SingleMoms, Uncategorized

When It Rains It Pours

As I’ve said before, I believe with all my heart that my daughter and I were meant to be together. I feel I was her real mother from the moment she was born even though it took us a little while to find each other. Looking back, I get choked up with gratitude thinking about all the obstacles that could’ve derailed our path.

It was late spring, 2013, and I was in the midst of the laborious but necessary process of paperwork and classes after signing with a placement agency seeking to adopt from India. This time around, the focus of courses shifted more towards the challenges of raising a child from another culture in America. At times, I would glance around the room and some of the other prospective parents seemed like their eyes were glazed over. Finishing these courses was a requirement to adopt. Yes, much of the information was common sense and sensitivity training. It wasn’t groundbreaking information but I was literally overjoyed to participate in every step of the process. It just felt right and that feeling reaffirmed my belief I was on the right path, despite some unexpected challenges and tough times ahead.

First things first…I soon learned I didn’t have the right home. Illinois state law requires an adopted child to have his or her own room. I was planning on moving from my one bedroom condo when my child came, but I didn’t realize this was an adoption requirement until my counselor came out to examine my property in what’s called a “home study.” This put things on the fast track. I promptly put my condo on the market. In the meantime, I contemplated how to rehab my condo in order to split my one bedroom into two, if that became necessary.

Actually, my condo sold pretty quickly. I put money down on a townhouse closer to my family in the suburbs and thought things were lining up in my favor. It wasn’t until I had packed up many of my belongings and was ready to move — that the whole deal collapsed just prior to closing. A mistake by the banks allowed my buyer to initially qualify for a mortgage that was rejected at the last minute. Ugh.

The real estate headaches weren’t the only problem. An even bigger, unexpected setback happened soon after. Something I really didn’t see coming.

One work day that started out like any other became a major life turning point in an instant. I was working at my dream job, anchoring the news in my home town of Chicago. Right after the show ended one morning, I was called into the boss’ office for some shocking and very bad news. That was the day I lost my job.

It’s not an uncommon occurrence in the media industry, and especially not uncommon at my old TV station, which was struggling in the ratings and frequently rearranged the on-air lineup. However, I always prided myself on my work ethic and deluded myself into believing that would give me job security. It didn’t. After nearly 11 years at the same station, I was politely told my contract was not being renewed and I had ten minutes to clear out my desk and leave the building.

All I could think about was how this would impact my prospect of adopting. While I didn’t yet have an ideal home and agencies kept telling me I wasn’t a desirable candidate as a single parent, the one thing I had in my favor was a stable income…until now.

The words of my boss sounded surreal. It was the proverbial, “We’ve just decided to go in another direction.”

I looked at the coffee cup in my hand which was trembling so hard I had to set it down.

Despite this unexpected blow, I kid you not when I say I heard a voice at that moment inside my head that kept telling me, “Everything’s going to be alright.” I remained calm. I don’t know where it came from. But that voice kept telling me the same thing… and it was louder than the voice of my former boss, or the human resources person, who has the grim task of collecting work badges on such dreadful occasions.

“Everything’s going to be alright.”

This still, small voice inside my head brought me some unexplained comfort. I calmly gathered as many of my things as possible and walked out the door of my workplace, which had felt like my home for more than a decade, for the very last time.

It was an unusually quiet time in my life in that followed. The typical, daily hectic pace I was used to – between my job, adoption paperwork and prepping my condo for sale – hit the brakes.

Sadly, things took yet another turn for the worse just a few weeks later when my aging cat suddenly became very ill and I had to put him to sleep. You have to understand the depth of my attachment here. My cat, Charlie, had been my “furry child” for many years. All of these unfortunate things were happening back to back. I’m not looking for sympathy and I realize my problems were small in comparison to many, but this was not my favorite time of life.

Aside from having to say the inevitable goodbye to my feline companion, everything else that happened in those few short months, as bad as it seemed, was a blessing in disguise. That little voice that brought me comfort the day I lost my job … proved true. Everything really did turn out alright. In fact, much better than alright.

Real estate dealings are stressful and never pleasant, as far as I’m concerned. My plans to move were forced to be put on hold for awhile, but it all worked out. Two years later, I ended up in a home that’s even closer to my family. My daughter and I are both happy, with our home and her school nearby. I know we ended up where we were meant to be.

