Knowing that not all families are started the super traditional way (i.e. girl gets pregnant with ease, pops out baby), we bring you our column Paths To Motherhood, highlighting women who have taken a less than typical route to becoming a mother.
Kristen Philipkoski & Frida
When did you start looking into adoption?
“My husband and I always wanted to adopt, partly because I’m adopted myself. But we also wanted to try for a biological child. We got married when I was 36, and when I didn’t get pregnant after two years, we started IVF treatments. After three unsuccessful tries, I changed doctors. The new guy was very candid. He said I was increasing my chances of getting pregnant by about 2 percent with IVF. Bottom line, I had old eggs and IVF can’t change that fact. Luckily, my IVF was covered under my insurance at the time up to $25,000, which is rare, but we had almost maxed that out. So, I just decided I was done with the shots and the hormones and disappointment, and we started to focus on adoption.”
What about adoption appealed to you?
“Having been adopted myself, it’s always something I’ve been certain I wanted to do. I had such a positive experience being adopted into a loving home with wonderful parents and an amazing extended family, and I wanted to give another child that gift. The funny thing is, now I feel like the one who received a gift!”
When and why did you look into foster to adoption instead of traditional adoption?
“I was actually a foster baby, so originally I looked for information about how foster would work in San Francisco. But I found it to be a confusing system to navigate, so I gave up and started researching private adoption. It was expensive, between $20,000 and $40,000 at the time, and we eventually learned that white babies were actually more expensive than babies of color. That really turned us off, so we started looking into another way. Some friends of my sister-in-law had adopted two children through foster, and after talking to them, we knew that was the path we wanted to take.”
What is the foster-to-adoption approval process like? Are there any fees involved?
“You have to become a certified foster parent, which comes with a bunch of requirements including a home study (which is more about assessing your qualifications as prospective parents than it is about your house), fingerprinting, and completing a class. Ours was weekly for two months. We also worked with an organization called Family Builders, which helps match prospective parents with a child. They made it a lot easier to navigate the foster system. The good news was there were no fees. Once you’re placed with a child, you actually get a stipend from the state of California, which we were not expecting!”
In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of foster to adoption?
“The pros: You’re not buying a baby, and you are providing a home to a child who otherwise might end up in a difficult situation. The cons: It can be unpredictable. Depending on the situation, there is a chance that the baby could go back to the birth parents or to another family member.”
How long did it take from looking into the foster to adoption system and getting that phone call?
“It took us extra long because we moved three times during the time when we were trying to fill out the mountain of paperwork. So, about 3 years. But it can definitely be done more quickly! And the crazy part is, we got the call only about two weeks after we finally finished all the paperwork.”
Tell us about the day you got the phone call, telling you about little Frida.
“It was 10 a.m., I was at home working and my husband, Kourosh, was at work. Our social worker, Melissa, called and said, ‘So, we have a baby. She’s four days old.’ I remember thinking, okay, this is a potential match and we’ll have another God-knows-how-long waiting game before we actually lay eyes on her. Then she said if we were interested, we needed to pick her up at San Francisco General by 5 p.m. I called Kourosh and told him, and we both just kept saying, ‘Oh my God.’ He came home immediately, and then we drove to Target to buy a car seat. We decided on the name Frida en route, and we picked her up at 3 p.m.! Side note: We happened to have a house guest that day who recorded us freaking out at home before picking her up, and also recorded us walking through the door when we brought her home! Thanks Dylan!”
What was the toughest part about choosing this path to motherhood?
“The toughest part was how quickly I fell in love with her. The very first night I already couldn’t imagine being without her. And then realizing there was no guarantee we could keep her.”
How long did it take you to formally adopt Frida?
“Our adoption hearing was on June 3, 2013, about 11 months after we brought her home.”
How common is it that families looking to adopt their foster children are successful?
“I don’t know the actual numbers, but I can say I personally know about half a dozen families who have gone the foster-adopt route, and all of them ended up adopting.”
After going through the process, would you do it again?
Is motherhood everything you thought it would be?
“OMG, it’s so much more, so much better than I ever imagined. Part of the reason I waited a while to try to get pregnant was because I was scared of motherhood taking over my life and changing me into this other person who was no longer creative or cool or able to function normally thanks to sleep deprivation. Yes, there has been some sleep deprivation, but being a mom has only increased my creativity and possibly my coolness! I can’t even remember what all those other things were I thought I was going to miss about my pre-kid life. It’s hard to find a way to say how much I love being a mom without sounding like a walking cliché, so I’ll just tell you what happened the other day. I was painting my nails before going out to dinner, and Frida was eating at the table across from me. She started touching her own fingertips, imitating what I was doing. Then she said, ‘Pretty!’ for the first time ever. Melt! It’s little things like that, which happen a million times every day, that make me so grateful that I have the privilege of being a mom.”