The word brings many images to mind: good things, bad things, traveling to far away countries, babies taken away from birth mothers before they can see them, babies taken away from adoptive parents, love, a child finally in your arms.
Adoption usually isn’t a first choice for parents and it’s often a difficult choice. It’s difficult to give up the idea of having the biological child you always expected to have. And we have all heard the stories: it takes years and years to adopt an infant in the United States, birth parents may come and take the child away, and countries may change the rules or discontinue international adoption completely even though you already have invested time, money and emotion into the process.
After learning that it was unlikely that we would be able to get pregnant, my husband, Don, and I decided to explore adoption as an option for our family. We found that these stories were often exaggerated and simply not true if you did your research and adopted through a reputable agency. Of course, there are heartbreaking stories out there. Thankfully we learned through our research and experience that it is possible to adopt an infant in the United States within a relatively short time.
Meeting Our Daughters
We now have two beautiful daughters: Alana (11) and Nadia (9). Surprisingly, the time from when we entered the “pool” of potential adoptive parents until the birth of each girl was about 9 months. The similarities of their adoptions end there.
Eleven years ago I was visiting a friend in Traverse City when Don called and asked if I was sitting down. A birth mother selected us and the baby girl would be discharged from the hospital the next morning. In just 12 hours we would be parents. Needless to say, I rushed home, met Don at Meijer in the middle of the night to choose a going home outfit, and pinched myself for what remained of the night. “She is so beautiful,” was my first thought. And I meant both of them, the tiny baby (5 lbs, 13 oz) and her birth mother.
Two years later our experience was much different. I had a rare afternoon to myself that was supposed to be spent cleaning the house. Then the phone rang; the adoption agency was calling. We were selected by a birth mother who was due three months later. I was able to talk to Nadia’s birth mother that day. We spent the next three months getting to know one another. Don and I were at the hospital when Nadia was born and were able to hold her 90 minutes later. Don was the picture of calm in the waiting room. I was a stereotypical 1950s father—without the cigar—pacing, twitching and generally a nervous wreck. All of that went away when I held Nadia, all 9 lbs 15 oz of her.
Explaining Adoption to Our Daughters
We actually have never sat down to “explain” adoption to our daughters. It’s just one part of our lives. For us, adoption means that there are more people in the world who love you. We have open relationships with both girls’ birth families; they are part of our extended family. During the first year, we frequently visited the girls’ birth mothers. As time went on, we saw them less, usually around birthdays or holidays. The girls have always known that these strong, beautiful women love them very much.
Nadia’s birth mom moved out-of-state before she turned two. This past summer she made a rare trip back to Michigan. Nadia was thrilled. She had so many questions and enjoyed learning about things they have in common. Alana’s birth mom moved back to Michigan last year after living out-of-state for several years. Alana has enjoyed reconnecting with her.
I am so glad the girls have the opportunity to know their birth families and share in the love their birth moms and their families have for them. Has it always been easy? No, of course not, but parenting isn’t easy. Sometimes I question myself, have they had enough contact with their birth moms, do I respect their heritage, do I give them enough love? They have questions I can’t always answer. They make comments that can hurt. Unfortunately, I remember doing the same thing to my mother. That’s how children learn and grow to discover who they are.
I can’t give them everything. But I can give them love. And that love includes giving them the opportunity to know, love and be loved by their birth mothers and their birth families. After all, it’s all about love.
If you are considering adoption, talk about it with everyone you know. You’ll be surprised by how many people you already know were adopted, have adopted, are in the process of adopting, or made an adoption plan for a child. Yes, some people will tell you scary stories, but don’t give up. Find out the truth for yourself. Talk to different agencies. Ask them about their philosophies, the adoption process, waiting times, classes, support for you, your child and your child’s birth parents. Different agencies will be a bitter fit for different families.
It’s not about being pregnant, it’s about being parents. Adoption simply is another way for a child to enter your family. And, it’s all about love.
– Jen Walker is a Certified Passenger Safety Technician and works for the Parenting Program teaching car seat safety education to new parents on the Mother-Baby Unit at Royal Oak. She’s also a long-time Parenting Program volunteer who first learned about the program through other moms at a baby music class. After speaking with the Parenting office, Jen learned she could participate in a group if she had a Beaumont pediatrician who could write her a prescription for the program.