For a few years, during our second adoption process, I chose to step back from writing temporarily.
To go off the radar awhile. I was tired, deeply weary, of having to defend and explain my choices and decisions at every turn to everyone.
After many years of intense examination and scrutiny, I wanted to live a more private life. Although I share a lot when I write and occasionally on social media, I am always in control of what I share and therein lies the difference.
I think sometimes people find it difficult to understand that going through an adoption process shines a spotlight into every area of one’s life. Areas we haven’t thought about in years. Details we’d rather have kept private. Choices we aren’t proud of, choices we are.
As prospective adoptive parents, we are allowed to keep nothing for ourselves.
The gritty details and realities of our marriages are laid bare, written down, and passed along through the ranks where they will be read by numerous discerning people who know us only by what they will read in the reports.
There are questions like: How often do you fight? What about? In what ways do you fight? Slam doors? Yell? What do you wish you could change about your spouse? What does he/she do that exasperates you?
Then there the details of our lives before marriage. Our childhoods. Education. Moral and religious beliefs. Family histories. Prior relationships. Everything is held up to the light for closer inspection. A professional person often meeting the hopeful adoptive parent for the first time, holding a pen and a clipboard, asking questions that really translate to: Are you worthy? Are you good enough? Are you fit to be a parent?
Until we no longer really know. We just sit there, smiling desperately at these people with all the power and hope they think we are good enough to do this thing that most other people are able to do without much prior consideration.
The fact is that after years of interviews with people from child services, lawyers, doctors and psychologists all watching our faces for signs of discomfort as we speak, all examining body language, the way we communicate with our partner, choice of clothing (yes, this was actually in one of our psychological evaluations), it is natural to begin to feel uncertain of oneself and ones abilities in a way many parents never do.
Biological parents are not asked to justify their desire to have a child. As prospective adoptive parents, we are asked to justify this desire.
Why do you want to have a child? And our answer must not be selfish, it mustn’t be anything along the lines of just longing for a child. Nothing that simple. I invite you to consider this for a moment.
What answer could a person possibly give that would hold up in court? Because in the case of adoptive parents, the answer we give actually must hold up in court.
I don’t believe biological parents should be asked to justify their decision to have a child so please don’t misunderstand me. I sometimes do think though about how different it would be if everyone had to do this. If before having a child, people had to be interviewed extensively for years. Anticipating every scenario. Planning a course of action for everything that could possibly go wrong in a child’s life and always aware that someone out there who didn’t know you at all, had the power to say no, this will never happen for you based on any number of reasons.
I read a book about adoption explaining that on paper, in order to be allowed to adopt, one must be perfect. A supermom.
We are expected to know exactly what we would do as a parent long before we ever are actually parents. We must ace the test. Be perfect on paper, perfect in theory. But how can anybody ever be that perfect in reality?
So when the reality of motherhood (or parenthood) is presented to us and we naturally, are not perfect, we feel intense guilt because we promised we would be better than we are, we begged for this chance to be a parent. We fought and fought and fought for it.
The pressure we can put on ourselves is immense and although many people are not aware of this, post-adoption depression is common as reality sets in and life with an adopted child is often not as picturesque or perfect as we’ve been led to expect and as we see that it is impossible to be as perfect as we have hoped to be.
I am under no illusion that I am perfect. I am simply trying to explain the way that one’s confidence can be undermined and the way this can make a person wary of scrutiny and more defensive than one otherwise might have been.
It can take a long time to recover and to get one’s confidence back. To stop feeling desperate and defensive. To stop feeling what we had to prove ourselves worthy for years of having, could be taken from us in the blink of an eye. It can take a long time to regain a sense of normalcy after adoption. It can take a long time to accept the fact that adoptive or not, we are just parents. Imperfect people who also make mistakes and fail and get some things wrong and some things right.
Adoptive parents need grace too. Understanding that we are both worthy and not worthy. Just like any other parent out there.