As for the job situation, I was let go two months before my contract expired. During that time I received not one, but two job offers. Neither of which required me to move across the country, which is also common in the media industry, and neither of which conflicted with each other. The timing for these rare opportunities to present themselves right when I needed them most is almost unprecedented. I believe it was divine intervention. I accepted both positions. As soon as my contract ended, I began a full time radio job with former colleagues whom I love dearly, and I started working weekends at the TV station where I work full time now. I’m very happy at my current station. Yes, I lost my job at the worst possible time, but as fate would have it, I landed in a better place. I also never missed a weekly paycheck…not a single one.

As a prospective adoptive parent, I was very concerned about proving financial stability. Between the two jobs, I worked seven days a week straight for the next nine months. It was tough. But I’m so grateful I had those opportunities arise at the exact moment when I needed them.

My message in this week’s blog as I share this part of my journey is to trust your intuition. Even at times when I wasn’t sure I would be able to adopt, I never…not even for a nano second…considered giving up.

And sometimes when you’re in the midst of one of those “dark periods,” you don’t realize there’s a rainbow about to emerge.

It happened for me.

Next blog:
Getting “matched” with my daughter!

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SingleMoms

It’s a Long Road to India…

After a rough start on my adoption journey, I finally felt my prayers had been answered with doors opening to adopt from India. In what appeared to be miraculous timing, the U.S. State Department had updated its international adoption web site, lifting India’s restrictions on new applications from prospective parents in foreign countries. Yet, I would soon find out I still had some roadblocks and obstacles ahead.

Most adoption journeys are a veritable roller coaster ride of highs and lows. Mine was no exception.

I immediately began researching U.S. placement agencies which handled Indian adoptions. I called one of the most widely advertised agencies first, but did not get the rosy picture I envisioned. A counselor, who seemed very knowledgable and had clearly been handling Indian adoptions for several years, warned me it was unlikely I would be able to adopt a young, healthy child. The reason being, she explained, was that priority was given to adoptive parents within India, or at least of Indian descent. I have no Indian in my background.

Most countries follow that same precedent and reserve the healthiest children for prospective adoptive parents within their own culture. I had heard that before, and understood it, but I still believed it would happen for me.

She asked me what type of child I was open to adopt. For months, my mind kept giving me a picture of a cute, dark-haired little girl. I couldn’t see her face, but in my heart I knew she was in India. I told the adoption counselor I was open to adopting a toddler or little girl, probably up to the age of around 5. It’s not that I didn’t want a newborn, but it’s just not what I pictured. Plus, I figured this would greatly improve my chances since most adoptive parents seek infants.

Her response surprised me.

“You need to start thinking about adopting a much older child, maybe around 12 or 13,” she said. “And be open to severe disabilities. The wider you open your umbrella, the better chance you’ll be able to adopt.” She reminded me that India was only accepting foreign applications for children considered “special needs.”

Mind you, I would love my child unconditionally, regardless of any challenges he or she faced, and regardless at what age I was able to adopt him or her. However, as a single parent with a demanding job, this did not sound like an ideal scenario. More importantly, my instincts were telling me not to believe her. I knew I had a healthy, toddler girl out there and I had to find her.

I ended up signing in with another, much smaller international adoption placement agency based out of Colorado. They were honest and upfront enough to admit they hadn’t done Indian adoptions in years past and were just starting the process. Their lack of experience didn’t scare me away. They never promised me I’d get matched with a healthy child, or guaranteed anything. I simply clicked with the counsellors over the phone and went with my gut.

This is how I also zeroed in on the counselor and local adoption agency that handled my home studies. I still work with Lutheran Social Services of Illinois every few months for post adoption follow up reports.

So much of my adoption journey was a pure leap of faith. Somehow, I weeded out a lot of negativity that could’ve stopped me in my tracks multiple times. I kept my eyes on the prize and followed my instincts. It seems surprising to think about it now. It sounds like a simple case of wishful thinking and ignoring things I didn’t want to hear. The truth is, for some reason I can’t explain, I believed in my heart I had a little girl I had to get to in India…and I knew she was healthy. My first taste of a “mother’s instinct,” I suppose.

I have since come to the conclusion that perhaps some healthy children in orphanages around the world are labeled “special needs” in order to facilitate the process of getting them through the system to find homes in other countries.

