A long post I hope will convey some of my feelings on the journey of adoption…
Colin and I knew early on in our marriage that our children would come by way of adoption. Though we both have infertility issues, we decided that the fertility treatment road was not for us. Prayer confirmed many times throughout the years that such a course was not necessary for us to grow our family. I believe that pregnancy and birth are beautiful and noble experiences, and I’ve wondered what they would be like, but they have never been an aching need for me. I just wanted to be a mother. Adoption always seemed the way I would get there.
Despite my peace with this answer, I’ve felt the sting of misunderstanding as others have expressed their opinions and thoughts on adoption. Not once but several times people have commented about how lucky I am to go through this process instead of childbirth because of the lack of physical pain or the discomfort during pregnancy. To them, adoption appears easy because you never have to give birth.
Easy would never be a word I would use to describe this process. For all the joy and love that accompany adoption there is also much worry and heartache. Indeed there is a labor to endure, only this one is emotional.
As many of you are probably unfamiliar with the specifics of the adoption process, I thought I’d explain some of what it entails. It is complicated, and involved, and varies greatly among those adopting, but here is the general idea:
Becoming certified to adopt
Though I understand the reasoning, I still haven’t gotten over the feeling of being scrutinized or the irritation from needing to prove over and over again that I’m not a psychopath. Why, you ask? Because the following must be completed each and every time we apply to be foster parents, which then makes us eligible to become adoptive parents:
- An application and fee
- Autobiographies (which includes family background, financial data, marital history, and parenting philosophies)
- The MMPI-2 psychological evaluation
- Live Scan fingerprinting (both at the Federal and state level)
- Employment verification
- Medical examinations and reports (including TB tests)
- Current drivers’ histories (including DMV records, license info, and proof of insurance)
- First aid and CPR training
- Parent education classes (40 hours)
- Letters of reference (at least 3)
- A home inspection and home study (personal and couple interviews with the social worker assigned to your case)
Waiting to be chosen
It is wearing going through such rigmarole only to have to wait an indeterminate amount of time for anything to happen. At least that’s the case with private adoption agencies such as LDS Family Services. You become certified, you tell everyone you know that you’re hoping to adopt and then you wait. And wait. Birth parents have access to a thorough adoptive profile that you’ve compiled and you hope that someone looks it over. But the reality is that so few contacts become a possibility. We had two calls from Family Services in the year and a half we were on their waiting list this second time around. Neither one amounted to anything. With fostering through the county, especially with a liaison organization like Angels Foster Care of Santa Barbara, there is no waiting. You are placed with a child almost as soon as you are certified. But there are drawbacks to that route, of course, as the placement may not end up being permanent.
Receiving a child
The joy of holding for the first time an infant you’re hoping to call your own is indescribable. In my experience, there is no turning back at that point. The moment I first looked at my little Warren’s face I was in love. Our first day of caring for Madeline, my heart was immediately linked to hers. But one mother’s joy at this amazing gift means the heartbreak of another. With both children, I have wept pondering their birth mothers’ grief and loss. No matter the circumstances, willing or unwilling relinquishment, there is tragedy knowing that the birth mother sacrificed her rights to raise the child you now call your own.
So it’s not the red tape or the waiting period that are the source of unease and worry, though jumping through those hoops is more than a little annoying. It’s the fact that nothing in adoption is ever guaranteed. Ever. Not until the judge stamps his seal of approval can you breathe easier. Countless people have cared for babies they’ve thought would be theirs forever for months only to have a birth parent come back and change her mind. And the foster-to-adopt path is even worse since the goal of foster care is to reunify child to biological parents. It is a walk of faith to open up your heart and home to a child this way.
This post is not to complain but only to show that it’s far from easy to adopt. I’m not even attempting to claim that adoption is harder than pregnancy. I only hope to demonstrate that both roads to parenthood come with ups and downs. Who’s to quantify the pains of physical versus emotional labor? Both are difficult. Both are valid.
Tomorrow, Madeline will legally become a member of our family. We are overjoyed! Cliché as it may sound, all this worry, all this waiting, it’s all worth it.
In a year, we’ll start all over again with number 3…