We are talking on the telephone when my friend casually mentions that she and her husband are planning on adopting. “We’re just beginning the adoption process,” she says. “Any advice?” she asks.
“Adoption will change your life.” I simply say.
“I know,” she says, “The home study process, waiting for the right baby, and then when the baby comes no more sleeping through the night…”
But that is not what I meant. I think of my friend, trying to decide what else to say to her. I want her to know what she will never learn in reading adoption books. I want to tell her that while people say she will not experience physical wounds of child bearing, that becoming an adoptive mother will leave her with an emotional experience so raw that she will be forever vulnerable. I want her to know that while she will not see shiny stretch marks or a cesarean scar she will have other scars that will become badges of honor.
I consider warning her that she will soon answer the telephone wondering, “Is this the call about MY child?” That when she sees pictures of children waiting to be adopted, she will wonder if she should stop her infant search and choose an older child. I think of this beautiful and intelligent woman and know that the process of adoption will reduce her to the most primitive desire of simply wanting a baby so badly that it hurts.
I feel I should assure her that no matter how long she has invested in infertility and adoption, she will eventually forget that time and it will disappear simply by her becoming a mother. She won’t remember the frustration and fear only the miracle of becoming an adoptive mother.
I want my friend to know that making decisions will no longer be easy. That there will be documents to prepare, fingerprints to get done, adoption classes to attend. That trying to fill the time that it takes to wait for a baby will become a major dilemma. That very soon, in the midst of the home study process, issues that are the utmost personal will be discussed with a stranger called a social worker. That she will be asked the gender preference of the child she hopes to adopt and that her answers to questions about the type of child she feels she can parent will be weighed against the fact that other families want a child like that too. However decisive she may think she is today, she will second-guess herself constantly as she answers these questions.
I have the urge to tell her what adoption path to take. But she already knows the choices I made. She will have to navigate the adoption options on her own.
I want to ask her if she and her husband are at the same place about adoption and if they aren’t that she shouldn’t worry. I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who allows himself to be dragged through the adoption process. I think she should know that he will fall in love with the baby even though sometimes he wonders if he can love a child that she did not give birth to.
I wish my friend could sense the bond she’ll feel with women throughout history who have tried desperately to become mothers. I hope she will understand that while I can think rationally most of the time, I became temporarily insane when I found out I was about to become an adoptive mother.
I want to assure my friend that eventually she may shed the pounds that the infertility drugs caused, but she will never feel or look the same. That her job, the activities she is involved with, and even her deeply loved pets will be of less value to her once she has adopted a child. And that she will most likely choose to go through the whole emotional roller coaster of adoption again because she wishes to continue to build her family.
I want to describe to my friend the exhilaration of seeing your child for the first time. I want to capture the first moment she will hold her baby. While I want her to become an adoptive mother, I don’t want her to adopt quickly, but rather have the time to experience it all and understand that adoption is a life long process not just a way to get a baby. I want her to be granted this insight before she adopts.
I realize that I did not say any of this when my friend interrupts my thoughts by asking, “Do you think we should adopt a baby?”
“You’ll never regret it,” I say with tears in my eyes.
Later that night I lay in bed holding my newest baby and I pray silently for my friend. And thank God for the children who call me their mom and for the blessing called adoption.