This is the twentieth post of "30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days," a series designed to give a voice to people with widely varying experiences, including birthparents, adoptees, adoptive parents, foster parents, waiting adoptive parents and others touched by adoption.
How Can We Convince Her We Are THE ONES?
Written by Sheila Quirke for Portrait of an Adoption
Last month we had our home visit. A social worker that we have told our deepest (pretty shallow), darkest (more like dusk) family secrets to dropped by for a visit to see our home and meet our son. Her mission? To verify that we are suitable to become adoptive parents. Our mission? To welcome her.
Adoption, we are learning, is an odd process. At times wrenching, at times bureaucratic, at times frustrating, at times enlightening, at times just plain intrusive. It is a jumble of all these things that we hope, are choosing to hope, will lead us to a child, our child. My Dad has always said that birth is a miracle. Adoption, I think, is too.
The next stage for us is to create our profile, our family marketing plan, if you will. It is this profile, we are told, that will attract our birth mom or birth family. This profile is our best tool to find the proverbial needle in a haystack –- a birth mom who believes we are capable of parenting her child in a way she cannot. This is beyond humbling and mythic in its emotional proportions.
Part of this profile we create will be a letter to potential birth moms. While I have crafted this letter for months in my head, as the time nears to actually draft it, I begin to quake in my boots a bit. What do we say? How can we convince her we are THE ONES?
The truth I am coming to embrace is that we can’t.
If we work too hard to create the perfect letter, the most convincing letter, that is almost a perfect guarantee that it will be the wrong letter. As we move forward in this adoption process and think harder about how our child will come to us and us to him/her, placing too much emphasis on any one thing, on the marketing of our family, feels like misplaced efforts.
On the deepest of levels, I feel our child is out there, perhaps already conceived, growing in her mama’s belly, perhaps yet to be conceived, but still out there. She will find us, he will find us. Knowing as many families as we do that have grown through adoption, I have seen time and time again that this is what happens –- we find our children and our children find us. Even when those children grow in another woman’s womb. It is utterly complicated and completely simple all at the same time.
It’s a bit pie in the sky, isn’t it? And yet, it’s what I believe and need to have faith in during this process.
As another part of our adoption preparation, we have been through quite a few trainings in recent weeks, some better than others, though all thought provoking. Topics have included transracial adoption, substance abuse in pregnancy, the birth parent perspective, and the adult adoptee perspective.
One was especially disheartening to me as a young couple, both 18, discussed how they selected a family for their child. They went out to dinner and created a list of wishes for their child: young parents, religious parents, single family home parents, first time parents, etc. My husband and I would have struck out on every single item on that parental wish list.
At 42, we seem old to teenagers. We’re not religious. We live in a condo, not a single family home, so it doesn’t necessarily matter that we have 3,200 square feet. It’s a condo, not a house, and it lacks a yard. And not only do we already have a child, he is our biological child who looks exactly like his Dad. Oh, yes, and there is our daughter who is buried. Sigh. These are the difficult times, when I think about how we look on paper.
What I must trust is how we function as a family. We are two adults who have been through both the best and worst of times, together. Remarkably, we are as in love today as the day we first uttered those words to one another, way back in 1996. We know how to parent –- we can identify both our strengths and our weaknesses –- and are grateful that those strengths and weaknesses complement one another. Parenting in Cancerville taught us that we have the chops, you know?
When I focus on that –- what I know about us, it is easy to have faith that our child will find us. If I focus on convincing someone of that, I get anxious and fidgety, which brings me back to our home visit. Our home is a tidy one, for the most part, but there I was the day before the visit, working hard dusting baseboards and trying to keep a lid on the chaos a three year old creates.
An hour or so before the social worker was set to arrive, it struck me that she needed muffins. Fresh muffins, warm from our oven, made from the blueberries we had picked together as a family in August muffins. Well, I still hadn’t showered, and thought that a clean me was more important than a warm muffin, so dropped the idea. But out of the shower, I kept thinking that of course our social worker needed something to eat. She was a guest in our home, wasn’t she? Why wouldn’t we offer her what we would offer any other guest? The clock was ticking, though, so brownie mix would have to suffice. She remarked on how nice the house smelled as she walked in. I beamed.
