As we left the Bethany Adoption Seminar, program binder in hand, the 100+ pages of documentation, checklists, and required deliverables for our domestic infant adoption process slowly began to burn a hole in my brain. We had only completed one questionnaire up to his point, and based on a cursory review of our requirements to come, we would need to complete at least 3 more, along with interviews and getting two sets of fingerprints at the local police station.
Our Bethany team has been very upfront about this, yet the reality was still sinking in. The term open was no longer just applicable to our desired adoption, where we would engage in an ongoing and maintained relationship and connection with our child’s birthparents and family, but also require us to be open to sharing significant details about our lives — professional, personal, and family, in order to ensure that we could provide a safe, protective, loving, and supportive environment for the tiniest of human beings.
There was a questionnaire about our upbringing, our parents, their relationships with one another, with us, and how all these aspects reflect in our lives today. How was conflict handled in our families? Were our parents engaged in our upbringing? We’re we popular in school? Academic? Athletic? Bullied? Were our parents married? Were they divorced? If so, was it amicable? Was it bitter? Were any family members ever incarcerated? Drug or alcohol abuse? Medical conditions?
There was the application requiring verification that we were financially ready and prepared to accept children into our home. Do we own, do we rent? Do we have a savings account? Who handles the finances in the home? Do we work? How long have we been working? Is it a high stress environment? Does work permit good work/life balance? Will children need child care? Do you work from home? How do you plan on paying the legal and program fees? Will you need to take a 2nd mortgage or cash out a 401k?
I had to drive to the county seat of where I was born to get an official copy of my birth certificate. We drove into Oakland, to take a combined Adult/Child First Aid/CPR course at the American Red Cross. We spent over an hour having a machine scan our fingerprints multiple times to be fed into multiple national databases. At this point, I have to wonder if I have an FBI file just for the chance to adopt a child.
The pain I was feeling wasn’t about the amount of work, or why we had to do it. Everything we needed to do to complete the adoption assessment and Home Study is for very important and necessary reasons. I would say that 99.99% of it was done with a smile and a positive attitude. The remaining 0.01% was a latent but potent leftover from when we had attempted the fertility sessions over and over again, without success, and when we had lost Makena. Once again, in our journey to grow and expand our family, we had once again lost all control.
Some computer, somewhere, was validating that our prints didn’t match up to any known felons or child predators. Our ability to complete chest compressions and dislodge an obstruction in a tiny mannequin’s throat earned us a certificate. I talked about the tremendous sacrifices my amazing parents made to let me and my sister attend a private school and how sitting around the kitchen table when paying the monthly bills made me the frugal, financially stable person I am today.
We talked about our relationship and how we met. How it turned from being friends to “something more”, our engagement, our marriage, and how we treat each other in good times and in bad. Do we disagree? Do we fight? Do we fight fair? Does it involve words? Does it involve more than words? Do we support each other’s goals and dreams? Are we willing to make sacrifices for each other? For our growing family?
We needed references. Four of them to be exact. People that we weren’t related to, but could answer questions about our abilities to be good parents. (Last time I checked, OB/GYNs don’t request references before the ultrasound, to make sure that you will be a good parent.) Our references were awesome and promptly returned the paperwork needed to help us maintain good forward momentum in the assessment process, and for that we are immensely grateful.
In the back of my mind, I was constantly struggling with the idea of a double standard. Why in the world did we have to go through so much to prove that we were worthy of parenting a child and yet there are so many parents that fail the most basic of the requirements we had to meet in a minimum of a dozen different subject areas.
As we continued through our assessment requirements, the reason became crystal clear. The double standard is necessary and vital because the children seeking love, support, stable homes, and good parents require double the assurances that whatever environment they were previously in or originally destined for cannot be repeated. Some may face abuse of some kind, whether physical and emotional, while others don’t have enough to put a meal on the table for the family. Some have ongoing medical needs that need to be addressed, while others are in a destructive relationship that children inherit for no other reason than because they happen to be there. Parents who are brave enough to place their child in an adoption plan offer them a path out of whatever is being faced, hoping that in the future, no child should ever have to endure circumstances like these.
It is in this moment that I realize that I am not the one that has lost control. I realize for the first time that the child never had it to begin with. The child that relies so much on the adults in their lives to take responsibility for the most basic of their needs, sometimes becomes the victim of the tragedy. Thinking about that for even a second makes me more than willing to sacrifice a bit of my past, my secrets, my experiences, and my take on the world, if it can help to change theirs.
I look forward to my open adoption. I look forward to sharing a lot about myself, my family, my upbringing, my strengths, my weaknesses, my challenges, and my triumphs. That’s what being a parent is about, and I welcome the chance to share all that and much more with my child in the hopes that they will be able to achieve all of the greatness in the world that they can claim.
I’m OK with letting go in this process. I’m learning to open up, and that will make all the difference to someone that I haven’t even met. My thanks in advance to our child for teaching me something already and making me a better person in the process.