adoptive family side is that they get to come into a space that's outside of infertility to learn about adoption, to learn about ethical practices, and also to talk about the hard stuff around their grief.

And that's what I never had. Like, no one ever sat with me and said, Filling the crib is not going to cure your infertility. It's not going to solve that. It's not going to fill that hole in your heart.

And I think… Well, I know. I really thought that if I just filled the crib and I became a mom, that I wouldn't have any more grief and loss. And I often say, If I'm adopting that child to heal my heart, that's a pretty darn big job to put on a baby.

And so, my husband and I went through a lot of just kind of grieving over me not being able to be pregnant. We always joked that he didn't have the same kind of grief, because he always thought of parenting, and adoption brought him parenting. But I always thought of parenting, starting a pregnancy. And so, there was this loss that I really had to deal with. So, I get to kind of dig into that with my families before they ever enter the adoption world.

And I think that's key, because when you're in a home study, it's hard to feel that you're not going to be judged if you say you still have stuff to work on.

But in our environment, this neutral space of the hospital, in these classes, they were able to open up and talk about those things. So, I think that was really helpful.

The other piece is just having a place for moms to look at adoption and parenting resources without any pressure. And I remember sitting with a young mom and we met for coffee and she was like, I just feel like I owe it to this baby to look at what adoption might look like. And I think I'm going to parent, but I'm not sure.

And so, we sat and kind of worked through everything. And she ended up parenting. And I ended up giving her resources that I knew were available to her.

But it just gives a safe space to do that. And I didn't have that. The moms that I've spoken with don't necessarily have that. And it became really important to me that it needed to be consistently offered across the country.

Lori: 
It's interesting that you're talking about your own grief and you were on the wedding side of the equation. And this program also deals with the grief on the funeral side of the equation, which is the birth mom or the patient in the hospital, the expectant mom who may place.

And full disclosure; I work with family and family support network and training in hospitals. So, one of the things that is a feature of the program is that the room is designated as a room where something's going on and there could be grief in this room. Do you want to talk about that, just a minute?

Rebecca: 
Yeah. Now, so much of our program, once you step into this space, and I really am thankful for the changes I've seen. You mentioned that my kids are all legal adults. I almost cheered when you said that, but they're 18, 20 and 22.

And when you're in the space of moms choosing adoption – and I'm appreciative of the fact I see more of this online than I ever have – there is this guilt and struggle that goes through with the potential adoptive family as they're taking that child home. But the loss that that mom is going through is so ambiguous and it's just never been defined before.

And we know in health care that we've learned to do less well. So, we now have hospice. We don't have to have hospice, but we do it because it helps everyone kind of manage a really hard loss situation.

We have bereavement programs that do that when there's an infant loss. We've learned that pictures and holding the child and keepsakes, all those things are really important.

And so, as we built the program at the hospital, we built in all of these best practices around grief. And when we watched our moms go through the grief of the decision they were making, we just saw that they dealt with it very similar to, say, a hospice experience.

So, one of the things I trained my nurses on is I tell them, I want you to think about a time where maybe your mom's passing away. You've got to call the siblings and you call one sibling and they say, You know what? I don't want to come. I can't. It's too hard. I just need to get through this.

And you have another sibling that says, Well, I'll come for a little bit, but then I'm going to leave. And then you have the sibling that sits at the bedside till the very last breath.

And when we allowed our patients to go through the grief process, and just whatever process they needed in the hospital, we saw that. We saw some moms that didn't want to spend time with their baby; it was going to be too hard. We saw moms that kind of shared care in the hospital, if they wanted the potential family and adoptive family there. And we also saw moms that held that baby, and just drank in their moments of being mom, the entire time in the hospital.

And so, when we can re-frame it to a space of health care, understanding it as grief and loss, we can then allow our patients to really be in control of the entire process in the hospital.

And that's what we talk about, voice and choice a lot. How do we make sure the voice in choice stays in the space of that patient, whether that family's potential family is there or not, but that she has what she needs to go through that process?

And that really made a huge difference. We used a book called Forever Fingerprints, done by Sherrie Eldridge. And that book is a story of a little girl, probably about eight, who's making sense of her adoption story because her aunt's pregnant. And her parents basically explained to her she was never closer to her birth mom than when her fingerprints were created. So, when she misses her birth mom, she kisses her fingertips. And that's where she holds the connection to her and her birth mom.

