An Open Letter to Our Family & Friends


February 25th, 2009

An Open Letter to Our Family and Friends,

We’ve been on this adoption journey since the summer of 2007 and we’re almost there. As we write this, we’ve just cleared court and Milo Rahimeto Hendricks will be coming home on March 27. We’re beyond excited.

Before all the crazyness of travel and bringing Milo home sets in, we wanted to share with you some of our expectations and rules. This adoption thing is new and exciting for us, but there’s also a lot to learn. We want to share some of that with you ahead of time and explain the rationale behind our choices. We’re always open to questions, but we may not be very receptive to those questions after 18 hours on a plane with a screaming infant. Hopefully this will resolve some of that.

Language
First and foremost, we need to be sensitive with the language we use to talk about adoption. We’ve brought up a lot of these issues already, but it’s good to be reminded and will become even more important when Milo is home and as both Milo and Lexi hear you talk about adoption.

Some examples of language to avoid:

• “own child” – (example: “Why don’t you want your own child?’). Milo is our own child. Just as we are God’s children or Jesus called Joseph his father without a biological relationship, Milo is our own child regardless of a genetic connection. If you need to speak about a specific, genetic relationship, please use terms like “biological child” or “birth child”.
• “real” – (example: “Where are his real parents?”). We are Milo’s real parents. If someone asks you that question, please correct them by saying, “Kevin and Abby are his real parents.” Instead use terms like “biological family” or “birth mother”.
• Introducing Milo as our “adopted child” is unnecessary. It will be pretty obvious that he was adopted, but more importantly a statement like that can imply that he’s somehow second rate (did you introduce Lexi as our “biological child”?).
• “Orphanage” – This term isn’t offensive, but it can have negative connotations and people can make assumptions about the level of care received.  Please use the term “care center” instead. (For the record, Milo received better care and attention in Ethiopia than he would have as an infant in daycare in the United States.)
• “Third World Country” – Please use the term “developing country” instead as this is the politically correct term for countries such as Ethiopia.

Milo’s Story
The story of how Milo was placed for adoption and what happened to his birth family are private and personal. We’ve decided not to share that information at this point in time. This is sacred information to an adopted child and we want to be sensitive to Milo and make sure he learns his own story in the proper time and in the proper context. The only way to ensure that happens is to protect his story.

We realize this makes for a difficult situation. Even Lexi will be curious about Milo’s story, but we don’t want her to know the story before Milo does. As kids do, she could taunt him with details of that story and deprive him of learning about his own past in the proper context.

This is all about protecting Milo and helping him to understand and appreciate his story. And it won’t be easy. More than likely we’ll end up telling him bits and pieces or generalized versions of the story as he’s old enough, and then it will be up to him whether or not he wants to share those pieces of the story with you. If he asks you questions that you can’t answer, simply tell him to ask us.

We hope you’ll understand our reasoning and give us grace as we try to sort out what we can share, with who, when.

Coming Home
One of the biggest challenges we’ll face is the need to bond with Milo. Thankfully he’s very young and that should help the transition, but it will still be a challenge. He’s likely to regress and need to re-learn basic skills.

Because of the importance of forming a quick and strong attachment with Milo, we’ll be doing things a bit differently than we did with Lexi. We’re going to seem rather over-protective, but it’s all in the name of forming an attachment with Milo so he can feel safe and thrive in our family. We’ve done a lot of research on this, so we hope you’ll trust us and not second guess our choices.

What does that mean? It means we’ll be promoting attachment with Milo in a number of ways, including:

