I was driving in the car one day with my husband, and decided it was time to ask him “that big question”. We had always talked about growing our family through adoption, but we weren’t sure when was the “perfect time” (big hint: there is no perfect time). I thought that when I would ask this very big question he would give a very practical answer, something like: “not yet”, “when we have more money”, or “when I am done with medical school” – there were a lot of reasons why it wasn’t the “perfect moment”.
But I sunk down in my car, looked out the window, and sheepishly said…
“When should we start our adoption?”
I will never forget what intersection we were at (Iriving and Pulaski), or the big smile on his face, as he confidently said:
“Ready when you are!”
We started looking into agencies the next day.
And that’s when it hit me. I really knew nothing about domestic adoption. We were drawn to the opportunity to have an open adoption, but we were overwhelmed on where to start and what questions to ask.
As any millennial would, I took to google and Instagram.
This was before Facebook or Instagram live or stories, and I was desperate to hear from adoptees, and birthmoms. If I was going to be an adoptive parent it was important that I learned from the all sides in the adoption triad. I needed to understand the brokenness and trauma that inevitably comes from adoption. The adoptive parent voice is the loudest and really drives the narrative of adoption. As I searched for these under-represented voices, it was apparent that everyone was talking in silos, and it was so hard to find birthmom and adoptee voices. How could this be?
One night, I was lying in bed and came across Ashley Mitchell, (@BigToughGirl) sharing her story on Periscope (anyone remember Periscope?!)
I heard her tell her story and experience as a birthmom. She was sharing how she was carried out of the hospital by her dad, unable to walk, and in that same moment heard the celebration down the hallway as a new family was created. My heart sank. This broke me. This is the story that hopeful adoptive parents need to hear. Why weren’t we talking about this? Adoption breaks one family to make another.
As I look back now, I wish I would have asked these questions to agencies we interviewed:
– What kind of counseling do expectant moms receive?
– How do you celebrate and support expectant mothers if they choose to parent?
– Do you fly expectant moms to your state to be under your state’s laws?
– Do you cut a check for an expectant mom once she chooses to place?
– Do you have a non-disclosure agreement in your contract for adoptive parents?
– What trimester do you match expectant moms with hopeful adoptive parents?
– How do you handle the rights of birth fathers? What measures do you take to obtain consent?
– Do expectant mothers received separate legal representation – someone to look out for her interests and make sure she understands her legal rights?
– Do you expect expectant mothers to re-pay expenses if she chooses to parent?
Instead of my two big questions:
– How much does it cost? (Not that you shouldn’t ask that one!)
– What are your wait times?
I had so much to learn.
As I continued on the domestic adoption journey, we were asked to make an adoption profile book. I didn’t even know this was part of the process, let alone a very important part.
In domestic adoption, you make a book all about yourself to present to expectant moms. In most cases, this is the ONLY thing an expectant mom has to go off of to pick a family for her child. Can you imagine picking a family for your baby from a book??? I would want to see every book in the world. Most expectant moms fear that you are not who you say you are.
Because I had a background in marketing and design, I wanted to make my book, even though I had no idea what I was doing at the time.. As I was sharing my book online, I got inundated with questions, “How did you do that?” “Where did you print it?” “Could you help me with mine?” – This totally caught me off guard. I assumed that agencies were very hands on helping clients make their book. Come to find out, many agencies tell you “do this” and “don’t do this” and you are on your own! My heart broke for the single mom or the hopeful adoptive families that have a beautiful story to tell but don’t have the time or tools to do it!
I saw a gap, a need.
What if I could help people make a book that authentically represents them, that feels like an extension of who they are.
I will have to save our family’s story for another day, but we had 10 days between an incredible expectant mom choosing us, and our twin girls being born. (You can read a little bit about it here here and here)
And when I look back at my experience, I knew I couldn’t sit back and let people make the same mistakes I did. So, with a full-time marketing job, brand new twins at home, I started Kindred + Co. to bring community to all the triad while lifting up the voices of birth moms and adoptees… To help hopeful adoptive parents create books that they can feel confident in presenting, and a place to educate on ethical adoption practices. Kindred was the first profile book company to have a birthmom on their team (Ashley Mitchell of Big Tough Girl and Lifetime Healing) – each of our clients gets an hour long phone call with her to really learn how to speak to someone considering adoption, and how to write that intimidating “hello” letter for your profile book.
If you are looking to make your own profile book, here are the tips I have learned along the way:
– WHAT MAKES YOU UNIQUE: Dig deep, figure out what makes uniquely you, and highlight that! Many agencies will tell you that if you have too big of a family, or if you are single your wait time will be longer, but I have seen the opposite. That thing that makes you different will often times be the strength she sees in you.
– MEET HER WHERE SHE IS AT: When you are writing your hello letter (some agencies still call this the Birthmom letter! That language is not correct. They are NOT a birth mom until papers are signed.) Understanding that you are writing to a mother CONSIDERING adoption for her baby changes the whole tone of your letter. The whole book is about YOU make sure your hello letter is all about HER. Tell her you see her. Don’t say you know how she is feeling unless you have been in her shoes.
– BALANCE YOUR PHOTOS: Don’t just use all professional photos, an expectant mom wants to see real life, and those beautiful, sloppy selfies.
– DON’T FORGOT TO ANSWER IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Your book should touch on why you love being a parent or why you want to become a parent. Why you are choosing adoption, and what type of commitments you can make to this expectant mom if she should choose you.
– Use only recent photos, only go back 2-3 years – she cares about what your life is like NOW
– Heart > Fun Facts
– Don’t overwhelm each page, leave white space and breathing room between photos and wording
– Use photos that tell a story. These are much more powerful than a photo where everyone is smiling, looking at the camera.
I have heard every reason why someone gets chosen: Because they have a dog, because they live in the same state, because they have a family, because they have already adopted, because they looked fun, because they didn’t have kids already, because they lived on a farm, because they lived in a city. I promise the best thing you can do is be yourself.
Your book doesn’t need to be PERFECT but it does need to be AUTHENTIC.
The adoption process was a rollercoaster of emotion, but what we didn’t expect to find was an incredible community that helped us navigate all the unknowns. I started Kindred + Co. to give that same community to others. I would be honored if you would join our little corner of the internet. We have a lot of exciting things coming up at Kindred + Co. In addition to our weekly blogs, in February we will have our first weekend retreat for the entire triad (our last retreat for just adoptive moms sold out in three days!) We are planning our first conference for Fall 2020. Twice a month on Kindred’s Instagram we do a thing called “Pass the Mic” where an adoptee or a birthmom goes “live” on our page to share their story. And of course, we are always busy making books and we would be honored to come alongside your story.
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