From Adopting Parent To Adoptive Parent: Making the Transition From Adopting to Parenting Transcript


Episode 3 Podcast > Full Transcript


Lori Holden, Greeting:
This is Adoption: The Long View, a podcast brought to you by adopting.com. I'm your host, Lori Holden, author of The Open Hearted Way to Open Adoption. Join me as we take a closer look at what happens after you adopt your child and begin parenting. Your adoption journey isn't over then; it's just beginning.

In this podcast, you'll hear from a variety of thought provoking and influential guests as we help you make the most of your adoption journey. Like any trip worth taking, there will be ups and downs and challenges. Here's what you're going to wish you'd known from the start. Ready? Let's go.

Lori Holden, Intro:
The journey of adopting a baby can be so uncertain and feel so all-consuming that sometimes it's hard to see past it. My guest today, Tim Elder, helps people become parents through adoption with his Infant Adoption Guide course, blog and podcast.

I'm talking with Tim about the convergence of the part of the journey he focuses on (adopting) and the part of the journey I focus on (adoptive parenting). What does it take to make a smooth transition from hoping to be a parent to actually being a parent? If you've ever wondered what comes next after your dreams of having a baby come true, stay tuned.

Lori:
Tim Elder with me today is a dad of three through infant adoption and the founder of the infantadoptionguide.com blog and podcast, where he shares his personal experience with adoption alongside the experience of other adoptive families, experts, authors, adoption agencies, attorneys and more. His mission is to bring people who want to adopt a baby into a community so they can support each other and learn from each other and being able to adopt well and with less stress by delivering hope, inspiration and resources. Welcome, Tim.

Tim Elder:
Hi, Lori. Great to be with you. Thank you for that nice introduction. That's awesome. That's perfect.

Lori:
Thanks. So, eager to talk with you today about this transition.

You're the dad of three great kids. Tell us briefly about your journey into adoptive parenting.

Tim:
Yeah.

So, my wife and I got married fairly young and we never thought that having kids, biological kids, would be a problem. We just thought we'd get married; kids would just happen. But several years in our marriage, that wasn't happening and I start wondering what was going on. So, we did start looking at infertility, started going through infertility treatments. Unfortunately, I had a miscarriage and just kept pursuing it, but nothing was getting resolved. You know, nothing was happening for us. But we're really finding any solutions.

And we knew adoption was an option for us; however it came into our lives, but we knew it was there as an option. And we didn't want it to be like a second option or something that we just fell back on. But more to really pursue it, because that was what was right for us.

And we got to that point. We got to the point of, “You know what? We really do need to consider, even if we're doing infertility treatments”, which I don't recommend everybody doing, but that's what we did.

And so, we started and we got our home study done, we've got our education about adoption in and we got our profile made. And ironically, it took nine months for us to adopt the first time. And our daughter was born several states away and we only had four days after we were matched with her birth mom. So, it was really fast for us, for our first adoption. But it was fun. And it was good. Everything worked out well. And we have a nice open adoption with her birth mom.

The second one, a couple of years later, it was a little bit different and weird because right after we started, my wife, Tricia, was diagnosed with breast cancer. So, that put a big halt in our journey to adopt our second one. And so, we did that, which I think we waited about a year or so for her to go through treatment and everything. But we got back, we're ready and jump back in, and it took about another 20 months from there to match. And then we had a longer four-month match with our son's birth parents. And that was great.

Lori:
During that pregnancy?

Tim:
Yes, during the pregnancy. So, before he was born, it was about four months between when they picked us and we matched with them and he was born.

So, what was great about it is we got to go meet them, we got to start this relationship with them. And we did that and that was great. He was born, again, several states away, but we made it work. And we'd have an awesome open adoption relationship with them.

So, the third one started, again, when our son was about 18 months, maybe two years old. Started that process again. It took a little over two years to match. But again, a super short match; less than a week from matched to birth.

So, a little bit different open adoption story. I think we'll get into that later. But not much contact with the birth mom. On this one, more contact with the birth grandma, which was cool and fun. She was born in California; a little bit different adoption laws out there. Some complications led us to stay there for 16 days. But it all worked out well.

