By M.L. Riddell
When my husband and I shared the news that we were adopting, we got a common reaction—That’s so great of you! There are so many babies out there who need homes!—as if we had repeatedly been offered a child and finally agreed to accept. The process, it turns out, is less like giving away a box of kittens than it is like being vetted to responsibly raise a human from infancy to adulthood, ensuring a future, providing opportunities, etc. It took us nearly a year to complete the paperwork and requirements before we were viable parental candidates. Nine months later, we became parents, but let me be clear, adoption is not for sissies.
Adoption is not for tenderhearted souls who believe in the power of positive thinking or, after being turned down, find comfort in the saying, It wasn’t meant to be. If you know an adoptive mom, you’ll agree that beneath her tasteful and expressly unprovocative exterior lie certain strengths that got her up and over the wake of infertility. Now, with a finalized adoption under my belt and many hours spent standing in the shower thinking about it, I have arrived at a list of five essential components to successfully adopting a baby:
1. Accept that your pregnancy quest is over.
Bury it, bless it, mourn it. Never will you be the glowing, corpulent woman panting in the delivery room, with your hair in a pony and your milk coming in, nor will you be included in the thousands of conversations about pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding, etc., which is what your friends will be talking about exclusively for the next five years. You will feel left out. Like you missed the best party of the year—but worse. Acknowledge the fact that even though the other half the population doesn’t get to experience the miracle of childbirth either, it still sucks, cause it’s you.
2. You need to be financially stable because, ultimately, you are buying this baby.
You heard me. It’s not human trafficking, but the people helping you through this process earn their livings procuring children for others. Every adoption carries its own expenses, and, depending on the involvement of the birth mother and residential jurisdiction, costs can exceed that of renovating a Manhattan brownstone. Be prepared to pay a lot, then double that.
3. Make sure you have your shit together.
You will be drug tested, fingerprinted and background checked. You will have a social worker in your home, in your bank account, in your neighborhood, and pretty much up your butt for as long as it takes. This is some serious FBI data-basing going on. If you have a registered sex offender anywhere near you, or you’re a bad driver, or you smoke cigarettes, or you don’t pay your bills on time, they will find out and want an explanation.[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Page 2″ ]
4. Be certain you’re capable of loving something with no biological connection to you.
Some studies suggest we are genetically predisposed to reject offspring that’s not ours and must consciously suppress this instinct to form outside attachments. As a lifelong dog lover, I personally doubt this, but, supposing it’s true, are you willing and able to love intentionally (or at least fake it) until the real feelings kick in? You better think long and hard about this part and remember these two words: Mommie Dearest.
5. Steel yourself for disappointment and rejection.
After pouring your heart into a 500 word personal statement, which is then printed on earth-toned card stock along with photos of you and your husband trying not to look desperate, your dossier will be available, upon request, to birth mothers. You will be notified by your case worker of any interest in your profile, and every inquiry will have you convinced you’re about to meet the mother of your baby. Until she rejects you for reasons you can’t change—like your age. Or won’t change—like having a dog. Or are trying to change—like the size of your family. Once, my husband and I were rejected because the birth mom wanted her baby to have an older brother. We were like, How about your baby gets to be the older brother? Unlike applying for a job, or selling your house, or submitting an essay, where just a facet of you is being judged, adoption is all you, and it’s personal.
My daughter’s birth certificate names my husband and me as her parents, though we did not conceive her and I did not birth her, and as she gets older, the means by which she arrived in our family matters less and less. That she is our girl by law and in countless other ways epitomizes the beauty of adoption. The unbelievable amount of red tape and hoop jumping we went through exemplifies the rest. If asked, Would you do it again, all things considered? my answer would be the same as any mom’s—biological or adoptive: Ask me again later, when she’s asleep.[/nextpage]
About Michelle Riddell
Michelle Riddell lives with her family in rural mid-Michigan, where snow drifts are high and crime rate is low. In addition to writing for several publications including MomSense, Hello, Dearest, Mamalode, and Club Mid, she is an editor at Mothers Always Write, and a rock star substitute teacher. Follow her on Twitter @MLRiddell.