By Tara Bitzan
Jim and Bonnilynn Tungseth of Alexandria are sure they are going to make great parents.
They’re just not sure when that will happen.
The Tungseths have been dreaming about their future children since before they were married on December 9, 2006. They knew conceiving might be challenging, because Bonni suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome, a common female endocrine disorder.
They spent a few years pursing various fertility treatments before venturing down a different path.
“Those attempts were unsuccessful, and the next course recommended to us involved a donor egg and donor sperm,” Bonni explained. “Although there are still benefits to carrying your own child, the chances of success weren’t that high, it was expensive, and it wouldn’t be our genetics.
“At that point, we understood God had a totally different plan for us, and we decided to pursue adoption.”
“When a door doesn’t open, you just have to look for another one that isn’t locked,” Jim added.
They decided to pursue an open domestic adoption.
“We don’t want our child to ever wonder about who their birth parents are, or have to go out seeking them at some point,” Jim explained. “We want them to have no doubts about who they are and where they came from.”
They began researching adoption agencies and decided that Lutheran Social Services (LSS) was a good fit. They were placed on a waiting list to undergo the necessary training.
They were accepted into the training in February, and were home-study approved and became eligible to adopt in May. They were then placed on a waiting list to get placed in “the book.”
That is a resource book that includes profiles of about 60 families working with LSS who are hoping to adopt. A birth parent can ask to look through the book when considering a family for their child.
“So you get on a list and wait,” Jim explained. “Then you move past that requirement and you get moved to another list and you wait. There’s a lot of waiting involved.”
In May, the couple was 37th on the list. They’ve since moved up to about 20th.
In the meantime, they were taught about the adoption outreach program and advised to do their own outreach.
“Technology has completely changed the way adoption is done,” Bonni explained. “The Internet allows you to expand your search to a much larger area and number of people.
“Neither of us is very savvy with technology. It was outside of our comfort level, but we figured if it brings us the ultimate gift of adoption, it’s worth it.”
Jim added that it also helped to make the waiting more bearable.
“This makes you feel like you are taking an active approach,” he explained. “It empowers us; it’s something we can do ourselves.”
The couple was informed that more than half of all adoptions through LSS currently happen through outreach efforts done by the families.
That information was all the Tungseths needed to educate themselves on technology and begin actively searching for a child.
They created a web page (jimandbonadoptmn.com) as well as a Facebook page. They printed 1,000 adoption cards that state, “We Want to Adopt!” and included their contact information. They put these on bulletin boards and hand them out anywhere and everywhere.
They’ve also sent e-mails to people, asking them to forward them on to everyone in their address books in the hopes that word of their search will connect with just the right person.
Family members also got in on the action, helping them to get information out about their search for a child.
Bonni’s dad posted their information on a sign at the business he owns, Ollie’s Auto Sales/A&A Auto Rental, which is located at the busy intersection of 3rd Avenue and Broadway in Alexandria.
The Tungseths admit that it is the sign that has garnered the most attention about their search for a child. But not all of that attention has been positive.
“We’ve gotten tasteless text messages and prank calls from what sounds like carloads of kids who taunt and tease us,” Bonni said. “There have also been calls from adults that for whatever reason don’t like what we’re doing and call to give us their opinions.
“It isn’t about convincing people to give up their kids,” she added. “That’s not what we’re trying to do. It is really about expectant parents working with adoptive families to make a plan together. We firmly believe people choosing this route are making a loving choice for their child.”
While those experiences have been difficult, they have not deterred the Tungseths.
“People are obviously seeing the sign, and that’s a positive for us,” Jim said.
They’ve also received calls from people sharing personal stories or offering them advice.
“We’ve heard from people in our shoes, and even from a medical professional who called to offer his services,” Bonni said. “We appreciate that they reached out to us.”
Those supportive calls, as well as the connections the couple has made with others trying to adopt, have been helpful in their journey.
“It’s nice to know we’re not the only ones going through this,” Bonni said. “Sometimes it feels like you are the only ones and that is hard.”
While Bonni stays busy with her job as a social worker connecting kids in the community with mental health services, and Jim is studying toward a degree in mechanical drafting at Alexandria Technical and Community College, both admit that much of their time is spent pursuing the hopes of adoption.
“It’s emotional, sitting and waiting,” Bonni said. “It just feels better to be doing something.”
One thing the Tungseths believe is in their favor is that they live in the ideal place to raise a family.
“We live in this great smaller town with lots of lakes,” Jim said. “We know Alexandria is where we want to be, and think raising a kid here would be wonderful.”
The other thing they both agree on is that they are ready to be parents.
“We’re just sure we’re going to make great parents,” Bonni concluded.