And we've gotten three amazing kids; like you said, fourteen, eight and four now. So, ah, we've got a busy household. But all of them are newborns; all born in different states, all open adoptions. And we've got to finalize them mostly here. Well, actually, all of them here. And all three were placed with us within about seventy two hours after they were born.

So, we've experienced a lot. That's a short, condensed version of a lot of ups and downs that went through the process. As we all know, but it's not just the process. You feel that.

But, you know, we a lot of Joy. We had a lot of pain. We had some frustration. We had some elation. But ultimately, so blessed to have our three kiddos and their birth families and welcoming into our family.

Lori:
Hmm.

Sounds like you got some inclusive situations going on and that your experiences have really run the gamut with the length of time and you've had the sorrows and the joys and the waits and all of that.

We know that parenting, however it comes, can really shift things around for parents. What are some of the things about adoptive parenting that surprise you or at least added another layer to regular old parenting?

Tim:
Yeah. Before we adopted, I was worried a little bit that – I don't know about my wife as much, but I was a little worried about our kids being felt like they're adopted kids; like that was the moniker they would hold the rest of their life and that would define them.

But what I found is that it doesn't. They don't lead with, “hey, I'm adopted.” “I'm a kid. I'm a part of this family.” And the fun thing about it is they may use it as a fun fact; like they are not afraid to let everybody know, but they'll use it as an opportunity that, “Okay, well, this is a little something you might not know about me.” So, that was really cool. As we've gotten our kids gotten older, then they've been able to start telling their own stories that way.

And the other thing was our family and friends; I never knew exactly how they were going to accept our kids and how fast they would accept and love our kids. But it was fairly immediate. I mean, there was some hesitation. I mean, of course, I think there always is. And it depends on your circle of family and friends too; how wide it gets depends on how immediate and unconditionally they accept your kids.

But for the most part, I think it was really good. It was even surprising to me how well people accepted our kids and brought them in.

And some of that had to do with us. Well, we were very open and we explained things to people who made sure they understand how things were going. But we didn't tell our kids a story for them, which is very important. We'll get into that later, too.

And then the last thing I think was just building relationships with our kids’ birth families. It was really important to us. And at the beginning, we didn't know anything about open adoption when we first started. I didn't know what it was. It almost scared us. But we learned quickly and we were really educated well by adoption counselors that we had that it was just, “This is what's good for the adoption triad. It's good for the child, it's good for the birth family, it's good for you the adoptive family. And here's why.” And they explained it to us very well. It opened our eyes and we didn't fully understand until we started experiencing it. Now, down through three, it totally makes sense to us and we couldn't see it any other way.

Lori:
I love that you and your wife became what I call ambassadors for adoption and open adoption, and you kind of became educators of what it all means to help them work out their stuff in accepting your kids. And they're the part of the story that they knew.

And I also love that your point that by acknowledging your kids adaptiveness, it helped them incorporate it into their identity. And I think it's something that we adoptive parents have to really do mindfully, which is find that sweet spot between dwelling on adoption and denying its effects. And so, it sounds like you and your wife did that pretty mindfully.

Tim:
Yeah, and it's super important to do that.

Lori:
Yeah.

Tim:
I completely agree to now have a healthy relationship for everybody.

Lori:
I think that is probably a key point in making that transition from adopting to adoptive parenting is to figure out how you are going to find that sweet spot. With so many things with adoption, it's not like you find it and you're done. You kind of every day have to assess, “Am I doing this in the best way possible for my kids?”

Tim:
Which is why I love your podcast, because the adoption doesn't end when a child or baby is placed with you. It absolutely begins. And you have to be mindful of how are you going to parent and how the stories are going to happen and how you explain things to your child, how they can explain things when they get older and understand things. so, super important. So, I love what you do.

Lori:
Thank you, Tim.

You have three kids and you have birth family members involved with all three of them. Sometimes it's challenging for parents who have more than one child, more than one set of birth parents or birth family members. As you said, “You know, we're reaching out to lots of people. We’re including a lot.”

What do you do when there's an imbalance between your kids in what kind of access, they might be able to have with their own birth parents?

Tim:
Yeah.

And we've had imbalance. We still have a little bit of an imbalance. But for us, we never want the imbalance to be on us or because of us. We always want to treat and be open to our kids’ birth families the same. We want to be able to make sure they know we're available. We want our kids to be available to them. So, we try to do that as much as we possibly can. And we're open to all sorts of contact.

