A social worker recently told me that every adoption is a roller coaster. Some people have higher highs and lower lows than others, and when you start out you pray for as smooth a ride as possible. Then suddenly your find yourself up at the top, and a moment later cashing down to a lower point than you thought possible. What’s important to remember is that at the end of the ride is your baby.
Our ride thus far has been a jerky one. The journey has been dramatic, unpredictable, and tumultuous. I don’t know if we’re protecting ourselves from future pain, pacing ourselves for a long wait, or if we’ve just been rendered numb after past experiences. But for whatever reason our current situation has been a more even ride. It helps that M (aka possible birthmom #3) is more mature and significantly less dramatic than the first two women we’ve spoken to. Information lacks the overdose of emotion we got before, and getting to know one another is comfortable and simple. It feels like our roller coaster has slowed a bit, at least for now.
That’s not to say there are not smaller highs along the way. Last week M had an ultrasound, and immediately sent us pictures. I’ve found myself staring at them for long periods of time, studying her (yes, HER) tiny features. I take a deep breath and wonder, is this the one? 19 weeks from now, will she be the baby waiting at the end of our roller coaster? Who knows what barrel roles and corkscrews await us between now and then. So for right now I’ll just stare at this picture, and continue to pray.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the birthmother in the adoption equation, trying to understand and relate to her as best I can. Yet we all know there’s another factor involved as well. The birthfather is not physically attached to the child during pregnancy, so it can be easy to forget his significance. But he shares the same biological connection to the baby as his female counterpart, and often times the law recognizes that.
I say “often times”, because adoption laws vary significantly from state to state. The differences in birthmother rights are confusing enough, when it comes to fathers it’s mind-boggling. Some states don’t seem to consider the birthfather at all, and will allow an adoption to proceed without paying him a second glance. Others require many legal steps to verify that he is aware and approves of the situation. He’s fathered a child, and deserves the opportunity to parent said child if he so chooses. To respect this, adoptive parents are often required to follow complicated procedures of notification and legal termination ensuring that his rights are protected.
Our expectant mom #3 is different from our first two in a lot of ways, most notably that she’s taken the significant steps of turning in her paperwork to the agency and allowing us to see her prenatal medical records. But she also resides outside of our state, and is not in a relationship with the baby’s father. The former just meant a google search and some questions to the social workers to determine the legal timelines. The later however, means a lot more.
The biological father is known, and knows about the pregnancy. Expectant mom has told him that she’s planning an adoption, and has invited him to be a part of the process. But he has now stopped returning her (or the social worker’s) phone calls, and has moved from his last known address. He most likely won’t be present to sign paperwork after the birth as the bio mom will. Thus we embark on a meticulous journey to ensure that his rights to fatherhood are protected during the process of establishing us as the legal parents. With plenty of time remaining before this child’s birth and possible placement in our care, these steps will serve to punctuate the weeks and months ahead. And I find myself examining the emotional and moral road that is adoption from yet another angle.
I have long since maintained that the genera of the romantic comedy is ruining the love life of the american woman. It starts with fairy tales when we’re young, and we all started to dream about Prince Charming showing up for us on a white horse. By the time we’re teenagers this image is replaced by the male lead in every American romantic comedy ever written. When we reach adulthood it doesn’t seem unreasonable that we should hold out to meet Tom Hanks via e-mail or that a man in a coma could be Mr. Right. And of course when your relationship hits a snag any man worth his salt will be outside your window with a boom box above his head. The American woman has been conditioned to expect unrealistic Hollywood style results from her love life.
My RomCom style expectations for how our adoption would play out were set by possible birthmom #2. She said all the right things, played on all the right emotions, and laid a foundation for how I though our road to parenthood would play out. It felt like we were connecting on a very real level, and made it seem like everything was falling into place so perfectly. Now I know there’s a good chance none of it was what it seemed, but it doesn’t keep me from feeling like that’s how this all should happening.
Just as metaphorical sirens started to blare alerting us that situation #2 might not be what it seemed I received an e-mail from another prospective birthmom. Hard as it was since I had grown so attached to #2, I exchanged a few e-mails with her. And as my RomCom unraveled I found us faced with possible birthmom #3.
This new woman has sent in her paperwork, met with a social worker, and been consistently drama free. She’s secure in her decision to place, and seems equally secure in her interest in us as the adoptive parents. She’s everything the first two potential birthmom’s weren’t. But I haven’t made a deep emotional connection with her. I find myself numb, unable to feel the excitement that was coursing through me as we got to know those first two woman. I may be exhausted, or jaded, or simply wary that this new woman is still 5 months from her due date. Maybe I have learned to give a situation more time before I jump to the top of those glorious emotional highs. Or maybe I just need to accept that our adoption journey doesn’t have to be the perfectly written poem that #2 seemed to embody. My husband doesn’t ride a white horse or hold a boom box over his head, and my baby doesn’t have to be born to my kindred spirit who becomes my new best friend. My life is not a fairy tale or a romantic comedy. It’s messy and dirty and loud, and this shouldn’t be any different.
Given a little more time this woman may prove to be exactly what we’ve been looking for. And hopefully, given a little more time, I’ll get just as excited as I did before.