Last week was the anniversary of the legal hearing that made our daughter’s adoption official. And so, as much of the world prepares to celebrate the ultimate in unplanned pregnancies, I want to write about something a little different; I want to write about what adoption looks like today, in the United States. For if “The Lattice” is an alternative approach to one’s career, adoption is also an alternative approach to becoming a parent.
I don’t know who you are reading this column, but I want to write especially to the woman who recently saw two lines on a test strip where she was expecting to find only one. Perhaps you are a graduate student who has a life ahead of you. Perhaps you are a young, assistant professor for whom the tenure clock ticks loudly. Or perhaps you are a student in a class of someone who reads this column. I know that, in my almost 20 years of teaching college, I have been one of the first to hear of several unplanned pregnancies. Just who you are doesn’t matter, because what matters right now is that your life has been turned upside down. Please know that my thoughts are with you at this scary time.
I am asking you to imagine another set of people who also have no control over their lives right now. They are people somewhere who are waiting to adopt a child. They jump every time the phone rings, and hold their breath when the “call waiting” displays the number from their adoption agency. I want to suggest that you can make their dreams come true in ways that they cannot even begin to imagine.
I know that adoption is not always a popular choice for young women with unplanned pregnancies, but I hope that some information on the option might encourage you to look into it further. For example, birth parents have some say as who adopts the child they are carrying. To adopt, we had to create a booklet about ourselves, describing our life and our hopes for our child, complete with pictures (some more flattering than others.) You would be given a set of these to look through, and, if you found some adopting parents that seem to be suitable to you, your agency would arrange for you to be able to interview them. If you found none in the initial set, the agency would continue looking, as most of these agencies are in touch with each other, and there are many people who are waiting to adopt.
You may think that, should you choose to place your child for adoption, that there would be no further contact with them. This does not need to be the case, and the days of having your birth child quickly removed from the delivery room before you can see it are, mercifully, over. Instead, you and the adoptive parents can work out an agreement that could involve visits, letters, or other contact with the child, so you can maintain some presence in their life. I have known families where the birth parents visit to celebrate holidays and birthdays, and other families where there is no contact whatsoever. What exactly you decide on will depend on what you and the adoptive parents can agree on, with the assistance of the social workers who will be there to help all of you come to an agreement that is in the best interest of the child.
Once you make the decision to make an adoption plan for your child, the decision is not final until you and the courts decide it is. We had several adoptions fall through at the last minute, when the birth parents changed their minds and decided to parent. This was very painful for us, but we kept plodding on, and it led us to the child we believe we were supposed to parent; our daughter. There is a song called “The Broken Road” that, while not about adoption, speaks to me about our experience of searching for our child. The refrain says “God paved the broken road that led me straight to you.” Yes, it was a difficult journey with lots of heartbreak, but in the end, the right child found us, and we found her. If a situation does not feel right, you can always pull out up through the day of placement.
Placing a child for adoption is a difficult choice, but it is one that will lead to great joy for both the adoptive family and, most importantly, for the child involved. What an amazing gift to give a child, who will grow up knowing that someone made this difficult choice for them. And some adoptive parents would soon receive a call from their social worker with a message that echoes the words of the angels in Bethlehem, “I bring you tidings of great joy.”