And so, we use that book and we would do fingerprint ceremonies. We would have the moms put their fingerprints in the book and we give them two copies; one to go home with their child and one to go home with them. And they were able to write letters to their child in that book if they wanted to.

So, here, this potential adoptive families leaving with the book. We're telling families to talk about their child's story, but we really don't give them any tools to do so.

So, we give them this book and it has fingerprints of that birth mom in it. It has fingerprints of the baby. It has a letter from her at times.

And we know there's been moms that have passed away since then; since that moment of them placing their child in. So, I know that family now has a connection to help that child know their story.

And I just think we lose that opportunity when we don't reframe what's going on in adoption with hospitals through the lens of grief.

Lori: 
And I know that, and hearing lots of stories online and on blogs and in memoirs, that sometimes it's the adoptive parents who are the most grateful for those touchstones to birth parents for their child years after they're captured, because that's what there is; that's what there is available to help the child, in the various stages, work through their emerging emotions. They don't all happen in the hospital. This is a lifetime event.

Rebecca: 
Well, that reminds me of another story where I received a phone call from a mom whose daughter was really struggling with her adoption story. And she'd been born at Parker Adventist Hospital. And she said, Can we just come visit you? And I was like, Absolutely.

And so, we walked through the emergency room where her mom came through the doors. We went to the elevator bank where her mom went up to the labor delivery deck. We went to the room, because we knew which room she'd been born in, and we were able to bring her in there and to talk through the process that her mom went through.

We that we then went downstairs and her mom said, You know, this is where I met your mom. Right here is where I met your mom. We sat on the couches right in the space. And her daughter just went over to the floor and laid in a little fetal position and just laid there, to be close to where her mom had been. And that adoptive mom sat with her and kept her back; didn't say a word, just sat there.

And I thought, This… I mean, talk about a profound moment.

I also, people joked I was always a paparazzi. I took pictures during this whole time, so she would have this. They've made it into a book for her, because she's making sense of her story. And that's where she was in that moment. And there was some place for her to go to start making sense of what had happened with her and how she came home to this family and what had happened prior, too.

So, I just think when we don't have a local tethered space for families, we just lose so much of the story and we lose so much that we could offer, if we had a tether point like that.

Lori: 
I love how this program really honors the connections and preserves the connections in so many ways so that over the years, pieces are available that people need.

Let's move on to you are working on a House bill; there's a House bill that you're going to tell us about. It's H.R.3690. Who's sponsoring it? What does it mean? And why is it important for people involved in adoption?

Rebecca: 
How much time do you have?

So, HR 3690 is Improving Adoption Outcomes and Affordability Act. It was crafted by Congressman Smucker's office, who's a Republican out of Pennsylvania and is now co-sponsored by Congressman Phillips, out of Minnesota and he's a Democrat. So, the bipartisan focus.

And the beauty of this is, you mentioned that I was awarded the Angel in Adoption from the Congressional Coalition Adoption Institute. And they are the largest bipartisan caucus on the Hill and focus on adoption and foster care issues.

So, I know that people may hear in passing what they do. It is incredible what they do. And when I went in 2011 and got to meet, not only… I mean, really, advocates across the country for children, for foster care and adoption.

And I was so grateful because they really introduced me to the idea of being a voice for a population that doesn't have a voice.

And so, I think right now in our government, there's just so much divisiveness and anger and opinion. And this is something that all of us can come together and say, This could be a really good thing, no matter where you are on the spectrum.

You know, we stand very strongly on being a pro education program ourselves. That means the whole pro-choice, pro-life, like we have advocates on both sides that say, Wow, I love what you do.

And that is what… it was so exciting when I did find out about this bill. It was crafted in July of 2019. It happened because one of the staff members within Congressman Smucker's office had an experience where they were matched early on with a potential adoption in, I believe it was Florida, and they were matched with that mom for a long time. They paid for a lot of her resources she needed; they were hoping to adopt that child.

And then, as she has every right, she chose to parent in the end. And they started thinking, Wait a minute. This doesn't make sense that we're involved so early on. There needs to be something to fill that gap. And so, they wrote this Act.

And I found out about it in November of 2019 when I was there at Angels, I believe the year that you were honored, Miss Lori, for being an Angel as well. Am I right?

Lori: 
It was 2018.

Lori: 
It was the year before. Oh, 2018. My bad. It's all blurring together. Covid; whatever.

