Making the Decision to Adopt
The decision to adopt. Hmm, it started years ago. Pretty much after my second son’s birth. Maybe we’ll adopt our third. Maybe adopt from Asia, so she and I have some similarities. She. I went through two healthy pregnancies and uneventful deliveries. My boys are close in age. My body went through two and a half years of being prenatal, postnatal and back again. I l-o-v-e-d the experiences of having babies. But I did not want to go through it a third time. I just did not have the desire to go through another pregnancy and delivery. I felt blessed that everything had happened normally and in a healthy manner. I was worried about jinxing things.
I did not return to work. I stayed at home with the boys. We moved a few times, packed up our belongings, unpacked, got settled. We went through the milestones– breastfeeding, moms groups, sleep deprivation, weaning, solid foods, crawling, walking, teething, temper tantrums, potty training, setting limits, nightmares. The boys got older. And yet, the thought, the wish, the need did not go away. I did not feel like I was done. One day at the beginning of a school year my son said, “When am I getting a little sister?” I think he was six. He explained that all his friends had one, when was he getting one?
That started the dialogue with my husband. Was it two-way? I had so much to say on the matter. He was no longer gung ho about the idea. All those times we met a family who had adopted and he inquired about the process. All those times he said: we’re going to do that some day. Now, he said he felt our family was complete and we were evenly matched with two boys, why rock the boat? We went through months of talking. I agonized over this. I wanted this so badly. I wanted more kids, I wanted to go through the preschool years again, I wanted a daughter.
We met with a counselor a few times to explore this. He let us each talk. He acknowledged we each had good arguments. He felt his role was to give us scenarios to consider as a way for us to make a decision. I had hoped he would find a way to convince my spouse. I’m sure he felt likewise. The counselor said: consider your ages. How old will you be when she is in middle school. In high school. When she graduates from college. How will you feel about that? Consider that you will have an odd number. You won’t be able to split up the kids — say you take him to soccer practice and you take him to karate. You will need to figure out what to do with all three. Consider the age differences with your boys. They are close in age, she will be years younger. Consider her needs. Will she need a nap, things read to her, help with getting dressed and so forth. These are things your boys no longer need your assistance with. I felt less anxious leaving the sessions. I felt the counselor gave us really good topics to consider and discuss. I still felt uncertain that my spouse would come around.
We kept it private though, never talking openly to others about thoughts on adopting. We went to the beach for a Memorial Day weekend trip. The coast is always colder than I think it’ll be. It was kind of overcast too. I saw many families with children of different ethnic backgrounds. I saw families with three kids. I saw families with daughters. I think I noticed these families more that weekend than I ever did in my life. Is that true? I didn’t want to give up. I was relentless. He and I took a long walk along the beach while the boys tried to fly a kite. He said he didn’t feel different from the way he had before counseling. I was pouty and disappointed. I was teary during the ride home, I looked out the window silently so the boys wouldn’t notice. My spouse was not interested in adding to the family.
A month later was our anniversary and we went out for dinner. He held my hands and said he had thought about our life together, the boys, our home life. He was ready to go through on an adoption. It would be for me and he was willing to do it. I am not a marriage and family counselor, I don’t want to give unsolicited advice like I have all the answers. I don’t. In this case, I really wanted something and I knew this would be more for me. This would be a life long change, not a move elsewhere due to a job change. You could move back. Not a temporary change in finances because one person wants to return to school. Later that person would hopefully return to the work force. Not a change from a no pets to a pet home. This would be lifelong and forever change the dynamics in our family. I knew in my heart and in my mind I wanted this to happen.
Domestic vs. International Adoption
The day after we discussed moving forward with adoption, I was on the internet exploring international adoption. While the boys were in school, I spent h-o-u-r-s viewing websites of adoption agencies. The number of agencies, the countries each agency covered, the different timelines, and the varying financial costs were overwhelming to me. I poured over countless websites of agencies — local, in state, nearby states, and across the States. We narrowed down our search to a few in state agencies that covered Asian adoptions.
Each country had specific guidelines. We reviewed the qualifying requirements. For a number of countries, we were at the older end of the age limit. We had two biological children. With these two factors, already we were not identified as a highly desirable adoptive couple. I felt guilty when thinking about childless couples struggling with infertility. We considered adopting a child with special needs — a child with a medical or emotional condition, a child with a physical impairment. We started sharing our dream with others, talking openly about our desire to adopt and our efforts. We sold our second car to raise funds. Then we were told no.
My husband does not drink, smoke, or use recreational drugs. He makes a decent income as our primary breadwinner. He has a health body mass index. He does take an anti-anxiety medication. We were informed that most Asian countries flat out refuse applicants who were prescribed psychotropic medications for emotional conditions.
We moved onto other areas across the globe. The time lines for several East European countries can run 3-6 years. The costs can easily surpass $30,000 for the required trips, agency fees, and procedure to bring the child to the U.S. A few required multiple trips to their country and lengthy stays. We gave up on international adoption.
I can barely tap into the feelings I experienced during this time. I had already made the decision– non-related to adopting — to leave my part-time job. I started looking for employment but was distracted by my rollercoaster of emotions. Going through the motions of daily life was a challenge. I knew in my heart and in my conscience that I could not let the boys down, I needed to be a supportive, nurturing, available mom to them. I really struggled with my feelings of not having a solution. I was not ready to move on, I felt stuck and helpless. Why did it have to be this way? We are healthy, loving, caring people. Why should we be denied a child? all because my husband is addressing his anxiety? It’s almost as if the agencies and countries were showing a preference for people who have untreated conditions. I viewed my spouse as having a strength for recognizing the need for professional help. His physician wrote a letter noting his symptoms are mild and the stressors directly related to his line of work; the medication addressed insomnia and feeling overly concerned about work deadlines. I don’t want to imagine the number of people who go through life without professional help. To this day I think it is unfair that we were turned down. It is odd to me that adoption agency personnel — professionals in the field of a social service– think it is necessary to deny families on this basis. But all these personal views still did not change my situation. Should we try again for a biological child? I didn’t have a desire to be pregnant and go through a delivery. I did not relish the thoughts of that first year with a newborn. I felt there would be such a drastic age difference with a baby and our older sons. Plus, I wanted a girl.
Whenever I thought about adoption, whenever I examined my interests in and motivations for adoption, I had many reasons. I wanted a young child, not a newborn. I wanted to give a child opportunities and a better lifestyle than what she was born into. I wanted to add a daughter to my family. I was ready to return to being a stay at home parent. I was ready and willing to give to her. We were ready to bring a young child into our household.
A month later, I called the local Department of Human Services. I inquired about adopting from the state foster care system. I was told young children are available– some without medical conditions or physical impairments. I was told the timeline was typically a year. And it was free.
In January we started taking the DHS classes. After three months, we completed the courses and were assigned a home study caseworker. He interviewed us many times and wrote up the home study. By the end of the summer, we were approved and allowed access to the state website of available children. The following Spring, sixteen months after starting the DHS process, we got matched with a young girl.