I’ve spent over a year participating in and listening to the posts on the Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) Trying to Conceive forum. I even had my own failed attempt at trying to conceive, and then work, school, and dating postponed my plans until a year later. I began to consider adoption, an option I had explored before but ignored once I found Mr. Perfect Anonymous Donor and built up the courage (and money) to TTC. But once I really delved into the adoption choice again, it seemed very feasible and appropriate for where I am in my life. Plus, I thought it might be “easier” than TTC.
On the SMC Forum, I read other women’s journeys through infertility and fertility treatments and miscarriages to finally bringing home a newborn sometimes years later. Well, now that I’m pursuing adoption, I realize the adoption journey isn’t exactly “easier”, just different than TTC. There are many preparations and hurdles along the way. These unique challenges don’t involve reproductive endocrinologists (REs), but they do involve social workers, wire nuts, and a lawn crew. I’ll explain….
What I’ve found unique to the adoption process are the REQUIREMENTS that your home, emotional well-being, and finances be in order. Women who are trying to conceive are not scrutinized in this way. For example, women who conceive through reproductive technologies are not required to submit their driving record and proof of homeowners insurance. It’s not that their challenges are any easier, just different from the adopters. However, the parities still exist. I liken the adoption waiting period to a gestational period. A pregnant woman might wonder if her baby will have her blue eyes, while I’m wondering which race my future adoptive children will be. A pregnant woman may be attending birthing classes while I’m going to CPR training.
So, I have decided to pursue foster-to-adopt through the U.S. Child Welfare System. I took two weeks of pre-service parenting classes. I loved it! I think all moms-to-be, including those TTC’ing and adopting, should consider parenting classes. But here’s the kicker; adopters who receive children through the foster care system must promise to discipline by the system’s standards. This includes no spanking. This is not a problem for me since I’m a staunch opponent to spanking; but for a few others in my class, it made them feel like they are being told how to parent. And well, they are.
Another challenge unique to adoption is the home environment requirements. Each state in the U.S. is different, but here are some of the things I’ve had to fix/change/BUY for my house to be compliant in Texas: fire extinguisher, new smoke detectors, lock boxes for medication, moved all cleaning supplies to upper cabinets, outlet covers, waterproof mattress covers, anti-siphoning devices for the outside spigots, “re-homed” one of my dogs because I had one too many for the city limit, pet vaccines, CPR training, first aid training, home health inspection, home fire inspection, post daily schedules, post house rules, post evacuation plan, trash cans with tight fitting lids, replaced a piece of rotten siding, hired lawn guys to mow on a regular basis, covered up tree roots in the backyard, replaced a ceiling fan that would have interfered with the bunk bed I erected (this is where I learned about wiring and wire nuts), researched daycares that accept state reimbursements, and I just bought an SUV to replace my two-door coupe. (OK, that last one wasn’t a necessity for adoption, but fun anyway!)
To add to the list of requirements, I had to provide three personal references, a break-down of my monthly expenses, TB test, auto insurance, homeowners insurance, transcripts, proof of income, pictures of my house and neighborhood, driving records, fingerprints for FBI criminal background check, and a child abuse background check. And then there’s the dreaded HOME STUDY. I had heard horror stories about probing questions you’d never be prepared to answer. For me it actually wasn’t bad, but some people really stress over it. Sometimes it seems like having a doctor inseminate me might be a lot less work! It’s not like your reproductive endocrinologist is going to make sure your smoke detectors have batteries before your insemination! I jest, of course!
The point of all this is that I have developed an appreciation for the adoption process and the people who have succeeded in adopting. Despite the mountain of paperwork, I feel that all the requirements are necessary. And in a way, the time spent fulfilling those requirements parallels the gestational period of women who conceive. The adoption process forces people to consider and prepare for all the things one needs to consider and prepare for when a new child is brought into a family. I think that sometimes the adoption process is minimized in comparison to pregnancy. However, it doesn’t have to be that way; and those of us going through it and those who made it through know it is an important time. I hope that years down the road, I’ll look back on this time and reflect on it like a woman who conceives might remember her pregnancy…except I don’t have to buy expandable pants and shea butter!