• Sleeping in our room/bed.
• Baby wearing. We’ll be holding or carrying Milo as much as possible. Lots of time will be spent in a sling.
• “Funneling” techniques. This is a big one. The basic idea is that we need to be the only source for Milo’s needs. Everything needs to be funneled through us. This means all feeding, changing, holding, comforting, bathing, dressing, etc. needs to be done by us. Don’t worry—this won’t last forever. It’s only during the initial attachment period, and often the younger the child the shorter this period needs to be. You will get to spend plenty of time with Milo, but he’ll need to be in our care. There won’t be the usual game of ‘pass the baby’ (you may not even get to hold Milo when we first come home) until that attachment is firmly established. And we don’t know how long that will take, so please be patient with us. Trust us, as soon as Milo’s ready we’ll be happy to let you change his diaper and comfort him when he’s crying. But until then we have to be the ones to meet his basic needs.
• Cocooning. When we first bring Milo home everything in his short life will have completely changed. One way to minimize that trauma is to minimize additional new experiences. A good way to do that is to bunker down at home and not introduce him to lots of new places. For the first few weeks or months at home we might not go anywhere or do anything. Limiting new experiences also means meeting new people. This will depend on Milo’s personality, but we may need to take it easy with visitors at first. You will get to meet Milo right away, but we may need to keep those visits short at first.
• Bonding with Lexi. Milo and Lexi will also need to bond to one another and we’ll undoubtedly face some jealousy and regression from Lexi as she gets used to losing her place as the only child. While it’d be tempting to let others take care of Lexi while we deal with Milo, that won’t always be helpful. We’ll probably have to do some of that to preserve our sanity, but we need to be sure that Lexi has her time with Mom and Dad and her new brother.

These are just a few of the ways that we’ll be working on bonding with Milo. We’ll need your help as we go through this, but unfortunately that help will likely mean doing things around the house as opposed to holding the cute baby.

Racial Issues
We’re now a multi-cultural and multi-racial family. There are a lot of issues that can come up here and we want to be open and honest about them. More than anything it’s important to keep an open mind about racial issues. We’re all learning here.

As an example, it’s important that Milo see people and families who physically look like him and his family in his books and toys. This is also important for Lexi. As a family (and really as people) we should be celebrating diversity. That means all races and cultures, not just black and white. For example, it’ll be kind of weird if Lexi always gets a white baby and Milo always gets a black baby. They’ll both need diverse toys. This is more our responsibility as parents, but we bring it up just as something to keep in mind. Diversity is the goal, and as Abby has always said about her classroom, it’s not diverse if everyone is black.

We also need to be clear that we will not tolerate racism. We will not put up with any prejudice or racist comment of any kind about any group of people. We hope that you will also not allow negative, hurtful, racist, or bigoted statements to go unchallenged. Our family will have a zero tolerance policy to these kinds of comments. That may mean confronting someone immediately or simply leaving a situation completely and dealing with the person later. This is non-negotiable. We understand this may be a difficult issue for some, and we’re more than willing to educate and promote understanding, but we will not tolerate continued racist comments or attitudes, whether they’re directed at Milo or not.

In relation to that, we will be working very hard to keep Ethiopian culture alive for Milo. We hope that you will respect and encourage that as well as this culture is now part of our family’s culture. We will not tolerate any negative statements about Ethiopia, her people, culture or food.

In Closing
If you have any questions please feel free to ask us. Part of being adoptive parents is helping to educate others in adoption and it’s a role we take very seriously. Ask the hard questions and we will do our best to give you an honest answer. If it is too personal we will simply say “that’s not something we are willing to share” and leave it at that. We want you to be familiar and comfortable with this whole process and talking about it before jetlag sets in is the best time.

Finally, thank you. You have all supported us through this long and tiring process and that means the world. We’re almost there and we know you’ll continue to support us and help us welcome Milo into our family.

Love,

Kevin & Abby

——-

If you are interested in any of our resources these books were a huge help to us during the process:

The Weaver’s Craft

There is No Me Without You

Attaching in Adoption

Adoption Parenting: Creating a Toolbox, Building Connections

I am Chocolate, You are Vanilla

We’ll be in Ethiopia in 3 weeks!


February 25th, 2009

We got our birth certificate and our travel date today! We are leaving for Ethiopia on March 18th.

That’s three weeks from today.

In three weeks I will finally get to hold my baby boy.

This means that all of the waiting is over.

There is an actual date of when we will get to meet our little boy.

3 weeks.

Only 3 weeks left.