Another very important point to keep in mind: something as simple as anemia can result in an child being labeled “special needs.” Sadly, many prospective parents may be scared off from adopting these children, not realizing that all they need is a nutritious diet and iron rich foods to reverse the anemia and by all other means, they’re healthy children!

My goal here is to clear up some misperceptions about international adoption. While it is true the most “perfect,” healthy newborns available for adoption are reserved for adoptive families within their own country, there are many other “very close to perfect” children without parents who are also available — many more than couples within their own country are willing or able to adopt.

In places like India, the number of children without families to take care of them is staggering. The poverty is so extreme, many children are living on the street.

Just this week, I covered the story of a baby abandoned at a hospital in Chicago. Police were searching for the parents. The baby was wrapped up in blankets, the umbilical chord still attached. A newborn baby girl. Fortunately, it was a warm night out and the baby was fine. It certainly wasn’t the first time I covered this type of story in my reporting career, but in the wake of my travels to South Asia, the irony struck me that this was a big news story here.

In India, it’s commonplace for children to be surrendered. Well meaning parents who often can’t afford them, drop off their babies at RIPAs (Recognized Indian Placement Agency), which would be the equivalent of what we would call an orphanage in the U.S. These are the more fortunate kids. Their parents cared enough to get them to a place where they’d be guaranteed shelter, food and a chance at a better life if they can get adopted.

I just had my nine month post visit from a social worker following up on the adoption of my (“perfect,” ūüôā by the way) little girl. This is a counselor I’ve worked with for years and greatly admire. I’m eternally grateful to her for the role she played in helping me bring my daughter home.

I learned the sad news that LSSI is cutting its adoption program and all of those associated with this branch are being let go. She explained there are two reasons for this. 1. The state of Illinois has been operating without a budget for months due to a political stalemate and as a result, their funding is depleted. 2. International adoption, overall, is on the decline.

Why would fewer people be adopting internationally right now?

My mind darts back to the original adoption agency I worked with, where I was discouraged from adopting overseas….and then, the first counselor I spoke with specifically regarding India, and her ominous warning about what I should expect. I encountered many players in this scenario, all perpetuating the myth that virtually no healthy children were available. The system is complicated, negativity abounds and misconceptions prevail, sometimes even generated by people who seem to be “in the know.”

Mine isn’t the only happy ending story. While the laws have changed in recent years, I’m pleased to say I have come to know multiple parents, like me, who shared the same joyful outcome after adopting internationally.

I can’t help but wonder how many prospective parents out there explored international adoption and gave up…not realizing they could’ve also had a happy ending.

I also wonder about how many children out there may have come close to finding a family…but didn’t.

Next Blog:
More unexpected twists and turns before I get “matched.”

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SingleMoms

When One Door Closes…

…another one opens. We’ve all heard that before, but the beginning of my adoption journey is a perfect example of how true that is.

Near the end of 2012, I had dedicated myself to this life changing decision to adopt a child, but I spent the next few months hitting roadblocks at the most well known adoption agencies in the Chicago area. One after another, telling me it was highly unlikely I would get picked by a birth mother because single parents weren’t considered desirable.

After licking my wounds, it was time to explore other options. As I mentioned in my last blog, I had previously looked into foreign adoptions and foster care but found little hope of success there either. I specifically checked on adopting from India, but they were not accepting applications from prospective adoptive parents overseas.

With the odds against me for a domestic adoption, I decided to re-explore the international route. Countries that follow the Hague convention rules have all developed their own list of criteria for whom they will allow to adopt. They require things; like, a certain age range for adoptive parents, there are residency restrictions, health specifications, minimum income, how many children are allowed in the home and marital status.

I was surprised and disappointed to learn just how many countries would only consider adopting to married couples.

The decision to go it alone, which had felt so liberating, was turning into my biggest obstacle – no matter where I tried to adopt from.

One afternoon during this challenging time, I got a phone call from my sister. Her voice sounded inappropriately excited relative to my glum mood. She was passing along a message from her friend who suggested I try to adopt from India. Her sweet friend, of Indian origin, was discussing the sad state of all the homeless children encountered  during recent travels. That killed me. Frustrated, I told my sister that I had previously looked into India and they were not accepting foreign applications.

I don’t know what made me check again. What seemed to be a split second decision to surf the web changed my life.