As we sat down for some forms and paper work, my husband brought out a plate of brownies. That’s inaccurate; it was more like a heap of steaming brownie. Having cut them fresh from the oven, they were nothing more than a pile of cakey chocolate. I laughed. We all laughed. You had to. It was all so hilarious. Here we are, trying our best to impress, and instead, we are serving what looked like something that had been picked up from the floor (even though that floor was spotless).
Those brownies are a pretty great metaphor for our family. We don’t always look as we should on the outside –- one of us is missing and we have more gray and wrinkles than we should –- but we are still warm and soothing. Where it matters, we are just right.
My hope is that we can approach this next phase of adoption with the grace that we have met every other parenting challenge that has faced us –- with confidence, and comfort, and chocolate. Wish us luck.
Portrait of an Adoption is hosted by Carrie Goldman, author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear. If you have a story you would like to submit as a candidate for next year's series, please email it to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related on HuffPost:
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/02/cindy-williams-birth-moms-adoption-portrait_n_2396938.html">Cindy Williams: 'I Didn't Know My Sons For 11 Years'</a> "I don't remember exactly when I found the online support group, but I am so glad I did. I really think that no one understands a birth mom like another birth mom. No one else has ever had the kind of experiences we have had. I can see that all the feelings that I had over the years were normal, and that I am very lucky to have met my birthsons."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/03/intra-family-adoption-story_n_2403300.html">Why Do I Have To Be Adopted? A Story Of Intra-Family Adoptions</a> "Adoption was shameful back then. Terminology like “real mother” was de rigueur. Women who couldn’t have their “own” children were lesser, and the only reason a fertile woman wouldn’t raise her “own” child was her own inadequacy. And if she was pregnant “out of wedlock” (another popular phrase), then it was clearly all her fault. Never mind if she was only twelve."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/04/why-we-will-adopt-story_n_2405249.html">Michelle Mercurio: 'We Realized That We Couldn't Wait Any Longer To Adopt'</a> "Our nephew is at the heart of our adoption story not because we lost him, but because of the love and connections that grew in our hearts because of him. We know now, more than ever before, that we would be compassionate parents who would fiercely love and protect a child to help him or her grow into an amazing adult."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/05/imaginary-redhead-adoption-story_n_2405298.html">Adoption And Family: How Everyone Is Affected, Not Just 'Us'</a> "As an adoptive parent, I struggled with the loss of privacy, the loss of control over this aspect of my life -- becoming a parent -- and the loss of my imagined child -- that redheaded basketball player I had expected."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/05/clarks-voice-adoption-story_n_2405407.html">Jay D. Lenn, Adoptive Parent, On Helping A Child With Speech Delays Find His Voice</a> "Biological parents cannot, of course, control everything about their children’s development. I suppose a primary difference with adoption is learning to accept that loss of control before you even start parenting."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/07/grey-market-adoption_n_2424888.html">Searching For The Truth About My 'Grey Market' Adoption</a> "My adoptive parents are the ones who raised me -- they changed my diapers, fed me, and listened to my terrible teenage poetry. The fact that they didn’t trust me enough to tell me the truth is the only part of the past year and a half that still hurts."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/08/adoption-portrait-foster-adoption_n_2432547.html">Gina Sampaio, Foster Parent, On Navigating The Birth Mother Relationship</a> "I still have no guides to navigating this relationship, but at least for now, I think we’re doing alright forging our own path."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/09/15-and-pregnant-adoption-portrati_n_2440974.html">15 And Pregnant: Why I Chose To Put My Baby Up For Adoption </a> "I knew this was why this horribly terrifying thing was happening to me. It was supposed to happen; it was my job to give someone a baby that they could not have on their own. I was strangely at peace, or at least as peaceful as you can be when you find out you are pregnant at 15."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/10/how-being-adopted-as-a-child-affects-me_n_2447477.html">I Was Adopted As A Child, But That Doesn't Define Who I Am </a> "Having been adopted is part of me, and will probably always have some kind of impact on me, but it doesn't need to define me. I am who I am. Does knowing I was adopted change that?"