So, it was really this bill that when I read it, I was like, Oh my gosh. This is going to fund what we know needs to be in place in the hospitals. And this money needs to be coming somewhere different. It needs to not be coming from adoption professionals. It needs to not be coming from potential adoptive families. It needs to be in a space with moms that are considering adoption, looking at their parenting options, getting into prenatal care in a neutral space, that they don't feel pressure to make a decision based on their lack of understanding of what's available to them.

So, we talk about empowered decision-making being about education and access. So, I can't make a decision if I don't know something's available and if I if I know it's available and can't get to it, what does it matter?

So, this really takes those two pieces and puts them together. And that's going to empower moms to make decisions, families to make decisions with all the information and knowing what's accessible to them.

Lori: 
Love that. There's so many ways that this bill, should it become a law, is just going to make adoption more ethical, cleaner.

What are some of the things it does for adopting and adoptive families? You mentioned that it will take some of the money out of it on the front end. What else?

Rebecca: 
Which can be really… I mean, we talk about 1s and 10s in our training; the 1s are really pro-, the 10s are really anti- of any given issue. And we see that 1s and 10s, as far as ethical agencies and professionals, too. Like, some agencies and resources out there are not ethical. They are corrupt. It is ugly. They’re these money hungry, blah, blah, blah.

And then you have some really good resources that are out there to help with supporting adoptions. But there's no clearinghouse for that. I always joke I can yelp about Thai noodles down the street, but I can't find out where to go for ethical adoption resources. And so, that was one of the main things that I appreciate about it.

It actually has three different main components. It would bring in training for health care professionals to understand the nuances of adoption, which again, is obviously the heart of what I want to do and what we do.

It makes accessible mental health services for moms, prior to choosing adoption, as are exploring their options, but also post adoption placement resources tethered to the hospital.

And I feel really passionate that that's where those post adoption placement resources should be, because so many placements and matches are happening across state lines right now that there may not be a support group or support services for that mom in her local area. And the adoption professionals she's working with could be six states over.

So, if we have these resources tethered to where the baby is born and where that mom lives, that's going to make it more accessible to her.

And sometimes, they don't want to go back to an agency or to an attorney or to that space where they went through this process to help manage their grief. I remember a mom that was in high school that delivered at Parker Adventist, and she called me four months after she delivered. And she was really upset. And I said, What's going on? And she said, Well, I was writing an I am poem in my class. And I wrote, I'm a mother, I am childless. And she just started bawling.

And the teacher was like, Go to the counselor. And the counselor said, Who can you call?

Well, her support person at the agency or her counselor at the agency had since left the agency. So, she went ahead and called me. And we spent this time processing and trying to find out where we could get her mental health support because she was going through the grief and loss of this, I am a mother, but I am childless and they had no idea how to support her.

And so, the network of counseling and adoption-competent therapists that can be around a space like this… Again, education access, right? So, that would be huge.

We also know, again, that's pre-placement and post-placement. The third major component is access to substance use disorder treatment. And so, how do we meet them up stream and help them get tethered to treatment, to better outcomes for them and their baby? They don't have to choose adoption to be able to utilize those resources, but it's something that's available to them while they're establishing prenatal care, getting the support they need with mental health resources tethered to that health care system. And then what can we do as far as helping them know about substance use disorder treatment and making it accessible to them?

So, those are the three main components.

Lori: 
And what I'm hearing you say, too, is you're emphasizing the tethering to health care. Back when you and I both went through the adoption process, there was a previous initiative and it was tethered to adoption agencies. So, this is very different. Why is it so important to have this in health care and not tied with agencies?

Rebecca: 
Great question. So, yes, the infant adoption training initiative, tens of millions of dollars was spent and it was to make adoption accessible and resources accessible to women considering adoption.

But the bringer of the bringers of the message, the trainers, were all adoption professionals. And I didn't really understand why it was such a struggle to get into hospitals and get health care education till I was in health care and on the inside looking out.

And what ended up happening is when I'm in the inside of health care, let's say a doctor's office or a hospital, and I'm offered free education. And even to the point they started paying you $50 to attend because they couldn't get people to come, they're like, We'll even pay you. I'm like, 50 bucks. Sounds pretty great.

But if I have that situation where someone offers me free education, in health care, free education comes in is marketing. So, on Tuesday I'd have a pharmaceutical company come. They bring lunch, free training about their product. Wednesday, the infant adoption training initiative comes in, brings free lunch, teaches me all about adoption, says, Call us if you have any women that are interested in placing. Comes across as marketing. Then the third day, maybe we have a formula company that comes in; brings us lunch, free training, Let me tell you about my product.

