Ok… let’s adopt.
Those three simple words contain a revolution of emotion, a virtual tsunami of feelings from every single participant. Adoption is an enormous, profound, and life changing decision. It is both risk and safety, relief and concern, fulfillment and longing; in the words of Issac Watts, Did e’er such love and sorrow meet? Although he was not writing about adoption, this juxtaposition often came to mind as we began to think about adoption as a real possibility.
These three little words look so simple in black and white text, but in real life, adoption is anything but simple. Making this type of decision is a game change for all the players for many generations. Sigh. I wish it were as simple as a young couple in love getting a baby, which is how I first viewed adoption. I saw an oblivious trio wrapped up in the bliss of each other’s company. As I got older, I came to see that it is instead a drama with so many different players, all with their own story of highs and lows. As Joe’s Chinese teacher used to say, it is complicted. Very, very complicted.
Everyone Ready to Jump?
I have tried to find the right metaphor to help people understand adoption. The best I have been able to come up with is that you and your husband, the baby, their birth mother, and in some cases their birth father, all their relatives on both sides, the birth grandparents, and of course all your and your husband’s relatives, and in particular the new grandparents all go skydiving together in a group jump. This group jump includes various degrees of willingness, determination, reluctance, resignation, sadness, hope, and faith. This range of emotions creates a force field that is palpable as you free fall to the earth in this strange new community of previously unconnected members. You hope everyone can hold on for a safe landing. You especially hope that the child is protected and arrives at adulthood healthy, and even happy. And on the way down, you wonder what happens to the group post jump. Would everyone be ok after we landed? Would we? Although naively optimistic for ourselves, it seemed inevitable that there would be more than a few breaks and bruises for the other players.
We were aware that many couples broke up over infertility issues, with all its stress from expensive medical tests, guilt, shame, finger-pointing, and disappointments. We had our share of disagreements on other matters, but on this topic, we never fought. We prayed, talked, cried, and held on to each other for dear life as we got ready to jump.
We had gotten a call from a lawyer who knew we wanted to adopt. Looking back, I see that were baby junkies. We wanted one so badly that we cast our honed instincts to the wind, and jumped. The red flags will be so obvious to you, but at that time, we chose to ignore them.
I have never written about our first adoption attempt, except very recently in a private letter to a young grieving mother who had also lost a baby in similar circumstances. I could say lost an adoption, but similar to saying lost a pregnancy, that seems to make it more impersonal, like we lost something. In both a miscarriage or a failed adoption however, you lose someone. A little person who was so close to being in your arms, and was already in your heart, disappears forever, at least in this world. For us it was Joshua, whom we only got to know for a short time, but loved without reserve. If the unlikely event occurs in which Joshua reads this story, it might be good for him to know that we loved him with all our hearts, holding nothing back. He was ours for 8 wonderful days, and his story, although perhaps unfinished, will unfold next time.