Sunday, December 27, 2009

Self-Disclosure 101: A Tale of Two Tremendous Talkers

So, our first home study, or should I say first pre-adoption interview, is done!

On Tuesday, December 22nd, Alan and I drove to our local Bethany Christian Services office and met with our social worker and another staff member for home study meeting number one of three. The first two meetings take place at Bethany's office and the last one is held at our home in Philadelphia. The purpose of this first interview was to begin to flesh out some of the information from our paperwork into a real-life, real-time conversation between us and our social worker. To be really honest, while we have attended a few meetings, read some informative books and materials, and learned a TON about adoption thus far, we still have quite a lot more to ponder, consider, wrestle with, and learn as we move towards becoming parents.

On our way to this first home study meeting, Alan and I were very excited to sit down with adoption professionals and talk through our journey to and through this process. Yes, for those of you who know us well, this makes sense; we are quite the talkers. It's one thing for us to go to an initial info meeting and fill out paperwork about our personal backgrounds and our reasons for choosing adoption. But to actually dialogue about our stories, questions, concerns, and excitements out loud is a whole other exhilarating ballgame (baseball game that is...we have a preference in our house). We have determined that this kind of open-communication interview process is especially helpful and exciting for an adoptive couple like ourselves since we have concluded over the years that we are both indeed "verbal processors," or simply put, people that make better sense out of our experiences by talking through things with others.

With these personal characteristics firmly understood, we were happy to go into detail when our social worker invited us to describe our personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as our childhood/family experiences. We recognize that while this level of honesty and openness can feel like a very vulnerable and scary position, this is also a way of truthfully acknowledging all sides of reality (both the good and the bad), which have shaped both who we are today, and who we will be in the future. We've mentioned this in previous blog entries, but while many individuals might find this part of the adoption process to be intrusive and uncalled for, Alan and I fall under the conviction that more expecting parents -- both adoptive and biological -- would benefit from this type of extensive reflection and evaluation of their own readiness to parent children in the most helpful and nurturing of environments. In our opinion, as soon-to-be parents, we ought to be all the more proactive with regard to not just trying to mask weaknesses or trying simply to "put our best feet forward," but attempting to be more honest about our strengths and our less-spoken-about weaknesses, which will surface more frequently as children enter our homes and add a new layer of challenge to our lives...lives, which can already be rather complicated.

To give you a 2-minute glimpse into our first home study meeting, here is a fragment of the conversation. (You are allowed to laugh...some of this is a bit cheesy, though very helpful):

Social worker: "Alan, could you please tell me some of Tara's strengths?"

Alan: "I think one of Tara's biggest strengths is not being satisfied with the status quo and always wanting to move away from complacency. She's been very helpful in challenging me in very practical ways in order to grow personally and I think that she'll bring this strength into our family as well. I'm definitely a better man because of her consistent presence in my life, pushing me in ways that affirm me, and not allowing me to get away with excuses for not continuing to grow."

Social worker: "Tara, could you also do the same for Alan? What are some of his strengths?"

Tara: "I would have to say that Alan is one of the most loyal people I've ever met, both in his responsibilities and commitments, but most importantly in his relationships with people. I think this will translate greatly and powerfully into parenthood because Alan is a man who keeps his word. When he says he'll do something, he means it and this will be a powerful thing that he'll provide for our children."
Our conversation later moved into some detail about our deep struggles with anger, frustration, impatience, workaholism, etc. -- all things that the average Joe Shmoe struggles with but is not often given a healthy platform to admit and/or deal with in a proactive way.

One of the most encouraging things about this first meeting with these two women was the way that they affirmed our frankness and openness as an adoptive couple. They acknowledged several times that meetings like this can be tough for anyone and that the quickness with which we shared our joys, excitement, concerns, and lives with them was admirable and particularly helpful for both parties in this season of preparation. From an adoption agency's perspective, it's helpful for them to know the details of our excitement and joys, as well as our pain and struggles. For us, it's equally helpful to be truthful with ourselves -- acknowledging some real hardships in our lives and allowing ourselves to grieve and address hard circumstances -- rather than playing a game of cover-up and selling a fake version of ourselves, which only presents the rose-colored, surface-level pretty sides of Tara and Alan Atchison. While our healthy and positive attributes are there, we recognize that there are other negative and unhelpful aspects about ourselves that we'll naturally bring into being Mom and Dad which will also bring a certain level of struggle to our kids' lives. This is a reality for ALL parents, not just for those of us who are asked to discuss our lives with a social worker.

We are grateful, especially during this process, to remember that our identity ultimately resides in Christ, and to recall that while we are still sinners, worse than we could ever know or admit, we are also loved more deeply and fully than we can imagine. Through this unconditional love, we are grateful for the freedom to be able to admit our failures while acknowledging our strengths and areas of past and current growth. As I type this, I've begun to consider more deeply as I think about welcoming our baby into our home, that even though our children may never resemble Alan and I in detailed physical features, we hope and pray that as a result of being exposed to our feeble and flawed examples, our children will end up following the positive characteristics that we hope to model for them.

Thanks for continuing to support us on this journey through your friendship, asking for updates, praying for us, buying our coffee and financial donations (by clicking the "Donate" button up top). Our next home study interview is scheduled for January 7th and we're greatly looking forward to it. In the meantime, we will begin working on our family profile, which will be shown to birthparents in the months to come.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Preparing for Home Study #1

A bit of weight is off our chests. We have officially completed and turned in our massive stack of paperwork to Bethany Christian Services...and I couldn't be happier to have it out of my face! "In depth" does not even come close to describing the information that's needed from us on those forms. But hey, I guess it makes sense for the agency to learn as much as they can about the people they're turning into parents.

No sooner had we turned in the paperwork to our agency than we received a call to confirm that everything had been received and to set up our first home study meeting. Now that's 24 hour efficiency! Our first meeting is scheduled for December 22nd. As described in other sections of this blog, the home study is a three-part session that includes discussion and counsel about being adoptive parents, as well as an inspection of our house during the third session. We're really looking forward to digging into it.

Thank you to all of you who pray with us and for us about our future children -- nothing could be more powerful. Thank you to all of you who have encouraged and loved on us, even in the smallest and most unexpected of ways -- you've picked us up in ways you'll never know. Thank you to all who've already helped us out by contributing financially to our adoption fund -- our gratitude for your gifts will know no end.

More details to come after our first home study meeting...