And we and we do have contact through text, phone calls, video calls, visits, even through Facebook Messenger. So, we want them to know that they are part of our family. And they do.

And some of them just prefer to have a little bit less contact with us for whatever reason. And we're okay with that, as long as they know we're always open to more.

So, it can be difficult to explain to our kids, especially as they get older, how some have more connection with their birth families than others. And it's an ongoing conversation. And I'll share a story that explains a little bit of how we've dealt with it. Because one of our kids, we’re more close than the others with their birth families. So, we have actually had the opportunity to visit them several times and they've come to visit us.

And so, on one of those visits, our other child said, “Hey, how come I don't have this great visit relationship with my birth mom?” And we had to talk through that. And we did. And it got us thinking, though, we really need to offer to talk more with her birth mom. And so, we did and we opened up a little bit more and just made sure she said, “Hey.” And she was happy that we did that.

So, even if you have all these grand ideas – and the reason I tell all these stories is even if you have grand ideas and you're so open, it doesn't mean you always are. You could get lost in the moment and figure out, “Oh, wait a minute. We haven't heard from her in a while and maybe we should reach out.”

And so, we did that. We set up a phone call and we talked together. And it really helped her know that she still has that connection there with her brother, if she wants it. And the stream runs both ways.

Lori:
I love that, especially that you're not only looking at what is there, but also sometimes tuning into what's not there and figuring out with your children's birth family members and with your child. So, that that tuning in is so important.

What are your thoughts on open versus closed adoption? And first, I think we need to define how we're using the terms, because on this podcast, before I've used them in a in a very specific way, what openness means and what closedness means.

Tim:
Yeah.

And so for me, I mean, thankfully, open adoption is the standard today in today's adoption world. It didn't used to be, but I'm so thankful it is today. And I think closed is just either no or very limited contact between the birth family and the adoptive family. And maybe even a limited knowledge of them and what's the history in your child's family. So, thankfully, closed adoptions are rare, but they do happen.

Open adoption, to me, is more about openness, because it's not just contact are the kind or how much contact is relationship. But I think I'm already talking about that as we have gone on the podcast. But it's more of an attitude. It's a lifestyle. It's cultivating relationship. It's welcoming your child's birth family into your family.

Because it can be so good; it is so good for the child, it's so good for the first family, it's so good for us, the adoptive family. And mainly, the birth family, they get to know they made the right choice. They get to know the child's loved and cared for and continues to be loved and cared for.

The child gets to know where they came from. They had the ability to connect with their birth family. They get their questions answered, if they need to or want to.

And then the adoptive family, we get – It's hard to explain all we get because there's so much of a very cool, fun bond that we get to form and there's relationship. And I know it doesn't always go perfectly smooth. It's not always rainbows, but does – It's like in relationships, though. The more you work on it, usually, the better it becomes. And it certainly it's been that way for us. It's helped us develop that bond.

And we know the health history of our children. And that's huge too. It's fun to know that our kids’ birth family share as much unconditional love for our child as we do.

Lori:
It is nice to have those people around us.

Tim:
That’s the openness.

Lori:
Yeah.

Tim:
Yes.

Lori:
Do you sometimes have people who come to you and say, “I just want a closed adoption. I just want this to be done. I want to be like a normal family.” What do you say to people who might tell you that?

Tim:
Yeah, well, “normal” is really relative there, because an adoption, to me, it is I guess you just don't have that choice. You don't even want that choice. And I try to explain to them just the benefits of this. On the outside looking in, if you haven't adopted yet, it's hard to know the benefits and know what it's like to have this relationship with your child's birth family and the value in that is just huge. And it's hard to explain. It's hard to really tell people exactly what it's like without experiencing it. But all I can do is tell my story, “This is how we've done it. And these are the benefits we get out of how we see this benefiting our children as they're growing up.

And it's not co-parenting. It's not big intrusiveness. It's not this burden. It's something that we can really share with our kids and bring other people into our lives to share the love with them.

And I know that sounds a little grandiose, maybe a little bit too easy, too fun, without any problems. And I'm certainly not here to say open adoptions are not without problems; it certainly can have challenges. I've talked to people that have had challenges. But it's about relationships. It's about communication.

