Wednesday, July 24, 2013

After a Failed Adoption: Things We'll Do Differently

I'm still learning. I want to adopt ethically. I don't want to feel like I coerced someone into following through with an adoption plan when it wasn't really what she wanted to do... if she would come to regret it later.

It's hard to know if an expectant mother who is making an adoption plan for her child is really sure about her decision or not. Even if she says she is. Making a plan for a child who isn't born yet is tricky. A lot of emotion is involved. A complicated set of circumstances that brought her to adoption can make decision-making tough. It's not a black and white choice. Very, very gray. What brought one woman to an adoption decision may not mean anything to another. It's all very personal and for a lot of women includes a lot of spiritual struggling, prayers, and tears.

Hypothetically speaking...

Even with what she thinks is a spiritual confirmation of her adoption choice...
...even if she thinks she's certain that this is the best thing for him...
 ...even if she has a laundry list of reasons why adoption makes sense...
...even when she voluntarily goes to an adoption agency and selects a waiting family for her unborn child because she's so sure...

Even after the comfort of meeting an adoptive family and thinking, "They would be so perfect for my son."

Even when she thinks she's certain... she may not be. Maybe she's just too young to know any better and is trusting the adults around her to help her make these decisions rather than listening to herself.

As time goes on, things could change. Her circumstances may suddenly - unexpectedly - drastically change for the better. Then closer to the birth, the reasons she had for her adoption plan might begin to unravel. She begins to have second thoughts about it and now it all doesn't seem so certain, but she doesn't want to hurt anyone. Time passes and she doesn't speak up. She has the baby and it hits her that the reasons she had for placing her child for adoption aren't as big of hurdles as she thought. Maybe she's in a healthy relationship now. Maybe she just got a job that could provide for her family better than she could have imagined before. Maybe she didn't feel attached to her son while she was pregnant, but now that bond is so strong she could never imagine breaking it. Maybe she thought her family wouldn't support her in keeping him... or thought they wouldn't care if she placed him for adoption... but they do. Maybe her reasons for adoption just weren't good enough.

Meanwhile, maybe the hopeful adoptive couple called her son theirs. Maybe they threw a baby shower and showed the expectant mom all the pictures and gifts from that wonderful day. Maybe they named her baby. Maybe they told her how much it would mean to them to be at every single doctor's appointment and in the delivery room, so she didn't let them down and invited them. Maybe they told her all about their infertility and how hard a road it's been to finally be able to adopt a child. In her heart she knew the adoption shouldn't happen, but she goes through with it because that was the plan. Because the adoptive parents had staked claim over her child already. Because her adoption counselor told her it would be a terribly selfish choice to parent her child. So she goes through with it. And she regrets it every day of her life.

Ugh. You see what I mean? It's hard to be excited, but not be excited. Because as an adoptive mom, my excitement comes from someone else's pain. Even under the best of adoption circumstances, it's still a hard thing to place your baby with someone else. And I don't know if I could forgive myself if I contributed to someone doing something so life-changing when it wasn't the right choice for her or really what she thought was best for the child.

This wasn't our story. I'm just thinking out loud. But I'm glad D changed her mind about adoption and didn't go through with something that she obviously felt wasn't the best choice. Even though people we know are saying, "She shouldn't have dragged you guys into this," I am not angry with her about her change of plans. That is her right as a mother. And I am not in her shoes and do not know how it feels to face what she's facing. I wish she would've told us how she was feeling, but I guess she felt like she couldn't.

We were excited for that last match. We were excited for another son. And that could've clouded our judgement. It may have. I'm sure I said something I shouldn't have at some point along the way. And I know on my blog I totally staked claim over someone else's child - we did name him, we did plan for him - but I tried not to do that while talking to the expectant mother. I wanted her to know we were excited and would love him so much, but I also wanted her to know that we wanted her to disregard our feelings when she was making decisions about what was best for her son. Because I didn't want her to feel guilt-tripped into going through with it if she ever had second thoughts.