My sister’s friend didn’t know this when she made her suggestion, but India had just reopened its doors to overseas applicants DAYS before. She had no insight into international adoption regulations, but was simply passing along what struck her heart. Had she not brought it up, it’s doubtful I would’ve pursued it because I didn’t think it was an option.

Additionally, consider this: India lifted its stay on foreign adoptions LESS THAN THREE WEEKS after I received a gut wrenching blow when I was “released” by another adoption agency that decided I wouldn’t find success there.

Furthermore, India was one of just a handful of countries I explored that allowed single parent adoption.

Two cliches ring true. Timing is everything and there’s no such thing as coincidence.

My fascination with India was actually piqued shortly before my daughter was born. I love to look back and marvel at where I was, and where my daughter was, at any given time before we met. A few years prior, while recovering from a breakup I found solace in yoga. I started attending regular classes, workshops and reading books about its origins. Suddenly, India was on my radar. Other “yogis” I talked to kept mentioning their travels to India. It seemed like I went decades without paying that much attention and suddenly everywhere I turned I was hearing or reading about India. I developed an intense curiosity and admiration.

Something clicked inside me when I saw the alert posted on the U.S. State Department’s web site about the change in status for Indian adoptions. I knew the little girl that I automatically kept picturing in my head was there.

However, the notice also indicated they were only allowing children classified as “special needs” to be adopted overseas. This didn’t deter me in the least. For some reason, I didn’t believe it. It wouldn’t have made a difference in my decision, but for the record, my daughter is healthy and not considered special needs.

This was just the beginning of my miracle slowly unfolding.

***India has since opened its doors to foreigners for adoption of all children available, not just those classified as “special needs.” Changes in the requirements and status of active foreign adoptions are updated frequently. For the latest information, check:

www.travel.state.gov/content/adoptionsabroad/en.html

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SingleMoms

The Beginning

People often ask me why I chose to adopt a child from India. The most accurate answer is, “because that’s where my daughter was born.” Fairly soon into my adoption journey I knew this in my heart. I can’t explain it other than divine intuition.

Most adoptive parents I’ve talked to agree that their particular child was meant to be with them. I’ve heard, “Your child finds you,” “God matches you with your children,” etc. It doesn’t feel random at all. Although before your miracle happens, more often than not there are some bumps and bruises along the way that cast doubt and disappointment.

I started the process of trying to adopt at the end of 2012. I had previously been through a divorce and a couple of subsequent relationships that at one point I hoped would eventually lead to kids, but things didn’t work out. I never thought I would have the ability, time, resources, etc to be able to be a single parent. Thank God I was wrong.

For some reason, I mustered up the courage to go it alone. I had been pining for a child for years and suddenly decided I was going to the take steps to have one, regardless of my relationship status. Little did I know at the time, but just months prior, while the idea was coming to fruition in my brain, my daughter had been surrendered for adoption to an orphanage in India.

International adoption was not foreign to me. My teenage niece and nephew were both adopted, from Russia and Romania, respectively. Russia had just closed its doors to international adoption when I began my journey. I remember briefly looking into India out of curiosity but it was also closed at the time. Before checking much further on other countries, I started on the path for a domestic adoption. I signed with a well known agency that seemed to encourage that route, citing some concerns about Americans getting healthy babies overseas.

The initial phase involves some preliminary paperwork and classes. I was so excited once things got rolling! It finally felt real. From the get go, I had this vision of a little girl in my head. The agency told me that toddler and older children adoptions were rare for them. They typically helped pregnant young women find families to adopt their newborns to. Furthermore, adoptive parents could not specify a requested gender because, as we know, ultrasounds are not always accurate.

That prompted me to do a little research into the fostering-to-adoption route. What I discovered is while that may be the perfect path for some, it wasn’t for me. I was uncomfortable with the possibility of not being able to adopt a child I was fostering and became attached to, if the biological parents were able to regain custody. Everyone has a different adoption journey. You have to do the research and figure out what feels most right for you.

I happily continued on my path of classes and meetings for a couple of months until one day I had a request for a phone interview with someone from the agency. Of course! I spent nearly an hour on the phone with a top administrator answering questions about my intentions to adopt, my plans for childcare, raising my baby, etc.

