At the end of this past May, I completed my program in graduate school. Little did I know that sooner than I realized I would soon be back to writing papers and taking classes. Unlike in grad school, these papers and classes are not getting me closer to a degree instead they are getting me closer to having a child. It provides a considerable amount more motivation for getting things done. The adoption process is filled with paperwork, education, and other requirements and Carla and I currently find ourselves in the thick of it all.
Since my last blog post, we have attended an all day class called “Adoption 101”, we have completed our first round of paperwork, and we have set up our next appointment with our adoption counselor. With each step, I utter the same words, “I feel like this means we have REALLY started the process.” When we paid the first dollars I said it, when we had our initial consultation with our adoption counselor I said it, when we filled out our first forms I said it, when we sat through our first class with other adopting couples I said it, and when we set up our second appointment with our adoption counselor I said it. You get the idea. With each step, I keep thinking that it means that we are officially beginning the process. I am not sure what I am waiting for, confetti dropping from the sky, a welcome to the adoption club poster, or a fanfare of trumpets announcing our arrival. The truth is, we ARE in the adoption process. It HAS started. And, we HAVE officially begun.
So the first thing we had to do after our initial consultation was to attend a Saturday class called “Adoption 101.” This was a class filled with other couples who were starting the adoption process. I was anxious about being there with other couples. Until now, we had been existing on an isolated island of adoption. We didn’t have to think about the other couples who would be on the wait list with us and I kind of liked it that way. I was nervous that I would view these other couples as competition. I hated that I was even having those kinds of thoughts, but nonetheless, I was. My fears were calmed as soon as we arrived at the class. Well actually, when we arrived we were the only ones there as Carla and I have a frustrating habit of arriving anywhere at least fifteen minutes before we are supposed to be there. Anyway, we sat in the room where the class was to be held for quite a while before anyone else showed up. But as soon as they did, I immediately understood that it wasn’t that these couples were our competition. I didn’t view them that way at all. Instead, I started to see that each couple was unique and different and offered something completely unlike any other couple. When a birthmother sits down to choose a couple, she is going to be looking for something. All we can do is be who we are and wait for a birthmother who is looking for a couple like us.
As the class began, we all found ourselves openly sharing with the rest of the group. Carla and I probably shared more with this group of strangers than we had with some of our closest friends. It felt really comforting to know that we were in a room with other people who were going through the exact same process that we were. It felt comforting to be surrounded by people who understood our thoughts, fears, and emotions because they had all experienced them themselves. The day offered invaluable information.
The first section of the day was focused on helping us to better understand the birthmother’s perspective. It was enlightening. The first activity asked us to put in our hands, something that was important to us. We were split into two groups. My group was asked to place our item into a basket and then keep our eyes facing forward. Then, the second group was asked to remove one item from the basket and hold on to it. We, in the first group, were not allowed to look as people took our items out of the basket. After some time, a few of us in the first group were allowed to look and see who was holding our item. In the end, all items were returned. From the start, I knew I would get my wedding ring back (the item I placed in the basket). However, I was still anxious knowing that someone was taking it. I was irrationally uncomfortable not being able to see who had it. And, when I was able to see the person who was holding it, I instantly felt better. The activity accomplished its goal. They were attempting to help us understand, in some small way, what it was like for a birthmother to give up something, so important, to someone else. They were also attempting to show us what happens in an open adoption, when the birthmother has the knowledge of who is adopting the child she gave birth to. It was a powerful exercise and I became even more convinced that an open adoption was the right choice for us.
The rest of the day was filled with more activities, speakers, and exercises that covered topics ranging from trans-racial adoption, multicultural families, open adoption, and potential health risks that adopted children might be faced with. By the end of the day, I was overwhelmed with new things to think about, but was eternally grateful for the new insights that I gained.
After our first class, we were faced with completing the first round of paperwork. To say that there is a lot of paperwork to complete for the adoption process would be an understatement. The first thing that we needed to do was that we each had to write an autobiography. This was not the fun kind of life story that some people might enjoy writing. Instead it was a multi-page document that answered thirty-three separate questions about what each of our lives were like as children. It was an exhausting assignment to complete. I understood why were being asked to do it as it gave both Carla and I a chance to reflect on our own ideas of raising children.
After those were complete, we had to fill out a checklist that listed possible medical conditions that we were willing to accept in a child, a birthparent, and in the birthparent’s families. For example, we had to check whether or not we would be willing to be presented to a birthmother who had bipolar disorder or a history of asthma in the family. We had to check whether or not we would be willing to accept a child with a missing limb or with HIV. Carla and I found this to be an excessively difficult task. It is so hard to be that honest with yourself and to answer questions such as those. But part of this process is getting to an honest and real understanding of how much you, as a couple, can really provide for a child and what you will be able to handle. Our checklist took us a long time and a lot of discussion to complete.
Finally, we had to fill out the adoption application to officially begin the process with this particular adoption agency (see, there is that official start again). After all of that was completed, we called our adoption counselor and have now scheduled a second meeting next week before our next class on January 19th. There is a lot to be done, but I have come to appreciate it. I truly believe that by the time our home study is complete, we will be well prepared for the challenges that will lie ahead. For now, we just keep on filling out our forms, attending our classes, and meeting our requirements, knowing that with each step, we are just a little bit closer to adding a child to our family.