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/11/merrin-donahue-a-letter_n_2447681.html">A Letter To My Son's Birth Mother </a> "You and I will always be connected: the mother that carried him and gave him life and loves him from so far away, and the mother that has been blessed with the unimaginable gift of being called “Mommy” and being here to kiss the boo-boos and chase away the bad dreams. You are my sister, and although I will never meet you, I have more love for you than you will ever know."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/12/stop-asking-adopted-kids-real-parent-question_n_2449836.html">The 'Real Parents' Question To Stop Asking Adopted Kids </a> "My real mom is an accomplished author and teacher. That’s my mom. There’s no such thing as a REAL mom and a fake mom. Sure, there’s my birthmom, but I don’t ever care or think about her. She did a very selfless thing to give me up, so why would I want to bug her? That’s incredibly selfish of me."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/13/foster-mothers-love_n_2450107.html">How My Foster Mother's Love Saved My Life </a> "It is the love, attention and support of a parent which can make or break the people we turn out to be. Although my foster mother died when I was at a precarious age, the substance she raised me with has been a foundation upon which my life has been built."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/14/adoption-portrait-never-called-mom_n_2450459.html">The Grief In Knowing My Son Will Never Call Me 'Mom' </a>
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/15/foster-parenting-and-connection-adoption-portrait_n_2457370.html">Saying Goodbye To The Foster Child I Fell In Love With </a> "I did not enjoy a very real Rayna shattering my “mother fantasy.” I realized I subconsciously had hoped not to like her. I was forced to admit quite the opposite after that first phone conversation."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/16/adoption-portrait-open-adoption_n_2459132.html">We're Still Learning What An Open Adoption Looks Like</a> "To be the adoptive parents there are no descriptions of your relationship with the birth family, no rules, no prescribed etiquette. There’s this tiny person who cannot talk and her mom tethering you to them and them to you. In other words -- you wing it."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/17/looking-for-birth-mother-adoption-portrait_n_2489262.html">How Becoming A Mother Changed My Mind About My Own Adoption</a> "I was also very aware that I was opening myself up for a potential One might ask why would I subject myself to this -- Talia was the reason. She was my only daughter and literally the only blood relative I knew at that point in my life."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/18/foster-to-adoption-process_n_2496567.html">What A Foster-To-Adoption Process Is Really Like </a> "I do not think there is any amount of training that can truly prepare a person to understand the opposing elements of fostering-to-adopt, and the State’s number one goal, which is reunification of families. Sure they warn you, sure your head “understands.” Logically you can spout off to any person who will listen that it is important to keep families together. Realistically, though, to the heart, it is a different matter."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/19/meeting-your-childs-birth-mother_n_2506000.html">Meeting Your Child's Birth Mom: When The Challenge Isn't What You Feared At All </a> "My insecurity and fear are more real to me now than ever. I am afraid. That’s what it boils down to. I am scared. Here’s the thing, though: she gave this precious boy life and decided, for all her many reasons, that she wanted me to be his mommy. This fact doesn’t lessen her importance, in fact, it magnifies it. She did something AMAZING. Something I know I could NEVER do. And now … I am at a crossroads."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/20/adopted-son-dad-greatest-moment_n_2507385.html">Hearing My Adopted Son Call Me 'Dad' Was The Greatest Moment Of My Whole Life</a> "But then the greatest moment of my whole life occurred. My son came home and came out onto the back deck where I was hanging out. We talked a little about nothing in general. Then he turned to me and said: “He is okay as a buddy, but you are my Dad.”"
