We sat in front of him, listening to the statistics of why we had a very low chance of conceiving on our own. All we could do was smile. That was it. It was the permission slip we were waiting for. The green light from a fertility doctor, giving us permission to pursue adoption. He gave us the facts about our treatment options and instead, we drove down the street and sat in on an adoption meeting for new adoptive families. Adoption had been on our hearts all along, yet we felt like we had to try everything else first. Like society expected that from us. Like we couldn’t announce our plans to adopt until we had exhausted every other measure. Like adoption was our Plan B.
My heart sank as I watched her walk out of the room. She had birthed this beautiful child and was leaving empty handed. I was completely unprepared for the wave of grief that hit me as I realized this may be the only time we would ever meet. This is adoption.
By the time we met our daughter, we had experienced 3 years of infertility and 1 year of a tumultuous adoption process. Our tender hearts had been shredded with the pain of waiting and felt the dull ache start to erode our hope. It’s common for eroded hope to turn into fear, which is part of our story.
Black, White, Just Right was the first book that I purchased when pregnant with our first baby. I wanted her to know from before she breathed her first breath that who we are as a family and who she is as a biracial child, was more than just right. I’m a Brooklyn girl born of Caribbean immigrant parents and my husband is meat and potatoes Midwestern boy born of farmers. It’s amazing how our love for children, especially those who have a more difficult beginning, brought us together.
She was beautiful. I fell deeper in love the moment the nurse placed her on my belly and I saw her for the first time; all pink and soft and beautiful. Over the next week while she remained with the agency’s foster mom, I visited and held her, committing every bit of her to memory. I told her everything I could, knowing she wouldn’t remember but explaining, nonetheless, about how much I loved her, and how I agonized over the decision to make the adoption plan.
You’re almost ten, dear daughter. In two days, we’ll celebrate another year of life. It seems like only yesterday when we were celebrating your coming into our family.
I remember holding you for the first time, in Ethiopia. I recall the feeling like it was yesterday, your tiny body folded into my arms. I couldn’t imagine what I ever did without you.
At the same time that I held you, I was also holding your birth mother in my heart. I wondered where she was, who she was, how she was. Although, I couldn’t answer the questions swirling around in my mind, I promised to never let her go. Your mother of origin—she would always be a part of us.
Why do I write so transparently about the adoptee experience?
Because I know that there are other adoptees in the world, right now, who feel isolated and are frustrated by this sense of isolation. That’s not to say that these same adoptees are not loved and cherished by their adoptive families, it’s just that adoption—for the adoptee—can feel lonely.
Who do you talk to? Where do you turn? How do you grab hold of emotions and questions that you’ve stuffed way down inside of you and bring them up to the light? Will you still be loved, included, if you do?
Fear of rejection is real for the adoptee. Often, our initial reaction to this fear is to push with all of our might away from the rawest parts of ourselves. Pushing is a protective mechanism for the person of adoption.
Are you really going to share with all these people about your struggles with bonding with your daughter?
When asked to write this blog post, initially, I was so excited for the opportunity but then these questions crept into my mind. I found myself intimidated by my own inexperience and shortcomings. I thought there was nothing in my experience worth reading about.
Reflecting on my life over the last 6 years, some major events have taken place—four houses, three dogs, two children, and complete career changes for me and my husband. There is another significant event that also occurred, yet it is not visible or tangible like the others: a thought shift in how I view open adoptions.
When we began the adoption process almost 7 years ago, I wanted this clear-cut, simple, closed adoption. I longed to be matched with a birth mother who would have a baby, hand him or her over to me sweetly swaddled, and walk out of the hospital without wanting any further contact.I thought that would be the ideal adoption. It would be mess-free, drama-free, and easy to navigate. It would just be our little family of three.
It’s 4 am and I can’t sleep. Tomorrow, our family will go back on the list. Tomorrow, or a day soon after, I will become a mom to a child that I’ve never met. I’ve been here before, tossing and turning, listing in my mind all the things I would be doing to prepare my home for a child if I had the luxury of knowing their age, gender, clothing size, favorite breakfast food…I’ve spent sleepless nights like this before every new placement.
I remember sitting on the couch crying and feeling utterly defeated. I mean I just wanted my kids to wear those cute matching dresses to church. How did I get here? Not on the couch crying over my spoiled efforts, I mean clearly a dress or two doused in Arby’s sauce may not be salvageable. It was more than that, in that moment. I was just plain exhausted. Just over one solid year ago, I was sitting on the same couch in a different house crying over yet another pregnancy lost. No one could tell me why I lost every baby. They did not have to sit in the silence of my childless home. I just wanted to be a mom. Family is very important to me.