I got so excited on this blog, because I want to be excited. I want to have a countdown. I want to have something to look forward to. Like pregnant women do. I think I'm still dealing with some lingering infertility struggles, because when I get to know an expectant mom who wants to place a child with us... I want to know all about her pregnancy, I want to be there in the delivery room when the baby is born, I want to be involved as if it were me having a baby. But that's not what adoption is. And I've gotta learn that my excitement has to take a backseat.

After this failed adoption, all the baby hungriness got beaten out of me. All the feelings of wanting to be involved in the pregnancy and birth, gone. It's not my right. I have no right to be involved in any of that. That's sacred time for the expectant mother.

In the future, there are a few things I want us to do differently or better:
  • We won't accept a match just because we were matched or because an expectant mother says we're the ones she wants to parent her child. If it doesn't feel comfortable, we will walk away. Rather than just trying to make the best of whatever match we get just because we want a baby so badly or because it's hard to say 'no' when a child is involved. If adoption is the right answer, she will find the right family... and it may not be us.
  • One criteria we'll include in deciding whether to accept a match is how far along the expectant mother is. We accepted this last match when the expectant mother was about 30 weeks along. That was way too early. Way, way too early for us. Too much time to agonize and wait and worry and get attached. Too stressful. Not fair to the expectant mom who may think she wants to or should pick a family by then, but who really doesn't need to do so that early on. I'm thinking closer to 36 weeks. The later the better. I'd actually prefer she went through her whole pregnancy, had the baby, spent that first couple days with him, picked a family (and a couple backup families) from the agency's waiting family profiles, signed the relinquishment papers, and then had her adoption caseworker contact her preferred family to see if it's a good fit for them. I'd handle that kind of phone call better than the "She's 16 weeks along and says you guys are the ones!" kind of phone call.
  • If we are matched with an expectant mom and we're spending a little time getting to know each other, I want to make sure she knows how to contact us to let us know if she's having second thoughts. And that it's 100% okay that she could change her mind about her adoption plan at any point, but that she should tell us immediately or her caseworker or lawyer or somebody so that we're not left in the dark. And that it wouldn't hurt our feelings. We'd be so, so, so happy that she was just honest with us. Honesty and communication are all we care about in this process. That makes everything so much easier. The right situation will work out. So, just be honest!
  • We will make sure to ask the expectant mom exactly how she wants the hospital experience to go, and not assume we get to be there. She may not feel comfortable with that. That may be imposing. In fact, I want to tell her how we feel about those first moments being sacred time for her.
  • Driving across the country to be told "nevermind" was absolutely a slap in the face. I would rather relinquishment papers already be signed before we go anywhere. Especially if it's out-of-state. Especially if it's 1,800 miles away!!!
  • We'll be extra vigilant in not being presumptuous with the expectant mom. Even if she calls him our son, he's not. So we can't take that liberty and call him "ours." I'm not sure sharing baby names is a good idea. D asked us what his name was going to be and we told her. I'm not sure we should've done that. We can't think for even one second that he is our child, not until she signs the relinquishment papers. No matter what she says, no matter how certain she says she is, no matter what she shares with us - ultrasound pictures, whatever. He's still not our child until she signs relinquishment papers and the adoption is finalized. No baby showers. No announcements. Just patience. Celebrating can wait.
I think it might be easier to follow these guidelines now. Our paperwork is all complete. All our new baby stuff is set up and ready to use. So, we don't need anymore prep time. We are ready for a baby. We were ready for a baby when the adoption fell through. If we got a call today about a baby that was born and needed a home, it would be an easy transition. We also know what it feels like to wait 2 1/2 months for a baby that wasn't ours, so we won't do that again. We know what it feels like to travel for nothing, so we won't do that again. We know what it feels like to let people know about our adoption plans and have them fall through, so we won't do that again (except with my good friends who I tell everything to, ha ha). 

I think we learned so many good lessons from this failed adoption. I remember telling Zay on the way to Louisiana, "There are so many hard lessons we could learn from this if it doesn't work out... But I don't want to learn any of them." And then we were forced to.

Loving on the one miracle we do have. :)

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