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/21/the-adoption-process-letter-to-birth-mom_n_2507449.html">The Adoption Process: Trying To Write The Perfect Letter To A Birth Mom</a> "The next stage for us is to create our profile, our family marketing plan, if you will. It is this profile, we are told, that will attract our birth mom or birth family. This profile is our best tool to find the proverbial needle in a haystack –- a birth mom who believes we are capable of parenting her child in a way she cannot. This is beyond humbling and mythic in its emotional proportions."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/22/adoption-painful-struggle_n_2507454.html">Our Painful Struggle Over The Son We Desperately Wanted To Adopt </a> "Before she went any further, I felt a warmth rush through my body. My heart started to race and I choked on tears. She hadn't said a word more but something was telling me, almost like a whisper in my ear, "This is your son. Go get him." (I still get chills when I think about it.)"
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/23/adoption-walls-of-secrecy-dissolved_n_2528692.html">'The Click': How I Knew I'd Found The Right Family To Adopt My Baby </a> "A few days later, I signed over my parental rights, and William became Jim and Lynn’s, legally. I cried. She cried. Everyone cried. I was so sad and empty going home without him, but I was equally relieved and happy that he was with these amazing people."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/24/this-crazy-wonderful-hectic_n_2536739.html">Notes From A Birth Mom: 'I Have Been Very Fortunate To Be Allowed In Katie's Life' </a> "Our annual visits get easier for me every year, and I think that ease comes from knowing my place with Katie and her knowing that I love her as much as I love E and D. When I saw Katie this past summer, she had changed so much. She had cut her hair shorter; she was wearing braces and she was almost as tall as Carrie."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/25/adoption-stigma_n_2542717.html">I'm Still Waiting For The Stigma Of Adoption To Go Away </a> "And those family ties count for a lot -- more than you think. Just recently I got into a discussion with someone about tracing my birth family. "Why do you need to know?" she asked. And I answered: how often have you heard or said among your family, "she looks like her dad" or "that runs in the family" or "he's just like his grandfather" or "it's in his blood.""
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/26/why-my-son-has-a-closed-adoption_n_2544287.html">Why My Son Has A Closed Adoption </a>
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/27/friends-becoming-grandparents_n_2544289.html">My Friends Were Becoming Grandparents And It 'Often Felt Like A Stab In The Chest' </a> "She was tired of the drugs, shots, doctor appointments, rude questions from people, and the whole ball of yarn. She wanted to start a family and didn’t want to wait for more tests, more failed pregnancies and more heartbreak. She certainly put things in perspective. How could I blame her for having had enough? Having had two successful pregnancies, I certainly didn’t understand entirely what she was going through both physically and emotionally. She was pursuing another specialist, but she also wanted to pursue adoption options."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/28/we-didnt-get-to-keep-the-other-baby_n_2544377.html">'We Didn't Get To Keep The Other Baby, But This One Is Ours Forever' </a> "We are invited into the room where Cammi is with her son and her family. There is a reverent feeling and lots of tears. I sit down and then think better of it and rush over to give her the biggest hug. This girl, there are no words to express our love and gratitude."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/29/giving-my-baby-up-for-adoption_n_2567272.html">I Finally Understood My Birth Mom When I Gave My Own Baby Up For Adoption </a> "There are so many things I wish I could tell you. The most important of all is that I love you. I've loved you since the day you were born, and I miss you terribly. I spend a lot of time wondering if you know that. I spend a lot of time wondering if you're happy. I pray that you are."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/30/adoptive-father-and-daughter_n_2575154.html">Andrew, Adoptive Father: 'Love And Devotion Do Not Require The Same DNA'</a> "I cannot imagine not being able to feel her hugs or see her smile. Her expressions of love, often in the form of a note or a picture, have always affected me. She is so very complicated, so fiercely independent, and so vulnerable. I love that she wears a storm trooper costume on Halloween and then wears footie pajamas to bed. I love when she talks about her imaginary team of unicorns that pull our car along as we drive. Mostly, I just love her."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/31/getting-in-touch-with-birth-parents_n_2575254.html?utm_hp_ref=parents&ir=Parents">What I Never Expected When I Met My Birth Parents</a> "bMom broke away from bDad and ran the last few steps, grabbed me in a hug. I lost it. Tears steamed down my face. I remember seeing bDad walk up. I heard him say, “What about me?”