So, it was really the environment and the way they received information that was detrimental. Because health care, when you're offering free education, you're trying to sell a product; you're trying to make more money. And so, that's how it was perceived.

And I talked with… National Council for Adoption is in the process of writing a letter of support for this initiative and believes it absolutely should be tethered in health care, not in adoption agencies. Which is super exciting because we've already spent $100 million, trying to train in health care utilizing that avenue. We need to have health care training, health care nurses’ training, nurses about how to care for these nuances. That's what's going to be successful.

Lori: 
What else do we need to know about H.R.3690?

Rebecca: 
Well, we're hoping that there will be a Senate companion bill that will ultimately be written. This, like I mentioned, is a House bill. It probably will be reintroduced in Congress next year. People can absolutely contact their congressmen, if they want to contact a senator, let them know that we're hoping for a Senate companion bill, going forward and helping them understand that this is better for everyone.

This is better for moms that are expecting and struggling with their parenting plan. This is better for potential adoptive families. This is better for families going through infertility. And ultimately, this is so much better for the child to have all of these pieces together.

You know, on my radio show, I used to say, Open adoption goes well when everybody's well. And we can start that in the very beginnings to make sure she has a safe space to have these conversations exploring adoption and parenting. And then we can move forward from there with her guiding us through the needs that she has.

And this bill would actually give services, for the first time, to women considering adoption. We've never had a bill that saw this population the way this bill does.

Lori: 
I love one of the taglines I've heard the Family to Family Support Network members use, which is, We want to send that baby home in secure arms.

Rebecca: 
Absolutely, and that we don't have an opinion. How many moms I worked with that I'm like, I don't care what you pick, I just really want you to be successful. And if that means making sure you have additional parenting resources, it means that we find a way to get you into substance use disorder treatment, that we find ethical adoption resources for you, that you know the questions to ask.

And open adoption is really hard. I shared with my husband this morning your concept, Lori, of the wedding versus the marriage, and he just started laughing. He was, Man, that is so accurate. Like you think you're one and done. And it's not like that.

Adoptions don't like that. You have this journey of multiple families and it all starts in loss. And so, it's super complicated. I'm not sure why we thought we could do it without added support, because we certainly can't.

Lori: 
Yeah. We're going to put in the show notes some more information on the bill. You've worked up a one-page shortcut; how to understand the bill. And then we'll also… this is getting great support from birth mother groups. And through that, I think we have some templates on what people can do to mobilize and start helping this bill work its way through the House and then the Senate and hopefully, someday getting a big signature.

Rebecca: 
That would be amazing.

Lori: 
Yeah, it will be amazing.

Let's start to wind down a little bit. I want to ask you the question that I ask all of my guests. You have so much to bring in because you have your own personal experience as the mother of three, and then you have all this professional experience. You probably personally witnessed hundreds of placements and parenting and outcomes; various outcomes. And then you've heard of a lot more in all of the hospitals that have been trained. So, you have so much going on.

So, from all that, boil things down to your best piece of advice for adoptive parents about taking the long view?

Rebecca: 
I would also throw in just the rich knowledge I gained from Adoption Perspectives radio show. We have those archives on our on our site because it became very clear to me in the hospital that you had kind of the potential adoptive parent camp. You had the birth parent camp. You had those who were parenting. You had the professionals. It was all very siloed.

And I gained so much listening to adult adoptees sharing their journey, transracial adoptees, those that had gone through foster care, trauma from parenting specialists, just wishing, I would have had information sooner. And that's what led to the radio show that I did.

As far as an adoptive parent, it came from the radio show. One of the biggest aha moments I had was talking to an adult adoptee and she said to me, I brought up adoption with my mom once. And the look on my face told me, don't ever do that again. And she stopped. She never spoke about adoption again with her mom.

Lori: 
She's shut down.

Rebecca: 
Yeah, she shut down. And I just remember thinking, I never want to be that mom. And I remember so vividly, my daughter and I, having a conversation once. We were talking about counseling. And I was telling her about my experiences with counseling. And I said, You know, well, your dad and I, when we found out we couldn't have kids, we totally went to counseling and did all kinds of work. And she goes, Oh, yeah, you couldn't have kids. I'm sorry. What does that make us? And I just sat there and was like…

And people use that term all the time, I couldn't have kids, so we adopted and here's my daughter saying, I'm sorry, what does that make us? And I remember thinking, Oh, my gosh. And I go, Oh, my gosh, baby girl, what do you hear when I say that? And she said, That you wanted a mansion and you got an apartment.