Social Report


February 18th, 2009

Today we received our social report for our son. What’s a social report? A social report is a 10+ page document that the staff at the care center put together all about our baby. It has details on:

  • his eating – he’s eating soy formula and clamps his mouth shut when full
  • his sleeping – he takes 3 naps a day and sleeps through the night. His nannies have to wake him up at night to feed him and he’s not a crier when going to sleep or waking up. (Taking after his big sister in the sleep department – Lexi slept through the night at 3 weeks).
  • his play – he likes to be held and fusses when put down. He likes to follow toys with his eyes and hold things. He likes to follow people’s movements around the room.
  • his habits – he’s a thumb-sucker (Taking after his big sis again)
  • his attitude – he’s happy and content.

But that’s not the best part. The best part is we have 12 new pictures of our boy. And he’s amazing. We have pictures of him smiling, sleeping, sucking his thumb, laughing and looking at pictures of us. He’s playing with the toy we sent him and wearing the clothes we sent over.

I’m so impressed with how the nannies care for the children there. You can tell that there is a mutual love and they will be sad to see him go but glad he has found a home. It’s reassuring to know that he is being so well cared for and loved until we can go pick him up. And I can not wait to go and pick him up.

Baby Update


January 5th, 2009

We received a growth update on our little man and he’s growing.

They measure him the first of every month and sends us a report.

In case you forgot here’s where he was: (weight/length/head circumference/age)

Nov – 5.5 lbs/19.1 in/14.2/1 mo.
Dec – 6.6 lbs/19.7 in/14.6/1 1/2 mo.
Jan – 7 lbs/20.1 in/14.8 in/2 1/2 mo.

He’s little but he’s growing.

Court Date


December 22nd, 2008

We just heard from our coutry specialist. We have a tenative court date scheduled for Feburary 20th.  A successful court date grants us guardianship of our little guy and guardianship allows us to get a visa and a visa is his ticket home.

They tell us it’s tenative because there are a bunch of factors that go into a court date and unfortunately it’s pretty common to have one rescheduled due to rolling blackouts or a missing piece of paper workand not passing court the first time also happens for various reasons. So let’s hope we make it through court the first time.

Oh and a successful court date also means that pictures can finally be posted online.

Adoption Update


December 11th, 2008

Now that we have a referral our updates should be a little more interesting than “we’re still waiting”. I’m still sort of in dreamland. It’s hard to believe that the adorable baby boy I have pictures of is really mine. Since last Tuesday I’ve had quite a few questions about the baby, what happens now, etc. So I guess it’s question and answer time. Before I start answering questions let me say this: There are some parts of our baby’s life and story that are going to belong to him. We will tell him his story and he can chose to tell it to others or keep it to himself, but we want to give him that choice. So you may ask us a question that we simply say “that’s private” or something to that affect, please don’t let it stop you from asking questions, we will gladly answer your questions to the best of our ability.

Where are the pictures?

As much as we want to post his pictures, we can’t. At least not until we are through court. Once that happens there will be pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

What’s his name?

He was given a name by his first family and we are keeping it (no names online until after court). We are also adding a name from us (but we haven’t decided on one yet). We also haven’t decided if his Ethiopian name or his American name will be his first name.

What happens now?

We have to wait for a court date. The court date takes place in Ethiopia and it makes us the legal guardians of our little boy. Once we pass court we have to wait for the new birth certificate (which will have our names as parents) to arrive in the US and then we get a travel date. From now until travel will be about 8-15 weeks.

Do you know his story?

Yes. We know how he came to the care center and his history (both personal and medical). I complete understand your curiosity but this is something that we have chosen to keep private and let him tell if he would like to.

How old is he? How big is he?

He was born October 18th so he’s close to 2 months old right now. Our referral paperwork says he was a little over 5 lbs when he came to the Care Center. And our first growth update said he was up to about 6.5 lbs. (My predication is that when we go pick him up, he’s gonna be a little chub.)

Where is he?

Right now he’s at the Care Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Addis is the capital city.) He’s being cared for by quite a few amazing nannies. And hanging out with his crib mate – whose parents happen to live 15 minutes away from us.

Will you get any more pictures?

Yes. We will get more pictures when we get our social report. Although, we don’t get the social report until after we get through court, usually it’s right before we travel. We will growth updates (height & weight measurements) the first week of each month.

So, those are the majority of the questions I’ve been getting. If you have others feel free to ask.


And the wait is over.


