I keep wanting to move on with my background story, to write about N’s adoption. And I keep finding other things to write about instead. Maybe it is because I’m having a hard time trying to imagine how I will put such a long story into such a brief narrative. Or maybe it is because I’m becoming jaded. I keep reading blogs by people who think I am, at best, naive for the purpose and beauty that I see in my son’s adoption and, at worst, some manipulative monster for “taking him away.” Maybe I’m having a hard time imagining others reading something so personal and seeing it as a negative thing. Or taking it out of context. Kind of the whole “casting pearls before swine” concept. But it is important to me to write it out.
First, let me make it clear that I felt many of the losses of infertility in a very deep way. The four year break between when we were told we couldn’t have children, and when we adopted N, was due in large part to my resistance towards adoption. Sean was always ready to adopt, but I had to heal from some of my losses first. A big one, for me, was the “mini me” syndrome. I had always imagined a child that was the perfect combination of both of our best traits and had a hard time imagining not having that. Even though Sean and I had always talked about adopting (even before we knew about the infertility), I had always seen it as phase two of our family. I wanted both. Once I was told I couldn’t have my “phase one,” I became too obsessed with it to move on for several years.
The interesting thing is, once I was ready to move on, I completely embraced the idea of my child being different from me. I spent a lot of time looking at international adoptions. The Marshall Islands, in particular, seemed to draw me in. In the end, however financial considerations (you can think this is awful, but I’m being honest) and my desire to parent my child from the beginning won out, and we contacted our church’s adoption agency to begin the homestudy for a domestic adoption.
If you are unfamiliar with the process of adoption, let me just say that the homestudy process doesn’t do a lot to help with the feelings of loss of control that many infertile people develop. I had to write short essay answers to questions on every aspect of my life–parenting philosophies (kind of funny, since I wasn’t a parent yet), finances, sex life, family relationships, feelings about infertility–everything you can think of. Literally, forty essay questions. We had to complete close to 30 hours of parenting/adoption classes (my mother thought this was horrible, since people giving birth aren’t required to do anything of the sort–I understood since the goal is to place children in ideal families as much as possible). We did our classes at our local Children’s Services, so we got the normal lessons on parenting, loss and separation, and honoring your child’s culture, as well as horribly graphic stories and pictures of the signs and consequences of neglect, sexual abuse, and physical abuse. By the time we finished, we were certified as foster parents.
And of course, we went through the mountains of paperwork. Birth certificates. Marriage certificate. Approval from the fire marshall. Interviews by the social worker (who bounced on our large wood-grate air intake–I just wondered if he had considered the consequences if it hadn’t been sturdy). And the “comfort level” sheet. I really had a hard time with that one. Lists of possible things you could encounter and your comfort level with each situation. How do you feel about a child that was exposed en utero to alcohol? Drugs? Cigarettes? What if the mother has xyz condition? What if the baby is born with xyz condition? And on, and on…It almost felt like picking options on a car. And while a lot of the questions were related to factors that I could have controlled if I were the one who was pregnant (I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs, etc.), some were things that couldn’t be controlled. Or even really known at birth (just because there is a family history of a condition doesn’t mean that a child will have it). Ultimately, we were very open. There were certain things that we didn’t feel we could realistically take on intentionally, but we knew that we wouldn’t change our minds if a child was born with an unexpected condition. Because we planned to be parents, and parents don’t send their babies back. We also, after a lot of research and consideration, decided that we would be completely open in regards to race.
The final piece to our homestudy was the “Dear Birthmother” letter. The impossible task of condensing who you are into two short pages (complete with pictures!). Wanting to convey who we are, but not wanting to feel like I was developing marketing material. Writing that letter may have been the most difficult part for me.
Everything was completed and turned in on February 24th, 2003. To some extent, a weight was lifted–it was out of my hands. We settled in, prepared to wait the 6-18 months that our agency anticipated it would be before we were chosen.
After all of our paperwork was in, I asked for a copy of our completed homestudy (we had considered submitting it for two sisters that were in the public system). I had some very real issues with what I was given. Our homestudy had been written up by a student doing his internship, and it was riddled with errors (both factual and grammatical). It wasn’t the polished, professional document that I felt it should be. We set up a meeting to discuss the issue with the agency’s director. We got there and talked through our issues.
Once we had that off the table, he looked at us and said, “By the way, one of our social workers is on his way to meet with a young woman right now. Your’s is one of four profiles he has to show her.” It was only mid-April. Nowhere close to the 6-18 months we had expected. All I could do was look at him and say, “I don’t want to think about it. I can’t think about it.” I wasn’t expecting it, and I was too afraid to really get my hopes up. It didn’t help when he told me that the child was biracial. For whatever reason, throughout the paperwork process, whenever I would look at CPS photolistings, I would always search the biracial boys first. That was where I felt drawn.
Around dinnertime that evening, my phone rang. It was the agency director.
“Katie,” he said, “You’d better start thinking about it.”
That was it. She had chosen us. And she was being induced in exactly one week.