I used to be one of those people who said, “Oh, if I can’t have biological children/once I can’t have any more biological children, I’ll just adopt.” I knew for years that with my Marfan body I couldn’t just have as many kids as I would want, and I knew people who had adopted children and it just seemed…simple I guess? You fill out a bunch of forms, wait, get picked, raise your child knowing they’re adopted, and if they want, help them find their birth parents some day.
In college I started learning about open adoption, which is still relatively new, and it seemed too weird to me. As time went on though, as Mark and I were married and seriously looking at all types of adoption, I came to love and believe in the idea of open adoption: forging a relationship with our child’s first parents and including them in our family, so that our child would always know his/her roots.
When we started this process about 18 months ago, I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Now, 3 weeks shy of a year of waiting, I’d say it was difficult to predict the emotions I have had/am having.
One thing I can unequivocally say is that there is no “just” about adopting.
There was a lack of control with my pregnancies, thanks to Marfan. I mean, we couldn’t just decide to get pregnant like other people do. I had to ask my cardiologist, my orthopedist, the maternal fetal medicine specialist, and the geneticist. I didn’t choose my doctors or my hospital because I needed to follow the specialists. I didn’t choose my method of delivery or who was with me, either. But, once I made it through the first trimester, I could be reasonably confident of ending up with a baby at the end of the process. I might need additional medical interventions along the way or I might not, but likely I’d have my baby.
With domestic infant adoption (or any type of adoption, but especially this type), this isn’t the case. You can get clearance to adopt, you can wait, you can put yourself out there in online profiles through your agency or privately paid, Facebook pages, blogs, pass along cards, and advertisements, but there is no guarantee you will ever adopt a baby.
So every day, multiple times a day, you find yourself checking your email to see if you’ve gotten The Email. You check your profile stats too often just to have some tangible proof that someone, somewhere, has read your profile. You maintain an adoption blog and hope someone reads it. You feel guilty ever praying for a baby, because in order for that to happen, a woman must make the heartbreaking decision to not parent her child. You ask yourself if you’re ready to accept the complexities of an open adoption relationship, one where your child will know two mothers. You feel a little funny planning your calendar far in advance because what if you get matched and have to back out of whatever it is you’ve scheduled? You didn’t think they would, but all the pregnancy announcements you hear pain you, because it’s a reminder of what you can’t have.
Some days you do see something in your inbox and your pulse quickens as you rush to read what’s there, only to have it be some ad from Google. Or worse, it looks like The Email you’ve been waiting for, and you correspond with the woman on the other end, only to later realize it was a scam and have your hopes crushed a little more each time. (That was me again this week…simultaneously excited and terrified, emailing back and forth with someone who I came to realize was likely not who they’d led me to believe. That is an awful, draining feeling.) Then, you either quit or give yourself some time to mourn and lick your wounds, and go back to waiting.
All of this isn’t to deter anyone thinking about domestic infant adoption, or to say I wish we weren’t engaged in this process. I still believe that for the family we have right now, this is the best method to try to complete it. However, all these are the reasons I cringe when I see people suggesting/instructing women to “just adopt” instead of going through infertility treatments, using a surrogate or, in the case of the Marfan community, taking the chance of having a baby with Marfan syndrome. There are unique emotions and risks with adoption, and a person/couple should start this process with eyes wide open.