And I remember just, one, my heart breaking that that's what she would hear and, two, being so incredibly grateful that she felt safe enough to say, Mom, do you understand what I hear when you say that?

And I think that is the gift of listening to the voices of the adoptees. And the gift we can give our kids as parents is complete freedom. Now, if I get triggered by that, if I have my old wounds that open up, if I whatever, I need to suck it up and deal with that later and be 100 percent present with her in that space and say, I am so glad you told me that.

And I said, Will you also give me permission to share that? And she has given me permission to share that, because she said, Yeah, mom. Well, she said, People say like that all the time. Let's just leave it at that. She's like, You won’t believe all this stuff, you know, like, Oh, my gosh, you look like your mom, even though she's not your real mom. You know, all these comments.

And I think I feel for that whole generation that didn't have a safe space to process that. And I always want to be that safe space for my kids. And I hope that I've done that. I feel like in those moments when they're willing to say that stuff and call me out, that I feel like maybe I've done okay.

Lori: 
Wow. You wanted a mansion and you got an apartment. It rips my heart when I hear that. And as awful as it is to hear it, the only worse thing would be to not hear it and to have it be there.

Rebecca: 
And when you think about it, I thought I was being like stellar adoptive mom, being all open about my counseling stuff that I'd done. And then she was like, Yeah, nice try.

And I love that about my daughter. I have no doubt that in the future that she'll have a voice for, again, those that don't speak about this stuff and how she can validate and say, Oh, me too. Yeah, I felt like that. You know, she's got such insight. I've got multiple stories of her calling me out on stuff.

So, I think that's it. Being the safe space, dealing with your stuff. Every time I talk with maybe will adopt classes, I was like, Deal with your stuff, people. Like it is that beachball you push down in the water, it's going to pop up somewhere else and it's going to get in the way of your relationship with your kids.

So, I think that that's key when you're building a family around this concept of adoption that is different. People want to say it's the same, but it's not. There's a really tough road in this space. And the more we can be real with each other, the more healing that can happen.

But we manage grief. We don't solve grief. We are not cured from grief. We manage it.

Lori: 
And to be able to acknowledge that it's even there is the first step. And then to be able to give it space, when the grief comes up, when the big emotions come up, that's what keeps us healthy. That's why people go to counseling is to get unstuck. And the ‘stuckage’ – I call it stuckage – the stuckage is just from those emotions that we think are too painful to face.

Lori: 
Totally.

And thank God I'm a safe person to be able to say that, no, even if there is parts of me that struggle, that I can still be 100 percent in that space with her and then move on and do my own counseling. Because Deal with your stuff, people is going to come up. Deal with your stuff, people.

Lori: 
Some of that. That might be boiling it down, Deal with your stuff, people.

Rebecca: 
And the thing is that our kids go through it and they see it in us. And whenever you've been around other people that have grieved, there is a connection and a nuance that you can see that in one another. And she sees it in me and I see it in her. And it's made us incredibly connected, because we stay in it together.

I remember when my mom passed away in 2008 and I was sobbing and my kids all came in and were hugging me. And my daughter said at that point, 2008, she was 10 years old. She said, Mom, we understand. We lost our moms too. And we just sat there and cried together.

And so, that sacred space is something that I don't think many people are willing to sit in, because it was hard. And it was hard to know that my mom would never be replaced and I will never replace their mom. They saw that in me. And we all sat together and cried.

And like I said, she was 10. Like, she gets it.

Lori: 
Yeah. Grief is almost necessary to true intimacy; deep intimacy. You have to be able to walk through the tough times together and be vulnerable.

Well, I appreciate your telling us about your personal story, your creation of the Family to Family Support Network, the advocacy and the bill that's working through. Tell us the name of the Act. Again.

Rebecca: 
It's HR3690: Improving Adoption Outcomes and Affordability Act.

Lori: 
Okay. And your best piece of advice, which boils down to, Deal with your stuff, people.

Rebecca: 
Yeah. Be your safe space for your family and deal with your stuff. Yeah.

Lori: 
Thank you so much, Rebecca, for talking with us today.

Rebecca: 
Thanks for having me, Lori. This has been so fun. I loved it.

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