Sunday, May 22, 2011

Not Taking It Personally

Photo: www.fost-adopt.adoptionblogs.com

I'm emotional. I'm a wuss, basically. And I like for people to like me. :/

So, going through the adoption process was DIFFICULT for my poor little ole personality.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, but it's been hard for me to express it all or make it concise or logical... That makes it hard for me to even begin writing.

Blah.

So, I'm just going to write. And see what happens. ... I'm pretty sure it's going to be a novel:

The way we decided to do adoption (because there are tons of ways to pursue it) is set up in such a way that the birth parents have all the power. They can choose who they want to be the parents of their child by going through profiles of couples/families hoping to adopt. And those wanting to adopt can range from hopeful to desperate, depending on how long they've been waiting to adopt or how long they've been trying to have kids in general or how many times they've had failed placements/adoptions. So, some couples feel like they have to win over and impress the birth parents, appearing as "perfect" as possible, throwing themselves at their feet, being at their mercy... just so they can get a baby. It's like dangling a carrot, when at any point in time (up until birth and even some time after, depending on the state's laws) the birth parents can change their mind (and give the carrot to somebody else, or just keep the carrot for themselves).

We wanted to do adoption this way for a few reasons. One, we don't feel like we're ready to "save" a child from dire circumstances, which is the case in a lot of international or foster care adoptions. I don't know if that makes sense, but we wanted to do it in a way where we could avoid prior emotional problems, attachment issues, abuse, etc. At least at first, I don't think we're strong enough to handle that and to give a child under really bad circumstances the kind of attention and care he/she would need. Two, we wanted to be able to tell our child that his birth mother loved him so very much and made the choice for adoption out of love. That's a much gentler way to explain adoption to a child, I think. Again, when we're ready to handle harder situations, I think we can move on to adopting through foster care (which in a lot of cases reeks of neglect rather than love, and not too much choice goes into the matter when parents just can't take care of the child and he/she is taken away from them). That will just be harder and more painful to explain. :( And three, we wanted an open adoption. For the child's sake, knowing his/her birth parents and having a connection with them can be healthy and healing on all sides.

So we went the route of adopting a healthy newborn in an open, domestic adoption. But with it comes a price in that you no longer have much choice about when you will get to adopt or from whom. You just have to wait and then be at the mercy of birth parents and however their decision-making goes. (I'm not saying any of this is bad - I definitely think that birth parents, birth mothers in particular, should have the right to choose whatever they think is best for their baby on their own timetable and they should have the right to choose to change their mind during the state-appointed time periods... I'm just saying it's hard for adoptive couples to feel so powerless.)

With the first birth mother we talked with, I was sooo hopeful. I got excited way too fast and fell in love with the birth mother and her yet-to-be-born little girl as soon as we met her. The birth mother was very beautiful and smart and funny. We met her and then the birth father and then her family. Things were going well, so I thought (and so our caseworker thought). We heard the magical words (words that give a feeling that must be similar to seeing a positive sign on a pregnancy test, I'm sure) that if she went with adoption, it was safe to say she wanted us to be the parents.

And then... things fizzled. I don't know why. She didn't talk to us much about her decision-making and the pros and cons she was facing. She didn't owe us anything, but I felt robbed of something. I hated being out of the loop. Zay kept saying, "I think she's going to parent." The holidays came around and plans fell through to meet with her again. She didn't want to be pressured or given a deadline. We were at her mercy, for sure. And though we definitely were not desperate, we were a little downtrodden about the whole process. And in general it makes you feel like you're supposed to be doing something more than just being yourselves. Like, "What do we do now?"... "What did we do wrong?"... "Are we not good enough?"... The pressure is very apparent and I hated it. I just wanted to stop fReAkInG oUt and be normal, for crying out loud. We kept being honest with her, gave her space, and didn't put on a front. We were willing to meet with her if she wanted, but we left everything up to her. And that was hard.

She decided to parent. I don't know when that decision occurred, because I don't think there was a given moment in which the decision happened... and she didn't communicate this to us until after the decision had been made (actually, she never really came right out and said it)... and there was so much else going on with the next 2 birth mothers who contacted us. Something about all this just rubbed me the wrong way. I hated the lack of communication. I hated that I got emotionally invested and it was ripped out from under me. I hated not having control. I hated the feeling that we were somehow competing with who would be the better parents - her vs Zay & me. I hated that things weren't going smoothly, when I knew one of the issues Zay had with adoption in the beginning was that someone could tell us "no"... I worried that he'd back out if things didn't work out soon. I got sad and angry. And I took her decision and lack of communication personal.

We moved on with the girl who ended up being the birth mother to our gorgeous son Kal... but I didn't easily let the thoughts go about that precious baby girl who was born a month before Kal. It was a struggle for me. The mother even texted me a picture of her after she was born. I couldn't understand why she would do that. It hurt so bad. I was at work and one of my co-workers was like, "Yeah - that's like you're starving and she sent you a picture of food. 'Remember when I was going to give you this food? Well, sike!'" I laughed, but I was devastated because we still didn't have a child in our arms at that point. Zay didn't want to look at any pictures at all, so he avoided it. I kept thinking, "Was there something else we could've done? Is there still something we could do? Why did she consider adoption and then decide against it?"

Wow, I didn't know we were going to be so fragile. But with adoption and parenthood, your heart is just so open and vulnerable. We had no clue what we were getting ourselves into. Zay kind of blocked it all out. But everything just hurt my feelings and made me angry. At who or what - I don't know. It's definitely all emotional, though. Because when I think about it logically, I know that we didn't do anything "wrong"... unless being too honest and too patient weren't the smart things to do. I also know that adoption is not something every young pregnant girl should turn to, and the fact that she considered it as an option and then decided against it shows how smart and loving she really is (how many girls actually consider all their options and think it through??). It was her decision to make, not ours. I also know that we wouldn't have Kal right now had she been more decisive or if the timing had been a little different. I am so grateful for that. I also know that the 2nd birth mother who wanted to talk to us turned out to have been a scammer (getting money and using services from multiple agencies at once) and was trying to put her baby up for adoption against the will of the birth father. Drama we really didn't need! Because we were waiting for a decision from this first birth mother, we missed out on communicating with this scammer... I am so grateful for that.

Things worked out the way they were supposed to, and some of those reasons are really evident after the fact. I know I learned a lot of lessons (like, actually really learning that the race of my children doesn't matter - I had a difficult discussion with myself about my "preferences" and why I feel a certain way towards one race vs. another). I also know that we needed to have some disappointment in order to know what the joy would feel like. And I know some of my limits now and some of the boundaries I want to have in the future - I don't want to meet birth parents right off the bat, because once I meet them that's it... I know I'll have a hard time letting go. And I don't want to share our personal contact information on our profile, because I'd rather they go through our caseworker if they're really serious about it. I'll be more careful with Facebook befriending and blog sharing, just because it's hard to see pictures of the baby that could've been ours and I'd like to be a little more uncensored in my thoughts on my blog without worrying that I'm offending anyone. Even now, the "wrong" people could be reading this and I've just got to stop caring and be honest.

The whole thing was a great learning experience for many, many reasons (but nobody likes learning experiences as they're going through them). Talking about this has helped me move on and process all the negative emotions I've felt up until recently. It bothered me that I got so angry, especially since I didn't know where to direct my anger or pinpoint the source (it was a lot of things combining at once), but I know it's normal and I'm not going to beat myself up about it. I'll just be better prepared next time to not take it personally. If it was an easy decision and if all girls just placed their babies for adoption with the first couple that they liked, adoption would be a pretty shallow and heartless institution. I'm so glad it's not.





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