With each new step of this adoption journey comes new emotions that I sometimes feel ill equipped to explain to others. Nothing could be more true of what we experienced this past Friday when we had our initial consultation with the woman who will be our adoption counselor throughout this process.
We met our counselor, Dori, at the offices of our adoption agency at 8:00 in the morning on Friday. She came to the door to let us in and I could immediately feel the warmth that emanated from the small woman. She led us into a comfortable room and left Carla and I alone for a few moments while she finished some things up in her office. The room was filled with pictures of children, stuffed animals, and toys for kids and it could not have been a less threatening environment. However, Carla and I sat there in a high state of anxiety as we waited for this first meeting to begin. We had no idea what to expect. We had no idea what Dori would think of us. We had no idea what the goals for this meeting were. And so, we were left to wonder and worry.
Finally, Dori came in and for the next three hours, the three of us sat around the small, round table and attempted to get to know each other and better understand the process that was about to begin. It’s hard to remember all that took place over the three-hour long meeting. We began with a discussion of who Carla and I were. What we did for a living, how we came to be where we were, and what our relationship was like. It is so hard to explain to someone who has never met you, who you are as individuals and as a couple. But we did our best and I believe that the love between us was obvious to her.
Then Dori asked about our families. In detail. We were not totally prepared for the types of questions that she asked, but it helped us to realize that in this process, nothing is off limits. It is intrusive and personal and we now understand that it has to be. We must be ready to share everything. So we did.
And then Dori began to tell us about the process. What I appreciated most about her was her kind honesty. She was very clear that this is not an easy process. She was very clear that with the current state of international adoption, domestic adoption has become even more difficult. It is more challenging to adopt a child from a foreign country today because of the current changes in adoption laws in other countries. Therefore, there is a higher demand for domestic adoptions, which in turn leads to longer wait times (an average wait time of 18 months). All of that, I could handle with little emotional response.
But then, Dori began to talk about what it was like for a same-sex couple trying to adopt. And that is when my emotions hit hard. There are realities of this world that I know and I understand. However, much of my life is sheltered from those realities. I have a family who is unbelievably accepting and supportive. I have friends who love both Carla and me for exactly who we are. As a teacher, I work in a school that is surprisingly open and supportive. I am able to be out with the full support of my administration, my colleagues, my students, and their parents (to the point that my class threw me a wedding shower before I went to Vermont to marry Carla). I am very lucky. So I don’t often have to confront the realties of how same sex couples are viewed. But the truth is, we are a minority. The truth is that not everyone in this world is comfortable with two women raising a child. And the truth is that even those who are comfortable with the idea, still may not imagine two women when they think of the family they would like to choose to raise the child they are creating an adoption plan for. And so, it is more difficult for two women to be chosen by a birth mother. And there is nothing we can do about that. That was the reality that Dori explained to us and that was the moment of the meeting where I felt most scared and most unsure about this process.
But I have to say. That was just a moment. There were many other moments where I felt so sure that this was the right process for us. And that was the feeling that I walked away with. I fell more in love with this particular agency and more in love with the idea of open adoption. I was excited by the fact that Dori gave us some next steps to take. She gave us, what she called, “The famous green binder.” This binder was filled with paperwork and checklists and all sorts of other things that will get us through the beginning phase of the adoption process known as the home study. So there was a lot to be excited about. For me, it was just that amidst all the excitement was this reality that for some birthmothers, Carla and I would never be considered just because we are two women. No matter how loving we might seem or how much care we put into crafting the perfect image of a stable family, there are some people who would never see anything other than a lesbian couple who are not fit to raise a child. And no matter how I try to reassure myself or how others try to reassure me, that just hurts.
And yet, I still look ahead with excitement. Next Saturday, Carla and I will be attending an all day class called “Adoption 101.” After that, we will start writing our autobiographies for the adoption agency. We will start to have difficult conversations about what types of mental illness, physical illness, and drug and alcohol abuse we are willing to consider in the birthmother. We will start to talk about what issues we are willing to consider in the child himself. And we will start to list out for the agency how much money we make and how much money we spend in a month. Truly, no detail goes unobserved. Once these documents are done, there are more meetings to be had, more classes to take, and much more paperwork to fill out. And I truly look forward to all of it.
So with this first meeting over, I can look ahead with a lot of excitement and some fears as well. I take comfort in knowing that I am surrounded by support. I take comfort in knowing that I have a wonderful partner to go through this process with. And I take comfort in knowing that we have found a wonderful agency and a wonderful adoption counselor to guide us through all of it. And for now, all of that makes this process seem a lot more manageable and a lot less scary.
Jess and Carla live in the suburbs of Chicago, where they think more and more about babies every day. You can follow Jess’ adoption adventure here or at her blog, Two Mommies Trying to Adopt.