So, I just tell people my story; how we've done it and try to get them to think about it differently, if they're really about having a closed adoption.

Lori:
Yeah.

I think there is a coming to terms that people sometimes need to do during this transition from adopting or thinking about adopting to adoptive parenting, which is you have to come to terms with the idea that you're not the only mom or you're not the only dad. And that can be really hard because we're almost hardwired to want to own this child a hundred percent, which is kind of a thing about parenting that you don't get till you're in it; you don't own anybody.

Tim:
Right.

Lori:
But the adoption piece means that you actually share a claim with another actual person.

And again, we get back to that denying. We can deny that, but that does not really help you on your own journey to kind of be discounting a large factor in your child's actual life.

Tim:
Fully do.

Lori:
Yeah, let's shift gears a little bit. I want to talk about adoption is the coming to the table of two people who are in some sort of desperate circumstance. And I'm talking specifically about domestic infant adoption when parents have come here through infertility. So, they want a baby really, really badly. They have baby fever. I understand it. I had it. I think I was 107 degrees on some days with that fever.

Then you also have a woman who really, really, for whatever her reasons are, doesn't want to be pregnant, can't be pregnant anymore. And she decides to carry her pregnancy. And she's going to have to. There's a desperation there, too.

And then we have this power imbalance that's going on too. Before they put their relinquishment, the birth mom or the expectant mom has a lot of power. And then at the moment of that placement, the adoptive parents have all the power and it completely shifts.

So, when you're dealing with these big factors, they're occasional outliers; people who take advantage of each other when they're in the power position. So, what can you say about these two different – Let's go to both ends; one, a woman posing to be an expectant mother who really isn’t, and she's preying on people hoping to adopt? And also on the other side, an adoptive parent who will promise the moon to an expectant mom about contact and inclusion, but then who doesn't deliver that? In other words, what's the role of honor in the process of placing a baby and adopting a baby?

Tim:
Yeah.

Well, first, both situations that are just hurtful, terrible, unacceptable in the adoption world, but both happen, unfortunately. And the scams, I guess, was what the first thing you're talking about; a woman posing to be an expectant mom who really isn’t, preying on people hoping to adopt. And those can be terrible. They're emotional. They can be financial. And they do cut hopeful adoptive parents to the core. And some never adopt again because it's just really bad.

But the scams happen and which is why it's important to know about them, understand that they happen. And maybe even try to see some red flags in it. But it's important to work with an adoption professional that can help us avoid those. They see them. They can talk with these expectant moms that really can handle these things and see the red flags and stop them before they reach you; the {indistinct 21:12} the family.

So, it's a big topic. I mean, we could do a whole podcast on that. But it is true that they do happen. And it's hard to completely avoid them because some people are really, really good at it, unfortunately.

On the second part…

Lori:
Let me say one thing, real quick, before you shift gears, as I asked you to. And that is I want to emphasize that I said the word outlier; I don't want anybody listening think that this happens a lot.

Tim:
Yes.

Lori:
Those kind of scams are rare. I think less rare than the next part that you're going to get into. So, go ahead.

Tim:
Perfect point. Absolutely great you said that. Yes.

The second point happens much more often and it's also just hurtful, terrible, unacceptable because it's cruel to the birth mom or the birth family, because the child is placed with you, the adoptive family, and you may have made these promises and overpromises of contact and, “Oh, yeah, we'll visit.” These things that sound so great before you adopted, and then after adoption you're like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. I can't do all this.”

And it hurts because these birth families really want to know that they made the right choice. They want to know their child is loved or cared for. And like I said before, they continue to be. So, know about the family. Anybody that’s listening and has stood up the family, {indistinct 22:38} od the family should not be promising the moon about contact and openness. They should be realistic, thoughtful, talk it through their social workers. Still be open, though; open to contact, open to having that relationship and talking through with the birth family about what's good and how much and when and all those things.

And ultimately, it's about the child. It's about how to make it best for the child to have that relationship with their birth family. And I know it's not easy and those conversations can be hard. But as adoptive families, you really, really cannot overpromise and don't deliver. That is it.

And I my advice is always just, I tell people to start slow, don't overpromise, do something, though. Don't say, “Oh, I'm scared. I'm not going to do anything. And no way I'm going make any contact.” No, that's not the right way.