At the end of the conversation she said, “I don’t think our agency is for you.” I was stunned, thinking I had answered every question to their liking. She went on to explain that the last single woman they had adopted to waited nine years. Nine years! She said young pregnant women typically are searching for a white picket fence scenario (or, what appears to be so) and would never consider a single woman to adopt to because they themselves feel unable to raise a child alone.

She then gave me the name of another agency and ended with, “You’re welcome to stay with us for as long as you’d like, but I don’t know if it will ever lead to the outcome you want.”

I was crushed.

I called the other agency she recommended and made an appointment asap. That meeting only confirmed my worst fear.

“I don’t know why they would recommend us,” I was told. “Why would you have any better luck here?” They described equally grim odds for single parent adoption. It felt cold, but these administrators were simply stating the truth, as they saw it. I’m sharing this not to discourage single parent adoption. Just the opposite. I’m hoping this information will spare someone from a setback of months and a lot of disappointment. There are other routes out there!

Regardless of my detour, I don’t regret any part of my journey because it led me exactly where I needed to be. The most poignant moment during my time with the first agency happened when a middle-aged man who was adopted as a baby came to a meeting of prospective adoptive parents. He shared his story of wanting to meet his biological mother. He didn’t want to tell his adoptive parents because he didn’t want to hurt their feelings. The agency arranged a private meeting. He described all his emotions leading up to this huge encounter. When he finally came face to face with the woman who gave him life and then put him up for adoption he said to her, “I just have two words for you.” At this point, he got choked up, his voice cracked and his eyes filled with tears.

“Thank you,” he said.

All the twists and turns, even the struggles, led me to the perfect child for me. My daughter. My heart. The little child I can’t imagine ever living without.

In the spring of 2013, I was struggling. I knew she was out there somewhere. I just didn’t know how to find her.

At least not yet…

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SingleMoms

A Day I’ll Never Forget…

We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of one of the most important days of my life. On October 8th, 2014, at 10:something in the morning, I got the news. After nearly two years of paper work, aggravation and lots of disappointment along the way, there had finally been movement in the courts in India. That was the day I legally became a mom!

I was out on a news story at the time. I was reporting on the aftermath of a hostage situation that unfolded earlier that morning. Serious stuff. It was about 15 minutes before my hit and while waiting to go on air, I glanced at my personal phone and checked my email.

It said: “Good news, Susan. The courts have approved your adoption.” It was from the head of an orphanage in Mumbai where my daughter was housed. His brief, profound words were followed by some legal jargon that my now swirling brain could not comprehend. All I could think about was letting it sink in – – I was finally a mom!!! No, I was finally HER mom; the little girl I had fallen in love with eight months earlier through pictures and occasional brief updates.

This was the news I had been waiting to hear for so long. ¬†I couldn’t contain myself. I called my parents, my sister and sent a quick group email update to my close, supportive friends and relatives who had been keeping me sane through all the unexpected twists and turns of my adoption journey.

Within minutes, all the news crews around us, who were also preparing for midday live shots, were buzzing with excitement, as well. Colleagues were coming up to congratulate me with tears in their eyes. ¬†One photographer I barely knew at a competing station approached and said, “I don’t know you, but I just heard the news and I’m so happy for you.”

It was a moment I want to preserve in my memory forever.

I didn’t know this at the time, but it would still be another long, three months before I was finally allowed to book travel to India to pick her up and take her home. ¬†The details still had to be ironed out, but MY ADOPTION WAS APPROVED!

I couldn’t keep the giant smile off my face through mic and video checks. Two minutes to air. My coworkers in the control room and transmission were in my earpiece, congratulating me as well. Word travels fast. My eyes were welling with happy tears.

You probably don’t think about reporters’ personal lives when they stoically deliver the news. Sometimes, it’s the biggest challenge to push everything aside and put on an appropriate face. Maybe the person you see on camera¬†is quietly dealing with a loss, sickness or personal demons. Or, maybe they’ve just received the best news possible.

OK, time to get serious. Focus on the story here. Gotta go on the air…and then, I could return to my ecstatic state and continue celebrating this life-changing day.

This anniversary has prompted me to start a blog in the hopes of helping others, particularly other single career gals who may fear they missed the boat on having a family. ¬†I’m finally ready to share the journey of finding my daughter and my 180 degree life transition, as I’m still adapting to balancing a demanding job and motherhood in suburbia after long-time, single life in the city.

More to come….

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