As November is National Adoption Month I’m squeaking this post in just under the wire so I can broaden the discussion on adoption. Because I think it’s pretty fucking cool!
Adoption is amazing. It brings together families that would never have been possible without it. It can be a wonderful homecoming not just for the couples battling infertility, or wanting to expand their families without procreating, but also for the children. Adoption is an incredible process that I’ve been fortunate enough to experience within my own extended family as well as my friend’s lives. So I thought, what better way to celebrate adoption but to interview someone who has gone through it?!
I reached out to my good friends A&J to see if they would be willing to talk candidly about their experience adopting their son E. I wanted to ask them the deeper questions. Not just how much does it cost and how long does it take… If you’re considering adoption you already know the answers to those and, if you don’t, a speedy Google search will get you there. I wanted the juicer things. What’s it really like?
I’m lucky to have such awesome friends, because when I asked them if they would open up and share on the blog they said: “It seems like every other person that we bump into has somehow been touched by adoption—or is considering it for their own family. We are always happy to share a little about our experience in the hope that our story helps others who are interested in the process feel more comfortable taking the first steps towards adopting.” BRAVO! Here’s the Q&A session. I hope you find it insightful, honest and intriguing.
Why did you choose to adopt over trying IVF ?
This was a big fork in the road for us. We knew from conversations before we even got married that we were both open to the idea of adopting. However, we had never talked about what we thought about IVF! Everyone processes the experience of infertility and the available options at different rates. As a couple, before you can make a decision to go one direction or the other you both have to be on the same page. We contemplated IVF and visited IVF specialists more than once. In fact, we sat on this decision for almost two years before finally deciding to pursue adoption. It took us a while to get there—together! Personally, I didn’t want to do IVF because I am strongly pro-life and I couldn’t reconcile all of the aspects of IVF with that deep seated conviction. Also, I was fairly certain that if we tried IVF and it failed that I wouldn’t have the emotional reservoir left to pursue another avenue towards parenthood. For me, I was ready for adoption after the deep authentic revelation that motherhood does not require pregnancy and after I had time to grieve and release my vision of being pregnant.
How did you grieve the loss of being pregnant/ having a biological connection to your child?
Growing up I always had a vision of myself becoming pregnant and having children. Grieving the loss of that deeply held vision of how my life should unfold was, most definitely, a journey. Once we hit the threshold of our comfort with medical interventions I had to face the very real probability that I would never achieve a pregnancy. That is when the grieving process really started. I oscillated through all of the stages of grief that the experts talk about: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. During that time I practiced yoga, read books about infertility and adoption, and journaled…I had a spiritual director and two exceptionally close friends to whom I could bear my soul…I also came in contact with several other women going through infertility and was able to walk with them on their journey. All of this was helpful in my healing. While there was a good amount of “doing” on my part, I credit my deepest inner healing to the time that I spent “being”, not “doing”. My practice of “being” came through prayer, meditation and silent retreats. It was during those times of stillness and quiet that I could face and fully experience my grief. It is so challenging, but sitting with that pain really made a world of difference. It was during these times of reflection that I was given the grace of insight and a wider perspective on my experience. These graces were truly divine. There was nothing that I did to bring them about–they seemed to appear when I was ready to receive and embrace them. All of this happened over the span of several difficult years. There was never a single lightening-bolt-like moment of clarity where I suddenly felt “over it” and ready to move forward. Rather, it was a slow opening to the possibility that life was unfolding in a manner I hadn’t anticipated and that it was STILL going to be marvelous. Adopting E has helped to bring about the final closure. Even though I am still categorically infertile, the diagnosis no longer has any hold over the outcome of becoming a mother. Now, I tend to be grateful for the perk of being a mom without having had to go through the very real physical process! As far as the biological connection, it was never of supreme importance to me that my child share my DNA. I didn’t have to grieve that part at all. My sense of loss was about experiencing the 9 months of pregnancy and all of the little events that come with it, like baby showers and sonograms and movement. In the end, through the process of adoption I did have all of those little events! We were there for E’s sonogram, and even his birth. We had 4 baby showers! And, the story of how we were matched with his birth family and brought him home brings goosebumps every time I tell it– I truly feel it was divinely planned.
What were your biggest reservations starting the process and were they realistic?
