Ahhhhh, here it is, finally -- the first day of summer in earnest. I love, love, love teaching but there is really nothing quite like that first truly free day. The eye twitch is gone. I have spent quality time with my chaise lounge already, and I've done some gardening and even some laundry. Finally, space to breathe. And space to catch up on everything that's going on in our process!
We received a call on Wednesday from our home study social worker, that she had forgotten to ask us a very important question. After realizing that I had left my phone on silent all morning during the building End Of Year Breakfast and then classroom cleanup, I checked it at lunch (glorious lunch outside at an ACTUAL RESTAURANT that is only possible in the last week of school) and found that I had 6 text messages and 3 voicemails. Whoops. It was a sobering reminder that I need to make sure that my phone is ON and AUDIBLE and ACCESSIBLE at all times once we "go live." Anyway, I called Bryce back, we discussed the question just to be sure we were both okay with our answer, and then I called our social worker back. And, just like that, she said,
"I'm so sorry; I've been sick and I didn't get your report done as quickly as I wanted to. It will be submitted to the agency today."
Sorry? We were literally introduced to her for the first time on June 9th, so I'd say that the turnaround is incredibly speedy! Amazingly lightning fast! Almost to the point of making us nauseous because that profile book project is turning out to be a behemoth of epic proportions that may make my eye twitch come back... but that's my next post.
Anyway, it's all in! I already talked about our individual meetings in this post, so let me share with you how the couples visit and home tour went.
We were more relaxed for our second visit, since we had a read on our social worker's personality (laid back, clearly an advocate, willing to drop some cusswords, which I always appreciate) from the first visit and weren't too terrified that we'd bombed the thing. We really didn't even clean the house too much more, although I had Bryce cook the breakfast bacon outside so that our house didn't reek of crispy delicious pork belly strips when she came to sit and chat.
I'll be honest, I was a tiny bit worried about how we were going to handle asking questions asked to us jointly, because I can be a bit of an over-talker, but I also didn't want to be strangely silent while basically sitting on my hands and having Bryce answer questions, because then it might seem like I'm muzzled or something. But it worked out pretty effortlessly. I forget that while our own comfortable conversations kind of flow over themselves, more formal(ish) conversations result in a good back-and-forth, a good intuition as to who should talk first and when to jump in and when to shush and let the other person talk a bit.
Questions she asked us as a couple:
How did you meet?
Match.com, actually... and reluctantly for both of us, with no pictures in our profiles and brutal honesty in the written part.
What attracted you to each other?
We each talked about how incredibly appealing each of our profiles were to each other, and then how true-to-life it all was in person, and how easy it was to fall into a close relationship, even if it got a little bumpy in the beginning with Bryce being a bit gun-shy. Once that hurdle was cleared it was (and continues to be) all about each other's talents, personality traits, and of course physical attraction.
What is the most stressful thing you have been through as a couple?
This was interesting, because I definitely felt like hands-down it was infertility. Especially the last two years or so when we were making some of our most difficult decisions and facing one hideous setback after another. Bryce was a little worried we were talking TOO much about the infertility, but I asked him what else could possibly compare. Point taken. Also, we spent our ENTIRE MARRIAGE, from day one, embroiled in the quest for pregnancy until we shifted our track to adoption earlier this year. This was not an easy thing to talk about, because I definitely feel like in some ways Bryce would have moved forward with adoption a lot earlier and I just wasn't ready. I feel like I held us back a bit. It makes me pretty sad sometimes, actually. But, we got the chance to talk about all of our T-charts, and our decision trees, and how we keep each other sane (only one person can be crazy at a time in our arguments, which works out 99% of the time), and how we thoroughly investigate our options and the ripple effects of our options and talk through every challenge we come across. So I think we got some major points there, and I managed not to be a weepy mess. (Thank goodness it wasn't this week, because I have my lady times and I am getting weepy over EVERYTHING.)
A slew of questions about child rearing practices and thoughts on discipline.
We had thought through this one a lot, especially because she told us ahead of time multiple times to really think through the discipline thing, so we were super prepared for that question. No spanking for us, even though we were both spanked (so confusing to be told hands aren't for hitting, except when your parents are mad at you because you've misbehaved), lots of natural consequences and reflecting on choices and keeping developmental appropriateness in mind and using some sneaky behavior modification techniques I know from my own training and relying on tips and tricks from friends of ours. Although, we felt like big fakers, because WE ARE ALL TALK. We have very little experience here, minus Bryce's fleeting experience with a child in the house in his first marriage, and so it's like being a teacher in training and talking a lot about classroom management when really, you learn from experience and as you go. We are definitely on the same page with things though and are going to try really hard to not have those chinks in the armor that apparently children can smell a mile away. :) Stay tuned to see how THAT all works out.
Questions about our decision-making process with our Grid.
By far the most uncomfortable part of the discussion, going over our choices for the Will Consider/Will Not Consider three-pager of situations for the baby, the birth parents, the adoption situation in general. We thought out our decisions very, very carefully though and so the discussion went just fine, we just felt terrible in general for not being accepting of every possibility out there. It's a very surreal thing to fill out that Grid, but an important one.
