We are adopting a girl. That’s a major-mondo-ginormous decision, and yet I haven’t even blogged a fair amount with a just explanation for you. It’s not that I don’t want to (come on, have I ever held out on you?!), and it’s not that I don’t have enough words (I’ve too many, as a matter of fact), it’s just a bit of a daunting and time-consuming task right now. September is THE most stressful month of the year (at least so far…) what with school starting up, music classes going again, all activities getting underway. As a perpetual student and/or teacher, I’ve always thought in terms of school year. Not this January 1st-December 31st business; that’s for ‘normal’ people. We the academics, think from September-June, thank you very much. So, I guess it is fitting that September – always feeling like an exciting/stressful time of new beginnings, new lunch boxes and sharpened pencils – should also be the month that Mike and I start this enormous process of adopting. And this bloggo explanation is part of that process!
As you know, we’ve successfully made two of the most freakishly handsome, genius-type boy children ever. We’ve done a great job…except that I’m not so good at the pregnancy part. My uterus is a selfish mothuh and not willing to give these boys a cozy resting place for as long as they need. Whilst in the hospital on bed rest, ‘Dr. Doom’ came to check on me – as he occasionally did. He strutted his British Behind in way-too-tight black pants, pushed up the sleeves of his black turtleneck and flipped his floppy, beautifully conditioned hair.
“You should not have any more children,” he said calmly like he really just muttered something as mundane as ‘It’s windy outside.’ “Every baby you have,” he continued, “will be early. We don’t know why you have preterm labor and we don’t know how to stop it. And typically with this pattern, each child tries to come a little earlier than the last. We usually see the preterm labor occurring two weeks earlier or more than the previous kid. Matthew was born at 35 weeks. With Zachary, here, you’ve gone into preterm labor at 28 weeks. You’ve said you have multiples as a trend on both sides of both families – twins, triplets. I just, quite frankly, don’t even want to think of that pregnancy.”
Well, at the time, I was so looped up on preterm labor-stopping drugs that all I could do was cry. I haven’t even given birth to my second child yet and you’re already saying that this is it! We didn’t necessarily have plans to go make 12 Catholic babies, but I didn’t want to be told by Dr. Doom that I had to be done either. So, the next step was denial. Maybe we should make it our mission to prove Dr. Doom wrong. Maybe I DO want five months of bed rest so I can finally write some award-winning books and get published. Maybe I could be the first music teacher to teach classes from…my…bed…or couch. OK, maybe not on that one.
But then the Post Partum Depression hit. And it hit again. And again. It rolled in like waves hitting the sand on a windy day at the Pacific – unrelenting, without any indication of potential end because just went things calmed down a bit and you think ‘OK, I’m getting better, I can handle this’ another dark moment of tumultuous pain and despair washes over you. So, then my other doctor (my primary physician) said, “You really shouldn’t have any more babies.” And then my normal OB/GYN said, “We loved having you in the hospital because you were so upbeat [um, cried everyday, but if you say so!], and we all miss you, but I think Zach should be your last…You’d be a great family for adopting! And then you could add a girl to your group!”
So, every doctor told me, “Uh, yeah, sorry, no more. Don’t do it.” But every bit of my tantrum-throwing-stomping-the-ground-with-hands-on-hips body said, “But I don’t WANNA be done!”
A lot of thought, a lot of prayer and the decision is adoption; adoption which – for the record – I’ve wanted to do since high school. I’ve thought about adoption ever since seeing that first Oprah about the condition of girls in orphanages in China. Now, it’s taken Mike more time to get on the adoption train, but I’m so happy to say – and praise God! – that he was the one who made it leave the station! (The, uh, adoption train station from which the figurative adoption train departs the figurative adoption station…to clarify).
Initially, I was thinking International adoption – it’s just what I’ve always wanted to do, and I figured that I could be like everyone else and just go get my daughter from China or Taiwan. (Please note: I’m not knocking ANY kind of adoption here, I’m just explaining how we came to our choice. There is no such thing as a superior way/place of adoption…it just varies depending on what’s right for each adoptive family or couple or person.) The more I looked into the Int’l route, the more I saw the trend that it’s become – countries see that they can make money playing with people’s emotions, and when it comes to wanting children most people stop at nothing to make it happen. So, International adoption has become, by far, one of the most expensive, time-consuming, wait-intensive (and potentially frustrating) ways to adopt…not to mention the travel time and expense and being away from our kids. So, I had to adjust my thinking. Plus, I realized, why would we go abroad when there are babies right here in the U.S.?!
But then, we saw just how expensive Domestic Adoption is if you’re very picky – one place would even make us pay a $6000 “Gender Specificity Fee” for requesting a girl. But we eventually found a more affordable option (though, still QUITE pricey) that offered major discounts and incentives (it’s like buying a car, for crying out loud!) if you were open to adopting babies of any race. And there’s such a need for it – they have an average wait time of 3-9 months which is ridiculously short for adoption! Apparently, there’s a huge need for multi-racial and African American infant adoption in this country…so much so that they have to offer huge financial motivation which just breaks my heart. I can’t understand why people are adopting older babies abroad when they could get a healthy infant from Day One right here. And it seems that when people are adopting here they’re typically opting for Caucasian babies who come with a $23000-40000 price tag and an 18 month-5 year wait time. Yes, race does have a price. (Again, I’m not saying this is bad. All adoption is good. It just varies greatly per family).
But still daunted by the price and frustrated by the idea that we – a family who could give a loving, safe home to a child who needs it – feel like this goal is practically impossible; I began looking for even more affordable means. That’s when I found Amara – an agency in Seattle that does adoption of babies relinquished directly to them or foster-to-adopt infants and children. I’d actually read about Amara and considered attending an information night but it was the same night as our Anniversary, and then I’d forgotten about it. A couple weeks later, at book club, complaining to the girls about the price of this process, my friend Molly mentioned Amara and brought it back to my attention.
So, again, after hearing about Amara’s program I was struck by the same kind of question: why would we look Internationally OR Nationally when there are babies and children right here in the Northwest who need a home? Now, one thing that’s different about Amara is, because there is a chance that our daughter will be coming out of foster care (though she’ll still be little – under the age of 2), we do have to do all of the classes and preparing to be foster licensed – a very involved process! We’re just starting the home study now. My guess/goal is that we’ll be licensed by January 1st. We need to be ‘ready to go’ (like the boys moved into one room, have the baby’s room ready, crib and car seat set-up) on day one and then we wait. Their ever-so-specific wait time is two days to two years. Obviously, most people fall in the middle of that and the majority wait closer to nine months.
At the end of last week, we received all of our paperwork for the home study part of which is 16 pages of questions for each of us to do an autobiography! Some of my writing time will have to be spent doing that. But Ha! 16 pages?! Are we limited to that?! While I’m excited and contemplating turning my adoption home study into personal memoirs (did they even KNOW what they were getting themselves into with me?!), Mike is wondering how he’ll find 16 words to use let alone fill 16+ pages. Good times!
Through this whole process I’ve had to continue to change the way I think about things. I won’t be giving birth to our third child. She won’t be the little dark, curly-haired girl I always pictured (or maybe she will be, she just wouldn’t be taking after me). We won’t have her from day one and we won’t get to name her (at least not until we legally adopt her which typically takes 6 months at which point, we could decide to change her name). But despite all of those things being different than how I always imagined, and no matter where she is right now or who she is, she won’t be any less ‘ours’ than either of our boys.