"Don't you want your own baby?"This is my favorite. If you asked this, don't be ashamed. I'm not "outing" you. It's a common question. I hear it about as often as I hear, "Can't you guys have your own?" How about this one. "You're so great to save that baby." We're not saving anyone... we're starting a family.
In 2007, we decided it was time to introduce another Stork to the nest. It wasn't full enough with the dogs and the cats and the chinchilla's and the rats and the fish and the hermit crabs. Our family planning talk quickly went towards adoption. I'm not sure why, but it did. Maybe it's because my wife teaches so many great kids in the Baltimore City School system that have such potential but little resources to nurture them? Maybe it's all the kids we've seen in our travels that need a good home? Maybe it's our animals that we didn't naturally birth but love as if we did... uh, strike that from the record. Maybe we're just selfish and don't want to go through a pregnancy?
Either way, adoption was on our radar from the beginning. And then we saw the costs. It's discouraging when you look at what's involved to adopt. The time and the effort to prove to the city your house is sanitary and fireproof. To prove you don't have a criminal background and your fingerprints aren't tied to any crimes and that your not a sex offender. To prove you have a legal guardian lined up in case the worst happens. "Yeah, honey. What if you get run over? Or you got carried off by a twister?" All this to adopt. And then you drive through the city and see kids selling water bottles on the street when they should be at school.
Since it would take months to get our paperwork ready to be eligible to adopt, we figured we try the old fashioned way while we got our "home study" in order. This is the paperwork detailing to those who make the call that we are legal to adopt. (Okay, side story. I visit the downtown office of the people who come to check the house to make sure it's sanitary. I forget who they are but they're the same people you visit if you want to start a restaurant or your own home day-care center. The office wasn't especially sanitary. It's a DMV experience. These people have power and they know it. I wait my turn. I fill out the paperwork and rehearse my script as I watch people get turned away to rejoin the line after they "fill in that bubble." I make the appointment. The lady tells me to call her the morning of to make sure she'll be there. "No, the appointment is at noon. I will see you then." I tell her. The day comes. She's a no-show. I call her. She's at the dentist with her daughter. I adamantly tell her we have an appointment. She leaves her daughter in the dentist chair and rushes over to sign us off on being safe adoptive parents. She also forgot some paperwork and later called telling me I needed to bring it to her. All this to adopt.)
Back to the story. We would go as far with the adoption process as we could without sinking too much money in while we "tried". And while we tried, we got more discouraged that it wasn't happening... especially since our hearts weren't 100% invested in a biological birth in the first place.
Each month our hearts fell back to adoption... and the cost. And more frustration. And maybe we should pay for some fertility treatments? But then that money could go towards adoption. It was a conflicting several months. One of many rounds of conflicting months. Were we being selfish wanting to adopt? Were we being impatient by not "trying" longer? Are our friends and family being supportive to be supportive? Are they opposed to adoption? We are open to all races and nationalities, will they be? In the end, we did one month of the very basic of fertility treatments but said, "After this, lets answer our heart and put all our effort to adoption."
Maybe it was Bella our pound dog pit bull that convinced us? Maybe it was the Cabbage Patch kids my sister had? Or, again was it all of the kids in the city that we see that need a stable, inviting home from which to grow. We didn't have all the answers but we did know that adopting domestically held our interest. By doing so we could be closer to the birth family, we could pick and be picked rather than being matched and we could be a part of the pregnancy and tell our child we were there from the beginning. This, we knew was our route. Everyone has their own reasons but it was this extra bit of personal touch we wanted. We wanted our child's history to be our history as much as ours will be theirs.
We decided it was time to commit to adoption, pending the results from our one and only IUI procedure. This was the one round of fertility treatment we tried. (That, in itself is a story!) On the day we waited for the call from the nurse, the day that would be the decision point for our family planning, we got a call from someone Ms. Stork knew from working at the school who had a friend who had a daughter who was pregnant and considering adoption. This was before the news from the nurse saying the pregnancy test was negative... a sign?
We arranged a meeting within days of that phone call. It was like an awkward blind date. We decided on a restaurant and got there early. We eyed up the bellies of all the women that walked in. Could that be her?
During dinner, she brought her 2 year old son along and naturally we kept an eye on him thinking we were getting a peak at our future.
We liked what we saw and decided to move forward. Cautiously! There was still much to be done and much to learn. Each step was another decision point.
While waiting for the first round of medical history. "This will help us decide if we move along."
We got the social history survey. "Now we will know"
We got background checks.
The sonograms were like a try before you buy product. A peek under the tree at the Christmas gifts.
Each of these decision points reassured us enough to move to the next step.
In a private adoption, we the adoptive parents hire a lawyer to represent the birth mothers interests and one to represent ours. They gather medical history and social backgrounds and take care of the logistics involved. Unlike what we had gathered about agency adoptions, in this scenario we would be able to learn as much or as little as we wanted. If no parties were opposed, we could be as involved as we liked. It was a struggle at first. How much do you want to know. If you know too much, will you blame it on that if the baby is colicky? If you know too little, will you always wonder what each cry means?
Since that first meeting, we've taken the birth mom to all her doctors appointments and ensured she has the resources she needs during her pregnancy. All the while, she has learned about us and appears relieved knowing the baby will be placed in a great home with caring parents. At that first meeting at the restaurant we gave her and her family a photo DVD or our life showing them who we are and why we are a good match for them.
So when you see us and talk to us... know this. Adopting isn't a Plan B. It's just one of many routes to starting a family. The hardest thing about the process is trying to be excited while cautious and allowing those around us to share the same excitement we do. There are still a few hurdles. While everything is in order... it's not a done deal. Both parties can still back out and by Maryland law, the birth mom has until 30 days after birth to regain custody. Don't expect any baby showers until after then!
Our sons due date is January 9th, 2010.