You need to know that the person wants to know they made the right decision and their baby is loved for and cared for.

Does that makes sense?

Lori:
Absolutely.

And I think also from a parenting standpoint, one of the things you would really want to model for your child so that your child grows up with this value, is that your words and your actions need to align. That's how an honorable person moves through life. So, you need to model that for your child, too, by doing it with your child's birth parents.

Tim:
Great point. Because what you do, how you treat, how you respect, how you love their birth family is a reflection on your child. So, they will see that, no matter how hard you think you may be able to hide it or anything like that. They're going to know. They're going to see it. They're going to feel it, especially as they get older. So, absolutely great advice.

Lori:
And that's a really good point.

Tim:
Yeah, do what you say you're going to do.

Lori:
Yeah, the child will internalize.

Tim:
Yeah.

Lori:
And they will notice, like you say. Yeah.

You have a highly successful course, Tim; a set of eBooks and a podcast for people wanting to adopt, all called the Infant Adoption Guide. Once people do complete their adoptions, what do you think it takes to be successful with moving onto the next phase; adoptive parenting? Maybe give us your top-three tips.

Tim:
Absolutely. Love this question. Yes.

And my first tip is tell your child early and often their story. Don't wait. Please, don’t wait. Start small, even before you might think they could even understand it.

The way we did this was as we put them to bed at night, we just tell them a quick story just about how their adoption happened. Simple. Simple steps; nothing complicated. Nothing. But then we continued to tell a little bit more, a little bit more, a little bit more as they get older. Because they need to know where they came from. They need to know where they are with you now, how this all happened, how much they're loved and will always be loved by their mom and dad. So, tip one, tell your child early and often their story.

The second tip is it flows into that or from that; the child's adoption story is their own story. So, don't go around telling everybody all the details of your child's adoption story. Let them, as they get older, tell how much or little they want and when they want.

Because people will ask you, too. They'll say, “What happened with the birth family? Why did they do this? How could they do this? They’ll probe you with these questions. And you don't have to answer. And we don't. In our experience, we tell them a little bit and we say, “You know what? That's our child's story to tell. So, if they want to share it later, that's their prerogative. That's what they want to do.

So, really critical, in my opinion, is to protect your child's story. You don't want them to hear their story from someone else. That would be really, really bad.

So, tip three is cultivate that open adoption relationship with the kids’ birth families we've been talking about. You really want to show them how much love they get from that open adoption relationship, like you talked about. You never want to talk bad about your kids’ birth families. You certainly don't want to lie about them.

Even if you there's some toxic reasons that you can't have a good open adoption relationship, you don't have to go into that much detail, especially when they're young. Later they can find out more about that and you can tell them as they get older.

But you need to cultivate that relationship, as much as you can. Be open as you can and just keep that door open for that birth family, because your kids are going to know how much you do that or don't do that.

Lori:
Yeah.

And I like the way you've expanded it into birth family. Even if maybe a birth parent isn't in a state for a time where contact is possible, who else in their family? Maybe a birth grandparent, birth aunt or uncle, birth sibling; all those connections can serve the child as well too.

Tim:
Absolutely.

Then they have, in our experience. Certainly, their family, especially the grandmas, are involved and want to be involved. And we love them.

Lori:
Those are really great points, Tim. I love the two sides of the telling the story that you have is make sure that over time, in an age appropriate way, the child gets their whole story, because it's their story. And at the same time, so there's no secrecy with them, but there's privacy with others.

Tim:
Right.

Lori:
So, you're caretaking the story until they are able to take care of everything. So, those are really great tips. Thanks for sharing those with us.

Our time is growing short, as it always does. So, I'm going to ask you my last question, and this is something I'm going to ask of all Season 2 guests. And that is this; what do you think people need to know to adopt well, and to adoptive parent, well?

Tim:
Great questions too. It really made me think, because you've got two sides of the adoption here; where you're going into it, and then when the child is placed with you, what happens? So, it's very important to think about both.

And so, when you're going into adoption, I mean, remember that – there's two things to remember, really; an expectant mom or the expectant family, it could be even. Like in our case, it was not just expectant mom, but they're going to choose you for being you. So, you need to be sincere. You need to show her or them what life is like for their baby in your family. You need to know that this is going to be a commitment, a lifelong commitment. And have that openness like we were talking about.

