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What I wish people understood about the adoption process

November may have been National Adoption Awareness month but we can’t let the conversation stop there. What does adoption mean to the people involved? What can we do to help adoptees and first families find peace and healing from any trauma?


I have endured the struggle of seven long years of infertility. I haved lived through the fear of the unknown that is the beginning stages of the the adoption process.

I have felt, so deeply, the heartbreak of two failed adoptions. I have experienced the incredible honor of raising my son.

I have carried the worry over loss of culture and racial identity for my son. And I have managed the delicate balance of growing and maintaining a relationship with my son’s first (birth) family.

That’s a simplified version of my side of adoption.

Too often the emphasis of the adoption world is focused on the adoptive parents—their journey, struggles, wait, pain and joy. Rarely is the voice of the adoptee or the first family heard, recognized or respected.

As a transracial adoptive mom with an open domestic adoption, I have a very specific view of the adoption triangle. The triangle consisting of the first family, adoptive family, and adoptee.

We need to shed light on how the lives of first families are impacted by such a huge, life-altering decision. What does it mean for expectant parents to have to make the irrevocable and heart wrenching decision to place their child for adoption? What are the circumstances that led them to a decision that no one would ever truly want to choose?

I have had the honor to know and love three different expectant mothers.

One who became my family and two that did not. I witnessed the deep love, self sacrifice and daily struggles they faced as they wrestled with this choice they had to make— whether or not they would place their child for adoption.

I saw the lack of support (and even pressure) from family and friends to place or not to place. Watching what they went through felt like torture, so I can only imagine what it truly felt like for them.

I am blessed to have an open adoption with my son’s first family. Over the last four years I have often wondered what it means to them to watch their child be raised by other people. Are they able to find joy and peace in their heartache? Do they regret their decision? Am I failing in their idealized version of what life should be like for their child?

Which brings me to the most important side of the adoption triangle: the adoptee.

The innocent child who was forced to leave their first family. What does this life-altering decision mean for their lives? How does this trauma impact who they are and who they will become?

It’s amazing to me that in the whole process of getting our homestudy completed and becoming qualified to adopt, nobody once mentioned the trauma that newborn babies experience when being placed for adoption.

My son was four days old when he was released from the hospital. During those first four days, his first mother was always by his side caring for him, breastfeeding him, worrying over his breathing and watching him while he spent three days in the NICU because of fluid in his lungs.

My husband and I were there, too, trying not to get in the way—to be a support system for his first mom, while also trying to start the attachment process with our son.

But all too soon it was time for his first mom to be discharged and, just like that, she was torn from his life. The heartbeat that he heard for nine months, the voice that talked to him and the body that nurtured him. Gone.

I wish I had known about newborn adoption trauma and how I could’ve helped my newborn son. Now that he is four years old, we are witnessing some of the outcomes of that trauma. He struggles, we struggle—but we are also learning and growing and trying to help each other. However, in one form or another, this struggle will be lifelong for him.

When we started the adoption process we specifically chose an open adoption knowing it would be best for our future child and their first family. Being able to grow a relationship with our son’s first family has been an incredible honor that we cherish and choose to nurture.

Over the last four years, social media has kept the lines of communication open for us—it has allowed us to share our lives and keep those ties intact.

Planning our visits is something I always look forward to, and as my son gets older it becomes even more important that he gets whatever time he can with his first family, face-to-face, playing, laughing and loving with them.

These visits may become difficult as he gets older and begins to experience the many conflicting emotions that come with adoption, but we plan on always being there with him, helping him walk through those tough times.

My husband and I feel it is our responsibility to keep the connection with our son’s first family strong and healthy so that when he is old enough to take the lead, that relationship is already in place and he can continue to grow it on his own terms.

My biggest advice to anyone thinking about adopting, or people who have family members who have adopted is to take the time to listen to adult adoptees and hear the truth of their words.

It will give you a greater understanding of the adoptee perspective and help you learn ways that you might support an adoptee throughout their lives.

Adoption has irrevocable consequences that will impact their lives. Good or bad (and mostly somewhere in between), adoption will change who they are.

Adoption is complicated, confusing and never the same from person to person or family to family. Let’s continue to educate ourselves as a society so that we can give better support to all involved in the adoption triangle and most importantly remember that it’s about the adoptees and first families and what can be done to make their voices heard and respected.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent. Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, is more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

For me, the fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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