“You can just adopt.” This is a phrase I’ve heard countless times since ending our fertility journey. If only it were that easy. Since you’re talking about a human life, it really shouldn’t be “just” as easy as walking into the local Wal-Mart and picking out a doll. For the sake of brevity, I’m over-simplifying the steps leading to adoption, but here’s a start.
Come to terms with the end of your own dreams of carrying a child. Stop imagining what a little boy would look like with your husband’s eyes. Some are able to navigate this more easily than others. For me, it wasn’t so bad. I’d already seen ourselves in our little girl. For others, though, it is a devastating loss and they must process that loss before taking the next step in their journey. Both partners may not process this step at the same speed, but you really need to be on the same page before moving forward. It can be very frustrating for each person if the other is in a different place emotionally. As with the grief journey after losing a child, emotions will ebb and flow, but with a lot of love and even more patience, both partners will land in the same space.
Start with a Google search. And then completely lose yourself for hours. Domestic? International? Foster care? Private agency? Local agency? Nationwide? Learn from friends what paths they chose and why. Start to wonder if your story will ever be as magical as theirs. Dig into the details. What’s your budget? Buy the Adopt Without Debt books, and laugh as they suggest planning a fundraising 5k walk/run (because you’re not busy enough with everything else). Look into grants and loans, and get overwhelmed.
Take a few classes and read more about adoption. Dig in and decide what is best for your family. Are you prepared to raise a child in a culture very different from his own? Are you ready for the questions and issues a trans-racial adoption would present? What about a child with special needs? Will your lifestyle be able to accommodate the appointments? You’ll need to mark boxes on a questionnaire for the agency that asks what races, health histories, and drug exposures you’re open to accepting. In the end, every family is different, every situation is different, but it is very easy to start thinking you’re a terrible person for not checking certain boxes.
Lay your life out on a table for someone else to sort through. Do you have debt? Fess up now because the social worker will have your tax returns, bank statements, and check stubs. Clutter in your house? Find a way to hide it for the day of the home inspection because while the social worker might not actually be judging you based on home organizational skills, you’ll totally freak out if he/she walks in and sees a stray sock sticking out from under the bed. We spent weeks preparing for the home visit. We were reassured by both the home study provider and friends that the agencies know people are human and not everything needs to be perfect. However, on the day of the visit, I still manically ran around the house checking for stray dust bunnies.
This will be different for everyone. For us it included producing a video showing us interacting with children and a printed profile where we tried to put into words why we want to be parents, how our families are supporting us, and, most difficult for us personally, trying to balance how much of Zoey’s story to tell. Will birth parents feel we’re just trying to replace our daughter? Will they think we have not healed enough? Or will they see that the pain we’ve experienced actually makes us more empathetic? That understanding loss will help us navigate both the birth parents’ loss and the child’s? While adoption is amazing, it is also wrapped in loss. A mother has made a choice to do what is best for her child, but that means she’s handing him/her to another family. This child will then grow up wondering why. Was it lack of love? Society’s failure to protect those in need? Even under the best circumstances, questions will linger. While the circumstances are drastically different, I’ve had to hand over my child, and my heart breaks for the birth parents. I can hope that we are able to help a child navigate the difficult journey. Pain and joy will intertwine as the child grows and begins to truly understand his/her story and the circumstances that led to him/her being in our care.
You wait to be matched. While we’re anxious, I can only begin to imagine the anxiety a birth mother is feeling. I wonder who she is and how she is processing her choices. I wonder if she has a good support network, and it pains me to think that she doesn’t. I can only guess that at some point she has to give her choice to faith, hope, and love. Adoptive parents may find it difficult to process the full magnitude of the emotional journey adoption will take them on, and they too will be jumping in with faith, hope, and love.
Related: Is Waiting the Hardest Part?
Is this the right thing to do? Are we prepared to cope with the challenges an adoption will present? I think many people forget about the hard side of adoption. The loss. The fear. The anxiety. Yes, it will all be worth it. I am more than prepared to love a child. And I have zero doubt about loving an adopted child just as much as the one I gave birth to, but there’s also pain involved. I completely understand why some choose not to go down this path. It isn’t a decision to be made lightly by anyone involved. The process of preparing for the home study and agency requirements is daunting and there is a life-long commitment you make both to a child and to that child’s birth parents to tell the story, to tell the truth, to be compassionate, to show empathy and to love everyone involved in the journey.
If we are entrusted with the gift of a child to raise, a piece of my heart will always be with the birth parents who made this sacrifice for the love of their child. And I will never forget that the child is not mine alone, that he/she is loved beyond measure. Adoption is a wonderful and beautiful gift, but I never want to take for granted the sacrifice and deep love it will take to make us parents. Just as in grieving our daughter, darkness and light will dance together.