And the second thing I remember is just never, ever, ever give up. If you don't give up, you're going to win, no doubt. I mean, no matter how hard it seems, no matter how long the wait is or no matter how old you may think you are and can't do it, just don't give up.

So, the transition of going into adoptive parenting. Well, I think following my three tips I just gave are big because, like we said, you don't want your child's story secret, but you need it private. And you need to share those adoption stories early and often. Partake in their story, cultivate those relationships, work on them because your kid’s birth family are your family now. Like it or not, or want it or not, and you will want it. I think it's important you get into this. And our experience was just the more you get into it, the more you cultivate the relationship, you embrace them, you love them. It's a beautiful thing.

Lori:
I love that.

I think my journey, my inner journey, mirrors what you're saying, which is I started out doing it for my child's birth parents, then it turned into I was doing it for my child and then eventually, I was doing it for me.

Tim:
Yeah.

Lori:
There's so much richness and I just really enjoyed doing it, even though sometimes it's very hard. I don't want to ever gloss over that piece.

Tim:
That's true. That's true. It can be. It can be. But you know what? It's so fun to, like I said before, we put together like videos or send texts and pictures of just little milestones or just funny things they do. Or we send them pictures that they drew. It's just fun to know that their birth families care about all that little stuff just as much as we do.

And there is no such thing as, “Well, they probably don't want to see the latest little dinosaur that my son drew.” Well, actually, no, that's pure gold in their world.

Lori:
Exactly.

Tim:
They want to see that.

Lori:
Like you can't overdo it with your child’s birth parents.

Tim:
No, no.

Lori:
They're into it as much as you are.

Tim:
Exactly.

And you know what? I got one more tip that I think it's really important. And this is for anybody that's looking to adopt, but also after you adopt. And don't forget about; its support. And you mentioned it early on, I think, in the intro that having a community or some support, maybe it's local, it's online; some community to help you, guide you, support you, be there for you. And it's likely you may not know anybody else who was adopting.

So, you’ve got to find others who have either adopted or currently are adopting. For us, it was huge being a part of that. We didn't know anybody locally. So, we got online and we found some people. And it was a small group on Facebook and we call them our buddies, because they were and they were on the same place we were and we just helped each other, encouraged each other, supported each other, talk through a lot of things. And it was just great.

I wish they were local because you'd probably get a lot more out of seeing people face to face. But if you can't, certainly do it online.

And I have a Facebook group that I'd love to invite people to. If you go to infantadoptionguide.com/facebook, we have a – I'm the admin. I'm very protective of who gets in.

I know your audience listening maybe are covering the whole adoption triad. And this isn't for them; it's for just the hopeful adoptive parents and then people that do adopt. But there's certainly other Facebook groups out there for support for the entire adoption triad.

Lori:
And I've witnessed you really caretaking in that group and not letting any disrespect or piling on happen. So, I really appreciate how you how you do caretake that group.

Tim:
But we do have tough conversations, too. It's not just all fun and games and just everybody is happy all the time. It's those challenges that go into adoption and we talk through those.

Lori:
Yeah, because that can be one of the downfalls of having an adoption group that focuses only on one part of the triad is that they can lose sight. They don't have the whole 360 degree. So, keeping that awareness of perspective in there is valuable. And I know that you do that.

Tim:
Yeah.

And you need to hear from adoptees.

Lori:
Yes, thank you for this.

Tim:
Adoptees have a voice and they need to be heard. And you need, as an adoptive family or a hopeful adoptee family, need to listen to them and hear them because they have great insight on what it means to be adopted and what it's like, no matter what their experiences. And I had my own teenage daughter on my podcast because I want her to tell her story or share what it's like, so far as a teenager, to be adopted and what that means.

Lori:
And we'll link to that episode. I think that would be a really good episode for people to listen to. So, we will put that in the show notes.

Tim:
Yes. Thank you for that.

Lori:
Tim, thank you so much for being here with us today and sharing your really good nuggets of wisdom. I really appreciate it.

Tim:
My pleasure. Yes, anytime. Thank you, Lori.

Lori:
To check out more of what Tim offers to people hoping to adopt, please check for links in the show notes.

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