Questions about childcare (but called later in the day about this one).
I am taking a leave of absence for a period of time we haven't quite determined yet, but hopefully as long as 6 months, and then we are planning on center-based daycare. It will be very, very strange to go about interviewing centers this summer as we plan and find out just how you get on a list of possible enrollees when you don't actually have a due date. It was interesting though, I found out that most of the families that our social worker sees take a month or two only, and then have daycare of some kind. She said that often women have had their careers for a long time at the time of adopting, and don't want to lose traction or that piece of themselves. I felt like a nice middle point, because so many of the people I know who are on this path ahead of me have either taken an extended leave of absence or are planning to be stay-at-home moms or are planning on working from home. None of those are options for us, but more on that in a separate post. It was interesting to hear that I was planning more than the average of her caseload, at least.
Questions about post-death planning, in the event of a horrible tragedy. (Also called later)
This is also not fun but necessary to talk about. We had to discuss possibilities for guardianship and why, and prove that we had discussed it. We did not have to have an actual will set up, although we really need to go do that sort of thing and soon.
Then, it was time for the house tour! She basically said that she needed to see that we had working indoor plumbing (check), adequate bedrooms and space for the baby (check), and a kitchen (check, and all fancy now). She did not have to see our basement.
She loved our house! I love our house, too, but worry about space constraints for later. However, our house is roughly 1600 square feet, which is plenty, and we have two full bathrooms (with working indoor plumbing, I was bummed she didn't even give it a flush to check it out), and even though our upstairs is literally our master bedroom with attached glorious bath, the tiny little room with nary a closet to be seen, and a little dormer nook, she thought it was just fine. (I have to remember that people have babies in apartments, that our space is actually quite luxurious, and that in our house cozy character has trumped a layout that makes sense, but it's FINE for a baby, just FINE.)
In fact, she was all over the baby's room. It was adorable, it had plenty of space, and she LOVED the bookshelves. I got a little thrown under the bus with the bookshelves, actually. They're these beautiful floor-to-ceiling built-ins that Bryce put in years ago, but they take up a lot of space in a small room and covered up the air vent. BUT, when she said she LOVED them, Bryce said, "Oh good, because Jess wants me to get rid of them but I thought they should stay. I've been thinking about how I can fix the air vent and take some shelves out and put in rods so that it can serve as a little curtained closet." WHAT? I had never heard this alternative plan before, and we had just spent over an hour talking about how big on shared decisions and togetherness we were, and I felt a little taken off balance by this. Because she was all, "OH MY GOD, YES! YOU MUST KEEP THE BOOKCASES!" And all of a sudden I was a sort of villainous character who selfishly wanted this long IKEA dresser in that space for the changing table next to the crib instead of this lovingly-constructed-by-my-child's-father, heirloom piece that showcased our love of books and sent the message that Daddy's woodworking is important and books are important. I didn't know about the closet-retrofitting, but it makes sense and will save us space somewhere else. She had a different idea for where to put the crib that I thought wasn't okay, but is, so I smiled a little tightly and nodded. So the bookshelves are saved and I briefly felt a little ganged up on. (And hello, the rest of the house screams books-are-important! Our house is a freaking tinderbox from the books that are EVERYWHERE! There are no rooms other than bathrooms that don't have bookshelves and (artfully-ish arranged) piles of books! I kind of took offense to the idea that I could be somehow nixing books in the nursery. There's a window seat Bryce built that holds picture books galore. The bookshelves are loaded with Steven King and Edith Wharton, for the love of all that is holy! There were other bookshelves going in... BUILT BY BRYCE.) Obviously I am still not entirely over this little coup.
And that was it! I sent her off with some purple coneflowers I had dug up the day before because they are literally taking over my garden, and she initially was worried they'd constitute a gift (which she can't accept), but I doubt taking native (and sort of invasive) plants that were going to wilt and die otherwise constitutes some kind of bribery. Plus they had my native soil clinging to them, which included not a small number of weeds hugging the roots. I felt kind of sad when she left, because in those hours we'd spent together she seemed like a really nice, kindred-spirit-y kind of lady, and we may never see her again. She may be able to request us for the post-placement visit, which would be lovely, so I hold out hope that we'll see her again and she can see how our little house accepts our bundle of joy and all the equipment that comes with. And the bookcase transformation, of course. (Man, I really need to learn to LET THINGS GO.)
Now that the report has been sent to our agency, we wait. Apparently, our Family Advocate is behind by a couple weeks on processing the reports (they just hired a couple new Family Advocates, I suspect they have all been swamped lately and then were training the new people and so relief for workload will come slowly), so we probably won't get it in the mail to sign for another few weeks. I'm hoping by the end of July. In the meantime, we work our butts off on that profile book, and get used to the idea of waiting patiently for paperwork to go through, for all the steps to happen as they need to in order to bring our baby home.