Meet Kim and Ed, a loving couple from Chicago who are hoping to turn their open adoption dream into a reality by connecting with an expectant mother who’s considering adoption.
They first met and became friends more than 18 years ago. But it wasn’t until Ed moved to California that they realized how much they loved each other, prompting Ed to return home.
Kim is kind and generous — the type of person who never forgets a birthday or anniversary and knows how to get just the perfect gift for any occasions. She enjoys staying fit and healthy by running. She’s completed four half-marathons and has taken part in several local races for charity.
Ed is more of an artsy type and a bit of a jack-of-all-trades — the person everyone goes to for help with computer problems. A lawyer by trade, he loves hanging out in the kitchen and creating sumptuous meals, a passion he inherited from his father.
They can’t wait to connect with an expectant mother with an adoption plan and eventually be part of an open adoption. Adoption itself, however, isn’t new to them. Several members of Ed’s family are adopted, which has given Kim and Ed unique insights into how adoption relationships work.
Recently I had a chance to ask them about their journey so far — what they’ve done, what they’ve learned, and what they’re looking forward to most after they turn their hopes and dreams of becoming parents through open adoption into a reality.
1. How did you decide you wanted an open adoption?
When we began to research adoption we attended a local adoption conference, Chicago Area Families For Adoption (CAFFA), where we got a lot of information. We had the opportunity to hear from many different people involved in adoptions, including lawyers, social workers, birth mothers, adoptive parents, and adoptees. After hearing the personal stories of adoptees who had open and closed adoptions, we both understood clearly that an open adoption where a child has a relationship with their birth mother was the best thing for the child.
2. What does open adoption mean to you?
To us, open adoption means talking openly and positively to your child about their adoption story – a story which is intertwined with the story of the birth mother. It also means maintaining a connection to that adoption story by maintaining an ongoing relationship with the birth mother. Although we expect that to mean regular letters, photos, and other updates. Like any relationship, we expect the one we form with a birth mother will be unique to that person and such a relationship will change over time. We also feel that, as adoptive parents, we would have an obligation to maintain that relationship so it is available to the child.
3. Through Ed, you have cousins who were adopted. How have they helped you understand adoption from an adoptee’s perspective?
Hearing adoption stories from adoptees, including those in Ed’s family, reinforced what we learned at the CAFFA conference about the benefits for an adoptee of an open adoption. We knew our families would be supportive of our decision to adopt, however, having adoptees among our family gave us added confidence in how accepting and welcoming our family would be. We also feel better knowing we can rely on these family members, and their persepective as an adoptee, for advice and support in our future role as adoptive parents.
The CAFFA conference that we mentioned was a enormous help. There was a lot of information for us to take in, but getting that exposure early made us much more knowledgeable and comfortable in discussing adoption with our adoption attorney and with our social worker during the home study process. After the conference, we also continued reading articles and other materials recommended to us by adoption professionals.
5. What do you know now that you wished you had known before?
We wish we had known that some of our more distant friends and acquaintances had also gone through the adoption process. After announcing our plans to adopt on Facebook to our friends, we received helpful and supportive messages from former classmates and others who, unknown to us, had already gone through the adoption process themselves. It always helps to have people you know and trust, especially at the start of our journey toward adoption when all the information can be overwhelming.
6. You’ve known each other for 18 years and both of your parents have been together for 40 years. What do you think that says about the strength of your relationship and your family ties?
We hope the length of our relationship communicates its stability, our commitment to each other, and our ability to handle the challenges of raising a child. We think our parents’ marriages demonstrates that they have those same skills and will be helpful to us as we experience parenthood. We also felt that being surrounded by a strong stable family and the types of role models a child would learn from would be important considerations for a birth mother.
7. Did you find it hard to convey that in your adoption profile?
Although there is a lot that can be hard to describe in a few short pages, we did not find it that difficult to describe. Having known each other for so long, made it easier to select photos and describe our lives and those of our parents.
The hardest part of writing our adoption profile was describing ourselves and trying to convey the type of people we are. Writing about yourself isn’t something most people are used to doing very often, which made it difficult. Before we wrote our profile, we both thought that profiles where each person describes the other seemed strangely common. Although it was hard we still felt describing ourselves fit our profile better, but we certainly understand now why the format of describing the other person is so popular.
9. How did you decide what to put in and what to leave out?
We started our adoption profile by looking at other profiles and marking what we liked and didn’t like about how they were organized or structured. As far as what we put in, we just tried to think about what a birthmother may want to know about us and what facts best painted a picture of what our personalities are like. We also liked the idea of adding a few “fun facts” or trivia about ourselves as a way to add some more insights into what we are like. Lastly, we collected feedback from our friends and family because, as the people who know us best, they were able to let us know that our profile captured our personalities.
10. How about your photos — what message were you trying to convey through them?
Although we tried to pick photos that turned out well (good lighting, no red eye, etc.), we also tried to make sure we had a lot of variety (posed photos, group photos, photos of only us, vacation photos, holidays, etc.). We also tried to find photos that showed things we mentioned in our profile. We had a lot of photos to work with since we have been together for many years, so most of our time was focused on selecting a small group of photos with the right balance.
11. What tools have you found helpful in getting your message out to prospective birthparents?
Since we haven’t been matched yet, it is difficult to say what has been the most helpful. However, having our own website and learning to better understand web traffic on it using Google Analytics has been a big help. Although there are many places someone might find our profile online, tools such as these have really helped us determine which online activities to focus on. We have taken the advice that “you never know who might be able to help” to heart by announcing our desire to adopt to friends and family in person and on social media. In addition to online activities, we have done some print advertising and we have tried to attend adoption-related events when possible, such as an adoption walk in our area that we recently attended.
12. How have you prepared yourself for when “the Call” finally comes?
We have discussed this with our social worker and attorney and gotten their advice, but we also have read some helpful articles on communicating with birth mothers. Most of the advice was strightforward and simple but the most comforting thought is that a birth mother is just as nervous as you when they call for the first time.
13. The wait is so nerve-wracking. What are you doing to cope with it?
It hasn’t always been easy but we tried to take a short vacation just before we started posting our profile. We also try to balance the time we spend on our adoption efforts with our regular activities. Kim has tried to keep busy by starting a personal journal and by running.
14. What are you looking forward to most about becoming parents?
We are excited about starting a new chapter in our lives. While we have built a wonderful and loving life together, we can’t wait to share our love with a child and experience the joys of parenthood.
Are you a hopeful adoptive parent looking to spread the news about your adoption profile?
Join our adoption profiles page. Or write a guest blog and we’ll be happy share it here and with our nearly 30,000 followers on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Questions? Email me any time.