Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Beginning of Labor Pains

The modern philosopher Dave Barry once wrote, "If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be "meetings"." And like any undertaking in our modern world, the adoption process starts with a meeting. In this case it is probably a more worthwhile meeting than most, but you think for $300 they could at least provide a sandwich tray.
I kid. It was worthwhile. There were four couples total. Two of them seemed to be in our age bracket and had recently decided on adoption over fertility treatments. The last was a slightly more mature lesbian couple, and God bless them as those lesbians knew the questions to ask. And were good note takers for the group exercises.
The day really centered around dealing with birth parents and expectations. We started with psych 101, Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs. This is when I start to realize that dealing with birth parents was going to be a lot like dealing with 8th graders. They come to the agency on all levels of the hierarchy, just like students come to the classroom on all levels. Some of them will not know where they are sleeping that night. Most will at least feel some security and have at least one person that makes them feel loved.
Then we went into this whole thing where we had to list gains and losses we would experience in the adoption and the gains and loss of a young couple who had placed their child for adoptions. (Big lesson learned: Put up for adoption is no longer a PC term. Apparently it had its origins in the pretty heinous practice of putting orphans on trains and at each stop they would be PUT UP on a crate for people to ogle and decide to adopt or not. There are a lot of other terms that are no long appropriate, such as blood relative is now genetic relative. A mother will decide to parent her child as opposed to keep her child. Stay away from real or natural parents or children.)
So the morning was kind of a lot of touchy feely psychology awareness exercises. I can't say I got any major enlightenment from it, but it was nice to have real discussions with people who are facing the same challenges we are. And we got to know S (I am trying not to use names.), the social worker, more, and I really liked what I got to know. She is definitely an advocate for everyone involved but mostly the children
The one thing that struck me about the morning was a discussion about why birth parents pick adoption in a time when there is really no more stigma attached to children out of wedlock. It comes down to stability. Birth parents do not want chaos for their children. They do not want them to be shuffled around from home to home as the parents can and can't afford different things like rent.
The real meat and potatoes came in the afternoon. First we met H. H is the Holy Grail of a birth parent. She was this 23 year old dynamo (who loved my Vera bag, thank you) of whom I was in awe. I do not think I could have been as strong as she was in her circumstances. In her words, she did not give up her daughter, she gave her daughter a life. Ultimately, when she found out she was pregnant, she decided that she wanted the child to have the life she had grown up with. She wanted to know that her child would have people who could look to her future like H knew she couldn't. Once she decided adoption was the right course for her, she fought fiercely for what she wanted for a child she loves selflessly. And she was faced with a lot of scary things including a doctor who ripped up ultra sound pictures when H asked the sex, because why did she care, she was giving the baby up. When she hadn't felt the baby kick for a while she went to the doctor's and was asked why did she care if the baby was alive or dead. Through all of this she stuck fast to what she wanted. She found a family she felt fit all of the criteria she wanted including allowing her to receive letters and pictures and exchange emails. Her daughter is her baby even if she is somebody else's child.
I am not the most religious person. Despite going to church every week, I have major issues about organized religion. However, one things I really like about the Orthodox church is some of the symbolism. One of these symbols is the candle. Each week Orthodox light candles for various things, and the flame and smoke carry the prayers to Heaven. Each week I light three candles: one for me, one for Wyatt, and one for my future child. I am going to start lighting another one for the hope of a birth mother like H.
Now the FUN really began. I want everyone to think back to every experience you have ever had that required a lot of paperwork, applying to college, HR on the first day of a new job, paying taxes, buying a house or car, applying for teaching certification, etc. OK, now double that number. Add five. That is just about the amount of paperwork we will be dealing with before all is said and done. By the way, that will be at the termination of parental rights hearing which can take place anywhere from 72 hours to a month after the baby is born depending on what state he or she is born in. That, folks who care about this kind of thing, is the time to throw a shower or party. We have a list of 22 documents we have to complete before the social worker comes and does the home study. These include an autobiography of each of us covering everything from childhood to our relationship with our parents to views on openness in adoption. The outline we have to follow while writing the autobiography is 17 points long, including subpoints. There are two questionnaires, each five pages long asking such personal questions as, "Has the doctor given you any hope of having a biological child? If, yes, what led to your decision to stop fertility treatments?" We both have to get a medical form filled out by our doctor. (Though we had to sign another piece of paper stating that we know we can not demand a birth mother gets an HIV test. It's not required. She can only do it voluntarily just like all other prenatal care.) There is a financial statement and verification of employment which must be copied onto company letterhead and signed by the head of HR. Employment history, a copy of our insurance card, and who will receive guardianship of the child should something happen to us, round it out. Oh, wait. We also have to give directions to our house.
The real fun is the background checks, PA State Police Clearance, PA Child Abuse History Clearance, and separate fingerprinting for PA and NJ.
This I think is the closest I will get to labor.
I know that the welfare of a child is the reason for all of this. How could anyone turn over a child to someone who hadn't been this thoroughly checked out? But as I look around my classroom at some of the students and what they are asked to live with on a daily basis with their biological parents, I really wonder about the order of the universe. However, that is not where I want to dwell. It is the way it is, and if it wasn't for surprise pregnancies, we wouldn't be able to be parents.
Ultimately though, I think John and I are more excited than anything else. It is the most patient excitement I have ever experienced, but it's awesome in scope. As we plan on completing a transracial adoption, we are currently researching how to raise a healthy, happy child who will not look like his or her parents and must be made aware and proud of his or her racial background. It is very interesting to read about others experiences and learn more about the world we live in even if it is sad to realize how alive racism still is. All we can do is work to combat it through love, and what greater love is there than parents' for a child?

1 comment:

Ann said...

Wow Duffy!!! I am so excited that you guys have decided to adopt a baby. I think you'll make amazing parents. Mazel Tov!!!