The biggest reservation was the ‘process’ of adoption itself. At the outset it seemed terribly daunting–especially when we had never done it before! It is true that the paperwork is long, there are home studies, interviews, house visits. Plus, the financial commitment is substantial. It really can be incredibly overwhelming. The best thing that we did was enlist the help of an adoption consultant. Yes, that profession exists! She helped us get educated about the process and prepare us for the decisions we would have to make. When we had questions or concerns we called her and she helped us sort through our thoughts and make an educated choice. This was actually a huge help in our marriage because it gave us a neutral third party for guidance. Now that we have been through it once, and are preparing to do it again, we are connected with a great agency and the process feels much more straightforward. Yet, the first time while deciding on and applying to agencies she was invaluable.
What kind of relationship do you have with the birth family/ Is yours an open adoption?
Statistically, only a small percentage of current adoptions are conducted under “closed” terms. Birth families and adoptive families determine the level of openness that is comfortable for both parties. Our adoption is considered “semi-open”. We correspond both directly and through our adoption agency with E’s birth family to share updates, pictures, etc., but we don’t have a specific commitment to making trips to see them face-to-face. With that said, we have had a very wonderful relationship with them and we have all been together twice since the adoption (we adopted E 6 months ago). To be honest, both visits felt a little scary for me at the outset. Your mind comes up with all kinds of crazy scenarios—things that only play out in dramatic made-for-tv movies. The visits were actually very enjoyable and we were happy for E and his birth family to have time together. It really showed how much he is loved by all of us.
Will you tell E he’s adopted?
We will most definitely tell E about how he came to be part of our family. We can’t imagine keeping this part of his life journey a secret from him. Not only would it be impossible since so many of our friends and family know that he is adopted—it would also be unfair. As he grows in age and understanding, so will his ability to grasp and process what adoption means and how to process the experience. Someday, he may want to reach out to his birth family and we would fully support him in doing so. We don’t feel that the future possibility of him wanting a relationship with his birth family in no way negates our experience of parenthood, the love that we have for him, or the love that he has for us.
Did your family support you?
Thankfully we had a very supportive family AND friend base. I can’t imagine going through the process without them because they really do help to keep you hope-filled, positive, and sane during the more trying times in the process. They all love and cherish E just like we do—we never sense that there is any difference for them simply because he doesn’t share our DNA.
Do you love E like he’s your own child?
We frequently get asked questions about E’s adoption and, on occasion, someone will bring this up. I think that more people want to ask this, but that they don’t because they feel like it might be overstepping bounds. For some adoptive families the question could come off as intrusive, but we see it as an opportunity to lessen a deep and real fear that people often have about adopting: will I be able to love this child like they are my own. Yes! Honestly, I can’t imagine loving anyone more than we love E! Elizabeth Stone once said, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” This is true for every parent, no matter how you come to parenthood. Your children are your heart!
How has your life changed since?
We are parents! Our lives have changed in all the same ways that it does for every other mother and father on the planet.
What was the most challenging part of adoption?
A lot of people might say the paperwork and hoops you have to jump through, but, we didn’t think that was all too terrible considering the purpose behind it is to ensure that children are placed in loving and responsible homes. For us the hardest part was the waiting. We had an 8 month wait to be matched and a 5 month wait between the time that we were matched with E’s birth family and the time that he was due. Even though the process was relatively smooth in our case, we knew that until the paperwork was signed there was a very real possibility that the commitment could fall through and that E’s birth family would decide not to place him with us. Fear is such a powerful emotion and it can (and will) wreak havoc on your sense of inner calm. You have to be prepared for this when you start the process. Having a strong support system helped us get through those moments of fear, panic and worry.
What was the easiest/best part?
The best part was being there for his birth and holding him for the first time. E’s birth story is pretty incredible because he came 6 weeks early when we were on vacation 1,500 miles away from home. I literally hoped on the first flight that would get me to the hospital and made it (quite literally) in the nick of time to see him born. And, we share a birthday, might I add. Best. Gift. Ever. It was an irreplaceable moment in my life! You simply can’t dream stuff like that up!
Would you do it again?
In a heart-beat! When we hold E in our arms we know it was worth every step on the path it took to get here.
Do you wish you had done it sooner?
No. Sounds funny to say that as we tried for 7 years to start our family. Those were frustrating, painful and overwhelming years. However, it was through that experience that we did very deep soul searching. I am the parent /wife /friend that I am today because of the trials that it took to get where we are now. The long process was simply part of a much larger divine plan.
My deepest thanks to my friends A&J for being so open and honest with us about their adoption journey. I hope you’ve found their words interesting and helpful. If you’re considering adoption I wish you all the best as you walk towards parenthood!
Happy National Adoption Month, y’all!