Our “where’s” are as personally unique as our “why’s”. Some families choose adoption after walking the road of infertility. Some have always known. Some find themselves married later in life and longing to grow a family and choose adoption, rather than risk the complications of pregnancy. Some have children practically dropped in their laps.
Why would determining where to adopt be any different?
My husband and I instantly agreed we would rather adopt internationally. Choosing a country, however, was no straight path. Initially we thought, China. Everyone we knew who’d adopted had gone to China for their little girls. I didn’t know much about the international adoption scene, but I knew China had girls. Of course, we would adopt from China.
Unfortunately, when we were finally ready to begin the process, China was seriously restricting their adoption program. The government enacted a terrible list of new requirements – BMI index, a near-perfect medical history, and a net worth of $80,000 were among some of the more tedious rules. It was the net worth that we tripped over. We were newly out of residency. We had just made a major move, bought a major house to fit our hopefully expanding family and I can promise you we didn’t make a major down payment. How could we?
If the net worth wasn’t troubling enough (we later learned how one concocts a net worth of $80,000 using fuzzy mathematics), the new and improved wait times for receiving a referral and actually traveling to China to retrieve our daughter was encroaching the 3 year mark – and lengthening every month.
“I was ready to begin parenting another child yesterday!” I remember bemoaning to no one in particular, “not three years from now!”
Maybe my future daughter wasn’t in China after all. But if not China, where?
Oh, how I would have loved a vision at that point! I know families with quixotic stories of knowing ‘where’ before they ever began. A mother dreams one night of rocking a mocha skinned babe into her own little dreamland. A family feels a special connection to a country. Maybe they were missionaries. Maybe they had sponsored a child for years. Maybe a stranger casually walked up to them after church one day and said, “I had a vision this morning of your expanded family. God wants you to adopt from Guatemala.”
Okay. Maybe I’ve never heard that story. But I’ve heard of people being told weirder premonitions by strangers. Why not about adoption?
Our eventual winding road to Ethiopia was much less romantic. After deciding China was not where our daughter could be found – which concerned me somewhat as I felt like I had ‘lost’ her already – we began churning the wheels of research once again.
By this point, our country list was competing with our agency list. To me, the agency was as important as the country. After all, I would be entrusting these people with connecting me to my child. My child! Not to mention the overwhelming responsibilities of handling our paperwork, representing us in court, facilitating our travel, navigating our time in country – no, choosing the agency must go hand in hand with choosing the country.
Finally, after eliminating more countries and more agencies, Ethiopia was agreed upon. It was a dear friend who actually convinced me to consider Ethiopia. She waxed beautiful of the Ethiopian women she would see in D.C., walking down embassy row. I was skeptical. My only images of Ethiopia were the desperate children with skeleton arms and protruding bellies; the AIDS babies flashed across television screen of my youth, promoting the ‘80’s “Hands Across America” campaign (remember? “We are the World…” my grandparents took my brother and I to help make the human chain). My heart bled for the images of these children, but I wasn’t prepared to parent a starving AID’s baby.
Turns out, HIV positive children are very difficult to adopt, special measures must be taken for the family who expressly desires to parent an HIV positive child. It also turns out, my future daughter would sport her own mal-nourished, stunted growth, protruding belly. But, that’s for another post.
I would be misleading you if I didn’t confess how surreal and odd this process of researching and choosing a country and agency felt – downright unnatural, even. These anomalous feelings would follow me throughout the entire adoption process.
I never consciously addressed my feelings. Looking back, I wonder if maybe I didn’t talk about how contrived adopting felt because doing so could have triggered some person to look on me with concern and say, “Hmmm… are you sure you should be adopting?” Maybe if I had brought those feelings to the surface; scrutinized and unfolded them without attaching any proclamation of justification or denouncement, I would have better handled the ‘unnatural’ feelings I faced upon meeting my children and those first many, many months of having them home.
Domestic versus international. China versus Russia versus Ethiopia. These are incredibly personal choices fueled by a family’s unique background, education, understandings and expectations. I’ve read many a-commenter on many a-news blog concerning adoption (especially international adoption) rail against those who adopt from anywhere other than the United States. Careless words and judgments pass quickly behind the safety of computer screen. I’d like those people to look my Ethiopian children in the eye and express such ugliness to their little faces (not really – of course).
Whether a family chooses to live in Maine or Montana, have two children or ten, attend Catholic mass or Protestant praise services (or none at all) – adoption decisions falls into the same category. You may know from the start, or you may take the winding road. But either way, a child longing for the loving embrace of family is waiting at the other end.
Next up: Dealing with dissenters & riding the emotional roller coaster of waiting. Look forward to stories from other families. Oh… and don’t forget to comment, link, tweet and ‘like’ to be added to the book give-away drawing!