This is the twentieth post of "30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days," a series designed to give a voice to people with widely varying experiences, including birthparents, adoptees, adoptive parents, foster parents, waiting adoptive parents and others touched by adoption.
How Can We Convince Her We Are THE ONES?
Written by Sheila Quirke for Portrait of an Adoption
Last month we had our home visit. A social worker that we have told our deepest (pretty shallow), darkest (more like dusk) family secrets to dropped by for a visit to see our home and meet our son. Her mission? To verify that we are suitable to become adoptive parents. Our mission? To welcome her.
Adoption, we are learning, is an odd process. At times wrenching, at times bureaucratic, at times frustrating, at times enlightening, at times just plain intrusive. It is a jumble of all these things that we hope, are choosing to hope, will lead us to a child, our child. My Dad has always said that birth is a miracle. Adoption, I think, is too.
The next stage for us is to create our profile, our family marketing plan, if you will. It is this profile, we are told, that will attract our birth mom or birth family. This profile is our best tool to find the proverbial needle in a haystack –- a birth mom who believes we are capable of parenting her child in a way she cannot. This is beyond humbling and mythic in its emotional proportions.
Part of this profile we create will be a letter to potential birth moms. While I have crafted this letter for months in my head, as the time nears to actually draft it, I begin to quake in my boots a bit. What do we say? How can we convince her we are THE ONES?
The truth I am coming to embrace is that we can’t.
If we work too hard to create the perfect letter, the most convincing letter, that is almost a perfect guarantee that it will be the wrong letter. As we move forward in this adoption process and think harder about how our child will come to us and us to him/her, placing too much emphasis on any one thing, on the marketing of our family, feels like misplaced efforts.
On the deepest of levels, I feel our child is out there, perhaps already conceived, growing in her mama’s belly, perhaps yet to be conceived, but still out there. She will find us, he will find us. Knowing as many families as we do that have grown through adoption, I have seen time and time again that this is what happens –- we find our children and our children find us. Even when those children grow in another woman’s womb. It is utterly complicated and completely simple all at the same time.
It’s a bit pie in the sky, isn’t it? And yet, it’s what I believe and need to have faith in during this process.
As another part of our adoption preparation, we have been through quite a few trainings in recent weeks, some better than others, though all thought provoking. Topics have included transracial adoption, substance abuse in pregnancy, the birth parent perspective, and the adult adoptee perspective.
One was especially disheartening to me as a young couple, both 18, discussed how they selected a family for their child. They went out to dinner and created a list of wishes for their child: young parents, religious parents, single family home parents, first time parents, etc. My husband and I would have struck out on every single item on that parental wish list.
At 42, we seem old to teenagers. We’re not religious. We live in a condo, not a single family home, so it doesn’t necessarily matter that we have 3,200 square feet. It’s a condo, not a house, and it lacks a yard. And not only do we already have a child, he is our biological child who looks exactly like his Dad. Oh, yes, and there is our daughter who is buried. Sigh. These are the difficult times, when I think about how we look on paper.
What I must trust is how we function as a family. We are two adults who have been through both the best and worst of times, together. Remarkably, we are as in love today as the day we first uttered those words to one another, way back in 1996. We know how to parent –- we can identify both our strengths and our weaknesses –- and are grateful that those strengths and weaknesses complement one another. Parenting in Cancerville taught us that we have the chops, you know?
When I focus on that –- what I know about us, it is easy to have faith that our child will find us. If I focus on convincing someone of that, I get anxious and fidgety, which brings me back to our home visit. Our home is a tidy one, for the most part, but there I was the day before the visit, working hard dusting baseboards and trying to keep a lid on the chaos a three year old creates.
An hour or so before the social worker was set to arrive, it struck me that she needed muffins. Fresh muffins, warm from our oven, made from the blueberries we had picked together as a family in August muffins. Well, I still hadn’t showered, and thought that a clean me was more important than a warm muffin, so dropped the idea. But out of the shower, I kept thinking that of course our social worker needed something to eat. She was a guest in our home, wasn’t she? Why wouldn’t we offer her what we would offer any other guest? The clock was ticking, though, so brownie mix would have to suffice. She remarked on how nice the house smelled as she walked in. I beamed.
As we sat down for some forms and paper work, my husband brought out a plate of brownies. That’s inaccurate; it was more like a heap of steaming brownie. Having cut them fresh from the oven, they were nothing more than a pile of cakey chocolate. I laughed. We all laughed. You had to. It was all so hilarious. Here we are, trying our best to impress, and instead, we are serving what looked like something that had been picked up from the floor (even though that floor was spotless).
Those brownies are a pretty great metaphor for our family. We don’t always look as we should on the outside –- one of us is missing and we have more gray and wrinkles than we should –- but we are still warm and soothing. Where it matters, we are just right.
My hope is that we can approach this next phase of adoption with the grace that we have met every other parenting challenge that has faced us –- with confidence, and comfort, and chocolate. Wish us luck.
Portrait of an Adoption is hosted by Carrie Goldman, author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear. If you have a story you would like to submit as a candidate for next year's series, please email it to her at email@example.com.