Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cautionary Tales

The first time we adopted I was stunned by how often the following scenario unfolded: Me: We have exciting news. We're adopting! Other Person: My third cousin/friend-of-a-friend/eighth grade lab partner adopted. You wouldn't believe what a hard time they had! First, it took eight years and they lost a bunch of money. They had to travel to Farawayistan eighty-two times and it cost so much money. Their child was found in the trash/on the street/in the toilet. Boy, he/she sure is cute! S/he has so many Issues though - temper tantrums/radical attachment disorder/ADHD/being a complete asshole during adolescence. Can't you have kids of your own? Do you want to hear about the gynecological treatment/supplements/shots/hanging upside down/voodoo prayer ritual that got my other third cousin pregnant? Aren't you worried that you won't love your adopted baby? Why do you have to adopt foreign babies? Why can't you just adopt little white babies from here in the USA? It's super exciting that you're adopting though. Good luck! Seriously, you wouldn't believe how many times people said this crazy stuff to us. Would you launch into tales of pregnancies gone wrong if a friend announced that she was pregnant? No? Chances are good that you know some of those stories but wouldn't haul them out because you'd understand that the moment wasn't appropriate. You might roll your eyes at the acquaintance on Facebook who posts a picture of a positive pregnancy test and then starts talking about names before they've even heard a heartbeat, but you wouldn't comment that you yourself suffered multiple losses and then terrible morning sickness and hemorrhoids, but good luck! That would make you a jerk and even the most obtuse people seem to understand that. Venturing into the land of adoption isn't for the faint of heart. You don't have to poke around too many corners of the world wide web to find out that things can go wrong, parents can change their minds, programs can shut down, undergoing trauma will leave invisible scars on children...The list goes on and on. Any good adoption agency will not sugarcoat this. Odds are high that if someone is announcing adoption plans, he or she already knows more about it than you do as an outsider to the process. All of this is to say that I hope our family's experience during this adoption is never held up as a cautionary tale. Atticus and Norah's adoption was an unusually smooth process. It still managed to cause me plenty of angst and sleepless nights, but at the end of the day the paperwork went through without a hitch, the timeline unfolded as predicted, and we ended up with two fabulous kids who adjusted far more easily than we had a right to expect. Adding onto our family this time around has had a few more bumps so far and there promises to be more turbulence on the horizon as MOWA decides how to proceed with processing adoption cases. Even if the whole thing explodes in our faces and we end up losing fees and having our hearts broken, however, I cringe to think about our story being told to send potential adoptive parents running to the nearest fertility clinic. I reserve the right to rant and whine if we run into problems. Much crying will ensue and donations of red wine and crunchy potato chips will be accepted. The fact remains though that we signed up for this wild ride. Literally. Then we got it notarized in triplicate. I won't lie - sometimes this fact causes me to hyperventilate a little bit. That creeping worry that the weird guy at Sam's Club who chose to overshare his third cousin's adoption story might be proven right is overwhelming. I fear that if this journey ends in disappointment we'll be arming our own personal creepy Sam's Club storytellers and sending them out into the world to spread our cautionary tale one gory detail at a time. That's a lot of extra weight to carry on a road that is rocky and challenging to begin with. Please, if you're going to talk about our adoption experience, tell people this: The paperwork and waiting part sucked and I cried frequently. Sometimes the crying was rational; other times it wasn't. Lots of times I doubted the adoption was ever going to happen. Then we ended up sharing our lives with these two miracles. Sometimes they have issues, but they're so entwined with the types of challenges that all little kids have that it's nearly impossible to be certain which are presenting because of the circumstances leading to their adoptions and which are just personality quirks. Because of adoption we have a perfect little girl who sings when she's supposed to be sleeping and introduces herself to everyone she sees. We have a perfect little boy who hugs better than anyone and is already planning the best way to protect his new baby siblings during thunderstorms. We have tantrums over which clothes to wear, boogers and peanut butter smeared on the couch, and way too much dirt being tracked through the house. I've been turned into a mommy blogger who is usually satisfied with posting a few pictures of my kids along with cute stories about them. We don't get enough sleep and we sometimes can hardly think because of the noise... and then we put them to bed and talk some more about how cute they are and how much we love them. In short, it's exactly what we signed up for and it was totally worth the wait and fear. [ETA: I have no idea why this stupid post isn't reflecting my formatting. I promise I wrote using paragraphs. Darn it.]


Kristin said...

Love this! So spot on.

(And I had the same formatting problem last week. Durned blogger!

shell said...

i love this betsy. you are such a good writer and i love hearing your heart!

Patrick Kelly said...

nice, always good to read your thoughts. i was wondering about the formatting as well - was thinking it was someway to pass the pain on to your readers... Kinda wish i didn't leave a note though - it stops your playlist, and I do enjoy your playlist.