What I have discovered is that many adoptive parents don’t like when people turn to adoption as a “second choice”. I find that hard to figure out myself. We tried to have a 2nd baby for 5 full years, does that make me less worthy of my daughter now? I never, ever, considered Elizabeth our “2nd choice”. Does it make me less of a parent because I didn’t know adoption was something I was capable of? Does it make me less of an adoptive parent because I have one biological child and one adopted? I can tell you without a doubt, I love my children equally, when I think of my children I never think of them as “my bio child” and “my adopted child”. I think of them as MY CHILDREN, my heart, my soul, my life, my joys, God’s gifts to me. It never comes in to my mind to think “my adopted daughter needs fed” or “my biological son needs help with his homework”. Why must there be labels? Why does it have to be a 1st or 2nd choice? I didn’t make the choice to have a 2nd child in any particular way. Did I try to have one naturally? Yes. Did it occur to me to turn away from the opportunity to adopt Elizabeth knowing there was a better than good chance I could have In-Vetro and get pregnant? No. So what am I? Am I one of those people not worthy of adoption because I tried to get pregnant?
I have to be honest in that adoption literally just fell in our lap. I mentioned it to Joe a couple of times and that was really the extent of any consideration. I never took any classes, attended any workshops, spoke to any agencies, or did any research. Literally we talked about the possibility a couple of times and that’s as far as we got.
Then one day the phone rang. I had decided to stop fertility treatments until I could decide whether or not to go to Denver for a 3rd opinion and had resolved to look in to adoption a little further before I made that decision, but I had done so quietly, not knowing how Joe felt about the prospect. So the phone rings and it’s my mother-in-law. She says “I have something to tell you, something for you to consider, and I don’t even know if I should mention it to you because I don’t know if it’s something you’d be open to.” So I said… “Ummm… OK” So she went on to tell me about Elizabeth’s birth mother. She said “[Insert birth mother’s name here] is pregnant and in foster care in California and is going to place the baby, I didn’t know if it would be something you guys would consider but thought I’d mention it.” I have to admit. I made my decision right then and there. I never had to think about it. I never rationalized it, I didn’t care what it took. I loved Elizabeth from that second on. When Joe got home I spoke to him about it. He was of course more sensible than I was “can we afford another baby after all the money we’ve sunk in to the house, can we afford a lawyer, what will we have to do, who do we call, how will Joey feel, etc… ” In the end he decided we could do this, would do this. So we started making calls. We had about 3.5 months to put everything together because Elizabeth’s birth mother was already 6 months along when she called us, so it was all very crazy and hectic.
The next part of my identity crisis comes in when I think about how little I knew of the process I didn’t have time to research, attend workshops, have adoptive parent counseling, etc…
At the time trying to get a home study done, paperwork done, locate an attorney in California, navigate around the laws in two states, and convince an adoption worker for the state of California that we were serious about this and we were a good choice. WOW. I thought I was bogged down, I thought we had bumps in the road, there were definite moments of heartbreak, loads of stress, sleepless nights, tears, and fears. BUT, I have now realized we went through NOTHING compared to what others have gone through. I am actually a bit ashamed of myself because at the time I was crying on the shoulder of anyone who would listen. The home study was coming along slowly, my attorney here was dragging his feet, etc… One of the people I leaned on was my friend Nicole. Bless her, she was going through the process (although they are adopting from another country) at the same time as me and I realize now I did a lot more talking than listening!! I would ask how things were going with her adoption but hers was a slower process and frankly I was very self centered! Looking back now I feel horrible about it!! Especially now that we’ve realized her process would be agonizingly slow. I can’t thank her enough for letting me be so self centered and giving me her shoulder despite what she was going through!! Hers is her story to tell so I’ll let you read her blog on your own to read her story.
Anyway, it seems we went through so little compared to other adoptive parents. Parents waiting for years and years for a child once they’ve submitted their paperwork. Parents being matched with a child only to be told their case study is going to a committee with 3 other families so the state can determine the best match and then discovering the other family was the better match because they’ve been married longer, weigh less, are healthier, have a larger house, bigger income, etc… parents hosting a child from another country thinking it’s OK to love them because being allowed to host them means they will be allowed to adopt them and then finding out that’s not the case, parents submitting paperwork to a country only to find out the wait for a child from that country is actually 2-5 years, etc… Knowing how I would feel if that had been the case with Elizabeth, I can’t imagine it. I loved Elizabeth from the second I received that first phone call. Had someone come along the next day and said “I don’t think you’re the best choice for this child” I would have been devastated.
I actually found it to be a lot like infertility. You tell yourself not to hope, not to let yourself get hurt, to keep in mind something bad could happen, you could be told you’re not the right parents for this child. In our case our birth mother could have changed her mind at any time, right up until the day Elizabeth was released from the hospital, we could have had a bad home study report (not likely, but always possible), the state of California could have said “you know what you’re not leaving our state with this child”, etc… Had that happened I would have been shattered. I don’t think I could have picked myself back up from that one. I am truly in awe of people who go through that each and every day over and over again. The second you are told there’s a child that might be a good match for you and you make the decision to proceed with trying to adopt that child, you love them. If not the child them self, then the idea of what your family could be with that child. The idea of that child as your child, your heart, your soul, your future. I think (and this is not a sexist comment so please don’t take it this way) that women invest themselves more fully in the early stages of the process. Our caseworker told us women always jump in with both feet immediately. It’s often the men who are hesitant, who have questions, doubts, fears, etc… They are often even more rational about it, more level headed, more able to see an actual concern when it’s raised, where a woman only sees the end result and knows it’s worth it no matter what. She said in a lot of adoptions the man isn’t even fully behind the choice to adopt until the later stages. That’s something they cover in that adoptive parent counseling and those workshops I didn’t get to attend. I am not sure why this is, I think it probably has something to do with women being more empathetic, or maybe it’s simply the biology of it, who knows?! What I do know is, I am a woman, and I dove in to a shallow pond, head first without a seconds hesitation.
There is more to this, but I am tired and a little sad now. So I will wrap this up and add more to it tomorrow when I am thinking a little more clearly.