December 2nd, 2008

The wait for a referral is officially over. Today we got “the call”. Well, I got the call 10 minutes before I had to go pick my class up from computers. It’s a little boy. He’s 5 weeks old and 6lbs. And he’s unbelievably cute.

Sorry, I can’t post pictures or names until we make it through court but as soon as that happens, there will be pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

And here’s what happens now. We wait. Again. This time we are waiting for a court date in Ethiopia. The court date will grant us full guardianship of our little guy. Once we pass court we will be issued a birth certificate with our names on it as parents and then we are given a travel date and off we go. This will take 2-4 months. Let’s hope for 2 months.

Best Deal Ever


November 16th, 2008

A friend on the adoption forum posted a message about super cheap carseats. I clicked on it to see what the big deal was. Target was offering Britax carseats for $42.99. If you aren’t shopping for carseats, this won’t make sense. If you are shopping for carseats you’ll know that we got a carseat that normally sells for $279.99. Yeah, just saved over $200. Score. Oh and it was only offered online but we also got free shipping. Double score.

So the first new thing we bought for baby #2 was the best. deal. ever.

By the way, if you are looking to find one, they are sold out. About 20 minutes after I bought mine people were posting in the forum thread that they were sold out.

Update: Yeah, so since I never luck out and get super good deals like this, I was not at all surprised to see the e-mail from Target telling me it was a typo and they canceled my order. But if I stilled wanted the carseat, I could re-order it for the actual price of $279.99.

Isn’t there some rule somewhere that says if a store screws up the price they have to give it to you at the price they listed? I’m going to call them tomorrow and have a chat with customer service. maybe I can at least get a gift card out of the deal.

Update on the baby quilt.


October 21st, 2008

I’ve gotten a few squares from people (and a few promised squares are coming). I’ve been taking pictures of the squares and posting them to a page on my blog dedicated to the baby quilt.

If you still want to send me a square, please do. Here’s the instructions.

If you need my address, just leave me a comment and I’ll e-mail it to you.

A quilt for the baby. With a little help from you.


September 14th, 2008

Some of you may have heard that our wait for a referral has had another 3 months added to it. That doesn’t mean it still can’t happen anytime now but it means that more than likely we won’t hear anything until the holidays.

To fill the time I’ve decided to make a quilt for the baby. I made one for Lexi out of her baby clothes and I want to do a special one for the baby as well. So I am undertaking a pretty big project involving lots of people (including you, if you want to participate). I organized a group of about 15 moms who are all adopting from Ethiopia. We are each going to make 15 identical quilt blocks, keep one block for ourselves and then send 1 block to each member of the group. Then once we get all of our blocks we can piece them together however we want. The kids who come home from Ethiopia will all have a quilt with a common theme running through them (just like they are all from Ethiopia) but the quilts will be different in their own way – just like the kids are all different.

15 blocks is only about half of the front of a quilt. To piece mine together I would like help from family and friends. I’m modifying an idea I’ve seen a lot of other adoptive parents do. It’s from a tradition in China called a 100 Good Wishes Quilt. I was originally going to just do a 100 Good Wishes Quilt but I liked the idea of tying in some of Ethiopia as well.

If you want to be a part of the quilt, cut a piece of material (any kind as long as it can be machine washed) into a 12 inch square and send it to me. Pick a material that you like – something that could represent your family, you, your interests, you favorite color, a favorite flannel shirt you never wear anymore- and send it too me. I’d appreciate it if you’d include a note as to why you chose the fabric. I’ll save these and put them in the baby’s life book (side note: A life book is the adopted child’s version of a baby book). I’ll use all the piece I receive as a border for the quilt and to fill in the middle if needed. You don’t have to limit it to “1 per family” either. If you’ve got kids and want to do one for you, one for your spouse, one for each kid, go right ahead. If you want to do one as a family, go right ahead. I’m also planning on creating a page on my blog to post pictures of the squares I get.

If you’re a time line sort of person, I’d like to be able to put the quilt together over my Thanksgiving break, so if you could send it before then, that would be great.

If you need my address, just e-mail me or leave a comment and I’ll send you my address.

**Note: This is an open invitation for anyone who reads my blog. If we’ve never met but you feel like you want to do this, please do.**