Time Wasted: Part 3

Where was I?

Ah - I was trying to remember the years before The Boy arrived, the two long years of waiting in the adoption process. Funny, though, as I've looked back through the files and papers I've kept, I find that the those months were really filled with infertility treatment more than anything else. After our application to adopt in late 1987, we waited eleven months to be assigned a social worker and begin our homestudy, from November of 1987 to October of the following year.

Eleven months of waiting, and frankly hoping that we would get pregnant. I realize now that at that time, not a single cell in my body had connected with adoption, neither intellectually nor emotionally. It was the backup plan to our first choice, which was to just get pregnant and be done with all the treatment, waiting and pain.

I do remember the pain of that time, very very clearly. It was overwhelming, impossible to shut out or resolve in any way. I wanted to be a parent, to have a child to love, and nothing could soothe it - nothing. It doesn't surprise me now to see how deeply involved I remained with infertility news and support groups; I was simply incapable of thinking about adoption with the depth and attention it deserved.

We got the call from our agency that we had at last been assigned a social worker in mid-October, and had our first meeting with her on November 3rd.

I disliked her immediately.

Retrospectively, I understand that my feelings were far too raw and selfish to have judged her fairly, but I will say that were I to meet her today, I probably still wouldn't like her much. She was impressed by titles, level conscious and cold. Suffice it to say that we didn't click.

When our homestudy began, the realization that pregnancy had become a very dim possibility indeed at last began to sink in. You would think it would have made me turn my attention to adoption with fresh eyes and a positive attitude, but it didn't. Frankly, it made me angry that I had to be going through that homestudy, forced to bare my soul to a woman I could barely stand. It wasn't that I objected to the purpose of the homestudy, I simply wanted no part of it at the moment. And so I began to clam up, to respond to questions with the least possible information. I retreated into myself, where I could pretend I had the tiniest shred of control over what had happened to us. Third Dad, by the way, got along fine with her; he probably single-handedly made it possible for us to be parents, because I'm sure if she'd had her way, that social worker would have kicked my butt out of there.

How much thought did I give to my future children, or their mothers and fathers, their country, our responsibilities as their adoptive parents, or the ethics of what we were doing?

None.

It didn't take too long for our social worker to tire of my monosyllabic answers, and we were put on a little homestudy vacation for a couple of months. Funny, you'd think I would have been a wreck, but interestingly I was glad to chuck it all for awhile. I think that time off, which fell over the holidays through early spring, helped me move thoughts of pregnancy out of my head once and for all, and turn my thoughts more firmly toward adoption. I remember my last homestudy session being a positive, open dialog with the social worker. Our home visit followed in April, and we were approved in May.

Now, you'd think that with this new frame of mind, I would have begun learning about adoption in earnest. Well, not quite. Third Dad and I took an adoption preparation class that needed to be completed for our homestudy to be approved, and found it interesting. I've tried to remember if I did any reading, but the only book that springs to mind is one of Lois Melina's. I was still active with Resolve, and if I remember correctly (which I may not), Third Dad and I began to take advantage of their adoption programs.

Our agency (and I don't think they were different than most) offered little in the way of preparation, even less information about the women whose children were coming in such large numbers to the U.S. and other countries. We accepted the explanation they offered us, that the women had no realistic options to parent and wanted to spare their children the stigma and discrimination they would surely face as the children of single mothers. We took the loss in stride, thinking we were helping them and their children - and giving little real attention to other solutions we might have offered had we not wanted their children so badly.

I explain it in my infertility post this way:
I'm a reasonable, reasonably intelligent person who believes she behaves justly and ethically. Yet during those years, my desire for a child controlled ME, not the other way around. Had I been told then that adoption was unethical, I honestly don't think I would have listened.
My timeline tells me that we received our son's picture on June 12th, 1989. I remember that day, floating through the hours that followed our meeting at the agency, the calls to family and friends to share news. The Boy's pictures showed an intense little boy peering at the camera, and I remember examining every square inch of them to memorize his eyes, the shape of his ears, his pursed lips.

I think that my final separation from thoughts of pregnancy came the day we received The Boy’s photo. I'm still surprised at how quickly it left my life, given the hold it had on me for so long. I'm not exaggerating when I say that once I said good-bye to that pain, it never returned. Ever. So odd.

The last three months of our first adoption were spent preparing for The Boy’s arrival, doing all the things that parents do - preparing his room, buying clothes and toys, enjoying baby showers. I would be a liar if I told you I spared many thoughts for The Boy’s mother than - I didn't. I would think about her occasionally and wonder how her life was progressing, but didn't feel a deep interest in her right then. That would change the moment The Boy was placed in our arms.

As I look back over the nearly two years Third Dad and I spent adopting our first child, I see in myself a person coping with emotions she was barely able to control, someone centered so completely on herself and her desire for a child that none of the information and preparation available during that time had more than a superficial impact. I wonder today if there was anything anyone could have said to me that might have turned my head away from myself toward my future son's mother; I honestly don't know. I do know, though, that the intellectual approach that permeated our homestudy and the entire adoption process - fill out this paperwork; write this check; answer these questions - had no chance at all. Rather than the cool explanation that our children's mothers had no other choice, we needed an emotional connection to them, one we didn't find until their children were in our arms.

Ultimately, the failure to see beyond my own desires lies within and nowhere else. It's hard to acknowledge - but nothing compared to the pain my children's mothers have lived with all these years.

Part 1
Part 2

Comments

joy said…
Interesting post.

I hope that the pain stays gone, I can't help but think of my own recent visit with my amom, in which she exclaimed about some point of view thing, "BUT you and Tomtom are exactly alike!"

It was bittersweet, and brought up some disturbing feelings at least for me.
Margie said…
Hey, Joy, hi. The comment your a-mom made had to be bittersweet. I wonder how many times my kids have had those same feelings, but don't want or don't know how to talk about it. As they get older, that fear is growing: will I be sensitive to their needs to talk, for privacy, for support, etc to help them through these really difficult experiences.

It really is gone, although I know that's not the case for everyone. One thing that maybe has made that easier for us is the face that our kids are so very different - er, let's start with race, and the go from there. I mean, it would make no sense for us to pretend that they were extensions of us, although I know that some APs take the color-blind "we're all God's children" approach to get around that. We haven't, and you know, it hasn't made us LESS of a family, it's made our family BIGGER, because emotionally, our kids families have always been part of us.

Hugs to you, happy Saturday!
Laurel said…
REALLY interesting and honest post. Really!

Y'know...my mom has never admitted to having any negative feelings about not being able to conceive. Although she said she did...but had a miscarriage...so they decided to go with adoption and never looked back. I guess, as a kid growing up, that was a great answer. We've never talked further - or rather, she won't admit to anything further. Any pain. Any struggle. Any sadness that she couldn't have biological children. Now...I wonder.

Interesting...
Margie said…
Laurel, hi!

I think everyone's lifelong response to infertility will be different. Mine was just as I say - overwhelming, really overpowering until late in the process, and then simply not an issue. I've never had a twinge of sadness at not having reproduced, not one. My guess is that if your mom is saying the same thing, her experience was much like mine.

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